Next week, I will moderate a panel titled "Beyond the Phony 'Debate': Government Science and the Climate Crisis" in Washington, DC. In case I needed any proof that the climate is important, last month's flooding in the Midwest gave me a personal look at what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was talking about last year when it warned of "an increased chance of intense precipitation and flooding due to the greater water-holding capacity of a warmer atmosphere."
The photograph at right shows a road not far from my home in Portage, Wisconsin that was damaged during the floods. In Sauk County, just a few miles from where I live, officials estimated that 95 percent of the roads were damaged. The seven states where the flooding occurred are still trying to assess the cost of the disaster, but it is already clear that the damages will run into billions of dollars.
In Lake Delton, about 20 miles from Portage, the water broke through a dam, causing the entire lake (600 million gallons of water) to drain into the Wisconsin River, washing away several homes in its path. The Wisconsin River passes through Portage. Like other local residents, I spent some time at the levee, gawking at the rising waters and watching for bits of other people's homes as they floated downstream.
The American Association of Public Health Physicians (AAPHP) has published an updated analysis of H.R. 1108, the massive bill currently under consideration by Congress that would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco products. AAPHP concludes, "This bill is a scam.
Do federal scientists fear for their jobs for speaking the truth? What about corporate-funded science? Increasingly, powerful institutions have tried to curb scientific independence and integrity regarding issues as wide-ranging as public health, the environment, the economy, and government energy policy.
The number of warning letters sent by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to corporations has dropped by 50% in the last decade. In 2002, the regulatory agency decided that all warning letters should go through the office of its chief counsel, a move "designed to strengthen the letters and make them legally consistent and credible." But the change may have just succeeded in slowing the process to a crawl.
The American Medical Students' Association (AMSA) graded 150 medical schools on their conflict-of-interest policies and the influence that drug companies have with faculty and students. Only seven of the schools surveyed received an "A"; 60 got a failing grade, for not having sufficient policies or for not participating in the survey. AMSA president Dr. Brian Hurley called strong conflict-of-interest policies "incredibly important to protect the educational experience." Dr.