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Sorry, Donald: Pittsburgh Thinks You Are Wrong About Climate Change

Mother Jones

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On Thursday, President Donald Trump portrayed his decision to pull the United States out of the historic Paris climate deal as a key part of his campaign pledge to put America first. “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” the president said.

There’s just one problem: The citizens of Pittsburgh are strongly supportive of climate action. According to a recent study from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, 68 percent of adults in the Pittsburgh metro area support strict limits on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants—a key element of the US commitment under the Paris deal. For Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, that number is 74 percent. For Pennsylvania’s 14th Congressional District, which also includes Pittsburgh, it’s 78 percent.

Roughly two-thirds of Pennsylvanians—and Americans as a whole—believe the United States should remain in the Paris agreement, according to the Yale research.

There doesn’t appear to be any data on the popularity of the Paris agreement within Pittsburgh itself, but it’s worth noting that the city’s mayor, Bill Peduto, actually traveled to Paris during the 2015 negotiations to help press for an agreement. “Pittsburgh and other cities are on the front lines of the climate change crisis, and it is our responsibility to address the deep challenges it is creating for us, our children and our grandchildren,” he said in a statement at the time, according to the Pittsburg Post-Gazette.

Peduto took to Twitter Thursday to express his displeasure with Trump’s comments:

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Sorry, Donald: Pittsburgh Thinks You Are Wrong About Climate Change

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Quote of the Day: Pink Donut Boxes

Mother Jones

From Peter Yen of Santa Ana Packaging, a manufacturer of donut boxes:

Anytime you see a movie or sitcom set in New York and a pink doughnut box appears, you know it obviously took place in L.A.

I did not know that! But it turns out that pink donut and pastry boxes are unique to Southern California.1 Why? Long story short, a Cambodian refugee from the Khmer Rouge became the donut king of Orange County during the 80s before he gambled away his fortune in the 90s. When he was starting out he asked his supplier for a cheaper donut box, and the pink box was born. Click the link for the longer story.

1Are they really? Or have they since spread to the rest of the country? Let us know in comments.

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Quote of the Day: Pink Donut Boxes

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Housing Prices Are Booming in Southern California

Mother Jones

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From the LA Times today:

The median home price in Los Angeles County has reached the all-time high set in 2007, a milestone that follows five years of steady recovery but comes amid renewed concerns over housing affordability. Home prices rose nearly 6% in April from a year earlier, hitting the $550,000 level where the median plateaued in summer 2007 before a sharp decline that bottomed out in 2012.

….Orange County surpassed its pre-bust high last year, and in April set a new record of $675,000. San Diego County also exceeded its pre-bust peak for the first time last month, as the median price — the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less — climbed 7.4% to $525,000.

Inflation has risen 20 percent since 2007, so this means home prices in Southern California haven’t really set a record. They’re still 20 percent away from that. Here’s how CoreLogic scores the current housing market compared to its bubble peak:

So things look OK. Loan delinquencies are low, credit scores have remained high, and national housing prices are high but not stratospheric.

And yet…Southern California, Arizona, and Florida are all overvalued. That’s three out of the four states that led the bubble in 2006. Even Texas, which avoided the last bubble, is looking high. And anecdotally, homes are selling pretty fast around here.

This is the kind of thing that makes me think we might be back into a recession by 2018. The expansion is nine years old, unemployment is about as low as it can get, housing prices are increasing at a good clip, auto sales are anemic, and corporate profits are rising steeply. On the other side of the ledger, economic growth and wage growth are pretty modest, and there are no signs of an oil price spike around the corner.

I dunno. Things just feel a little fragile right now. But maybe I’m off base.

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Housing Prices Are Booming in Southern California

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World leadership could cancel out Trump’s polluting ways.

In early May, laborers harvesting cabbage in a field near Bakersfield, California, caught a whiff of an odor. Some suddenly felt nauseated.

A local news station reported that winds blew the pesticide Vulcan — which was being sprayed on a mandarin orchard owned by the produce company Sun Pacific — into Dan Andrews Farms’ cabbage patch.

Vulcan’s active ingredient, chlorpyrifos, has been banned for residential use for more than 15 years. It was scheduled to be off-limits to agriculture this year — until the EPA gave it a reprieve in March. Kern County officials are still confirming whether Sun Pacific’s insecticide contained chlorpyrifos.

