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League of Women Voters of the Park Forest Area Newsflash

Park Forest Public Library

announces showing of 

An Inconvenient Truth 

On Thursday March 29 at 6:30 pm there will be a showing of the Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth in the Ringering Room of the Park Forest Public Library, 400 Lakewood Boulevard, Park Forest.

The history and perils of global climate change are explored in this popular and controversial movie featuring former vice-president Al Gore.

The public is invited to this showing which will be followed by a short discussion.   This program is sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Park Forest Area.  There is no charge for admission.


How long will my name be listed online in the police reports?

It is the policy of eNews Park Forest to not remove items in the public record from publication.  If your name is listed in the police reports, we will only add information relevant to the final disposition of the case at hand, e.g. "Mr. Smith was subsequently acquitted," or "All charges against Mr. Smith were subsequently dropped."  We will do so upon receiving and verifying proof of such disposition.

Press Briefing by Tony Snow: 3-15-07

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–

White House Conference Center Briefing Room

12:49 P.M. EDT

MR. SNOW: Hello. The President this morning had a good meeting with the Iraqi Vice President, Adil Abd Al-Mahdi. Among other things, the Iraqi Vice President noted that the ongoing security plan in Iraq is going, as he said, better than expected. But he also noted that we've got a long way to go. There are a lot of issues — politically, economically, and in terms of security — to address within Iraq. As he said — he talked about the hydrocarbon bill and deBaathification. But it was an important and a good meeting.

And it, incidently, comes at a time when the United States Senate is debating a resolution that would pull the rug out from under the Iraqi people by trying to set artificial deadlines when it comes to U.S. military commitments. If that bill comes before the President, he will veto it.

The Vice President also — that is the Iraqi Vice President — also noted that yesterday he visited soldiers in the hospital, and he was impressed by the high spirit they had — "better morale than I had," he said, talking about their mission. And in trying to bind the hands of the administration would pull the rug out from under them, as well. So we do have some business going on on Capitol Hill today.

Questions.

Q The Judiciary Committee today approved subpoenas — authorized subpoenas for five Justice Department officials as they look into the prosecutors case. What's the administration's reaction?

MR. SNOW: Well, I refer you to the Department of Justice on that. I know that they've had some conversations, but I'll refer you to DOJ on that.

Q Why would that be? Why wouldn't the White House —

MR. SNOW: Because it's subpoenas for the DOJ, and the Department of Justice will respond. The Department of Justice has also had ongoing conversations with people on Capitol Hill. I don't want to be their fact witness on this one, but, again, I suggest you give their office a call.

Q But you said Fred Fielding is talking with the Hill to see about —

MR. SNOW: Yes. I said he's been talking with people on the Hill. He was up on the Hill yesterday. I don't know if he'll be up —

Q Still no resolution of that?

MR. SNOW: No. But, again, what we're trying to do is to make sure they get the information they need in a manner that's consistent with presidential prerogatives.

Q Tony, it's getting hard to find a Republican around town who says that Gonzales will survive this. Is there any feeling inside the White House that Attorney General Gonzales will survive this?

MR. SNOW: The President has confidence in the Attorney General. He's made that clear, both privately to the Attorney General, and he made it clear yesterday in the press conference.

Q But if you have an ever-growing number of Republicans on the Hill calling for resignation or expressing strong —

MR. SNOW: Well, you're asking me if; we have one publicly declared.

Q You do have more Republican opinion that Gonzales should not keep his job.

MR. SNOW: Well, again —

Q That's got to factor into an administration who wants to do business with Republicans on the Hill to get a domestic agenda done, if nothing else.

MR. SNOW: Well, we're working with people on both sides of the Hill, and, Jim, one of the things the President said is that the Attorney General is going to be going to Capitol Hill to talk about some of the mistakes that were made in terms of providing notification on U.S. attorneys. And furthermore, the information was provided to people within the Department of Justice when they went to testify on the Hill. So the Attorney General also is going to have an opportunity to speak with members of Congress and address their concerns.

Q At this point, the Attorney General —

MR. SNOW: The President has confidence in the Attorney General.

Q He had confidence in Rumsfeld, too.

Q Will the President let current and former officials, like Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, testify on Capitol Hill?

MR. SNOW: As I said, Fred Fielding is busy conducting talks with people in the House and Senate, with Democrats. And I'm not going to tell you what's going to be decided. I'm going to let them go ahead and have their conversations. Again, we're going to give them the information they need in a manner that's consistent with presidential prerogatives.

Q Without them having to subpoena?

MR. SNOW: Again, you're trying to get me to jump ahead and do negotiations. Not going to do it.

Q Was the Mohammed on the front pages subjected to any torture in the secret prisons?

MR. SNOW: We don't — again, the policy of this government is we do not engage in torture.

Q And so you can guarantee that he was not tortured in all the years of secret —

MR. SNOW: I'm telling you the policy is that we don't do torture, and furthermore, that there are — very specific guidelines have been laid down in terms of the questioning of people who, in fact, have been in U.S. custody.

Q But after it was all revealed. How do we know — I mean, this is — why would you send them to secret prisons in the first place?

MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not going to — Helen, we have been through long conversations about that. There was a big debate on Capitol Hill about this. We're not going to relitigate it.

Q So you're saying he was not —

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q Tony, let me talk about the Judiciary Committee decision to authorize the subpoenas before these talks with Fielding are completed — do you feel that's premature?

MR. SNOW: Well, you're talking about Department of Justice subpoenas, those are not White House subpoenas. That's a separate issue.

