Public health safety measures that would never pass now

The Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has been warning of the dangers of social media on young children and proposes warning labels for them. I am not sure what form that it will take and how effective it would be (assuming that it ever gets enacted) but it did make me think of one of the biggest positive acts by a former Surgeon General and that was the warning labels on tobacco packs promoted by his predecessor C. Everatt Koop. “As Surgeon General, he released eight reports on the health consequences of tobacco use, including the first report on the health consequences of involuntary tobacco smoke exposure. During Koop’s tenure as Surgeon General, smoking rates in the United States declined significantly from 38% to 27%”.

Thanks to actions like those taken by the government in those days, we now have cleaner air and water, fluoride in the water, and bans on the widespread use of some pesticides like DDT.

We also had the ban on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that were destroying the ozone layer. That story of how the fight against that harmful chemical was won by scientists can be read here.
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Biden hammers Trump leading up to the debate

Up to now, Joe Biden has been relatively subdued in his attacks on serial sex abuser and convicted felon Donald Trump (SSACFT), despite getting severely attacked by SSACFT and his supporters in the right wing echo chamber. But in a new press release, the Biden campaign hammers SSACFT harder than anything I have seen so far. It is a pretty comprehensive takedown. It looks like this is the tack Biden is going to take in the debate on June 27th.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 17, 2024

Trump’s Debate Lies Show How Scared He Is

Donald Trump is a liar and a fraud. His campaign is full of liars and frauds. And their desperate leaks and lies to the right-wing media only underscore how scared Donald Trump is to debate.This is Donald’s debate playbook: lies, distractions, and deceit. Donald Trump and his campaign are scared because they can’t defend his record, personal conduct, or extreme agenda in front of the American people.Donald can’t defend that he’s a criminal who has been convicted of 34 felonies, was found liable for sexual assault, committed financial fraud, and is only out for himself.
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The puzzling gambles of Sunak and Macron

When UK prime minister Rishi Sunak announced that he was dissolving parliament and calling a snap election for July 4th, I like many people was surprised. There had been nothing in the news to trigger the move. He still had about seven months remaining before elections had to be held and there seemed to be no benefit to calling elections early since his party was so far behind in the polls. It would have made sense to wait until the polls improved. When you are the government with a large majority, you have some levers that you can use in terms of introducing policies and actions to improve your situation. The only reason for quitting early seemed to be a fear that the situation might get worse, though there were no known dark clouds on the horizon..

Then France’s president Emmanuel Macron also called a snap election to be held in two rounds on June 30th and July 7th for the French National Assembly. In this case, it followed the poor showing of his party in the elections to the European parliament where his Renaissance party came in third with about 15% of the vote with the far right National party of Marine Le Pen coming in first with about 31%.
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Debate rules released

CNN has released the rules that have been agreed to by the camps of Joe Biden and serial sex abuser and convicted felon Donald Trump (SSACFT) for the first debate on June 27th.

  • No opening statements.
  • Biden and Trump will each have two minutes to answer questions — followed by one-minute rebuttals and responses to the rebuttals.
  • Red lights visible to the candidates will flash when they have five seconds left, and turn solid red when time has expired.
  • Each man’s microphone will be muted when it is not his turn to speak.
  • They will be barred from huddling with advisers while off the air.
  • The candidates will appear without a live audience and at lecterns determined by a coin flip.

It looks like a total capitulation by SSACFT. I am sure that he would have liked to have an audience. The cutting off of microphones when their time is up is also something that he would not have wanted since he likes to filibuster and interrupt. Of course, he might still try to do that even without the benefit of his microphone being on.

As with most of these presidential ‘debates’, we should not expect anything really substantive in terms of policies. What most people will be looking for is to see which of the two candidates seems more cognitively alert.

What Biden should prepare for is how to deal with the firehose of lies and nonsense that SSACFT will spew. Should he try to fact check them in real time? That would be futile. Maybe he should say at the beginning that SSACFT is a proven liar and to ridicule him whenever he lies, by laughing at him and saying something like “There he goes again”, a line that worked well for Ronald Reagan in one of his debates.

Is raw milk the new right wing thing?

The MAGAnuts have been relentless in their efforts to promote alternative realities that postulate that well-respected institutions that are science-based are actually part of a secret cabal that is trying to … well I don’t know what exactly but whatever it is, they tell us that those institutions should not be trusted. In pursuing that goal, they have been promoting alternative theories that go against the scientific consensus in many areas. If the scientific community argues for vaccines, they claim that vaccines are actually harmful. If the scientific community points to the dangers of greenhouse gases and global warming, they say that emitting those gases is good for the environment. It seems like they seize of anything that the FDA, NIH, EPA, and other organizations recommend to promote public health and oppose it. ‘Experts’, you know the people who spend decades studying issues and building up evidence to reach reliable conclusions, are dismissed as know nothings or, worse, as positively evil with a nefarious agenda.

