Trumpists politicize public health science

"Speak loudly and clearly. Don't lose faith. Don't go numb."

July 30, 2018 — Were you the sort of child who cried at the end of “Born Free,” when Elsa the lioness returned to show off her new cubs to her human parents? I sure was.

As a girl I was in love with Elsa’s beauty, envious of the people who got to be her family, and awestruck that a wild animal could form a loving, enduring bond with humans.

All these years later, even with (because of?) a head full of knowledge about the troubles and danger that human actions are causing for life on Earth, I can still get those feels reading good news about human-animal relations.

Amid the inhumanity-soaked news of 2018, it’s much-needed reassurance that people can cross what might be the ultimate divide, the one between different species, with love and respect for the ultimate Other.

If you like having this particular heartstring twanged, then I recommend this recent Washington Post style section feature: “The Crane Who Fell In Love With a Human,” about the dedicated care that a 42-year-old bird keeper, Chris Crowe, provides for Walnut, the white-naped crane that considers him her mate.

Onward:

bad: Political appointees are altering public health research reports to fit Trump’s policy ends

  • Political appointees in the Dept. of Health & Human Services are pressuring career research office staff to alter or omit facts on the public health impacts of federal policies, if those facts are at odds with White House preferences.

  • The Trumpist officials have targeted mentions of positive information about the Affordable Care Act in agency reports, in one case saying that “millions more people would get health coverage” if the law were rescinded—which directly contradicts independent analyses of overturning the ACA, i.e. “Obamacare.”

  • They also insisted that career research staff edit the HHS strategic plan to remove all mentions of LGBT health concerns.

  • The draft strategic plan also included language sought by anti-abortion activists, defining the agency’s mission to serving Americans “from conception to natural death,” essentially establishing a federal position that life begins at conception.

  • Last year, HHS officials buried a report concluding that refugees generated $63 million in government revenues over 10 years, because it didn’t support Trump’s anti-immigration policies.

  • Current and past Republican HHS officials say nothing special is going on, because every administration re-orients the research office to its own policy goals.

  • But insiders told a reporter that under Trump, the office has been politicized like never before.

  • Read more in Politico.

not sure if “bad” describes it: EPA and Transportation Dept. officials are battling over how best to weaken tailpipe pollution rules

  • Acting Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler thinks the Trump administration did a poor job of crafting its rollback of tailpipe pollution rules (including California’s authority to write its own, stronger-than-federal standards)

  • He thinks it won’t survive courtroom challenges.

  • But two Trump appointees at the Transportation Dept. who helped create the plan, don’t want to change it.

  • The two sides are at “nuclear war” over the plan, which is delaying its publication in the Federal Register, the step that starts the clock towards finalizing the rollback.

  • So far the White House is the side of its Transportation appointees.

  • The Transportation officials have issued an analysis stating that the tougher pollution standard would cause up to 12,000 additional deaths from auto accidents, because to meet them cars would need to built lighter.

  • Wheeler apparently suspects that this number won’t stand up to much scrutiny, either.(Expert analyses done under the Obama administration found that total deaths would fall by about 100 persons over the timespan of the regulations.)

  • Read more in The New York Times

Related:

That same Transportation analysis found that the Trump rollback of tailpipe emissions curbs would increase U.S. fuel consumption by 21 million gallons a day after 2020. Read more in Bloomberg News.

If the administration insists on moving ahead with the current version of the rollback, the resulting legal challenges from states could land an important climate change case back in front of a more anti-regulatory Supreme Court: whether EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gas pollution. E&E News via Scientific American

EPA is in a rush to enact environmental protection rollbacks before 2019, just in case Trump fails to be re-elected. Read about it in E&E News.


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good: Senate and House drop anti-wildlife-protection provisions from defense spending bill

  • Early last week, some animal species at risk of extinction got a break from the U.S. Congress.

  • The reprieve came in the form of a non-action action, when a bipartisan House-Senate committee removed from the 2019 defense spending bill some extra bits that would have:

    • Rescinded endangered species protections for the American burying beetle

    • Barred the Fish and Wildlife Service from listing as endangered two related species, the greater sage-grouse and lesser prairie chicken, for at lease a decade

  • These riders were favorites of Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee. Democrats threatened to scuttle the entire bill if they were not stripped away.

  • The bill also re-ups the Defense Department’s mandate to continue working “changing environmental conditions” into some military planning decisions. This is climate-change-related language that has otherwise been censored from federal documents since President “climate change is a Chinese hoax” Trump took office.

  • Read more in Mother Jones

great: EPA rescinds Pruitt’s last-minute gift to a super-polluting truck industry

  • EPA chief Wheeler has reversed a decision by his predecessor, Scott Pruitt, to lift the cap on manufacturing of “glider” trucks, semis that use older, dirtier diesel engines.

  • Glider truck engines cost tens of thousands less than current low-pollution models, but produce much, much more cancer-causing tiny particle pollution as well as lots more nitrogen oxides (NOx). Both these pollutants contribute to respiratory illness; small particulate pollution is also linked to heart disease, while NOx contributes to smog formation and acid rain.

  • An Obama-era rule capped manufacture of glider trucks at 300 per company per year.

  • On his last day running the EPA, Pruitt said the agency would not enforce the rule for at least a year and a half.

  • In reversing Pruitt’s decision, Wheeler indirectly indicated, in a memo to staff, that Pruitt had not properly applied the EPA’s criteria for “enforcement discretion” to the rule.

  • Read more in Green Car Reports

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(de)regulation nation is written by Emily J. Gertz and produced by Brooklyn Radio Telegraph LLC.

This week’s quote is by Tony Schwartz.

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