Trump Cancels California’s Auto Pollution Rules 

The state that made smog famous is losing its half-century-old authority to set air pollution rules. 
President Donald Trump announced Wednesday on Twitter that the Environmental Protection Agency was withdrawing California’s authority to issue stricter vehicle efficiency rules than the federal government. 
The move was the latest in the administration’s efforts to loosen regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 
Thirteen states and the District of Columbia follow California’s standards. Together, they account for a third of auto sales in the United States. 
 ‘Devastating consequences’California has pledged to fight the decision. 
“It’s a move that could have devastating consequences for our kids’ health and the air we breathe if California were to roll over,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said in a statement. “But we will fight this latest attempt and defend our clean car standards.” 
Trump tweeted that the administration was revoking California’s air pollution prerogative “in order to produce far less expensive cars for the consumer, while at the same time making the cars substantially SAFER.” 
Opponents said the action was illegal and unwise. 
“It slams the brakes on technological advancement and throws a wrench into states’ ability to deal with air pollution and confront the growing risk of climate change,” Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement. “It’s yet another way the administration is defying science, the law and democratic norms to enable increased pollution.” 
 FILE – Vehicles make their way west on Interstate 80 across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge as seen from Treasure Island in San Francisco, Dec. 10, 2015.Led the way 
California has set its own air pollution rules since the late 1960s. Responding to eye-watering smog in Los Angeles, the state issued the nation’s first vehicle air pollution rules in 1966. When the 1970 Clean Air Act was passed, the state was allowed to request waivers to issue stricter standards than the federal government’s. 
The EPA has approved more than 100 such waivers, according to the California Air Resources Board. None has been revoked. It’s not clear if the EPA has the authority to take back a waiver once it has been issued, according to Richard Revesz, director of New York University School of Law’s Institute for Policy Integrity. 
“This attempt to revoke California’s authority has no legal basis, and it is an affront to the well-established rights of California and more than a dozen other states,” he said in a statement. 
 Nationwide standards 
Revoking California’s waiver is the first salvo in an attempt to lower vehicle efficiency standards nationwide. 
During the Obama administration,  the EPA required auto manufacturers’ fleets to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.  The Trump administration plans to lower the standard to 37 mpg for model years 2021 to 2026. 
Automakers initially came to the administration asking for relief from the Obama administration’s vehicle efficiency standards. But several major manufacturers have switched sides. Ford, Volkswagen of America, Honda and BMW FILE – An electric bus produced by China’s BYD Co. is parked at the announcement of the opening of an electric bus manufacturing plant in Lancaster, Calif., May 1, 2013.Other regulations targeted
The Trump administration is working to undo climate regulations across the board. The EPA has loosened rules for carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and weakened emissions restrictions from oil and gas drilling of methane. The Department of Energy is relaxing efficiency rules for light bulbs. These rollbacks and others face court challenges. 
The Trump administration is rescinding permission California received in 2013 for programs that lower vehicle greenhouse gas emissions and mandate zero-emissions vehicles. 
The EPA says California does not need the waiver because these rules “address environmental problems that are not particular or unique to California.”Lower costs predicted
The administration says revoking California’s waiver will lower costs for consumers and make newer, safer cars more affordable.  FILE – Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler speaks at a news conference in Washington, Sept. 12, 2019.EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told the National Automobile Dealers Association on Tuesday that automakers have to sell more electric vehicles in order to meet the higher efficiency standards. EVs cost more to manufacture but are less popular than conventional vehicles, he said. 
“One way for automakers to meet the standards is to lower the price of electric vehicles and raise the price of other, more popular vehicles, such as SUVs and trucks,” Wheeler said. “In other words, American families are paying more for SUVs and trucks so automakers can sell EVs at a cheaper price.” 
Environmental and consumer groups note that drivers spend less on gas under California’s standards. 
“The existing standards will save drivers money at the pump, cut hazardous air pollution and help us address climate change,” Luke Tonachel, director for clean vehicles and fuels at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “Cleaner, more efficient cars are cheaper to own because the fuel savings dwarf any initial expense.” Safety measure                               
The administration also says lowering vehicle costs will save hundreds of lives per year because it will be easier for people to buy newer, safer cars, a claim opponents question. 
“Pretending that automakers cannot make cars that are both safe and efficient is ridiculous,” Tonachel said. 