More than 50 farmworkers were exposed, and 12 reported symptoms, including vomiting and fainting. One was hospitalized. “Whether it’s nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seek medical attention immediately,” a Kern County Public Health official warned.

If chlorpyrifos’ presence is confirmed, the EPA may have some explaining to do. The Dow Chemical compound is a known neurotoxin, and several studies connect exposure to it with lower IQ in children and other neurological deficits.

The Scott Pruitt–led agency, however, decided that — and stop me if you’ve heard this one before — the science wasn’t conclusive.

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World leadership could cancel out Trump’s polluting ways.

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Texas’ Governor Just Signed the Most Anti-Immigrant Bill in Years

Mother Jones

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During an unannounced, five-minute livestream on Facebook Sunday night, Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation outlawing sanctuary cities and granting law enforcement unprecedented powers in tracking down undocumented immigrants.

“Texans expect us to keep them safe—and that’s exactly what we’re going to do by me signing the law,” Abbott told the camera, punctuating his remarks by tapping the bill before signing it. “Texas has now banned sanctuary cities in the Lone Star State.”

“It won’t be tolerated in Texas,” Abbot continued. “Elected officials and law enforcement agencies, they don’t get to pick and choose what laws they will obey.”

Immigration advocates are describing it as the most hostile state law to undocumented immigrants in the country and point out that sanctuary cities are actually safer than other cities, according to FBI crime data. The Facebook Live event allowed the governor to avoid protests a typical signing would have likely drawn, the Texas Tribune noted. A spokesperson for the governor claimed the move was an effort to reach people directly where they’re consuming news.

Abbott declared banning sanctuary cities, jurisdictions that refuse to fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities, a legislative priority this year, and Texas has quickly become one of the battlegrounds in the national debate over them. When Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez announced her department would no longer comply with immigration authorities after taking office earlier this year, the governor cut off funding in retaliation and even threatened to oust her. Meanwhile lawmakers in the statehouse have been debating how wide-reaching the ban on sanctuary cities should be, settling on legislation late last month after a 16-hour marathon hearing. Horrified by the outcome, immigration advocates have pushed back, protesting at the state capitol during the lengthy hearing on the bill last month and gathering outside the governor’s mansion last night.

SB 4 does far more than simply outlaw sanctuary cities. When the new rules go into effect, law enforcement officials and other local leaders who refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities could face to up to a year of jail time and be personally fined up to $4,000. Additionally, any local government violating the law will also be subject to fines—$1,000 at first with each single subsequent infraction adding penalties that can potentially reach $25,500.

The law also grants law enforcement throughout the state sweeping new powers that many immigration advocates consider a form of profiling. One of the most controversial provisions of the new law allows police officers to question someone’s immigration status during encounters such as a routine traffic stop as opposed to during a lawful arrest.

David Leopold, an immigration lawyer and the former head of the American Immigration Lawyers Associates, says it’s the most hostile state law to undocumented immigrants in the country. “It’s like SB1070, the Arizona ‘show me your papers’ law, on steroids,” Leopold says, referring to the controversial legislation that required police to check the immigration status of anyone they detain if they believe that person might be in the country illegally.

“This is a license to racially profile,” Leopold says. “What Texas has done here is told the police…if a person has an accent, is brown, you should probably start asking questions about their immigration status.”

While much of the Arizona law was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2012, the “show me your papers” portion was not struck down—though the justices left open the possibility that such laws could be ruled as being unconstitutional at a later time.

When SB 1070 passed, it sparked outrage across the country and businesses as well as other state governments boycotted Arizona. Immigration activists are strenuously protesting the Texas measure, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund is planning to sue before it takes effect in September. But so far, the new law isn’t attracting nearly the kind of national attention that Arizona’s law once did.

Leopold points out that this law “came up quietly.” In the seven years since SB1070 was debated, he says, the capacity for outrage about these measures has waned because “we’ve had so much outrageous news about immigration, so many outrageous things and shocking things have happened since Donald Trump took office.”

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Texas’ Governor Just Signed the Most Anti-Immigrant Bill in Years

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This Mississippi Sheriff’s Department Is Completely Out of Control, Lawsuit Alleges

Mother Jones

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In racially segregated Madison County, Mississippi, black residents live in fear of the police. According to a federal lawsuit filed Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, the Madison County Sheriff’s Department has been using illegal tactics and subjecting people who live in majority-black towns to unreasonable searches of their bodies, their homes, and their cars. The purpose of these stops, the ACLU alleges, is to generate revenue by collecting unpaid fees and fines from those who are detained.

