Out With The Old, In With The Coup
July 13, 2022
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“I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” – Isaac Newton
A Toxic Relationship
Environmental testing in North Carolina’s Cape Fear River basin has found persistently high levels of toxic compounds known collectively as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. The man-made chemicals, manufactured between the 1940s and early 2000s, are used in making numerous consumer products, like waterproof apparel, nonstick cookware, food containers, makeup, and stain-resistant carpets. Often called “forever chemicals,” they don’t degrade, accumulating in the environment and human bodies. Some PFAS have been linked to a wide range of health problems, including cancers, birth defects, thyroid disease, kidney cysts, pulmonary embolisms, and an autoimmune disorder.
Chemical company giant DuPont owned Fayetteville Works, a plant situated along the Cape Fear River, where for decades it produced PFAS and discharged them into the river. In 2015, DuPont spun off a smaller chemical company called Chemours to protect itself from PFAS-related legal liabilities. Chemours continued making toxic chemicals at the Fayetteville plant, but stopped discharging them directly into the river in 2017, and since then claims to have spent $400 million on pollution controls. Yet almost all of the 10,000 wells tested in the region show some level of PFAS contamination, and over two-thirds exceed the threshold that requires Chemours to provide filtration. For 450,000 residents in the river basin area, exposure to the chemicals remains almost impossible to escape. PFAS contamination has been documented throughout the region in drinking water, in air and soil samples, in crops, in livestock and fish, and in residents’ blood samples.
The physical and emotional suffering that comes with living in a place polluted by toxins is ripping through families, scarring lives and evaporating dreams for the future, but state and federal regulators have resisted pleas for in-depth studies. In October 2020, a coalition of community and environmental justice groups filed a petition seeking to force Chemours to fund a comprehensive research program on 54 PFAS the plant had emitted. The EPA rejected the request in December, saying it would analyze only seven PFAS and attempt to extrapolate their health impacts and toxicity data across the entire class of more than 9,000 PFAS compounds. Coalition members were outraged, and last month they sued the EPA for not requiring Chemours to fund studies examining the effects on human health of chemical contaminants found in the Cape Fear River. (Guardian, Coastal Review)
Count On It
- The U.N.’s new report on population trends says India is expected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country by 2023. Since India is the world’s largest democracy, and viewed by the West as a key counterweight to China’s influence in the region, that’s good news.
- In May, much of the Biden administration’s focus was on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned it’s Beijing that poses the biggest threat to the international order. “China is the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order – and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to do it,” he cautioned.
- The world’s population is estimated to reach 8 billion by November 15, and 9.7 billion in 2050, with most of the growth concentrated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Tanzania. Conversely, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia, and Ukraine will see population losses of 20% or more. Overall, the global population is growing at its slowest pace since 1950, due to decreasing fertility rates in many countries. (Axios)
- As a response to China’s growing influence in the Pacific region, the U.S. is stepping up its engagement in that area. Vice President Kamala Harris made a virtual appearance Tuesday to speak to leaders gathered in Fiji for the Pacific Islands Forum, the region’s most significant meeting.
- She announced a suite of measures designed to re-establish the U.S. as a significant partner in the region after decades of waning influence. Harris said President Biden will be tripling the amount of money requested from Congress for economic development and ocean resilience, up to $60 million a year for 10 years, and Peace Corps volunteers will be returning to Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu.
- Most significantly, two new American embassies will be established in Kiribati and Tonga. Harris spoke at the invitation of the forum chair and Fiji’s prime minister. That was seen as a coup for America and a blow for China, which is not believed to have been accorded a similar privilege. (Guardian)
Additional World News
- Judge orders Mexican cartel to pay billions of dollars for 2019 killings of nine American women and children (CBS)
- Japanese say final goodbye to assassinated former leader Abe (AP)
- An emotional Macron defends his Uber dealings, as inquiry looms (WaPo, $)
- White House: Iran set to deliver armed drones to Russia (AP)
- Ukraine reports striking Russian ammunition depot in south (AP)
- UN to probe killing of children in Ukraine, Ethiopia, Mozambique (Al Jazeera)
- UK lawmakers approve windfall tax on oil and gas producers (Reuters)
Out With The Old, In With The Coup
- At Tuesday’s hearing, the January 6 House committee fleshed out links between former President Trump and members of the far-right militia groups like Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, who spearheaded the violent effort to stop the transition of power and keep him in office. Fresh testimony was heard from several key witnesses, including former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who said he and others repeatedly told Trump the election wasn’t stolen and it was time for him to concede.
