Posts Tagged ‘science and scientists’

“The FDA cultivates a coterie of journalists whom it keeps in line with threats”

Charles Seife in Scientific American tells the story of how, using the “close-hold embargo” and other techniques, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other government agencies shape what you read about them when major initiatives and findings are announced. I sum up highlights in my new Cato post. More: Megan McArdle.

Free speech roundup

  • Why Josh Blackman signed Wednesday’s New York Times ad protesting the AGs’ investigation and subpoenas on climate advocacy;
  • Proposed revision of ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct barring discrimination by lawyers could have major anti-speech implications [Eugene Volokh]
  • “Game Studio’s Plan To Deal With Critic Of Games: Sue Him To Hell” [Timothy Geigner, TechDirt]
  • The Citizens United case was correctly decided, says Michael Kinsley. And he’s right. [Vanity Fair]
  • Fifth Circuit ruling prescribes attorney fee award after defeat of frivolous trademark litigation under Lanham Act [Popehat]
  • So what’s a good way to support teaching evolution without climbing in bed with folks who put free speech in scare quotes? [National Center for Science Education on Twitter: “Tobacco Science, Climate Denial, and ‘Free Speech'”]

Behind that “scientists’ letter” on climate denial as legal offense

Remember that “scientists’ letter” in which twenty or so credentialed scientists signed their names to a letter asking that so-called climate deniers be investigated, as Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) had been demanding? On inquiry, however, some of the signatories did not seem to know much about the letter or to be particularly committed to the idea. According to David Rifkin and Andrew Grossman’s new Wall Street Journal piece (ungated here), open records requests have now established that the letter was coordinated by Sen. Whitehouse himself. Background here, here, etc.

Rifkin and Grossman also announce the formation of a new, and badly needed, Free Speech in Science Project. “The project will fund legal advice and defense to those who need it, while executing an offense to turn the tables on abusive officials.”

Medical roundup

  • “No, Donating Your Leftover Tissue To Research Is Not Like Letting Someone Rifle Through Your Phone” [Michelle Meyer answers “Henrietta Lacks” author Rebecca Skloot; related, Richard Epstein/Hoover]
  • “Women Should Not Have to Visit a Doctor for Birth Control” [Jeffrey Singer, Time/Cato]
  • Lawyer ads can scare TV viewers into discontinuing medically indicated therapies. But is more regulation the right answer? [reform group Sick of Lawsuits]
  • Johnson & Johnson followed federal government’s own advice on labeling a drug, and got slammed by a jury in consequence [WSJ editorial]
  • U.S. opinion resistant to ratifying treaties that would create an international-law right to health care, so how about smuggling it in via congressional/executive agreement? [Nicholas Diamond, Harvard “Bill of Health”]
  • Denmark, like other Scandinavian countries and New Zealand, has replaced malpractice suits with iatrogenic injury compensation scheme [Pro Publica]
  • Has liberalized patient access to opioids been a net harm? Study suggests no [Tyler Cowen]

EPA’s lobbying on “Waters of the United States”: no big deal?

My local paper, the Frederick News-Post, ran an editorial on Monday that 1) saw nothing especially wrong in the Environmental Protection Agency’s illegally expending tax money to stir up pressure on Congress to support a wider interpretation of EPA power; 2) claimed that the fuss over tax-paid lobbying was for lack of any substantive critique of EPA’s “WOTUS” (Waters of the United States) rule, although a majority of states have challenged that rule, the farm and rural landowner communities have been up in arms against it all year, and a federal appeals court has agreed to stay it.

So I wrote this letter in response, which ran today. There wasn’t space for me to dispute the FNP’s peculiar notion that to oppose the water rule as exceeding the EPA’s statutory authority is to encourage the “anti-science, climate change denial crowd,” which tends to reinforce my sense that “anti-science” and “climate denial” are turning into all-purpose epithets increasingly unhooked from any particular relationship to science or climate. (cross-posted at Free State Notes)

Schools roundup

Because only Truth has rights

Scientists’ “Letter To President Obama: Investigate Deniers Under RICO” is exactly what it sounds like [Greg Laden, ScienceBlogs] We earlier noted, as a step toward attaching legal consequences to unwanted advocacy, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D-R.I.) op-ed “urg[ing] the U.S. Department of Justice to consider filing a racketeering suit against the oil and coal industries for having promoted wrongful thinking on climate change, with the activities of ‘conservative policy’ groups an apparent target of the investigation as well,” as well as Gawker’s call to “arrest climate change deniers.”

P.S. For more on the widely publicized book Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, which condemns various scientists said to be too skeptical of the factual basis for regulation, see links gathered by Judith Curry, including this Reiner Grundmann review. Yet more: “I have no idea how it affects the First Amendment” says Vermont scientist who backs probe of wrongful advocacy [Bruce Parker/Watchdog, quotes me]

Higher education roundup

Schools roundup

Schools roundup

  • Has it gotten too easy to breach the ordinary protections of academic freedom by charging that research is unethical? [Alice Dreger, Retraction Watch; The Guardian with more on complaints against University of Queensland economist over Brisbane, Australia bus study]
  • “Good reformist energy in NYC to decriminalize student misbehavior. Big, unreported obstacle? School security guards are all NYPD personnel.” [Chase Madar on Twitter]
  • “What is Obama’s big idea regarding day care? Well, to make it even more expensive” [Nick Gillespie citing Abby Schachter]
  • “Why no one, but no one, trusts a campus sexual assault proceeding.” [Judith Shulevitz; Volokh (16 Penn Law profs)] Remarkable story of student investigated because he reminded woman of man who had attacked her thousands of miles away [Janet Halley/Harvard Law Review, see text between footnotes 23 and 24 near end, but interesting throughout] Two views of new advocacy film The Hunting Ground [David Edelstein, New York; Lizzie Crocker, Daily Beast]
  • We never followed up at the time on what happened in the 2008 Billy Wolfe bullying story out of Fayetteville, Ark., but suffice it to say it’s not flattering to New York Times coverage [Eighth Circuit 2011 opinion; earlier here, here, and here]
  • Quaker schools in United Kingdom resist mandate that all schools teach “fundamental British values” [Guardian] Non-Oxbridge universities to be brought into line rather sharply on teach-against-terror agenda [Chris Bertram, Crooked Timber]
  • How does your pension compare? “Nearly 5,000 [New York] teachers cashing in on six-figure pensions” [New York Post]