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Chile takes an important step in creating Tic-Toc Marine Park
In December, the Chilean Council of Ministers for Sustainability voted to approve creating the 251,800-acre Tic-Toc Golfo Corcovado Marine Park in the Los Lagos region of Chilean Patagonia. The area is rich in biological diversity and known for its abundance of blue, humpback, and pilot whales; Chilean and Austral dolphins; and other vulnerable species. The park’s final approval is in the hands of the president; from there it will head to the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic. The board’s action marks a significant step forward for Pew’s Chilean Patagonia project’s objective to establish marine protections that will safeguard ecologically rich coastal waters in the Patagonia region.
Diagnostic test oversight preserved
In November, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services helped ensure that the Food and Drug Administration has the ability to protect patients from unsafe laboratory-developed tests. To do so, HHS reversed a 2020 policy that had prevented FDA from requiring a premarket quality check for such tests. These diagnostic tools analyze blood, saliva, and other human samples to test for diseases and illnesses, including COVID-19. Pew’s health care products project—which published the report “The Role of Lab-Developed Tests in the In Vitro Diagnostics Market”—had advocated for this policy reversal in support of the goal of adequate safety oversight for all diagnostic tests, no matter where they are developed.
International Seabed Authority expands mining limits in the Pacific
In December, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) issued a decision that would prohibit mining in about 200,000 square miles across four areas in the Pacific Ocean’s 1.7 million-square-mile Clarion-Clipperton Zone, which stretches from Hawaii to Mexico. The action means that if the ISA approves regulations being developed that would allow seabed mining to begin in international waters, these four areas would be part of more than 760,000 square miles that would be off-limits. The decision also sets an important benchmark for excluding other swaths of valuable habitat from mining and advances Pew’s seabed mining project’s efforts to prevent mineral extraction on the ocean floor unless and until effective environmental regulations are in place that ensure that deep-sea ecosystems will not be harmed.
America’s largest banks make major overdraft changes that will help consumers
Five of the country’s largest banks—Bank of America, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, Truist, and Regions Bank—recently announced that they would eliminate and/or reduce fees for several products that had been functioning as high-cost small-dollar loans, saving consumers hundreds of millions of dollars annually. In the case of Bank of America, Pew’s consumer finance project estimates that these changes will save low- and moderate-income households more than $800 million annually, especially benefiting Black and Hispanic customers, who pay a disproportionate share of overdraft fees. The Bank of America changes come a year after the bank had launched a safe small-installment loan that met Pew’s published standards, enabling the bank to provide liquidity to customers without harmful penalty fees. Wells Fargo, Truist, and Regions Bank announced that, on top of fee changes, they will launch small-installment loans or small-dollar lines of credit. The developments mark progress toward the project’s goal of expanding affordable small loans from banks while curtailing harmful forms of small credit.
Marine conservation expands in waters around Ecuador, Costa Rica
The presidents of Ecuador and Costa Rica recently issued decrees that will protect more migratory waters for vulnerable marine species. In Ecuador, President Guillermo Lasso’s measure will expand the Galápagos Marine Reserve by 23,000 square miles, increasing its size to nearly 75,000 square miles. When finalized, the enhanced protection will include 11,500 square miles of no-take area along the reserve’s Galápagos-Cocos Ridge, an important part of the swimway between Ecuador and Costa Rica for highly migratory species such as hammerhead sharks, silky sharks, and leatherback and green sea turtles. Costa Rica President Carlos Alvarado Quesada’s decree will expand the Cocos Island National Park from 785 square miles to more than 21,000 square miles and the Seamounts Marine Management Area from 3,700 square miles to roughly 41,000 square miles. The Costa Rica and Ecuador directives will safeguard marine life through a network of large-scale protected areas in the Eastern Tropical Pacific region and will mark an important milestone for the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project, the Blue Nature Alliance, and other partners.
