10 Dead From Nipah Virus In Southern India

Indians standing in a line outside a hospital wear masks as a precautionary measure against the Nipah virus at the Government Medical College hospital in Kozhikode, in the southern Indian state of Kerala, on Monday.


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At least 10 deaths in the southern Indian state of Kerala are being blamed on an outbreak of the Nipah virus – a disease thought to be transmitted by bats and other animals.

Kerala Health Minister K.K. Shylaja told reporters Tuesday that two other people are in critical condition from Nipah, which has a mortality rate ranging from 40 to 70 percent. There is no vaccine for the disease, which was first seen in Southeast Asia in 1998.

NDTV reports that the most recent outbreak is believed to have started in a family in Kozhikode on India’s southwest coast.

“Officials say around 94 people have been quarantined inside their homes [and] some nine people are under surveillance in hospitals,” the news organization writes.

NDTV quotes Shylaja as saying that no new cases have been reported in the last 24 hours and that “Of 18 samples tested for the virus, 12 were found positive.”

The U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “Infection with Nipah virus is associated with encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). After exposure and an incubation period of 5 to 14 days, illness presents with 3-14 days of fever and headache, followed by drowsiness, disorientation and mental confusion. These signs and symptoms can progress to coma within 24-48 hours.”

The World Health Organization says Nipah, also known as NiV, “was first identified during an outbreak of disease that took place in Kampung Sungai Nipah, Malaysia in 1998. On this occasion, pigs were the intermediate hosts. However, in subsequent NiV outbreaks, there were no intermediate hosts. In Bangladesh in 2004, humans became infected with NiV as a result of consuming date palm sap that had been contaminated by infected fruit bats. Human-to-human transmission has also been documented, including in a hospital setting in India.”

Accorinding to The Hindu, “G. Arun Kumar of the Manipal Academy of Virus Research, who visited the area on Sunday, said the source of the infection might be the bats found in a well on the house premises of the deceased. They have been captured with the help of veterinary and wildlife experts and sent for detailed tests.”

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Murder Is Minimal In Spooky 'Sabrina'

In Sabrina, his follow-up to 2016’s gangbusters debut Beverly, graphic novelist Nick Drnaso includes a couple of illustrations that define the boundaries of his emotional and artistic territory. One’s at the front, and one’s at the rear.

The book’s frontispiece perfectly encapsulates Drnaso’s Spartan way with a line — a tightly controlled, even miserly approach to composition that seems inspired by how-to manuals or emergency diagrams. It’s a full-page picture of a woman holding up one hand as if to rebuff a phone camera or, perhaps, ward off some sinister perpetrator — there’s no knowing which. That’s because, while it sometimes seems like Drnaso’s characters don’t show any emotion, this woman actually expresses too many feelings. Is she laughing, or grimacing in pain? We’ll never know the answer, although we’ll discover soon enough that sometime after this moment was captured, the woman — Sabrina — was brutally murdered.

But it’s not Sabrina’s death that prompts Drnaso to loosen the iron control with which he doles out handfuls of lines on each page. (No need: this maestro of minimalism manages to convey the horror of senseless murder with nothing but a lumpy sheet and motionless red water in a bathtub.) When he does loosen up, it’s on the back cover, and for no reason whatsoever. Here, Drnaso signs off with a thoroughly unexpected flourish, filling the space with pastel-hued flowers and rich foliage. It’s as if the book’s themes — of death, isolation, purposelessness and fear — have finally worn him out, so that he feels driven to sketch something pretty for succor.

Or maybe the flowery kicker is merely an ironic gesture, an abstraction of the sense of plenitude that all the characters seek. Either is possible in a book like Sabrina. Sabrina herself hardly figures in the story. Drnaso’s tale of the aftermath of her murder is told largely from the perspective of a peripheral figure: Calvin, a lonely military programmer who lends his spare room to Teddy, the dead woman’s grieving boyfriend. “I’m sorry, I don’t really keep food in the house,” Calvin says, ushering his shell-shocked guest through a bare-bones condo. It’s the kind of place Drnaso excels at drawing. The empty walls, vertical blinds and vaguely contemporary furniture come together in a symphony of alienation. It’s only temporary, Calvin insists, until he can join his wife and daughter in Florida — but his plan to move there turns out to be as empty as his refrigerator.

