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Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: James P. Blair/National Geographic Creative (Audubon)

Energy, Environment, and Conservation 

  • Part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (US Fish and Wildlife Service) is slated for oil development. Scientists share emotional and ecological anecdotes about why we should save it (Audubon). One says: “I’ve spent years talking about the Arctic Refuge all over the country, and people care so deeply knowing that these wild places exist even if they will never visit them themselves.”
  • On November 6 the United States Department of Agriculture canceled plans to revise its regulatory procedures for genetically engineered (GE) crops after it failed to amass support from both environmental and consumer safety groups. The main criticism from biotech development groups was that new criteria for GE designation was too broad and GE products would have to go through a lengthy risk assessment process (Science Mag). 
  • The TransCanada Corp secured approval for the development of the Keystone XL pipeline to run through Nebraska (The Hill). The approval for the expansion comes a few days after the Keystone pipeline spilled 5,000 barrels of oil in South Dakota (Reuters).   
  • President Trump placed a hold on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) decision to allow the importation of elephant trophies into the United States after the announcement received widespread criticism. Conservation groups argue it harms the survival of the species, while the FWS claims a two year assessment showed importing a limited number of hunted elephants would help protect wild elephant populations (The Hill).

Congressional Committees 

  • Christian televangelist producer Bruce Jacobson has announced he will challenge Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the republican primary. Jacobson produces a show hosted by James Robison, who has served as a spiritual advisor to Trump (Texas Tribune). Ted Cruz is the chairman of the subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness within the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation.

Federal Agencies 

  • Representative John Lewis (D-GA) introduced H.R. 4354, the “Missed Opportunities in Science and Engineering Research Act of 2017,” a bill that would require the National Science Foundation to provide a report to Congress on the state of unfunded grant proposals for the preceding fiscal year. The bill was referred to the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.
  • A team from the Washington University School of Medicine analyzed how NIH funding is critical to the early development of the vast majority of commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S because Big Pharma doesn’t get involved until the later stages of drug development. Although the agency’s 2017 budget was increased despite the Trump’s administration proposed cuts, the study highlights the potential negative impacts of future funding cuts to the NIH  (The Scientist).

Public Health 

  • President Trump nominated Alex Azar to lead the Department of Health and Human Services (HSS). He previously has served as a healthcare consultant and a top health official during George W. Bush’s administration. While both sides agree he is qualified, Democrats worry about his ties to the pharmaceutical industry.  The HHS encompasses the NIH, CDC, FDA, among other branches (Washington Post).
  • The National Institute of Health’s funding initiative for firearm research, that was originally launched in January 2014 and lapsed in January 2017, will not be renewed.  NIH officials commented that funding opportunities for gun related research are still available through general applications and that future funding announcements will concentrate broadly on causes of violence (Science Mag).

Climate Change 

  • Syria joined the Paris agreement making the USA the only country not to participate. Scientists increasingly agree that the agreement does not go far enough and countries are not going far enough to meet their goals (Austin EcoNetwork, The Guardian).
  • More than 15,000 scientists sign a statement warning humanity of unsustainable population growth and use of natural resources (Fox News, Forbes). The only positive change since the last warning statement 25 years ago in 1992 is that the ozone hole has shrunk.
  • California governor Jerry Brown and businessman Michael Bloomberg spoke at the UN global warming conference as the voice of 20 states, 110 cities, and more than 1,000 businesses who aim to stick to the Paris Agreement goals even if the US pulls out of the agreement (USA Today).

Science Communication / Miscellaneous 

  • The way we talk about the environment matters; using words like “places of natural wonder” instead of “reserve”, for example, may impart different emotions towards a park (The Guardian). 
  • Do scientific collections harm wild animals? Biologist Luis Rocha argues that collections are necessary, invaluable resources that enhance our ability to conserve species (Huffington Post).

 

 

 

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