Government

Thu, 2013-05-23 05:30John Mashey
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FOIA Facts 4 - George Mason Takes The Money And Breaks The Rules

New Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) replies (1, 2, and 3) expose worse misbehavior at George Mason University. GMU badly mishandled simple plagiarism complaints, including one on a Federally-funded paper, retracted in May 2011, finally ruled as misconduct in 2012. Federal rules required notifications to several agencies earlier, but FOIA requests found no trace of any: Army 1, Army 2, GMU 1, GMU 2.

GMU gets $129M+/year in Federal grant funds, generally takes 30% for itself, but breaks rules.

A Nature editorial criticized GMU's handling, the Chronicle of Higher Education covered the retraction, Science discussed the process. USA Today's Dan Vergano later wrote in February 2012:

''”We took these charges very seriously,” (GMU Provost Peter) Stearns said, in a telephone interview, adding that the university will forward the investigation reports to federal authorities. The National Institutes of Health and the Department of the Army supported the 2008 study.'

Stearns had already written falsehoods to his own faculty, as detailed in See No Evil, Speak Little Truth, Break Rules, Blame Others, §6. GMU has many respectable faculty members, but the GMU administration ran a bizarre process far outside academic norms, GMU's own rules and Federal rules.

Was this just total incompetence by the administration of a 32,000-student university? Or was some part played by the powerful influence at GMU of Charles Koch and his associates, as discussed in See No Evil §A.5, §A.6?

In any case, Edward Wegman was appointed in Fall 2012 to a 3-year term on the GMU College of Science Promotion and Tenure Committee.

Then, in February 2013 GMU modified its already-opaque and complaint-discouraging process to be even more so.

Tue, 2013-05-21 05:30John Mashey
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FOIA Facts 2 - No Pro Bono - Federal Funds Mis-Used For Wegman Report And Much More

Wegman's mis-use of Army funds, irrelevant work outweighed relevant

As begun in FOIA Facts 1, Ed Wegman and Rep. Joe Barton repeatedly called the Wegman Report “pro bono”* but Wegman and Said later claimed it as work done for existing Federal  grants paid quarterly.  In response to Dan Vergano FOIA request  Wegman and Said each said the work was pro bono, years after claiming for credit it and much other irrelevant work. Together, they “charged” 48 inappropriate works to grants they effectively treated as slush funds.

Wegman was funded by Army Research Office (ARO) grant 0447, $217K for “Analytical and Graphical Methods for Streaming Data with Applications to Netcentric Warfare.” He claimed credit for 75 papers and talks, listed in the thumbnail at left or full-sized in Sheet §0.1.

Dark blue shows fit (possibly relevant) papers, but almost all acknowledged earlier grants and were published or mostly done before 0447. Wegman improperly claimed them again in late 2008, perhaps because he had done so little new relevant work in peer-reviewed research journals. Ignoring them leaves just cyan (light blue) talks, outnumbered by grant-unfit works: green for alcoholism, red for attempts to discredit climate science and orange for miscellaneous others unrelated to his or Said's grants.

The chronology matches well - fit papers essentially vanished after 2005, as Wegman plunged into climate and worked on alcoholism with Said, who claimed the Wegman Report for her grant. A 91-page report on unfamiliar topics and Congressional hearings had to consume much more effort than anything else. Even by simple counts, more than half of each person's works were inappropriate, but the grant time spent inappropriately was almost certainly larger. 

Lamar Smith (R-TX) might want to investigate obvious funds misuse before trying to meddle with the National Science Foundation.

“Congress has a responsibility to review questionable research paid for by hard-working American taxpayers. … Public funds should be used to benefit the American people.”

Mon, 2013-05-20 06:00John Mashey
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FOIA Facts 1 - More Misdeeds By Ed Wegman, Yasmin Said, George Mason University

The Wegman Report was not pro bono, and George Mason violated Federal rules

New Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) replies have exposed more misdeeds by Professor Edward Wegman and Yasmin Said at George Mason University (GMU),  closely involved with the Kochs, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and many others known for attacks on climate science. This post reviews background and attaches FOIA files that unearthed evidence for:

-pervasive mis-use of Federal funds for inappropriate work,
-plagiarism or falsification in documents used to seek grants or credit,
-GMU violations of Federal rules for reporting misconduct, atop an already-absurd procedure.

Readers unfamiliar with the history might first read the background below the fold and then return here for a summary of the posts to follow in this series:

FOIA Facts 2 - Wegman and Said used existing grants from the Army Research Office and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism for efforts on the 2006 Wegman Report, showing “pro bono” claims made to Congress as false. That was not the only funds mis-use. Together, they claimed 48 inappropriate papers or talks, easily consuming more than half their effort. Grants of $492K produced attacks on climate science  and much foreign travel, but almost nothing in peer-reviewed research journals.

FOIA Facts 3 - More plagiarism and falsification are documented in 13 total works by Wegman and/or Said, including a few new ones and at least 7 claimed for grant credit. Wegman also wrote a half-million-dollar grant proposal, but evidence shows that roughly half the text was copy-paste-edit plagiarism. Luckily for Wegman, it was rejected.

FOIA Facts 4 exposes worse misbehavior at GMU, which badly mishandled simple plagiarism complaints, including one on a Federally-funded paper. That was retracted in May 2011 and finally ruled as misconduct in February 2012. Federal rules required multiple notifications to several agencies, but FOIA requests found no trace of them. GMU seemed to ignore Federal rules, but perhaps other funding and influence are more important.

In any case,  Wegman was appointed in Fall 2012 to a 3-year term on the GMU College of Science Promotion and Tenure Committee.

Tue, 2013-03-26 16:34Carol Linnitt
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Indigenous Rights are...Hey Look! A Panda!

