California braces for a third day of triple-digit heat

ABC Good Morning America

California braces for a third day of triple-digit heat

Karma Allen, Good Morning America      October 25, 2017

Residents in California experienced record-breaking heat on Tuesday as temperatures soared past 100 degrees in southern parts of the Golden State.

Meteorologists said residents should expect more triple-digit heat on Wednesday, bringing the blistering heat into its third day, but temperatures should cool after that.

The hottest temperatures were recorded in San Luis Obispo and San Diego, where temperatures reached 108 degrees.

More than a dozen heat records for the day were broken throughout the state on Tuesday and the National Weather Service said more records will be challenged on Wednesday. Los Angeles, Burbank and Woodland Hills are all forecast to see highs of least 100 degrees on Wednesday.

Downtown Los Angeles broke a 108-year-old record when temperatures hit 104 degrees on Tuesday, topping the previous record for that day of 99 degrees.

Temperatures at the San Luis Obispo Airport touched 108 degrees on Tuesday afternoon, tying the nation’s high temperature of the day with the Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego, according to the NWS.

The NWS warned that the heat, coupled with gusty winds, could create the most dangerous fire weather conditions seen in the past few years.

Several wildfires broke out on Tuesday, but many were quickly put out, authorities said. Nearly 120 acres were charred in a rural area of Ventura County, located an hour northwest of Los Angeles, before firefighters stopped it from spreading. No homes were threatened, but two firefighters were injured: one for smoke inhalation and the other for multiple bee stings, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.

The fire, dubbed the Vista fire by authorities, was about 50 percent contained as of late Tuesday evening.

Craig Digure, 46, who has lived in Los Angeles for less than a year, said the heat was too brutal to sun himself at Echo Park Lake near downtown.

“It’s kind of crazy. I’m from Minnesota, so I’m not used to this in October. It’s 40 degrees back home, almost ready to snow,” he told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “I thought summer was over. But it’s just not seeming to end.”

Temperatures are forecast to lower by a few degrees late Wednesday, but they will still be well above normal highs, according to the NWS. It expects to see further cooling on Thursday and Friday.

A Weed Killer Is Increasingly Showing Up in People’s Bodies


A Weed Killer Is Increasingly Showing Up in People’s Bodies

Alice Park, Time        October 24, 2017 study shows an alarming spike in levels of Roundup & #39;s chemicals in people’s urine

The latest study to look at the long-term effects of Roundup, a popular weed killer developed by Monsanto in the 1970s, raises questions about the herbicide’s possible contributions to poor health in certain communities.

The study, published Tuesday in JAMA, tracked people over the age of 50 in southern California from 1993-1996 to 2014-2016, with researchers periodically collecting urine samples during that time.

TIME Health NewsletterGet the latest health and science news, plus: burning questions and expert tips. View Sample

Researchers led by Paul Mills, professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California San Diego, found that the percentage of people who tested positive for a chemical called glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, shot up by 500% in that time period. The levels of glyphosate also spiked by 1208% during that time.

Read more: Study Links Widely Used Pesticides to Antibiotic Resistance

Exactly what that means for human health isn’t quite clear yet. There are few studies of the chemical and its effects on people, although animal studies raise some concerns. One trial from the UK, in which rats were fed low levels of glyphosate throughout their lives, found that the chemical contributed to a higher risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition in which fat accumulates in the liver and contributes to inflammation and scarring of the tissue. Mills says that the levels of glyphosate documented in the people in his study were 100-fold greater than those in the rats.

To follow up on these results, Mills plans to measure factors that track liver disease, to see if the levels of glyphosate he found are actually associated with a greater risk of liver problems in people. He heads the Herbicide Awareness & Research Project at UCSD, an ongoing research project in which he invites people to provide urine samples to test glyphosate levels. By gathering more information about people’s exposure, he is planning to tease apart how much of it comes from actually ingesting products sprayed with the chemical, and how much can be attributed to breathing in particles that have been sprayed into the air, especially in farm communities.

Read more: Here’s Which Produce Has the Most Pesticides

For now, he says the findings should make people more aware of what they are ingesting along with their food. While Roundup was developed to eliminate most weeds from genetically modified crops — and thus reduce the amount of pesticides sprayed on them — recent studies have found that many weeds are now resistant to Roundup. That means growers are using more Roundup, which could only exacerbate potential negative health effects on people who consume those products. Eating organically grown produce may help to reduce exposure to some pesticides and herbicides, but it’s not a guarantee that the products are completely free to potentially harmful chemicals.

“From my perspective it’s remarkable that we have been ingesting a lot of this chemical over the last couple of decades,” says Mills. “But the biomedical literature hasn’t said much about its effects on people. That’s a gap that we endeavored to address and bring more awareness to with this study.”

The terrible truth about your tin of Italian tomatoes

The Guardian

Global Development
Trafficking and exploitation in focus is supported by: this content

The terrible truth about your tin of Italian tomatoes

Court documents reveal that fruit from two food giants on UK supermarket shelves was picked by workers in southern Italy under ‘conditions of absolute exploitation’ workers pick tomatoes in southern Italy. The country’s tomato industry is worth an estimated €3.2bn (£2.85bn). Photograph: Tony Gentile/Reuters

Isabel Hunter and Lorenzo Di Pietro           October 24,  2017 

Two of Italy’s biggest food companies have been implicated in labour abuses of migrant workers picking tomatoes bought by thousands of British and European consumers every week, according to court documents.