First Vaping Hospitalization Reported in Canada 

Canada reported its first hospitalization for severe respiratory illness linked to vaping Wednesday, following an outbreak in the U.S. that has killed seven people and sickened hundreds. 
The Middlesex-London Health Unit said in a statement that “a youth has been diagnosed with severe respiratory illness that has been linked to the individual’s use of vaping products.” 
Medic Christopher Mackie told a news conference that the London, Ontario, high school student, who vaped daily, was admitted to a local hospital intensive care unit but has since recovered. 
“As far as we’re aware, this is the first case of vaping-related illness that’s been reported in Canada,” he said. 
E-cigarettes have been available in the U.S. and Canada since 2006 and are sometimes used to aid in quitting smoking traditional tobacco products such as cigarettes. 
Despite a ban in Canada on selling vaping products to youths, adolescents’ use of them has skyrocketed in recent years. More restrictions weighed
Health Minister Ginette Petitpas-Taylor said the Canadian government was looking at further banning of vaping advertising and certain flavors that may be appealing to young people. 
“At the end of the day, my number one priority is protecting our youth,” she said. “We want to make sure that the regulations in place will be protecting our youth and making sure these products are not appealing to youth in any way.” 
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said recently that there were more than 450 possible cases of pulmonary illness associated with vaping in the U.S. 
The CDC and Health Canada have cautioned against vaping as officials investigate the precise cause of the deaths. No single substance has been found to be present in all the laboratory samples being examined. 

World Leaders to Take Stock of ‘Faltering’ Global Goals

The world is decades behind schedule to achieve ambitious goals to fight poverty, inequality and other ills, development experts warned Wednesday, as global leaders prepared to meet to weigh their progress.The high-level summit in New York next week will be the first to focus on the sustainable development goals since they were adopted by the United Nations four years ago.The 17 sustainable development goals, known as SDGs, set out a wide-ranging “to-do” list tackling conflict, hunger, land degradation, gender inequality and climate change by 2030. Assessments of their progress have been bleak.On Wednesday the Social Progress Imperative, a U.S.-based nonprofit, said the goals were unlikely to be reached until 2073, more than four decades past their target date.”Progress isn’t fast enough to achieve the ambition of the SDGs within my lifetime, and that’s a problem,” said Michael Green, chief executive of the Imperative. “There are some countries that are going backwards and letting us down.”Most countries are lagging particularly in efforts to improve sanitation, nutrition, basic medical care, shelter and water, said the group, which ranks nations on an array of economic and social factors.FILE – Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, attends a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, Nov. 9, 2018.”The U.N. General Assembly week in New York is really an opportunity for the world to step back and look at the progress in helping those most in need,” said Bill Gates, cofounder of Microsoft Corp and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Efforts to improve access to basic health care and end inequality are not doing well, he said.”If we don’t accelerate progress, the gaps will continue to get larger,” he said. “We are not on track to achieve these goals.”‘Progress is faltering’Placing blame on growing inequality and on climate change, Shantanu Mukherjee, policy chief at the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said: “The pace of progress is faltering.””Not only are business-as-usual efforts losing steam, … there are trends that threaten to undermine and even reverse the progress already being made on a massive scale,” he said at a recent release of a report on the goals by leading scientists.Their report said countries must address vast gaps in wealth distribution and improve access to economic opportunities and technological advances that undermine innovation and growth.Progress has been made on the goal of ending extreme poverty, but in other areas, “progress has been slow or even reversed,” a U.N. assessment said this summer.”The most vulnerable people and countries continue to suffer the most and the global response has not been ambitious enough,” it said.Global costHolding a global summit every four years was mandated when the goals were first approved to assess progress, encourage broader implementation and boost public awareness.The cost of implementing the global goals has been estimated at $3 trillion a year.The goals will fail without new ways to ease national debts, boost wages and expand trade, top financial organizations including the International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization said earlier this year.Money needs to be freed up through international trading and financial systems, they said.When the goals were first adopted in 2015, then-U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “The true test of commitment to Agenda 2030 will be implementation.”We need action from everyone, everywhere,” he said.

