Bush Wants to Kill Workers

Follow up on yesterday’s surprising1 admission that there is a secret plan to reduce the possibilities that workers will have safe workplaces. Reduce it to zero, in fact. The Bush-ites want workers just to be happy they have jobs, and not worry about having safe jobs.

Congressional leaders demanded yesterday that the Labor Department withdraw an eleventh-hour rule proposal that would make it more difficult to set industry limits on the amount of dangerous chemicals that U.S. workers are exposed to on the job.

In a letter to Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao, the Democratic chairmen of the Senate and House labor committees accused her department of crafting a secret rule in the final months of the Bush administration, with the goal of weakening worker safety and helping businesses avoid regulations.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.) and Rep. George Miller (Calif.) said Chao’s department violated the rule requiring federal agencies to alert the public twice a year to any directives it was considering. They asked her to turn over internal documents of any meetings or communications Labor officials had with business or outside groups relating to the proposal.

Their demand came the day The Washington Post reported that the agency began actively researching the proposal as early as last September, when it commissioned a $347,000 outside study of the idea. It did not disclose its interest until it formally submitted a draft rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget on July 7.

“For nearly eight years, this administration has consistently failed to respond in a meaningful way to the real health and safety threats workers face while on the job,” Miller said. “But now they will stop at nothing to rush through a secret rule that will tie the hands of health and safety experts.”

The proposed rule, which would have the force of law, would call for reexamining long-standing agency assumptions used to weigh risks from toxins, including the notion that some workers spend 45 years in the same kind of job. The proposal has not been made public, but according to sources and internal documents, it aims to address business complaints that previous agency risk assessments exaggerate risk and cost industry too much.

[From Democrats Ask Labor to Forgo ‘Secret Rule’ – washingtonpost.com]

Oh, poor, poor industry, having to maintain safe workplaces when there are profit margins to increase, second homes to pay for in Aspen, yadda yadda. I’ve never understood how working class folks could ever vote for a Republican – screwing people and slurping on corporations is what the Republicans do best.

  1. and yet, not so surprising, given the track record of the anti-consumer activists currently running the executive branch of the US []

Workplace Toxin Rules

Bush cronies trying their best to get in a couple more body blows to the public before 2009.

Political appointees at the Department of Labor are moving with unusual speed to push through in the final months of the Bush administration a rule making it tougher to regulate workers’ on-the-job exposure to chemicals and toxins.

The agency did not disclose the proposal, as required, in public notices of regulatory plans that it filed in December and May. Instead, Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao ‘s intention to push for the rule first surfaced on July 7, when the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) posted on its Web site that it was reviewing the proposal, identified only by its nine-word title.

The text of the proposed rule has not been made public, but according to sources briefed on the change and to an early draft obtained by The Washington Post, it would call for reexamining the methods used to measure risks posed by workplace exposure to toxins. The change would address long-standing complaints from businesses that the government overestimates the risk posed by job exposure to chemicals.

The rule would also require the agency to take an extra step before setting new limits on chemicals in the workplace by allowing an additional round of challenges to agency risk assessments.

The department’s speed in trying to make the regulatory change contrasts with its reluctance to alter workplace safety rules over the past 7 1/2 years. In that time, the department adopted only one major health rule for a chemical in the workplace, and it did so under a court order.

[From U.S. Rushes to Change Workplace Toxin Rules – washingtonpost.com]

Remember the old days, when government agencies tried to protect the public from the cruel indifference of Big Business? The Bush-ites want to return to the years before the government was involved in anything other than military endeavors.

Cheney’s Office Thwarts Climate Rules

These bums need to be run out of office sooner than 2009, else our planet will be destroyed. Environmental policy should not be set by oil corporations.

Bush administration officials agreed that greenhouse gases could endanger the public and should be regulated under clean-air laws, but later reversed course amid opposition from Vice President Dick Cheney’s office and the oil industry, a congressional report said.

