Science, Politics, and Democracy News You May Have Missed

July 3, 2013 | 11:08 am
Michael Halpern
Former Contributor

This is my vacation month. I spent last week with family hiking in the middle of the Adirondacks (see the photo, below). On Friday, I’m taking a week to road trip with a friend who is moving to our nation’s capital. Yet the interesting science and democracy stories haven’t stopped. (Also, apparently, there was some presidential climate speech and a bunch of stuff happened at the Supreme Court). So here’s what came into my email box when I was gone that I don’t have much time to write about because I’m leaving again:

1. Here in Washington, DC, the National Park Service is almost finished building a wall to prevent catastrophic flooding of the National Mall and surrounding buildings (such as the National Archives and the National Gallery of Art).

2. A strong New York Times editorial justly criticized the White House for holding up scores of science-based public protections on everything from exposure to toxic silica dust to the prevention of food-borne illness.

photo of Jimmy Creek Falls

There was a lot of rain when I was in the Adirondacks last week. But that made the many waterfalls, such as Jimmy Creek Falls, all that more beautiful (and thanks to science, I avoided any flash floods).

3. Understanding Human Nature When Mother Nature Wreaks Havoc describes a new NSF-funded software program that gauges how residents of hurricane-prone regions might react when storms are predicted, making emergency response easier.

4. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will use his veto power to stop the Wisconsin legislature from punishing the non-profit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism by kicking it off the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. This is good news, as these kinds of outfits are ever more critical to holding elected officials accountable as the news media shrinks.

5. Doug Pinkham of the Public Affairs Council told a House of Representatives committee that the Department of Homeland Security cannot adequately fight misinformation and conspiracy theories around bulk ammunition purchases by simply providing the right facts. (Incidentally, this also applies to climate change, vaccines, and pretty much everything else).

6. Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute wrote a compelling essay on the consequences of privatization of what was once under the purview of government workers in the context of the National Security Agency leaks. The New York Times reported on the revolving door between Silicon Valley and the NSA.

7. The Chinese Academy of Sciences took the Heartland Institute to task for grossly misrepresenting the academy’s understanding of climate change science. Entertaining coverage is here and here.

8. The FDA approved emergency contraception for over the counter distribution without age restrictions.

9. A poll showed who the British think should be involved in making decisions about the future of medical research.

If we make any fun science-related pit stops on the way from Denver to DC, I’ll be sure to post them on Twitter.