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Old 01-13-2004, 08:29 AM   #1
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White House seeks control on health, safety

This is very scary. Especially in light of their denial on air safety in NY after 9/11 and the record of "not sure about global warming". "arsenic levels are fine", and "don't worry about mercury levels if your pregnant.


The Office of Management and Budget wants to have the final say on releasing emergency declarations to the public.

By Andrew Schneider
Of the Post-Dispatch [copyright]2004, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

WASHINGTON - Under a new proposal, the White House would decide what and when the public would be told about an outbreak of mad cow disease, an anthrax release, a nuclear plant accident or any other crisis.

The White House Office of Management and Budget is trying to gain final control over release of emergency declarations from the federal agencies responsible for public health, safety and the environment.

The OMB also wants to manage scientific and technical evaluations - known as peer reviews - of all major government rules, plans, proposed regulations and pronouncements.

Currently, each federal agency controls its emergency notifications and peer review of its projects.


On Friday, a nonpartisan group of 20 former top agency officials sent a letter to the OMB asking the White House watchdog agency to withdraw its proposal, saying it "could damage the federal system for protecting public health and the environment."

One of the signers, David Michaels, said: "It goes beyond just having the White House involved in picking industry favorites to evaluate government science. Under this proposal, the carefully crafted process used by the government to notify the public of an imminent danger is going to first have to be signed off by someone weighing the political hazards."

Michaels, a former assistant secretary for environment, safety and health at the Department of Energy, is now a research professor at George Washington University's School of Public Health. He added: "OMB is not a science agency. The ramifications of it attempting to insert itself into a time-proven system of having the most knowledgeable scientists available evaluate proposed policy or regulations is a disaster in the making."

In addition to Michaels, the letter is signed by two former Environmental Protection Agency administrators, a former secretary of labor, two former heads of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a former assistant labor secretary in charge of mine safety and health, and 13 other former senior officials of both political parties.

In lengthy comments to the OMB, Cohen and a co-signer, Robert Wells, president of the 60,000-member Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, also questioned the OMB's proposed involvement in screening emergency public health announcements.

They offered examples of recent events from one agency - the Food and Drug Administration - where a delay caused by the OMB could have been dangerous. Among them:

An emergency termination of a clinical trial of anti-arrhythmic drugs "that was not beneficial, but in fact dangerous."

An announcement that hormone replacement therapy for post-menopausal women was causing adverse effects.

Last October's halting of a clinical trial of a cancer drug to reduce the rate of breast cancer recurrence.

"We see no public benefit from mandating an additional layer of OMB interposition, peer review and public comments that, at best, would have delayed these announcements for untold months," said the comments from the groups, which represent more than 100 medical and scientific societies.

Michael Taylor, former deputy commissioner at the FDA under the first Bush administration, warned that the OMB's involvement in the dissemination of information on "imminent health hazards" is dangerous.


The OMB's attempt to take control of the release of emergency information surprises even its critics.

There were headlines across the country when the EPA's inspector general confirmed that the White House's Council on Environmental Quality had forced downplaying of actual hazards from the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings. And the OMB was faulted in congressional hearings for preventing the EPA from declaring a public health emergency regarding asbestos contamination in Libby, Mont.

"Incredibly, OMB's response to this widespread criticism about political interference in public health decisions is to come right out and explicitly propose to take authority over release of emergency information away from health, safety and environmental officials and transfer it into the hands" of John Graham, said Winifred De Palma, regulatory affairs counsel for Public Citizen.

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Old 01-13-2004, 05:54 PM   #2
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They should rename the "White House Office of Management and Budget" to the "White House Office of Agitation and Propaganda."

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