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It’s Good for the Planet and Good for the Soul, But Recycling is in Crisis

Into the blue bin: Livia Albeck-Ripka explores the challenge of finding a market for all those recyclables left at the curb, now that China has banned imports of certain types of plastic and paper waste. With thousands of tons of recyclables now going to landfills in some cities, it’s a big issue with no easy solution. But the thing that stuck out to me in this story was the idea of “aspirational recycling,” the act of tossing something in the blue bin in hopes that it can be remade into something new. Contaminated recycling is even more likely to get hauled to the dump. (Albeck-Ripka offers a list of things you may be recycling wrong.) Brent Bell, vice president of recycling at Waste Management, told her that he’s seen all sorts of things come in with the plastic and cardboard. “Most of our facilities get a bowling ball every day or two,” he said.

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‘Never should’ve been’: Fisher Price’s Rock ‘n Play had a mythic reputation; word of how well it soothed a colicky baby passed from one exhausted parent to another. Todd C. Frankel of The Washington Post takes a long look at how the popular product ended up the subject of a recall after more than 30 infants died while in the inclined sleeper. He found that the Rock ‘n Play was introduced to the market in 2009 without any clinical review by doctors. This despite the fact that unexpected sleep deaths kill 3,600 infants every year, and the sleeper seemed to violate long-established standards for positioning babies when they sleep. “There was no reason for this thing to be out there,” Benjamin Hoffman, who chairs the Committee on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention for the American Academy of Pediatrics, told Frankel. “It never should’ve been.” The first time Fisher-Price hired a pediatrician to assess the sleeper was in 2017, as part of a product liability lawsuit, Frankel writes.

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A guide to tragedy: Mass shootings have “become commonplace in America,” the team at The Trace writes. So much so that the nonprofit news organization, dedicated to covering gun issues, has published a guide to understanding them, in the wake of the Virginia Beach shooting in which a city employee killed 12 people at the municipal offices and was fatally wounded himself. Meanwhile, Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, has called for a special session of his state’s Republican-led General Assembly to consider a package of gun control measures. “Let Virginia show the nation that we can respond to tragedy with decisive action,” he said at a press conference this morning.

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‘Existential threat’: In the latest appeal to the world to do something about the climate crisis, an Australian think tank has modeled the catastrophes that could result from inaction as soon as 2050 and suggests that global heating poses a “near-to-mid-term existential threat to human civilization,” CNN reports. If anything can prompt large-scale change, this might: Major corporations are beginning to recognize that climate change will cost them trillions of dollars in the coming years, Brad Plumer of The New York Times reports.

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Heart problems: As children were dying or suffering serious complications even from relatively low-risk cardiac surgeries, doctors associated with North Carolina Children’s Hospital worried about referring their patients there. “It’s a nightmare right now,” one doctor said in secret recordings of physicians’ meetings that were reported by The New York Times. When the doctors expressed their concerns to hospital leadership, they were told that if they referred surgeries elsewhere, the lower volume could cost them their jobs. Reporter Ellen Gabler explores the story in careful detail, explaining how a proliferation of pediatric heart surgery centers has threatened quality of care for children who need the operations.

  • Also: Rhode Island 911 operators are an outlier in New England. They are not trained to guide bystanders in giving CPR to people suffering from cardiac arrest or other medical emergencies, ProPublica and The Public’s Radio report. In the case of a 45-year-old woman who collapsed at her son’s high school football game, that may have cost a life.
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Power play: A senior advisor to the Trump reelection campaign called members of the Ohio House of Representatives urging them to protect jobs at two nuclear plants in advance of the 2020 race, and the next day the House passed a bill giving the plants a major financial boost, Gavin Bade of Politico reports. “The message is that if we have these plants shut down we can’t get Trump reelected,” a senior legislative source told Bade. “We’re going into an election year, we can’t lose the jobs.” Several other states have also propped up struggling nuclear power plants, but those efforts typically have been part of a broader strategy toward carbon-free generation that includes promoting renewable energy, Dan Gearino of InsideClimate News reports. Ohio’s bill would move the state in the opposite direction, eliminating ratepayer funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

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Drugmaker on trial: A bench trial continues this week in Oklahoma, where the state has accused Johnson & Johnson of downplaying the risk of addiction from opioid medications and promoting their use to boost profits, fueling an epidemic of abuse. The company is charged with creating a “public nuisance” that the state has estimated would cost at least $12.7 billion to abate, an amount the company has called excessive, Sara Randazzo of The Wall Street Journal reports. Two pharmaceutical companies already settled with Oklahoma on similar charges, Purdue for $270 million and Teva for $85 million. The Johnson & Johnson case is closely watched by drugmakers assessing their own potential liability, and by the plaintiffs and their attorneys in some 2,000 lawsuits pending across the U.S. The trial is expected to run two months.

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