Emptiness demands to be filled, and the two men have different, equally fruitless strategies for filling it. Calvin plays online first-person-shooter games with his coworkers and conducts awkward video chats with his bored daughter. Teddy, after a period of doing nothing whatsoever, starts listening to a conspiracy-theorist radio show. As he becomes more invested in the show, the host’s hysterical fantasies — echoed by thousands of Internet posters — grow to encompass Sabrina’s murder and endanger both men.

Throughout, Drnaso maintains a fine balance between mocking Calvin and empathizing with him — though he leans toward the former. When Calvin takes Teddy out (to a featureless family-style restaurant), Teddy broods. “I am so angry at everybody,” Teddy says, head in his hand. “I didn’t ask for this situation, man. She didn’t do anything to deserve this s***.” “No, of course not,” Calvin replies. “A lot of people are able to turn their grief into something positive. Maybe you’re destined for some kind of job in law enforcement.”

Calvin’s an absurdity — a stereotype of a clueless, lonely man — but he becomes interesting in spite of himself. Surrounded as he is by Drnaso’s rigorously generic environments, it’s only natural that he doesn’t know how to find what his life is lacking. Teddy isn’t as well-realized; he shows up without a story and never really fills in the blanks.

But Sabrina is far more than just a character study. As it becomes more suspenseful it acquires creepy momentum. By the end it’s hard to decide what’s scarier: an army of anonymous weirdos looking for Sabrina’s “real” killer, or an unfillable void at the center of a life.

Etelka Lehoczky has written about books for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and Salon.com. She tweets at @EtelkaL.

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Top Stories: Education Dept. Reviews Grant Program; Venezuela Sanctions

Good morning, here are our early stories:

— Education Department Launches ‘Top-To-Bottom’ Review Of Teachers’ Grant Program.

— President Trump Approves New Sanctions On Venezuela.

— Obamas Sign Deal With Netflix, Form ‘Higher Ground Productions’.

— Australian Archbishop Found Guilty In Cover-Up Of Child Sex Abuse.

— Israel Says F-35s See First-Ever Combat With IDF Over Syria.

And here are more early headlines:

South Korean Leader Visits Trump Today. (CNN)

Facebook Chief To Apologize To European Lawmakers. (New York Times)

Explosions, Ashfall Continue From Hawaii Volcano. (Hawaii News Now)

Deadly Nipah Virus Spreads In India. (BBC)

1st Anniversary Of Deadly Manchester Concert Bombing. (Guardian)

Sony To Buy Most Of Music Publisher, EMI. (Variety)

Florida City Sends “Zombie Alert”. (Miami Herald)

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Israel Says F-35s See First-Ever Combat With IDF Over Syria

The US Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II performs a demonstration flight at Paris Air Show, in Le Bourget, east of Paris, France, last June.

Michel Euler/AP

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Michel Euler/AP

Israel’s air force commander says recent airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria were carried out by the F-35 stealth fighter – the first time the newly fielded warplane has been used in an “operational attack.”

“The F-35 squadron has become an operational squadron,” Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin said Tuesday, according to Haaretz.

“We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East – we might be the first to attack with F-35 in the Middle East,” he said.

“The Adir planes are already operational and flying in operational missions. We are the first in the world to use the F-35 in operational activity”

— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) May 22, 2018

Haaretz reports:

“Norkin presented images of the F-35 over Beirut, Lebanon and said that the stealth fighter did not participate in the last strike in Syria but did in two previous ones.

Norkin also said that Iran fired 32 rockets at Israel during the flare-up across the Syrian border earlier this month. According to Norkin, four rockets were intercepted by Israel, and the rest landed outside of Israeli territory. Speaking at a Herzliya conference, Norkin added that more than 100 surface-to-air missiles were fired at Israeli jets over Syria.”

“After [the Iranian attack] we attacked over 20 Iranian targets in Syria. Unfortunately, the Syrian air defense systems fired over 100 antiaircraft missiles at out planes and in response we destroyed their antiaircraft batteries,” Norkin said.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, known in Israel as “Adir,” or mighty one, is produced in variants for land-based and sea-based operation by U.S.-based Lockheed Martin. The United States has put up the greatest share of development costs and some estimates place the program cost near $1.5 trillion. It is considered the most expensive military weapons system in history.

The air force chief’s comments came amid a bipartisan effort by U.S. lawmakers to stop the sale of the F-35 to Turkey, one of several countries that participated in the aircraft’s development. Congressional critics argue that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government is becoming “increasingly hostile and authoritarian” and might be drawing closer to Russia.

Last month, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., James Lankford, R-Okla., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., introduced a measure to stop the transfer of the F-35A to Turkey.