Italian prosecutor Paola Guglielmi has named food giants Mutti and Conserve Italia as benefiting from “conditions of absolute exploitation” in the country’s hugely lucrative tomato industry, as part of an investigation into the death of a seasonal laborer.

Both Mutti and the Conserve Italia brand Cirio supply major UK supermarkets with premium tinned tomatoes and passata, and are named in court documents signed by Guglielmi.
The case began with the death of Abdullah Muhammed, a 47-year-old legal Sudanese immigrant and father of two, who suffered a heart attack while working in the fields of Nardó, which sits on the heel of southern Italy, in July 2015. The allegation against his employer was that Muhammed’s life could have been saved if he had been allowed to go to hospital.

The Italian investigator used her powers to track the supply chain up to the very top of the country’s €3.2bn (£2.85bn) processed tomato industry. While the companies are not liable for the death, their link is significant.

Like thousands of other workers, Muhammed’s day would start at 4am and he would work until 5pm handpicking tomatoes in the fierce heat of the southern Italian summer. Labor abuses listed in the court documents include working for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, without breaks, with minimal pay and no access to medical staff.

Italian prosecutor Paola Guglielmi. Photograph: Courtesy of Corriere Salentino

“The person responsible for the crime by law was just the gangmaster,” Guglielmi told the Guardian.

“But in this case there was also manslaughter. That guy would not have died if there had been a doctor’s visit. The violation of the safety provisions on the job was flagrant.”

Through a far-reaching investigation, Guglielmi checked telephone records, tapped phone calls and conducted aerial surveillance to painstakingly link the exploitation of seasonal migrant workers to industrial giants.

While workers make an average of €30 a day in the Puglia region, they can expect to lose up to half of that just to pay for food, transport, water and a cut to their gangmaster.

The gangmaster or “caporalato” system is rife across the Italian agricultural sector where migrants – both legal and illegal – are organized into informal labor groups that are hired by Italian landowners to harvest their crops.

The file accuses Italian company owner Giuseppe Mariano and Sudanese gangmaster Mohammed Elsalih of manslaughter. The preliminary investigation has now concluded, and a judge will decide whether the case should go to trial.

The companies named in the file are not liable and stress the extent to which they encourage their suppliers to treat their workers ethically.

A spokesman for Conserve Italia, which produces the Cirio brand of tinned tomatoes that is sold by Tesco, said it requires all its suppliers agree to “respect” their workers and the company’s ethical code, and that the company cut ties with the supplier involved after they were made aware of Muhammed’s death.

“We know in the south of Italy there are some situations that are not in line but we can’t do the work – it’s not our responsibility to verify what happens in the region but we do ask our suppliers to respect human rights,” he said. “We don’t pay less than the normal price.”

Conserve Italia has since said in a statement that it plans to sue the suppliers for damages “to protect its reputation as the most ethical company in this business”.

Mutti also issued a statement. “Mutti has always been committed to fight any exploitation of workers’ systems by all means … ,” it said. “Mutti selects its farmers and agricultural partners with special care and maintains a constant dialogue with them along the entire supply chain. As far as the protection and security of workers is concerned, each contract involves specific requirements on work conditions (salary regularity as well as security in the workplace). Mutti will continue to foster its commitment to work in cooperation with its competitors, farmers associations and the Italian institutions to avoid accidents in fields.” member of Médecins Sans Frontières talks to an African worker in a makeshift camp in the countryside near the village of Rignano Garganico, southern Italy. Photograph: Tony Gentile/Reuters

Activists claim that the low production costs drive interests not to tackle the exploitation problem properly. Yvan Sagnet, 32, from Cameroon worked just five days in the fields near to where Mohammed died before leading a mass strike of the workers in 2012. Now he campaigns to end what he brands “slavery”.

“When I arrived in Puglia I discovered the gangmaster system – conditions were inhuman – they were ghettos that were like concentration camps,” he said.

“One day a guy got sick [in the fields], he couldn’t handle it and in those places there is no way to get first aid – there is no address. There is no cellphone signal. The workers don’t speak Italian so the gangmasters take advantage … The gangmaster insisted, ‘If you don’t pay me the 20 euros I will not take you. If you do you can go to the hospital tonight.’”

After years of campaigning and organizing a mass strike against the gangmasters, a strengthened law outlawing the caporalato system came into effect last year.

But campaigners say very little has changed in isolated farms where authorities do not do enough to proactively crack down on the practice.

“The interests of these fields are linked with the interests of the politicians and people who own the most important companies in Italy,” said Valeria Sallustio, former president of Finis Terrae, an Italian NGO that worked closely with the workers in Nardó.

Zoe Maddison, spokesperson for the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents Tesco and Sainsbury’s among other major UK supermarkets, said: “This is a tragic case and we expect the Italian authorities to carry out a full investigation.

“The welfare of all people who work in our supply chains is of key importance to us, and BRC members will investigate any allegations of malpractice.”

