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Saving Public Access to Scientific Information

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posted on Nov, 10 2006 @ 10:13 AM
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The Bush administration's 2007 budget cut the EPA Library Network's budget by 80 percent, and the EPA started shutting down libraries before Congress even approved the budget. Critics say this is another example of the Bush administration restricting public access to scientific information - and another attempt to marginalize EPA research, prevent agency scientists and other specialists from doing their jobs - and in the absence of critical information, to create a situation where environmentally dangerous plans can go forward without obstruction. On November 3, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) led a group of Senators asking that the Senate Appropriations Committee direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to restore and maintain public access to its library collections.
 



www.washingtonpost.com
Proposed budget cuts could cripple a nationwide system of Environmental Protection Agency libraries that government researchers and others depend on for hard-to-find technical information, library advocates say. ...The $2 million cut sought by the White House would reduce the 35-year-old EPA Library Network's budget by 80 percent and force many of its 10 regional libraries to close, according to the advocates and internal agency documents. ...That, in turn, would dramatically reduce access to certain EPA reports, guidance and technical documents that are used by the agency's scientific and enforcement staff as well as private businesses and citizens, they say. ..."They are moving ahead very quickly on very substantive cuts to their library program," said Patrice McDermott, deputy director of the American Library Association's Office of Government Relations. "They really don't have a good plan for continuing to provide access for the public, and even their own researchers and scientists, to the information."

McDermott said digitizing the EPA library holdings is "a great idea" -- but it remains little more than that. "You can't just stop providing access to your print on the chance that some day five, six, seven years down the road you are going to have it digital," she said. ...The libraries provide documentation for enforcement cases and help EPA staff track new environmental technologies and the health risks associated with dangerous chemicals. They also are repositories of scientific information that is used to back up the agency's position on new regulations and environmental reports and data that are tapped by everyone from developers to airports, to state and local officials. Their collections include hard-to-find copies of documents on federal Superfund hazardous waste sites, water-quality data and the health of regional ecosystems.

"We view this as another example of the Bush administration marginalizing EPA research so that the agency scientists and other specialists can't do their jobs," Ruch said. "And then in the absence of information, plans by industries and others that have environmental implications go forward."

***

In a move seen as poorly-guised attempt to restrict access to information, the EPA is quietly closing down its libraries.

Although Congress has yet to pass the budget, the EPA has already started shutting down libraries, with regional branches in Chicago, Dallas, and Kansas City preparing to close their doors for good by September 30. These measures have prompted an outcry from EPA scientists and researchers who point out the obvious: without the valuable resources the libraries provide, they will be severely restricted in their mission to protect and enforce environmental law.

Meanwhile, the EPA is planning to implement the “first-ever roll-back” of the 20-year-old Toxic Release Inventory program, which reports annually on the amounts of toxic pollutants released and disposed of, said Fidis. The information collected was traditionally categorized by geographic location and was accessible to researchers and the general public alike. Under the revised plan, companies would be allowed to release 10 times the amount of toxins before being obligated to submit detailed reports; companies would be allowed to withhold data on small disposals of some of the most dangerous chemicals, such as lead and mercury; and toxic pollution would be tracked and reported only every other year.

In yet another attempt to erode environmental accountability, on September 4, the Bush administration revoked all whistleblower protections for those reporting water pollution enforcement breakdowns, manipulations of science, or cleanup failures. The EPA took this measure one step further, declaring that absolutely no environmental laws protect its employees from government or agency retaliation.

***

Boxer Leads Senators In Call For Restored Access To Epa Libraries

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today led a group of Senators in a letter to senior members of the Senate Appropriations Committee requesting that the Committee direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to restore and maintain public access to its library collections.

Despite an EPA report in 2004 showing that the monetary benefits of operating EPA libraries far outweigh the costs, the agency is shutting down libraries across the country that hold valuable information on important public health and environmental issues. Boxer's letter, co-signed by 17 of her colleagues, requests that EPA maintain its library services and solicit and consider public and Congressional input on its plans for cuts.

Senator Boxer said, "The Administration's efforts to shut down public access to critical environmental information by closing EPA libraries is just one more attempt by the Administration to cover-up its negligent handling of environmental protection and should not stand."



Please visit the link provided for the complete story.



Go Boxer.

Access to information is what separates the haves from the have-nots.

We have no freedom without Public Access to scientific information.


