Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Progressive Briefing for Wednesday, September 26

Bill Cosby sentenced to prison, UN condemns U.S. for lack of universal health care, Montana judge restores grizzly bears' protection, and more.

A Montana judge restores grizzly bears’ protection, overturns Trump administration’s policy

A Montana judge sided with wildlife groups and overturned a Trump administration’s policy, which ended protection for grizzly bears within Yellowstone National Park in 2017 and was soon going to allow the first grizzly bear hunts in the national park in almost 30 years. Judge Dana Christensen ruled that the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to consider the affects of the recovery of bears living throughout the country when it chose to remove protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears.

The grizzly bear population increased from 136 in 1975 to close to 700 currently because of wildlife conservation measures, the BBC reported.

Fracking chemicals dumped in the Allegheny River a decade ago are still showing up in mussels: Study

Chemicals from fracking wastewater dumped into Pennsylvania’s Allegheny River before 2011 are still accumulating in the bodies of freshwater mussels downstream, according to a new study.

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University found elevated concentrations of Strontium in the shells of freshwater mussels downstream from a former fracking wastewater disposal site in Warren, Pennsylvania, about 143 miles northeast (and upstream) of Pittsburgh.

While the potential health impacts on humans from this contamination are unclear, high levels of exposure to non-radioactive Strontium can disrupt bone growth in children.

Millions of unwitting Americans paying $1 billion more for dirty coal energy each year when cleaner, cheaper sources available

Millions of U.S. energy consumers across multiple are unwittingly propping up a coal industry by paying more than $1 billion annually over recent years for dirty energy that renewable sources could have provided at much cheaper prices.

According to a new study (pdf) published Tuesday by the Union of Concerned Scientists, which looked at consumer and market data from the last three years, residents across four major energy markets spanning large swaths of the country have been forced to pay higher rates for coal-generated electricity when less expensive and cleaner alternatives were available to utility companies in those regions.

“Every month, millions of consumers are unwittingly bailing out coal-fired power plants,” said Joe Daniel, study author and senior energy analyst at UCS. “When utilities started selling power on the open market, they did so voluntarily. In fact, some had to jump through hoops to do so. But now they seem unwilling to take advantage of the low prices in the markets they joined.”

Glyphosate could be factor in bee decline, study warns

Another study has cast doubt on the environmental safety of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, the most frequently used weedkiller in the world.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) exposed bees to glyphosate and found that it reduced the beneficial bacteria in their guts, making them more susceptible to disease.

“We need better guidelines for glyphosate use, especially regarding bee exposure, because right now the guidelines assume bees are not harmed by the herbicide,” UT graduate student and research leader Erick Motta said in a UT press release. “Our study shows that’s not true.”

‘Morally wrong’: Former UN chief condemns U.S. for not having universal health care

Failing to provide health care to 29.3 million people is “unethical” and “politically wrong, morally wrong,” said former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in an interview with the Guardian.

The U.S. is the only wealthy country without universal coverage – and Ban faults “powerful” interest groups within the pharmaceutical, hospitals, and doctors sector.

“Here, the political interest groups are so, so powerful,” Ban said. “Even president, Congress, senators and representatives of the House, they cannot do much so they are easily influenced by these special interest groups.”

Bill Cosby sentenced to at least 3 years in state prison for sexual assault

A Montgomery County, Pa., judge sentenced disgraced comedian Bill Cosby to three to 10 years in state prison Tuesday, saying that the words of Cosby’s main accuser Andrea Constand that the entertainer took her “beautiful, young spirit and crushed it” helped him reach his decision.

“It is time for justice, Mr. Cosby,” said Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill. “This has all circled back to you.”

The punishment, seen as the first celebrity prison sentence in the #MeToo era, is on the higher end of Pennsylvania’s guidelines for someone who has been convicted of aggravated indecent assault. Cosby’s lawyers argued over two days that the entertainer should be placed on house arrest. Prosecutors maintained that the maximum possible punishment of a decade of confinement was appropriate.

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