Q Tony, Leahy said that he would subpoena Rove, Miers, if there was not voluntary cooperation.

MR. SNOW: Well, as I said, I'm not going to get up here and act as if — Fred Fielding is having conversations. I think it's advisable to let those proceed.

Q But if he does subpoena, is there anything the White House can do to stop —

MR. SNOW: I'm not going to play the "if" game. Let's just wait and see. Rather than trying to answer hypotheticals, we will deal with facts as they arise.

Q Do you think the White House made any mistakes in this whole matter of the discussions over the firings? And particular, I'm wondering if Attorney General Gonzales was making statements to members of Congress, beginning in January, that later proved to be not exactly in line with the facts, weren't people in the White House aware of that?

MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get into extensive sort of fact witnessing. Let me make a simple point. U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President, and these were proper decisions to remove seven U.S. attorneys. And the Department of Justice went through its own process, and I'll let the Department of Justice speak for the metrics, and so on, that it used. But it's certainly within the right of the President to replace people.

Furthermore, as you know, with U.S. attorneys, they've got a four-year term. Each of these folks had fulfilled the four-year term. There are holdover provisions, but it is well within the President's executive authority to replace people.

Q Tony, two quick questions. One, there has been so much written so far now as far as terrorism, threat of terrorism is concerned in Afghanistan and also here in the U.S. And The Washington Post former prime minister of Pakistan is writing that now that a clear story has come that General Musharraf is not doing enough as far as what he was accepted by the President — and even not only President — satisfied with what's happening with what's going on. And where do we stand now as far as Osama bin Laden and all those —

MR. SNOW: Goyal, you're asking me to answer a question that involves highly classified matters, and I can't do that. I'm not going to do —

Q Not classified —

MR. SNOW: There's not a lot of unclassified information about what we're doing with regard to Osama bin Laden. The fact is that this administration remains determined to prosecute the war on terror on all fronts.

Q Second, on immigration. As far as presidential trip is concerned, he had — immigration as far as Mexico is concerned — so he said that he will double his efforts as far as the immigration bill is concerned in the U.S. Senate. So what is he going to do now? Is it what Democrats want, or what —

MR. SNOW: No, the President laid it out yesterday — working with Republicans to come up with a largely accepted Republican view, and then work with Democrats to get a bill passed. I mean, he's been pretty straightforward about the approach. But the President — make no mistake, the President is committed to this cause. He delivered a nationwide address from the Oval Office. It certainly was something we discussed at every stop along the way. He thinks it is vital for making this nation more secure, this nation more prosperous, and incidentally, also for making our friends and allies in the neighborhood more secure and prosperous. It's good for both sides.

And as a result, he wanted to make sure that everybody understood that this was a real firm, profound and personal commitment on his part.

Q — you can clear very quickly. Fred Fielding is negotiating with members on the Hill on possible subpoenas of White House staff. Does that mean he's not talking to them about the possible Justice Department subpoenas?

MR. SNOW: What I'm not going to do — what he's talking about is — and I'm not even going to engage — what you've done is jump to negotiating about subpoenas. What we're talking about is getting information to them that they need in a manner that's consistent with our prerogatives. And that can cover a lot of ground. I am not privy to the precise conversations, but Fred is having conversations with them, and I don't want to characterize them.

Q You seem to be pushing off — you seem to be pushing our questions on subpoenas —

MR. SNOW: Because the Department of Justice has been, in fact, having its own conversations with those committees.

Q Does the White House have no opinion about whether Justice Department officials should — honor subpoenas?

MR. SNOW: That's sort of the backdoor way of getting into the conversations that Fred may be having with folks on the Hill. Let's just let these talks play out, and then once we get to a point where there's resolution, then you can ask me and I can give you a much more direct answer. We're dealing at a highly hypothetical level right now and that kind of musing doesn't give us much to go on.

April.

Q Tony, going to another subject, the Pentagon. Is the President now going to start embracing the words "civil war," to a certain extent as it relates to Iraq?

MR. SNOW: What you're talking about is the 90/10 report that came out. That, April, reflects the language that was used in the National Intelligence Estimate. As you'll recall, the National Intelligence Estimate said there are some things that are characteristic of a civil war, some that are not. So this is — there's not new language, or for that matter, new analysis.

Q It's not new language for the NIE, but it's new language for the President —

MR. SNOW: No, no, the President — what the President is focusing on is succeeding in Iraq. And again, you've got evidence that there has been progress. I don't want to oversell it because it is tough and there's along way to go. We're still busy moving forces into Iraq. We're still working with the Iraqis to develop capability. They've been stepping up and taking on tough decisions. The oil law has been passed by the council ministers; it is going before the legislature. What I'm telling you, April, is there's a lot of stuff going on. And what you're asking about is a phrase used in a National Intelligence Estimate.

Q Don't diminish it, because for months you, from that podium, have been dancing around the words, "civil war," and sectarian —

MR. SNOW: Right, but what you are trying to say is that that is a label that is attached as an absolute — that is being used to describe accurately what's going on. And if you take a look at the NIE, it said it has some characteristics and some that are inconsistent. So we're not going to use the term.

Q So you're not going to use the term, the President is not?

MR. SNOW: No, but the President — the National Intelligence Estimate says that there are some characteristics that are consistent and some that aren't.

Q Okay. And lastly, on the Sudan, why did it take so long for this administration to come out with the issue of sanctions, financial sanctions? From my understanding, this administration had been looking into that issue for months.

