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Bits n’ pieces from east, west and beyond

| April 7, 2023 7:00 AM

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

A recent sampling:

Arkansas Republicans proposed removing the age verification process for children entering the workforce;

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed it into law. Under the state’s new Youth Hiring Act there is no requirement for

those under 16 to obtain an employment certificate. Removal of parental consent for a child to work is part of the new law. Arkansas companies have paid $1.5 million in recent fines from the Dept. of Justice for employing minors, who may work with dangerous equipment and chemicals.

Science.org reported that previously undisclosed genetic data from China’s Wuhan market indicates a coronavirus-infected animal started the C-19 pandemic. Why the Chinese CDC did not share the information earlier is being questioned.

Republicans confirmed that cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits are not “off the table,” Social Security Works stated.

One tactic promoted is delaying the age for SS eligibility to 70. SSW says that every year the retirement age goes up is equivalent to a 7% cut in benefits, so going from retiring at 68, to the proposed 70 by some Republicans means a 21% benefit cut.

If passed the Social Security Expansion Act would avoid the higher retirement age scenario by eliminating high earners’ cap for paying into SS and would expand benefits and strengthen the program’s viability long-term.

In writing about California’s drastic weather events, The New York Times pointed out that those extremes are likely to continue, since warmer air holds more water. Deadly storms last week hit the South, killing at least 26 and leaving a wake of destruction.

CNN said Rolling Forks, Mississippi, where winds hit 170 mph, was described as looking “like a landfill.”

Donald Trump complained that Manhattan’s District Attorney should focus on killings in Manhattan and not allegations of Trump violating campaign finance law. The claim that murder is at record levels in New York City is false, Popular Information reported: there’s been a 19% decrease as compared to a year ago. Manhattan has been named one of the safest places to live in the U.S.

Republicans have indicated what they won’t cut from the federal budget, but not what they will cut. Since they usually don’t cut military spending and veterans’ benefits, claim they won’t touch Medicare and Social Security and neither party is able to address interest payments on already incurred government debt, The New York Times reported that leaves Republicans with a third of the budget open for cuts.

That includes health care and anti-poverty programs like food benefits. That’s a problem for Republicans: close to 70% of House Republicans represent districts where anti-poverty programs are important to their voters’ well-being.

Their other problem: their “wealth base” opposes tax increases.

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, recently indicated disagreement with the faction of U.S. Republican lawmakers that support Vladimir Putin.

Quoted in The Washington Post, he said at the Atlantic Council that “Some bad ideas are starting to infect the thinking….about what Putin stands for. He stands for aggression, systemic murder, rape and destruction.”

A new Public Citizen report examines private equity’s influence on the spectrum of U.S. health care.

Findings included lapses in safety, price-gouging schemes and prices rising faster than at non-private equity entities.

Other findings: residents of private-equity owned nursing care facilities were 10% more likely to die and at private equity-owned obstetrics emergency departments, they are classifying normal births as “emergencies,” enabling them to charge additional fees.

An AP poll found 10% of U.S. respondents have a “great deal” of confidence in banking and financial institutions, and 30% have “hardly any” confidence.

There was also bi-partisan agreement that government regulation of financial institutions has been “inadequate.”

Almost three full months into 2023, the U.S. had its 129th mass shooting at a Christian school in Tennessee, various media reported. A 28-year-old female former student, with a pistol and two assault weapons, entered a side door. She shot three 9-year-olds and three adults, then was killed by police. The area’s U.S. Representative, known for a Christmas card with all family members holding firearms, said he was “devastated” and sending “thoughts and prayers.”

The White House press secretary asked how many children have to be murdered before Republicans support an assault weapons ban.

Blast from the past: Originally designed in the 1950s for soldiers, an internal Pentagon report said the AR-15 had “phenomenal lethality.”

For non-soldiers, the AR-15 was at one time regarded as ill-suited for hunting and excessive for home defense. But the end of the Assault Weapons Ban and post-911 militaristic sentiments merged: one in 20 U.S. adults now own the weapon.

From 1981 to 1994 mass shootings averaged 7.2 deaths per year.

During the ban it fell to 5.3 annually. After the ban expired there was a steep rise in mass shooting deaths; researchers say risk of dying in a mass shooting was 70% lower during the ban as compared to today.

The NRA’s School Shield Program, intended to help “protect our children,” spent $13,900 on the program in 2021, 0.007% of that year’s NRA revenue of $282 million.