The Morning Meeting with Al Tompkins is a daily Poynter briefing of story ideas worth considering and other timely context for journalists, written by senior faculty Al Tompkins. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.
This week, Richard Trumka Jr., who is a Consumer Product Safety Commission member, said that the is considering a ban on gas stoves to keep the stoves from emitting toxic fumes into kitchens. But later this week, Consumer Product Safety Commission Chair Alexander Hoehn-Saric said no such ban is being considered.
This spring, the CPSC is expected to solicit public comment for information on how to make the appliances safer. Gas stoves are estimated to be installed in at least 40 million U.S. residences.
Alexander Hoehn-Saric, the chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) walked back Trumka’s statement saying:
Over the past several days, there has been a lot of attention paid to gas stove emissions and to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Research indicates that emissions from gas stoves can be hazardous, and the CPSC is looking for ways to reduce related indoor air quality hazards. But to be clear, I am not looking to ban gas stoves and the CPSC has no proceeding to do so.
CPSC is researching gas emissions in stoves and exploring new ways to address health risks. CPSC also is actively engaged in strengthening voluntary safety standards for gas stoves. And later this spring, we will be asking the public to provide us with information about gas stove emissions and potential solutions for reducing any associated risks. This is part of our product safety mission – learning about hazards and working to make products safer.
Trumka was referring to mounting evidence, some of which has been published in peer-reviewed journalists saying more than 12% of current childhood asthma cases in the US can be attributed to gas stove use.
Bloomberg reported that studies stretching back 50 years have shown similar results:
Natural gas stoves, which are used in about 40% of homes in the US, emit air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter at levels the EPA and World Health Organization have said are unsafe and linked to respiratory illness, cardiovascular problems, cancer, and other health conditions, according to reports by groups such as the Institute for Policy Integrity and the American Chemical Society. Consumer Reports, in October, urged consumers planning to buy a new range to consider going electric after tests conducted by the group found high levels of nitrogen oxide gases from gas stoves.
Lawmakers have weighed in, asking the commission to consider requiring warning labels, range hoods and performance standards.
The Rocky Mountain Institute says almost 100 cities have taken steps to stop new construction that uses fossil fuels like gas stoves.
Across the United States, 94 cities and counties have adopted policies that require or encourage the move off fossil fuels to all-electric homes and buildings. As of December 2022, nearly 31 million people across 9 states and Washington DC live in a jurisdiction where local policies favor fossil fuel-free, healthy buildings.
Bloomberg reminds us that that climate bill that President Biden signed last year provides money for people who want to get rid of their gas stoves:
Consumers who want to switch from gas to electric ranges could get some help from the massive climate spending bill signed into law in August. The Inflation Reduction Act includes rebates of up to $840 for the purchase of new electric ranges as part of some $4.5 billion in funding to help low- and moderate-income households electrify their homes.
Cancer deaths have fallen by one-third since 1991
Take encouraging news where you can find it, and today you can find it in CA: A Cancer Journal For Clinicians. The journal reports that the cancer death rate in the U.S. has fallen 33% since 1991. That means 3.8 million people who would have died from cancer didn’t.
The report says:
This progress increasingly reflects advances in treatment, which are particularly evident in the rapid declines in mortality (approximately 2% annually during 2016 through 2020) for leukemia, melanoma, and kidney cancer, despite stable/increasing incidence, and accelerated declines for lung cancer. In summary, although cancer mortality rates continue to decline, future progress may be attenuated by rising incidence for breast, prostate, and uterine corpus cancers, which also happen to have the largest racial disparities in mortality.
Some cancer statistics are not as encouraging, according to the report:
Cancer incidence increased for prostate cancer by 3% annually from 2014 through 2019 after two decades of decline, translating to an additional 99,000 new cases.
Trends were more favorable in men compared to women. For example, lung cancer in women decreased at one-half the pace of men (1.1% vs. 2.6% annually) from 2015 through 2019, and breast and uterine corpus cancers continued to increase, as did liver cancer and melanoma, both of which stabilized in men aged 50 years and older and declined in younger men.
The report’s overall positive news is tempered by concerns about what the numbers might look like this year. The report says there could be 2 million new cancer cases detected this year, resulting in 600,000 deaths. As you recall, during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, lots of patients skipped regular cancer screenings and now those cases are being detected at a rate of about 5,000 new cases a day.
Then one other encouraging data point:
A 65% drop in cervical cancer incidence during 2012 through 2019 among women in their early 20s, the first cohort to receive the human papillomavirus vaccine, foreshadows steep reductions in the burden of human papillomavirus-associated cancers, the majority of which occur in women.
Understanding the levels of government secrecy and confidentiality
As President Biden tries to figure out how he had some protected files stuck away in offices that the National Archives didn’t know about, it might be useful to understand the different levels of protected information. Officially, there are three levels of secure documents. They are classified by how much damage they would cause to national security if they were shared with somebody not authorized to see them.
