Frack to school: What did executives of energy company Extraction Oil and Gas do when parents protested a plan to build oil and gas wells near their public school in Greeley, Colorado? They found a site near another school, this time one attended by primarily by low-income, minority students, writes Megan Jula of Mother Jones. “We think that decision was made, unfortunately, because that particular community doesn’t have the resources to fight it,” said Eric Huber, an attorney with the Sierra Club, one of four environmental and civil rights group suing the county for allowing the fracking plan to go forward.

 

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The Waffle House shooting: As families mourn the four young people gunned down in a Waffle House near Nashville on Sunday, a painful question has reemerged: Why can’t we keep assault rifles away from people who have a deep history of mental instability and documented desires to harm themselves and others? Shooting suspect Travis Reinking had repeated run-ins with local law enforcement and was investigated by the FBI last year after the Secret Service stopped him from trying to force his way into the White House. In August, police in Illinois revoked Reinking’s state-issued Firearm Owners Identification card and required that his weapons be transferred to his father. As The New York Times reports, police say that Reinking’s father, Jeffrey, the owner of a crane business near the town of Morton, Illinois, returned the guns to his son, enabling him to carry out the killings over the weekend. The father’s action was “potentially a violation of federal law,” said a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. To date this year in the U.S., the Gun Violence Archive has documented 69 mass shootings, defined as incidents where four or more people are shot or killed.

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Wells Fargo nets big penalty for consumer abuses: Federal regulators have fined the San Francisco bank $1 billion for abuses that cost its auto loan and mortgage borrowers. Wells Fargo had already agreed to pay $185 million in a 2016 settlement of allegations that it created accounts without customer authorization. Further regulatory scrutiny led to the revelation of other improper practices, including the bank requiring mortgage borrowers to pay fees it should have covered and forcing auto loan borrowers to buy insurance policies they didn’t need, writes James Rufus Koren of the Los Angles Times. As big as the penalty is, the bank won’t likely feel it much. Wells Fargo reported profits of $5.9 billion in the first quarter of this year. And it has said that the recent corporate tax cut will save it $3 billion in tax liability.

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‘Laser Man’ sentenced for medical device scheme: A South Dakota man was sentenced to 12 years in prison for marketing a light-emitting device as a cure-all for cancer, emphysema, diabetes, heart disease and more. There is no scientific evidence of its value to treat serious medical conditions and federal regulators never approved the device for those uses. Robert “Larry” Lytle, a once-prominent civic leader and dentist who lost his license to malpractice in the 1990s, sold the QLasers for several thousand dollars apiece and often to seniors or to people suffering from serious conditions, reports Seth Tupper of the Rapid City Journal, who last year wrote a series about Lytle called “Laser Man.” Lytle and co-conspirators Robert Weir Jr. and Irina Kossovskaia, who were sentenced to 24 months and 15 months respectively, continued to sell the devices even after a 2015 federal injunction.

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Death of the Great Barrier Reef: In just three years, half of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef has died, some decades or even centuries old. Robinson Meyer of The Atlantic looks at the latest research and explains in heartbreaking prose just what it means. The main culprit, he writes, is human-caused global warming heating the atmosphere, and in turn the oceans, making the water too hot for tropical corals. About half of the corals that died in a March 2016 blast of warm water known as a bleaching event were killed instantly. Researcher Terry Hughes said: “They cooked.”

  • Also: An infusion of warm water this month has brought record temperatures – 11 degrees above normal – to the depths of the Gulf of Maine, causing scientists to worry about herring and endangered right whale populations, Colin Woodard of the Portland Press Herald reports. – Forty percent of the world’s bird species are in decline and 1 in 8 are threatened with extinction from causes that include climate change, logging and agricultural expansion, according to a report from BirdLife International.
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The salad mystery: The E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce grown in the Yuma, Arizona, region has sickened at least 60 people, including children and inmates at an Alaska prison, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not been able to link it to a specific farm or supplier. “This seems odd to me,” Gary Weber, a former prevention manager for the agency’s outbreak response told The Washington Post. Weber said with so many people sick and known clusters of infections, investigators should have enough data to trace the contamination back to a specific location. Reporters Lena H. Sun and Joel Achenbach talk to officials about ongoing efforts to pinpoint the source.