“Turkey’s strategic decisions regrettably fall more and more out of line with, and at times in contrast to, U.S. interests,” Lankford said in a statement quoted by Military.com. “These factors make the transfer of sensitive F-35 technology and cutting-edge capabilities to Erdogan’s regime increasingly risky.”

Besides Turkey, the U.K., Italy, Australia, Canada, Norway and Denmark have been part of the development consortium for the warplane.

Reuters notes, “Israel was the first country outside the United States to acquire the F-35. In December 2016, it received the first two planes out of an order of 50. According to Israeli media, at least nine have been delivered so far.”

According to The Times of Israel: “The fifth-generation fighter jet has been lauded as a ‘game-changer’ by the Israeli military, not only for its offensive and stealth capabilities, but for its ability to connect its systems with other aircraft and form an information-sharing network.”

Meanwhile, a new report by the House Armed Services Committee raises questions about the ability of the carrier-based version of the plane to meet the range needed by the Navy to strike enemy targets, according to Roll Call.

“While the introduction of the F-35C will significantly expand stealth capabilities, the F-35C could require increased range to address necessary targets,” the report states.

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This Salvadoran Woman Is At The Center Of The Attorney General's Asylum Crackdown

Ms. A.B. is seeking asylum in the U.S. after suffering more than a decade of domestic violence in El Salvador. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has personally intervened in her case.

Kevin D. Liles for NPR

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Kevin D. Liles for NPR

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is stirring panic in immigrant communities by moving to limit who can get asylum in the United States. Perhaps no one is more alarmed than one Salvadoran woman living in the Carolinas.

She is known only by her initials in immigration court papers, so her lawyers call her Ms. A.B. She fled to the U.S. four years ago, after enduring more than a decade of domestic abuse in her home country, and requested asylum here.

Now Sessions has personally intervened in her case, questioning whether she and other crime victims deserve protection and a path to American citizenship. The attorney general has been highly critical of the asylum system in recent months.

“I have no doubt that many of those crossing our border illegally are leaving behind difficult situations,” Sessions said at a news conference in San Diego earlier this month. “But we cannot take everyone on this planet who is in a difficult situation.”

Immigration attorneys across the country are watching Ms. A.B.’s case closely. They worry that Sessions is trying to roll back years of case law that expanded who gets asylum in the U.S. — and that he’s using her asylum petition to do it.

Ms. A.B. is speaking out publicly for the first time, in an interview with NPR. She asked that we not use her full name or say exactly where she is living because she is still afraid her ex-husband might find her.

“In El Salvador,” she said in Spanish through an interpreter, “there’s no protection for women. Anyone who’s been there knows this.”

Ms. A.B. said she had heard Sessions’ name on the news. But she didn’t really know who he was until he picked her case to review. Since then, she has learned a lot more about the attorney general.

She knows that he oversees the nation’s immigration courts. That he has the power to intervene in individual cases, and to set precedent that can affect all asylum-seekers. And that, for some reason, he has singled out her case from the thousands of asylum claims filed every year.

“He beat me a lot”

We met Ms. A.B at a double-wide trailer framed by tall pine trees. She shares the house with another immigrant from El Salvador, the only person she knew in the U.S. before she moved here.

They’ve made their backyard into a little corner of El Salvador. There’s an outdoor shelter called a champa, with hammocks and a fire pit. Chickens roam free around a henhouse. She says it all reminds her of the homeland she fled to get away from her abusive ex-husband.

Ms. A.B. and her housemate have made their home into a little corner of El Salvador. She says it all reminds her of the homeland she fled to get away from her abusive ex-husband.

Kevin D. Liles for NPR

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Kevin D. Liles for NPR

“The violence started around 1999,” Ms. A.B. said. He hit her with beer bottles, she said, and held a gun to her head.

“I remember when I was pregnant with my second child, he beat me a lot,” she said, fighting back tears. “He threatened to hang me from the roof. And I got down and covered my stomach, and he started kicking me in the back.”

When her children were older, Ms. A.B. moved to another part of El Salvador. But her husband found her, she says, and raped her.

“El Salvador is a small place,” she said. “I used to go to the police, but they didn’t do anything.”

Finally, Ms. A.B. traveled north, crossing the border illegally into Texas. She has been allowed to stay in the U.S. while her asylum case is pending.

Ms. A.B.’s case wound up before immigration Judge V. Stuart Couch in North Carolina, who has become well-known for rejecting the vast majority of asylum claims he hears. Couch wrote that the abuse Ms. A.B. described seemed “criminal” but decided that wasn’t enough to give her asylum.

