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Millions Felled by Foodborne Illnesses, With Chicken a Leading Culprit

What did you eat?: Foodborne diseases cause about 9.4 million illnesses in the U.S. each year. When it comes to outbreaks of things like salmonella, listeria and E. coli, chicken is the leading culprit, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Close behind are pork and seeded vegetables. Public health efforts to prevent outbreaks should make these foods a priority, the authors wrote. A chicken industry spokesman told Kathy Kristof, writing for CBS MoneyWatch, that the industry is highly regulated and that “the vast majority of consumers” safely consume chicken. But the Consumer Federation of America said in a press release that U.S. regulations on chicken are far weaker than those in many European Union countries, including some that have taken a “zero tolerance” approach on salmonella. By comparison, the group said 10 out of 11 plants run by Sanderson Farms, the third largest producer in the United States, were in violation of salmonella standards as of June. “The U.S. poultry industry should be leading the world on food safety, not making excuses,” said Thomas Gremillion, director of the federation’s Food Policy Institute. “There is no reason that U.S. companies should not be undertaking the same sorts of controls – surveillance, biosecurity, vaccination – that have been a success in Europe.”

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The rollback they’ve been waiting for?: The Trump administration announced its plan to roll back Obama-era rules requiring that new vehicles average more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025, and it offered a surprising justification for the change: More efficient cars will cost consumers more money. Rolling back these rules will eliminate those increased costs, making it easier for people to upgrade their less-safe older vehicle and ultimately saving up to 1,000 lives per year that would have been lost in traffic accidents. “On the other hand, air pollution from vehicles is responsible for 30,000 premature deaths,” writes Umair Irfan of Vox. And some experts say less-efficient vehicles would cost consumers at the pump as gas prices increase.  The Trump administration proposal would also eliminate the right of California and other states to set their own stricter tailpipe emission standards. One group you would expect to be celebrating the plan is the auto industry. Robinson Meyer of The Atlantic takes a fascinating, in-depth look at why, after getting what they lobbied for, automakers aren’t exactly popping the champagne.

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Ticks on the march: Rising temperatures are responsible for dramatic increases in the incidence of tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease and babesiosis, a malaria-like illness. While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges the role of climate change, the federal government invests only modestly in public health efforts focused on the problem, Kristen Lombardi and Fatima Bhojani of the Center for Public Integrity write in an in-depth look at the government response. That leaves prevention efforts largely in the hands of state and local agencies. And in states like Maine, where Gov. Paul LePage has questioned global-warming science and has not addressed the link between climate change and the rapid northward advance of ticks, public health efforts have been a victim of politics.

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Fast-spreading fires a ‘new normal’ for California: The largest wildfire in California history continued to grow Tuesday, encompassing nearly 300,000 acres. The Mendocino Complex fire is actually two fires burning near each other that together have burned 75 homes and 68 other buildings, John Bacon of USA Today writes. It is one of more than a dozen fires that thousands of firefighters across the state are battling. Highly destructive, quick-spreading fires appear to be the “new normal” in California and much of the western U.S., fueled by extreme heat. Historically, scientists have been reluctant to link wildfires to climate change because land development patterns, with homes built closer to forests and fires sparked by human activity, have played a significant role, writes Sonali Kohli of the Los Angeles Times. “But the connection between rising temperatures in California and tinder-dry vegetation is becoming impossible to ignore, according to experts who study climate and wildfires,” she wrote.

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A pause on 3D-printed guns: A federal judge in Seattle last week blocked the imminent online publication of 3D-printed gun blueprints by Defense Distributed, a company that had been given the right to publish through a settlement with the federal government. Attorneys general from eight states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit to block publication, saying the company’s actions would undermine local gun laws. U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik said the lawsuit established “a likelihood of irreparable harm” and issued a temporary injunction, The New York Times reports. Conservative writer Kevin Williamson argues in the New York Post that 3-D printed guns are an “imaginary problem,” saying that there are more pressing matters of gun violence to consider and that American machinists already have the ability to create homemade guns. (Defense Distributed owner Cody Wilson is in the business of helping people to make those, too.) Williamson writes, “Question: When’s the last time you heard about somebody knocking over a 7-Eleven or shooting up a school with a homemade gun?” Others say the threat is real. German Lopez of Vox talked to four gun policy experts on the topic. “It’s bad enough that in the majority of states you can purchase a traditional firearm without undergoing a background check to ensure you are not prohibited,” Cassandra Crifasi, from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, told Lopez. “The availability of 3D-printed guns creates yet another loophole through which prohibited individuals could more easily obtain firearms.”

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Details in the Las Vegas shooting: A clearer picture has emerged of what motivated Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock and how he carried out the shooting from his Mandalay Bay hotel room that killed 58 people and injured hundreds more. The Las Vegas police department issued a final report on its investigation Friday, explaining how Paddock became increasingly unstable in the months before the shooting. A high-stakes gambler, he had lost more than $1.5 million in two years, and his doctor believed that Paddock was bipolar, Ken Ritter of the Associated Press reports. The police report also details the arsenal found in Paddock’s hotel room, including a handgun and 18 rifles, 13 of them outfitted with bump stocks, a device that enabled them to fire at the rate of an automatic rifle. All but one of the bump stock-equipped guns had been used, The Trace reports. In the 11-minute attack, Paddock fired 1,049 rounds at the crowd of people below him.

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A ‘solid choice‘ for science: President Trump finally picked a science advisor after a record-setting vacancy. Kelvin Droegemeier, a meteorologist and extreme-weather expert, has been chosen to lead the Office of Science and Technology Policy, a position that could prove critical in shaping the White House’s positions on driverless cars, the opioid epidemic, climate change, disaster response and more. The response from fellow scientists was largely positive, though perhaps few would envy him the job. “If he is confirmed by the Senate, Dr. Droegemeier will join an administration roundly criticized by scientists as dismissive of their work,” writes Carl Zimmer of The New York Times.

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