Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Our Best and Brightest

Fort Detrick can't seem to keep track of its pathogens:

It's the only place in the American military complex equipped to handle the worst of the worst diseases -- those that have no cure and are transmissible by air. Which makes it extremely unnerving, that the place had to suspend biodefense research on Friday, "after discovering apparent problems with the system of accounting for high-risk microbes and biomaterials...."

The concern this time is that the lab may not be accurately tracking the use and storage of all of its biological organisms in an internal government database -- leaving the door open to misplacement, mishandling, or worse.
The federal government has delegated food-safety responsibilities to states that can't afford them:
The U.S. government has increasingly relied on food-safety inspections performed by states, where budgets for inspections in many cases have remained stagnant and where overburdened officials are trained less than their federal counterparts and perform skimpier reviews
There's a shortage of water in the desert:
The Central Valley has been hit harder than most parts of California, in part because housing was so overbuilt there. But the valley faces a problem that much of the rest of the state doesn't: Its economy is heavily tied to the farming industry, which in turn is dependent on water imported from the mountains of Northern California.
Who or what is to blame? The Endangered Species Act, naturally:
Republican George Radanovich of Mariposa, who introduced a bill to this effect last week, called the Endangered Species Act a "horrendous" law and said that pumping restrictions to protect Delta smelt and other species at the expense of farmers amounts to "economic eco-terrorism."
The NOAA is punishing a marine biologist for advocating conservation:
Professor Rick Steiner, a noted marine scientist and environmentalist with the University of Alaska Marine Advisory Program, incurred the wrath of NOAA officials by protesting a pro-industry slant in Sea Grant programs to promote oil drilling in Alaska’s Bristol Bay.
And the Pentagon has come up with a fraudulent mitigation banking scheme:
The Pentagon has been funding Texas A&M University to pay landowners near a Texas military post to protect endangered bird species on their land under a secretive program designed to free the military to conduct training activities that would damage the birds' habitats inside the post's boundaries....
Meanwhile, the Canadian government is funding an asbestos lobbying group:
[T]he new federal budget continues to provide funding for the Chrysotile Institute, which promotes the use of asbestos throughout the world.

"When Canadians find out we're actually doing this, they can't believe it," said Bradley, who has written Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff urging the party to support an end to the funding.
All of which is pretty depressing. But take heart, for the economy, at least, is in good hands:
Mr. Geithner, who will announce the broad outlines of the plan on Tuesday morning, successfully fought against more severe limits on executive pay for companies receiving government aid.
Clearly, prosperity is right around the corner.

No comments: