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Climate change = ‘roller coaster’ mercury levels; medical marijuana value questioned; reverse mortgages hurt some poor homeowners; WI probation and parole study dropped

Of note: This week we highlight a story by Wisconsin Public Radio’s Sarah Whites-Koditschek, the Mike Simonson Memorial Investigative Reporting Fellow who is embedded in the Wisconsin Watch newsroom. Whites-Koditschek writes about the findings of Wisconsin researchers that climate change is moving Wisconsin lake levels up and down, raising and lowering mercury levels in fish. This variation makes it hard to protect the environment — and people. “We like to see progress in mitigating pollution,” scientist Carl Watras said. “So, in a way, it (climate change) is adding an additional complicating factor to our attempts to have a cleaner planet and a cleaner world.”

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Climate change causes ‘roller coaster’ mercury levels in Wisconsin fish

Wisconsin Watch June 9, 2019

Researchers find that climate change-caused variations in Wisconsin lake levels have begun reversing recent gains in controlling environmental mercury. Scientist Carl Watras discovered that accumulation of the toxin in fish fluctuates as water cycles driven by climate change raise and lower lake levels. He called the findings “a complete surprise.”

Medical marijuana does not reduce opioid deaths

Science Daily — June 10, 2019

Legalizing medical marijuana does not reduce the rate of fatal opioid overdoses, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. The finding contradicts a 2014 study that legal-pot advocates, public officials and even physicians have touted as a reason to legalize marijuana. That study found lower rates of fatal opioid overdoses in the states that had legalized marijuana for medical purposes than in states where marijuana was illegal. Previously from Wisconsin Watch: Lawmaker’s lonely ship filling up as support for legalizing cannabis grows

Cedarburg’s common council ruling means the ‘end of the line’ for proposed CBD store

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — June 11, 2019

The Cedarburg Common Council has unanimously rejected an ordinance that would have allowed CBD dispensaries in the city’s central business district. The June 10 vote will block Erth Dispensary, a CBD store that had planned to open almost two months ago, from opening in downtown historical Cedarburg. Previously from Wisconsin Watch: Wisconsin’s new hemp industry blooms; will marijuana be far behind?

Seniors were sold a risk-free retirement with reverse mortgages. Now they face foreclosure.

USA Today — June 13, 2019

Former Wisconsin Watch intern Nick Penzenstadler reveals that nearly 100,000 loans that allowed senior citizens to tap into their home equity have failed, blindsiding elderly borrowers and their families and dragging down property values in their neighborhoods. In many cases, the worst toll has fallen on those ill-equipped to shoulder it: urban African Americans, many of whom worked for most of their lives, then found themselves struggling in retirement, according to the story by Penzenstadler and Jeff Kelly Lowenstein.

Pew drops plans for Wisconsin study after Robin Vos breaks with other Republicans over it

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — June 12, 2019

Wisconsin has lost out on an opportunity to have a renowned nonprofit organization study its probation and parole system after Assembly Speaker Robin Vos declined to back it. In a twist, top Republicans in the Senate sided with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers over the GOP speaker in trying to get the Pew Charitable Trusts to review the program that oversees more than 65,000 people on probation, parole and extended supervision. Previously from Wisconsin Watch: Families, experts wary of Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to abolish Parole Commission

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