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Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

by LORRAINE H. MARIE
| January 14, 2022 7:00 AM

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

On the second anniversary of the assassination of Gen. Qasem Soleimani by the U.S., Iran’s president said if former President Donald Trump does not face trial, Tehran would exact revenge. The general was killed in a drone strike ordered by Trump on Jan. 3, 2020. Under Iran’s Islamic laws, a convicted murderer can be executed unless the victim’s family agrees to reconciliation via acceptance of “blood money,” the Jerusalem Post reported.

The Afghan baby who was lost during the August evacuation has been found and returned to relatives, Reuters reported. A 29-year-old taxi driver was raising him as his own.

California’s second largest fire, the Dixie Fire, which burned last summer, was triggered when Pacific Gas and Electric power lines contacted a tree. The resulting fire burned more than 1,300 buildings. A criminal investigation is underway. PG&E admitted to manslaughter for its role in the 2018 Camp Fire, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Two Senate Democrats and all Republicans intend to block two voter protection bills. To pass them requires altering or eliminating the filibuster. Ironically, Democrats represent 40 million more voters than do Republicans and the Democrats’ House-passed legislation (stronger voting rights, police department reforms, empowerment of labor unions and tighter gun laws) enjoys public support. Columnist Robert Reich, a former labor secretary, argued that our Founders opposed a minority thwarting the majority’s wishes.

The Republican National Committee has approved giving Trump $1.6 million to cover private legal bills, The Washington Post reported.

CORBEVAX, a COVID-19 vaccine developed at a Texas university, is hailed as a “game changer,” NPR said. It uses old, proven vaccine technology and is more easily manufactured than most of today’s COVID-19 vaccines. It costs $1 to $1.50 a dose, allowing low-income countries to pursue production.

U.S. officials showed no interest, so the vaccine’s developers turned to private philanthropies. So far India has made 300 million doses. It’s been shown to be 90 percent effective against the original COVID-19 strain and 80 percent effective against the delta variant. A drawback: it can’t be as quickly modified to adjust to new COVID-19 variants as compared to mRNA vaccines.

CORBEVAX’s intellectual property status makes it available to any manufacturer, as opposed to leading COVID-19 vaccine producers, who protect profits by not sharing their blueprints.

The effect of the highly contagious omicron variant has resulted in overcrowded hospitals, hospitals rejecting incoming patients, a shortage of first responders and staffing shortages at schools, businesses and government agencies, according to multiple media accounts. Some paramedics are working 80-hour weeks. In New York City, sanitation workers are putting in 12-hour days to compensate for afflicted fellow workers. The only good news: Omicron has not proven as dangerous as the delta variant.

Where does COVID-19 end? As long as the bulk of the planet remains unvaccinated, COVID-19 has a fertile playground for creating new variants. To stop that cycle, the People’s Vaccine Alliance is urging the U.S. to ramp up vaccine production across the planet. Public Citizen argued that such an effort would come at a fraction of the cost of inaction. The 2021 economic COVID-19 cost was expected to run up to $1.4 trillion. Expansion of vaccine production will require manufacturing hubs in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

One step ahead of the next virus: researchers are working on developing a universal coronavirus vaccine. While it may not be a perfect fit for the next occasion, such a vaccine could reduce hospitalizations and buy time for creating a virus-specific vaccine, Mother Jones reported. Such a vaccine could also be cost-effective: The current pandemic is expected to cost $16 trillion in economic damage over the next decade; that’s 500 times more than the cost of preventing the next pandemic.

Blast from the past: A noticeable effort to suppress minority voters came on the heels of the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed human enslavement. When Southerners resisted rebuilding the South with their black neighbors they got the 1867 Military Reconstruction Act. The legislation allowed Southern black men to vote for delegates to write new state constitutions that confirmed their right to vote. Trying to stop ratification of the new constitutions, opponents dressed up in white sheets, pretending to be ghosts of dead Southern soldiers. They hoped to keep blacks and white sympathizers from voting. As the Ku Klux Klan, they defined themselves as having a goal of defending the U.S. Constitution — just the antebellum Constitution.

Their effort bore little fruit. In Georgia, 33 blacks were elected to the state’s general assembly. In South Carolina, a majority of new elected officials were blacks. The KKK’s backup plan was to portray blacks as unfit to engage in politics. They portrayed blacks as bent on redistributing wealth. Further suppression of black empowerment, according to historian and author Heather Cox Richardson, included requiring educational tests to qualify for voting and poll taxes.