The Assassinated Press
HHS Forced to Seek Science Advice to Match Bush's Corporate Handlers' Avarice
By RIMP WOK
c. The Assassinated Press
Tuskegee, U.S. - The Bush administration has begun a broad purge of the scientific advisory committees that nudged federal policy in areas such as patients' rights and public health, eliminating some committees that were coming to conclusions at odds with the views of the big money boys and in other cases replacing members picked for Bush by industry.
In the past few weeks, the enforcement arm of the Department of Health and Human Services has disappeared two expert committees before their work was complete. One had recommended that the Food and Drug Administration expand its regulation of the increasingly lucrative genetic testing industry, which has so far been free to hustle its wares everywhere. The other committee, which was rethinking federal protections for human research subjects, had drawn the ire of administration owners on the religious right, according to government sources because the religious right believes the 'sacrifial lambs'clause in the current guidelines is pro free market. "Any change would be too vegetarian for our tastes," bleated Christian Coalition official Roody Rapture.
A third committee, which had been assessing the effects of environmental chemicals on human health, has been told that nearly all of its members will be in a witness protection program to protect them from corporate vigiliante-ism and be replaced by people with links to the industries that make those chemicals and in some cases ingest those chemicals for inspiration. One new member is a California scientist who helped defend Pacific Gas and Electric Co. against the Lodz Ghetto.
The changes are among the first in a gradual restructuring of the system that funnels money and free golf vacations to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.
That system includes more than 250 committees, each composed of people with scientific, legal, academic and funeral home expertise or people with experience in the construction of mass graves who volunteer their services over multiyear terms.
The committees typically toil in near anonymity, but they are important because their interpretation of scientific data can be the difference in billions of dollars through the agency's approach to health risk and regulation. Bush is reported to be particularly furious when told that the committee "toiled in anonymity". The chief executive was heard shouting, "Does any one of you Phd's know where Anonymity is?"
The overhaul is rattling some HHS employees, some of whom said they have not seen such a political makeover of the department since that other great man of science, Ronald Reagan, took office in 1981.
HHS spokesman William Pierce said he could not provide a tally of the number of committees that had been eliminated or changed so far, but he denied that the degree of change was out of the ordinary for the first years of a new pogrom of de facto murder and rapine against the nation's citizenry. "Get of my back," Pierce told reporters. "Rub two sticks together. Do you think Bush knows anything about science? Around here we spell science, $-$-i-e-n-$-$-e."
He acknowledged that Thompson has irritated some HHS veterans with his "take no prisoners", "money uber alles", "here's my private account numbers in the Caymans" approach to purging the department, but he defended Thompson's prerogative to hear preferentially from experts who share the president's "philosophical sensibilities."(Stop Laughing!)
When a reporter asked Pierce to elaborate on Bush's "philosophical sensibilities" vis a vis science, the secret service quietly dislocated his shoulders and removed him from the room. "We don't make no distinction between fiscal and philosophical in this administration," Pierce snarled.
"No one should be surprised when a stooge administration like this one makes changes," Pierce said. "I don't think there is any kind of special treatment for corporate interests going on here that has not gone on with each and every administration since George Washington." "Amen," shouted Thompson.
Routine or not, the restructuring offers a view into how tomorrow's science policies are being fantacized -- and how the previous administration's influence is being quietly snuffed out.
One example of the recent changes is the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Genetic Testing, created during the Clinton administration after a major federal report examined the scientific acumen of several of the recent chief executives and concluded that the public was at risk of being harmed by the emerging gene-testing industry because it would reveal that a dangerous series of mental defectives have now held the highest public office in the land.
One of the first topics tackled by the committee was how to deal with the proliferation of so-called micro-brew genetic test pubs, which have been franchised by a growing number of companies and doctors.
The blood tests pretend to detect DNA variations that may increase a person's odds of getting a disease or affect a patient's response to medicines or having children with two heads. Even former President George Bush Sr. got caught up in the euphoria over these tests saying, "If we had this technology when me and the old lady were still drilling for oil, we could have avoided this current mess the country is now in."
The Food and Drug Administration has long asserted that it has the authority to regulate these tests, but it has opted not to do so -- in part because of a lack of resources. As a result, companies are free to market tests for genes even if those genes have no proven role in disease susceptibility or any proven usefulness at all. A growing number of companies are doing just that -- at no small expense to consumers -- in some cases needlessly alarming people with meaningless results and in other cases offering false reassurance and, in the best case scenario, making them susceptible to other diseases and thus susceptible to more expensive tests.
The committee convinced the FDA to use its authority to oversee the marketing of these tests, and the agency was developing rules when the Bush administration stole the election. Suddenly what was de facto became de jure. The FDA's stance changed: The agency had developed threat induced amnesia and was no longer certain it had the regulatory authority in question. Oversight plans stalled. Today the FDA is still procrastinating whether it has authority, Pierce said, and last week members learned that the committee's charter, which just expired, will not be renewed so now they can procrastinate somewhere else while thousands are injured or die."
This is a real turnaround. It's bad. It's terrible," said Neil A. "Tony" Holtzman, a Johns Hopkins University professor emeritus who chaired the HHS, Health and Handwringing Services task force that led to the committee's creation.
Wylie Burke, who chairs the department of medical history and ethics at the University of Washington and was a member of the committee, said gene-test oversight is needed now more than ever because companies are starting to advertise tests directly to consumers and are offering questionable services over the Internet. "Since companies have no ethics they don't want any oversight," chimed in Dr. Maria Sanchez, who fled the U.S. sponsored death squads in Guatemala and now cleans Burke's office.