The report, by the U.S. House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, offers a look at the breadth of Bush administration support for regulations before such plans abruptly stopped. The report draws heavily on an interview with a former Environmental Protection Agency official who had told Congress that Mr. Cheney’s office tried to censor federal testimony on the danger of global warming. It is also based on confidential interviews with EPA staff and documents subpoenaed from the EPA.

“This is the dysfunctions and motivations of the Bush administration laid bare,” Chairman Ed Markey (D., Mass.) said in a statement.

[From Cheney’s Office Accused Of Thwarting Climate Rules – WSJ.com]

[Non-subscribers use this link to read the entire article]

Contractors Fight Drug Trade

For some reason, this bothers me1 .

The U.S. spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year hiring pilots, mechanics, and military and police trainers to combat the drug trade in South American countries, as well as Afghanistan and other Central Asian states. Lockheed Martin Corp. also supports peacekeeping forces in Darfur.

Last year, the Defense Department tapped Northrop as one of five to lead a five-year contract focused on fighting terrorism and the drug trade. The contract could be worth as much as $15 billion if fully funded, but the work, under the Counter Narcoterrorism Technology Program Office, will be assigned through small contracts depending on the government’s needs. Others given a shot at competing for the work include Blackwater, Raytheon Co., Lockheed and Arinc Inc.

“The military is not enamored of these other missions,” said Brian Jenkins, a senior adviser at Rand Corp. and former Army Special Forces officer.

The Pentagon has awarded Northrop Grumman Corp. seven smaller contracts as part of the larger counterdrug contract, but details are classified. Northrop spokesman Randy Belote said the company is making greater inroads into that line of business as such efforts become more high-tech. “It’s moving more into the electronic surveillance, intelligence and reconnaissance realm, so it’s perfectly aligned with our business,” he said.

[From U.S. Relies More on Contractors To Fight Drug Trade – WSJ.com]

Over Under Sideways

Why are we outsourcing electronic surveillance to the Northrop Grummans of the world? Why are we spending $15,000,000,000 with minimal oversight on drug wars in third world countries? Doesn’t seem like a good use of limited tax resources.

  1. Digg-enabled link to full article for non-WSJ subscribers via this link. []

White House Blocks EPA Emissions Draft

Withered and Died

The White House, on its way out to the dustbin of history,1 wants to gut the Clean Air Act before the end of the year. Lovely.

WASHINGTON — The White House is trying to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from publishing a document that could become the legal roadmap for regulating greenhouse-gas emissions in the U.S., said people close to the matter.

The fight over the document is the latest development in a long-running conflict between the EPA and the White House over climate-change policy. It will likely intensify ongoing Congressional investigations into the Bush administration’s involvement in the agency’s policymaking.

The draft document, which has been viewed by The Wall Street Journal, outlines how the government, under the Clean Air Act, could regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from mobile sources such as cars, trucks, trains, planes and boats, and from stationary sources such as power stations, chemical plants and refineries. The document is based on a multimillion-dollar study conducted over two years.

The White House’s Office of Management and Budget has asked the EPA to delete sections of the document that say such emissions endanger public welfare, say how those gases could be regulated, and show an analysis of the cost of regulating greenhouse gases in the U.S. and other countries.

[From White House Blocks EPA Emissions Draft – WSJ.com]

Non WSJ subscribers use this Digg-enabled link to full article which includes some colorful charts.

Cheney wants to ensure his oil buddies won’t have to alter any of their polluting practices until after the Rapture:

“Clearly [White House officials] don’t want to leave behind a blueprint that suggests that the Clean Air Act could offer a potential pathway in a cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions,” said one of the people close to the matter who supports the EPA document’s analysis. “Leaving a blueprint behind could leave the next administration a document they could work from, and that’s not in their interest,” the person said.

If the agency establishes a policy direction in this phase of the rule-making but later changes direction in the proposed rule, it could create opportunities for legal challenges under the Administrative Procedures Act, said Peter Robertson, a former deputy administrator at the EPA and a partner at the Pillsbury law firm specializing in environmental public policy.

