Proposed rule change worries some about radiation regulation
By ELLEN KNICKMEYER
Wednesday, October 3
WASHINGTON (AP) — The EPA is pursuing rule changes that experts say would weaken the way radiation exposure is regulated, turning to scientific outliers who argue that a bit of radiation damage is actually good for you — like a little bit of sunlight.
The government’s current, decades-old guidance says that any exposure to harmful radiation is a cancer risk. And critics say the proposed change could lead to higher levels of exposure for workers at nuclear installations and oil and gas drilling sites, medical workers doing X-rays and CT scans, people living next to Superfund sites and any members of the public who one day might find themselves exposed to a radiation release.
The Trump administration already has targeted a range of other regulations on toxins and pollutants, including coal power plant emissions and car exhaust, that it sees as costly and burdensome for businesses. Supporters of the EPA’s proposal argue the government’s current model that there is no safe level of radiation — the so-called linear no-threshold model — forces unnecessary spending for handling exposure in accidents, at nuclear plants, in medical centers and at other sites.
At issue is Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule on transparency in science.
EPA spokesman John Konkus said Tuesday: “The proposed regulation doesn’t talk about radiation or any particular chemicals. And as we indicated in our response, EPA’s policy is to continue to use the linear-no-threshold model for population-level radiation protection purposes which would not, under the proposed regulation that has not been finalized, trigger any change in that policy.”
But in an April news release announcing the proposed rule the agency quoted Edward Calabrese, a toxicologist at the University of Massachusetts who has said weakening limits on radiation exposure would save billions of dollars and have a positive impact on human health.
The proposed rule would require regulators to consider “various threshold models across the exposure range” when it comes to dangerous substances. While it doesn’t specify radiation, the release quotes Calabrese calling the proposal “a major scientific step forward” in assessing the risk of “chemicals and radiation.”
Konkus said the release was written during the tenure of former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. He could not explain why Calabrese was quoted citing the impact on radiation levels if the agency does not believe there would be any.
Calabrese was to be the lead witness at a congressional hearing Wednesday on the EPA proposal.
Radiation is everywhere, from potassium in bananas to the microwaves popping our popcorn. Most of it is benign. But what’s of concern is the higher-energy, shorter-wave radiation, like X-rays, that can penetrate and disrupt living cells, sometimes causing cancer.
As recently as this March, the EPA’s online guidelines for radiation effects advised: “Current science suggests there is some cancer risk from any exposure to radiation.”
“Even exposures below 100 millisieverts” — an amount roughly equivalent to 25 chest X-rays or about 14 CT chest scans — “slightly increase the risk of getting cancer in the future,” the agency’s guidance said.
But that online guidance — separate from the rule-change proposal — was edited in July to add a section emphasizing the low individual odds of cancer: “According to radiation safety experts, radiation exposures of … 100 millisieverts usually result in no harmful health effects, because radiation below these levels is a minor contributor to our overall cancer risk,” the revised policy says.
Calabrese and his supporters argue that smaller exposures of cell-damaging radiation and other carcinogens can serve as stressors that activate the body’s repair mechanisms and can make people healthier. They compare it to physical exercise or sunlight.
Mainstream scientific consensus on radiation is based on deceptive science, says Calabrese, who argued in a 2014 essay for “righting the past deceptions and correcting the ongoing errors in environmental regulation.”
EPA spokesman Konkus said in an email that the proposed rule change is about “increasing transparency on assumptions” about how the body responds to different doses of dangerous substances and that the agency “acknowledges uncertainty regarding health effects at low doses” and supports more research on that.
The radiation regulation is supported by Steven Milloy, a Trump transition team member for the EPA who is known for challenging widely accepted ideas about manmade climate change and the health risks of tobacco. He has been promoting Calabrese’s theory of healthy radiation on his blog.
But Jan Beyea, a physicist whose work includes research with the National Academies of Science on the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, said the EPA science proposal represents voices “generally dismissed by the great bulk of scientists.”
The EPA proposal would lead to “increases in chemical and radiation exposures in the workplace, home and outdoor environment, including the vicinity of Superfund sites,” Beyea wrote.
At the level the EPA website talks about, any one person’s risk of cancer from radiation exposure is perhaps 1 percent, Beyea said.