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posted on Nov, 12 2006 @ 02:27 PM
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Restricting Public Access to scientific information from tax-funded research is accomplished in several ways - not just by cutting funding to scientific libraries.

NASA's "media policy" reforms tighten the screws too:



...it appears that several agencies are laboring to silence scientists who are researching climate trends and alterations, especially where they have knowledge about the degree to which human activities are playing a role in the rapid and historically inexplicable heating of the planet's surface and atmosphere.

The case in point is that of Dr. James Hansen, head of climatology research for NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He essentially became a whistleblower when he broke an institutional silence and came forward to explain to the press the severe risks facing the world if action is not taken to tackle climate change now. ...Hansen appeared on CBS' 60 Minutes program and other national media. Scientists, academics and journalists formed a wave of support for Hansen and his right to speak openly and freely about public science, and NASA declared its intention to reform its media policy, saying it recognized the rights of individual employees to employ their First Amendment rights to freedom of expression.

But, as Tom Devine and Tarek Maassarani report, there is a lot of fine print to work out in the NASA reforms, and the result is, it may leave scientists and civil servants even more vulnerable to intimidation and to retaliation for speaking freely. The new media policy still places government scientists under harsh restrictions and still seems aimed to give superiors control over what the media hear and discuss, as related to agency work. This standard seems not only to work against the First Amendment, but its lean toward censorship also violates a number of other federal laws.



[edit on 12-11-2006 by soficrow]



posted on Nov, 12 2006 @ 03:09 PM
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Yes, it's apparent that these agencies do not need to follow the law, for the simple reason that no-one enforces them in their case.

It's really disgusting but i have no idea how we could successfully fight them on their own turf, because they can still feed us lies, the lack of interest on this forum is also a bit strange even if predictable. military secrecy standards to cover up incompetence and atrocities are becoming mainstream which is sold as a patriotic duty.



posted on Nov, 12 2006 @ 04:36 PM
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One of the results from budget cuts is that the agency starts to function of private fund when this happen the information given is manipulated by the unscrupulous ones that take advantage of the need for funds to get the results they want.

Yes what was a good agency when it was formed and used to served the public, is becoming over run by private interest.

Then people needs to understand what it means . . . it means that the information gathered and results achieved in studies are not to be trusted.


Good find Sofi



posted on Nov, 12 2006 @ 05:24 PM
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Wow scary stuff! I just shock beyond belief wow!



posted on Nov, 12 2006 @ 10:41 PM
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So like, does the Democratic majority now in power at Congress have any ability to help this? I mean two millions dollars is a pittance in our budget, yet does so much for this agency. I think if you had to cut two million, I am sure you could probably do it by say, I dunno cutting the salariesgiven to retired military and government employees by a shared amount amongst ALL of them to add up to two million? If there were ten thousand of them recieving retirement payments ( no doubt there are quite a bit more) a 200 dollar cut would equal the two million required to keep this open. If it were 50,000 the cut would only be 40$ per...

I mean come on now they are retired. They can survive without an extra 40$ a YEAR!!!!!!!!!! These libraries are essential for the enforcement of environmental law and the protection of our national natural resources.



posted on Nov, 12 2006 @ 10:51 PM
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Thanks, Sofi! Yes, this has been a real nightmare!



posted on Nov, 13 2006 @ 03:13 PM
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You're welcome Byrd, everyone.

...Can the Dems open things up again?

Will they?

We're looking at multiple major cans of worms here - everything from climate change, to changing microbial biology and rampant, unacknowledged epidemics.

People will be overwhelmed if they get hit with it all at once. But it needs to happen imo.





posted on Nov, 13 2006 @ 04:24 PM
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Welcome to how to deal with funding cuts. I am fairly sure that if the EPA wanted to take the time to revise how it spent it's funding the majority of these libraries could stay open. However that isn't how it works. When a government organization gets a funding cut, they always look for the area that their agency deals most with the public and then make their cuts there. This is so that it attracts the public's attention and maybe generates a little outrage, so that people start complianing to their elected officials and they get their funding restored. It is just a game with them. If you want an example just look at what happens when they try to close some military bases.



posted on Nov, 13 2006 @ 05:32 PM
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So are you saying the libraries may in fact re-open in time? I do not understand why they need to cut their funding for. If anything, the funding should be increased. what hapens if they refuse to restore funding? Are the libraries gone forever? Are you okay with that?



posted on Nov, 13 2006 @ 06:31 PM
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Hm, you know I seem to remember an ATSNN thread about this
awhile back, I may be wrong.