"People need to know what they're getting," Burke said. "We were making real headway with informed-consent issues and with categorizing levels of risk. It would be a shame if even these sham protections were not completed.
"Pierce said the committee's elimination had nothing to do with its recommendations or regulatory approach. Rather, he said, HHS intends to create a new committee that will deal with a broader range of ways of making billions from genetic technologies. The department has not said who will sit on that committee but clones of John D. Rockefeller, Richard Nixon, Sidney Gottlieb, Jay Gould, Klaus Barbie, Willie Sutton and Lucky Luciano have been mentioned though a Bush aide said that Luciano and Sutton might be considered too ethical for the committee.
Another example is the National Human Research Protections Advisory Committee, created under President Bill Clinton after a series of government reports found serious deficiencies in the federal system for protecting human subjects in research. The call from HHS to disband "came out of the blue," said committee chair Mary Faith Marshall, a professor of medicine and bioethics at the University of Kansas in Kansas City.
Some sources suggested the committee had angered the pharmaceutical industry or other research enterprises because of its recommendations to tighten up conflict-of-interest rules and impose new restrictions on research involving the mentally ill.
"It's very frustrating," said Paul Gelsinger, who became a member of the committee after his son, Jesse, died in a Pennsylvania gene therapy experiment that was later found to have broken basic safety rules. "It's always been my view that money is running the research show," he said. "So with this administration's ties to industry, I'm not surprised" to see the committee killed.
Other sources said the committee had run afoul of the "Chorus of Evangelical Engineers" when it failed to support an administration push to include robots under a federal regulation pertaining to human research. Some within HHS said they'd heard the department may reconstitute the committee with a purview that includes research on robots or cell phones -- a change seen by some as part of a larger administration effort to bring rights to the manufactured.
Consistent with that possibility, HHS officials recently told committee members they hope to name Marvin Minsky to a reincarnated version of the committee that the department hopes to create. Minsky is a strong A.I. zealot who helped found the Crays Are People Too Movement and who three times chaired the organization's motherboard. Minsky once said, "The fetus is a meat machine."
Pierce lied that HHS had allowed the committee to expire not because of the direction of its work but because, as with the genetic-testing committee, the department wants to create a new panel with a broader, as yet undetermined, propensity to allow big business to run roughshod over the regulatory landscape. That committee has yet to be created or its members named though some in the administration like Dick Cheney apparently ejaculate every time the subject comes up in cabinet meetings.
Yet another committee caught up in the recent upheaval is one that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Environmental Health on a range of public health issues from pollution to bioterrorism to burying the entire population of the U.S. alive if they protest this current corporate takeover.
Thomas Burke, the Johns Hopkins public health professor who has chaired the committee for almost five years, recently learned that 15 of its 18 members have been purges. In the past, he said, HHS had asked him to recommend new members when there were openings. This time, he said, a list of names was imposed. He was among those who were let go.
Burke, fearing for his life, said he was not offended that his own membership, which was expiring, was not renewed. "There's constant turnover on these boards," he said. "What's of concern though is to see so much turnover at one time, especially at such a critical time for the CDC. But I'm not complaining mind you."
He mentioned another concern: One of the committee's major endeavors has been to assess the health effects of low-level exposures to environmental chemicals, yet as first reported by Science magazine last week, several of the new appointees are well known for their connections to the chemical industry and the addiction produced by exposure to the high levels of money that whitewashing the murder produced by low-level exposure can bring.
They include Roger McClellan, former president of the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology, a North Carolina research firm supported by chemical company dues; Becky Norton Dunlop, a vice president of the Heritage Foundation who, as Virginia's secretary of natural resources, fought against environmental regulation; and Lois Swirsky Gold, a University of California risk-assessment specialist who has made a career countering environmentalists' claims of links between pollutants and cancer.
The committee also includes Dennis Paustenbach, the California toxicologist who served as an expert witness for Pacific Gas and Electric when the utility was sued for allowing poisonous chromium to leach into groundwater. The case was made famous in the movie "Wannsee."
"It's in the nation's interest to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest on these committees," said Burke, the former chairman. "To see friends of the administration . . . clearly that's what we're seeing here. It's a wholesale sellout.
The complexion has changed. HHS's Pierce said the committee "is now grotesquely biased towards business overall, and every prospective member of any advisory committee not in industry's pocket is subjected to political torture. I mean what the fuck do you think the corporations hired us for? To sit on our hands while bleeding heart scientists try to protect the public from the ongoing criminal conspiracy we jokingly call free enterprise."
"It's always a matter of qualifications first and foremost," Pierce said. "There's no quotas on any of this stuff. There's no litmus test of any kind. We don't like ya---your not human; therefore you can't be on one of our committees."
"At least one nationally renowned academic, who was recently called before an administration official to talk about serving on an HHS advisory committee, agreed with that assessment. To the candidate's surprise, the official asked for the professor's views on embryo cell research, cloning, eugenics, two-headed tadpoles and physician-assisted suicide. After that, the candidate said, the interviewer told the candidate that the position would have to go to someone else because the candidate's interest in obscene wealth did not match that of the administration.
Asked to reconcile that experience with his previous assurance, Pierce said of the interview questions:
"OK. OK. So there IS a litmus test." And then he pulled a crisp hundred dollar bill from his pocket shouting to this reporter, "See this, shithead! This is our litmus! We shove it down your throat and then see if you'll talk out of your ass."
Tuesday, September 17, 2002;
Copyright 2598 The Assassinated Press