“The individual risk will likely be low, but not the cumulative social risk,” Beyea said.
“If they even look at that — no, no, no,” said Terrie Barrie, a resident of Craig, Colorado, and an advocate for her husband and other workers at the now-closed Rocky Flats nuclear-weapons plant, where the U.S. government is compensating certain cancer victims regardless of their history of exposure.
“There’s no reason not to protect people as much as possible,” said Barrie.
U.S. agencies for decades have followed a policy that there is no threshold of radiation exposure that is risk-free.
The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements reaffirmed that principle this year after a review of 29 public health studies on cancer rates among people exposed to low-dose radiation, via the U.S. atomic bombing of Japan in World War II, leak-prone Soviet nuclear installations, medical treatments and other sources.
Twenty of the 29 studies directly support the principle that even low-dose exposures cause a significant increase in cancer rates, said Roy Shore, chief of research at the Radiation Effects Research Foundation, a joint project of the United States and Japan. Scientists found most of the other studies were inconclusive and decided one was flawed.
None supported the theory there is some safe threshold for radiation, said Shore, who chaired the review.
If there were a threshold that it’s safe to go below, “those who profess that would have to come up with some data,” Shore said in an interview.
“Certainly the evidence did not point that way,” he said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates electronic devices that emit radiation, advises, broadly, that a single CT scan with a dose of 10 millisieverts may increase risks of a fatal cancer by about 1 chance in 2,000.
Supporters of the proposal say it’s time to rethink radiation regulation.
“Right now we spend an enormous effort trying to minimize low doses” at nuclear power plants, for example, said Brant Ulsh, a physicist with the California-based consulting firm M.H. Chew and Associates. “Instead, let’s spend the resources on minimizing the effect of a really big event.”
Mexico investigates crocodile’s death in resort city
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican environmental authorities have launched a criminal investigation into the death of a crocodile.
The young croc was hung from a tree with a note that read: “We are going to continue killing these disgusting animals unless they are brought under control.”
The office for environmental protection said Thursday that the reptile’s carcass was found in the Pacific coast resort city of Puerto Vallarta on Tuesday.
It was hung by its tail, and a stick had been stabbed into its head with the hand-written note.
Authorities acknowledge that crocodiles sometimes wander around the tourist zone, but they have set up signs to warn people and are working to improve their emergency response.
Crocs are a protected species in Mexico and killing them is a crime.
OHIO VOTERS SPEAK: New Poll Finds Voters Want President Trump and Congress to Do More About ‘Unreasonable’ Prescription Drug Costs
Oct. 3, 2018 – Over three-quarters of Ohio voters feel the cost of prescription drugs is “unreasonable” and more than half are not satisfied with how President Trump and members of both parties of Congress are handling the issue, according to a new poll released today by the West Health Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit healthcare research organization.
The survey of 750 registered Ohio voters found that 87 percent are concerned over the high cost of prescription drugs, with a third (33 percent) saying they have not filled or taken drugs as prescribed because of its cost in the last year, which 79 percent find “unreasonable.”
Voters are mostly disapproving of the way the president and Republicans and Democrats in Congress are handling the high cost of prescription drugs. Each has a disapproval rating of at least 50 percent on the issue, which is likely to be a key campaign issue in the run up to the midterm elections. The survey found a large majority (69 percent) of all Ohio voters believe reining in high prescription drug costs should be a top priority for candidates running for Congress. This is a sentiment that a majority of voters believe regardless of party affiliation, the poll found.
“In this polarized political environment, rarely does an issue cut across party lines so strongly. This poll shows all Ohioans are fed up with the high cost of drugs and will reward candidates who support common-sense solutions like allowing Medicare to directly negotiate prices with drug companies,” said Shelley Lyford, president and CEO of the West Health Institute. “Voters have told their candidates what they want them to do. Now it’s up to the candidates to make it a priority issue.”
The survey found the cost of healthcare is the single most important issue facing the country for 60 percent of Ohio voters—even more important than jobs and the economy (47 percent), national security concerns (28 percent) and immigration (27 percent).
When asked about possible ways to reduce drug costs in particular, 87 percent support allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies and 70 percent said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports this approach.
