Stories You Might Have Missed This Week

Researchers find high lead levels in an Ohio county, Fiat Chrysler pays the price for its emissions scandal, and the Supreme Court upholds California's foie gras ban.
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A Moulard duck foie gras torchon with pickled pear.

A Moulard duck foie gras torchon with pickled pear.

This week at Pacific Standard, we turned a spotlight on the United States–Mexico border, bringing you stories on what Democrats in the pre-Trump era thought about border barriers, what would happen if the president declared a national emergency at the border, and how immigration courts are affected by the government shutdown. Unrelated to immigration, we also looked into the story behind the federal government's massive cheese surplus and how the Boston Molasses Disaster ushered in the era of modern regulation.

It's been a busy week, and there are plenty more news developments we're keeping an eye on. Here are a few more stories we've been watching.

A Report Shows Lead Levels in Cleveland Are as High as Flint's

According to a report released this week by Case Western Reserve University, children born in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, which includes the city of Cleveland, tested for higher lead levels than their peers across the state. The study looked at the lead levels of 10,000 kindergartners over a three-year period. The findings were bleak: In 2016, "Cuyahoga County accounted for 14 percent of Ohio's lead-tested children, but 41 percent of all children found to have an elevated blood lead level," the report reads.

"If people have in their collective memory what happened in Flint, Michigan, our rates have routinely been double to three times what Flint had at its peak," Rob Fischer, one of the study's researchers, told the radio station WOSU. The report attributes Cleveland children's higher lead exposure to "the city’s aging housing stock and poverty levels."

Fiat Chrysler Will Pay Up to $800 Million Over Emissions Test Accusations

In 2017, the Department of Justice sued Fiat Chrysler after the car manufacturer was found to have been equipping its diesel vehicles with illegal software in order to pass emissions tests. The software, the government alleged, controlled the vehicles' emissions during testing, but allowed them to emit more pollutants during real-world driving. Fiat Chrysler denies that its software was illegal.

Now, as a result of a settlement announced this week, the company will pay hundreds of millions of dollars in civil penalties and other fees, and will also recall roughly 100,000 vehicles, the New York Times reports.

The Supreme Court Upholds California's Foie Gras Ban

The country's highest court on Monday declined to hear arguments against a 2004 law banning the production and sale of foie gras in California, SF Gate reports. Animal rights groups contend that the process of making the luxury food product, which involves force-feeding ducks and geese, amounts to animal cruelty.

The ban has been enforced since 2012; farm trade groups, foie gras producers, and chefs have continually tried to overturn it. They succeeded in 2015, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision in 2017. The plaintiffs petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case. By refusing the case, the Supreme Court has effectively ensured that the California ban will remain in place.

"While vegan extremists will likely mischaracterize the legal effect of it, the Justices themselves have long noted that their decision not to hear a case does not reflect on the merits," Cathy Kennedy, a representative from the chef's coalition, said in an announcement, according to SF Gate.

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