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US news roundup: 20-26 August


This week: Congress quizzes EPA, disabled students get loan forgiveness, and lawsuit delays lunar lander

In depth: A milestone experiment in nuclear fusion performed by a US government laboratory has led to renewed calls for investment in fusion research, despite proposed budget cuts to the programme responsible.

Full story: Fusion energy milestone prompts call for US research funding boost

Also this week from Research Professional News

Most US research managers would move for a flexible job—Survey finds majority of administrators are working remotely and consider it a positive change


Here is the rest of the US news this week…

Committee chairs seek information on EPA allegations

The chairs of three House of Representatives committees have written to the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Michael Regan, about allegations of interference in chemical safety checks. Whistleblowers have claimed the risks of new chemicals have been downplayed by the agency and that its staff faced retaliation for reporting concerns. The representatives want to know if this is true, and whether the agency will re-evaluate chemicals and bolster whistleblower protections. An EPA spokesperson said the agency was “reviewing the request from the committee”. They added that the agency’s scientific integrity officials “will thoroughly investigate any allegation of violation of EPA’s scientific integrity policy”, that the agency was reviewing its policies and that any retaliation for reporting alleged violations “will not be tolerated”.

Disabled students get $5.8bn off student loans

The Department of Education has announced that it will cancel $5.8 billion from student loans held by borrowers who have a total and permanent disability. A change in regulations means the department can identify students with disabilities using social security data, rather than requiring them to fill in an application. The students will also no longer need to provide earnings information. The changes will come into effect from September and will affect 323,000 borrowers, the department said.

Lunar lander delayed by Blue Origin lawsuit

Until at least 1 November, Nasa has paused work on a moon lander it has contracted for, after the aerospace company Blue Origin filed a lawsuit against the agency for picking a rival firm, SpaceX, to build the craft. According to Reuters news agency, the lawsuit claims there were “fundamental issues” with Nasa’s decision to award the $2.9 billion contract to SpaceX. The suit comes after a government watchdog investigated and gave its backing to the agency’s decision. A spokesperson for Nasa said the agency would provide an update “as soon as possible”.