India’s Government Approves Ban on E-Cigarettes

India’s government on Wednesday decided to ban e-cigarettes, expressing concern at the alarming rate at which vaping is becoming popular among the country’s youth and causing breathing illnesses.The ban was approved by the Cabinet. The government is expected to issue an ordinance soon prohibiting the manufacturing, import, export, transport, sale, distribution, storage and advertising related to e-cigarettes.”Its use has increased exponentially and has acquired epidemic proportions in developed countries, especially among youth and children,” a government statement said.The first offense will be punishable by up to one year in prison or a fine of up to 100,000 rupees ($1,390), or both. For a subsequent offense, the punishment will be imprisonment of up to three years and a fine of up to 500,000 rupees ($6,945).Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that e-cigarettes were promoted as a way to get people out of their smoking habits but reports have shown that many are becoming addicted to them.

Young People Demand Urgent Action on Climate Change

Fifty-seven percent of teens say they “fear” climate change, according to a new survey by the non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation and the Washington Post. The survey comes as Greta Thunberg, a climate-change activist from Sweden, brought her well-publicized climate campaign to Washington last week.  Called Fridays for Future, it has attracted young people around the world to press governments to take action, as Sahar Majid tells us more in this report narrated by Kathleen Struck.

EPA Set to End California’s Ability to Regulate Fuel Economy

The Trump administration is poised to revoke California’s authority to set auto mileage standards, asserting that only the federal government has the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy.Conservative and free-market groups have been asked to attend a formal announcement of the rollback set for Wednesday afternoon at Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington.Gloria Bergquist, spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said Tuesday that her group was among those invited to the event featuring EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.The move comes after the Justice Department recently opened an antitrust investigation into a deal between California and four automakers for tougher pollution and related mileage requirements than those sought by President Donald Trump. Trump also has sought to relax Obama-era federal mileage standards nationwide, weakening a key effort by his Democratic predecessor to slow climate change.Top California officials and environmental groups pledged legal action to stop the rollback.The White House declined to comment Tuesday, referring questions to EPA. EPA’s press office did not respond to a phone message and email seeking comment.Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler speaks at a news conference in Washington, Sept. 12, 2019.But EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told the National Automobile Dealers Association on Tuesday that the Trump administration would move “in the very near future” to take steps toward establishing one nationwide set of fuel-economy standards.”We embrace federalism and the role of the states, but federalism does not mean that one state can dictate standards for the nation,” he said, adding that higher fuel economy standards would hurt consumers by increasing the average sticker price of new cars and requiring automakers to produce more electric vehicles.Word of the pending announcement came as Trump traveled to California on Tuesday for an overnight trip that includes GOP fundraising events near San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.California’s authority to set its own, tougher emissions standards goes back to a waiver issued by Congress during passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970. The state has long pushed automakers to adopt more fuel-efficient passenger vehicles that emit less pollution. A dozen states and the District of Columbia also follow California’s fuel economy standards.California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Tuesday that the Trump administration’s action will hurt both U.S. automakers and American families. He said California would fight the administration in federal court.”You have no basis and no authority to pull this waiver,” Becerra, a Democrat, said in a statement, referring to Trump. “We’re ready to fight for a future that you seem unable to comprehend.”FILE – California Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses a news conference in Sacramento, July 23, 2019.California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the White House “has abdicated its responsibility to the rest of the world on cutting emissions and fighting global warming.””California won’t ever wait for permission from Washington to protect the health and safety of children and families,” said Newsom, a Democrat.The deal struck in July between California and four of the world’s largest automakers — Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen — bypassed the Trump administration’s plan to freeze emissions and fuel economy standards adopted under Obama at 2021 levels.The four automakers agreed with California to reduce emissions by 3.7% per year starting with the 2022 model year, through 2026. That compares with 4.7% yearly reductions through 2025 under the Obama standards. Emissions standards are closely linked with fuel economy requirements because vehicles pollute less if they burn fewer gallons of fuel.The U.S. transportation sector is the nation’s biggest single source of planet-warming greenhouse gasses.Wheeler said Tuesday: “California will be able to keep in place and enforce programs to address smog and other forms of air pollution caused by motor vehicles.” But fuel economy has been one of the key regulatory tools the state has used to reduce harmful emissions.Environmentalists condemned the Trump administration’s expected announcement, which comes as gasoline prices have crept higher following a weekend drone attack that hobbled Saudi Arabian oil output.”Everyone wins when we adopt strong clean car standards as our public policy,” said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund. “Strong clean car standards give us healthier air to breathe, help protect us from the urgent threat of climate change and save Americans hundreds of dollars a year in gas expenses.”

