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Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010, 7:45 am

Weekly Pulse: Killer Summer Heatwaves, Air Pollution and Winger Docs

By Lindsay Beyerstein

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

"The average death rate in the city during normal times is between 360 to 380 people a day. Today, we have around 700. This is no secret. Everyone thinks we are trying to keep it secret. Look, it is 40 degrees Celsius on the street," Andrei Seltsovsky, head of Moscow's public health department, quoted on Democracy Now!

Russia is in the grip of the worst heatwave in its history. The country hasn't seen temperatures like this since record-keeping began 130 years ago. Months of drought have turned the countryside into a tinderbox and wildfires are burning out of control. Moscow is besieged by acrid smoke and soaring temperatures.

Meteorologist Jeff Masters tells Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! that the heat wave could kill tens of thousands of Russians. A similar smoky heat wave in France in 2003 killed 40,000 people, most of them elderly. Even in the U.S., heatwaves kill more people than hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined.

Killer coal

The U.S. is feeling the health effects of summer pollution, too. In AlterNet, Bruce Nilles notes that Monday and Tuesday were Code Orange unhealthy air alert days in Washington, D.C. When the air gets that bad, children aren't supposed to be outdoors.

We're all familiar with the link between car exhaust and air pollution, but Nilles draws our attention to the impact of burning coal on air quality. Coal-fired air pollution is especially noxious to human health. Research shows that the tiny particles of coal soot can burrow deep into the lungs and even work their way into the bloodstream, causing permanent damage to the heart.

The coal industry is still fighting to strip the EPA of enforcement powers that might cut into profits. "We are literally killing ourselves by burning coal, and yet the coal industry continues to fight against the Clean Air Act and any safeguards that might prevent them from spewing their pollutants into the air," Nilles writes.

The Doctors' Tea Party

The long, hot political summer drags on. Nick Baumann of Mother Jones notes that two GOP Senate candidates, Dr. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Sharron Angle of Nevada, are linked to "a radical group of right-wing, conspiracy-theorist doctors, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons" (AAPS).

Angle was headlined an AAPS rally in San Diego this week. Eric Kleefeld of TPM Muckraker notes that Rand Paul is a full-fledged member of the group. The AAPS party line states that it is "evil and immoral" for doctors to participate in Medicare or Medicaid. An article on the AAPS website speculated that President Barack Obama may have won the presidency by hypnotizing the electorate. Documents from famous tobacco lawsuits reveal that AAPS provided methodologically dubious "scientific" cover for Philip Morris when the company sought to fight indoor smoking bans and tobacco taxes.

Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones has more about this "Doctors' Tea Party."

Cycling Conspiracies

You probably think that bicycling is a healthy transportation alternative. Good for your heart and lungs, good for the atmosphere. Win win, right? You see fun and fitness, but Colorado gubernatorial hopeful Dan Maes (R) sees an internationalist plot. Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly describes one of the most bizarre campaign attacks of the silly season. Maes blasted his opponent, Denver mayor John Hinckenlooper (D) for promoting cycling in the city.

While bicycling may conjure up "warm fuzzy feelings" in the weak minded, Maes contents that the pro-cycling agenda is closely orchestrated by the United Nations as part of a plot to impinge upon our personal freedoms.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://www.hillmanfoundation.org/hillmanblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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