Thousand Oaks, California. Annapolis, Maryland. Parkland, Florida. With dozens of families still mourning the loss of loved ones killed by mass shooters in these now-infamous locales, and with the annual tally of gun homicide victims on the rise nationwide, doctors and public health researchers have continued to call for increased funding for research into gun violence and how to stop it. After all, it is doctors who are tasked with treating the survivors.
And yet, just a day after the California gunman killed 12 people during college night at a country music bar, the National Rifle Association (NRA) sent out a tweet last week instructing those who work to save shooting victims to “stay in their lane.” The message continued, “Half of the articles in Annals of Internal Medicine are pushing for gun control. Most upsetting, however, the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves.”
The message did not go over well, and doctors are now pushing back. In a reply published to Twitter two days after the NRA’s comment, Dr. Marianne Haughey, an emergency room physician, wrote: “I see no one from the @nra next to me in the trauma bay as I have cared for victims of gun violence for the past 25 years. THAT must be MY lane. COME INTO MY LANE. Tell one mother her child is dead with me, then we can talk.” Others tweeted photos of their blood-soaked scrubs and operating room floors, accompanied by the hashtag #ThisIsMyLane.
The NRA’s initial tweet appears to have come in response to a position paper, published at the end of last month by the American College of Physicians (ACP), on reducing firearm injuries and deaths. “The ACP is concerned about not only the alarming number of mass shootings in the United States but also the daily toll of firearm violence in neighborhoods, homes, workplaces, and public and private places across the country,” the authors of that paper wrote, noting that “the medical profession has a special responsibility to speak out on prevention of firearm-related injuries and death.”
After NRA lobbying stifled decades of gun violence research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a spending bill passed in March now gives the agency authority to study its causes. But the 1996 Dickey Amendment still mandates that funds cannot be used to advocate for gun control.
In response to the NRA’s assertion of bias from the Annals of Internal Medicine, Dr. Christine Laine, the publication’s editor in chief, told The New York Times that doctors are “not anti-gun; we are anti-bullet holes in people.”
Also in the news:
• The Environmental Protection Agency left stakeholders on all sides of the air pollution debate scratching their heads this week when it announced new plans for heavy-duty truck emissions described as both regulatory and deregulatory in nature. While the agency indicated that its “Cleaner Trucks Initiative” would tweak pollution standards to lower nitrogen oxide emissions, it also promised to roll back existing pollution requirements that truck manufacturers have described as onerous. The announcement came with a promise of a 2020 delivery date for the new rules, but little in the way of specifics. It also drew faint praise from environmentalists, who displayed scant faith that the Trump administration would ultimately deliver emissions regulations with teeth. “We will be watching closely to make sure the agency follows through and actually mandates the needed cuts in these smog-forming compounds,” said Luke Tonachel, director for clean vehicles and fuels at the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a prepared statement. “There’s ample reason for skepticism.” (Los Angeles Times, NRDC)
• The death toll from the Camp Fire in Northern California increased to 56 as of Thursday morning, and 130 people — most of them elderly — are still missing. The Camp Fire has destroyed more than 8,650 homes, making it the most destructive fire in California’s history and obliterating much of the town of Paradise. Additionally, at least two people died in the Woolsey Fire near Los Angeles, bringing the total number of deaths from California wildfires since last Thursday to 58. Fires like these are becoming more and more commonplace. Nine of the top 20 most damaging California fires on record have happened within the last three years. Though officials and firefighters have been taking preventative measures, such as preemptively shutting off electricity during high winds, changing building codes, and lighting controlled-burn fires, these efforts may be no match for changes in Earth’s climate. Severe drought in 2015 killed many trees and left behind plenty of material for wildfires to feed on. Said former Sacramento fire chief Kurt Henke of the fires: “The climate is changing and we’re seeing it firsthand.” (Time, CNN)
• The news from Greenland isn’t all melting ice and gloom and doom. Danish geologists recently discovered a large impact crater buried under the ice sheet at Greenland’s northwest tip — what they believe to be evidence that an asteroid crashed into the glacier during the last ice age. “This is the first impact crater found beneath one of our planet’s ice sheets,” Kurt Kjaer, the lead author of the study, told The New York Times. Kjaer noticed a circular depression in the ice as he was studying a NASA map of Greenland, and then flew over the area in a helicopter with ice-penetrating radar to get a more precise map of the topography beneath the surface. Kjaer found pieces of highly shocked quartz in the sediment nearby, which confirmed to him that there had indeed been an impact of some kind at some point. The next step is to look for debris that would have erupted from such an impact, which will help establish more precisely when it happened, what the environment was like at the time, and whether it had any effect on the climate.
(New York Times)
• Public health officials are racing to find out what’s causing a surge of a rare, polio-like illness that has afflicted children in 27 states. The CDC has confirmed at least 90 occurrences of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, with an additional 162 reported cases still being investigated. AFM attacks the nervous system, damaging the gray matter in the spinal cord and causing weakness in muscles and reflexes in the body. While experts know the neurological illness generally begins with fever and respiratory symptoms, its causes — and its lasting effects — continue to puzzle them. “We’ve learned a lot about AFM since 2014,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of agency’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters this week, referring to the first major wave of AFM reported in the U.S., “but there are things we still don’t understand.” There have been no deaths among AFM patients reported in 2018, and, while serious, chances of getting it are slim, at less than one to two in a million. (NPR)
• And finally: On Friday, scientists around the world meet at the General Conference on Weights and Measures in Versailles, France, to vote to redefine the way the kilogram is measured. Since 1889, a cylinder of platinum iridium housed at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Sèvres, France has been used as the universal standard for the kilogram. The cylinder, known as “Le Grand K” (officially the International Prototype Kilogram) has many exact copies in countries around the world used to calibrate the world’s scales to a single system of measurement. But Le Grand K has lost 50 micrograms in the last 129 years. The kilogram has become the “999.99995-gram. Friday’s vote is widely anticipated to create a new definition of kilogram: one that is based on energy, a reliable constant in nature, rather than a physical object. The kilogram will instead be based on the Planck constant, a phenomenon in quantum mechanics that relates mass to electromagnetic energy. If Friday’s vote passes, the changes will take effect in May 2019. “Objects always change,” Stephan Schlamminger, a scientist involved with the redefinition, told Vox. With the change, he says, “we go from an object” on Earth “to the stuff that’s in the heavens.” (CNET, Vox)