MR. SNOW: This administration has been working for months — I would flip it around — this administration — and the President was the first person to call this genocide — he has been working and he has been very aggressive on the diplomatic track, trying to get people in the neighborhood, within the African Union and also the United Nations to step up. This needs to be addressed.

Q Well, why has it taken the sanctions — as you said, he's called it genocide; he's even called it outrageous. But why has it taken so long? I got word of it last year, towards the end of summer, that they were looking at sanctions. Why are we now in March, and they're talking about sanctions —

MR. SNOW: We have been trying to work, April, to make sure that we have the ability of players in the region to have some influence on the government, which, in the Sudanese government, has consistently rejected overtures, and that becomes a forcing event to get others involved.

Q Back on the prosecutors. Has the White House been in touch with Harriet Miers to see if she has further information in this case?

MR. SNOW: I don't know.

Q The President said, "I've heard those allegations about political decision-making; it's just not true." How can he say that when he hasn't seen all the emails, emails continue to come out, and of those that have already come out, some of them clearly seem to show that at some level, at least, there was political decision-making?

MR. SNOW: I'm not — how would you define "political decision-making"?

Q Well, decision-making that involves politics.

Q How would you define it, Tony?

MR. SNOW: Well, it's a loaded term. I mean, I think what the President — what the President is saying is that there is no — that in evaluating U.S. attorneys, this is based on performance. And the important thing to do — and furthermore, the Department of Justice made recommendations that the President has accepted. Also keep in mind, the President has the authority to remove people and put other folks in the job. That is at his discretion. That's presidential power.

Q But is he saying that he was so in the loop, then, that he definitely knew there was nothing political, or was he, in fact, removed, as you indicated this morning?

MR. SNOW: No, I think — again, what the President has — the Department of Justice has made recommendations, they've been approved. And it's pretty clear that these things are based on performance and not on sort of attempts to do political retaliation, if you will.

Q Tony, thank you. Thousands of veterans are coming from all over the country to make sure on Saturday that a rally organized by a group called Act Now to Stop the War and End Racism does not deface the Vietnamese War Memorial like the Capitol was spray-painted by another mob. My question: Does the President have any welcome for these veterans protecting our war memorial?

MR. SNOW: The President welcomes all veterans and thanks them for their service.

Q Since it has been my impression that Vice President Cheney has always been loyal to the President, could you tell us the President's reaction to the Time Magazine cover story that described Mr. Cheney as, "the administration's enemy within," "an independent operation inside the White House that has done more harm than good" and one of Bush's biggest liabilities?

MR. SNOW: That would be inaccurate.

Q Wait a minute, one last one, because you've been away for a week.

Q Welcome back.

MR. SNOW: Yes, this is my welcome back. (Laughter.)

Q Both the Media Research Center, as well as The Wall Street Journal, in an editorial headlined, "The Hubbell Standard: Hillary Clinton knows about sacking U.S. attorneys," deplored the old big media uproar about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, when the Clinton administration fired 93 in one day. And my question: Does the President agree or disagree with The Wall Street Journal and the Media Research Center?

MR. SNOW: I'm not aware that he's expressed an opinion on it. Let me just remind everybody again, U.S. attorneys are —

Q What do you think?

MR. SNOW: It's not my job to get up here and expound my views.

Q I'd love to hear your opinion on it.

MR. SNOW: Well, that's well and good, and I appreciate that. It makes me feel all warm inside. But it's not appropriate for me to do that.

Sarah.

Q Welcome back.

MR. SNOW: Thank you.

Q Tony, has the building of the wall between Mexico and the United States damaged relations between the two countries beyond repair?

MR. SNOW: No. As a matter of fact, the relations are close. And the conversations between President Calderón and President Bush were, as the President said, extremely productive. They were detailed and — the two leaders were honest with each other about things where they agreed and where they disagreed, and maybe the most important thing is that they also committed to taking issues of concern directly to Cabinet-level officers so that they could go ahead and really seize responsibility.

There are a lot of good things that we can do with the Mexican government — border security, drug interdiction, arms interdiction, trying to make sure that the borders are safe, building conditions for greater prosperity in Mexico — that takes pressure off the border and, frankly, greater prosperity within the region. There were educational exchanges. I mean, they talked about a lot of things.

So I would — number one, I would argue that what's happened is that U.S.-Mexican relations have been strengthened as a consequence of the visit; and, also, that the personal relationship between the two Presidents was strengthened by virtue of the fact that they were candid with each other and I think they were both impressed with the seriousness, and also the leadership quality. President Calderón is a leader. He's been in office for a hundred days or so and he is tackling directly a lot of the most important businesses. So, again, to use the term the President did, very productive meetings.

Q Tony, in your answer this morning on the new Palestinian government, you said you hoped that President Abbas could proceed with the ability to follow the Quartet commitments. Can you explain what that —

MR. SNOW: Well, we're really — at this point, let's wait until we have a government fully formed up. But the most important issue, ultimately, in dealing with peace in the region is to have the Palestinians abide by the Quartet conditions. That has been our position and will continue to be our position.

Q Tony, while the President was traveling, New Century fund, one of the biggest mortgage lenders, almost went belly-up, causing a major fall in the stock market. What's troubling investors now is the fact that this housing market, which has been based on some very risky loans, is really holding up the whole stock market situation. And if the bubble blows in the housing market, a lot of people are going to be in trouble, the U.S. economy goes down the tubes. I was just wondering if the President is focused on this problem. And does he have a game plan, aside from the denial and the happy talk that's been coming out of the Secretary of Treasury?