“There wouldn’t be a reason for OMB to monkey with this document if it weren’t going to be an important step in the process now and later on,” Mr. Robertson said.

  1. and that’s being very kind []

More Waste, Fraud and Abuse

Army and Navy Entrance

The Bushies obviously don’t care much about national security. They mainly care about robbing the public till.

Representative Henry Waxman recently asked a question for which we would also like an answer: “How did a company run by a 21-year-old president and a 25-year-old former masseur get a sensitive $300 million contract to supply ammunition to Afghan forces?” Mr. Waxman raised the issue after executives of a Miami Beach arms dealer, AEY, were indicted on fraud charges this month, accused of pawning off tens of millions of banned and decrepit Chinese cartridges on the United States Army to supply Afghan security forces.

The Pentagon’s folly with the fly-by-night trafficker is just the latest example of the Bush administration’s cynically cozy contracting practices and shockingly weak oversight that have wasted billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money.

Congressional investigators took testimony from a United States military attaché who accused the American ambassador in Albania of helping to cover up the Chinese ammunition’s origins. The ambassador, John Withers, denies wrongdoing. But Rep. Waxman is wisely working to map the dimensions of fraud and waste.

[From Editorial – More Waste, Fraud and Abuse – Editorial – NYTimes.com]

Shockingly weak oversight in this and many other areas. Waxman is doing excellent work documenting all the high crimes and misdemeanors, but is any penalty ever going to be imposed?

Legal Shields for Bush Donors

KWD-808-II Multi-Purpose Health Device
[not a Medtronic device, but some Chinese electric acupuncture stimulation machine, Kent Young, Chinatown]

Another way the Bush Administration and its Republican cronies has screwed the nation: this time by gutting consumers rights to legal redress. Bridget Robb used a faulty Medtronic device and nearly died. Robb wanted to sue for the months of medical fees, but:

her lawyer told her that is probably not an option because of a clause the Food and Drug Administration has written into its policy on what kinds of standards medical devices like hers must meet. Because the defibrillator passed the FDA’s tests and was deemed safe, the company that made it may be immune from legal action.

Since 2005, lawsuit limits like the one protecting Medtronic and other manufacturers have been included in dozens of agency rules covering everything from drugs to car parts, shielding them from consumer suits if their products are approved by federal agencies. And it has often been done at the behest of the White House, critics say, with little input from Congress.

That has prompted a debate over whether the unprecedented increase in benefits granted to product makers is fair to consumers or even constitutional.

[From Critics blast feds’ legal shields for manufacturers — chicagotribune.com]

The same impulse that shields telecom companies from having to explain why they were allowed to break the law of the land without repercussion1 created this clause. If your widget causes harm, you should have to pay the consequence. The FDA is so corrupted that having one’s widget deemed safe might be as simple as taking an FDA official out to a strip club, or promising a salaried position when the FDA official resigns. Despicable.

Consumer advocates and some law professors argue that the anti-lawsuit clauses undermine consumers’ rights and make it difficult to hold businesses accountable for faulty products. And they say the federal government should not be blocking lawsuits that are permitted by individual states.

“I’ve been here since the second Reagan administration, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Michael Bird, federal affairs counsel for the National Conference of State Legislatures. “This is not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind.”

An example of this arose in 2006, when a Consumer Product Safety Commission regulation on flame-retardant mattresses limited the ability of consumers to win cases under state laws if their mattresses caught on fire.

Around that time, the FDA approved a rule on drug labeling that included a similar clause. That year, parents whose son killed himself while taking the antidepressant Paxil sued maker GlaxoSmithKline for failing to disclose that Paxil increases suicide risk. They lost their case because, the judge wrote, “federal law pre-empts plaintiffs’ instant action.”

Some complain that the Bush administration pushed these regulations through the federal agencies it controls instead of trying to move them through Congress. Passing a bill requires hearings and public debate, while an agency often can change its rules with little fanfare.