She appealed, and won. Still, the North Carolina judge hasn’t granted her asylum. And now Sessions is intervening.

It’s not clear why Sessions picked Ms. A.B.’s case. The Justice Department declined to comment.

But critics say it’s clear Sessions wants to curtail asylum as part of the Trump administration’s broader immigration crackdown.

“It’s a blind spot about women, and women’s human rights,” said Karen Musalo, Ms. A.B.’s lawyer, who directs the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at the University of California Hastings College of the Law. “And kind of a fundamental misunderstanding about what human rights means.”

Ms. A.B. has been allowed to stay in the U.S. for four years while her case is pending. She requested that NPR identify her only by her initials because she is afraid her ex-husband might find her.

Kevin D. Liles for NPR

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Kevin D. Liles for NPR

Who should get asylum

Ms. A.B.’s case is the latest turn in a long-running debate over who should get asylum in the United States. Over more than a half-century, immigration lawyers pushed to expand the boundaries.

To understand how the U.S. asylum system works, you have to go all the way back to World War II.

Millions of people were displaced after the war, including Jews who fled the Holocaust and political outcasts who escaped from behind the Iron Curtain. Many of those refugees couldn’t return home. So European diplomats gathered in Geneva in 1951 to figure out how to help them — and to establish an international framework for future refugees.

“There was certainly a very strong humanitarian impulse behind it,” said David Martin, a former U.S. immigration official and a professor emeritus at the University of Virginia School of Law. “But the drafters of the treaty said, we don’t want to write a blank check.”

The delegates in Geneva agreed that asylum should be reserved for people facing persecution based on race, religion, nationality or political opinion. Then, at the last minute, Martin says, a delegate from the Netherlands suggested one more factor: membership in a “particular social group.”

“He was concerned that some victims might not fall within the four factors that already were listed,” Martin said. “And that’s about all we know about it. No real guidance as to who would be included.”

So “particular social group” was open to interpretation. And that would turn out to be important when the United States and other countries adopted this legal framework decades later.

Over the years, immigration lawyers in the U.S. have argued that all sorts of people deserve asylum as persecuted members of a “particular social group.”

“There was a beginning of a shift, and a new awareness that women could get asylum, and that rape was a form of harm that constituted persecution,” said Deborah Anker, a professor at Harvard Law School and the founding director of the Harvard Immigration Refugee Clinical program.

One of the landmark cases concerned the asylum claim of a woman from Guatemala named Rody Alvarado. She says her husband beat her repeatedly for a decade.

“It was a form of torture,” Alvarado said in Spanish through an interpreter. “It was a matter of life and death. If I stayed, he would have killed me.”

After suffering 10 years of violent abuse at the hands of her husband, Rody Alvarado fled her native Guatemala in 1995 and applied for asylum in the U.S. It took a 14-year battle with federal officials over whether domestic violence qualifies for refugee status for Alvarado’s application to be granted, in 2009.

Eric Risberg/AP

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Eric Risberg/AP

Alvarado fled to the U.S. in 1995 and applied for asylum in U.S. immigration court. Initially, she won her case, but the government appealed. That’s when Alvarado started working with Musalo, the same lawyer who represents Ms. A.B. today.

“You know this is clearly a situation deserving of protection,” Musalo said, “when you have someone who beats you unconscious, who throws machetes across the room at you. When you have someone who wakes you up in the middle of the night with a knife at your throat, and tells you that he can kill you, and nobody would care. And then when you go to the police repeatedly and they laugh at you, and you go to the court and the court takes no action.”

Musalo has argued in both cases that these women deserve asylum because they’ve been persecuted by their husbands and ignored by their own governments.

At first, some courts rejected this theory. In Alvarado’s case, a panel of 15 judges agreed that the abuse she had suffered was brutal. But they ruled the system of asylum was not intended to protect survivors of domestic violence.

“It’s a grave, pervasive, chronic international problem. But this is the wrong tool to solve that problem,” said Michael Hethmon, a lawyer at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, which favors lower levels of immigration.

While Musalo and other lawyers argued that survivors of domestic violence and other sexual and gender-based crimes deserve asylum protections, Hethmon was on the other side, writing briefs of his own.

“Asylum was never designed to deal with those problems,” Hethmon said. “Asylum is not some sort of global make-a-wish foundation.”

But Musalo and other immigrants’ rights lawyers didn’t give up. They kept returning to the phrase “particular social group” and insisting that domestic violence survivors do fall into that category.

