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Fierce Battle Over 3-D Printable Plastic Guns

Mixed messages from Trump on DIY guns: President Trump tweeted today that he is looking into the issue of 3-D printed guns being sold to the public, writing “doesn’t seem to make much sense!” But his administration cleared the way with a settlement in June that allowed for the online publication of gun blueprints by a company called Defense Distributed. The company has said it plans to begin publishing tomorrow. A group of attorneys general have asked for a last-minute injunction, arguing that the company’s actions would cripple state gun laws and international arms controls and “will lead to the proliferation of untraceable printed guns overseas and within the United States.” The Trace has a roundup of stories about the legal fight, including one by Andy Greenberg in Wired that explains the goals of company founder Cody Wilson: “He intends that database, and the inexorable evolution of homemade weapons it helps make possible, to serve as a kind of bulwark against all future gun control, demonstrating its futility by making access to weapons as ubiquitous as the internet.”

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Shunning science: Leaders at the Interior Department ordered the acting director of the National Park Service to rescind a policy implemented under the Obama Administration that emphasized the role of science in managing the parks and took a precautionary approach to new development and rule-making. Elizabeth Shogren of Reveal reports that an internal memo addressed to former acting director Michael Reynolds cited directions from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to rescind what is known as Director’s Order #100, which also acknowledged the threat of climate change to the parks. Internal emails show that Daniel Jorjani, the department’s deputy solicitor and an attorney who previously worked for foundations funded by the Koch brothers, was central to the reversal.

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The mountaintop or the coal: Coal production in the U.S. may be slowing but surface mining is more destructive than it was three decades ago, James Bruggers reports for InsideClimate News. Researchers have mapped mountaintop mining over time and found that miners destroy up to three times as much land to produce a ton of coal as they did in the 1980s. Of course, burning coal releases carbon dioxide into the air, but so does cutting down Appalachian forests to get at that coal, Bruggers notes. And strip mining can have significant local health and environmental consequences.

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Duck boat design a ‘sinking coffin’:  The amphibious vehicles that have been the cause of multiple deadly disasters over the past two decades or so were based on a design by an entrepreneur with no engineering training, according to court records cited by the Los Angeles Times, DCReport and other outlets. Most recently, a duck boat capsized on a Missouri lake, killing 17 people and injuring 14 more. A lawsuit filed by relatives who lost nine family members alleges that the company operating the boat took passengers into a severe storm despite clear reports of dangerous conditions and that the manufacturers have long known about flaws that make the boats a death trap when a sinking occurs. After a duck boat sank in Arkansas in 1999, killing 13 people, the National Transportation Safety Board found that the vehicles lacked necessary buoyancy and that the canopy over passengers’ heads trapped riders, Matt Pearce of the Times reports. A U.S. Coast Guard investigation came to a similar conclusion. Court documents related to a roadway accident involving a duck boat in Seattle say that former Ride the Ducks owner Robert McDowell created the basic design for a “stretch” duck boat by talking with people at local auto parts and truck hauling stores, Pearce wrote.

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Migrant children, detained and drugged: The federal government has been administering psychotropic drugs to detained migrant children without parental consent or a court order, and a federal judge on Monday ordered the Trump administration to stop the practice  except in extreme emergencies. U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles also ordered that migrant children, except for those deemed a risk to themselves or others, be removed from Shiloh Residential Treatment Center in Texas. Reveal has reported that children there were routinely given powerful psychiatric drugs and sometimes told that they would not be released or returned to their parents unless they took the drugs. Reveal, part of The Center for Investigative Reporting, also has reported that the government has continued to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to facilities detaining migrant children even when investigators have cited those detention sites for serious abuse and neglect. One child was given 10 different shots and pills, Matt Smith and Aura Bogado wrote.

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Mind your food additives: Families and especially pregnant women should limit use of plastic containers and replace processed foods with fresh fruits and vegetables, according to guidance issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics. It may be familiar advice, but evidence is growing that chemicals added to food as preservatives or through packaging can have hormone-disrupting effects that lead to long-term health consequences, such as obesity, Roni Caryn Rabin of The New York Times writes. The doctors’ group also called for more rigorous testing, oversight and labeling of food additives. A separate, just-released study scanned the blood of pregnant women and found dozens of chemicals such as Bisphenol A and pesticides, including some linked to cancer and genetic defects.

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It’s what’s for dinner in China: Meat production is a major producer of greenhouse gas emissions. And China has a major appetite for meat. Once a luxury, meat has become a mealtime staple as China’s economy has grown and millions of people have migrated from rural areas to cities, writes Marcello Rossi for Undark. The country consumes 28 percent of the world’s meat, double what’s eaten in the U.S. The figure is expected to grow and to drive dramatic changes across the globe. The Chinese import meat and huge amounts of grain to feed livestock. “In countries like Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, this has led to the clearing away of vast swaths of forests to make way for huge soybean monocultures,” Rossi writes, “further driving up greenhouse gas emissions since forests typically store carbon in living biomasses, soil, dead wood, and litter, while plants sequester vast quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis.” The government has begun campaigns advocating for reduced meat consumption, but Rossi talks to one scholar who says what’s necessary is the kind of focused effort that has made China a leader on renewable energy production.

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Scare sales tactics for home alarms: Contractors who don’t do what they promise. Mortgage fraud. Misleading advertising tactics from phone and internet providers. Those things are among the expected findings of the Consumer Federation of America’s annual survey of complaints that reach state and local consumer agencies. And a relatively new one emerged: aggressive home alarm sales, including scare tactics. “In one case, a company sent a letter that looked like it came from the county government to new homeowners warning that their neighborhoods were unsafe because of ‘the opioid crisis’ and offering ‘free’ alarm systems as part of a county-wide program,” according to the nonprofit’s press release.

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Dying on the job: A string of unrelated deadly worksite incidents in January prompted federal penalties against several companies this week. Three people were killed and two others injured when a towboat exploded in Calvert City, Kentucky. Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigators determined that the explosion occurred when workers were cutting and welding in an area that contained flammable gases and could have been avoided if the workers had been trained properly in containing and testing for the gases. Penalties have been proposed against five contractors totaling $795,254. The agency proposed penalties of $507,374 for Gavilon Grain LLC after two employees, Joshua Rasbold, 28, and Marcus Tice, 32, were killed in Wichita, Kansas, when they were buried under about 20 feet of soybean in a grain bin. Investigators found they were not provided with lifelines or fall protection and were permitted to enter a bin where grain was “hung up” or “bridged,” creating dangerous conditions. The company has contested the penalties, according to a press release. And the agency found that contractors responsible for the deadliest drilling rig accident since the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in 2010 failed to maintain proper controls while drilling an Oklahoma well that exploded, killing five people. The three companies face penalties totaling $118,643, according to a press release.

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