In 2007, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began including lawsuit-protection language in its rules on door locks, safety restraints and crash protection for cars. Now NHTSA may insert such a clause in proposed standards on how strong a car’s roof must be to prevent injuries from rollovers.

  1. FISA, if you’ve forgotten. We’ve discussed that travesty a number of times. []

FAA doesn’t care if you die

Safety regulations are not important to the FAA. Much more important is making the airlines happy because that way ex-FAA officials can get cushy airline industry jobs when they resign in disgrace.

In July 1996, a fuel-tank explosion ripped apart TWA Flight 800, killing all 230 people aboard and sparking an urgent call from air-safety experts to find a fail-safe way to avoid a repeat tragedy.

Twelve years later, they’re still waiting.

Experts quickly and broadly agreed that like TWA 800’s main fuel tank, those on thousands of other planes were at risk of exploding during normal operations if hot vapors became exposed to sparks or electrical short-circuits. Within months, federal investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board called for a sweeping retrofit of planes with “fundamentally flawed” fuel-tank designs. Independent safety experts called such changes essential.

But the issue has bogged down for more than a decade inside the Federal Aviation Administration, the agency charged with regulating U.S. airlines. Manufacturers argued the proposed fix was unnecessary, while carriers called it marginal and too expensive. They repeatedly persuaded the FAA to delay, revise or scale back its plans. While the industry has reduced the danger of fuel-tank accidents, whatever “foolproof” plan the agency ultimately imposes will come too late to affect many jetliners now in service.

The fuel-tank issue is just one of the major initiatives to stall at the FAA, which finds itself in the spotlight following a series of safety lapses that came to light this spring. Even when change is clearly needed, critics say, the agency can be reluctant to challenge the industry’s strongly held positions.

The FAA has failed to make good on longstanding promises to quickly modernize air-traffic control systems and to institute effective technology to prevent aircraft from colliding on busy runways. In 1995, the FAA proposed sweeping changes to address chronic pilot fatigue. Airlines resisted, and 13 years later, the FAA is still waiting for carriers and pilot unions to reach compromises on crew scheduling.

Failure to take an aggressive stand on some of the toughest safety issues could end up costing lives, critics say. Too often, they say, the agency is hobbled by bureaucratic inertia and a lack of political will, with FAA leaders more focused on cooperative efforts than on taking a hard line on a change-resistant industry.

[From Safety Pushes Stall at Embattled FAA – WSJ.com]

Gee, I feel so much safer knowing the FAA is so cozy with the industry it is in charge of regulating. I’ll be thinking of them next time I have to fly somewhere, and am already nervously twitching my legs and self-medicating drinking herbal tea.

Full access to complete story for non WSJ subscribers available using this link

Remember this?

the shortcomings of the FAA’s partnership approach became apparent earlier this year. In March, the FAA proposed a record $10.2 million penalty against Southwest Airlines Co., after revelations that the carrier had missed mandatory maintenance work. Shortly afterward, FAA whistleblowers alleged that cozy ties between the airline and some local inspectors had allowed the carrier to keep these planes flying. A few weeks later the FAA also found maintenance lapses at AMR Corp.’s American Airlines, forcing the carrier to cancel thousands of flights over several days

McCain Lobbys for French Company

moon over boeing

Poor McCain, can’t seem to evade all the lobbyist landmines that keep cropping up in his path.

Democrats are taking fresh aim at Sen. John McCain’s role in the Air Force’s $40 billion tanker contract, saying he jeopardized thousands of U.S. jobs by helping steer the huge award to a European-designed competitor to Boeing Co.


Now Democrats are armed with a surprising development: a government audit released Wednesday that has thrown another wrench into the already long-running saga of replacing the Air Force’s aging fleet of aerial refueling tankers. The report by the Government Accountability Office found that the Air Force’s process in granting the contract to a partnership between Northrop Grumman Corp. and its European supplier, European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co., was riddled with errors.