Gradually, that argument won out. And over the years, immigration lawyers have successfully argued for an even more expansive interpretation of asylum law — one that provides protection for women fleeing female genital mutilation, and people facing persecution for being gay or transgender.

For a while, the law seemed settled.

Sessions steps in

Last fall, Sessions gave a speech in Falls Church, Va., at the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees the nation’s immigration judges. And Sessions made clear that he favors a strict interpretation of the language crafted at the 1951 Refugee Convention.

“Our asylum laws are meant to protect those who because of characteristics like race, religion, nationality, or political opinions cannot find protection in their home countries,” he said. “That’s what it’s for. They were never intended to provide asylum to all those who fear generalized violence, crime, personal vendettas, or lack of job prospects. Yet vague, insubstantial, and subjective claims have swamped our system.”

Sessions and other immigration hard-liners point to a sharp increase in asylum claims over the past decade.

“We’re concerned about too many people getting asylum,” said Jan Ting, a former immigration official who teaches at Temple University Beasley School of Law.

“I think it’s a legitimate question to ask,” Ting said. “Wait a minute, do we really want to say everyone who has experienced violence at the hands of a domestic partner is entitled to asylum in the United States?”

But immigrant advocates say that’s an oversimplification. They say these claims are still difficult to win, because asylum-seekers must demonstrate that the abuse rises to the level of persecution and that the governments in their home countries can’t or won’t help.

If there is an increase in asylum claims from the “Northern Triangle” countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, Musalo argues, it’s because women are trying to escape a region where the United Nations has raised concerns about high levels of violence against women and children.

“These are three countries that have the highest homicide rates in the world and the highest femicide rates in the world, and high levels of violence and killings of children and adolescents,” said Musalo.

“It took us a long struggle to finally get it accepted” that survivors of domestic violence can get asylum, Musalo said. “And it’s concerning that this attorney general wants to revisit that.”

Relief for Rody Alvarado

No matter what happens, Alvarado can stay in the U.S. She was granted asylum in 2009 — 14 years after filing her initial petition.

“I felt an immense happiness,” she said. “I felt, far far away from that world of suffering.”

Alvarado became a U.S. citizen last year. Her story has become an inspiration for other women, women like Ms. A.B., whose own asylum claim is now in doubt.

A Bible and other religious symbols sit on a table inside Ms. A.B.’s home.

Kevin D. Liles for NPR

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Kevin D. Liles for NPR

“I was very confused, very sad,” Ms. A.B. said, because Judge Couch has continued to deny her asylum claim, insisting she doesn’t qualify even after she won her appeal. “I felt like they are playing with me,” she said. “Like I’m a child who was given candy, only to have it taken away.”

Now her case is in the hands of Sessions. And what he decides could have big implications — not just for Ms. A.B., but for thousands of other asylum-seekers, too.

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Nothing Certain In Search For 'Regulatory Certainty' At EPA

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt announcing his decision in April to scrap Obama administration fuel economy standards.

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Andrew Harnik/AP

As Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt has moved to roll back a sweeping array of Obama-era regulations he’s relentlessly cited his goal of providing “regulatory certainty.”

In his first address to career employees last year he told the gathered room at the EPA, “Regulators exist to give certainty to those that they regulate. Those that we regulate ought to know what we expect of them, so that they can plan and allocate resources to comply.”

He’s cited this in his efforts to delay, repeal or roll back the Clean Power Plan, the Waters of the U.S. Rule, and a string of other measures.

But some argue that many of his actions as EPA administrator are having the opposite effect, and that they could be setting a troublesome precedent going forward.

With so many regulations now in limbo, farmers, agriculturalists and others who are regulated by the EPA are “in a state of sort of perpetual uncertainty,” says Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union.

Auto industry facing uncertainty

The most glaring example of an industry where the regulatory environment has become muddier is the auto industry.

Pruitt recently announced an effort to review and revise car emissions standards for the nation’s automobiles.

Those federal standards were set under the Obama Administration with the goal of cutting tailpipe emissions, a major contributor to climate change. They were an agreement, of sorts, between federal regulators, auto manufacturers and the state of California, which has the legal authority to set its own air standards. And California doesn’t want the national standards to change.

The state has vowed to keep its own stricter standards in place, joining with 16 other states to sue the EPA over the proposed change.

The conflict is worrisome to automakers because it raises the possibility of a split in the U.S. auto market.

“Having one national standard is immensely important to the auto industry,” says Kristin Dziczek, vice president for industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research.

