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Ohio Sets Up Clinic For Citizens Reporting Health Problems Following Toxic Train Wreck

East Palestine, Ohio residents have been coping with the aftermath of a toxic train wreck that contaminated soil and filled the air with black smoke. Residents in Ohio are now reporting a growing number of health issues such as nausea and trouble breathing. 

Ohio has announced that they will be opening a health clinic this week for residents who are worried that their sickness may be related to the derailment of the Norfolk Southern freight train which released the toxic chemical vinyl chloride into the air. 

At the request of Ohio’s Governor Mike DeWine, medical teams from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Department of Health will be on the ground helping citizens this week. The community impacted has around 5,000 residents, and the health teams will help assess any remaining dangers within the community. 

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The US Environmental Protection Agency has not detected any dangerous levels of contaminants so far in more than 530 homes which have endured air quality tests, according to reports from CNN

EPA official Tiffani Kavalec told CNN last week that no vinyl chloride has been detected in any downgradient waterways near the train derailment. 

US Senator Sherrod Brown stated, however, that “residents are right to be skeptical. We think the water’s safe, but when you return to your home, you should be tested again for your water and your soil and your air, not to mention those that have their own wells.”

Some waterways in the areas have been contaminated, with reports of thousands of fish dying, however, officials stated that the contaminates have all likely been contained. 

Hundreds of residents in East Palestine have been attending town hall meetings to voice their concerns and demand answers regarding how safe they truly are. The Ohio Department of Health is opening their clinic on Tuesday as a means of helping residents recover, and have their minds eased. 

“I heard you, the state heard you, and now the Ohio Department of Health and many of our partner agencies are providing this clinic, where people can come and discuss these vital issues with medical providers,” said the department’s director, Dr. Bruce Vanderhof.

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According to the US EPA and CDC, “vinyl chloride, a man-made substance used to make PVC, can cause dizziness, sleepiness, and headaches and has been linked to an increased risk of cancer in the liver, brain, lungs, and blood. The burning of vinyl chloride gas could break down into compounds including hydrogen chloride and phosgene, a chemical weapon used during World War 1 as a choking agent.” 

“Norfolk Southern is scrapping and removing rail cars at the derailment location, excavating contaminated areas, removing contaminated liquids from affected storm drains, and staging recovered waste for transportation to an approved disposal facility. Air monitoring and sampling will continue until removal of heavily contaminated soil in the derailment area is complete and odors subside in the community,”  the EPA said Sunday.

“The people of East Palestine cannot be forgotten, nor can their pain be simply considered the cost of doing business,” US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg wrote to the railway’s chief executive, Alan Shaw.

“You have previously indicated to me that you are committed to meeting your responsibilities to this community, but it is clear that area residents are not satisfied with the information, presence, and support they are getting from Norfolk Southern in the aftermath and recovery,” Buttigieg added.

The CEO of Norfolk Southern posted a letter to East Palestine residents on Saturday: 

“I hear you, we are here and will stay here for as long as it takes to ensure your safety and to help East Palestine recover and thrive. Together with local health officials, we have implemented a comprehensive testing program to ensure the safety of East Palestine’s water, air, and soil. [We] also started a $1 million fund “as a down payment on our commitment to help rebuild.”

Ohio Set To Open One Of The Largest Solar Factory Complexes In The World 

The company known as First Solar revealed plans this week to double its manufacturing in the United States by building a new factory in Ohio. This construction would give Ohio the largest solar factory complex in the world outside of China. 

The investment is currently valued at $680 million and marks First Solar’s third factory in the Toledo area. First Solar is the only major manufacturer of solar panels headquartered in the United States. 

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First Solar said it believes “this will be the largest fully integrated solar manufacturing complex in the world — outside of China. It will be capable of making one solar module every 2.8 seconds, and it will primarily supply America’s booming market for clean energy.”

“This investment really helps us position the United States on solid footing to achieve its objectives of energy independence and security – and having US manufacturing enable it,” First Solar CEO Mark Widmar told the media.

This expansion will also work to fulfill the Biden Administration’s goal of cutting US greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030. Ramping up renewable energy sources, like solar power, are key for accomplishing this goal. 

China currently makes most of the materials required for producing photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, and its supply chain has been completely tainted within the past year due to trading issues and allegations of forced labor. 

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“China largely dominates the PV supply chain. But unlike many other major solar manufacturers, we’re not dependent on China. That’s because our thin-film PV panels do not rely on the popular crystalline-silicon technology that is made mostly in China. Renewables created this great promise of liberation and energy independence. But the dominance of the Chinese has taken over this industry. It really undermines the opportunity we created when renewables became reliable,” Widmar explained. 

