Bits n’ pieces from east, west and beyond

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

•Ecuador’s smart gang strategy: the country’s homicide rate fell 70 percent in the last eight years. They credit the dramatic drop with more law enforcement training, better officer pay and focusing on community policing. As well, THE WEEK says gang members are getting training, such as in computers and food service. The Latin Kings gang now runs Kings Catering.

•Why so much interest in making sure Social Security is stable? As pointed out in American Prospect, jobs with traditional pensions started to decline in 1974. By 2017, traditional pension plans covered only 15 percent of all private industry workers.

•While some solar farms in Puerto Rico were destroyed by hurricanes, others survived unscathed. To learn how to successfully craft hurricane-proof solar farms, experts with the Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Institute assessed the various solar farms. They then published their Solar Under Storm report with re-building recommendations. RMI is now aiding with the installation of resilient solar systems on Puerto Rican schools, and also installing larger systems across the Caribbean.

•Could it work for wild predators in the U.S.? Scientific American reports that elephants can be deterred from crop areas with fencing that has bee hives;. Elephants don’t like bees. Others are using drones, which sound like bees. One drone can scare away 100 elephants.

•Small loans, big results: Women for Women International has provided over $116 million in microcredit loans and direct aid to needy women entrepreneurs. They report the funds have helped almost a half million women in eight countries to boost their prosperity and better care for their families.

•There’s not been a full recovery from the recession that began in 2008. The New York Times says stocks are worth 60 percent more than in 2007, but half of Americans don’t own stocks. Rather, the average household’s net worth is 20 percent lower than in early 2007. Overall, rosy economic statistics don’t reflect economic reality, The Times suggests.

•Finland has been ranked by the U.N.’s World Happiness Report as the current most satisfying place to live. The placement was based on factors like freedom, income, social support and life expectancy. USA Today reported that the U.S. ranked 18th out of 156 countries.

•More than 10,000 Iraq and Afghanistan U.S. veterans have filed medical claims connected to military burning pits, according to Smithsonian magazine. Overseas trash duty for enlisted soldiers involves fueling trash fires with jet fuel poured onto waste that includes paint, plastic, batteries, ordnance, Styrofoam, soda cans, medical waste and even human limbs.

•When campaigning for president, Donald Trump vowed to “get rid of” the EPA “in almost every form,” leaving it a shell agency with “little tidbits” of environmental regulations. So far his EPA appointees have abolished 47 environmental regulations and plan to roll back 31 more, The New York Times says. A Harvard Law School analysis states that the rollbacks can lead to 80,000 more deaths per decade, as well as trigger respiratory issues for over a million people.

•Changes at EPA: 16,000 EPA workers left during Trump’s first 18 months. The agency, created in 1970 by President Richard Nixon, was intended to protect health of citizen as well as the environment. Some of Trump’s EPA actions have included allowing the annual dumping of 1.4 billion pounds of toxic wastewater from coal-fired electric plants into waterways, ignoring best technology for reducing hazardous air pollutants, and rolling back mpg standards for vehicles. In 2017 the EPA had 30 percent fewer criminal cases and 20 percent fewer civil cases; in 2018 there was a 50 percent drop in fines from the EPA.

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