Monthly Archives: May 2017

Senator Demands More Info About EPA Chief’s Refusal To Ban Brain-Damaging Pesticide

WASHINGTON ? Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) has requested all documents related to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt?s decision to go against the scientific recommendation of his own agency and refuse to ban a widely used pesticide that?s been linked to learning disabilities in children.

In a Friday letter to Pruitt, Carper, a ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said he is ?troubled? by the agency chief?s order to allow chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate insecticide that?s been used since the 1960s, to remain on the market for agricultural use. Pruitt ?did not present any new scientific or legal analysis? to justify the decision, Carper noted.

?The previous finding to ban chlorpyrifos was based on extensive data, models and research developed by industry, government and academic scientists,? Carper wrote. ?Absent such justification, this decision to lift the proposed ban could undermine the trust the public has in the agency to keep its food, water and air safe.?

In November 2015, under the Obama administration, the EPA proposed to permanently ban the use of the chemical on food crops, citing potential risks to human health. The move stemmed from a 2007 petition filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pesticide Action Network North America.

In announcing his reversal, Pruitt said the proposed ban relied largely on studies ?whose application is novel and uncertain.? He claimed that his decision was about ?returning to using sound science in decision-making ? rather than predetermined results.?

Critics quickly condemned Pruitt and President Donald Trump, accusing them of valuing corporate profits over public health. And environmental groups, including NRDC and Earthjustice, promised to fight the EPA in court.

Chlorpyrifos, also known by its trade name Lorsban, is used in nearly 100 countries on more than 50 different crops, including corn, soybeans, cranberries and broccoli. It was largely banned for at-home use in the U.S. in 2000, but continues to be widely used on thousands of American farms. 

Dow Chemical Co., the chemical?s producer, says it ?remains confident that authorized uses of chlorpyrifos products offer wide margins of protection for human health and safety.? However, even low-dose exposure to organophosphates, particularly in the womb, has been found to harm brain development in children, leading to higher risk of disorders like autism.

The Washington Post reported Friday that a new EPA plan calls for laying off 25 percent of the federal agency?s staff and eliminating dozens of programs, including pesticide safety.

Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma, is a longtime critic of the EPA who denies the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. A recent email dump revealed his close relationship with the oil, gas and utility companies he?s now tasked with regulating. 

Carper has asked the agency to provide him with copies of all documents and communications related to Pruitt?s decision on chlorpyrifos by April 28. 

You can read Carper?s full letter here.

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Almost Every Hospital In Opposition-Held Syria Was Attacked Last Year

Almost every hospital in opposition-held areas of northern and southern Syria were attacked at least once last year, and some medical facilities were hit as many as 25 times, according to a report released Sunday.

The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM), an independent humanitarian organization, in December surveyed 107 of the 130 hospitals and medical facilities documented in Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia, Hama, Daraa, Quneitra and Homs. The organization found that all 107 had been hit at least once with a direct or indirect strike. The average facility had been attacked three times.

Seventy-five percent of the medical facilities were located in schools, government buildings and other spaces that weren?t originally designed as hospitals, the survey found. Four hospitals were established in caves to help protect patients and doctors from airstrikes. 

The new survey?s findings are consistent with reports from humanitarian organizations like Physicians for Human Rights and Amnesty International, as well as from international organizations like the United Nations, that found Syrian government forces and their allies have violated international law by deliberately and systematically targeting medical facilities.

The tactic was on display again last week. 

Officials with the Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, told Al Jazeera that several people were wounded on Sunday evening when air strikes targeted the main hospital in Maaret al-Numan in Idlib province.

Two days earlier, the international medical organization Doctors Without Borders reported that at least one surgeon and one patient had been killed by air strikes hitting the entrance of the Latamneh hospital in Hama province on March 25. The organization said in a statement that survivors showed symptoms consistent with an attack using chemicals.

Fighting in Hama has intensified recently. The attack on the Latamneh Hospital was one of two on medical facilities in the region that week, according to Physicians for Human Rights. A medical point in Kafar Naboudah came under rocket fire on March 28, forcing it to close down. 

?What we?re seeing in Hama governorate is an extension of a gruesome pattern of attacks against medical facilities and personnel across the country,? Elise Baker, PHR?s lead Syria researcher, said in a statement. ?As we?ve seen throughout the conflict, as fighting intensifies and the need for medical care grows, hospitals and other medical facilities come under increasing attack. These attacks are a merciless and illegal approach to warfare that amount to war crimes.?

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Explosion In St. Petersburg Metro System Kills At Least 10 People: Russian News

Two explosions killed at least ten people in the St. Petersburg metro system on Monday, according to multiple Russian state news agencies. An additional 50 people were injured in the blasts, the head of the city governor?s press service said on Twitter.

The explosions struck at two separate metro stations in the center of the city. A Reuters witness saw eight ambulances near the Sennaya Ploshchad metro station.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was briefed on the situation following the blasts, government spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Putin offered condolences to the families of victims, and said that the government is considering all possible causes for the explosions ? including terrorism.

Putin was in St. Petersburg on Monday, meeting with Belarussian leader Alexander Lukashenko. 

Authorities closed all metro stations in St. Petersburg, Russia?s second largest city, following the explosions. The Moscow metro said it was taking unspecified additional security measures in case of an attack there.

Video showed injured people lying bleeding on a platform, some being treated by emergency services. Others ran away from the platform amid clouds of smoke.

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