The new facility in Ohio is projected to be 1.8 million square feet, and would allow First Solar to produce around half of all their solar panels in America. The new facility couldn’t have come at a better time for the nation either, as the solar power capacity in America in 2020 was the highest it’s ever been, and that capacity is set to quadruple by 2030, meaning more of the nation will have the infrastructure required to make solar energy more accessible. 

The biggest concern, according to Widmar, will be finding workers who are experienced in the field and able to come work in Ohio full time. 

“There clearly is a shortage of qualified workers. It is a concern of ours. Due to the constrained labor market, First Solar plans to lean more on automation than it normally does. In addition to robots, First Solar plans to use automated and guided vehicles to move materials. For example, the fork lifts at the new facility will all be automated,” Widmar said.

2020 Presidental Election

Tonight’s Democratic Debate Last Before Voting Begins in Ohio

In what may very well make for one of the most contentious nights of the primary process thus far, six of the country’s top Democrats will share a stage in Des Moines tonight, each debating to convince the American voter that they are the most qualified candidate to beat Donald Trump in November. The debate comes amid multiple, highly consequential stories surrounding the Trump administration; not only is Nancy Pelosi planning to hold a vote to send impeachment managers and the articles of impeachment to the Senate tomorrow, but the president recently made perhaps the most significant foreign policy decision of his presidency by ordering the death of the Iranian general Qasem Suleimani, taking Iran and the United States to the brink of war. 

And as if that weren’t enough, the debate follows accusations that Sanders told Warren in a 2018 meeting that a woman can’t win the presidency, a claim that Sanders vehemently denies as he accused Warren’s staff of lying and contradicted Warren’s retelling of events. Questions about the details of this meeting and the stark divide between the two candidates’ claims on the subject will likely emerge tonight among questions on a bevy of other topics.

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As the primary process has continued, the field of Democrats who qualify for the debate stage has narrowed to just six, including two women and no one of color. Andrew Yang, the only non-white candidate who qualified for the last debate, did not meet the requirements for this one, resulting in a field totally lacking in racial diversity, much to the chagrin of progressive members of the party. Questions concerning racial justice are likely to arise tonight, and while Democrats onstage will surely lament the lack of candidates of color among them, their comments about race are likely to be considered with scrutiny among non-white voters, many of whom are disappointed about the lack of diversity remaining among the front-runners.

Given the questions about the potential for conflict in the Middle East and the country’s desire to avoid war with Iran, Sanders and Biden are likely to butt heads over their differing votes in 2002 about the invasion of Iraq; Biden voted for the attack while Sanders, famously, voted against it. The decision to invade Iraq was based on the false claim that there existed weapons of mass destruction in the region; none were found, and the Iraq war is now largely considered to have been a mistake. Biden has previously defended his decision to vote in favor of the Iraq War, arguing that it was the best decision to make given the information that was available at the time. Sanders has accused the former vice president of having poor judgment in his decision on Iraq before and will likely do so again, and Biden will likely attempt to justify his choice rather than admit a mistake and apologize for it, in keeping with his prior comments on the matter.

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At this relatively-early point in the primary, Biden remains the clear leader, with Sanders gaining momentum thanks to strong poll numbers in Ohio and a massive fundraising haul of $34.5 million last quarter. While Biden consistently polls better than any other candidate, Sanders has perhaps the most loyal and energized coalition of voters, many of whom contributed small-dollar donations to the campaign, allowing for more ad buys, staff, and local organization. Biden’s performances in recent debates have been given mixed reviews, and although he’s consistently been placed center-stage as the unambiguous front-runner, he has failed to make himself the center of attention in past debates, with that honor going to contenders like Senator Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg. 

Given the presence of billionaire Tom Steyer on the debate stage, who has gained popularity by investing his massive personal fortune into his presidential campaign, the question of campaign finance reform is likely to be introduced. The two progressive candidates have made a point of demonstrating that they are not beholden to wealthy donors by refusing to accept their contributions. Sanders has spoken consistently of the importance of not taking money from large corporations, instead relying on small individual contributions, a strategy that has proven financially successful for him, and Warren has called out Buttigieg for meeting with wealthy donors in “wine caves,” a comment that led the former South Bend mayor to accuse her of hypocrisy. Given the fact that former candidate Senator Harris has cited a lack of funds in her decision to drop out of the race, Steyer is likely to be looked at with extra scrutiny tonight as he may be called on to justify the financial aspect of his campaign.