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The Gas-Stove Debate in America’s Silly Politics

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Occasionally, a news item comes around that seems to perfectly exemplify the most knee-jerk tendencies of both of America’s two main political parties—a moment when, without really considering any of the underlying issues, partisans immediately harden into familiar postures and begin emitting lots of hot air.

Hot air, in the most recent example, is not just a figure of speech. At issue is the future of gas stoves. In December, scientists published a study finding that ranges that burn natural gas account for almost 13 percent of childhood-asthma cases in the United States. Some advocates in both the public-health and environmental spheres have long argued against gas stoves, saying the pollution they emit makes them inferior to other options, such as electric or induction ranges. The eye-popping asthma statistic breathed new life into the debate.

Then, in an interview with Bloomberg, a member of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, an independent federal agency that regulates some products and oversees recalls, suggested that the body might prohibit gas stoves altogether. “This is a hidden hazard. Any option is on the table. Products that can’t be made safe can be banned,” said Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. (If the name seems familiar, that’s because his father, Richard Trumka Sr., was head of the AFL-CIO and a mainstay of Democratic politics until his death in 2021.)

Trumka’s suggestion is a steep escalation. Policy makers have sought ways to encourage Americans to switch away from gas, including a rebate of as much as $840 on new electric stoves that was included in last year’s Inflation Reduction Act. Members of Congress have also written to the CPSC suggesting stricter rules about gas stoves. But an outright ban is a very different kind of regulatory approach. Besides, the foundation for such a ban is still shaky: As the economist Emily Oster wrote, reviewing the new study, the data show that gas stoves aren’t great for health (yours, your children’s, or the planet’s), but they probably don’t substantiate the huge share of asthma cases claimed.

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Leaping to a ban over other potentially effective and less coercive approaches, and doing so on the basis of relatively ambiguous data, feels like a stereotype of a certain kind of 21st-century progressivism: If we believe in science—and of course we do!—the federal government must institute a ban.

Thankfully, this self-caricature was met with calm and graceful dismissiveness on the right. Ha, just kidding! Trumka’s remark set off a paroxysm of agitation among conservatives. One National Review writer warned, “Biden Administration Considers Banning Gas Stoves Over Health Concerns,” which is true in the sense that a single appointee in the administration discussed it. Fox News alone flooded the zone with pro-gas venting: An anguished restaurateur poured out his woes on Tucker Carlson’s show; a CPSC spokesperson’s limp deflection earned its own write-up; Fox Business carried a barely reworked press release on the topic from a very neutral observer, the American Gas Association; and, naturally, a story involving Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez getting flamed on Twitter was a must. (Other coverage was more insightful: Charles C. W. Cooke wryly noted a potential policy case for banning electric stoves.)

The reflex to position gas stoves as the last redoubt of traditional American life, threatened by big government, is just as stereotypical of the contemporary American right as the impulse to instate a ban is of the American left. “If the maniacs in the White House come for my stove, they can pry it from my cold dead hands,” Representative Ronny Jackson of Texas tweeted, echoing a famous Second Amendment–rights slogan. The sense of persecution is familiar from past freak-outs such as Michele Bachmann’s effort to build a political career around preserving incandescent light bulbs.

Cooking styles are deeply personal. As the sort of person who was very precious about my gas stove until I bought a house with an induction one, I am prepared to say that many people are too precious about gas stoves. But these sorts of feelings can lead to the conversation becoming, shall we say, a bit overheated.

That’s especially the case because Trumka seems to have been speaking out of turn. The CPSC’s chair issued a statement yesterday saying that although research “indicates that emissions from gas stoves can be hazardous, and the CPSC is looking for ways to reduce related indoor air quality hazards,” he is “not looking to ban gas stoves and the CPSC has no proceeding to do so.” The White House also said that President Joe Biden does not support banning the stoves.

Do not mourn the quick passage of this charming episode too deeply, though. A new topic is sure to spark a similar partisan food fight before long, even if this one was a mere flash in the pan.

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Petr Pavel: Polyglot, war hero, and the new Czech president – Euronews

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Ex-general Petr Pavel has won another gritty campaign — this time at the ballot box.

The bearded 61-year-old, a decorated veteran who took part in a high-stakes peacekeeping mission in the Balkans and represented his country as a top-tier NATO general, was voted Czech president on Saturday, beating billionaire ex-prime minister Andrej Babiš.

With the ballots from 97% of almost 15,000 polling stations counted by the Czech Statistics Office, Pavel had 57.8% of the vote compared with 42.2% for Babiš.

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Though Czech presidents wield little day-to-day power, Pavel will have influence over foreign policy and government opinion, as well as the power to appoint prime ministers, constitutional judges and central bankers.

True to his military past, he has vowed to bring “order” to the Czech Republic, a 10 million-strong EU and NATO member, hammered by record inflation and economic turmoil due to the Ukraine war.

“I can’t ignore the fact that people here increasingly feel chaos, disorder and uncertainty. That the state has somehow ceased to function,” Pavel said on his campaign website.

“We need to change this,” he added. “We need to play by the rules, which will be valid for everyone alike. We need a general sweep.”

