Pubdate: Tue, 25 Apr 2006
Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN)
Copyright: 2006 St. Paul Pioneer Press
Author: David Sarasohn
Note: David Sarasohn is an associate editor at the Oregonian of Portland, Ore.
Bookmark: (Bush, George)
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Taking what was supposed to be a big hit at the subject, the Food and
Drug Administration this month declared that "no sound scientific
studies" had found a medical value for marijuana.

Somehow, it only made the smoke thicker.

"Unfortunately," Dr. Jerry Avorn, a professor at Harvard Medical
School, told the New York Times, "this is yet another example of the
FDA making pronouncements that seem to be driven more by ideology than

For the Bush administration, complain many observers, it's becoming a
frequent drive. Repeatedly, from global warming to salmon protection
to reproductive medicine, experts have charged that the administration
tries to muscle scientific facts as if they were reluctant

Over the past year, a high-ranking NASA scientist reported being told
not to speak publicly on global warming, until a political appointee
in the agency's public relations office was overruled. Two scientific
panels at the FDA overwhelmingly endorsed the safety and effectiveness
of the morning-after Plan B contraceptive, which then vanished into
the political appointees' approval process.

And when an Oregon State graduate student in forestry published an
article in a prestigious journal challenging the administration's
position on salvage logging, the Bureau of Land Management temporarily
pulled a forest research grant to the program.

This administration doesn't do well in science, but hopes it can cover
that up with its performance in politics.

Rep. David Wu, D-Ore., ranking minority member of the House
Subcommittee on Environment, Technology and Standards, has said he
will drop a note to the GAO next week asking it to "investigate
significant allegations of litmus tests for appointees, manipulations
of scientific findings, and censorship of scientists. ... Despite
administration assurances that these claims have no validity and that
the appropriate authorities were looking into this matter, the
allegations have continued."

It's not like Wu's expecting an answer by return mail -- he wrote last
month to presidential science adviser John H. Marburger, and the
congressman is still checking his House mailbox for a White House
postmark -- but he's interested in the subject.

"It is to me a matter of looking at the proper facts, even if the
facts are inconvenient," Wu said. "It just doesn't seem appropriate to
be asking a science adviser if he's pro-life or pro-choice. The
allegations are that they've been doing that."

Wu and other Democrats on the Science Committee, including Darlene
Hooley of Oregon and Brian Baird of Washington, have been complaining
about the administration's approach for a while -- and sometimes
Chairman Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., even joins them. They've been
joined by people with letters after their names more impressive than R
or D.

A petition from the Union of Concerned Scientists complaining, "When
scientific knowledge has been found to be in conflict with its
political goals, the administration has often manipulated the process
through which science enters into its decisions," has now collected
8,000 signatures, including 60 Nobel Prize winners.

In February, David Baltimore, president of Cal Tech, warned the
American Association for the Advancement of Science of the
administration "asserting executive hegemony over science," and trying
"to choose which science is supported and which is

Which is one thing if you're making out your high school schedule, but
something else if you're investing billions of dollars.

In an area that shapes the future, and the planet, there's a problem
with an administration that considers science -- and everything else
- -- to be elective.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake