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McCrory cartoonGov. Pat McCrory took a rather startling and troubling position the other day when he spoke at the behest of a tobacco lobbyist against efforts in France and Ireland to further restrict cigarette packaging to promote public health.

Apparently, kowtowing to the hometown industry is more important than protecting the lives and well-being of a bunch of anonymous furreners.

Having established the precedent, however, maybe the Guv could follow up by doing the industry’s bidding on another matter impacting the health and well-being of kids he’ll never meet — farmworker children.

As it turns out, the tobacco industry has — at least publicly — endorsed a policy change that would, once and for all, end the scandal of child labor in American tobacco fields. As Associated Press reported today:

Two years after the Obama administration backed off a rule that would have banned children from dangerous agriculture jobs, public health advocates and lawmakers are trying anew to get kids off tobacco farms.

The new efforts were jumpstarted by a Human Rights Watch report in May that said nearly three-quarters of the children interviewed by the group reported vomiting, nausea and headaches while working on tobacco farms. Those symptoms are consistent with nicotine poisoning, often called Green Tobacco Sickness, which occurs when workers absorb nicotine through their skin while handling tobacco plants.

The article goes on to say that:
Philip Morris International, which limits the type of work children can do on tobacco farms, says it would like to see stronger U.S. regulations in this area.
Whatta’ ya’ say Guv? As long as you’re gonna’ be in the pocket of big tobacco, how about staying there when it would actually support a good cause?
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030910_1603_HealthRefor1.jpgIn case you missed it, there’s been a very worrisome outbreak of the deadly infection known as Legionnaire’s Disease in Wilson County with at least 11 individuals contracting the disease. Unfortunately, as today’s editorial in the Wilson Times notes, the response of the North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services (and its policies for notifying the public do not appear to be up to snuff):

“Since earlier in June the number of cases in Wilson went from one to 11 and from one location to more. Last year 12 percent of all the Legionnaires cases reported in the entire state of North Carolina were in Wilson County.

We commend our local Department of Health for reacting quickly to the early reported cases and getting the word out to the public as quickly as possible. Wilson Pines, where most of the cases have been linked, was also quick to take action.

However, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services doesn’t seem to have responded with the same sense of urgency. It received its first confirmation of a Legionnaires’ case back on June 19 at the state-run Longleaf-Neuro Medical Treatment Center.

At that point it was just one known case there and apparently policy is to not declare an outbreak until you have two confirmed cases at one location. The state didn’t get that second report until last Friday, June 27, letting the public know via press release on Saturday.

Read More

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Hog industryCoal ash isn’t the only pollutant wreaking havoc in North Carolina’s waterways these days; the enormous problems posed by industrial hog production are back in the news. As noted in this space last week, there’s a stomach-turning crisis underway as you read this in involving a porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus outbreak in North Carolina.

This morning’s Fayetteville Observer weighs in on the subject with an editorial bearing the marvelously understated headline “Our view: Dead pigs, water may be an unhealthy mix.” As the editorial notes (after describing in grim detail what’s been going on) the recent coal ash disaster caused by lax regulation offers little hope that regulators are taking all necessary steps: Read More

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Food labelIf you’re getting ready to pop open a cup of yogurt or a can of soup for lunch today, be sure to take note of the nutrition label as it’s about to get a smidge more relevant and informative in the near future thanks to a new Food and Drug Administration directive and some helpful advocacy from First Lady Michelle Obama.  And, of course, it probably won’t be long before the denizens of the Pope Empire inform us that this is all a matter of big government quashing the “freedom” of unfettered markets.

And speaking of “free” markets, the right wing is — amazingly enough — weighing in again of late to inform us that not only is raising the minimum wage a terrible idea, but so, indeed, is the VERY IDEA of minimum wage laws. First it was the John Locke Foundation in this essay last week and then, yesterday, it was state House Speaker and U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis.

And speaking of the U.S. Senate, here’s a doozy: Read More

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Water pollutionThis morning’s NC League of Conservation Voters news update contains a link to a very helpful and informative blog post on environmental policy by a former DENR official, who’s now out on her own. The post is entitled “Environmental Policy in N.C. : Looking back at 2013 and forward to 2014.”

The League’s update also provides this very troubling news (especially in light of the water pollution disaster in West Virginia in recent days):

“Administrative Watch: Clean Water on the Line

Every meaningful state protection for clean water in North Carolina will be at grave risk of being cut back or eliminated in the rules review process starting this week in Raleigh. Read More