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A new memo from Take Back the Court, a group that advocates for court reform, seeks to put this issue squarely on the table for discussion among the Democratic presidential candidates. “With a Democratic president in charge of the administration and the regulatory process, we can expect right wing judges and justices to resume with vigor their multi-generation battle to do away with the modern regulatory state,” the memo warns. The memo places the Democratic candidates on notice: If one is elected president, he or she will face a “highly consequential battle” in the judiciary to undercut laws that require agencies to employ a good deal of discretion and the use of “expert-driven regulation” to achieve their ends. The occasion for this warning is a recent opinion written by Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, which signaled that there may be five justices in place to carry out a long-cherished conservative effort to dramatically undercut the regulatory state.
Air pollution — mostly fine particulates, but also ozone and nitrous oxides — has risen in recent years, in part due to ongoing rollbacks of regulations relating to air pollution, leading to what a team of researchers at Carnegie Mellon estimate is nearly 10,000 extra deaths per year. Policymakers in the Trump administration seem determined to continue down this course. On November 11, Lisa Friedman of the New York Times reported on a draft memo circulating among Environmental Protection Agency officials that, if enacted, would sharply limit the kinds of scientific studies the agency can use to consider the impact of air pollution. Yet there’s good reason to believe the EPA and other global public health agencies should be moving in the opposite direction and considering a wider range of studies about the harms of air pollution. That’s because in addition to its impacts to lung and cardiovascular functioning, it seems increasingly clear that pollution has a significant effect on cognitive function over both the short and long term. A spate of studies released in recent years indicate that people work less efficiently and make more mistakes on higher-pollution days, and that long-term exposure to air pollution “ages” the brain and increases the odds of dementia. These consequences are not nearly as dramatic as dying, of course. But they are spread across a huge swath of the population. And since cognitive function is linked to almost everything else in life, the implications are potentially enormous.
The Food and Drug Administration can regulate e-cigarettes like it does conventional cigarettes, an appeals court said Tuesday, finding that the products are “indisputably highly addictive and pose health risks, especially to youth, that are not well understood.” The case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, brought by an e-cigarette manufacturer, was not about banning the sale of the devices and did not pose the question of whether e-cigarettes are more or less safe than traditional cigarettes. The issue for the court was whether the FDA has the authority to treat e-cigarettes as “tobacco products” and to subject the vaping products to the same set of rules and regulations as their conventional counterparts. The case is the first to be decided by a federal appeals court, among a set of lawsuits filed throughout the country.