Meanwhile, 83 percent said they want President Trump to take steps to clear the way for Medicare to negotiate directly. The president previously supported the idea but did not include it as part of his “Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices” released in May 2018.
Under current law, the federal government is explicitly prohibited from negotiating directly with pharmaceutical companies to lower drug prices for Medicare. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, national health spending was $3.3 trillion in 2016, with $328.6 billion going toward prescription drugs.
Eighty-seven percent also support requiring drug companies to release information to the public on how they set their prices and 39 percent support requiring drug companies to set the price of a drug based on how well it works for patients.
“New common sense drug pricing policies are desperately needed before runaway costs cripple our economy and adversely affect millions of Americans,” said Tim Lash, chief strategy officer and executive vice president of the West Health Institute. “Our survey shows a majority of Ohioans are ready to make their voices heard on election day as their health and well-being is at stake.”
To view the full report, visit: https://s8637.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/WHI-Ohio-Poll-Report-.pdf
About the survey
This poll reflects a telephone survey (calls were made on landline and mobile phones in both English and Spanish) of 750 voters statewide in Ohio. The poll was conducted by J Wallin Opinion Research for West Health Institute with a margin of error of +/-3.6%. The survey was conducted from August 16 through August 23, 2018.
About the Gary and Mary West Health Institute and West Health
Solely funded by philanthropists Gary and Mary West, West Health is a family of nonprofit and nonpartisan organizations including the Gary and Mary West Health Institute and Gary and Mary West Foundation in San Diego, and the Gary and Mary West Health Policy Center in Washington, D.C. West Health is dedicated to lowering healthcare costs and enabling seniors to successfully age in place with access to high-quality, affordable health and support services that preserve and protect their dignity, quality of life and independence. Learn more at westhealth.org and follow @westhealth.
Columbus Native Serves in Navy Hunting Mines in the Pacific
SAN DIEGO – A 2012 Westbury High School in Houston graduate and Columbus, Ohio, native is serving aboard an Avenger mine countermeasure ship designed to clear mines from vital waterways across the globe.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Anthony Paulo is a Navy logistics specialist serving aboard USS Champion under the command of Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Fall Color to Soon Emerge as October Begins
Fall Color Report No. 1 – Oct. 3
COLUMBUS, OH – While most of the state is still seeing mostly green conditions, some hints of color are beginning to emerge as the Buckeye State starts its fall color transformation, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).
“Fall color is just beginning, and it will improve when we experience cool, crisp night temperatures and bright sunny days,” said ODNR Fall Color Forester Greg Smith. “The colors will soon be noticeable in walnut, ash and maple trees in open areas, as well as with Virginia creeper and poison ivy vines. Right now, we are still seeing mostly green conditions across the state.”
One of Ohio’s popular pastimes this time of year, fall archery deer hunting season, is underway and will go until Feb. 3, 2019. For more information on deer hunting, go to wildohio.gov.
People interested in finding out where to find most eye-catching leaves throughout the upcoming fall color season should check out fallcolor.ohiodnr.gov, Ohio’s official guide to the changing colors. This website includes:
• Weekly color updates and information to help plan a fall color adventure.
• Weekly videos from ODNR naturalists highlighting fall color hot spots around the state.
• Links to fall activities, scenic road trips, unique overnight accommodations at Ohio State Parks and more.
Fall is a distinctive season in Ohio with an identifiable color palette of reds, oranges and yellows; cooler temperatures; and aromas and tastes of autumn’s harvest from apples to pumpkins. It’s such a fun, vibrant few months to enjoy time with those closest to you that it feels like a holiday — or perhaps a Falliday! To help visitors find those special autumn activities in Ohio, the Office of TourismOhio has created a new landing page, ohio.org/fallidays.
ODNR and TourismOhio encourage people to take fall color photos and upload them to social media using the hashtag #OhioFall18 and #FallidaysinOhio. Follow @ohiodnr and @OhioFindItHere on Twitter, Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Ohio. Find it Here. on Facebook and @ohiodnr, @ohstateparks and @ohiogram on Instagram to see more fall color photos.
Ohio State Parks is also having a photo contest this fall. Help us highlight the best of the great outdoors in a variety of categories for a chance to win great prizes! Enter today at ohiostateparksphotocontest.com.
ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.