Now these people are arguing that pasteurizing milk is not necessary and can actually be bad for you and that unpasteurized (so-called ‘raw’) milk is to be preferred. See this letter put out by raw milk advocates that asserts the alleged benefits of raw milk that is ‘carefully produced’.
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The surge of the Reform party in the UK

That the Conservative party under the leadership of Rishi Sunak is in deep trouble leading up to the elections on July 4th is well known. But this week brought even more bad news for them with a new poll that suggested that the upstart Reform party under the leadership of political gadfly and provocateur Nigel Farage, has just barely edged ahead of them. This article looks at history of this party and what this swing towards them might mean.

Needless to say Farage, who has targeted to Conservative party since both appeal roughly to the same sections of the electorate, has seized on this latest poll to declare that his party now forms the opposition, not the Conservatives. His goal seems to be to attract disgruntled Conservative voters to vote for Reform. However, that risks splitting the right wing vote and giving an opening for Labour and Liberal candidates to squeak past them to win marginal seats.

In the third of his commentaries on the election, Jonathan Pie looks at the Reform party and its leader.

Easy way to solve the climate crisis

The US southwest is already suffering from heat waves that are expected to spread to other parts of thecountry this coming week.

The scorching heatwave that has swept the US south-east in recent weeks will soon spread to the country’s midwest and north-east regions, affecting nearly 250 million Americans.

Temperatures are stuck at 90F (32C) or above for at least the next week in much of the US, the National Weather Service (NWS) predicted. The NWS defines a heatwave as a period of temperatures exceeding 90F for two or more days, and this one could last until 26 June.

The NWS said: “The first heatwave of the summer begins Sunday over the middle of the nation, before spreading to the midwest and to the north-east by Tuesday then lasting most of next week,” with temperatures expected to approach 105F and break records, with very warm nights.

Parts of Florida have set record high temperatures.
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US Supreme Court opens door to even more carnage

Today the body in a 6-3 opinion struck down a ban on the use of so-called ‘bump stocks’, the device that can convert a semiautomatic weapon (where you have to pull the trigger for each shot) to something that resembles a machine gun, where simply holding the trigger results in the gun firing repeatedly. Needless to say, the latter allows you fire bullets far more rapidly, allowing for greater carnage in the time interval before the shooter is stopped.

The ruling was 6-3, with the court’s liberal justices dissenting from the conservative majority’s decision. Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas said that a semiautomatic firearm equipped with a bump stock did not meet the definition of a machine gun, which are subject to stricter regulations.

The top court’s ruling in Garland v Cargill nullifies the Trump administration’s 2018 regulation from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which ordered anyone who owned a bump stock to destroy it or hand it over to federal agents. The rule was passed after the devastating 2017 mass shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas, in which a gunman fired more than 1,000 rounds, killing 60 people and injuring almost 500.

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Limited victory for abortion rights

The US Supreme Court unanimously allowed the use of the abortion medication mifepristone.

The nine justices ruled that abortion opponents lacked the legal right to sue over the federal Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the medication, mifepristone, and the FDA’s subsequent actions to ease access to it. The case had threatened to restrict access to mifepristone across the country, including in states where abortion remains legal.

Abortion is banned at all stages of pregnancy in 14 states, and after about six weeks of pregnancy in three others, often before women realize they’re pregnant.

Kavanaugh’s opinion managed to unite a court deeply divided over abortion and many other divisive social issues by employing a minimalist approach that focused solely on the technical legal issue of standing and reached no judgment about the FDA’s actions. Kavanaugh’s seven “pro-life” references to abortion opponents may have been the only language in his opinion that revealed anything of his views on abortion.

About two-thirds of U.S. adults oppose banning the use of mifepristone, or medication abortion, nationwide, according to a KFF poll conducted in February. About one-third would support a nationwide ban.

More than 6 million people have used mifepristone since 2000. Mifepristone blocks the hormone progesterone and primes the uterus to respond to the contraction-causing effect of a second drug, misoprostol. The two-drug regimen has been used to end a pregnancy through 10 weeks gestation.

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The GOP war on democratic institutions

It is quite extraordinary how the Republican party seems determined to tear down institutions that have long been seen as fundamental to the smooth functioning of democratic societies.

The most recent and extreme has been the attack on the entire judiciary system in the US in the wake of the many charges that have been leveled against serial sex abuser and convicted felon Donald Trump (SSACFT). He has lost defamation suits brought against him by E. Jean Carroll, business fraud suit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, and the falsifying business records to further his election campaign brought by Manhattan district Attorney Alvin Bragg. He further faces charges of election interference in Georgia brought by Fulton Country district attorney Fani Willis, and two sets of charges involving the possession of classified documents brought by the special prosecutor Jack Smith.
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