public health

The “American family” in crisis: Colonialism, COVID-19 risk, and climate vulnerability

The fight for racial justice must include a reckoning with US imperialism.

The recent spotlight on anti-Black violence has awoken many white Americans to an uncomfortable truth: that underneath its rhetoric of equality, the United States is a fundamentally racist country. The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on U.S. communities of color underscores this fact. The pandemic also reveals a lesser known but equally uncomfortable truth: that underneath …

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Another Casualty of US Withdrawal from the WHO: The Environment

Unbeknownst to many, the WHO does important work on pollution problems.

Withdrawing from international cooperation in the midst of global pandemic is an idea that’s just as bad as it sounds.  President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the WOrld Health Organization (WHO) withdrawal will also be harmful in other ways. Notably, a major component of the WHO’s work involves the health impacts of pollution and dangerous …

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Networks of Misinformation

How Anti-Public Health Messages and Activities Spread

Like a virus, misinformation can spread within a population. It has its super-spreaders, just like the coronavirus. It can mutate in ways that make it more contagious. And it can be weaponized. Research into networks of coronavirus-related communication has revealed how both true and false information spread through social media .  Misinformation can spread like …

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Using and Abusing Models: Lessons from COVID-19

We’ve seen some great examples of how NOT to deal with models.

Models have figured heavily in government responses to the coronavirus. This has given us the opportunity for a real-time lesson in the uses of models. In the process, we’ve learned some important lessons in how to best make use of models — and equally importantly, in how not to use them. That’s directly relevant to …

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What’s the Matter With Bill de Blasio?

The Progressive-Leaning Democrat has more in common with Donald Trump than you might think.

Willful bungling of the coronavirus crisis cuts across ideologies and political parties. That’s the lesson that we learn from the story of Bill de Blasio. He is very different, across many different dimensions, than Donald Trump. But it turns out that he shares something important with Trump: a tendency to place personality over expertise. De …

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Free to Be Negligent?

Proposed Tort Liability Protection for Businesses

Sen. Mitch McConnell is demanding that any future coronavirus relief law provide a litigation shield for businesses, and other conservative/business interests have made similar proposals. So far, the supporters of these proposals have engaged in some dramatic handwaving but haven’t begun to make a reasoned argument in support of a litigation shield. In this post, …

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International Liability for Harm: Epidemics and Pollution

What duties do countries have to avoid causing global harms?

There’s been talk lately of demanding compensation if a country’s negligence allowed a disease to spread globally. There is a long history of discussion regarding similar damage claims in international environmental law.  The same principles seem applicable to disease spread. In theory, damages should be available in both cases. The core principle of international liability …

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Debate Amid Coronavirus: Are Single-Use Plastic Bags Safer?

Legal Planet Plastic Bags

How Plastics Companies and Environmental Groups Can Help Us Find an Answer

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, concerns have grown over the safety of grocery bags. Many U.S. states—among them New York, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Oregon—have suspended or delayed their single-use plastic bag bans in the past two months. Some places like Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and San Francisco have gone even further to temporarily ban reusable …

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Are the Coronavirus Models Too Pessimistic?

Unfortunately, if anything, reality has often turned out somewhat worse than predicted.

The White House thinks coronavirus models are too pessimistic. If anything, the evidence suggests the models aren’t pessimistic enough. Their projections of future deaths have often been too low.

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Conservatives versus Lockdowns

Conservatives versus Lockdowns

Spurred on by conservative groups, protesters are demanding that their states go back to business as usual.  This sentiment isn’t limited to the kinds of hotheads who insist on congregating in public during an epidemic, or even to  conservatives like Betsy DeVos who  help to fund these groups and promote their protests. It also includes …

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