McCain critiques Trump without labeling him ‘a draft dodger’….The Telegraph

McCain critiques Trump without labeling him ‘a draft dodger’….The Telegraph John McCain, R-Ariz., left, and Defense Secretary James Mattis, speak to members of the media after their meeting Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin AP Photo

AP Congressional Correspondent         October 23, 2017 

WASHINGTON:   Republican Sen. John McCain left no doubt Monday that he was thinking of President Donald Trump as he criticized the draft system during Vietnam for forcing low-income Americans to serve while the wealthy could avoid war with a doctor’s note.

McCain, a former Navy pilot and prisoner of war, stopped short of labeling Trump a “draft dodger” for getting five draft deferments. But the senator’s comments came with Trump already immersed in controversy over how he honors U.S. troop deaths, and underscored the remove between the billionaire president and the military system he now controls as commander in chief.

McCain’s criticism also continued a long-running clash between the two men on the eve of a visit by Trump to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to court Senate GOP votes for his tax plan, a meeting that could contain more than a few awkward moments.

“I don’t consider him so much a draft dodger as I feel that the system was so wrong that certain Americans could evade their responsibilities to serve the country,” McCain said on ABC’s “The View.” He was being pressed about comments in a C-SPAN interview aired Sunday where he lamented that the military “drafted the lowest income level of America and the highest income level found a doctor that would say they had a bone spur.”

One of Trump’s deferments came as a result of a physician’s letter stating he suffered from bone spurs in his feet. Trump’s presidential campaign described the issue as a temporary problem.

McCain, meanwhile, spent 5½ years as a prisoner of war after his plane was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967. Yet during last year’s presidential campaign Trump said McCain was not a war hero because “I like people who weren’t captured.”

The senator made clear during Monday’s interview that he had been referring to Trump in making his C-SPAN comments. When one of the hosts remarked that people thought he was talking about Trump because the president had sought a medical deferment, McCain interjected, “More than once, yes.”

McCain was asked to describe his relationship with the president. “Almost none” he simply said.

The six-term Arizona lawmaker, battling brain cancer at age 81, made his appearance on “The View” in honor of his daughter Meghan McCain’s birthday. She recently joined the daytime talk show as one of its panel of co-hosts. The White House declined to comment on McCain’s remarks.

The tacit criticism reflected the ongoing tension between Trump and McCain, which began during last year’s campaign and has flared on and off. Trump responded furiously when McCain’s “no” vote sunk Senate efforts to repeal and replace “Obamacare” earlier this year.

And last week, in a speech in Philadelphia, McCain questioned “half-baked, spurious nationalism” in America’s foreign policy. Trump lashed out, insisting he would fight back and “it won’t be pretty.”

That prompted McCain to retort: “I have faced tougher adversaries.”

The senator burst into sustained laughter on Monday when one of the hosts mentioned Trump’s threats and asked McCain, “Are you scared?”

After he stopped laughing, McCain said, “I mentioned that I had faced greater challenges.”

“Let’s stop insulting each other. Let’s start respecting each other,” McCain recommended.

The back-and-forth between the president and McCain stands as the latest skirmish between the two Republican Party heavyweights and another example of Trump tangling with GOP senators who could make or break his agenda in Congress.

Trump in recent weeks has feuded with Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, although the president joined with the Kentucky senator at the White House last week to publicly declare they were on the same page. Both Corker and McCain could be critical to the success or failure of the president’s push to overhaul the tax system.

During Trump’s presidency, McCain has questioned the president’s immigration policies and warned him against cozying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The senator also criticized Trump in August for saying that both white nationalists and counter protesters were responsible for violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia.

McCain insisted in a tweet at the time that “there’s no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate and bigotry” and the president should say so.

The senator underwent surgery in mid-July to remove a 2-inch (51-millimeter) blood clot in his brain after being diagnosed with an aggressive tumor called a glioblastoma. It’s the same type of tumor that killed Sen. Edward M. Kennedy at age 77 in 2009 and Beau Biden, son of then-Vice President Joe Biden, at 46 in 2015.

China Shuts Down Tens Of Thousands Of Factories In Unprecedented Pollution Crackdown

NPR   Asia

China Shuts Down Tens Of Thousands Of Factories In Unprecedented Pollution Crackdown

Rob Schmitz, Heard on Morning Edition         October 23, 2017 woman wearing a face mask walks on a street as Beijing is hit by polluted air and sandstorms on May 4.     Andy Wong/AP

In the gritty industrial town of Yiwu, workers prepare jeans to be dyed in a vivid range of colors.

Two months ago, this factory — and this entire city, located in China’s eastern province of Zhejiang — was a much quieter place. Inspection crews from the environmental bureau had shut businesses down, cutting electricity and gas so that they could determine who was following China’s environmental laws and who wasn’t.

The boss of this factory, who asked that his name not be used for fear of punishment by local officials, says he’s never seen anything like it.

“It had a big impact on our business,” he says. “We couldn’t make the delivery date since we [were] shut down. It’s not just our factory. All the factories out here had this issue.”

This is happening across the country: Entire industrial regions of China are being temporarily shut down, and the unusual sight of blue skies is reappearing as environmental inspectors go about their work. After decades of doing little about the pollution that has plagued much of the country, China’s government may be finally getting serious about enforcing its environmental laws.