- The panel highlighted a Trump tweet from December 2020, which they characterized as a galvanizing call-to-arms that motivated his supporters to come to D.C. and disrupt the certification of electoral ballots. The tweet claimed it was “statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election,” and there would be a “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”
- Committee Vice Chair Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) also made the stunning announcement that Trump had recently tried to contact a witness not yet seen in the hearings. That information was passed to the Justice Department for further investigation of possible witness tampering, a serious crime. (CNN, CNBC)
Bac(teria) With A Vengeance
- A report released Tuesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said U.S. deaths from bacteria resistant to antibiotics, or ‘superbugs,’ jumped 15% in 2020. Antibiotics had been widely dispensed to treat Covid-19 and to fight off bacterial infections during long hospitalizations, which enabled the bugs to evolve.
- More than 29,400 people died from antimicrobial-resistant infections during the first year of the pandemic; of those, nearly 40% acquired the infection in hospital. Almost 80% of patients hospitalized with Covid-19 received an antibiotic – even though they’re ineffective against viral infections – because of the difficulty in distinguishing the coronavirus from pneumonia when patients first arrived.
- There has long been an acute need for new antibiotics to combat these resistant bacteria, but there’s little incentive among drugmakers as antibiotics are not especially profitable and overuse must be discouraged, keeping sales down. (Reuters)
Additional USA News
- Uvalde school’s classrooms lacked a basic security feature — and it’s missing across America (NBC)
- Crime Wave at 7-Eleven Stores in California Leaves 2 Dead, Police Say (NYT, $)
- Jill Biden apologizes after citing ‘bodegas’ and ‘breakfast tacos’ to praise Hispanic diversity (CNN)
- Federal judge blocks Arizona’s ‘personhood’ abortion law (AP)
- Biden and Mexican President López Obrador to meet after summit standoff (CNN)
- Scoop: U.S. rejected request for Israeli officials to join Biden East Jerusalem visit (Axios)
- ‘Even if it hurts’: Biden’s Middle East trip could bring short-term pain for long-term gain (Politico)
A Ring Of The Past
- Dana Scott was a senior in a Northern California high school in 1969. Shortly before graduation, she received her coveted senior ring. Not long after, Scott was wearing her ring when she went swimming in Lake Berryessa and – you guessed it – her ring slipped off her finger and sank to the bottom of the lake. She was very upset and cried and cried while her friends searched the lake bottom unsuccessfully for the ring, assuming it was lost forever.
- When Scott’s military dad was sent to Vietnam, the family moved away from California. Scott later married Mr. Laughlin, had six children, and moved to Foley, Alabama, over 2,000 miles from her ring’s resting place in that California lake. A few days ago Laughlin’s son received a message from a couple who said they found a ring while fishing in Lake Berryessa and were trying to identify its owner.
- She reviewed photos of the ring and confirmed it was inscribed with her initials and the name of the school she attended. The ring, in remarkably good condition for having spent the last 53 years in a lakebed, is now on its way via UPS to be reunited with its amazed and grateful owner in Alabama. (UPI)
- Herbicide chemical linked to cancer found in majority of urine samples in CDC study (The Hill)
- 4 places moved to the CDC’s ‘high’ risk category for travel (CNN)
- U.S. tourist, 23, falls into Mount Vesuvius crater after taking a selfie — and survives (NBC)
- Ada Limón named new U.S. poet laureate (NPR)
- Invasive emerald ash borer found in Oregon: “The most destructive and costliest forest pest ever to invade North America” (CBS)
- Nasty weather blew a jet off an aircraft carrier. How’s that possible? (WaPo, $)