    • Also: The U.S. Department of Agriculture has not set standards for how much harmful bacteria is acceptable in commonly consumed products, such as pork chops and turkey breasts, a report by the Government Accountability Office found. –– The Delmarva Penninsula, an area on the East Coast along the Chesapeake Bay, has been overrun by Big Poultry, InsideClimate News reports. Residents are annoyed and worried about the health effects. –– A government plan to speed pork production could put workers and food safety at risk, write Deborah Berkowitz, former chief of staff at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Suzanne McMillan, content director for ASPCA Farm Animal Welfare Campaign, in The Guardian.

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With plastic pollution, progress at the smallest scale: Consumers began paying attention to the tiny bits of plastic in their cosmetics and personal care products around 2013, when a study found that the microbeads were present throughout the Great Lakes. A 2015 law in the United States bans the microbeads incrementally, phasing them out by 2019, and a stronger ban took effect in Britain in January. Now some environmental advocates are looking to microbeads as a model for banning other products that could be replaced with non-plastic options, writes Bailey Bischoff of The Christian Science Monitor. “We would argue that it’s the same thing for plastic straws, plastic cups, plastic coffee lids,” said Rachel Sarnoff, executive director of 5 Gyres, a Los Angeles nonprofit focused on reducing plastics pollution that was involved with the Great Lakes study. “If we can show that these items are clearly contributing to this issue, then I think we can gain some more.”

    • Also: Wearable water bottles, edible straws and a plastics-free aisle at the grocery store — The Guardian profiles “anti-plastic” warriors with big ideas for small ways to reduce waste.

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Big study of air pollution finds harm in even tiny increases: A team of researchers analyzed data from air quality monitors in Utah over nearly two decades, looking at tiny particulate matter referred to as PM2.5. The researchers matched the data with hospitalizations and clinic visits for more than 146,000 people and found that even small increases in pollution triggered more respiratory infections in children. The study region was along Utah’s Wasatch Range, where the level of PM2.5 pollution is generally lower than in major cities like Los Angeles or New York but can spike when weather patterns trap air on the valley floor, Amy Joi O’Donoghue of the Deseret News writes.

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Firm exploited nearly 250 workers with disabilities, investigators found: An Illinois employer mismanaged its program to pay employees with disabilities less than the minimum wage, prompting the U.S. Department of Labor to revoke its certificate to do so. Federal law allows employers to calculate how much a person’s disability limits productivity and pay them at a lesser rate. Rock River Valley Self Help Enterprises in Sterling, Illinois, failed to conduct the necessary surveys to calculate those rates for all jobs, obstructed a federal investigation and sometimes paid weekend workers in gift cards, according to a press release. Investigators found that nearly 250 workers were exploited. Self Help will be required to pay back wages to all workers paid below minimum wage over the past two years.

  • Also: California officials are investigating Tesla’s Fremont, California, factory after  Reveal found that worker injuries there went unreported.

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Wind power’s reach: More than 30 percent of the electricity produced in Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and South Dakota comes from wind power. That is especially notable given that Republicans have been resistant and sometimes hostile to renewable energy, writes Nicholas Kusnetz of InsideClimate News. Those states voted for Donald Trump and are led by Republican governors.

  • Also: The New York Times reports on how going big has helped make wind a mainstream power source. Photos and video by Carsten Snejbjerg and Rasmus Degnbol show just how big.

Chelsea Conaboy is a FairWarning contributor and freelance writer and editor specializing in health care. Find more of her work at chelseaconaboy.com.

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