Yesterday hundreds of indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians stood on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to greet the Nishiyuu walkers - a group of First Nations marchers who have gathered along the 1500 kilometre route between Whapmagoostui in Quebec's James Bay Treaty area and the nation's capital.

The youngest walker to speak on behalf of the group was an 11-year old girl who said she was marching on behalf of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper chose to dismiss the event, traveling instead to Toronto's Pearson Airport where he, along with his wife, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and a high-school band, welcomed two panda bears on loan to Canadian zoos from China.

Sun, 2013-03-03 12:00Farron Cousins
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The Environmental Impact Of The Sequester Cuts

The failure of elected officials in Washington, D.C. to reach a deal on the “sequester” led to an automatic $85 billion cut to the federal budget on March 1st.  And, unfortunately, environmental initiatives and other projects were the first to be placed on the chopping block.

Environmental programs within the United States – everything from wildlife refuges to clean air and water programs – have already been grossly underfunded for years, and the sequester cuts are only going to make things much, much worse for our environment.

One program that was gearing up to be cut less than 24 hours after sequester took effect was the Bureau of Labor Statistics green jobs survey.  This program allowed the administration to track the creation and tally of jobs within the clean energy and other “green” sectors, a program that many Republicans in Washington had wanted to cut from day one. 

But those cuts are just the beginning.  Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that the mandatory cuts are going to severely hurt investment and research into lightweight automobile construction and fuel cell technology, investments that were aimed at helping increase automobile fuel efficiency and reducing our gasoline consumption.  Those programs will now have to wait to receive funding.

Chu said that the cuts the Energy Department is facing would significantly slow down the country’s quest to become energy independent, a goal that 64% of Americans (from both sides of the political aisle) favor.

Thu, 2013-02-14 11:43Carol Linnitt
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Science Silenced: US Scientist Caught in Canadian Muzzle

What a difference a decade makes - especially when it comes to government-directed communications policies regarding science, and especially when you're in Canada. 

In 2003 a Canadian-American research collaboration, involving scientists from US universities and Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), began in the Eastern Arctic to track oceanic conditions and ice flow in the Nares Strait.

Thu, 2013-02-07 23:04Kevin Grandia
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One Question John Kerry Should Ask John Baird To Gauge Canada's Sincerity on Bilateralism

Newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet on Friday with his Canadian counterpart, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. In any such bilateral meeting, it is paramount that each participant trust the words of their counterpart. After all, when it comes to the world of diplomacy, where wars are settled and treaties are signed, there's little more than words and trust. 

Thu, 2013-01-31 15:26Farron Cousins
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Record Fines For BP In Gulf Disaster Deal

After a ruling earlier this week by a federal judge in New Orleans, BP now holds the record for the largest criminal penalty in U.S. history.  The penalty, totaling $4 billion, is strictly related to the criminal conduct of the company that led to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and oil leak into the Gulf of Mexico.

As part of the deal, BP agreed to plead guilty to a total of 14 counts of criminal conduct, which includes charges of felony manslaughter. However, as CNN.com points out, the charges are against the company, not any individuals involved, so prison time for those responsible will not be part of the deal.

The $4 billion criminal penalty does not affect the settlement deals for the victims along the Gulf Coast, nor does it include any environmental fines for the company. Those are separate cases that are still being worked out, and will result in several billions more in financial penalties for the company.

Wed, 2013-01-23 05:00Anne Landman
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Dick Armey's Tobacco Ties: The Early Years

This is the first of a three-part series on Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R) and his relationship to Big Tobacco throughout his career.

Dick Armey, who recently resigned from the Tea Party group Freedomworks, was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1984, as a representative from Texas. A smoker, Armey first appeared on the tobacco industry's radar in 1985 after he appeared at a press conference in support of a bill aimed eliminating the federal tobacco support program – something the industry did not favor.

Even thought he opposed tobacco price supports, which put him squarely on the opposite side of that issue from the tobacco industry, Armey solicited a relationship with the industry.

In 1987, Armey wrote a
letter to Samuel Chilcote, President of the Tobacco Institute, saying he had a lot to learn about politics and asking if Chilcote would do him the “great personal favor” of sitting on his Political Action Committee Advisory Committee. Handwriting on the letter, apparently by Chilcote, cites a scheduling conflict, and indicates Chilcote likely did agree to Armey's request.

Nevertheless, after that the Tobacco Institute started regularly donating funds to Armey's re-election campaigns through its political action committee (“TIPAC”) in fairly small amounts at first – just $250 in 1987. The industry's donations to Armey grew steadily as his time and his influence in the House increased. By 1991, Armey was getting
$500 donations from TIPAC, plus additional donations from individual cigarette companies

By 2000-2001, Armey was routinely pulling in $1,000 donations from TIPAC and individual tobacco companies like R.J. Reynolds (RJR), Lorillard and Philip Morris.
Thu, 2012-12-06 12:53Jim Hoggan
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The Web We Weave When We Practice to Deceive

Peter Kent, Environment Minister

We are not muzzling scientists.” - Peter Kent, Canada’s Environment Minister.

I shook my head reading Margaret Munro’s Weekend Vancouver Sun article on freedom of information documents that caught Canada’s Minister of the Environment lying about muzzling scientists.

Kent has repeatedly denied that the government is muzzling scientists. But according to the documents, Kent’s office clearly muzzled Environment Canada researcher David Tarasick, preventing him from speaking to a number of media outlets about an unprecedented hole that appeared in the ozone layer above the Arctic in 2011.

According to Munro, “the documents also say Kent’s office and the Privy Council Office, which reports to the prime minister, decide when and if Environment Canada scientists are allowed to brief the media about anything from wildlife to water quality.”

Why would the Minister of the Environment block public discussion of scientific work that may be important for the health and safety of Canadians and their environment?

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