7 Alarming Conflicts of Interest Tainting Trump's Environmental Picks
By Keith Gaby
Back when Donald Trump was a real estate developer whose projects involved thousands of construction workers, he repeatedly downplayed well-documented dangers of asbestos, writing in one of his books that the carcinogen was "100-percent safe, when applied."
It helps explain President Trump's pattern, amid ever-swirling ethical scandals, of selecting people with conflicts of interest for key environmental positions. These are appointments that will undermine the health of American families.
His latest consideration, according to The New York Times, is replacing experts on a federal science advisory board "with representatives from industries whose pollution the agency is supposed to regulate," again raising the issue of his administration's serious conflicts of interest when it comes to enforcing clean air and water laws.
Even if some of Trump's appointees are undoubtedly nice people, it matters a great deal who is running federal agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and what drives their interests and motivations.
Here are a few of the most conflicted people with power over health and environmental policies in his administration, including, at the top, the president himself:
1. Nancy Beck: Worked for chemical industry group
Beck has just been hired as the highest political appointee at the EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, the office writing the rules for the nation's new chemical safety law. She last worked for the chemical industry's trade group pushing the EPA to write those rules in a way that set the loosest standards for companies, and provided the least protection for families.
Beck is now in a position to undermine the bipartisan law that has the potential to bring sanity to our chemical safety system. Toxic chemicals, as you know, are linked to cancer, diabetes and death.
2. Justin Schwab: Represented coal utility
Now a top lawyer at the EPA, Schwab was previously the attorney for a utility and other major industrial companies that likely have a financial interest in EPA decisions.
While at the law firm BakerHostetler, he represented, among others, Southern Company, one of the country's largest coal-burning utilities. Fun fact: Schwab also represented the "London Whale," the financial trader who was behind JPMorgan's monstrous trading losses in 2012.
Undermining limits on pollution from power plants will result in more asthma attacks and other health problems.
3. Andrew Wheeler: Lobbied for coal mining giant
Wheeler, a lobbyist for Murray Energy, has reportedly been tapped to become deputy administrator, the second-highest official at the EPA. Murray, the country's largest coal mining conglomerate—which has been fined for safety violations and repeatedly sued to block pollution limits—just called on the EPA to drop the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule.
The rule is already reducing the amount of mercury, a neurotoxin that damages children's brains, and other harmful pollutants in our environment. As deputy administrator, Wheeler would be in a position to influence a decision about whether or not to try to repeal this rule.
4. Carl Icahn: Oil refinery investor, billionaire
Icahn has been advising Trump on a range of issues, including important rules and environmental safeguards. He's been accused of promoting "policy proposals that benefit his own investments" that include stakes in an oil refinery. He also interviewed Scott Pruitt for the EPA job, asking him about issues that had a direct impact on his business interests.
Icahn is in a position to potentially influence regulatory issues in which he has a business stake.
5. Christian Palich: Lobbied for coal industry group
Palich recently got a senior position in the EPA's Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations. Before that, he was head of the Ohio Coal Association and a registered lobbyist.
In that position, Palich praised President Trump for honoring his pledge to stand up to "radical environmentalists" by targeting clean air and climate safeguards.
6. Doug Matheney: Ran Ohio's "Count on Coal"
Recently hired as Secretary Rick Perry's assistant at the U.S. Department of Energy, Matheney is very familiar with industry players.
He has worked for both Americans for Prosperity, the Koch Brothers-backed political organization and as the Ohio director of Count on Coal, a public relations campaign funded by the coal industry.
7. Scott Pruitt: Sued the EPA 14 times
As has been well documented, the companies that Pruitt now regulates have contributed millions of dollars to his political campaigns and causes. Pruitt sued in court to block 14 EPA safeguards—protections he's now in charge of implementing and enforcing.
Pruitt recently made a big show of recusing himself from litigation over these safeguards. But he's made no similar assurance that he will not let his conflicts of interest skew his approach to rolling back and undercutting these important protections.
As he gets under way with targeting regulations that benefit his industry allies, 125 million Americans who already live in areas with polluted air can expect even more asthma attacks and other lung diseases.
Commander in Chief: Where the problem begins
With his appointments, Trump will ultimately be responsible if pollution increases and we see a rise in asthma attacks among children, more premature deaths from lung disease, and more communities suffering from unhealthy air pollution. Of course, his own conflicts are the most powerful and disturbing of them all.
Many of the president's family's business interests are overseen by the federal government, including important health and environmental programs.
There are many others in the administration, not all of whom are presidential appointees, with close ties to regulated, polluting industries. All of this in spite of the fact that President Trump signed a new "ethics" order when he first took office. In reality, the order weakens protections against improper influence.
Philosophical differences are one thing, but having a government run by those with self-interests that run counter to the public good is another. Unless we have a cleaner government, we're unlikely to have a cleaner world.
Keith Gaby is senior communications director for climate, health and political affairs at Environmental Defense Fund.
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Watchdog Accuses Trump's NOAA of 'Choosing Extinction' for Right Whales by Hiding Scientific Evidence
By Julia Conley
As the North Atlantic right whale was placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's list of critically endangered species Thursday, environmental protection groups accusing the U.S. government of bowing to fishing and fossil fuel industry pressure to downplay the threat and failing to enact common-sense restrictions to protect the animals.
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By Beth Ann Mayer
Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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