“So, basically, you’re seeing these inspectors go into factories for surprise inspections,” says Gary Huang, founder of 80/20 Sourcing, which connects foreign clients with China’s supply chain. “They’re instituting daily fines, and sometimes — in the real severe cases — criminal enforcement. People are getting put in jail.”

In the past year, China’s Ministry of Environment has sent inspectors to 10 provinces, where they’ve reprimanded, fined, or charged officials in more than 80,000 factories with criminal offenses. Entire swaths of Eastern China have halted production, prompting some companies to move entire supply chains to countries like India and Bangladesh to meet their orders.

“It’s a huge event. It’s a serious event. I think many of us here believe it will become the new normal,” says Michael Crotty, president of MKT & Associates, a company that exports textiles from China. Crotty says in his nearly two decades in China, he’s never seen a crackdown of this magnitude. “The consumers of China don’t want red and blue rivers. They don’t want to see gray skies every day.”

China’s crackdown reminds Crotty of 1970s America after the Clean Water Act was passed.

“At that time, we in the textile business saw many dyeing and printing houses shut down because they couldn’t comply with the regulations. We’re seeing a similar process taking place here in China, and it’s much, much bigger. The disruption is larger,” he says.

Crotty’s colleague Archie Liu, general manager of MKT & Associates, estimates that 40 percent of China’s factories have been at least temporarily shut down in the latest spate of inspections. He says that’s a good thing.

“After all, factories will be better, more sustainable, and more socially responsible after being inspected,” he says. “It’s better for our supply chain. Then we can tell Walmart, Costco, and other retailers of ours that we’re qualified and that everything we make for Americans are environmentally friendly.”

After a quarter century of living in China, Shanghai environmental lawyer Peter Corne is gleefully celebrating the new environmental crackdown.

“This is better than a 100-percent pay raise for me,” says Corne, managing partner at Dorsey & Whitney’s Shanghai office. “I was just dreaming about it. I never thought it would come true.”

Corne says what’s most promising about this new enforcement are the new fees that are being imposed when factories, whose emissions are now monitored in real time, discharge more than the law allows.

“The implementation will be totally different,” Corne says. “It won’t be the environmental bureau that’s implementing anymore. They’ll just be monitoring. It will be the tax bureau that’s implementing it.”

This is crucial, says Corne, because China’s tax bureaus are powerful entities backed up by rigorous laws that, when violated, are typically met with aggressive local enforcement. Corne’s confident the economic hit will be temporary as companies that specialize in clean tech get a boost from so many factories now being forced to comply with much stricter laws.

But in the short term, that’s little consolation for businessmen like Michael Crotty.

“So, short-term, the disruptions are pretty significant, and the timing, quite frankly, is difficult,” Crotty says.

Difficult, because these shutdowns have impacted supply chains producing goods for the upcoming Christmas season in the U.S. Crotty thinks Americans will see an increase in prices on the shelves this holiday season due to the breadth of China’s factory shutdowns.

But, he says, it’s a small price to pay for a cleaner China.

Yuhan Xu contributed research to this story.

These 5 U.S. Towns Are Powered Entirely By Renewable Energy


From Impact

These 5 U.S. Towns Are Powered Entirely By Renewable Energy

“For too long, dirty fuels have jeopardized the health of our communities and put our children’s future at risk.”

Alison Moodie on assignment for HuffPost     October 21, 2017 Nickelsberg via Getty Images. An array of 366 solar tracking devices in South Burlington, Vermont.

As President Donald Trump stands his ground on fossil fuels and works to roll back America’s climate and clean energy policies, cities around the country are committing to renewable energy ― and a handful already get all their power from sources such as wind and solar.

Over the past decade, five locations ― Aspen, Colorado; Greensburg, Kansas; Burlington, Vermont; Kodiak Island, Alaska; and Rock Port, Missouri ― have successfully made the switch to 100 percent renewables.

Since Trump was elected in November, the number of cities and towns that have committed to using only clean power sources has more than doubled, with 46 cities, including Atlanta and San Diego, promising a move in that direction, said Jodie Van Horn, campaign director for the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 initiative. The campaign, which launched in 2016, is challenging 100 U.S. cities to commit to 100 percent clean energy.

“For too long, dirty fuels have jeopardized the health of our communities and put our children’s future at risk,” said Van Horn. “Now cities are not only our best offense, they’re also our best defense against Trump’s destructive policies.”


Cities play a key role in reducing carbon emissions, since they account for roughly 75 percent of global C0₂ emissions. It’s becoming easier for cities to clean their air as renewable energy continues to become more affordable. Once extremely costly, wind and solar will become the cheapest sources of electricity globally by 2030, according to research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

While cities’ pursuit of 100 percent renewable energy is an “admirable goal,” the feasibility of every city achieving this target depends partly on the city government’s mandates and how they define what “100 percent renewable” means, said Michelle Davis, senior solar analyst at GTM Research.

Even the five towns that have already made the transition had different ideas about how to reach this target, Davis said. So one city’s path to 100 percent renewable energy could look very different from another’s.

