1/ Increases in wildfire smoke have reversed two decades of improvements to air quality in three-quarters of all U.S. states. New research shows that from 2000 to 2022, “wildfires have undone 25% of previous progress” that resulted from the Clean Air Act of 1963. A noticeable shift in the overall trend began in 2015 with wildfire smoke having a statistically significant effect on PM 2.5 – very small particles that can travel into the lungs and bloodstream – trends in 35 out of 48 continental states. Some states have rolled back 50% or more of their progress since 2000, while others have completely erased their gains. More than two billion people globally were exposed to a day or more of wildfire-related air pollution each year between 2010 and 2019. (NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post)
2/ Biden announced the first-ever “American Climate Corps,” an initiative to train more than 20,000 young people for jobs in clean energy and climate resilience. Modeled on the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps – which put millions to work during the Great Depression – the American Climate Corps provide young people with skills to work in wind and solar production and installation, disaster preparedness, forest management, coastal restoration, and land conservation. All participants in the program will be paid, and most positions will not require previous experience. “This is important because we’re not only opening up pathways to bold climate action, we’re not just opening up pathways to decarbonization, we’re opening up pathways to good paying careers, lifetimes of being involved in the work of making our communities more sustainable, more fair, more resilient in the face of a changing climate,” White House climate policy adviser Ali Zaidi said. (NPR / NBC News / New York Times / Bloomberg / Washington Post / CNN / CBS News / Axios)
3/ The Biden administration will resume offering free at-home Covid-19 tests through the mail. Starting next week, Americans can order four free tests from COVIDTests.gov. Covid-19 hospitalizations have surpassed 20,000 for the first time since mid-March, but remain far below the 2021-22 omicron peak of 150,674. (ABC News / Axios / CNBC / New York Times)
4/ The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged at a level between 5.25 and 5.5% – the highest level in 22 years. Fed officials, however, indicated that they expect to raise rates one more time this year, but with fewer rate cuts in 2024 and 2025 than previously estimated. They now expect to cut the federal funds rate to 5.1% by the end of 2024, 3.9% by the end of 2025, and 2.9% at the end of 2026. The central bank has raised rates 11 times in the last 18 months – the most aggressive series of rate hikes since the early 1980s. Inflation, meanwhile, has eased significantly since peaking at 9.1% last summer, but remains more than a percentage point higher than the Federal Reserve’s 2% target. (Wall Street Journal / NPR / Bloomberg / Axios / CNBC / New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / ABC News)
5/ Attorney General Merrick Garland defended the Justice Department’s independence during a House Judiciary Committee hearing, where Republicans accused him of the “weaponization” of the department’s work to favor Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. “I am not the president’s lawyer,” Garland said. “I will add I am not Congress’ prosecutor. The Justice Department works for the American people.” Garland repeatedly pushed back against House Republicans accusations that he was “slow walking” the Hunter Biden prosecution on tax and gun charges, compared to his department’s two cases against Trump for alleged mishandling of classified documents and efforts to overturn the 2020 election. “Our job is not to do what is politically convenient,” Garland said. “Our job is not to take orders from the president, from Congress, or from anyone else, about who or what to criminally investigate.” (Axios / Associated Press / Politico / New York Times / NBC News / ABC News / CNN / CNBC / Washington Post)
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