ALL THE NEWS THAT’S UNFIT TO PRINT, PT. II
Bobby’s back with another installment of “Unearthed: News the Mainstream Media Forgot to Report” on the Huffington Post this week.
Kennedy and co-blogger Brendan De Melle covered a mind-boggling array of news you won’t hear anywhere else in the latest column. So much news, in fact, it’s all rather difficult to digest in just one sitting…so we’ve decided to break it up into separate shorter stories which will run over the next few days here on this blog.
Here’s the first installment of this week’s “Unearthed” report:
UNEARTHED: NEWS THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA FORGOT TO REPORT
By Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Brendan DeMelle
The Huffington Post
Crimes Against Nature
Junk Science/Wolf Slaughter
At least 37 wolves have been killed in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming since the Bush Administration illegally delisted gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act, on March 28. The death toll could be even higher since kills are not required to be reported immediately. With the abolition of federal protection, the wolves are now being targeted under state laws that still classify wolves as “vermin” and allow unregulated wolf killing anywhere, anytime, for any reason. A dozen conservation groups have asked a federal court to immediately reinstate Endangered Species Act protections and to declare illegal the federal government’s wolf delisting decision which was based on manipulated, outdated and fraudulent science and which threatens the long-term survival of the species.
“Until now the reintroduction of gray wolves to the Northern Rockies was one of our greatest endangered species success stories,” said Louisa Willcox, Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) office in Livingston, MT. “Today it’s a national disgrace. The region has become a killing field for wolves, just as we predicted.”
The first casualty in the orgy of lupicide was “Hoppy” the eight-year-old celebrity wolf nicknamed for a limp (caused by an injury from a fight with another wolf pack). A rare black wolf Hoppy was one of the most recognizable members of Yellowstone’s famous Druid Peak pack. People snapped his photograph and shot video as he and his pack mates played, hunted and snoozed. Later, he became the first wolf to step foot into Utah in over 75 years and established his own pack in Grand Teton National Park. He was shot the day after delisting on an elk feeding ground in Wyoming.
“In delisting the wolves, the Bush Administration simply ignored the country’s leading wildlife biologists and two decades of scientific evidence showing that wolf populations are still too fragmented to survive. According to NRDC scientist, Dr. Sylvia Fallon, a minimum population of 2,000 to 5,000 animals is needed to ensure the genetic diversity necessary for the grey wolf’s long-term survival. At the time of delisting there were about 1,500 wolves in the region. All but 300 can be killed under President Bush’s current minimum recovery standard virtually assuring the gray wolf’s ultimate extinction.
The reintroduction of wolves by the federal government 12 years ago has been widely hailed as a major success story. It has measurably improved the natural balance in the Northern Rockies and benefited bird, antelope and elk populations. Many thousands of visitors flock to Yellowstone National Park each year to see and hear wolves in the wild, contributing at least $35 million to the local economy each year.
Thousands of gray wolves roamed the Rocky Mountains before being slaughtered and eliminated from 95 percent of the lower 48 states by the 1930s. The gray wolf was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1973. Reintroduction efforts placed 66 wolves in Yellowstone National Park and part of Idaho in 1995-96.
Hundreds of Federal Scientists Ordered to Lie by Bush Administration
Hundreds of Environmental Protection Agency scientists say they have been pressured by superiors to skew their findings, according to a survey conducted by the Center for Survey Statistics & Methodology at Iowa State University, commissioned by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
One half of the nearly 1,600 EPA staff scientists who responded online to a detailed questionnaire reported they had experienced incidents of political interference in their work.
The report said 60 percent of those responding, or 889 scientists, reported personally experiencing political interference in their work over the last five years. Nearly 400 scientists said they had witnessed EPA officials misrepresenting scientific findings, 284 said they had seen the “selective or incomplete use of data to justify a specific regulatory outcome” and 224 scientists said they had been directed to “inappropriately exclude or alter technical information” in an EPA document. Nearly 200 of the respondents said they had been in situations where they or their colleagues actively objected to or resigned from projects “because of pressure to change scientific findings.” The University sent an online questionnaire to 5,500 EPA scientists and received 1,586 responses, a majority of them senior scientists who have worked for the agency for 10 years or more. The survey included chemists, toxicologists, engineers, geologists and experts in the life and environmental sciences.
The highest number of complaints about political interference came from scientists who are directly involved in writing regulations and those who conduct risk assessments such as determining a chemicals cancer risk for humans.
“The investigation shows researchers are generally continuing to do their work, but their scientific findings are tossed aside when it comes time to write regulations,” UCS said.
In the survey, the EPA scientists described an agency suffering from low morale as the agency’s political appointees and the White House Office of Management and Budget frequently second-guess scientific findings and change work conducted by EPA’s scientists.
EPA managers initially instructed employees not to participate in the survey, but the EPA’s general counsel’s office later sent an e-mail to employees saying they could participate in their private time.
White House Gives Industry More Influence over Science Process
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) chastised the Environmental Protection Agency for giving industry the ability to directly input information into the EPA’s influential database that catalogues chemical risk information, known as the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS). The new process lets “the White House and federal polluters derail EPA’s scientific assessment of toxic chemicals,” she charged. The new policy, announced April 10 on the agency’s website, will allow industry to contribute its own biased information to the IRIS database, which was previously compiled solely by agency scientists. The new policy also allows for earlier and more extensive involvement by the White House and federal agencies that pollute the environment, such as the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy.
According to the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the changes mean that:
• Affected corporations will be intimately involved in each step of EPA’s risk assessment and will be able to know what staff are assigned to which work, making the agency “research plan” vulnerable to political manipulation through the appropriations process;
• The Defense and Energy Departments, two of the world’s largest polluters, will have a formal role on how pollutants, such as the chemical perchlorate, are evaluated. In addition, these agencies could declare a particular chemical to be “mission critical” that would allow them to control how “data gaps” are to be filled. All their alterations will be made in secret. All intra-and inter-agency communications on risk assessments are deemed “deliberative” and thus confidential.
The new policy gives polluters power to determine which chemicals get assessed and how those assessments are conducted. It also formalizes a new process to be run by the White House and polluters behind closed doors and exclude the public.
Federal, state and international agencies use these assessments to create public health protections, including drinking water standards, toxic waste cleanup levels, air pollution limits, controls on dangerous chemicals in food and consumer products, worker protections and other safeguards.
Green Building: Applause for Seattle’s Mayor
Seattle is now the nation’s leader in green building with 41 LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings. LEED buildings, which are certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, are designed to use less water, energy and building resources, and often incorporate recycled materials. Besides Seattle, the top five cities with the most LEED certified projects include Portland, Oregon, Chicago, Washington, DC, and Grand Rapids, MI. Ten of Seattle’s LEED certified buildings are owned by the City of Seattle, demonstrating the city’s commitment to lead in this area. In February, Mayor Greg Nickels announced an effort to make Seattle America’s Green Building Capital by improving energy efficiency in all commercial and residential buildings by 20 percent.
RIGHT WING NEWS
Flat Earth Family
Demonstrating that deliberate ignorance may be genetic, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told a group of several hundred business people in Texas that he is skeptical that humans are causing global warming. Bush accused those who advocate action to fight climate disruption of acting like religious zealots. “I don’t think our policies should be based on emotion; they should be based on sound science.” Bush’s two terms as governor ended in 2007. His successor, Republican governor Charlie Crist has said Florida should become a leader on this issue because its low elevation makes it vulnerable to sea level rise.