“It’s one of the main areas of criticisms of most of these renewable energy targets and policies ― it is not consistent from state to state and city to city exactly how an entity claims they are meeting certain renewable energy goals,” Davis said.

Another challenge lies in who runs a city’s electric grid, she said. Some grids are run by municipal utilities, which means the city can decide whether it wants to integrate cleaner energy options. However, other cities have grids that are run by a statewide monopoly utility. These cities don’t have jurisdiction to make those decisions.

But as clean energy technologies continue to become more affordable and efficient, a 100 percent renewable power target should be within reach for most cities.

“Right now the cities that are doing it are ones where ‘the right conditions’ ― already a good energy mix, rich ― are in place, but this doesn’t need to persist,” said Dan Kammen, a professor of energy at the University of California, Berkeley. “Cities can all essentially source green energy and use offsets to fill gaps until more clean generation comes online.”

1 Rock Port, Missouri Grant / Alamy Stock Photo

In 2008, Rock Port, a small farm town in northwest Missouri, became the first community in America to be powered entirely by wind energy. Four large wind turbines are connected to the power grid and provide Rock Port’s 1,300 residents with more electricity than they can use.

2 Greensburg, Kansas DUNAND via Getty Images

A rural hamlet in south-central Kansas, Greensburg is the little town that could. When a tornado devastated Greensburg in 2007, half the town’s population of 1,400 left. Those who stayed decided to rebuild their community with sustainability at its core. Greensburg met its 100 percent renewable energy goal in 2013, harnessing the very thing that decimated it: wind. They also used solar and geothermal technologies. The city buys its electricity from a 12.5 megawatt wind farm just outside of town, which provides more energy than the town needs, allowing it to sell the excess.

“The wind that destroyed Greensburg is also the wind that would make us energy sustainable,” said Mayor Bob Dixson.

A big hurdle was cost. Rebuilding with an eye on going green would set the town back 20 percent more than if it had stuck with conventional energy sources and building materials. But the investment is paying off in the long term: Greensburg now saves $200,000 annually in energy costs for its largest buildings, which are all LEED certified.

3 Kodiak Island, Alaska Kaehler via Getty Images

Since 2014, Kodiak Island in southern Alaska has been 99 percent powered by wind and hydro. A decade ago, Kodiak got the majority of its power from hydro, but it was still burning 2.8 million gallons of diesel a year to make up the energy shortfall, at a cost of $7 million annually. So the island’s electric utility company set an ambitious goal that 95 percent of the community’s power would come from renewable energy sources by 2020. Kodiak succeeded in meeting its target six years ahead of schedule. It was a steep learning curve. The city bought three 1.5 MW wind turbines in 2009, but installing them was a challenge. “There was not a lot of information back then on how to keep the grid frequency and voltage steady with an influx of variable wind power,” Kodiak Electric Association CEO Darron Scott told the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute. “It was uncharted territory.”

4 Burlington, Vermont via Getty Images

Vermont’s largest city, Burlington, achieved 100 percent renewable electricity in 2014 when it bought a hydropower facility on its outskirts. Burlington, which once relied heavily on coal, is now powered by a combination of energy from burning wood chips, wind, solar, landfill methane and hydropower. During times of high demand, Burlington might use a small amount of power that comes from fossil fuels, but it generates and trades enough renewable energy during the year to effectively cancel out that usage. The city estimates it will save $20 million over the next two decades.

5 Aspen, Colorado via Getty Images

Aspen is a winter ski destination for the mega-rich, and it’s also one of the greenest towns in America. Ski resort towns have been hit hard in recent years as warmer winters mean less snow, so they’ve been ahead of the curve in tackling the effects of climate change. Aspen committed to a 100 percent renewable energy target in 2007 and achieved its goal in 2015 using primarily wind and hydropower. It wasn’t an easy road getting there. The city already had two hydroplants – built in the 1980s – to draw power from, and by 2014 it was using around 80 percent renewable energy. To close the final gap, Aspen decided to buy wind power from other states rather than resurrect a third hydroplant, which would be too costly.

Air Pollution Kills 9 Million, Costs $5 Trillion Per Year


By Oil Change International

Air Pollution Kills 9 Million, Costs $5 Trillion Per Year pollution in China. V.T. Polywoda / Flickr

By Andy Rowell     October 20, 2017

“For decades, pollution and its harmful effects on people’s health, the environment, and the planet have been neglected both by Governments and the international development agenda. Yet, pollution is the largest environmental cause of disease and death in the world today, responsible for an estimated 9 million premature deaths.”

So begins the executive summary of the landmark Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, just published. It continues: “The substantial health and economic costs of pollution globally can no longer be ignored.”

The introduction to the report is stark: “Pollution is one of the great existential challenges of the Anthropocene epoch … Pollution is now a substantial problem that endangers the health of billions, degrades the Earth’s ecosystems, undermines the economic security of nations, and is responsible for an enormous global burden of disease, disability, and premature death.”

Some of the statistics and findings are startling. People are not just dying—they are getting sick and living with years of disability. This has an economic toll. The “welfare losses due to pollution to be more than US$4.6 trillion per year, which is equivalent to 6.2% of global economic output.”

If the message was not unambiguous enough: Air pollution “threatens the continuing survival of human societies.”

