Roiling rollback: The Trump administration is revoking the state of California’s authority to set its own standards for vehicle emissions, and California has responded by filing a lawsuit, its 60th against this administration, reports Coral Davenport of the New York Times. California’s authority was instrumental in creating a more aggressive emissions control program under the Obama administration, and it provided the state considerable leverage this year as it worked with automakers to negotiate a pact to avoid reversing course, in spite of Trump’s planned rollback. California is joined in the lawsuit by attorneys general from about half the states, all Democrats. The case is expected to end up in the Supreme Court and marks a ratcheting up of the conflict between the White House and leaders in California. On Monday, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler sent a letter to the California Air Resources Board threatening to cut highway funding, among other things, if the state does not promptly submit required plans for controlling six types of pollutants, the Sacramento Bee reports. McClatchy Washington correspondent  Michael Wilner writes that, while the move “is not directly related to the fight over fuel efficiency standards, the administration is making an argument that could supplement its legal defense: that California has failed to uphold standards for pollutants other than greenhouse gases.”

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‘A world without birdsong?’: Bird populations across North America have plummeted over the past half century, according to a study published in the journal Science. By analyzing multiple monitoring networks, researchers found that the abundance of birds on the continent has declined by 29 percent since 1970, or by nearly 3 billion birds. Common songbirds, such as sparrows, warblers and finches, accounted for much of the loss, Ashley Strickland of CNN reports. Populations of shorebirds and grassland birds also declined dramatically. The new study was not meant to determine the cause of losses, but biologists who spoke with Carl Zimmer of the New York Times pointed to likely reasons, including intensive agriculture and development plowing down grassland habitat and filling in wetlands. Peter Marra, an author on the study and director of the Georgetown Environment Initiative at Georgetown University, told Strickland that the bird losses seem to match data showing declines in insects and amphibians, as habitats change or disappear. “It’s imperative to address immediate and ongoing threats,” he said, “both because the domino effects can lead to the decay of ecosystems that humans depend on for our own health and livelihoods–and because people all over the world cherish birds in their own right. Can you imagine a world without birdsong?”

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At the table: As governments around the world work to address a growing obesity epidemic, giants of the food industry are ready. For decades, a neutral-sounding industry group has worked to build influence, especially in large emerging economies, where the market is big and so is the opportunity to sway public health campaigns toward exercise and away from restricting access to junk food. Andrew Jacobs of The New York Times explores how the International Life Sciences Institute, with funding from Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, General Mills, Danone and Monsanto, among hundreds of other corporate members, has worked to shelve legislation and place its experts in positions of power. In China, the group shares office space and staff with the government agency charged with reducing obesity rates. In India, two leaders at the institute served on a government nutrition panel before they were removed for not declaring their conflict of interest. Industry connections are intentionally obscured, the director of the Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi told Jacobs, “because no one would accept Coca-Cola or Pepsi in the room.”

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The growing vaping crisis: At least 530 people have been sickened by vaping-related lung disease, and nine have died, as the search for an exact cause goes on. In The Washington Post, Rob Kuznia and Lena H. Sun report on California’s thriving black market and the “Cannabis District” of Los Angeles, where the vitamin E additive that investigators have pointed to as a possible cause of the disease is sold by the barrel. Meanwhile, the broader public health crisis posed by e-cigarette use among young people continues to grow. A survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that vaping among the survey group, which included students in grades 8, 10 and 12, doubled between 2017 and this year. “It’s not good news at all,” Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the institute, told Sheila Kaplan of The New York Times. The Times also looked at the evidence on vaping and asked, “Is it time to quit?” The answer may be obvious.

    • Also: The Wall Street Journal reports that the large e-cigarette maker, Juul, is the subject of a criminal investigation by federal prosecutors in California. The focus of the probe was not clear. The company’s marketing practices also are under scrutiny by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Trade Commission and several states, reporter Jennifer Maloney notes.  

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Bug battle: “The mosquitoes are winning.” That’s the scary starting point in Jie Jenny Zou’s deep dive into the public health problem posed by the rising prevalence of mosquito-borne diseases as the planet warms. The story, produced by the Center for Public Integrity and the Weather Channel, goes on to explain promising means of controlling the pests, including the release of winged “mosquito assassins.”

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At odds on climate: You don’t need me to tell you about the global climate strike or Greta Thunberg’s powerful speech to U.N.’s Climate Action Summit. But, have you heard what the fossil fuel industry has been up to this week? Industry lobbyists hosted fundraisers for Republican lawmakers, including for a political action committee led by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, according to reporting by The Intercept and Documented. And, in New York, oil and gas giants gathered to announce new plans for addressing the climate crisis. “But most of their proposals,” notes Hiroko Tabuchi of the Times, “appeared designed to perpetuate the use of oil and gas for decades to come, rather than transition quickly to cleaner options.”

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Work for pay: Tens of thousands of American workers who have disabilities, perhaps as many as half a million, are paid less than minimum wage under a federal program that was meant to create work opportunities for people who may otherwise not have had them. The 81-year-old law allows employers to pay them a wage proportional to their productivity as compared with a worker who is not disabled. But, as Hillel Aron writes for FairWarning, federal investigators in recent years have pursued dozens of cases in which employers were found to have dramatically underpaid workers, and the National Council on Disability has been calling for the program to end since 2012. “There has been the Civil Rights Act, gay rights and women’s rights legislation. But for some reason, people with disabilities are subject to legalized discrimination,” chairman Neil Romano told Aron.

      • Also: Georgia contractor Rite-A-Way Mowers has paid a $58,383 penalty for violating child labor laws after a 15-year-old using a power-driven weed cutter along the Ochlockonee River fell in and drowned. Federal law prohibits workers under age 16 from using power-driven machinery.

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