MR. SNOW: Well, number one, I would — if you want to — I would encourage you to take your concerns to the Secretary of Treasury; I'm sure he'll be happy to respond. Hank Paulson is not only an enormously capable, but very realistic Secretary of the Treasury. So, please, try that.

Secondly, we do have — the fundamentals in the economy are sound, but I am not going to get into talking about markets. Any time somebody makes comments from this podium it is something that could potentially influence markets; I'm just not going to do it.

Q If such a collapse — as a follow-up on that — if such a market collapse would occur, would the President be intent on maintaining the value of the dollar?

MR. SNOW: I will refer you to my prior answer. What you're asking me to do now is to accept a premise, the acceptance of which would be a market-moving event.

Q Is the President worried about eroding support for No Child Left Behind?

MR. SNOW: No. The President is deeply committed to No Child Left Behind. And it's important to make sure not only that we have standards for schools, but that we extend to every child — from kindergarten straight through 12th grade — the opportunity and the promise of good education, so that they are equipped to intellectually — they have the intellectual tools and capabilities to deal with a workforce in which they're going to change careers any number of times; that they're going to have the intellectual abilities. And the President is committed to making sure richer, poorer, wherever you live, you're going to have those opportunities. And he is strongly committed to it and he's working with Democrats and Republicans — Republicans first, of course.

Q We know he's committed to it, but what about Republicans who signed on it before, but have now expressed interest in other legislation?

MR. SNOW: Well, I think, again, there are plenty of conversations that are ongoing. But the President feels confident that we're going to get reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, and, furthermore, that it's vital to American students.

Q How soon does the President want the Security Council to vote on the Iran resolution —

MR. SNOW: Well, they're still working it out. I mean, I don't think that the President has a timetable on it, but, obviously, we think it's going to be soon. It's important to realize, though, that we have been working within — we're now going to present it to the full Security Council and I think we're pretty close on it.

Q Well, is the President satisfied with the language then?

MR. SNOW: Well, let's wait until everything is signed. This is another one of these things where we want to make sure it's all wrapped up, signed, sealed and delivered, and then we'll be happy to characterize.

Q On the attorneys, you mentioned that these firings were not done as political retaliation or retribution. If we're going to talk about, kind of, the President's powers, though, if any of the firings were for political retribution, is that within his purview, as well?

MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way: Again, the President has the authority to remove people who serve at his pleasure. And these are folks who had four-year terms, all of which had expired.

Helen.

Q Is there any plan to commemorate March 19th, four years into war?

MR. SNOW: To "commemorate"? The one thing we do is constantly —

Q Take notice of.

MR. SNOW: Well, I think there will be plenty people taking notice of it. The one thing that we want to do is also make sure that people take notice of how vital it is to continue to supply the reinforcement our forces need and the support that the Iraqi government is going to need in order to put all the pieces together that are going to allow that nation to be delivered from an age of tyranny under Saddam Hussein to one of hope and democracy.

Q Well, but is anything going to be done by the President, personally? You don't know.

Q Thank you.

MR. SNOW: Thank you.

END 1:11 P.M. EDT

The OPEN Government Act: An Investment in American Democracy

Sunshine Week Commentary

 America seems to be at the dawn of a golden age of citizen-journalism, that great democratic tradition tracing its historical roots to our founding generation. As the Internet matures and evolves, thousands of activists, enthusiasts and entrepreneurs continue to be empowered to scrutinize the operations of government and report back to their fellow citizens. They often build on, borrow from, adapt or amplify the investigative work of traditional journalists, who are the backbone and basic muscle in enforcing the public's right to know.

The investigative reporting of fiscal hawks, campaign finance watchdogs, and consumer advocates has increased in both quality and quantity in recent years. American democracy can grow healthier as these 21st Century citizen-journalists (exemplified by the new generation of bloggers) contribute to the marketplace of ideas. And we believe that open and transparent government is a key component to helping usher in the goals of more efficient, more responsive, and – ultimately – cleaner government.

Congress can and must do more to keep the windows open and the sunshine pouring in. The President's 2006 executive order on implementing the Freedom of Information Act was a necessary first step. But the FOIA backlogs and other barriers to obtaining information remain, and this problem can and must be addressed by additional legislation.

Our bill, the Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act of 2007 ("OPEN Government Act"), would strengthen FOIA and close loopholes, by protecting access to FOIA fee waivers for legitimate journalists, regardless of institutional association – including bloggers and other Internet-based journalists.

The OPEN Government Act would also help FOIA requestors obtain more timely responses, by establishing FOIA hotline services, either by telephone or on the Internet, to enable requestors to track the status of their FOIA requests and creating a new FOIA ombudsman to review agency FOIA compliance and to provide alternatives to litigation.

Finally, our legislation would ensure that agencies have strong incentives to act on FOIA requests in a timely fashion, by restoring meaningful deadlines that require agency action on FOIA requests within 20 days of their receipt and imposing real consequences on federal agencies for missing statutory deadlines.

But legislation can only do so much without an administration's top-to-bottom commitment. Open government is an ethic. The citizen on the telephone asking about her 3-year-old FOIA request isn't a nuisance to be placed on hold; in fact, she's the boss.

Beyond our bill there is much more to be done, including striking the right balance when it comes to classified information. Of course, open government cannot mean putting access to information ahead of national security. But there are dangers to over-classification just as there are dangers to under-classification. We pledge to work together to help find that balance.