The impact on health is immense: Air pollution was responsible in 2015 for 19 percent of all cardiovascular deaths worldwide, 24 percent of ischaemic heart disease deaths, 21 percent of stroke deaths, and 23 percent of lung cancer deaths.

However, the burden is disproportionately on the poor and the world’s most vulnerable. More than ninety percent of all pollution-related mortality is seen in low-income and middle-income countries.

Children are also “at high risk of pollution-related disease and even extremely low-dose exposures to pollutants during windows of vulnerability in utero and in early infancy can result in disease, disability, and death in childhood and across their lifespan.”

The commission points the finger at the fossil fuel industry: “Pollution is intimately linked to global climate change. Fuel combustion—fossil fuel combustion in high-income and middle-income countries” is a key driver of pollution and “coal is the world’s most polluting fossil fuel, and coal combustion is an important cause of both pollution and climate change.”

“We fear that with nine million deaths a year, we are pushing the envelope on the amount of pollution the earth can carry,” said professor Philip Landrigan at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who co-led the commission.

Landrigan told the Guardian that the scale of deaths from pollution had surprised the researchers and that two other “real shockers” stood out. First was how quickly modern pollution deaths were rising, and secondly, “The current figure of nine million is almost certainly an underestimate, probably by several million.”

Landrigan added, “We always hear ‘we can’t afford to clean up pollution’—I say we can’t afford not to clean it up.”

Instead of cleaning up pollution and pioneering a clean energy future, the Trump administration is promoting dirty fossil fuels, including coal. Gina McCarthy, former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, criticized the Trump administration after the report was released: “Now is not the time to go backwards in the U.S. Environmental protection and a strong economy go hand in hand. We also need to help other countries, not only for the benefit it will bring them, but because pollution knows no boundaries.”

It does not have to be this way. “This Lancet Commission should inform policy makers and serve as a timely call to action. Pollution is a winnable battle … Current and future generations deserve a pollution-free world,” the commission said in an editorial.

The time to act is now.

Pollution kills more people each year than war, AIDS, and malaria combined


Pollution kills more people each year than war, AIDS, and malaria combined

According to a landmark new study, the U.S. tops the list of developed countries with the highest rate of pollution-related deaths.

Natasha Geiling         October 20, 2017 in Delhi, India. (CREDIT: AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

A landmark new study on the public health impacts of global pollution found that toxic air, water, and soil are responsible for the deaths of nine million people each year, more than the number that die from war, hunger, malaria, and AIDS — combined.

The study, published on Friday in the Lancet, warned that pollution is so dangerous it “threatens the continuing survival of human societies.” According to the study, which pulled data from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) ongoing Global Burden of Disease project, pollution accounts for 16 percent of deaths worldwide — 15 times more than deaths from war and conflict, and three times more than deaths from AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined.

“This is an immensely important piece of work highlighting the impact that environmental pollution has on death and disease,” Maria Neira, the WHO director of public health and the environment, told the Guarding. “This is an unacceptable loss of lives and human development potential.”

Most of these nine million deaths occur from pollution-related diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, and lung-cancer. The majority occur in developing nations, where rapid industrialization combined with lax regulations translate into higher exposure to toxic air, water, and soil pollution for residents. But the study found that pollution-related deaths do occur in industrialized nations, with the United States and Japan topping the list for most “modern” pollution-related deaths, from things like fossil fuel-related and chemical pollution.

According to the study, outdoor air pollution from things like cars or industrial activity is responsible for some 4.5 million deaths each year, nearly half of all pollution-related deaths — a number that experts estimate will only increase in the coming years, with air pollution deaths in southeast Asia expected to double by 2050. Another 2.9 million deaths come from indoor air pollution, from things like wood-burning stoves, which are still used throughout the developing world for heat and cooking. Toxic water is responsible for another 1.8 million death each year; sewage-laced water, for instance, is often linked to illnesses like cholera or parasitic infections. Workplace pollution — prevalent in industrialized countries — accounts for some 800,000 deaths each year.

Researchers warned that nine million could be an underestimate of the true number of deaths due to pollution each year, as the link between pollution and certain diseases — like dementia or diabetes — is an area of emerging science. Researchers also pointed to the unknown impact of hundreds of widely-used chemicals and pesticides prevalent in the environment, which could increase the total number of pollution-related deaths.

According to the study, while sources of “traditional pollution” — like wood-burning stoves and toxic water — have declined in recent years, sources of “modern pollution” — largely defined as pollution from industry — has increased at a stunning rate.

Trump’s EPA policies risk more Alzheimer’s cases, doctors warn

Two new studies support findings that polluted air causes dementia.

The study also linked pollution deaths to lost economic output, finding that on average, pollution-related deaths resulted in a 6 percent hit to global GDP (a loss of $4.6 trillion each year). In developing countries, pollution-related deaths were linked to a 1.3 percent loss in national GDP, compared with a .5 percent loss in developed countries.

“What people don’t realize is that pollution does damage to economies,” Richard Fuller, head of the global pollution watchdog group Pure Earth, told the Associated Press. “People who are sick or dead cannot contribute to the economy.”