TourismOhio, operating within the state of Ohio’s Development Services Agency, works to ensure Ohio is positioned as a destination of choice, enriching lives through authentic travel experiences. The branding Ohio. Find It Here. supports Ohio’s $44 billion tourism industry. For more, visit ohio.org.
Color Condition Key for the Fall Color Report: Mostly Green – no real fall color seen. Changing – still mostly green, less than 25 percent color. Near Peak – significant color showing – anywhere from 30 to 60 percent color. Peak – peak colors – as much as 85 percent showing. Fading – fading from peak conditions and leaves falling to forest floor.
Suspect in shooting of 7 officers is competitive rifleman
By JEFFREY COLLINS and MEG KINNARD
Thursday, October 4
FLORENCE, S.C. (AP) — A Vietnam veteran who bragged online about maintaining his target-shooting skills was being held Thursday on charges that he shot seven law enforcement officers, killing one, when deputies tried to serve a search warrant at his home.
Authorities said Frederick Hopkins opened fire on the deputies from inside the home and held children hostage while shooting long-range at other officers who rushed to the suburban neighborhood.
The sheriff department’s armored personnel carrier was brought in to recover the wounded during Wednesday’s two-hour standoff in Florence, and the gunman finally released the children as he was taken into custody, authorities said.
“Officers went there unknowing the firepower the suspect had,” Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone said at a news conference.
“Fire was being shot all over. The way this suspect was positioned, his view of fire was several hundred yards. So he had an advantage. The officers couldn’t get to the ones who were down.”
Records show Hopkins, 74, is a disabled Vietnam veteran and disbarred lawyer who has faced several charges in recent years, including a 2014 count of disorderly conduct.
Authorities have not described what weapons were involved, but Hopkins apparently owned several guns. A 2014 post on his Facebook page said he celebrated his 70th birthday at a shooting range by repeatedly firing his M-14 rifle, set up exactly like the one he used in Vietnam.
“I have been shooting competitively since 1984 and lovin’ it. I just love the smell of gunpowder in the mornin’s,” said the post. Other posts from 2016 show images of rifles set up on what looks like a range and say he was the “South Carolina 3-Gun Silhouette Champion for 2011.”
The violence stunned people in the area, where many have been dealing with record flooding from Hurricane Florence. Both the sheriff and police chief cried as they spoke to reporters after the standoff.
The slain officer, Terrence Carraway, 52, of Darlington, had just been honored for 30 years of service with the Florence Police Department.
“I want you to pray for the family who lost the bravest police officer I have ever known,” said his chief, Allen Heidler.
WIS-TV reported Thursday that Florence County Chief Deputy Glenn Kirby said Hopkins was hospitalized with a head injury and unable to speak with officers.
Kirby also said that the search warrant involved an accusation that a 27-year-old person at the home sexually assaulted a foster child who lives there.
Three Florence County deputies were wounded while trying to serve the warrant about 4 p.m. Wednesday. Officers from all over arrived to help, and the suspect ultimately shot four Florence city police officers, one fatally, Heidler said.
Boone credited his department’s military equipment for enabling them to pull the wounded from the field of fire.
“Thanks to our MRAP, armored personnel carrier, we made sure all the officers that were shot were protected and brought for medical attention,” he said.
Officials did not identify the wounded officers or describe their conditions.
Florence, a city in South Carolina’s northeastern corner home to roughly 37,000, sits at the convergence of Interstates 95 and 20. It’s the largest city in the region known as the Pee Dee, where flooding from Hurricane Florence devastated areas to the east and south.
Byron Black, who lives near the subdivision where the shooting happened, said he was shocked by the violence. He said he knew both the slain officer and the children of the suspect, describing the Hopkins family as “good people.”
“You never know how stuff will happen,” he said.
He said Carraway, his youth football coach in the late 1990s, was a down-to-earth community leader with whom young people felt comfortable discussing their problems.
“If you got in trouble, he would try his best to get you out of it or tell you the steps you need to take to get out of it” he said, later adding: “He was one of the good cops.”
Condolences and outpourings of support rolled in.
President Donald Trump tweeted his “thoughts and prayers,” saying “We are forever grateful for what our Law Enforcement Officers do 24/7/365.”