A democracy is always a work in progress. We believe that an open government is a prerequisite for a free society, and that accountability is only an empty promise without transparency. We intend our legislation to provide reporters, bloggers and other citizen-journalists with the tools they need to continue to improve the ongoing work of defending and refining American democracy.

Sen. Leahy is a Democratic senator from Vermont, Sen. Cornyn a Republican from Texas. For more about the introduction of S. 849, read Sen. Leahy's statement and Sen. Cornyn's remarks online. Photo courtesy of Sen. Leahy.

Changes Needed to be Made to No Child Left Behind Act This Year, Congress Told

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–State board of education members are telling federal lawmakers that changes need to be made to the No Child Left Behind Act this year in meetings today with their congressional delegations on Capitol Hill. The members are in Washington, DC for their annual legislative conference hosted by the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE).

For the past five years, state board members have worked diligently and tirelessly with federal officials and educators within their own states to implement the No Child Left Behind Act. Our efforts have produced a law that is working, and also given us a first-hand knowledge of specific provisions in which changes are needed to make the law work better. We are sharing our expertise and insights with the Congress, the ultimate arbiter of changes to No Child Left Behind, to better coordinate federal and state education reform policies, said Brad Bryant, NASBE President and Georgia State Board of Education member.

The state education leaders are advocating for improvements to the landmark federal education reform law, the No Child Left Behind Act, as Congress considers changes to it during the reauthorization process. State board members conveyed a number of NASBE recommendations to help make the law more effective. Among them:

  • Allow states to use student growth rates to meet federal accountability requirements;
  • Provide flexibility in state testing requirements, especially for students with disabilities and English language learners;
  • Use multiple indicators of student achievement and school performance to evaluate progress;
  • Increase funding for NCLB programs that benefit low-income students and build a states capacity to help turnaround low-performing schools.

A great deal has happened in education nationally and within individual states since NCLB was enacted. Congress seems receptive to learning about these developmentswhat is working and what isnt in their state. For their part, state board members want to be a resource to lawmakers so that the mistakes of the past arent repeated and will be corrected. NASBE and state board of education members will continue work with Congress to improve the No Child Left Behind Act as the legislative process moves forward, said Brenda Welburn, NASBE Executive Director.

U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings spoke to members during a briefing at Department of Education headquarters.

The conference continues on Friday with sessions on national standards and teacher effectiveness, and presentations by Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, Kimberly Oliver, the 2006 National Teacher of the Year, and Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Childrens Defense Fund.

NASBE, www.nasbe.org, represents Americas state and territorial boards of education. Our principal objectives are to strengthen state leadership in education policymaking; advocate equality of access to educational opportunity; promote excellence in the education of all students; and assure responsible lay governance of education.

The Censorship of Science Undermines Democracy

Sunshine Week Commentary 

By Francesca Grifo

At a major congressional hearing in January, a prominent NASA climatologist spoke publicly about attempts by agency officials to interfere with his ability to release his research results that described impact of global warming on Antarctica.

Sadly, the scientist is not alone. Growing evidence shows that over the past several years, political interference in federal government science has become both widespread and pervasive. To ensure that science – one of the cornerstones of American democracy – continues to serve society, public officials must act to defend taxpayer-funded science from political interference.

The Bush administration has censored scientists, suppressed reports, and altered scientific documents on issues ranging from mercury pollution to childhood lead poisoning to drug safety. And for every scientist who is able to speak out against political interference in his or her work, scores of others have been pressured into silence and don’t have the standing that would allow them to speak without retribution.

Recent surveys by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that nearly 40 percent (699) of more than 1,800 scientists working at nine federal agencies report that they fear retaliation for openly expressing concerns about their agency's work. In a survey of climate scientists alone, 150 scientists reported at least 456 instances of political interference in their research or the communication of their results. These numbers should be zero.

Just as troubling are actions that politicize science by limiting public access to information and hindering public oversight. In its second term, the administration has closed federal scientific libraries that housed unique documents. It significantly reduced the public’s right to know about the chemicals factories release into our neighborhoods. And new administrative procedures effectively keep science out of many critical decisions.

Take, for example, the air we breathe. Environmental Protection Agency staff scientists have worked for decades with an independent scientific advisory committee to review the best available science on air pollutants and recommend appropriate pollution control standards. Last year, when the committee scientists objected to an EPA decision to set soot pollution standards that twisted the science and failed to protect public health, the agency responded with a new policy that significantly limits scientific input into the process.

In a more recent example, President Bush’s January amendments to an existing executive order could further centralize regulatory decision-making power in the White House. The new rules place political appointees deeper inside federal scientific agencies where they can more easily prevent scientific data from ever seeing the light of day.

In response, nearly 12,000 scientists, including 52 Nobel laureates and science advisers to both Republican and Democratic presidents dating back 50 years, signed a statement condemning this abuse and calling for reform. "The distortion of scientific knowledge for partisan political ends must cease," they said, "if the public is to be properly informed about issues central to its well being, and the nation is to benefit fully from its heavy investment in scientific research and education."

Indeed, our nation’s prosperity is based on a foundation of independent, unfettered scientific discovery. Decision-makers must have access to the best available scientific information to make fully informed decisions that affect public health and the environment.

It’s time for action. There are no laws that protect federal scientists from retaliation for truthfully and publicly reporting their scientific results. Congress should act quickly to pass strong whistleblower protections for federal scientists who report scientific abuse.