The report comes as the Trump administration looks to roll back a number of pollution-related regulations in the United States, from stricter limits on ozone pollution from industry to limits on toxic discharge allowed for coal companies. Before coming to the agency, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt sued the EPA to stop stricter regulations on the limits of allowable mercury and ozone from industry, and questioned the EPA’s science on the relationship between methane emissions from the oil and gas industry and air pollution.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is currently considering two Trump administration nominees to the EPA that would have an outsized-impact on the agency’s work regarding air and water pollution — William Wehrum, who is currently nominated to lead the EPA’s air and radiation office, and Michael Dourson, who is currently nominated to lead the EPA’s chemical and pesticides office. Wehrum has questioned the consensus view on climate science, while Dourson has spent years working with chemical companies to argue for less protective standards for chemical and toxic control.

But going back on pollution regulation will only worsen the public health threats faced by residents of developing and developed countries. According to the Lancet study, while sources of modern pollution have been increasing, the drop in traditional pollution shows that regulations and pollution controls can in fact have tangible public health and economic benefits.

“Now is not the time to go backwards in the U.S.,” Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator under the Obama administration, told the Guardian. “Environmental protection and a strong economy go hand in hand. We also need to help other countries, not only for the benefit it will bring them, but because pollution knows no boundaries.”

How big pharma’s money – and its politicians – feed the US opioid crisis

The Guardian

How big pharma’s money – and its politicians – feed the US opioid crisis

Tom Marino might have withdrawn from consideration as Trump’s drug czar, but drug money is coursing through the veins of Congress – contributing directly to an epidemic that kills thousands of Americans each year. pharmaceutical industry attempted to place blame for the crisis on the millions who have became addicted instead of the mass prescribing of powerful opioids. Photograph: Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images


Chris McGreal, in Washington         October 19, 2017 

Donald Trump was not wrong. Hours before his nominee for “drug czar” withdrew from consideration over his part in a law limiting the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to crack down on pharmaceutical distributors feeding the US’s opioid epidemic, the president took a shot at the influence of drug companies over Congress.

“They contribute massive amounts of money to political people,” he said, standing next to Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader.

“I don’t know, Mitch, maybe even to you,” he added.

Trump was right on both counts. Pharmaceutical companies spend far more than any other industry to influence politicians. Drug makers have poured close to $2.5bn into lobbying and funding members of Congress over the past decade.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars have gone to McConnell – although he is hardly alone. Nine out of 10 members of the House of Representatives and all but three of the US’s 100 senators have taken campaign contributions from pharmaceutical companies seeking to affect legislation on everything from the cost of drugs to how new medicines are approved.

Trump’s nominee for drug czar, the US congressman Tom Marino, was forced to withdraw after a report by the Washington Post and CBS’s 60 Minutes highlighted his role in forging legislation that hinders the DEA’s ability to move against drug distributors or pharmacies recklessly dispensing the opioid painkillers at the heart of the epidemic, which claims more than 100 lives a day.

Marino’s acceptance of substantial donations from those same companies compromised his nomination to head the federal agency charged with tackling the opioid crisis.

But for Congress, the process was nothing unusual. Hundreds of millions of dollars flow to lobbyists and politicians on Capitol Hill each year to shape laws and policies that keep drug company profits growing. The pharmaceutical industry, which has about two lobbyists for every member of Congress, spent $152m on influencing legislation in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Drug companies also contributed more than $20m directly to political campaigns last year. About 60% went to Republicans. Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House of Representatives, was the single largest beneficiary, with donations from the industry totaling $228,670.

The impact of so much drug company money coursing through the veins of Congress is often incremental or largely unseen by the American public, such as the industry’s efforts to block competitors in India from making generic versions of HIV/Aids medicines that are more affordable to developing countries.

But on occasion it has a hugely visible impact.

In his comments alongside McConnell, Trump was vocal in his criticism of what he said were pharmaceutical manufacturers “getting away with murder” by charging much higher prices in the US than other countries. That is the result of a 2003 law, in effect written by the industry, preventing the federal government from seeking bids for the manufacture of drugs and medical devices – a process used in other areas, such as defense spending.

Instead, the pharmaceutical companies can charge whatever price they want for drugs bought for the publicly run Medicare and Medicaid programs – and the federal government has no choice but to pay up. Marino, second left, at a Trump rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania, in 2016. Marino faced scrutiny over donations from pharmaceutical companies. Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP

Meanwhile, the drug companies say that to allow foreign imports would endanger the quality and safety of medicines in the US. But that justification has been widely scorned in the face of escalating and sometimes opportunistic pricing, such as the surge in the price of EpiPen antidotes to allergic reactions last year, to $600.

Britain’s National Health Service negotiated a price of about $70 for the same product. Scores of attempts by some members of Congress to introduce legislation to bring down the price of prescription medicines or to let people buy them from Canada, where they are often cheaper, have failed to make it out of committee.

While lobbying shapes medical policy across the board, it has had a profound impact on the opioid epidemic as deaths quadrupled between 1999 and 2015. The pharmaceutical industry poured resources into attempting to place blame for the crisis on the millions who have became addicted instead of on the mass prescribing of powerful opioids.

The relatively small number of members of Congress who led the charge against the epidemic years before it became a significant political issue have struggled to push through legislation.