“There is a decades-old policy of methodically and systematically targeting black people with Fourth Amendment violations that are unheard of in white communities and in most of the United States,” says Paloma Wu, the legal director of the ACLU of Mississippi.

According to the lawsuit, roadblocks are one of the main tactics used by the MCSD. Deputies allegedly set up checkpoints in black neighborhoods and towns, near places of employment, and near black-owned businesses. The department’s written roadblock policy is short, vague, and does not include any restrictions on how and when deputies may use them, according to the ACLU.

The MCSD did not respond to requests for comment.

The use of systematic arrests to generate revenue wouldn’t be unique to Mississippi. The US Department of Justice’s report on Ferguson, Missouri—published after a police officer shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in 2014—found that the city’s police force was using a similar strategy. The protests in Ferguson catalyzed a wave of police reform efforts during the Obama administration, but the Mississippi case comes at a time when civil rights advocates are worried that President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions will undo much of that progress.

Madison County is the wealthiest county in Mississippi. Of its 105,000 residents, 58 percent are white and 38 percent are black. Most of the wealth is concentrated in white areas. The plaintiffs, 10 black people who all reside in the county, allege that white residents are not subject to the same policing strategies. According to the suit, between May and September 2016, 81 percent of roadblock arrests and 82 percent of pedestrian arrests were of black individuals.

According to the complaint, MCSD has conducted thousands of unreasonable searches of black residents of the county. As a result of these traumatic experiences, many black residents experience fear and anxiety over the simple act of leaving their homes or driving their cars. The Madison County Sheriff Department’s policing tactics impact “virtually every aspect of Black residents’ lives,” says the complaint, adding that “the very real possibility of unlawful and humiliating searches and seizures, as well as the attendant prospect of arrest and jail time for unpaid fines and fees” looms over their heads.

The suit alleges that Marvin McField, one of the plaintiffs, has been stopped multiple times at different roadblocks in the past few years. The 37-year-old has lived in predominantly black Flora, Mississippi, his entire life and uses a pacemaker because he suffers from a serious heart condition.

At one such roadblock several years ago, according to the complaint, McField was ordered to exit his vehicle, after which deputies handcuffed and searched him and then threw him onto the hood of the car. The deputies then allegedly left him in the back of a patrol car with the windows rolled up on a hot summer day for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. The deputies drove off with him in custody but stopped a few minutes later and beat him in the chest until McField told them he could not breathe, according to the suit.

Next, deputies took McField to the Madison County Detention Center, “where the deputies beat him again—this time hitting him in the head instead of in his chest,” the complaint says. He was held in jail for more than two weeks without being charged with a crime, a clear violation of the right to due process, according to the suit. He was also not permitted to make any phone calls. After 19 days, McField was brought before a judge—without a lawyer. The judge, who is unnamed in the suit, simply told him that he had served his time and was free to go, according to the complaint.

In addition to stopping residents in their cars, the complaint alleges that deputies also stop and search pedestrians walking past the designated checkpoints. In January 2017, plaintiff Steven Smith was walking into the affordable housing complex where he lives. Deputies searched him, even though there was no probable cause, the suit states.

After deputies ran Smith’s identification, they discovered he had unpaid fines and court fees. He couldn’t afford to pay the overdue money and was jailed for 29 days.

Quinnetta Manning, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the Madison County Sheriff’s Department ACLU of Mississippi

The searches allegedly extend to residents’ private homes, as well. “There are a lot of warrantless invasions of black people’s houses and lots of excessive force, which is just a fancy way of saying they physically hurt people,” says Wu. In June 2016, Khadafy and Quinnetta Manning were at home when six deputies began banging on their door. When Quinnetta Manning opened the door, the suit alleges, the deputies pushed past her and began demanding that she sign a false witness statement implicating her neighbor’s boyfriend in a burglary. She told the deputies that she had not witnessed a burglary.

Khadafy Manning, who is disabled and walks with a cane, had just woken up and was not dressed. When he told deputies that his wife didn’t have to provide a statement, a deputy handcuffed him, swore at him, and began choking him, according to the complaint. The deputies allegedly threatened to arrest the Mannings if they didn’t comply. According to the suit, Quinnetta Manning agreed to write the statement out of fear, but deputies dragged Khadafy Manning out the door anyway. The deputies placed him in a car and began to beat him inside the vehicle, according to the complaint. “Mr. Manning was humiliated that his neighbors saw him being forcibly taken out of his family’s home while wearing only his underwear,” the suit says. The couple ended up writing false witness statements, according to the suit.