Teen Activist to Lawmakers: Try Harder on Climate Change

Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg offered a blunt message to Congress on Tuesday as she brought her campaign for urgent action on climate change to the U.S. Capitol.”I know you’re trying,” she told Democratic senators at an invitation-only forum, “but just not hard enough. Sorry.”Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey thanked the 16-year-old activist for her advice and her activism, which has gained worldwide attention by inspiring a series of protests and school strikes, including one set for Friday.Thunberg and other young activists bring “moral clarity” to the fight against global warming, Markey said.”We hear you,” he told her, vowing that lawmakers “will redouble our efforts to make sure that we inject this issue into the politics of this building and this country because time is running out.”U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) speaks at a news conference about the Green New Deal hosted by U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) on the Northeast lawn in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Sept. 17, 2019.Markey and other lawmakers hailed Thunberg as a “superpower,” noting that her activism has drawn a passionate following of children essentially challenging their elders to take action.”Save your praise,” Thunberg replied. “We don’t want it,” she added, especially if officials intend to talk about climate change “without doing anything about it.”Thunberg was in Washington ahead of a global strike planned for Friday. Activists are calling for immediate action from the world’s governments to halt global warming, reduce fossil fuel consumption and avert environmental catastrophe.Instead of listening to her and other teenagers, lawmakers should invite scientists to the Capitol to listen to their expertise on ways to slow a rise in global temperatures, Thunberg said.”This is not about us. This is not about youth activism,” she said. “We don’t want to be heard. We want the science to be heard.”Despite Thunberg’s request, lawmakers bombarded her and other youth activists with praise, saying they had sparked a global movement that is already being felt in the 2020 presidential campaign and in the halls of Congress, where lawmakers are debating proposals such as the Green New Deal.Markey is a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, which would shift the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels such as oil and coal and replace them with renewable sources such as wind and solar power.”We need your leadership,” he told Thunberg and other activists. “It’s creating a new X-factor” to boost efforts to fight climate change.Last month, Thunberg crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a solar-powered boat, landing in New York City on Aug. 28. She’s in Washington for several days of rallies and lobbying efforts ahead of Friday’s global climate strike.Thunberg will testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday and address the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York next week. 

New York Bans Flavored E-Cigarettes

New York has become the first state to immediately ban flavored e-cigarettes after nearly 400 cases of serious vaping-related lung disease have been reported in the U.S.The New York state public health office approved the ban Tuesday on the strong recommendation of Governor Andrew Cuomo.”It is undeniable that vaping companies are deliberately using flavors like bubblegum, Captain Crunch, and cotton candy to get young people hooked on e-cigarettes,” Cuomo said. “It’s a public health crisis and it ends today.”The ban takes effect in New York immediately. Only tobacco and menthol flavors can be sold. Michigan has also approved a ban on flavors, but it has not taken effect yet. Other states are also considering a ban.The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has activated emergency measures to tackle the recent spate of lung illnesses blamed on electronic cigarettes.There are nearly 400 confirmed and suspected cases across the country including at least six deaths.Health experts have been unable to pinpoint an exact cause, including a specific brand or ingredient in e-cigarettes. But some suspect the use of the marijuana component THC in vaping devices. Nevertheless, they urge all e-cigarette users to stop.E-cigarettes devices have been marketed as a safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes. Federal regulators have warned the largest e-cigarette maker, JUUL, against making such claims, saying they have not been proven.