Invigorating Civic Life
Report released on rental code enforcement in Philadelphia
In November, the Philadelphia research and policy initiative released “Rental Code Enforcement in Philadelphia,” a report examining how Philadelphia enforces building code standards among rental properties. Unlike some other cities, Philadelphia has no program for regularly inspecting rental properties, with officials responding only to formal complaints. In December, Pew hosted a virtual convening featuring the report as well as information on health impact assessments, which encourage policymakers to incorporate health considerations into policy decisions across multiple sectors, including housing. Nearly 50 people attended, including housing advocates and developers, city administration officials, City Council staff, and representatives of health care organizations.
Pew hosts convening on stigma as a barrier to addressing the opioid epidemic in Philadelphia
Panelists at a Pew-hosted meeting in December addressed the complexities of stigma associated with opioid use disorder. Stigma is viewed as a significant barrier to successful recovery and quality of and access to care, and Philadelphia policymakers have cited it as an ongoing challenge in addressing the city’s opioid epidemic. Panelists recommended health care systems changes, including increasing the ease of access to treatment for those with opioid use disorder and simpler referral processes from emergency room and primary care physicians to in- and outpatient facilities. The panelists also suggested that clinicians emphasize positive reinforcement and reward adherence to treatment plans rather than stress the negative consequences of noncompliance. The convening included 85 attendees from hospitals, nonprofit health care providers and advocates, and city administration officials as well as other suburban government officials.
Pew Fellows in the Arts make best-of list
Plays from two Pew Fellows in the Arts were highlighted in The New York Times’ roundup of the “Best Theater of 2021.” James Ijames’ (2015 fellow) “Fat Ham,” presented online by Philadelphia’s Wilma Theater, was lauded as a streaming theater highlight. In addition, Tina Satter’s (2019 fellow-in-residence) “Is This a Room” on Broadway was named as one of the best live productions of the year.
Informing the Public
Americans share views on suffering, philosophical questions
The Pew Research Center released in November a report examining Americans’ views on why suffering exists in the world and other significant philosophical questions. The study finds that “sometimes bad things just happen” reflects Americans’ thinking either very well (44%) or somewhat well (42%). Yet it is also quite common for Americans to feel that suffering does not happen in vain. More than half of U.S. adults (61%) think that suffering exists “to provide an opportunity for people to come out stronger.” Many Americans lay some blame for the suffering that occurs in the world at the feet of individuals and societal institutions. Roughly 7 in 10 adults (71%) say the phrase “suffering is mostly a consequence of people’s own actions” aligns at least somewhat well with their views. A similar share of all adults (69%) express support for the statement “suffering is mostly a result of the way society is structured.”
Black immigrants are a growing percentage of the United States’ Black population
A Pew Research Center report released in January found that 1 in 10 Black people in the U.S., or roughly 4.6 million, are immigrants. Between 1980 and 2019, the nation’s Black population grew by 20 million, with the Black foreign-born population accounting for 19% of this growth. The Black immigrant population will account for roughly a third of the U.S. Black population’s growth through 2060, according to the Center’s analysis of Census Bureau data. The Black immigrant population is projected to grow by 90% between 2020 and 2060, while the U.S.-born population is expected to grow 29% over the same time span. Migration from Africa has fueled the bulk of the growth of the Black foreign-born population since 2000. In that year, roughly 560,000 African-born Black immigrants lived in the U.S. By 2019, that number had more than tripled to over 1.9 million. And many of these immigrants are newer arrivals to America: 43% of African-born Black immigrants immigrated to the U.S. from 2010 to 2019, higher than the shares among all U.S. immigrants (25%) and Black immigrants from the Caribbean (21%), Central America (18%), and South America (24%) in the same time period.
Sharp partisan divisions—and divergence within political parties—remain, analysis shows
The Pew Research Center published in November its eighth political typology, an analysis that sorts the American public into nine distinct groups based on their political values and attitudes. The study highlights that, even at a time of deep partisan polarization, the gulf that separates Republicans and Democrats sometimes obscures the divisions and diversity of views that exist within both partisan coalitions and that many Americans do not fit easily into either one. Republicans are divided on some principles long associated with the GOP, including an affinity for businesses and corporations, support for low taxes, and opposition to abortion. Democrats also face substantial internal differences, such as on the importance of religion in society.
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