"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Connecting the Rot

A President who believes that the best oversight is no oversight and a Congress impotent to act, yes? (from KaiserNetwork.org):
Capitol Hill Watch | Experts, Lawmakers Call for Increased FDA Funding To Address Agency Problems
[Jan 30, 2008]
FDA lacks adequate funds and organization to meet an increased number of responsibilities and ensure public health, witnesses and lawmakers said on Tuesday at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, CQ HealthBeat reports. During the hearing, lawmakers heard testimony from members of the FDA Science Board, which recently released a report that found "lives are at risk" because of problems at the agency.

Peter Barton Hutt, an industry attorney and former FDA chief counsel who testified on behalf of the science board, said, "Science at FDA today is in a precarious position," adding, "The agency is barely hanging on by its finger tips." Hutt said that Congress should double funds for FDA over the next two years, increase the number of agency employees by 50% and provide an annual cost of living increase of 5.8% to all agency employees (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 1/29). According to Hutt, since 1988, more than 100 regulations have increased FDA responsibilities despite a lack of additional funds (Stark, McClatchy/Houston Chronicle, 1/30).

Gail Cassell, an Eli Lilly executive and chair of the science board, said, "We found that FDA's shortfalls have resulted in a plethora of inadequacies that threaten our society," such as "inadequate inspections of manufacturers; a dearth of scientists who understand emerging new technologies; inability to speed the development of new therapies; an import system that is badly broken; a food supply that grows riskier each year; and an information technology infrastructure that was identified as a source of risk in every (FDA) Center and program reviewed" by the board.
Meanwhile, back at the slaughterhouse (from Raw Story):
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has released footage taken by an undercover investigator which reveals horrifying abuse of cows at a California slaughterhouse which reportedly supplies meat to American school lunch programs.

Cows too sick or lame to walk are shown being shocked, prodded, shoved with forklifts, and even blasted with hoses in what the head of the HSUS describes as "torture ... right out of the waterboarding manual." Such "downer" animals normally would not be led to slaughter out of fear of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (i.e., "mad cow" disease) entering the food supply.

The abuses shown in the video violate state and federal laws intended to prevent cruelty to animals, the HSUS asserts. "This must serve as a five-alarm call to action for Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture," says HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle. "Our government simply must act quickly both to guarantee the most basic level of humane treatment for farm animals and to protect America's most vulnerable people, our children, needy families and the elderly from potentially dangerous food."

The Washington Post reports that mad cow disease is extremely rare in the US, but of those documented cases, "the vast majority have been traced to downer cattle."

More on the story at this link. The HSUS warns that the following footage is graphic.

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