This week, the national media has focused on the three different scandals surrounding the White House, devoting hours of coverage to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) improperly targeting conservative groups applying for tax exempt status, the talking points Susan Rice used in the aftermath of the attacks in Benghazi, and the Justice Department’s subpoena of phone records from the Associated Press as part of an investigation into a national security leak. The around-the-clock coverage comes even as a new Gallup poll finds that interest in the ongoing controversies is “lower comparable to major news stores in the past.”
And while these stories raise serious concerns about money in politics, embassy security, and freedom of the press, they aren’t the only problems impacting the American people. Here are five big stories the media isn’t obsessing about:
1. Carbon pollution reaches historic highs, threatening human existence. The concentration of climate warming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere “has passed the milestone level of 400 parts per million (ppm),” scientists estimate. “At the beginning of industrialisation the concentration of CO2 was just 280ppm,” said Prof Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “We must hope that the world crossing this milestone will bring about awareness of the scientific reality of climate change and how human society should deal with the challenge.” The last time the Earth saw carbon dioxide levels that high, humans did not exist. The West Antarctic ice sheet also did not exist, and sea levels were as much as 82 feet higher than they are today. During an earlier period when CO2 levels were this high, temperatures were 5° to 10°F warmer globally.
2. The devastating impact of sequestration on kids, cancer patients and first responders. On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the budget deficit will shrink to its smallest level since before the Great Recession in 2013, and it will continue to decrease through 2015. But despite the smaller deficits, Republicans remain focused on spending reductions — even as the most recent round of cuts has kicked children out of preschool, left cancer patients without needed screenings, undermined public health and fire safety, and gutted programs that help low-income Americans in a variety of ways. Those cuts have also threatened to derail the economic recovery, which has sputtered along despite the headwinds created by a consistent focus on deficit reduction.
3. Massive cuts to food stamps for the most vulnerable Americans. The House Agriculture Committee approved a farm bill late Wednesday night that would cut federal food stamps by $20.5 billion — more steeply than any legislation since the welfare reforms of the 1990s. Earlier this week, the Senate Agriculture Committee also agreed to a $4.1 billion reduction. The program keeps hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Americans out of the deepest pits of poverty, and even as the Great Recession swelled SNAP rolls, the program continued to push its erroneous payments rates to record lows.
4. 1100 workers die in garment factory collapse in Bangladesh and most American retailers plan business as usual. Since a factory collapsed in Bangladesh, killing 1,100 clothing industry workers, American retailers have been hesitant to adopt safety plans that could prevent similar tragedies. Abercrombie & Fitch announced it would sign a safety upgrade plan that has been approved by six major European retailers and one other American company, but many other manufacturers — including Walmart and Gap — are holding out. Although some retailers fear the costs of upgrades, they could pass them on entirely to consumers and only raise prices by10 cents per garment.
5. 4,000 gun deaths due to gun violence since Newtown. A crowdsourced effort to count every person killed by a gun in the United States since the Newtown tragedy is currently being hosted by Slate. As of this writing, the count is 4,150. The Senate rejected gun safety legislation in April and has not yet set a date for reconsidering the measure.