After the incident, Khadafy Manning sought legal remedies for the physical and emotional pain that he and his family suffered. Several months later in, February 2017, a deputy handcuffed Khadafy Manning and searched his car after telling him that he knew Manning had been “having people come around here asking questions,” the complaint alleges.

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This Mississippi Sheriff’s Department Is Completely Out of Control, Lawsuit Alleges

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A Judge Struck Down the "Cocaine Mom" Law That Put Pregnant Women in Jail

Mother Jones

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On Friday, a Wisconsin district court struck down a decades-old state law that criminalizes pregnant women with histories of drug use by labeling them as child abusers and letting juvenile courts appoint guardians and lawyers to represent the interests of their fetuses.

The law, called the Unborn Child Protection Act, was passed in 1997 and made the state responsible for protecting fetuses at all stages of pregnancy. Known as the “cocaine mom” law, it gave juvenile courts jurisdiction over the “expectant mother”—no matter what her age—and allowed the courts to force pregnant women into drug treatment if she had any history of drug use, and into jail if she refused treatment.

Public health groups opposed the law at the time, arguing it would scare women away from prenatal care. “A criminal justice approach to maternal and child health is not the best alternative,” said Milwaukee’s Health Department at the time. “Readily available drug and alcohol treatment for expectant mothers would be preferable to threatening mothers with incarceration and loss of paternal sic rights.”

Tamara Loertscher, whose case was decided on Friday, was incarcerated and held in solitary confinement while pregnant as a result of the law. In 2014, Loertscher, 29, sought care at a hospital in Wisconsin after finding out she was pregnant. At the hospital, she told medical staff that she had a history of methamphetamine and marijuana use, but that she’d stopped using when she realized she was going to have a baby.

That’s when the courts and child services got involved. Loertscher was subject to several juvenile court hearings, and when she refused to participate in an in-treatment drug program, she was jailed for contempt of court. A lawyer was appointed by the state to represent Loertscher’s 14- week fetus, but Loertscher herself was not given legal counsel. She spent almost three weeks incarcerated in a Taylor County jail, including several days in solitary confinement. During this time, Loertscher received no prenatal care, nor treatment for a thyroid condition.

Eventually, Loertscher agreed to comply with the state’s recommended treatment and weekly drug testing. But nonetheless, the county department of human services concluded that she had committed child maltreatment because of her previous drug use (it eventually withdrew the finding). All of her drug tests were negative, and in 2015, Loertscher delivered a healthy baby boy.

That year, Loertscher sued Wisconsin and Taylor County in federal court for violating her civil rights. And on Friday, a Wisconsin federal court ruled that the law is too vague and thus unconstitutional, but the court denied her request for damages as part of the ruling on Friday.

The law “purported to protect ‘unborn children,'” says Lynn Paltrow, executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, which represented Loertscher in her case against the state, “but in fact subverted maternal and child health and deprived adult women who became pregnant of fundamental constitutional rights.”

Loertscher was not the only woman arrested under the Wisconsin law. According to Paltrow, Wisconsin state documents show that since 2006, child protective services looked into more than 3400 cases of “unborn child abuse” and nearly 470 women were found to have committed such abuse.

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A Judge Struck Down the "Cocaine Mom" Law That Put Pregnant Women in Jail

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North Carolina Republicans Are Trying to Keep Residents From Suing Hog Farms

Mother Jones

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Modern hog farms make pungent neighbors. In North Carolina’s hog-wild Duplin county, an average-sized operation holds more than 7,000 pigs, each generating about 10 times the fecal waste of a person. This massive manure gusher falls through slats and is shunted into open cesspools, known, rather delicately, as “lagoons.” When the pits reach capacity, the untreated fecal slurry is sprayed onto nearby farmland as fertilizer.

A recent analysis of satellite data by Environmental Working Group found that around 160,000 North Carolinians, representing more than 60,000 households, live within a half mile of a CAFO or a manure pit. In Duplin County alone, more than 12,000 people—about a fifth of the county’s population—live within sniffing distance of one of these fragrant facilities, EWG found. A growing body of research, summarized here, shows that these operations “pollute local ground and surface water,” and “routinely emit air pollutants that negatively impact the quality of life and health of nearby residents.” High levels of the air-borne toxins hydrogen sulfide and ammonia can trigger eye irritation, difficulty breathing, and feelings of stress and anxiety, research shows.

