Monday, December 11, 2023

Bits n’ pieces from east, west and beyond

by Compiled by Lorraine H. Marie
| December 20, 2022 7:00 AM

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

A recent sampling:

There’s a similarity to attacks on power facilities in Washington and Oregon when compared to the recent attack in North Carolina, according to The Guardian.

The two western states have had at least six attacks. Some caused power loss and many involved firearms. Experts have warned of extremists planning to disrupt the nation’s power grid.

Efforts have been made to block that, but, “the system is still quite vulnerable,” according to engineering professor Granger Morgan. A conspiracy against the grid has been backed up by release of an extremist document “guide” for attacking an electric grid using firearms. The U.S. electrical grid has 450,000 miles of transmission lines; 55,000 substations and 6,400 power plants.

A coast-to-coast blackout could occur by strategically taking out just nine substations, the Federal Regulatory Commission said in an analysis.

Talking Points Memo shared 2,319 texts to and from former president Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, about the Jan. 6 insurrection. Even after the insurrection, certain Republicans were urging the declaration of Marshall Law as a “last hope” for keeping Trump in office.

The number of texts is limited, since Meadows initially agreed to their release, then stopped cooperating. A total of 34 known members of Congress wrote to Meadows calling for changing the outcome of the 2020 election.

U.S. athlete Brittney Griner, after getting a 9-year sentence in Russia for drug possession, was released in a trade for a U.S.-held Russian arms dealer. U.S. citizen Paul Whelan remains in custody in Russia since 2018, under allegations of espionage. His brother had no objections to Griner coming home, and said President Joe Biden is “100% engaged on bringing Paul home.”

While there have been numerous media reports indicating retail theft is on the rise, FBI crime data shows shoplifting dropped 46% between 2019 and 2021.

The biggest leak in a Keystone pipeline recently spilled 588,000 gallons of Canadian tar sands oil into a creek on a Kansas farm, the AP reported.

Containment and clean up began, and could take months, “even years.”

Measures to test the safety abilities of pipelines are now in question. Tar sands oil sinks rather than floats, challenging cleanup efforts, which can include scrubbing individual rocks.

CNN: The Keystone spill coincided with release of a House Committee on Oversight and Reform report that included documents from major oil companies. It showed oil interests recognize their products’ hazards in creating a climate emergency, but had no solid plans to address the crisis.

Georgia voters recently re-elected U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock, who was up against Republican Herschel Walker. The race was unique in that two Black men in the Deep South were vying for the same Senate seat. Walker tried to persuade voters to back him with an anti-abortion stance.

But several women stepped forward saying he had pressured them for an abortion.

Americans for Tax Fairness says big corporations are currently lobbying Congress for three tax breaks, despite the highest profit margin in 70 years. The 10-year cost of the tax breaks would be $600 billion.

AFTF instead recommends raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, which is still lower than the rate of five years ago: 35%. They also advise closing offshore corporate tax loopholes, which currently results in $60 billion in lost tax revenue.

And another idea: strengthen the minimum 15% corporate minimum tax on highly profitable corporations, which would raise $90 billion over 10 years.

So, fix inflation by cutting corporate tax rates and making billionaires richer? If that worked, inflation would have been “fixed” long ago says Peter Certo with the Institute for Policy Studies.

Harvard economist Jason Furman adds, “corporate tax cuts the Republicans are pushing would add to inflation, add to the deficit, and do little or nothing for economic growth.”

As columnist and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich points out, the Fed has raised rates seven times in the last nine months, which has resulted in slowing the economy, but not inflation.

He recommends windfall profit taxes on corporations and serious anti-trust enforcement.

A recent study reported by Politico says the U.S. gun death rate hit a three decade high, with women victims growing faster than men. The rate of Black women victims tripled since 2012, and gun related suicides more than doubled since 2015.

Blast from the past: “Holodor” is Ukrainian for a war effort using “death by hunger,” and is not new in Ukraine. In winter of 1932 Russia successfully attempted to force Ukrainians into submission by starving them, for demanding independence. An estimated 3.2 million people died.

Then in 1948-49, Russia tried the same tactic with West Berlin: attempting to starve and freeze the population. But in June of 1948 the U.S., the U.K., and France recognized West Germany as an independent state. Russia’s deadly reaction triggered the Berlin Airlift, ordered by U.S. President Harry Truman: 13,000 tons of cargo were delivered to West Berlin on Easter. A month later Russia ended their blockade and the Airlift concluded on May 12, 1949.

Today there are calls for a similar international Airlift for Ukraine.