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:

•After “bots” flooded the Federal Communications Commission with non-human comments attributed to people who did not make those comments, the FCC is asking Congress for funds to fix the opportunities for fakery. One proposal is to use a tool called Captcha that determines if a user is a bot or a real person. Awareness of the problem arose when millions of fake comments were submitted in favor of an FCC ruling to stop net neutrality.

•In Mexico, where guns are highly regulated, a single legit source sells 38 firearms a day to civilians. At the same time, according to the Los Angeles Times, 580 weapons arrive via smugglers.

•While some predictably predicted that the sky would fall if voters allowed Washington State’s minimum wage to be upped, the Seattle Times reports that, 19 months after voter approval, the state economy continues to show unemployment below 5 percent.

•Data protection is a constitutional right in Europe, but not in the U.S. says ProPublica. Through data brokers, the health insurance industry can see health trends using one’s level of education, TV viewing time, race, income, social media posts, on-line purchases, hobbies, bill-paying status and exercise habits.

•Got FEMA? Probably not, reports A new Federal Emergency Management Agency report admits to underestimating needs after Hurricane Maria. The report advises governments, businesses and citizens to prepare for disasters independent of FEMA, and to also take responsibility for recovery, sans FEMA.

•Want a raise? reports that seeking and finding a new job with better pay is more productive than asking for a raise.

•Over the last two decades, middle class incomes stagnated, but the cost of living went up 30 percent, says Alissa Quart in her new book Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America. Book content includes interviews with adjunct professors who are forced to use food stamps, double-income couples who can’t afford to start a family and school teachers who moonlight for Uber.

•Nearly 40 countries have banned the testing of cosmetics on animals. The U.S. is not one of them, says the Humane Society of the U.S.

•In sworn testimony a senior Justice Department official, addressing children facing immigration court dates without representation, said he’s taught immigration law to “three year olds and four year olds. It takes a lot of time. They get it. It’s not the most efficient, but it can be done.” The ACLU’s Immigration Rights project, along with a number of law firms, called the testimony “preposterous.”

•Obesity in pets may not be entirely due to overfeeding, points out Dr. Karen S. Becker in an on-line column. Excess carbohydrates, which are required for the formation of kibble, can also be a problem. Some dry pet foods have up to 50 percent carbohydrates in the form of ingredients like potatoes, lentils, peas and tapioca; “grain-free” does not mean low carbohydrate. For those who can’t afford providing their pets with a fresh food diet, Dr. Becker recommends giving them at least some fresh food, which “research shows…is better than no healthy food at all.”

•And what do dogs prefer? A study in the Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition exposed 15 dogs to a choice between three “wet” diets to determine their preferences. The study concluded that dogs do not select carbs as a significant portion of their diet.

•The Washington Post points out that in the absence of battlefield aggression, Russia now favors “information warfare.” The Mueller investigation shows Russia hacked at least one U.S. election board, netting them details on a half million voters. Information warfare is less costly and can be, from the perspective of Russian leaders, advantageously disruptive.

•How to fix merger fabrications: When corporations say their mergers will save customers money, then raise prices after the merger is approved, there are several actions to take, according to David Lazarus in the Los Angeles Times: laugh and dismiss the next merger lie, insist regulators get merger claims about customer benefits in writing, and then regulators should check on the validity of the merger claims a few years later.

•Blast from the past: Death Valley set a heat record in 1913 when the mercury hit 134 degrees. A rancher who witnessed the event claimed to have seen swallows fall dead from the sky. A century later a visitor left his tour bus in Death Valley to walk in the dunes, even though it was 117 degrees. He was found within four hours but died. A constant threat at Death Valley National Park, no matter the season, can be dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Lorraine H. Marie is a writer based in Colville, Washington.

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