Cities to Step Up at UN to Push Climate Fight, Sustainable Development

As some world leaders question whether the world is facing a climate emergency, more than a dozen cities are stepping up to tackle global warming and sustainable development and will next week pledge to report their progress to the United Nations.Sixteen cities will commit to implementing global goals to end poverty, inequality and other challenges by 2030 during the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations. They will sign a voluntary declaration drafted by New York City.The set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals, unanimously approved by the 193 U.N. member nations in 2015, is a wide-ranging “to-do” list tackling such issues as conflict, hunger, land degradation, gender equality and climate change.”We are living in a time when national governments are abdicating their responsibility on urgent issues. That is why cities are stepping up,” said New York City’s International Affairs Commissioner Penny Abeywardena.U.S. President Donald Trump, who has described global warming as a hoax, dealt a blow to U.N.-led efforts to fight climate change when he pulled the United States from the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord.Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has also expressed doubts as to whether climate change is man-made and is ambivalent about the Paris accord, though he walked back a campaign pledge to quit the pact.FILE – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres talks to the media outside an evacuation center in Nassau, Bahamas, Sept. 13, 2019.When asked about Trump’s position on climate change, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters on Friday that there was “an extraordinary commitment to climate action” in American society.”Governments have much less influence than what people can imagine,” he said during a visit to the hurricane-devastated Bahamas. “The influence is today, more and more in relation to climate change, related to what cities, businesses and communities do.”Under the Sustainable Development Goals, countries are encouraged to report annually to the United Nations on their progress. In 2018, New York became the first city to do so, submitting what it called a Voluntary Local Review (VLR).”In a time when citizens feel overwhelmed by foreign policy, the VLR allows us all to remember that action starts at home,” Abeywardena said.Cities ‘instrumental’This year New York, Bristol, Buenos Aires, Helsinki, Los Angeles, Taipei, Brazilian city Santana de Parnaiba and Mexico’s Oaxaca state all reported on sustainable development progress.”Although a nation-state level commitment, the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals are universal. They are the closest thing we have to a global contract,” said Jan Vapaavuori, mayor of Finland’s capital Helsinki.”We aim to highlight the importance of collaboration between cities and nation-states in achieving the global goals. However, where countries are unable to deliver, it is even more instrumental that cities step up,” he said.New York City, Helsinki, Buenos Aires and 13 other cities will be the first to sign a declaration next week, in which cities pledge “to use the framework of the SDGs to do our part to help end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and work to prevent the harmful effects of climate change by 2030.”Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta said city coordination could accelerate sustainable development.He added that even though the U.N. agenda was focused on national governments it “will also depend on the ability of cities to make them a reality, especially since they are key drivers of growth and economic and social development.”The other cities planning to sign the declaration are: Accra, Ghana; Barcelona, Spain; Bristol, Britain; Cape Town, South Africa; Freetown, Sierra Leone; Kazan, Russia; Los Angeles, United States; Malmo, Sweden; Mannheim, Germany; Montevideo, Uruguay; Prefeitura de Barcarena, Brazil; Santa Ana, Costa Rica; and Santa Fe, Argentina.

Vegetarian Diets not Always the Most Climate-friendly, Researchers Say

It may be possible to help tackle climate change while still munching on the occasional bacon sandwich or slurping a few oysters, a new study suggested on Tuesday.Scientists found that diets in which meat, fish or dairy products were consumed only once a day would leave less of a footprint on climate change and water supplies than a vegetarian diet including milk and eggs, in 95% of countries they analysed.That is partly because raising dairy cows for milk, butter and cheese requires large amounts of energy and land, as well as fertilisers and pesticides to grow fodder, emitting greenhouse gases that are heating up the planet, the study said.Diets that contain insects, small fish and molluscs, meanwhile, have as similarly small an environmental impact as plant-based vegan diets but are generally more nutritious, said researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.They calculated greenhouse gas emissions and freshwater use for nine different diets – ranging from one meatless day a week and no red meat, to pescatarian and vegan – in 140 countries.Many climate activists and scientists have called for a shift to plant-based diets to keep climate change in check and reduce deforestation, since producing red meat requires a lot of land for grazing and growing feed.Agriculture, forestry and other land use activities accounted for nearly a quarter of man-made greenhouse gas emissions from 2007-2016, the U.N. climate science panel said in a flagship report last month.But there is no one-size-fits-all solution, said Keeve Nachman, assistant professor at the Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who led the study on diets.US Experts Reviewing Low-Carb, Other Diets for GuidelinesSome followers of low-carb eating are hoping for a nod of approval in the upcoming U.S. dietary guidelines that advise Americans on what to eat.It may seem minor, but backers say low-carb’s inclusion could influence nutrition advice that doctors give and help shape government food programs like school lunches.
Current guidelines cite the Mediterranean, vegetarian and other diets as examples of healthy eating.
U.S. In low- and middle-income countries such as Indonesia, citizens on average need to eat more animal protein for adequate nutrition, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.That means diet-related heat-trapping emissions and water use in poorer countries would need to rise to reduce hunger and malnutrition, while high-income countries should reduce their consumption of meat, dairy and eggs, the study said.On average, producing a serving of beef emits 316 times more greenhouse gases – including methane – than pulses, 115 times more than nuts, and 40 times more than soy, it added.According to the World Resources Institute, a U.S.-based think-tank, diners in North and South America, Europe and the former Soviet Union make up only a quarter of the global population but ate more than half of the world’s meat from ruminants – such as cattle, sheep and goats – in 2010.The latest study also found that producing a pound of beef in Paraguay contributes nearly 17 times more greenhouse gases than in Denmark, partly because in Latin America, it often involves cutting down forests to clear land for cattle grazing.A typical diet in Niger has the highest water footprint, researchers noted, mainly due to millet production and crop residues that cannot be consumed.

