Going green or going for guzzlers?: How can a car company named one of the best “green” brands in the world announce two years later that it will cease sales of its most efficient vehicles, instead favoring SUVs? Jamie Lincoln Kitman of Automobile Magazine explains in an enlightening op-ed in The New York Times. Ford Motor Company announced last month that it would drop all but two cars – the Mustang and the new Ford Focus Active – from its North American lineup. By 2020, 90 percent of its portfolio will be trucks, SUVs and commercial vehicles, the company said. Kitman calls it “a significant turning point for the American auto industry,” one that boosts profits in the short term but puts Ford at risk if oil prices spike. Autonomous cars and ride-sharing are upending the industry, Kitman says. “So while American automakers are preparing, or at least thinking of preparing, for the world of tomorrow, they are also trying to make as much money as they can as fast as they can,” he writes.

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Stakes raised for Volkswagen: The carmaker’s former chief executive, Martin Winterkorn, has been charged with conspiracy, accused of endorsing plans to conceal that the company had installed software allowing hundreds of thousands of its diesel vehicles to cheat on emissions testing. Jack Ewing of The New York Times writes that the indictment makes the company more vulnerable to lawsuits from shareholders who say company executives took unwarranted risks without informing them. It also increases chances that Winterkorn, who resigned from the company in 2015 shortly after the emissions scandal broke, will face charges in Germany.

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‘You have two friends in the White House,’ Pence tells the NRA: Comments President Trump made earlier this year hinting that he would consider stricter gun control measures despite opposition from the National Rifle Association were all but forgotten in Dallas last week as he and Vice President Pence made a joint appearance at the annual conference of the powerful gun lobby. “Your Second Amendment rights are under siege,” Trump said. “But they will never, ever be under siege as long as I am your president.” Trump made this clear to the NRA members: He needs them come the midterm elections.

  • Also:  Bloomberg reports on the blowback some banks are receiving from Republican officials after taking a stand on assault weapons or high-capacity magazines by limiting the business they do with gun manufacturers.

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‘Treated Like Trash’: ProPublica and Voice of America have a tragic story about the death of 21-year-old Mouctar Diallo, who was working as an informal helper on a private garbage truck in New York City owned by Sanitation Salvage when the truck struck and killed him. The men he was working with that night in November told police they didn’t know him, that Diallo was a homeless man who jumped on the truck’s running board and lost his grip. Then this: “Last Friday, Sean Spence, the Sanitation Salvage driver who authorities say ran over Diallo and lied about it, struck and killed another man, 72–year-old Leo Clarke.” Kiera Feldman writes that Sanitation Salvage has repeatedly failed federal safety inspections and was cited by the Department of Labor for requiring workers to pull 18-hour days. “Drivers are so overtaxed that they hire additional helpers — often young men off the street — to try and complete their routes on time,” she writes. Diallo was one of them. The story follows an investigation published in January about dangers in the private sanitation industry.

  • Also: A 43-year-old man died after falling into an open tank at AkzoNobel in Salisbury, N.C. The plant makes polymers used in personal care products. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating, WGHP reports.
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Just how hard is it to fight the natural gas industry?: The commissioners of Fayette County, West Virginia, acting on residents’ concerns about pollution and with the desire to promote the region’s natural resources to outdoor tourists rather than energy companies, prohibited the disposal of natural gas waste in the county. Pollution from a company that pumped waste underground had already been found in a creek that fed a major river in the region. Then, without holding a hearing, a federal judge told the county officials that they were out of bounds: Federal and state statutes control the gas industry.  The county commission had to back off. Ken Ward Jr. of the Charleston Gazette-Mail reports on how the local fight has unfolded.

  • Also: Before their public feud, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Don Blankenship– the former coal company CEO now running for the Senate from West Virginia after serving a prison term for his role in the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine disaster that killed 21 miners–were on the same team. Alec MacGillis of ProPublica explains. – Environmental experts are calling for a new global pact similar to the Paris Climate Agreement but this time focused on cleaning up soil pollution at 5 million sites around the world, Reuters reports.
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‘The ocean is suffocating’: Using data collected by underwater robots that trolled the Gulf of Oman for eight months, researchers have mapped a marine dead zone about the size of Florida. The dead zone was first identified in the 1960s but has been largely inaccessible to scientists recently because of piracy and geopolitical tensions, Environment360 reports. The latest survey found that the area of little or no oxygen has increased dramatically since the 1990s, likely due to warming waters, pollution and fertilizer runoff. “The ocean is suffocating,” lead author Bastien Queste said.

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This cigarette can kill you: Starting next month, tobacco companies will begin posting statements on their websites explaining that cigarettes are deadly and designed to be highly addictive, that secondhand smoke causes disease and that so-called light or low-tar cigarettes are as harmful as regular cigarettes. Later this year, similar messages will appear directly on cigarette packages. It’s all part of a national  “corrective statements” campaign that, as FairWarning reported last year, was ordered to end a massive fraud and racketeering case that the federal government brought against the tobacco industry nearly two decades ago for deceiving generations of consumers. The companies ran newspaper and TV ads last fall. The latest consent order also applies to the companies’ social media activity.

  • Also:  Between January 2012 and April 2017, more than 8,000 children under age 6 were exposed to liquid nicotine, like the kind used in e-cigarettes, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics analyzing figures from the National Poison Data System. Most ingested liquid nicotine, and more than 36 percent were treated at a health care center. Researchers found that exposures decreased significantly in 2015 after a federal law required child-resistant packaging.
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Backup cameras come standard: New passenger cars and trucks must have the rearview cameras as standard equipment under a federal rule fully phased in this month. The rule is aimed at preventing backover deaths. An estimated 210 people are killed each year by backover incidents, with children and older adults accounting for the majority of deaths, Jaclyn Cosgrove of the Los Angeles Times writes. Another 15,000 people are injured each year. Under the federal rule, automakers first were required to provide the cameras in 10 percent of new vehicles in 2016 and then 40 percent new models in 2017, before taking effect across-the-board this month. Safety advocates had said the requirement should have been in place much sooner. Still, making the rearview cameras standard – not just a feature of luxury vehicles – is “a tremendous safety victory,” said Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

  • Also: Since 2006, four people have died and 22 were injured when a tire made by Goodyear failed on the Harleys they were riding. Jennifer Gollan, writing for Reveal, asks why the incidents have not prompted a national recall and looks at underfunding at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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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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