From Communist to war hero

Following in his father’s footsteps, Pavel underwent a military education in former Czechoslovakia, which was then ruled by Moscow-backed communists.

He joined the Communist Party, like his billionaire rival Babiš, and soon rose through the army ranks, studying to become an intelligence agent for the oppressive regime.

Critics fault him for his communist past, though Pavel has defended himself by saying party membership was “normal” in his family and called it a “mistake”.

When the Iron Curtain crumbled in 1989, Pavel chucked out his party ID but went ahead with the intelligence course.

Amid the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Pavel — trained as an elite paratrooper and holding the rank of Lieutenant Colonel at the time — helped evacuate French troops stuck in the midst of combat between Croats and ethnic Serb paramilitaries in Croatia, earning him the French Military Cross for bravery.

“We got into several tense situations and he always managed them with deliberation and calm,” said retired Czech general Aleš Opata, who served with Pavel.

He later studied at military training schools in Britain, gaining a master’s from King’s College London.

After his country joined NATO in 1999, Pavel soon climbed through the alliance’s ranks, becoming its top military official in 2015. 

With a chest full of decorations, he retired in 2018.

What are his political views?

Pavel ran as an independent and was the strongest of the three candidates backed by the liberal-conservative coalition SPOLU of now-former President Miloš Zeman.

He has argued for better redistribution of wealth and greater taxation of the rich while also supporting progressive policies on issues such as same-sex marriage and euthanasia.

Positioning himself as a counterweight to populism, Pavel anchors the Czech Republic in NATO and wants to align his country with the European Union.

“The main issue at stake is whether chaos and populism will continue to rein or we return to observing rules… and we will be a reliable country for our allies,” he said after narrowly winning the first election round.

A staunch supporter of Ukraine, Pavel’s political rivals have alleged he would drag the country into a war with Russia.

“I know what war is about and I certainly don’t wish it on anyone,” said Pavel. “The first thing I would do is try to keep the country as far away from war as possible.”

Often sporting jeans and a leather jacket, Pavel is a polyglot, speaking Czech, English, French and Russian, and loves motorcycling.

He holds a concealed weapon licence, allowing him to carry a firearm, and he is married to a fellow soldier, Eva Pavlová.

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Canadian and American Politics

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THIS SURVEY EXPLORES CANADIANS’ AND AMERICANS’ PERSPECTIVES ON CANADIAN AND AMERICAN POLITICS.

Our latest North American Tracker explores Canadians’ and Americans’ perspectives on Canadian and American politics.

It examines Canadians’ federal voting intentions and Americans’ approval of President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris.

Download the report for the full results.

This survey was conducted in collaboration with the Association for Canadian Studies (ACS) and published in the Canadian Press. This series of surveys is available on Leger’s website.

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CANADIAN POLITICS

  • The Conservatives and Liberals are tied: if a federal election were held today, 34% of Canadian decided voters would vote for Pierre Poilievre’s CPC and the same proportion would vote for Justin Trudeau’s LPC.

AMERICAN POLITICS

  • 42% of Americans approve of the way Joe Biden is handling his job as president.
  • 40% of Americans approve of the way Kamala Harris is handling her job as vice-president.

METHODOLOGY

This web survey was conducted from January 20 to 22, 2023, with 1,554 Canadians and 1,005 Americans, 18 years of age or older, randomly recruited from LEO’s online panel.

A margin of error cannot be associated with a non-probability sample in a panel survey. For comparison, a probability sample of 1,554 respondents would have a margin of error of ±2.49%, 19 times out of 20, while a probability sample of 1,005 respondents would have a margin of error of ±3.09%, 19 times out of 20.

THIS REPORT CONTAINS THE RESULTS FOR THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS AND MORE!

  • If federal elections were held today, for which political party would you be most likely to vote?  Would it be for…?
  • Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the way Joe Biden is handling his job as president?
  • Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the way Kamala Harris is handling her job as vice president?​
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Legault won’t celebrate 25 years in politics

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Premier François Legault does not intend to celebrate his 25-year political career this year.

He became Minister of Industry in Lucien Bouchard’s PQ government on Sept. 23, 1998, but was elected on Nov. 30 of the same year as the representative for L’Assomption, the riding in which he is still a member.

In a news conference on Friday at the end of a caucus meeting of his party’s elected officials in a Laval hotel, the CAQ leader said that neither he nor his party had any intention of celebrating this anniversary.

“I don’t like these things,” he said.

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He pointed out that he is still younger than the former dean of the National Assembly, François Gendron. And smiling, he alluded to the U.S. President.

“I’m quite a bit younger than Mr. Biden, apart from that!” he said.

Legault is 65 years old, while the President is 80.

However, Legault is now the dean of the House. According to recent data, he has served as an elected official for 20 years, 6 months, and 27 days so far.

The premier was quick to add, however, that he has taken a break from politics.

He resigned on June 24, 2009 as a member of the Parti Québécois (PQ), then in opposition. But he was elected as an MNA and leader of the then-new Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) on Sept. 4, 2012.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Jan. 27, 2023.

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