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Originally Published: 9/9/2017

Plastic Planet:  An investigation by Orb Media and a researcher at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health found that more than a dozen nations have microplastic contamination in their tap water. “More than 80% of the samples we collected on 5 continents tested positive for the presence of plastic fibers.” Microplastics are tiny fibers and fragments. In the U.S. 94% of samples were contaminated with plastic fibers - including Congressional buildings, the EPA headquarters, the Trump Tower in New York. Lebanon and India had the next highest rates. European nations, including the UK, Germany, and France, had the lowest contamination rate, but it was still at 72%. If you remember, previous analyses found plastic pollution in the oceans infecting sea food. This suggested that human contamination was coming from sea food. (Guardian) But this analysis found that the contamination is more ubiquitous than previously thought. No one is sure where it’s coming from. “Scientists say these microscopic fibers might originate in the everyday abrasion of clothes, upholstery, and carpets. They could reach your household tap by contaminating local water sources, or treatment and distribution systems. But no one knows, and no specific procedures yet exist for filtering or containing them.” One study found that each cycle of a washing machine could release more than 700,000 microscopic plastic fibers into the environment, with acrylic being the worst offender. (Guardian) If these plastic fibers are in your water, you can also expect that they’re in your food. “Microplastics have been shown to absorb toxic chemicals linked to cancer and other illnesses, and then release them when consumed by fish and mammals.” And plastic is indestructible. It doesn’t biodegrade, it just breaks down into smaller pieces of itself, even down to nanometers. “Studies show particles of that size can migrate through the intestinal wall and travel to the lymph nodes and other bodily organs.” Scott Belcher, research professor at North Carolina State University, said: “Chemicals from plastics are a constant part of our daily diet. We generally assume the water bottle holding that pure spring water, the microwave-safe plastic bowl we prepare our meals in, or the styrofoam cup holding a hot drink is there protecting our food and drinks. Rather than acting as a completely inert barrier, these plastics are breaking down and leaching chemicals, including endocrine-disrupting plasticizers like BPA or phthalates, flame retardants, and even toxic heavy metals that are all absorbed into our diets and bodies.” Please watch Orb Media’s.


What You Can Do:  The authors came up with 7 things you can do to keep microplastics from becoming an even bigger issue: Stop using plastic bags. Stop using plastic straws. Wash synthetic clothes less frequently. Use toothbrushes made from alternative materials. Clean paint brushes separately and dispose of the water at specialty spots where you dispose of your paint can. Use glass reusable water bottles. Do something about transportation as plastic tire dust is one of the main sources of microplastic pollution in the ocean. 


Facebook:  Facebook representatives told congressional investigators that, in an internal investigation, they discovered that it had sold ads during the 2016 election “to a shadowy Russian company seeking to target voters.” They traced the ad sales “totaling $100,000” to a Russian “troll farm” with “a history of pushing pro-Kremlin propaganda.” A small portion of the ads directly named Trump and Clinton. “Most of the ads focused on pumping politically divisive issues such as gun rights and immigration fears, as well as gay rights and racial discrimination.” (Washington Post) If you don’t understand how they did this, see this piece at the NY Times.


Don, Jr.:  Trump’s son told the Senate that he was the one to set up the June 2016 meeting with the Russian lawyer (TWW, Junior’s Russian Meeting, 7/22/17) because he was “intrigued” that she might have damaging information about Hillary Clinton. He said he thought it was important to learn about Clinton’s “fitness” to be president. (NY Times)


Jim Bridenstine:  Trump nominated Rep. Bridenstine (R, OK) to head up the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). (USA Today) Bridenstine is a former pilot “whose goals for our solar system include installing humans on the moon and cleaning up space junk. He also has expressed skepticism about human-caused climate change.” (Washington Post)


Myanmar:  At least 123,000 Rohingya refugees have fled Myanmar into Bangladesh since late last month. The Rohingya are largely a Muslim ethnic group who have faced severe restrictions on basic rights. On August 25th Rohingya militants attacked several police outposts and a military base, “killing at least 12 members of security forces.” In response the Myanmar military, along with Buddhist vigilantes, have been attacking them. (NY Times)


North Korea:  It had its 6th “and most powerful” nuclear test “in an extraordinary show of defiance against President Trump.” (NY Times)


South Korea:  “Trump has instructed advisers to prepare to withdraw the United States from a free-trade agreement with South Korea.” Advisers are telling him that this could “stoke economic tensions” with the country. (Washington Post)


Texas on Abortion:  U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel in Austin issued a temporary restraining order blocking the new Texas law that in effect bans second trimester abortions. “The state cannot pursue its interests in a way that denies a woman her constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy before the fetus is viable.” The law bans the most common method of performing second trimester abortions, in effect leaving no alternative. (The Intercept)


Texas on Labor:  U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzano ruled that Obama’s Labor Department improperly “looked at salaries rather than job descriptions to determine a worker’s eligibility for overtime pay.” The rule would have doubled an overtime salary threshold, “making workers who earn less than $47,476 a year newly eligible for time-and-a-half pay for working more than 40 hours in a week.” About 4.2 million workers, most of them women and people of color, will be effected. (Rewire)