The GAO didn’t mention politics, but the sweeping problems identified by the oversight group are sure to make the report a touchstone for Sen. McCain’s critics. The Democrats contend Sen. McCain pressured the Air Force to favor Northrop and EADS.

Senator McCain helped steer a tanker contract to a European company for which seven of his campaign advisors and fundraisers then lobbied — a bidding process the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, is now saying was full of errors,” the Democratic National Committee said Thursday.

[From Democrats Press McCain on Defense Deal – WSJ.com]

McCain’s alleged quest for accountability in government contracts is really about who pays John McCain most (or pays his friends and cronies most). In this instance, it seems as if Northrop Grumman paid more than Boeing did, or at least sooner.

More recently, he worked behind the scenes to press the Air Force to keep the bidding for the tanker fleet open to Boeing’s European rival. That’s given the issue bumper-sticker clarity for the Democrats: Sen. McCain tried to sell out an iconic American company, handing thousands jobs to France just as the U.S. economy was entering a tailspin.

The battle between the powerful senator and the world’s largest aircraft maker also shows why Sen. McCain is looked upon with suspicion by big business. The war with Boeing has raged since 2002, when executives first circulated a confidential congressional battle plan, calling in an email for “counter-battery fire, every time Sen. McCain attacks.”

Outside groups and Democratic-leaning unions have gotten into the act as well. An online ad made by an independent Democratic group, the Campaign for America’s Future, opens with a banner on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, hailing “John McCain, hero of France.” In French, with English subtitles, it thanks him “for helping the U.S. military choose a French company, Airbus. Tens of thousands of jobs for the French and thousands fewer for Americans.”

The real truth is there is a problem with government/military contracting procedures, and there is a ton of corruption, and a crap-load of no-bid contracts. However, McCain and his phony anti-corruption stance is laughable.

Rainbow over Boeing Building
[view image large on black here: www.b12partners.net/photoblog/index.php?showimage=78 ]

Makers of Baby Bottles Sued

Deregulation of government has real effects.

Four parents have filed a federal lawsuit against makers of baby bottles, claiming the bottles were made from a harmful chemical that led to Congressional hearings and prompted the world’s largest retailer to phase out the products. The complaint, filed in Federal District Court in Columbus, alleges the companies knew that a chemical known as bisphenol A was associated with health problems but did not disclose the risk. It cites scientific studies that conclude BPA, as the chemical is also known, seeps from bottles and sippy-cups into liquid.

[From National Briefing – Midwest – Ohio – Makers of Baby Bottles Sued – NYTimes.com]

Public perception is that the FDA is corrupted, and only cares about profits of industry. I haven’t seen much evidence contradicting this perception.

Bad Cow Disease

"The Jungle: The Uncensored Original Edition" (Upton Sinclair)

Paul Krugman notes, correctly, the reason for so many food safety issues – the conservatives long-term goal of stripping regulatory agencies of any real power to regulate (coupled with staffing of regulatory agencies with officials with conflicted interests)

How did America find itself back in The Jungle?

It started with ideology. Hard-core American conservatives have long idealized the Gilded Age, regarding everything that followed — not just the New Deal, but even the Progressive Era — as a great diversion from the true path of capitalism.

Thus, when Grover Norquist, the anti-tax advocate, was asked about his ultimate goal, he replied that he wanted a restoration of the way America was “up until Teddy Roosevelt, when the socialists took over. The income tax, the death tax, regulation, all that.”

The late Milton Friedman agreed, calling for the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration. It was unnecessary, he argued: private companies would avoid taking risks with public health to safeguard their reputations and to avoid damaging class-action lawsuits. (Friedman, unlike almost every other conservative I can think of, viewed lawyers as the guardians of free-market capitalism.)

Such hard-core opponents of regulation were once part of the political fringe, but with the rise of modern movement conservatism they moved into the corridors of power. They never had enough votes to abolish the F.D.A. or eliminate meat inspections, but they could and did set about making the agencies charged with ensuring food safety ineffective.

