Saturday, February 04, 2023

Bits n’ pieces from east, west and beyond

by Compiled by Lorraine H. Marie
| August 26, 2022 7:00 AM

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact.

A recent sampling:

Nationally, gasoline prices fell to under $4 a gallon, Politico reported.

There was zero inflation in July, a Labor Dept. report stated. The declining price of gasoline balanced out other rising costs. There were also 528,000 new jobs and unemployment was at 3.5%.

The Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act was signed into law, following a second vote where it passed the Senate 84-14, NPR said. It will help veterans sickened by exposure to toxic burn pits.

Signing was personal for Biden; his son died of brain cancer after exposure to military burn pits.

So far shootings nationwide are down 4% for 2022, compared to a year ago, The New York Times reported. That has been linked to a decline in Covid frustrations and the overall chaos of 2020.

The Inflation Reduction Act passed the House, sans Republican votes, and will be signed into law.

From various media: absent from the Senate version is the closed interest loophole for Wall Street money managers and private equity executives. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D), who has received almost $1 million in donations from those interests, said she would not vote for the IRA unless that taxation was removed. (Had that remained, The New York Times said the Carried Interest Tax could have raised $180 billion.)

The bill will invest in climate change (reducing greenhouse gasses 40% by 2030 - but some of the bill still favors polluters, courtesy Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin (D), who is Congress’s biggest recipient of natural gas pipeline company funds); retention of healthcare subsidies; more IRS funding to address big-time tax cheats; Medicare will cap insulin costs at $35/month (and cap out-of-pocket med costs at $2,000 a year for seniors, and reduce some drug costs via Medicare negotiating costs, starting in 2026), create a 15% minimum tax for the wealthiest corporations, add a 1% tax on stock buybacks (with no new taxes on those making less than $400,000, and no new taxes on small businesses), create up to 9 million “green” jobs, and reduce the deficit by raising $737 billion over the next decade.

Recent figures indicate the richest 1% hide over 20% of their earnings from the IRS, Inequality Media reported. If collected by a beefed-up IRS, it could add up to $1.75 trillion to federal coffers.

According to Open Secrets, in 2021 U.S. lobbyists spent $689.5 million to keep our current healthcare system in place. Coincidental? The health care industry then had $19 billion in profits, hospitals had $70 billion, and the pharmaceutical industry was just shy of $100 billion in profits.

Last week a federal judge reinstated a Barack Obama-era moratorium on coal leasing from federal lands, the AP reported. The ruling requires environmental review that includes climate damages. Demands for coal have fallen since many utilities are switching to renewable or natural gas.

The Biden Administration has announced the end of the Remain in Mexico program.

The Mar-A-Lago federal search, from a variety of media sources: The search warrant was signed by the FBI director that was appointed by Donald Trump. The search followed a signed statement from two months ago, from a Trump attorney, saying all subpoenaed classified material at Mar-A-Lago had been turned over to the federal government. Boxes were turned over in January, including records torn to pieces, but, more boxes were found in the recent search.

To clear up misinformation, a federal judge unsealed the “probable cause” search warrant, which shows agents were investigating the possibility that Trump violated the Espionage Act, engaged in obstruction of justice and illegally removed and destroyed official documents.

Violation of the Espionage Act can result in imprisonment or fines. A warrant and property receipt showed 20 boxes of documents were recently removed, including 11 sets of classified information that was supposed to be in a secure government facility, and that was related to nuclear weapons.

A Trump attorney said he and Trump family members watched the search via surveillance cameras while Trump was away, which has negated claims that evidence was planted.

Trump has claimed the materials retrieved were there due to his declassifying them (that involves an elaborate process Trump did not appear to engage in), and, because Trump said he was doing “home work.”

Trump also said Obama did the same, but that has been debunked by official archivists.

The labor market is short two million people, has calculated. That appears to be directly tied to plummeting immigration, CBS News recently said.

Russia-Ukraine news: The Russian military is using a nuclear power plant as their base in southern Ukraine and Western and Ukraine officials are warning that creates risk of a nuclear accident.

Donald Trump recently was the first U.S. president to plead the Fifth. He is being investigated in New York state over the validity of his property valuations, used for tax purposes, The Guardian says.

Blast from the past: “The mob takes the Fifth. If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?” former president Donald Trump, in a question he asked while campaigning in 2016.

And another blast: Social Security was enacted 87 years ago this month by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. While it has proven highly popular, business-linked interests are seeking to dismantle it.