As I peruse the news facts accumulate on my desktop. When it gets to the point when the stack blocks the view of my computer screen, it's time to pass along items of interest, some serious and some not so serious. 


Coin shortage. Due to COVID concerns, many people have stopped using coins for monetary transactions. The CDC says there is no evidence to confirm or disprove COVID can be transmitted through coins, but retailers are still low on their supply of pocket change. 


Replacing coins is no easy thing. The U.S. Mint reports it costs 7.4 cents to produce a nickel coin and 1.76 cents for a penny. The most cost efficient coin is the quarter which costs only 8.62 cents to make. (AARP Magazine Money Saver)


Palm swipes. While coin usage is down, alternative forms of paying for things is on the upswing. Amazon is already using palm-recognition in some of its stores where shoppers can pay for groceries by swiping their palms. 


Now that technology is being tried at concert venues. Concert goers just connect their palm to a ticketing account by hovering their hand over a device. They only need to sign up once and then can use their palm to get into other shows.  An Amazon account is not needed to use it. (Associated Press)


Container woes. Another shortage is affecting commerce world wide – shipping containers. “The pandemic caused big shipping lines to cancel a slew of sailings. As a result, when things started to heat up again, those empty boxes hadn't been brought back (into the supply chain).” Plus, manufacturing of new containers fell by half. 


The result of all this? “As recently as a year ago you could rent a 40-foot steel container on a ship for under $2,000. It costs more like $14,000 these days.” (Newser and CNN)


Life expectancy. These shortages are concerning, but not more than an alarming trend in the United States. “According to a new working paper released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Americans now die earlier than their European counterparts, no matter what age you’re looking at. Compared with Europeans, American babies are more likely to die before they turn five, American teens are more likely to die before they turn twenty, and American adults are more likely to die before they turn sixty-five. Average life expectancy surged above eighty years old in just about every Western European country in the 2010s. By contrast, the average life span has never exceeded seventy-nine and now it’s just taken a historic tumble.” And this trend has nothing to do with COVID. (The Atlantic)


Plastic munchies. One way Michigan residents may be able to increase their chances of longevity is to stop eating plastic. “That may sound ridiculous, but researchers say it has, unfortunately, become a serious problem that bears further study as evidence mounts that people are eating, drinking and inhaling microscopic pieces of plastic on a regular basis.”


These micro-plastics are embedded in everything from the food we eat to the water we drink to the air we breath. Scientists are hard at work all over Michigan to find a solution to this growing problem. (MLive)


College men. Apparently, college men are becoming a vanishing breed. Men are abandoning higher education in record levels. “At the close of the 2020-21 academic year, women made up 59.5 percent of college students, an all-time high, and men 40.5 percent. Colleges and universities had 1.5 million fewer students compared with five years ago, and men accounted for seventy-one percent of the decline.” (Wall Street Journal)


Summer heat. Was this summer hot enough for you? If it was, there's evidence to back up your thoughts. “The summer of 2021 has tied with the summer of 1936 (Dust Bowl) for hottest on record. In 2021, the average temperature in the contiguous US was seventy-four degrees Fahrenheit, 2.6 degrees above average.” (USA Today)


The 1912 prediction. This summer's heat should be no surprise because it was predicted more than one hundred years ago. An article appeared in several New Zealand newspapers in 1912 and the headline read: “Coal Consumption Affecting Climate.”

In the clipping, it stated: “The coal burned in furnaces around the world is causing an effect that may be considerable in a few centuries." it could be that those “few” centuries are here already. (Popular Mechanics)


Fun times. All the news is not bad. Some actually reflects generations of fun. The National Toy Hall of Fame has announced the twelve finalists for 2021 induction. The finalists are: American Girl Dolls, the board game Battleship, billiards, Cabbage Patch Kids, Fisher-Price Corn Popper, Mahjong, Masters of the Universe, pinata, Risk, sand, The Settlers of Catan and the toy fire engine. (United Press International)


As for me, I love the inclusion of sand as a toy. What kid never played in a sandbox or in the sand at the beach? I think sand is right up there with the stick and the empty cardboard box. The inductees will be announced on November fourth. 


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and