They did this in part by simply denying these agencies enough resources to do the job. For example, the work of the F.D.A. has become vastly more complex over time thanks to the combination of scientific advances and globalization. Yet the agency has a substantially smaller work force now than it did in 1994, the year Republicans took over Congress.

[Click to read more of Op-Ed Columnist – Paul Krugman – Bad Cow Disease – Op-Ed – NYTimes.com]

Unfortunately, one can’t eat solely from Farmer’s Markets. Remember to thank a Republican next time you hear of a food-safety crisis, or next time you get salmonella.

Oil Industry and Congress

Do Not Oil Probe Shaft
[Do Not Oil Probe Shaft]

Oil Industry and Congress: Bitter friends and fast enemies, err, something like that. Both sides of the aisle have an interest in appearing to do something about the ginormous oil industry profits, and subsequent high gas prices for consumers. Fortunately, they managed to avoid actually making any changes.

A package of measures targeting oil-company profits and market speculators failed to reach a vote in the Senate Tuesday, as Republicans blocked Congress’s first effort to address a record surge in oil prices.

Congress and the oil and financial industries are locked in an escalating public confrontation over where to fix blame for oil’s run-up. But industry lobbyists are also huddling privately with lawmakers to horse-trade over measures that could attack the oil issue and work to industry’s advantage.

One way the oil industry could be a winner in the end is through an easing of restrictions on domestic drilling. Republicans have long pushed for more domestic drilling as one response to high oil prices — although it could take years for any new U.S. oil find to have an impact on global prices. Industry lobbyists hope exploration will prove newly palatable to Democrats who are under pressure from voters as well as lobbyists from airline, trucking and manufacturing industries.

[From Lawmakers, Industry Clash And Cooperate as Oil Plans Take Shape – WSJ.com]

The NYT had a slightly different angle on the story, concentrating on the $17,000,000,000 worth of tax breaks the poor, poor oil companies require to conduct business. Without the subsidies, Big Oil would go bankrupt in a minute or two. Luckily for Big Oil, Congress is happy continuing the dole.

A Democratic proposal to impose heavier taxes on big oil companies stalled in the Senate on Tuesday as Republicans and Democrats offered different ideas on how to deal with soaring energy costs.

A bill that would have rolled back some $17 billion in tax breaks on Big Oil and pressured the companies to invest in new energy sources by hitting them with a windfall-profits tax if they did not failed to get enough votes to move forward. Fifty-one senators voted to bring the measure up for consideration, but that was nine short of the number needed under Senate rules. Forty-three senators, most of them Republicans, voted “no.”

The oil-tax proposal was one of two energy-related bills that failed to advance. The other was a proposal to amend the Internal Revenue Code by providing “incentives for energy production and conservation, to extend certain expiring provisions, to provide individual income tax relief, and for other purposes,” as the measure to promote new energy sources was officially described. The vote to take up that legislation was 50-44, or 10 “yes” votes fewer than necessary.

The votes were against a backdrop of $4-a-gallon gasoline and oil prices that have gone over $139 a barrel just at the start of the summer vacation season.

[From 2 Energy Bills, Including Windfall Tax, Stall in Senate – NYTimes.com]

Because the bill was so important, everyone didn’t bother to show up to vote:

Senate Democratic leaders were reportedly resigned to defeat on the oil-tax bill and did not ask Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, who just completed their months-long competition for the presidential nomination, to show up for the vote. The other four absentees were John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee for president; Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, Democrats who have been ill.

Six Republicans voted “yes” on the oil-tax bill. They were Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, John W. Warner of Virginia, Gordon Smith of Oregon and Susan M. Collins and Olympia J. Snowe, both of Maine. Only two Democrats voted “no,” Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Harry Reid of Nevada. Mr. Reid, the majority leader, may have voted “no” in a parliamentary move to preserve his right to bring up the proposal again.