The NC legislature is working to stick it to the very people who live under these conditions. Bills are pending in the state House and Senate that would severely limit the amount money that can be awarded in lawsuits by property owners who live near “agricultural or forestry operations.” If the bills pass, people who live near CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) will be barred from suing hog growers for making it deeply unpleasant and even dangerous to hang out outside, open their windows, hand their clothes out to dry, etc.

The legislation amounts to a move to protect the state’s powerful hog interests and maintain a classic example of environmental injustice, says Naeema Muhammad, organizing co-director of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network. She calls the push to limit these nuisance lawsuits a “direct attack on people’s Constitutional rights.” She points to a 2014 paper by University of North Carolina researchers finding that North Carolina’s hog CAFOs “disproportionately affect Black, Hispanic and American Indian residents.”

As the late University of North Carolina researcher Steve Wing has demonstrated, the operations are tightly clustered in a few counties on the coastal plain—the very part of the state that housed the most enslaved people prior to the Civil War. In the decades since, the region has retained the state’s densest population of rural African-American residents—and starting in the early 1980s, experienced a massive CAFO boom. In Duplin County alone, hog CAFOs now churn out 2.3 million million hogs annually—more than 30 for every one of the county’s 60,000 residents, and more than were raised in the entire state as recently as 1982.

The bills’ sponsors openly seek to protect a company called Murphy-Brown from about two dozen pending lawsuits by filed by people who live near hig facilities. Murphy-Brown is the hog-raising subsidiary of pork-processing giant Smithfield, now owned by the Chinese state-owned firm WH Holdings, which calls Smithfield the “largest port company in the world.” As originally written, House Bill 467 would have applied even to those pending suits. Republican state Rep. Jimmy Dixon, the retired hog farmer who sponsored the House bill, called complaints about the operations “at best exaggerations and at worst outright lies,” and accused plaintiffs of “being prostituted for money” by opportunistic lawyers, The Raleigh News and Observer reports.

According to an analysis of campaign-finance records by the Durham-based weekly IndyWeek, “over the course of his career Dixon has received more than $115,000 from Big Pork,” including $36,250 from “donors associated with Murphy-Brown, the company facing more than two dozen federal lawsuits that this legislation would effectively negate.”

In a 2014 Mother Jones piece on the origin of those suits, Bridget Huber reported from the ground:

“It’s like being held prisoner,” says Elsie Herring, a Middleton and Speer client from Wallace, North Carolina in Duplin County, who has been dealing with hog stench for years. The odor means her family can no longer enjoy sitting on the porch, having cookouts, or even hanging laundry on the line. “We were here before the pork industry even came in here, so what about our rights?” she asks. “It’s as if we have none.”

Earlier this month, Dixon’s bill passed the NC House—but with an amendment exempting pending lawsuits from the restrictions on damages. Its companion bill, SB 460, remains under consideration by the NC Senate, and it still contains the provision that would essentially nullify existing lawsuits. North Carolina Environmental Justice Network’s Muhammad says it’s anyone’s guess whether the legislation will make into law. After all, this is a state that recently repealed one odious “bathroom bill” under pressure, only to replace it with “new legislation that LGBT rights advocates say is just as bad,” as Mother Jones’ Ashley Dejean recently reported. “We’re in a fix here in North Carolina,” Muhammad told me. “It’s just one bad thing coming from the legislature after another.”

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North Carolina Republicans Are Trying to Keep Residents From Suing Hog Farms

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LAPD Adopts New Policy: De-Escalate First, Shoot Later

Mother Jones

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This is from the LA Times yesterday:

The Los Angeles Police Commission voted Tuesday to require officers to try, whenever possible, to defuse tense encounters before firing their guns — a policy shift that marks a significant milestone in the board’s attempts to curb shootings by police.

Wait. This is new? This hasn’t always been LAPD policy? Apparently not, and apparently not much of anywhere else, either:

As criticism of policing flared across the country, particularly after deadly shootings by officers, law enforcement agencies looked to de-escalation as a way to help restore public trust. Like the LAPD, other departments have emphasized the approach in training and policies.