(a) National Security Information (hereinafter “classified information”) shall be classified at one of the following three levels:
(1) “Top Secret” shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security.
(2) “Secret” shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause serious damage to the national security.
(3) “Confidential” shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security.
Title 42 of the Code of Federal Regulations explains the ways each of these classifications is different:
(1) Top Secret. Information may be classified “Top Secret” if its unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security. This classification should be used with the utmost restraint. Examples of “exceptionally grave damage” include armed hostilities against the United States or its allies; disruption of foreign relations vitally affecting the national security; the compromise of vital national defense plans or complex cryptologic and communications intelligence systems; the revelation of sensitive intelligence operations; and the disclosure of scientific or technological developments vital to national security.
(2) Secret. Information may be classified “Secret” if its unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to the national security. This classification should be used sparingly. Examples of “serious damage” include disruption of foreign relations significantly affecting the national security; significant impairment of a program or policy directly related to the national security; revelation of significant military plans or intelligence operations; and compromise of significant scientific or technological developments relating to national security.
(3) Confidential. Information may be classified “Confidential” if its unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause damage to the national security. Except as otherwise provided by statute, no other terms shall be used to identify classified information. Terms or phrases such as “For Official Use Only” or “Limited Official Use” shall not be used to identify national security information. No other term or phrase shall be used in conjunction with these national security information designations, such as “Secret Sensitive” or “Agency Confidential” to identify national security information.
(b) Foreign government information. If classified by the foreign government, the information shall either retain its original classification or be assigned a U.S. classification designation which will ensure a degree of protection at least equivalent to that required by the entity that furnished the information. If not given a specific classification by the foreign government, the information will be assigned an appropriate classification dependent on the sensitivity of the subject matter and the degree of damage its unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause to the national security. Classification designations assigned by the U.S. agency shall be marked on the foreign government information in accordance with the provisions of § 9.12.
A document may contain elements of more than one of those classifications. Say, for example, it contained confidential and “top secret” information. The document would be classified as Top Secret to protect the most sensitive part of the document first.
32 CFR Part 2001, “Classified National Security Information” §2001.21(b) states how each document would be marked. I thought this might be interesting to you as details emerge about the documents found in Biden’s offices. As you can see from the requirements, they would have been well-marked and obviously identifiable.
Overall marking. The highest level of classification is determined by the highest level of any one portion within the document and shall appear in a way that will distinguish it clearly from the informational text.
(1) Conspicuously place the overall classification at the top and bottom of the outside of the front cover (if any), on the title page (if any), on the first page, and on the outside of the back cover (if any).
(2) For documents containing information containing information classified at more than one level, the overall marking shall be the highest level.
(3) Each interior page of a classified document shall be marked at the top and bottom either with the highest level of classification of information contained on that page, including the designation “Unclassified” when it is applicable, or with the highest overall classification of the document.
Why beer sales are dropping
A couple of years ago the popular wisdom was that people were drinking more alcohol while staying home during the pandemic. Now, the headline on WorldFiance.com says:
“From Japan to the United States, global drinking habits have shifted dramatically in recent years. With people increasingly drawn to a more sober lifestyle, is the alcohol industry heading towards the last chance saloon?”
Recent research suggests that there is a generational shift unfolding where younger people are acting differently from previous generations:
The early signs of a culture shift on booze started emerging in 2018, with the publication of an influential new study on alcohol habits.
The report, published by Berenberg Research and reported by Business Insider, found that Gen Z was drinking 20 percent less per capita than Millennials – who, in turn, drink less than Baby Boomers and Gen Xers did at the same age. While previous generations may have marked the passage into adulthood with binge drinking and hard partying, today’s youngsters are much more temperate, shying away from excessive alcohol consumption, instead prioritizing their mental and physical health. With more than a quarter of Gen Zers now teetotal, the alcohol industry may need to prepare itself for a sobering future.
And brewers say the cost of their products is rising and will keep rising in the near term. That won’t help sales, they say. SevenFiftyDaily, a website that covers the “business and culture of drinks” reported:
Last year, the brewing industry surfed the choppy waves of carbon dioxide shortages, a tight labor market, and spiking expenses, as inflation impacted everything from cans to grains to freight.
“Nearly everything costs more than it did before the pandemic,” says Bart Watson, the chief economist at the Brewers Association. “Brewers haven’t been able to fully pass those costs onto customers, meaning lower margins.”
Is legalized marijuana hurting beer sales?
The Motley Fool research says there could be another factor behind beer sales dropping and it could be that beer drinkers are switching to legalized pot.
It has been more than four years since Canada legalized marijuana. And a recent study shows that there is a negative correlation between revenue from medical marijuana and alcohol. The data goes up until 2018, so it doesn’t factor in the recreational market. But it did show that for a dollar of medical marijuana sold, alcohol revenue, on average, declined between 74 and 84 cents. In a separate study involving Washington state, researchers found that legalizing marijuana resulted in alcohol sales declining by 15%.
The Motley Fool points out that some big beer companies are increasingly investing in cannabis companies.