Back to the Wall Street Journal, which notes both parties heavily depend upon lobbyists to help legislators make informed decisions. Well, informed in the sense of campaign contributions and three hour luncheons.

As the various proposals fly, lawmakers are choosing sides based partly on whether oil or finance companies contribute most to their home states.

Democratic Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has investigators looking into the role of big Wall Street brokerage houses in oil trading. Other Democrats have focused their attacks on oil companies.

Oil- and finance-industry lobbyists have blanketed Washington with advertising deflecting blame for the crisis. In a letter to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee member Sen. Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.), Exxon Mobil Corp. blamed financial speculators for more than half the price of a barrel of crude.

The American Petroleum Institute is running newspaper ads depicting a crying baby, to imply that oil-company taxes will hurt consumers most. The API also is touting its study by Robert Shapiro, a former undersecretary of commerce for economic affairs under President Bill Clinton, showing that Middle America holds most “Big Oil” shares. The trade group declined to comment.

Outside of camera range, lawmakers are turning to industry lobbyists for guidance on problems rooted in the opaque economics of commodities markets.


Congressional staffers in both parties acknowledged the cooperation. “You do not want to do Band-Aid strategies,” said a House staffer. “We’re trying to talk to everyone we need to.”

Clash on Safety of BPA in Plastic Items

Do Not Attempt This At Home

So an industry-funded report found no problem? How novel! And the FDA firmly supporting the industry? How novel!

Government experts and lawmakers clashed at a hearing Tuesday over the safety of a chemical used in plastic baby bottles, as the science indicating health risks seemed not conclusive enough to meet the burden of proof required for a U.S. ban.

The chemical, bisphenol A, or BPA, makes plastic hard and shatterproof and helps prevent corrosion in cans. It is used in hundreds of consumer products, including plastic baby bottles, plastic food containers and soda cans.

The latest concern about BPA emerged in April when the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program released a draft report concluding that small amounts of the chemical could be linked to health and developmental problems. Those problems include early puberty, changes in the prostate gland and behavioral changes found in animal studies that warranted “some concern” for exposure to fetuses, infants and children.

“The possibility that bisphenol A may alter human development cannot be dismissed,” said John Bucher, associate director of the National Toxicology Program, at Tuesday’s hearing.

The program’s findings contradicted some earlier industry-funded animal studies that found minimal concern.

[From Clash Arises on Safety of BPA in Plastic Items – WSJ.com]

Here is where Senator Clinton can help the nation: pass this bill

Led by New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer and supported by fellow New York Democrat Hillary Clinton, the senators want their BPA-Free Kids Act of 2008 to be part of a larger bill that would reform the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Bills to overhaul the CPSC were passed by the House and Senate in differing forms late last year and earlier this year following a string of recalled children’s products that put the agency under fire. If signed into law, the overhaul would provide the agency with more funding and greater authority, while making data more transparent and boosting fine limitations for manufacturers.

Part of the clash in how the hundreds of BPA studies are viewed stems from the manner in which they were conducted. Many have been small and weren’t conducted according to regulatory standards, critics say.

“SIGG – Green Traveler Classic Water Bottle” (SIGG)

BBC uncovers lost Iraq billions

Speaking of impeachment

A BBC investigation estimates that around $23bn may have been lost, stolen or just not properly accounted for in Iraq.
For the first time, the extent to which some private contractors have profited from the conflict and rebuilding has been researched by the BBC’s Panorama using US and Iraqi government sources.

A US gagging order is preventing discussion of the allegations.
The order applies to 70 court cases against some of the top US companies.

While George Bush remains in the White House, it is unlikely the gagging orders will be lifted. To date, no major US contractor faces trial for fraud or mismanagement in Iraq. The president’s Democratic opponents are keeping up the pressure over war profiteering in Iraq.

Henry Waxman who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said: “The money that’s gone into waste, fraud and abuse under these contracts is just so outrageous, its egregious.