The Seattle Police Department requires officers to attempt de-escalation strategies, such as trying to calm someone down verbally or calling a mental health unit to the scene. Santa Monica police have similar rules in place, telling officers to try to “slow down, reduce the intensity or stabilize the situation” to minimize the need to use force.

….The focus on de-escalation represents a broader shift in law enforcement, said Samuel Walker, a retired criminal justice professor and expert in police accountability. Now, he said, there’s an understanding that officers can shape how an encounter plays out. “This is absolutely the right thing to do,” he added.

This is especially important in Los Angeles:

African Americans continue to represent a disproportionate number of the people shot at by officers. Nearly a third of the people shot at last year were black — a 7% increase from 2015. Black people make up about 9% of the city’s population but 40% of homicide victims and 43% of violent crime suspects, the report noted.

The LAPD also topped a list of big-city agencies with the highest number of deadly shootings by officers. Police in Los Angeles fatally shot more people than officers in Chicago, New York, Houston and Philadelphia did, the report said. The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department came in second, with 15 deadly shootings.

Go ahead and call me naive, but I would have figured that de-escalation was standard protocol everywhere. Not always followed in practice, of course, but at least theoretically what cops are supposed to do. But apparently not. It sounds like it started to catch on after Ferguson, and is only now being adopted as official policy in a few places.

Better late than never, I suppose, but I wonder what’s stopping this from being universally adopted? What’s the downside?

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LAPD Adopts New Policy: De-Escalate First, Shoot Later

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Trump Has Okayed a Pesticide That Terrifies These Families

Mother Jones

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This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

A white cloud of pesticides had drifted into Fidelia Morales’s back yard, coating her children’s swing set.

The 40-year-old mother of five gestured toward the citrus groves that surround her house in California’s Central Valley as she recounted when an air blast sprayer sent chemicals floating onto her property last year – landing on her family’s red and blue jungle gym.

“We know this is dangerous for the kids, but what are we supposed to do?” she said on a recent afternoon, speaking in Spanish through a translator. Morales said she fears that these kinds of drifts, as well as long-term exposure to a variety of chemicals in the air, have hurt her children, ages 9 to 20, who have struggled to focus in school and have suffered from bronchitis, asthma and other chronic illnesses.

Under Barack Obama, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed an agricultural ban on chlorpyrifos, one pesticide widely used in her region, based on the growing body of research documenting the risks for farm workers and communities, including links to brain damage in children.

Donald Trump’s administration, however, has rejected the science, announcing a reversal of the ban. That means that despite recent victories for families and environmentalists who have fought for more than a decade for protections from the insecticide, widespread use will continue in California, where a majority of the fruits and nuts in the US are grown.

“There’s a sense of helplessness,” said Luis Medellin, a 30-year-old dairy worker, sitting with his three younger sisters at his family’s home in the small agricultural town of Lindsay. “I’m being poisoned and I can’t do anything about it. It’s like a slow death.”

More than a dozen Latino residents in Tulare County, a rural farming community three hours north of Los Angeles, shared stories with the Guardian of direct pesticide poisonings from drifts and the long-term health challenges that they believe are linked to chronic exposure. They described children vomiting, suffering painful skin irritations, debilitating headaches and dizziness, as well as developing autism, learning problems, attention deficit disorders and respiratory ailments.

It’s difficult to conclusively determine how chlorpyrifos may have contributed to individual children’s conditions, but epidemiological studies have found links between the pesticide and a number of health conditions – research that led EPA officials to recommend the ban in 2015. Manufacturers and growers continue to assert that the chemical is safe and say that the studies are flawed.

Pregnant women who lived near fields and farms that use chlorpyrifos experienced an increased risk of having a child with autism, according to a University of California at Davis study. Low to moderate levels of chlorpyrifos exposure during pregnancy were also linked to lower IQs and memory problems, according to researchers at Columbia and UC Berkeley. Studies have further raised concerns about decreased lung function and reduced fertility.

Chlorpyrifos – a neurotoxic pesticide widely used to kill insects in almond, walnut, orange, grape, broccoli and other crop farming – was banned for residential use in 2000 because of environmental and health concerns.

The EPA’s prior move to prohibit the pesticide in agriculture stemmed from a decade-long legal fight with environmental groups, which are continuing to push for the ban in court. Under the new policy, the EPA won’t have to re-evaluate health risks of the chemical for another five years and its use will continue.