Spending Bill:  Congress critters were busy this week trying to get something done on a budget, funding for Harvey victims, and raising the debt ceiling. Senator Chuck Schumer (D, NY) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA) struck a deal with Trump to pair Harvey funding with an increase in the debt ceiling (Washington Post) “throwing Republican plans into chaos.” (Washington Post) Eventually the House passed a Harvey funding bill for $7.9 billion (ABC) but the Senate passed 80 to 17 a $15.25 billion bill for disaster relief, as part of the agreement struck by Trump and Democrats. The bill also raises the debt ceiling and approves a Continuing Resolution to keep the government operating to December 8th. (Washington Post) Conservatives threw a fit, but couldn’t stop it (Washington Post) and the House finally passed it 316 to 90 and Trump signed it. (Washington Post) $15.25 billion? Damage is estimated to be $180 billion. (Reuters) Guess the rest is going to be picked up by insurance companies - which means you and me. Why is it we always have money to spend to clean up and rebuild after a disaster, but we never have the money to do what needs to be done to prevent the disaster? Watch what Stephen Colbert has to say about the congressional negotiations. (You Tube)


Travel Ban:  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Seattle “reopened the country’s door to thousands of refugees who had been temporarily blocked” by Trump’s travel ban. (TWW, Travel Ban, 7/22/17) The Court also upheld a lower court decision that exempted grandparents and other relatives from the ban. (NY Times)


DACA:  Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that Trump has ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. I guess Trump couldn’t announce it himself. The program will be cancelled over “an unspecified period of time.” During that time, about 6 months, hopefully Congress will come up with legislation to resolve the issue. (Roll Call) Apparently Trump did this because of a threat by 9 state attorneys general, and 1 governor, to sue Trump if the program wasn’t ended by September 5th. The states are Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Nebraska, Arkansas, South Carolina, Idaho, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Kansas. (The Intercept) You can read a transcript of Sessions’ speech at Time. Go ahead. See if you can pick out the many lies. Janet Napolitano, who created DACA as Homeland Security Secretary, is now president of the University of California system and she is suing Trump to save the program. The lawsuit accuses Trump of “violating administrative procedures and constitutional due process by abruptly ending the program.” (NY Times) This might be a good time to remind you that being in the country illegally is not a criminal act. It is considered a civil infraction, like a parking ticket.


NAFTA:  Renegotiations are going on for the North American Free Trade Act. Canadians are demanding that the U.S. roll back our so-called “right-to-work” laws. Mexico wants to include its oil and gas sector in the deal. (Globe and Mail)


Obamacare:  There’s one “repeal and replace” bill left out there. Sponsored by Senators Bill Cassidy (R, LA), Lindsey Graham (R, SC), and Dean Heller (R, NV), it would turn control of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) over to the states. “Rather than funding Medicaid and subsidies directly, that money would be put into a block grant that a state could use to develop any healthcare system it wants. It also allows states to opt out of many ACA regulations.” Here’s the clincher. The Medicaid expansion and subsidy funding would be cut sharply until 2027, when it goes away completely. The proposal doesn’t currently have a lot of traction, but we should keep an eye on it. (Washington Post)


Birthing:  More than half of the U.S.’s rural counties don’t have hospitals where women can give birth. A new study published in the journal Health Affairs found that, in 2004, 45% of rural counties “lacked a hospital with obstetrics services.” About 1 in 10 rural counties lost those services over the next decade. “By 2014 54% of communities lacked those services. That leaves 2.4 million women of child-bearing age living in counties without hospitals that deliver babies.” (Washington Post)


EPA:  The Environmental Protection Agency “has taken the unusual step of putting a political operative in charge of vetting the hundreds of millions of dollars in grants the EPA distributes annually, assigning final funding decisions to a former Trump campaign aide with little environmental policy experience.” John Konkus reviews every award the agency gives, “along with every grant solicitation before it is issued.” (Washington Post)


Superfund Sites:  There are at least 13 Superfund sites in Houston that were damaged by Hurricane Harvey, “creating the potential for a release of toxic waste into floodwaters.” However, the EPA has yet to send teams to assess the damage. EPA said that 11 of the 13 sites were “inaccessible.” However, an Associated Press team was able to access the sites, “mostly by vehicle and foot. In one case, they needed a boat.” (District Sentinel) Democracy Now! did a tour of Houston’s refineries and Superfund sites.


Preemption Laws:  The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) did an extensive study of state preemption laws - laws where a state legislature blocks local ordinances from taking effect or dismantles existing ordinances. Most, though not all, have been against workers. “Ironically, state preemption of labor standards has historically been used for good to ensure that minimum labor standards are applied statewide. It is only in recent years that it has been so frequently used to take earnings and protections away from workers.” Recent preemption laws have effected 5 key areas of labor and employment policy: minimum wage, paid leave, fair work scheduling, prevailing wage, and project labor agreements. “Now that the Republican Party controls 33 governments and has majority representation in both chambers of most state legislatures, conservative state legislators have increasingly used preemption laws to strike down local government efforts to increase the quality of life for working people in their municipalities.” [Emphasis added.] Since 1997, 30 state legislatures have passed bills preempting local labor standards, most have become law.


Equifax:  One of the 3 major consumer credit reporting agencies was hacked, compromising information for 143 million Americans, including names, birthdates, addresses, Social Security numbers, and driver’s license numbers. They also got credit card numbers for 209,000 consumers. The hacking occurred from mid-May to July - but we’re just now finding out about it. During this time 3 senior executives, including CFO John Gamble, sold stock shares worth almost $1.8 million. (NY Times) Think maybe they kept the hack quiet so they could sell their shares before the news tanked their value? Equifax has put up a site, equifaxsecurity2017.com, that allows you to check whether your information was exposed. However, in order to find out you have to sign a “terms of service” agreement, which bars you from participating in any class-action lawsuit and forces you into arbitration. What’s worse, the site doesn’t belong to Equifax and it’s hosted on WordPress “meaning it doesn’t have the proper security in place, particularly for a site that hosts users’ SSNs.” (Axios) I also see a real problem with a corporation having this much information about us. There are only 3 credit reporting agencies. Another example of monopolies taking over our country and how dangerous it is.


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