Peaking again: Some 75,000 new Covid cases were logged in the U.S. yesterday, the second highest single-day total since the pandemic began, The New York Times reports. Eight states set single-day records, and 13 have had more cases over the past week than in any other seven-day period all year. The fall surge has gripped the country, CNN reports, and with people spending more time indoors experts expect the next few months to be the worst yet. There have been more than 8.4 million coronavirus infections in the U.S. and more than 223,000 people have died from the virus, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. As Newsweek reports, that’s a higher U.S. body count than for the wars in Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan and World War I combined.

  • Also: There are now seven countries that have recorded more than 1 million confirmed cases: The U.S. is in the lead, followed by India, Brazil, and Russia; in recent days Argentina, France, and Spain have joined that number. Globally, there have been more than 41.9 million cases and more than 1.1 million deaths.

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Painkillers: Purdue Pharma LP agreed to plead guilty to three felonies stemming from its marketing and distribution of OxyContin, the addictive painkiller that helped fuel the opioid crisis in America, Sara Randazzo reports for The Wall Street Journal. The company also agreed to an $8.34 billion settlement, although The Journal notes that it is largely symbolic as it exceeds the assets of the bankrupt firm. Instead, the company will pay the federal government $225 million, and save additional funds to compensate states, counties and tribes that sued Purdue Pharma over opioid addiction and deaths. Members of the Sackler family, the company’s owners, separately agreed to a civil settlement of  $225 million, but criminal investigations into the family will continue. “The abuse and diversion of prescription opioids has contributed to a national tragedy of addiction and deaths, in addition to those caused by illicit street opioids,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen said in a Justice Department statement.  The consumer group Public Citizen called for criminal prosecution of the family, ”as well as a stripping away of their ill-gottten gains from an evil scheme to push addictive drugs for profit.”

Backlog: The U.S. Forest Service has put a hold on projects meant to help prevent catastrophic Western wildfires due to lack of funds, Anna M. Phillips reports for the Los Angeles Times. President Trump has repeatedly blamed wildfires in California on state mismanagement, yet the federal government owns far more forest land in California than the state does. Congress and the White House have not appropriated enough money for the Forest Service to clear dead trees and brush and conduct prescribed burns on federally owned land. It’s not just California either: According to Forest Service records, in 2008 there were about 544,000 acres of prescribed fire and thinning projects needed in Oregon and Washington states. By 2019, that figure had grown to more than 2.2 million acres.

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Easy fixes: The New York Times’ Henry Fountain reports on how the cattle industry is trying to reduce emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas that can trap 80 times more heat than carbon dioxide by changing what cows eat. When cows eat grass and other tough-to-digest food, the material is broken down into digestible material in the cows’ multi-chambered stomach. Methane is the byproduct of this process, and cattle belch large volumes into the air. But some have criticized the article for recycling industry talking points. The industry is ”trying to have it both ways: not get punished for the problem they’re contributing to, but being rewarded for solving it anyway,” tweeted Matthew Hayek, an assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at New York University. Cattle-raising creates other environmental hazards, including water pollution and air pollution from clouds of fecal dust produced by large feedlots.

  • Also: Impossible Burger announced that it is expanding its research and development team to 300 people to work on developing animal-free versions of products including swordfish, beef tenderloin, scallops, eggs and Brie, Janelle Bitker reports for The San Francisco Chronicle.

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Boat owner to blame: The National Transportation Safety Board has determined that the deadly fire that engulfed the Conception dive boat off the Channel Islands last year could have been prevented or claimed fewer lives if the owner, Truth Aquatics, had met a Coast Guard requirement to post a roving night watchman.  The safety board found that the fire was burning at least 30 minutes before a crew member sleeping in the wheelhouse was awakened by the crackle and glow of the flames, Richard Winton reports for the Los Angeles Times. The fire killed 34 people sleeping below deck. “It is a grim picture, a picture of a charter boat company that repeatedly disregarded its procedures. The most critical of those deviations, in my opinion, was the failure to require a roving patrol that in my opinion contributed to the high loss of life,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt.

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Magnetic powers: Over the past decade, thousands of children have been taken to emergency rooms after swallowing small, high-powered magnets that inflict terrible injuries, including punching holes through their intestines, Eli Wolfe reports for FairWarning. The tiny magnets, often the size of a BB, appeared headed for a ban years ago, but action was blocked by litigation between Zen Magnets and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In August the agency won an important round when a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a previous decision that the agency had violated Zen’s due process rights. Zen is now seeking review by the full court. Meanwhile, as Wolfe shows, the magnets are still finding their way into children’s hands, and bodies.

FairWarning contributor Jessica McKenzie is an independent journalist. Find more of her work at jessicastarmckenzie.com.

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