Restoring scientific integrity to federal policy making will also take the persistent and energetic engagement of the next president. Presidential candidates should promise a zero tolerance policy for the manipulation and suppression of taxpayer-funded science. Candidates must commit to a philosophy of open government that allows scientists to speak freely about their scientific research and enables science to effectively inform public policy.

This is not an abstract debate. In the coming year, the administration will be faced with a number of critical science-based decisions. The EPA will set standards for pollution from lead and ozone. The Food and Drug Administration will continue to determine the safety of new prescription drugs and medical devices. And the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will debate regulations that protect the health and safety of workers.

Scientific freedom – the ability of scientists to conduct research and share their results free from government interference or censorship – is vital to a democracy. The thousands of scientists employed by the federal government represent a tremendous resource. Without a culture of scientific independence, public understanding of scientific issues will suffer, and our public officials will be unable to meet America’s most pressing challenges.

Dr. Grifo is a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists and director of the UCS Scientific Integrity Program in Washington.

Lies Matter

Sunshine Week Commentary

By Benjamin C. Bradlee

Access is a mixed blessing. It gives the reporter opportunities to delve deeper and deeper in search of truth, and it gives those who are accessed opportunities to manipulate that truth, a little or a lot or beyond all recognition. Many reporters feel that they need a level of super access to do their job, and politicians get the message. They give selected reporters this super access and the great manipulation madness is underway.

Although access can certainly breed manipulation, the manipulators have gone way beyond the granting or the withholding of access in their campaign to influence, and thereby distort, reality. And we in the press have shown remarkably little righteous indignation about it.

The most primitive of all forms of manipulation is lying. Nothing subtle, like TV spots suggesting that Barry Goldwater will nuke us all back to the Stone Age, or Mike Dukakis will flood the streets with convicted rapists, or John Kerry will leave America vulnerable to terrorist attacks. I'm not talking about exaggerating, misrepresenting, misspeaking, I'm talking about the real McCoy – lying.

"Lord, Lord. How this world is given to lying!" cries Falstaff in King Henry IV, and things have been going downhill ever since. In fact, lying has become just another tool for making deals, for selling beer or war, soap or candidates. Lying has reached such epidemic proportions in our culture and among our institutions in recent years that we've all become immune to it.

Let's concentrate on lying by the executive branch of government, by presidents. If we cannot trust our presidents, who can we trust? If our leaders routinely lie, who should we follow, or even worse, why should we follow?

For me, the world was never quite the same after President Nixon went on national television to say that he could not tell us about Watergate because "national security was involved." That's the toughest lie to rebut, when one is out there on the cutting edge, all alone with a story we all found hard to believe in the first place. I mean, any president knows more about national security than a bunch of reporters and editors, right?

Then there was the bombing of Cambodia, a neutral country, in March of 1969; 3,630 B-52 raids on Cambodia, dropping 110,000 tons of bombs for 14 months. Never happened, said the president of the United States. Although one has to wonder there, too, about the use of national security as a justification for lying. The Cambodians and the Viet Cong who were in Cambodia certainly knew about it, and that meant the Russians and Chinese knew – and in those days, that's who we were trying to keep secrets from. Only the American people had to be kept in the dark.

An embarrassment of riches faces anyone looking for a favorite LBJ anything. The larder is full of stories about this larger-than-life man lying. Did you hear the one about his great-great-grandfather dying at the Alamo – a story later adapted to make him a hero of the battle of San Jacinto? All of it lies. Doris Kearns Goodwins' investigation for her excellent biography of LBJ proved that the great-great-grandfather had not been at the Alamo, he had not been at San Jacinto, he was a real estate trader who died at home in bed.

John F. Kennedy, that marvelous man who wrapped up this country in cords of promise, hope and confidence for a short, short thousand days: Did he lie, too? Surely President Kennedy lied about Addison's disease. He had it, and he said he didn't have it. Would he have been elected if the voters had known the truth?

Then there was Bill Clinton, the president who "didn't inhale." He stated flat out, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky." He ultimately was impeached not for his inappropriate conduct, but for lying about it.

Are these all just little lies? Maybe petty exaggerations that slip out in the heat of political discourse and leave no mark on history? Are these mole-hills in a landscape where men are judged by their ability to move mountains?

What about these little dishonesties that add up to lying but are never quite defined as lying by society numbed beyond righteous indignation to all these little lies?

I hope lies will never not matter. The trouble with overlooking little lies is the damage done to reverence for truth. If the truth is not revered, there is no conscience, there is no compass. And without a compass, a man gets lost, a country gets lost.

Just look at Vietnam. The man who couldn't tell the truth about his great-great-granddaddy felt no compunction about lying in January 1964 about how American soldiers were doing in Vietnam.

In December '63, Bob McNamara, at the end of his first fact finding trip to Vietnam for the new president, held a press conference at Tonsonhut Airport in Saigon. He told an anxious nation that he was "optimistic as to the progress that had been made and can be made during the coming years" in the fight against the VC. Landing at Andrews Air Force Base the next day, McNamara told another press conference, "We have every reason to believe that U.S. military plans in '64 will be successful." Both statements were lies.

A chopper trip to the Oval Office later, the Secretary of Defense told the president the truth, a truth the world didn't learn until seven years later – again from the oft-cited but rarely read Pentagon Papers. In fact, McNamara told the president he returned from Vietnam "laden with gloom." Viet Cong progress had been "great." "My best guess being that the situation has in fact been deteriorating to a far greater extent than we realize. The situation is very disturbing."

