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Congress: Science for Sale?
Congress Launches Probe Into Firm's Work on Chemical Used to Make Many Plastic Bottles
Justin Rood, ABC (U.S.)
Congress is investigating a Washington, D.C.-based firm which critics charge "manufactures uncertainty" on behalf of chemical companies to help keep their products free from government bans or other restrictions.
"The tactics apparently employed by the Weinberg Group raise serious questions about whether science is for sale at these consulting groups," said Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, in a statement Wednesday. His panel is heading up the probe.
Dingell's investigators have asked the Weinberg Group to produce records on work it has done involving a chemical known as Bisphenol A, used to make many plastic bottles including baby bottles and bottles under the Nalgene brand, and other chemicals.
(6 February 2008)
Keep separate science, politics
Editorial, The Olympian (Washington)
Lawmakers at the state and federal level expect scientists to provide them with the data upon which to make sound public policy decisions.
But what happens when that scientific data is altered to fit political agendas? We've seen it at the federal level under the Bush administration, and now scientists in Washington state government say they need more job protection to keep their information from being compromised.
This is a matter of public trust.
Residents across this country were shocked two years ago by the results of a survey of climate scientists who said their findings were being tailored to reflect political goals rather than scientific fact. The scientists said that, through its actions, the federal government has exaggerated the level of uncertainty in global warming science.
...Now comes the state's largest employee union asking for whistle-blower protections for workers who refuse to compromise their scientific data.
"Scientific integrity is the issue employees at the Department of Ecology is concerned about," said Pete Kmet, a Department of Ecology employee and union steward and a member of the Tumwater City Council. Kmet said some employees feel pressured to change their research findings to fit the desires of management.
That should never happen. Employees who feel such pressure must be protected by state law.
(10 February 2008)
Bodman as Orwell
DOE erases 'most successful' weatherization program from website
Joseph Romm , Gristmill
Late last week, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) raked Energy Secretary Bodman over the coals -- the best possible use for that fossil fuel! Within days of uncompassionately zeroing out the low-income weatherization program at a time of record energy prices, Bodman's DOE altered the DOE website.
Until a few days ago, the website of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Weatherization Program describe the effort as "this country's longest running, and perhaps most successful energy efficiency program" (click on "cached text" -- thank you, Google). Having run EERE, I can certainly attest to the accuracy of that description. Once Bush/Bodman whacked the program, that phrase was whacked too (click here), like something out of the Ministry of Truth -- Minitrue -- in the book 1984.
You can see how Samuel "deer in the headlights" Bodman responded to Markey in this video clip.
Just for the record, as the website notes, over 30 years, the DOE weatherized the homes of "more than 5.5 million low-income families," ...
(10 February 2008)
Links and more at original.
Climate scientist they could not silence
Jonathan Leake, Sunday Times (UK)
Jim Hansen has long been a thorn in the side of the White House. Now he has a stark warning for Britain
The trap was sprung in February 2006. The White House ordered that Dr Jim Hansen was to be denied the oxygen of publicity forthwith. He was to be banned from appearing in newspapers and on TV and radio. He was effectively to disappear.
It was the kind of treatment that might be reserved for terrorists, criminals or, in a totalitarian regime, for political dissidents.
Hansen, however, was none of these things. The director of Nasa’s renowned Goddard space science laboratories was a dry, rather self-effacing climate change scientist with a worldwide reputation for accurate and high-quality research. What had happened?
“All I had done was to give a talk to the American Geophysical Union, setting out how 2005 had been the warmest year on record,” recalled Hansen, in a visit to London last week.
“But someone at Nasa got a call right from the top, from the White House. They were very annoyed.”
It was not quite all he had done. Hansen had also e-mailed a transcript of the talk to a raft of reporters before he spoke. “I did make sure it hit the headlines,” he recalls modestly. In his talk he declared that humanity, especially Americans and Europeans, were burning fossil fuels so fast that they risked transforming Earth into “a different planet”.
Government scientists were not supposed to say things like that. Shortly afterwards the head of Nasa’s public affairs office, one of George Bush’s political appointees, banned Hansen from speaking to the media.
“Then they also forced us to remove all our data about the latest temperature rises from the website,” says Hansen. “I realised they really were going to stop me communicating.”
It looked like a classic case of a naive scientist being ruthlessly crushed by a government machine.
In reality, however, it was Hansen who laid the trap - and the Bush administration that got caught.
(10 February 2008)
Looks like the Canadian government has now taken up the torch of scientific censorship: Environment Canada scientists told to toe the department line. -BA
'Muzzle' Placed On Federal Scientists
Margaret Munro, Canwest News Service
Environment Canada policy meant to control media message
Environment Canada has "muzzled" its scientists, ordering them to refer all media queries to Ottawa where communications officers will help them respond with "approved lines."
The new policy, which went into force in recent weeks and sent a chill through the department research divisions, is designed to control the department's media message and ensure there are no "surprises" for Environment Minister John Baird and senior management when they open the newspaper or turn on the television, according to documents obtained by Canwest News Service.
"Just as we have 'one department, one website' we should have 'one department, one voice'," says a PowerPoint presentation from Environment Canada's executive management committee that's been sent to department staff.
(1 February 2008)
The above quote above from Environment Canada is unfortunate, with its echo of
the Nazi political slogan: "Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer" - 'One People, One Empire, One Leader'.
It would seem that in a democratic country, policy should be aligned with scientific reality and the good of the people, rather than be designed to protect ministers from unpleasant surprises in the newspaper.