Actually, I only remember it because there was a (one way)
exchanging of words, that was not so nice.



posted on Nov, 13 2006 @ 09:56 PM
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Originally posted by iori_komei
Hm, you know I seem to remember an ATSNN thread about this
awhile back



Thank you so much for your thoughtful, informative and positive contributions.


...I doubt this is a 'departmental' game to get funding increases. There are far too many other examples of this administration silencing scientists and obstructing Open Access to scientific information.

And remember - we're talking about info from research funded by your tax dollars. Dontcha think you have a right to see what you paid for?


.

[edit on 13-11-2006 by soficrow]



posted on Nov, 13 2006 @ 10:05 PM
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Originally posted by soficrow
Thank you so much for your thoughtful, informative and positive contributions.


...I doubt this is a 'departmental' game to get funding increases. There are far too many other examples of this administration silencing scientists and obstructing Open Access to scientific information.

And remember - we're talking about info from research funded by your tax dollars. Dontcha think you have a right to see what you paid for?
[edit on 13-11-2006 by soficrow]


Oh, sorry, I did'nt realise I did'nt put my opinion on the issue down.

I am opposed to the closing of these libraries, though I think that
they should just create big federal science databases, rather than
libraries for different branches.



posted on Nov, 13 2006 @ 10:13 PM
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Originally posted by iori_komei

I am opposed to the closing of these libraries, though I think that
they should just create big federal science databases, rather than
libraries for different branches.



Did a quick search for the article you mentioned, found:

EPA to close libraries due to "Budget" shortages.

This thread is more of an update i guess, with a focus on Boxer et al taking their request to the Senate. ...I suspect they, and the EPA scientists, could use some public support.

I agree - databases are a good idea, BUT - on the downside, it is VERY easy to censor, rewrite and/or disappear electronic info. Plus, it costs big bucks to go electronic - and the $ isn't there to even keep the hardcopy libraries open. ...The article does address the issue.


.



posted on Nov, 14 2006 @ 08:15 AM
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Originally posted by Long Lance
Yes, it's apparent that these agencies do not need to follow the law, for the simple reason that no-one enforces them in their case.

Actually, there are mechanisms in place to resort to when the Government continually breaks the Oath that binds them to "preserve, defend & uphold" the Constitution. In the Constitution itself, there's the First Amendment that requires the Government to be answerable to the People.
Remember, it's not just the President that must take the Oath! The President's Oath goes as follows:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
According to Article 6, other such Oaths are required of:
"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

In the Declaration of Independence, it's stated:
"That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principals, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
(bold emphasis is mine)
Well, it seems that Democracy isn't the form of government to achieve these ends...Besides, when the Office Holders swear an Oath to the Constitution & then don't preserve a Republic form of government, as the Constitution demands (Article 4, Section 4), then it seems there's a lot of Oathbreakers in Office!


Originally posted by soficrow
There are far too many other examples of this administration silencing scientists and obstructing Open Access to scientific information.

The tyrants & power-mongers throughout all of human history have found that the control of information & who may access it is the only thing that keeps them in power...As I pointed out way back here. But it's not only scientific information that's supressed...It's information of all kinds that's in danger of being kept from Public Scrutiny, especially information concerning how the Government continually breaks their Oath! For example, how many people actually read the Constitution itself & realizes that all such Oathbreakers can be impeached from Office & then held subject to Judicial Indictment? After all, when the Office Holders take the Oath, they become bound to the Constitution as a legal contract! It wouldn't be merely a matter of charges for Breach of Contract, but also add charges for any & all other acts performed that aren't "in pursuance" of the Constitution!


Originally posted by marg6043
Yes what was a good agency when it was formed and used to served the public, is becoming over run by private interest.

And as we all know, "private interests" has no need to bind themselves to the Constitution & serve the People...They're only "interest" is to serve themselves.



Originally posted by soficrow
I agree - databases are a good idea, BUT - on the downside, it is VERY easy to censor, rewrite and/or disappear electronic info.

For a case in point, go look at the "Save the Internet" article you can find here. There's a lot of other interesting info there that concerns the supression of information as well.
I'm not much for supporting that particular organization, except on certain carefully-selected key issues...It's because they support a Democracy, whereas I'd rather support the Republic described in the Constitution.



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