Don't tell me that lies are ever little. Think for a minute how history might have changed if these lies had been left untold, and if the secret truth had been publicly stated.

Only a few months later the world learned about the battle of Tonkin Gulf. Only one problem: There was no battle, not a single intruder.

Even the president privately repudiated the existence of this battle. "Hell, those dumb, stupid sailors were just shooting at flying fish," the commander in chief was quoted as saying, according to Stanley Karnow's "Vietnam: A history."

There can be no one who thinks that lie was an inconsequential little lie. The Tonkin Gulf resolution was passed overwhelmingly by Congress because of that lie, and the Tonkin Gulf resolution was the justification for the U.S. war effort in Vietnam for years to come.

Lies were use as justification for war again in 2003, when President Bush told the nation we had no choice but to act: the regime of Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction – weapons we later learned did not exist. Of course the president lied.

And what about the poor government servant who gets lied to himself and thus eventually lies to his president and to his country? That happens too, doesn't it? It sure does.

In fact, it happened to the late Erwin Griswold, when as solicitor general he argued before the Supreme Court that publication of materials from the Pentagon Papers by The New York Times and The Washington Post in June of 1971 would immediately and gravely threaten the national security. Griswold told the justices that he had relied on that assessment from individuals at the State Department, the Defense Department and the National Security Agency.

Eighteen years later, in an unparalleled act of political courage, Griswold wrote in an op-ed piece in the Post that he had "never seen any trace of a threat to the national security from the publication" after he had had a chance to read the papers for himself. "I indeed have never seen it even suggested that there was such an actual threat.

"There is massive overclassification," he continued, "and the principal concern of the classifiers is not with national security, but rather with governmental embarrassment."

Bradlee is currently Vice President At-Large for The Washington Post, where he served as executive editor from 1968-1991. The above is updated from Bradlee's presentation of The Theodore H. White Lecture at the Joan Shorenstein Barone Center for Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University.

 

National Sunshine Week Launches: Is the Government Secretive?

sunshine-week-2007-bennett4c Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– eNews Park Forest joins the National Newspaper Association in celebrating Sunshine Week 2007, March 11-17.  Tonda Rush, NNA public policy director, encourages support of Sunshine Week, "Keeping government open and accountable is the highest calling of a newspaper, and Sunshine Week provides an opportunity to refresh the mission."  NNA President Jerry Tidwell, publisher of the Hood County News in Granbury, TX, adds, "The Sunshine Week commentary doesn't have to be all negative.  Our local communities and officials are full of good intentions in most cases, and a great many public servants do their utmost to bring their operations into the daylight where citizens can participate and appreciate the machinery of government."

Sunshine Week is a national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include print, broadcast and online news media, civic groups, libraries, non-profits, schools and others interested in the public's right to know, according to the Sunshine Week website.  Sunshine Week is led by the American Society of Newspaper Editors and is funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation of Miami.

Though spearheaded by journalists, Sunshine Week is about the public's right to know what its government is doing, and why. Sunshine Week seeks to enlighten and empower people to play an active role in their government at all levels, and to give them access to information that makes their lives better and their communities stronger.

Sunshine Week is a non-partisan initiative whose supporters are conservative, liberal and everything in between.

Police Report – March 12, 2007

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Photo: Morguefile.com

Editor's Note: We continue our reporting on news from police reports.  Besides covering the many stories from around Park Forest that otherwise might go unnoticed, we want to bring more complete coverage of police reports than is reported by other local media.

An arrest does not mean that a person is guilty.  All those arrested are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

We will always include some introductory comments before the first item.  While everything that follows is a matter of public record, we do not believe it is necessary to have names on page one.

Park Forest, IL—(ENEWSPF)—

Ramon Collazo, 52, 25 Sauk Trail, Park Forest IL was arrested and charged with aggravated driving on a suspended license and disobeying a traffic control signal on March 2 2007 after he allegedly nearly struck a marked patrol vehicle at the intersection of Western and 26th street.

On March 2 2007 a juvenile was arrested and charged with retail theft after police responded to the 0-100 block of Main to investigate a report of retail theft.

On March 2 2007 police responded to the 400 block of Orchard to investigate a report of a burglary to a motor vehicle.  A Wal-Mart brand billfold was reported missing and nothing of evidentiary value could be obtained.

On March 2 2007 Latonya Hughes, 33, 225 Early Park Forest, IL was arrested and issued a municipal citation for keeping a  disorderly house after police responded to the 200 block of Early to investigate a loud noise complaint.

On March 3 2007 Bradford Shambley, 40, 22500 Millard Ave Richton Park, IL was arrested and charged with criminal trespass to a vehicle, retail theft, no valid drivers license, failure to wear a seatbelt, and illegal transportation of alcohol after police performed a traffic stop on 26th Street in relation to a report of retail theft in the 400 block of Norwood Square.

On March 4 2007 a wallet and two gold rings were reported missing from the 300 block of Orchard.  Police continue to investigate.

On March 5 2007 police were dispatched to the 00 block of Hemlock to investigate a report of a suspicious person.  After investigation, the case was exceptionally cleared.  No arrests were made.

On March 6 2007 Adam Wheeler, 21, 356 Waverly Park Forest, IL was arrested and charged with possession of cannabis after police performed a traffic stop near the intersection of 26th and Western allegedly regarding a suspected outstanding warrant.