In California, Latino children are 91% more likely than white students to attend schools near heavy pesticide use, according to state data. Tulare County is also located in a region considered to have the highest poverty rate in the state and the worst air pollution in the US.

“We are very sick,” said Irma Medellin, community organizer with El Quinto Sol de America, a Lindsay-based advocacy group that has studied chlorpyrifos exposure and advocated for the ban. “Everyone who lives in this community is affected.”

In Tulare County, growers applied more than 1m pounds of chlorpyrifos in a five-year period, according to state data. A 2014 state report found that in one year, farmers applied more than 750 pounds of the pesticide within one-quarter of a mile of four different public schools.

Zenaida Muñoz, a 32-year-old mother of three, said she used to walk through the orange groves on a daily basis for exercise when she was pregnant with one of her sons, who is now nine years old. After he was born, he struggled to speak for several years and he had behavioral problems at home and in school. He was later diagnosed with autism.

Chlorpyrifos is frequently used on oranges.

“I never realized these chemicals could potentially cause harm,” she said, seated in her house in a small town called Cutler, as she clutched her newborn baby. Her son, now in the third grade, ran up to her with a squirt gun, begging to go play outside.

Muñoz said she now avoids the local orchards, especially when she can smell recently sprayed pesticide – a stench that makes her want to throw up.

Families that live across from the crops should consider moving, she added: “Even if it seems like they’re not impacted, they are.”

Domitila Lemus, 68, recalled an episode when a pesticide spray drifted toward a group of students on a school playground, including her eight-year-old granddaughter.

“They were out of breath. Some were throwing up,” Lemus recalled. “The children had teary eyes … It’s a strong smell that gets into your head and hurts your brain.”

Jannet Rodriguez, whose husband works in citrus, said workers were afraid to speak up: “They feel they’ll lose their jobs.” When she worked in agriculture, she said posted warning signs about the dangers of pesticides were never clear to her and other Mexican immigrants, many of whom don’t speak English. “They never told us what these signs meant.”

When Trump’s EPA head, Scott Pruitt, undid activists’ efforts one month after his confirmation – with a statement praising a return to “using sound science in decision-making” – families in Tulare County were devastated.

“It was pain in my heart,” said Amy Huerta, a 20-year-old college student who grew up in a trailer park in Lindsay where pesticides would often drift into their home. “Now we have to start all over again.”

One study detected chlorpyrifos in three-quarters of air samples in Lindsay – 11% above levels deemed “acceptable” by the EPA for 24-hour exposure by children.

Huerta recalled sharing a bed with her younger sister who would scratch herself bloody. Huerta said it was because of pesticides irritating her skin.

Morales said her nine-year-old son has trouble concentrating in school and staying seated in class—and that she suspects chlorpyrifos is likely to blame given the family’s proximity to citrus fields. Marianna Santos, pesticide supervisor in the Tulare County agricultural commissioner’s office, said the drift incident Morales described was under investigation, but that it did not appear chlorpyrifos was involved in that spray.

Bob Blakely, vice-president of California Citrus Mutual, a Tulare County industry group that supports chlorpyrifos, said growers were dependent on the chemical and claimed that its application is highly controlled in the state. “We’re very heavily regulated. I’d be more concerned about children not eating fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Dow AgroSciences, which manufactures the pesticide under the name Lorsban, has consistently argued that studies raising concerns are flawed and that Carol Burns, a Dow epidemiology consultant, criticized the UC and Columbia studies in an email, claiming that other research suggests there are “no significant associations between possible exposure to chlorpyrifos and any health effects in the children”.

The EPA did not respond to requests for comment.

Angel Garcia, El Quinto Sol community organizer and founder of the Coalition for Advocating for Pesticide Safety, said organizing against powerful agricultural interests was difficult in California and particularly in Tulare County.

“Money is the law here,” the Lindsay native said as he drove past a row of citrus groves. He and other activists are pushing California to be a leader in the resistance to Trump and ban chlorpyrifos in the absence of EPA’s inaction.

But it’s unclear if the state will take on that role. Asked about the calls for state prohibition, Charlotte Fadipe, a spokeswoman for the California department of pesticide regulation (DPR), said the agency was “looking at how this pesticide is used and if further restrictions on its use are warranted”.

“But,” she added, “that is not the same as an all-out ban.”

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Trump Has Okayed a Pesticide That Terrifies These Families

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