News Stories

Junk Science at the White House

In the latest issue of The Nation, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. writes: "The Bush Administration's first instinct when it comes to science has been to suppress, discredit or alter facts it doesn't like. Over the past two years the Administration has done this to a dozen major government studies on global warming, in its own efforts to stall action to controlindustrial emissions." And discoveries about global warming are by no means the only facts that have been distorted.

Kennedy alleges that the Bush administration ignores scientific findings that would discredit their policies andupset their big donors. He says, "Sometimes, rather than suppress good science, they simply order up their own. Meanwhile, the Bush White House is purging, censoring, and blacklisting scientists and engineers whose work threatens the profits of the Administration's corporate paymasters or challenges the ideological underpinnings of their radical anti-environmental agenda. Indeed, so extreme is this campaign that more than sixty scientists, including Nobel laureates and medical experts, released a statement on February 18 that accuses the Bush Administration of deliberately distorting scientific fact 'for partisan political ends.'"

One of things he mentions is that the government declared that the air in downtown New York City was declared safe right after 911, despite the fact that it was later found to show dangerously high levels of asbestos. At that time, Kennedy had an office across from the World Trade Center, and says his partner, who was there at the time, "suffered a burning throat, nausea and a headache that was still pounding twenty-four hours after he left the building?We have since learned that the government was lying to us. An Inspector General's report released last August revealed that the EPA's data did not support those assurances and that its press releases were being drafted or doctored by White House officials intent on reopening Wall Street." Dan Tishman, whose company rebuilt 140 West Street nearby, says, "The frustrating thing is that everyone just counts on the EPA to be the watchdog of public health. When that role is compromised, people can get hurt."

Another example of science suppression occurred when microbiologist James Zahn, who worked with the Agriculture Department, identified antibiotic-resistant superbugs in the air surrounding industrial-style hog farms. Zahn says his supervisor at the USDA, under pressure from the hog industry, ordered him not to publish his study.

Kennedy says Vice President Dick Cheney's company Halliburton is "the leading practitioner of a process used in extracting oil and gas known as hydraulic fracturing, in which benzene is injected into underground formations. EPA scientists studying the process in 2002 found that it could contaminate ground-water supplies in excess of federal drinking water standards. A week after reporting their findings to Congressional staff members, however, they revised the data to indicate that benzene levels would not exceed government standards. In a letter to Representative Henry Waxman, EPA officials said the change was made based on 'industry feedback.'"

One EPA report discovered that the amount of mercury being discharged into the atmosphere is dangerous to the health of children and pregnant women. "Among the findings of the report: The bloodstream of one in twelve US women is saturated with enough mercury to cause neurological damage, permanent IQ loss and a grim inventory of other diseases in their unborn children." This report was suppressed for nine months. "In October 2001 Interior Secretary Gale Norton?falsely claimed that caribou would not be affected [by drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge], because they calve outside the area targeted for drilling. She later explained that she somehow substituted 'outside' for 'inside.' She also substituted findings from a study financed by an oil company for some of the ones that the Fish and Wildlife Service had prepared for her.

"34,000 endangered salmon were killed after National Marine Fisheries scientists altered their findings on the amount of water the salmon required," so the water could be diverted for the use of big agribusiness. Biologist Mike Kelly says,"The morale is very low among scientists here. We are under pressure to get the right results. This Administration is putting the species at risk for political gain."

One way to get the desired results is to allow environmental studies to be done by the big businesses that will benefit from them. Since they'll do the studies for free, it can make the bottom line look good as well. Frank Buono, who is retired from the Park Service, says, "You can shop for the right contractor to give you the kind of result you want."

Developers financed a study in the Florida Everglades that shows that golf courses and developments will actually make the wetlands water cleaner. Biologist Bruce Boler says about the results of this study: "It was like the politics trumpedthe science."

The EPA allowed a pesticide manufacturer to take over federal studies of a pesticide it manufactures called Atrazine, which is the most heavily used weedkiller in America and has also been identified as a potential carcinogen, since there have been high incidences of prostate cancer at the factories where it's manufactured. Testing by the U.S. Geological Survey has found "alarming concentrations of Atrazine in drinking water across the corn belt." It also causes "grotesque deformities in frogs, including multiple sets of organs" and "male semen counts in farm communities that are 50% below normal."

Former National Park Service director Roger Kennedy says, "It's hard to decide what is more demoralizing about the Administration's politicization of the scientific process, its disdain for professional scientists working for our government or its willingness to deceive the American public."

No matter what your politics are, we urge you to pick up a copy of The Nation and read this article, which you won't find in your local newspaper. Scientific truth must transcend partisan politics?or we're all in trouble.

Note the date on this story: March, 2004. That's depth ofour coverage of edge news! It's YOUR subscription that keepsUnknowncountry.com going. Subscribe today!Click here to get started.





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