The Environmental Protection Agency finalized a controversial rule change that limits consideration of public health research. “The rule has been one of the top concerns for public health advocates and environmentalists who say it will restrict the EPA’s ability to consider landmark public health research and other studies that do not make their underlying data public… Tuesday’s rule is the third iteration, a slightly narrower take than earlier versions by focusing on dose-response studies that show how increasing levels of exposure to pollution, chemicals and other substances impact human health and the environment rather than all studies. It would allow the administrator to make an exception for any study they deem important. But rather than apply to just the agency's rulemakings, the rule will affect all "influential scientific information" at the agency, a broad term that could exclude public health research as the agency issues guidance or takes other actions. Critics argue the rule takes a page from the book of the tobacco industry, which sought to undermine science linking its products to cancer. “It’s a page ripped straight from the science denial playbook of the tobacco and lead paint industries. If capable of shame, the polluter toadies leading Trump’s EPA should be ashamed,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said in a statement. In the case of its latest rule, the EPA could block consideration of Harvard’s 1993 six cities study, which linked air pollution to premature death. Its conclusions have formed the basis for many of the EPA’s air pollution rules.”
The Justice Department continues to seek approval to loosen enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. “Under the change, the department would continue to narrowly enforce the law’s protections in cases where it could prove intentional discrimination, but no longer in instances where a policy or practice at issue had a “disparate impact” on minority or other groups. Civil rights groups say that the disparate impact rule is one of their most important tools for showing discrimination because it takes into account patterns of behavior that can seem neutral and compare outcomes for different groups to reveal inequities. Such cases make up most discrimination litigation, as businesses and organizations rarely disclose that they are purposefully engaging in the practice. But the Justice Department argued that its current approach to enforcing civil rights protections addressed “a vastly broader scope of conduct” than the statute itself prohibits, according to a copy of its draft proposal to amend the regulations obtained by The New York Times. The most substantial amendments to the rule would eliminate references to policies and practices having “the effect of” subjecting individuals to discrimination.”
The Guardian reports on escalating right-wing extremism in the US, culminating in this week’s invasion of the US Capitol. “The playbook for the Maga invasion of the nation’s Capitol building on Wednesday has been developing for years in plain sight, at far-right rallies in cities like Charlottesville, Berkeley and Portland, and then, in the past year, at state capitols across the country, where heavily armed white protesters have forced their way into legislative chambers to accuse politicians of tyranny and treason. “No one should be surprised,” said Sarah Anthony, a Black state lawmaker who was on the legislative floor in Michigan’s Capitol on 30 April when hundreds of anti-lockdown protesters, including white militia members with guns, tried to force their way inside. “This has been escalating in every corner of our country for months.”
Wired reports on how social media platforms drive extremism: "In their relentless pursuit of engagement and profits, these platforms created algorithms that amplify hate speech, disinformation, and conspiracy theories. This harmful content is particularly engaging and serves as the lubricant for businesses as profitable as they are influential. These platforms also enforce their terms of service in ways that favor extreme speech and behavior, predominantly right-wing extremism… Facebook’s own research revealed that 64 percent of the time a person joins an extremist Facebook Group, they do so because the platform recommended it."
The year 2020 was the hottest on record (adjusting for El Nino conditions in 2016). “The climate crisis continued unabated in 2020, with the joint highest global temperatures on record, alarming heat and record wildfires in the Arctic, and a record 29 tropical storms in the Atlantic.”
Over 4,000 people died of COVID-related causes in the US on Thursday, the highest daily death toll so far. In Los Angeles County, an average of 10 people are dying every hour.
New study finds sugary drink consumption rebounds when taxes are repealed. “The price of the beverages increased by 1.13 cents per fluid ounce in the county while the tax was in place and dropped by 1.19 cents per fluid ounce after the repeal. The volume sold dropped by about 26% under the tax and increased by about 30% after the tax was repealed, the researchers said. But, ultimately, the investigators found no net change in the volume of sweetened beverages sold pre-tax compared to after the tax was repealed. "Volume of sweetened beverages sold in Cook County went right back to pre-tax levels following the repeal of the tax," Powell said in a university news release. The results suggest that the tax worked to bring down demand for sweetened beverages through price point alone, she noted. It did not appear to change perceptions regarding the harms linked to consuming sugary beverages. Public messaging about the tax focused mostly on proceeds being used to address budgetary deficits rather than on public health. "We don't know if public messaging were more focused on health benefits if there would have been some lasting impact of the tax, but as it stands, we see that the substantial impact from the tax fully disappeared once it was repealed," Powell said.”