On March 6 2007 Victor Golden, 45, 22928 Millard Richton Park, IL and Ryan A Rogers, 21, 200 Pleasant Chicago Heights, IL were arrested and charged with battery,    Nathaniel G Bowman, 24, 353 Marquette Park Forest, IL was arrested and charged with criminal damage to property, and Floyd C Daniels, 33, 22928 Millard Richton Park, IL was arrested and charged with battery and violation of an order of protection after police responded to investigate a report of a fight in progress in the 200 block of Marquette.

On March 6 2007 Ernestine Davila, 38, 916 Union University Park, IL was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance after police responded to the intersection of 26th Street and Western to investigate a report of a vehicle accident.

On March 7 2007 Cynthia  A. Dixon, 39, 19921 S. Park Avenue, Lynwood IL was arrested and charged with assault after police were called to 100 block of Sauk Trail to investigate reports of a domestic disturbance.

On March 7 2007 a juvenile was arrested and charged with criminal damage to property and resisting arrest after police were dispatched to the 100 block of Well to investigate a report of a domestic disturbance.

On March 8 2007 police on patrol observed an allegedly junked auto in the 200 block of Arrowhead.  The vehicle was found to be listed as a stolen auto in LEADS, was towed, and the owner will be notified.

On March 9 2007 a briefcase was allegedly stolen after left momentarily unaccompanied by the owner in the 200 block of Cunningham.

On March 9 2007 Joanne L Neely, 41, 302 Sheridan Park Forest, IL was arrested and charged with violating an order of protection after police responded to the Park Forest Police Department to investigate a report of a violation of an order of protection.

Fighting religious discrimination: Bush administration’s quiet campaign

Commentary

By Charles C. Haynes
First Amendment Center

Here's one of the best-kept secrets about the Bush presidency: Over the past five years, the U.S. Department of Justice has quietly, but vigorously, enforced civil rights laws designed to protect religious freedom.

Now Attorney General Alberto Gonzales wants to get the word out. On Feb. 20, he released a report detailing the DOJ's accomplishments and announced an initiative called the First Freedom Project to carry out "even greater enforcement of religious rights for all Americans."

Since presidents aren't shy about touting their accomplishments, I'm not sure why we haven't heard more about this before now. Maybe we're so busy shouting past one another about church-state conflicts that we overlook threats to the free exercise of religion.

Lest we forget, there are two religious-liberty provisions in the First Amendment: no establishment and free exercise. Establishment-clause battles over "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance or the Ten Commandments in the courthouse grab the headlines. But free-exercise problems – discrimination against religious practice and expression in the workplace, schools, land use and elsewhere – have a real impact on the lives of millions of Americans.

The new DOJ report documents the Bush administration's efforts to take religious discrimination seriously. After establishing the first-ever Special Counsel for Religious Discrimination early in the administration, the DOJ's Civil Rights Division dramatically increased enforcement of federal statutes protecting religious rights.

In education, for example, the DOJ reviewed 82 cases and conducted 40 investigations from 2001 to 2006. Compare this with the 1995-2000 time period, when the DOJ reviewed one case and made no investigations.

Investigations involving religious discrimination in employment went up from 16 between 1995 and 2000 to 31 cases (including three lawsuits) between 2001 and 2006. Similar increases occurred in housing and public accommodation.

The DOJ has been especially rigorous in its enforcement of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), enacted in 2000. (RLUIPA protects religious groups from unfair land-use regulations and the religious rights of institutionalized persons, including prisoners.) According to the report, the DOJ reviewed 118 RLUIPA cases and opened 26 investigations over the past five years, resulting in 15 favorable outcomes prior to litigation and four lawsuits.

Administration critics aren't impressed. "Expecting the Bush Administration to defend religious liberty," says Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, "is a little like asking Col. Sanders to babysit your pet chicken."

Interfaith Alliance president, Welton Gaddy, calls the DOJ project "a scam that weakens religious freedom for all Americans."

Both Lynn and Gaddy are veterans of church-state battles with the Bush administration over everything from the faith-based initiative to school vouchers. They argue that the current DOJ's position on establishment-clause issues undermines religious liberty – a problem they don't think the First Freedom Project cures.

But the debate over "no establishment," as important as it is, shouldn't keep us from finding some common ground on the need for "free exercise" protections under the nation's civil rights laws. Even those who believe that the Bush years have eroded the "wall of separation" should be able to find something to applaud in what the Bush DOJ is doing to fight religious discrimination.

As Judge Judy would say, these are real cases about real people. From attacks on houses of worship to incidents of discrimination at school and work, the DOJ over the past five years has investigated scores of cases involving the religious rights of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Native Americans and others.

If you face religious discrimination in America, it helps to have the DOJ on your side. Just ask the Muslim student in Oklahoma who won the right to wear her headscarf to school. Or the Christian student in New Jersey who won the right to sing a religious song at the school talent show. Or the Jewish congregation in Florida that won the right to rent worship space in its city's commercial district. Or the Sikh family in California who won the right to live free of harassment by their neighbors.

As America's religious diversity grows, so does the need for a Department of Justice that fights discrimination based on religion.

Yes, some of the DOJ positions described in the report are controversial (support for religious school vouchers, for example). But in the vast majority of cases, the DOJ's efforts to uphold religious rights should receive broad support from Americans who care about protecting the free exercise of religion.

However much we disagree about the relationship between religion and government, surely we can agree that freedom of religion should mean freedom from religious discrimination.

Charles C. Haynes is senior scholar at the First Amendment Center, 1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Va. 22209. Web: firstamendmentcenter.org. E-mail: c[email protected].