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Flickers of Hope, Much Despair as Drums Beat Louder on Climate

On climate, the message is clear: The chorus is growing louder, but is it being heard? More smart people, in books and television shows, are arguing for the urgency of dealing with climate change, presenting heaps of despair at the damage being done to our planet along with hints of hope. Bill McKibben’s latest book, called “Falter,” presents a compendium of problems and reasons to believe that real solutions remain in hand. Nathaniel Rich expands on his New York Times Magazine story published a year ago for a book about how close we came to solving the problem in the 1980s. In “The Uninhabitable Earth,” David Wallace-Wells explores what happens if we continue on the do-nothing path we’ve been on since then, and he says that we have the tools we need to act. But the most likely voice to sway your climate-skeptic uncle may be Sir David Attenborough’s. The acclaimed naturalist has a BBC show and an eight-part Netflix series in which he appeals to our wonderment and to our moral compass to save the planet from ourselves.

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A comeback for the ‘great imitator’: In 1999, the CDC had plans to eradicate syphilis, a treatable sexually transmitted disease that was mostly concentrated in urban areas and pockets of the South. Twenty years later, the disease is surging not in the expected places but in rural areas, particularly in the West and Midwest, reports Lauren Weber of Kaiser Health News. Public health experts say the comeback is fueled by dramatic cuts in public health spending, increased drug use linked to risky sexual behavior, and lingering stigma. In Missouri, cases increased more than fourfold between 2012 and 2018. More than half of the state’s 1,896 cases last year were in patients outside major population centers, Weber writes.

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Dealing doctors: Sixty people across the Appalachian region, including 31 doctors and 22 other medical professionals, have been charged with illegally prescribing pain pills – more than 32 million pills in all. The charges were the result of a regional effort led by the Justice Department across seven states that have been hard-hit by the opioid crisis. Among those charged are doctors who traded pills for sex and an Ohio doctor who worked with others to run a “pill mill” that dispensed more than 1.7 million pills in a two-year period, The Washington Post reports. While opioid manufacturers and doctors that do wrong have been recipients of public anger over overdose deaths of late, The New York Times explains the role that major distributors, such as Cardinal Health and McKesson, have played. The distributors get the pills from warehouses to hospitals and pharmacies and are also responsible under the law for monitoring prescription patterns and flagging possible abuse. Many of them have reached settlements with the federal government in the tens of millions of dollars for failing to do so. Now, for the first time, criminal charges have been filed against a major distributor and two former executives. William K. Rashbaum of The Times reports that  the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan has cited the same statutes used against illicit drug dealers and cartel leaders in charging Rochester Drug Cooperative with conspiring to distribute drugs and defrauding the government.

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The danger of a hot car: Fifty-one children died after being left in a hot car last year, the highest annual number ever recorded, according to the National Safety Council. In an average year, 38 children die in a hot car. So far this year the total is two deaths, but warm weather has just begun. And the day doesn’t have to be hot in order for the temperature inside a car to be dangerous. Consumer Reports tested car temperatures on mild days and found that, on a June day that averaged 61 degrees, the inside temperature of a parked car reached 105 degrees within one hour. That group argued that more car manufacturers should install automatic rear seat reminders to prompt drivers to check the back seat, now available in some General Motors, Nissan, and Hyundai models.

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Asbestos control: The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a regulation that bans the importation or manufacture of certain products containing cancer-causing asbestos unless the company obtains a waiver from the federal government. Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the rule gives the government power to prevent already banned asbestos products from becoming widely used once again in the U.S., Lisa Friedman of The New York Times reports. The agency was required to institute the change under a 2016 amendment to a toxics substances law. Public health advocates had said that they worried the proposed rule put forward last year would do just the opposite, making it easier for banned asbestos products to be reintroduced as imports. The rule issued last week is stronger, though some advocates said it does not prohibit importation of raw asbestos and falls short of the ban on all remaining uses of asbestos that Wheeler had pledged to House members.

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Hurt while helping: Highlands Behavioral Healthcare System, an acute psychiatric treatment center in Colorado owned by Fortune 500 company Universal Behavioral Services, has been cited for failing to protect workers from workplace violence. After receiving a complaint, investigators with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that numerous employees had been hurt on the job while interacting with patients, resulting in concussions, cuts and bruises, and strains. The company has had similar violations at other facilities in recent years. For the Colorado violation, it faces proposed penalties of $11,934.

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On stage for the NRA: For the second consecutive year, President Trump and Vice President Pence will headline the national convention of the NRA, being held this weekend in Indianapolis. Last year, Trump told Dallas convention-goers that their gun rights “will never, ever be under siege as long as I’m your president.” Trump’s relationship with the gun group and the NRA’s ties to Russia have been under heightened scrutiny in the past year. Politico’s Natasha Bertrand said the nature of those relationships is one of the mysteries left unresolved by the Mueller report.

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Fox in the henhouse: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created after the 2008 financial crisis, the brainchild of Senator Elizabeth Warren, who worked with colleagues to create an office that could be shielded from political tinkering and remain loyal to the mission of protecting consumers from aggressive financial tactics, like those used by payday lenders. As a South Carolina congressman, Mick Mulvaney tried to abolish the office. Then, President Trump named him the bureau’s acting director. “He’s taken it apart — dismantled it, piece by piece, brick by brick,” Linda Donner, executive director of Americans for Financial Reform, told Nicholas Confessore for The New York Times Magazine. Confessore explains how.

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