Locals Protest Construction of Russia’s Massive Landfill

Who would want what’s possibly Europe’s largest landfill in their own backyard? That question lies at the center of a protest against construction of a massive garbage dump in northern Russia — an environmental issue that has come to symbolize growing frustration towards Moscow’s sway over Russia’s far-flung regions. The fight over Shiyes — a remote railway outpost in Russia’s Arkhangelsk province that is to play host to the landfill — first erupted a little over a year ago after local hunters came across a secret construction site in the region’s swamp-filled forests. It didn’t take long for locals to learned of the dig’s true purpose: to house a 52-square-kilometer storage area for refuse shipped in from Moscow, some 1126 kilometers away.  Government officials say Shiyes was chosen based on its remote location — with the new ‘Ecotechnopark’ a cutting edge example of innovative waste storage. They also point to cash and incentives — such as a computer lab, annual New Year’s gifts, and healthcare access to top Moscow hospitals for nearby locals —  as a smart investment for regional development. But anger over the landfill has united a diverse swath of citizens across northern Russia — with many saying they see it as a threat to natural resources that define a way of life in extreme climate.In this photo taken on Friday, April 20, 2018, garbage trucks unload the trash at the Volovichi landfill near Kolomna, Russia. Thousands of people are protesting the noxious fumes coming from overcrowded landfills surrounding Moscow.“Of course we’re against it,” says Antokha, a construction worker who travelled some 800 kilometers away to join the camp from the city of Arkhangelisk.“The area’s swamps feed rivers that extend throughout the region and feed into the White Sea. Poison Shiyes with garbage and you poison the entire north,” he added, while declining to provide his last name.  Welcome to the Resistance Antokha is just one of many Russian northerners who have joined a hundreds-strong protest movement that spent the past year locked in a standoff with authorities over construction of the landfill. In that time, ‘The Republic of Shiyes’ has emerged — a tent commune just outside the dig site with its own anthem, flag, infirmary, as well as a makeshift kitchen and bathhouse. While ‘The Republic’ even has a stage for concerts and announcements, this is no Woodstock. Among the camp’s strictest rules? No drugs or alcohol.Yet Shiyes has attracted the eclectic mix of an ‘anything goes’ event: liberals share soup casually with nationalists, peaceniks with military vets, small business owners alongside eco-activists.  All have committed to rotating shifts into the camp — through a frigid winter and mosquito-infested summer — in an effort to keep the protest going. “This really is a war,” says Anna Shakalova, a shopkeeper from nearby who’s emerged as one of the leaders of the movement.  “And if we stay together, it’s a war we win.”Growing Resentments Beyond the immediate environmental concerns, the battle over Shiyes has also exposed simmering resentments about a top-down system of governance that centralizes power and critical regional revenues in Moscow’s hands.  There’s widespread feeling that Russia’s regions give their resources to the capital while getting little — or, even worse, garbage — in return. “It’s an example of Moscow chauvinism against the rest of the country,” says Ksenia Dmitrieva, 33, who grew up swimming in the area’s rivers as a child.   “Moscow thinks just because they have the money they can put their trash where they want. They’re not better than us.”The Shiyes strike continues amid a year of growing discontent with Russia’s government — with complaints about a sagging economy affecting the regions disproportionately.    Recent elections saw whole swaths of territory — such as the Khabarovsk Province in the Far East — send stinging defeats to the United Party in local races.  The public has also condemned the government response to the spread of massive wildfires across wide swaths of Siberia.  Meanwhile, smaller cities surrounding Moscow have long complained about the overflowing dumpsites poisoning air and water quality. But more alarming for the Kremlin? President Vladimir Putin is no longer immune.Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, Sept. 5, 2019.After years of sky-high ratings, Putin’s support numbers have fallen in the wake of unpopular pension reforms and falling living standards.  Recent polls show trust in Putin has fallen to just over 30%. Meanwhile, a majority now think the country is on the wrong track. “They ask: ‘why wasn’t that done?’ And when they don’t find an answer of course they become opponents of Putin” says Ilya Kirianov, an engineer who traveled to Shiyes from Severodvinsk — where the public was still reeling from a mysterious explosion that released radiation into the air this past July.   “You see people who just a year ago voted for Putin are now some of his harshest critics,” he added.Count Liliya Zobova, a business owner, is among those who’ve lost patience with the Russian leader.  “I loved Putin and voted for him,” she says. That changed after seeing Putin weigh in — briefly in an answer in May 2019 — to say authorities should take public opinion into account.The result? Construction paused — but only briefly. “It means Putin supports it,” says Zobova. “I don’t know who to believe anymore.” Helicopters and BlockadesFor now, protesters have blockaded old logging roads that provide the only access for equipment to the build site. Even getting to the camp involves a hike through dense sticky swamplands.  In turn, authorities have started using helicopters to ferry in diesel and supplies for a force of masked private security contractors and regional police who guard the site.In a show of force against the Shiyes camp, several protesters have been arrested and face the prospect of criminal prosecution. Police regularly post signs warning a raid is imminent. It’s natural to be afraid,” says Irina Leontova, a 28-year-old filmmaker from Syktyvkar, a 3 hour drive away.   “Anything can happen — arrests, fines — but still people keep coming.” Surveying the camp, Vera Goncherinka, a retired accountant from the nearby town of Urdoma, marveled at how life had changed since she got involved in the Shiyes uprising a year ago. “I should be on my couch at home but look at me now,” she said —-  adding that her experiences in Shiyes had convinced her that something was stirring in Russia’s regions. “How do we know something like Shiyes isn’t happening somewhere else in Russia? Have you ever heard them talk about us on television?” With that, a passing train blew its whistle in support — and the protesters waved back. A sign that news — like the region’s water — always finds a way out of the swamp.