“It may well turn out to be the largest war profiteering in history.”

In the run-up to the invasion one of the most senior officials in charge of procurement in the Pentagon objected to a contract potentially worth seven billion that was given to Halliburton, a Texan company, which used to be run by Dick Cheney before he became vice-president.
Unusually only Halliburton got to bid – and won.

[From BBC NEWS | Middle East | BBC uncovers lost Iraq billions]

Strange about that gag order, almost like the Bush-ites don’t want to find widespread corruption, waste, and mismanagement of tax payer dollars, at least before Obama takes office.

Abramoff Down the Memory Hole

Just a little taste of how President Obama’s administration is going to be covered. Hint: it won’t be as soft as the coverage of the current Resident, not by a long shot. At least there is a stronger alternative media/blogosphere than existed in the 1990s.

George Zornick writes: Yesterday, a congressional report revealed that disgraced uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and tax evasion, and remains at the center of one of the largest influence-peddling scandals in recent memory, met with the president of the United States at least six times and that there were over 150 verifiable contacts between Abramoff and White House officials, and probably many more — these contacts included White House officials who went to Abramoff “seeking tickets to sporting and entertainment events, as they did seeking input on personnel picks for plum jobs.” When asked about the report, White House spokesman Tony Fratto’s dismissive response was, “Give me a break.”

Luckily for Fratto, the press largely did. These revelations were not reported on any of the major networks broadcasts last night. Nor could the story be found on the front page of The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, or The Washington Post today.

This is nothing new for coverage of the Abramoff scandal. Recall, back when the scandal broke in 2005, that the press largely refused to hold Republicans responsible for what was clearly a Republican scandal of epic proportions. (None other than the National Review’s Rich Lowry wrote that the Abramoff mess “is, in its essence, a Republican scandal, and any attempt to portray it otherwise is a misdirection.”)

But the press didn’t usually agree. For example:

Chris Matthews asked, while discussing the scandal in January 2006, “[D]on’t you have to be a real ideologue, a real partisan to believe that one party’s more crooked than the other?”
No Democrat ever took money from Abramoff directly. But that didn’t stop NPR’s Mara Liasson from saying it, nor Tim Russert, nor Katie Couric, nor Bill O’Reilly, nor the AP, nor The New York Times.

The Washington Post uncritically reported Grover Norquist’s claim that Abramoff didn’t meet with President Bush in May 2001, even though there was a photo reported to show that Abramoff was there.

David Brooks baselessly claimed Abramoff only met with Bush twice, based on some incomplete Secret Service logs, and Brit Hume did the same, even though the White House itself acknowledged there were more visits not mentioned in those logs.

The press also repeatedly brushed off the scandal — The New York Times’ Anne Kornblut, only hours after the Associated Press reported that Abramoff told Vanity Fair magazine he had close ties with President Bush and White House senior adviser Karl Rove, cited what she called “good news” for the White House, which is that “no one’s talking about Jack Abramoff anymore.” Chris Matthews predicted in early 2006, “It’s not going to be part of a larger story of Washington this year, I think.”

When this same House panel released a preliminary report on the Abramoff/White House connections in 2006, revealing far more ties than previously acknowledged, CBS and NBC didn’t cover it at all. That same report led directly to the resignation of Susan Ralston, a senior adviser to Karl Rove. But the three major networks — on all shows, morning, evening, and weekend — completely ignored the resignation, fulfilling White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino’s prediction that “nothing more will come from the [congressional] report, no further fallout from the report.”

And then there’s the current “break” being given to the White House. Which all, of course, leads to this question: What if this had happened to a Democratic president, and Abramoff’s name was Jim McDougal?

(Here’s a clue: Yesterday on Fox News, the name “Rezko” was mentioned 19 times, and the name “Abramoff” zero times, according to Lexis).

[From Media Matters – Altercation by Eric Alterman]

Can we elect a new national corporate media in 2008 as well? Please?