Representatives Hal Rogers and Mary Bono saw repeated efforts to pass laws curbing the mass prescribing of opioid painkillers fail amid concerted campaigns by the drug makers. Rogers and Bono founded the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse in 2010 and proposed several pieces of legislation over a number of years.

Bono, who was alerted to the opioid crisis after Chesare, her son with the late singer Sonny Bono, became addicted, said there was a false but effective campaign by companies profiting from the epidemic to portray any attempt to rein in the mass prescribing of painkillers as depriving millions of people of legitimate treatment for chronic pain.

“We were getting tremendous pushback from the industry. It was a massive, well-organized effort,” she said. “Of course we felt it, maybe indirectly at times. We didn’t have an awful lot of people lining up to help us.”

Some of the pressure came through industry-funded groups such as the Pain Care Forum, which spent $740m over a decade lobbying in Washington and state legislatures against limits on opioid prescribing and similar issues, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

Among those who received political contributions from the group were Senator Orrin Hatch, who took $360,00. The senator introduced legislation intended to head off one of the bills put forward by Rogers and Bono by proposing a federal study of pain treatment. Hatch, who is running for Senate again in 2018 even though he previously said he would not, is the recipient of the most political donations from the pharmaceutical industry so far this year, at $208,000.

Bono said the American Medical Association was instrumental in blocking another law, the Ryan Creedon act, to require doctors to get training on the risks of opioids. The AMA objected to it as a burden on physicians.

Drug companies gave more than $200,000 in campaign contributions to Jason Chaffetz (who recently left Congress), acting as the single largest donor to his re-election fights. Chaffetz, as chair of the committee on oversight and government reform, led an effort against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce opioid prescribing by recommending that doctors first seek alternative treatments for chronic pain.

Lobbying by the wider healthcare industry also had an important impact on the shape of Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), widely known as Obamacare.

The chair of the committee drafting the ACA legislation, Senator Max Baucus, was at the time the single largest recipient of health industry political donations, with $1.5m given to his political fund over the previous year. Baucus led votes in the committee against the inclusion in the legislation of public insurance strongly opposed by private insurers who saw a threat to its profits.

Baucus was known within the health industry for annual fly-fishing and golfing weekends in his home state of Montana that lobbyists paid handsomely to attend. Other members of the committee received hundreds of thousands of dollars, including Senator Pat Roberts, who at one point tried to hold up the bill by claiming lobbyists needed three days to read it. The drafting of large parts of the ACA was done by a former vice-president of a major health insurer, Wellpoint.

In his attack on drug company money in American politics, Trump failed to mention that the companies were among the leading donors to his inauguration alongside tobacco and oil companies.

Pfizer, the maker of Viagra, was the largest pharmaceutical donor, giving $1m.

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Electric Vehicles Will Soon Be Cheaper Than Gas Guzzlers


Electric vehicles are gaining momentum across the globe. National Geographic‘s Years of Living Dangerously sent Ty Burrell to meet with a mechanic to find out why.

Electric vehicles are gaining momentum across the globe. National Geographic's Years of Living Dangerously sent Ty Burrell to meet with a mechanic to find out why. Read more: Years of Living Dangerously #YEARSproject #WeCanSolveThis

Posted by EcoWatch on Thursday, October 19, 2017


Electric Vehicles Will Soon Be Cheaper Than Gas Guzzlers

By Lorraine Chow     September 27, 2017

Good news for car drivers looking to go electric. In a handful of years, these zero-emission vehicles will be cheaper than traditional gas guzzlers, according to a new report from investment bankers Cowen & Co.

The analysis, compiled by Cowen managing director and senior research analyst Jeffrey Osborne, determined that electric vehicles will cost less than gasoline-powered cars by the early- to mid-2020s due to falling battery prices as well as the costs that traditional carmakers will incur as they comply to new fuel-efficiency standards.

These factors, Osbourne notes, will spur EV adoption from 1 percent of all global sales this year to 3 percent in 2020 and 7.5 percent in 2025.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported similar findings in May.

“Falling battery costs will mean electric vehicles will also be cheaper to buy in the U.S. and Europe as soon as 2025,” the report said. “Batteries currently account for about half the cost of EVs, and their prices will fall by about 77 percent between 2016 and 2030.”

Osbourne pointed out that a number of major car brands are hopping onto the electric bandwagon to compete in a space carved out by industry disrupter, Tesla.

“We see the competitive tides shifting in 2019 and beyond as European [car makers] roiled by the diesel scandal and loss of share to Tesla in the high margin luxury segment step on the gas and accelerate the pace of EV introductions,” he wrote.

Volvo Cars announced in July that every car it launches from 2019 will have an electric motor, marking a “historic end” to the internal combustion engine.

And earlier this month, Volkswagen Group, the world’s biggest automaker, announced plans to offer an electric version across the company’s 300 models by 2030 and will be rolling out 80 new electric cars under its multiple brands by 2025. The German company, which is trying to rebound after its emissions-cheating scandal, is investing more than 20 billion euros ($24 billion) in zero-emission vehicles to challenge Tesla.

Not only that, the Cowen report comes as an increasing number of countries such as China, Scotland, France and India announced intentions to ban diesel and gasoline cars in order to cut fossil fuel emissions.