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Bits n’ pieces from east, west and beyond

by The Western News
| April 19, 2024 7:00 AM

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

Gas prices are rising, and, predicts historian Thom Hartmann, will likely be $6 a gallon pre-election. He suggests that would be no accident: Saudi Arabia and Russia, who want Trump back in office, are already cutting oil production. They know that higher gas prices could be an effective way to elect Donald Trump; those countries rely on many Americans’ inattention to political manipulation. 

Some history of foreign interference with gas prices:

In 2018, production was increased to lower prices and help Republicans with mid-term elections; 2022: production was cut, gas prices rose, in an effort to hurt Democrats mid-term; Republicans did gain control of the House. Biden has some options: he could mimic former President Richard Nixon and ban the export of U.S. crude oil. Or he could nationalize the Port Arthur, Texas refinery, owned by a foreign national. 

But that would require Congressional approval; most Republicans have vowed to withhold support for anything that could get Biden re-elected.

Former Trump lawyer, John Eastman, behind the 2020 “fake electors” scheme, has been disbarred in California. A state bar judge said Eastman’s scheme “lacked evidentiary or legal support.”

On CNN’s State of the Union show, the House chair of the Intelligence committee, Mike Turner, stated that fellow Republicans are using Russian propaganda. Example: their claims that Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine is actually a war between NATO and Russia. Turner said “of course it’s not,” but that propaganda complicates seeing this as an “authoritarian versus democracy battle.” 

Numerous Republican lawmakers are agreeing with Turner.

Recent Washington Post research shows an ongoing campaign by Russia to create anti-Ukraine sentiments amongst gullible lawmakers.

Trump’s “secret” plan to end the Russian-Ukraine war “in one day” is to pressure Ukraine to submit their country to Russia, people familiar with the plan told The Washington Post.

In a “pointed” phone call late last week to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Joe Biden pushed for immediate action for opening areas for humanitarian aid and an immediate ceasefire; failure to do so, Biden said, would cause reconsideration of backing Israel against Hamas.

Citing “tactical reasons,” Israel has pulled all its ground troops out of Gaza, various media reported. The decision came after warnings from foreign officials about Israel’s war tactics.

House Republicans want aid for Ukraine tied to a repeal of Biden’s export pause on Liquefied Natural Gas. Environmentalists say the desired repeal is at odds with reality: currently the U.S. exports more gas than Europe needs, according to international monitors. U.S. Rep. Sean Casten recently told fellow Republicans that more U.S. gas exports will primarily benefit markets in China and Asia.

Israel has investigated and apologized for seven deaths of World Central Kitchen humanitarian aid workers, The Guardian wrote. But WCK wants an independent investigation, insisting bombing three vehicles in a row was no “accident.” Other humanitarian agencies, such as the U.S.-based Humanity Auxilium, say they’ve witnessed a war that is not normal: In two years Ukraine saw 500 deaths of children, whereas Israel has killed over 10,000 children in “less than five months.”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, former House speaker, joined 36 Democrat lawmakers to sign a letter to Biden urging a halt to weapons transfers to Israel. Signer Sen. Bernie Sanders said “Israel should not be getting another nickel” for targeting an area “grappling with famine” created by Israel.

Under a new Biden Administration rule property owners will be limited to 10% in how much they can raise rents if they’re part of a tax-credit program for low-income housing: The Washington Post.

The recent March report from the Dept. of Labor, which historian Heather C. Richardson says indicates the difference between Biden’s middle out and bottom up policies as compared to trickle down economy theory: job growth was higher than expected, being 303,000 instead of 214,000. Unemployment dropped slightly, to 3.8%; for 26 consecutive months it’s been less than 4%. 

Economist Steven Rattner on Morning Joe said immigrants helped push U.S. growth since the pandemic by adding millions of new workers to the labor market, thereby replacing native-born workers who aged into retirement. Wage growth has been 4.1%, above the inflation rate of 3.2%.

Americans pay the most of any nation for identical health treatments. Now that Medicare can negotiate lower drug prices, President Biden says that will save lives and create $200 billion in savings for Medicare. He and Sen. Bernie Sanders recently teamed up to highlight changes in the costs of healthcare. That included the Inflation Reduction Act’s limit on annual Medicare Part D out-of-pocket drug costs to $2,000 beginning in 2025. 

And, the IRA capped insulin for seniors on Medicare at $35; it costs $10 to make, but Biden says patients not covered by Medicare pay an average of $400 monthly, since every Congressional Republican has opposed a lower price.

Blast from the past: “The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.” Will Rogers, humorist and actor, 1879-1935.