Car makers don’t want to have to develop and design one type of automobile for California and another for Texas – especially when they’re already competing in a global market.

The Trump Administration has been meeting with automakers and wants to negotiate with California to find a middle-ground, but it could take years to resolve.

“The difficult part of all of this is the timelines for engineering and designing and producing new engine programs, new transmission programs, new vehicles – that takes years, sometimes a decade,” Dziczek says.

In other words, automakers need to know what the rules are now, so they can plan accordingly.

“I don’t think it’s a well thought out [plan] that deals with the realities of the industry,” says Sandra Rothenberg, a professor at Rochester Institute of Technology. “This is, I think, something to just get a lot of publicity and make it seem like they’re cracking down on what Obama did.”

Throwing ‘everything up in the air’

Pruitt has moved to delay, block or reform roughly two dozen environmental regulations at the EPA, according to records kept by Harvard Law School’s Environmental Regulation Rollback Tracker.

Many of those efforts have been praised by industry groups. But even some who wanted change are disappointed in what they’ve seen so far.

Johnson, of the National Farmers Union, says he and many others in the agriculture industry wanted to see the Trump Administration repeal and revise Obama’s Waters of the U.S. Rule.

That rule, which aimed to clearly define which waters the EPA can regulate, took the Obama Administration years to create. The goal was to provide needed clarity under the Clean Water Act, Johnson says, but it came up short.

Pruitt has delayed the rule’s implementation for two years and begun the process of rewriting, but it could take years to complete.

Had a productive discussion with @NAFB on a variety of agriculture issues we’re working on—including WOTUS & RFS—as we seek to provide regulatory certainty to America’s first environmentalists: farmers & ranchers. Thanks to @USDA for hosting. pic.twitter.com/D4rs7HBhE9

— Administrator Pruitt (@EPAScottPruitt) April 24, 2018

In the meantime, Johnson says, “The spot we’re in right now is right back to where we were before that rule was even proposed.”

Supporters argue that there’s inherent uncertainty – at least in the short-term – during any regulatory change, especially when there are lawsuits involved.

“It’s going to take some time,” says Ellen Steen, general counsel for the American Farm Bureau Federation. “But I think it’s achievable to have a final rule out in this administration.”

Others aren’t as sure.

EPA employees point out that making lasting regulatory change can be an arduous, years-long process. Still, Pruitt has seen early legal setbacks on several actions.

“I think a lot of people have been struck by the real thinness of the proposals coming out of the agency,” says Lisa Heinzerling, who served at the EPA under Obama. She says Pruitt’s proposal to change fuel economy standards was just 38 pages long, while the Obama administration’s justification for them was more than a thousand pages.

The tenuousness of Pruitt’s position doesn’t help either. There are at least a dozen investigations into his ethics and spending at EPA. And while supporters of his regulatory agenda are confident that the controversies aren’t slowing his efforts, they’re certainly not helping.

“What he’s done is plunged the agency and regulated industry and the public into chaos,” says Heinzerling. “[He’s] thrown everything up in the air, delayed everything across the court, lost a bunch in court and then gone ahead with his agenda, which leaves, I think, nobody certain about what’s to come.”

Troubling long view on certainty

Regardless of Pruitt’s effectiveness in rewriting or rolling back environmental regulations, there’s a broader concern about the precedent he may be setting.

The Trump Administration has tried to undo much of what was put in place by the previous administration. In fact, Gina McCarthy, who headed the EPA under Obama, says that seems to be one of Pruitt’s top priorities.

“I don’t want every administration to come in and think that their only job is to undo the one that happened before,” she says. “We cannot have constant changes to the signals we send to business and the public in the United States about what we should be doing to protect public health and the environment.”

McCarthy certainly trumpeted ‘regulatory certainty’ during her time at EPA, and says administrations normally tweak regulations, build off them or change them. But she says it’s highly unusual to try to throw out everything a predecessor put in place.

Others worry that wide policy swings may become the new norm, given the divided state of the nation’s politics.

“Knowing what the rules are, and that they don’t change that often, strikes me as something we all should agree to,” says Peter Van Doren, who specializes in regulation at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank. “But it appears that both sides want to gin up their bases to scream and fight and give money and holler.”

Longer-term certainty could be achieved through legislation, Van Doren says, but Congress can’t seem to agree on much of anything these days. So he and others say they expect different administrations to come in and set the regulatory agenda.

“In this environment where [priorities] can change every four to eight years, that’s probably the reality,” Dziczek says. “That regulatory certainty lasts as long as the administration lasts.”

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