No New Measles Cases Reported in Fading US Outbreak

The nation’s worst measles epidemic in 27 years could be in its final stages as a week went by with no new reported cases.“To get to zero is tremendously encouraging,” said Jason Schwartz, a Yale University expert on vaccination policy.The current epidemic emerged about a year ago and took off earlier this year, with most of the cases reported in Orthodox Jewish communities in and around New York City. It started with travelers who had become infected overseas but spread quickly among unvaccinated people.In the spring, 70 or more new cases were being reported every week. Not long ago, the nation that saw that many measles cases in a whole year.So far this year, 1,241 cases have been confirmed — a number that didn’t rise last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Monday. The last time the CDC reported no new measles cases was 11 months ago.New York officials responded to the explosion of measles cases with a wave of measures, including education campaigns to counter misinformation about vaccine safety and fines for people who didn’t get vaccinated.The epidemic has threatened the Unites States’ nearly 2-decade-old status as a nation that has eliminated measles. The status could come to an end if the disease spreads among Americans for a year or more. Other countries, including Greece and the United Kingdom, recently lost their elimination status amid a global surge in the disease.Measles outbreaks are typically declared over when 42 days pass without a new infection. If no new cases crop up, the national outbreak would likely end on or about Sept. 30 — just before officials might have to decide on the U.S. elimination status.The loss of elimination status in the U.S. could take the steam out of measles vaccination campaigns in other countries, said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University vaccine expert.Health ministers around the world might say, “Why should we strive for elimination? We’ll just do the best we can to control measles, but we won’t go the extra several miles to get to zero,” Schaffner said.