“This is simply devastating news from Florence,” said Gov. Henry McMaster, who also ordered flags around the state to half-staff. “The selfless acts of bravery from the men and women in law enforcement is real, just like the power of prayer is real.”
This is the second shooting of multiple police officers in South Carolina this year. In January, a 47-year-old former banker shot four officers in York County, killing one, after his wife called 911 to report he beat her. Christian McCall pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life without parole.
Monica Mathur in New York contributed to this report. Kinnard reported from Columbia, South Carolina.
Opinion: Pot Glasnost — or Not?
By Eric Peters
If Republicans want to avoid losing control of the House — and possibly more — a few weeks from now, they will need more than just Republican votes. But how to get those critical votes to cross over without compromising critical principles?
Perhaps by touting a principled idea that crosses party lines: Glasnost with regard to the war on some drugs — particularly marijuana.
More than two-thirds of the states (both red and blue) have already decriminalized small-scale possession and use by adults; a majority of these have passed laws legalizing medical marijuana. And many have passed or on the verge of ending the failed — and very expensive — Pot Cold War entirely by approving recreational marijuana laws and treating pot the same as beer and alcohol.
Democrats have traditionally favored these policies, but a majority of GOP voters now do as well.
Especially GOP voters under the age of 60 who are the literal future of the party. These younger voters support more personal freedom — and less central control emanating from Washington. They feel much the same way about the war on pot as those on the left tend to feel about wars, generally.
But the point is that regardless of party affiliation, opposition to decriminalization is a loser at the ballot box. Which is why a story that bubbled up about a week ago about a furtive effort within the Trump White House to put the kibosh on pot Glasnost ought to be concerning to Republicans outside the White House who are running for election or hoping for re-election a few weeks from now.
Buzzfeed reporter Dominic Holden sussed out something called the Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee, which is busily working on data acquisition for a public-relations juggernaut whose goal is to convince the public that jump-starting the war on some drugs is a good idea.
According to Holden’s story, the Drug Enforcement Administration and no fewer than 14 federal agencies have been ordered to provide data that supports a hard-line anti-pot stance, such as “negative trends” associated with marijuana decriminalization and “threats” posed by marijuana as such — in order to buttress the committee’s belief that “prevailing (generally positive) marijuana narrative in the U.S. is one-sided, and inaccurate.”
Interestingly, says Holden, the committee is itself seeking only “one-sided” data — anything that can be used to portray marijuana in a negative light, regardless of what the data show.
The genesis of the committee is unknown — only that it exists and (presumably) exists because someone high-up conjured it into existence.
If President Trump authorized it, it goes against his many previous public statements — both on the campaign trail and after his 2016 victory — in favor of at least leaving it to the states to decide for themselves how best to handle the issue. He’s certainly never donned shield and magic helmet to go after individual marijuana users; in fact, he has repeatedly expressed sympathy for people who use marijuana for necessary medicinal reasons, such as pain abatement, glaucoma treatment and as an appetite stimulant (cancer patients).
It seems much more likely that the committee is the creature of Trump’s very-much-estranged (and very much out-of-touch) attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who is the real-life equivalent of General “Buck” Turgidson from the Cold War classic movie “Dr. Strangelove” when it comes to prosecuting the war on some drugs.
Sessions is clearly infuriated by state-by-state decriminalization; he has publicly threatened to prosecute marijuana “crimes” federally in states where there are no longer criminal statutes forbidding small-scale use and possession — using the federal Controlled Substances Act as his billy stick.
So far, the only thing that has kept Sessions on his leash is a funding rider that prohibits the use of DOJ funding for that purpose — something that infuriates Sessions all the more.
But Sessions’ obsession with the war on some drugs presents a real problem for the president and Republicans. Two-thirds of the country favors Pot Glasnost to one degree or another, and that includes more than four out of five Trump voters as well as an overwhelming majority of registered Democratic and independent voters.
There seems to be bipartisan agreement that — at the very least — arresting and caging people who’ve not actually harmed anyone else merely for possessing or using marijuana makes about as much sense as arresting and caging people merely for buying and drinking beer.
It’s an issue Republicans can ride to victory in November if only by not alienating Democrats and independents who might otherwise be persuaded to support them.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Eric Peters is the author of “Automotive Atrocities and Road Hogs.” He wrote this for InsideSources.com.