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The Big Chill in Washington D. C.


Deja voodoo. We've seen this happen with reading research. The only difference is that the reading coup crossed political lines. The fact that phonics drill-'n-kill appeals to conservatives doesn't make the Reading First oligarchy right wing. Maybe this is a small point but it seems important. What is significant in the reading takeover is the Texas connection, with Florida and Oregon thrown in for good measure.

For a refresher and a visual on the Reading First outrage, take a look at:

http://susanohanian.org/show_commentary.php?id=14

Write Herbert and tell him the same takeover already happened in reading.

bobherb@nytimes.com



The Big Chill at the Lab


By BOB HERBERT

A list of nearly 200 scientific researchers has been compiled and given to federal officials by the Traditional Values Coalition, a conservative group that goes wild over gay issues and federal funding of research related to human sexuality.

The list, which has sent a chill through some researchers, is being used by the coalition and its government allies in attempts to discredit the researchers and challenge or revoke their federal grants. It's a sloppy, dangerous and wildly inaccurate list, put together by people who are freaked out by the content of the studies, and unconcerned about their value.

The targeted studies cover a wide range of topics related to health and sexuality, including H.I.V. and AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases and adolescent sexual behavior.

The Web site of the Traditional Values Coalition is bizarrely fixated on sexual matters. The banner headline on the home page the other day blared, "HOMOSEXUAL URBAN LEGENDS: The Series . . ."

The site complained that "nearly $100 million has gone to research many projects which reasonable people, even those with no particular religious or political perspective, would view as prurient."

For a right-wing coalition to be hung up on these matters is one thing. But the coalition's list, which includes some of the most respected scientists and institutions in the country, is circulating among members of Congress and was forwarded to the National Institutes of Health, which is responsible for awarding the crucially important grants.

"It has a lot of people very nervous," said Dr. Thomas Coates, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at U.C.L.A. "People who have made a career out of this kind of research well, when you see your name on a list you wonder what's going to happen to your funding."

"The list itself is less important than the context in which it's been generated," said Dr. Judith Auerbach, a vice president of the American Foundation for AIDS Research. Until recently Dr. Auerbach headed the Office of AIDS Research at the National Institutes of Health.

"The context is that in recent months there have been a series of specific inquiries to the N.I.H. from Congressional committee members, through their staffs in particular, asking about specific grants and specific grantees based apparently on the content of those grants."

The content is usually related to such matters as the AIDS virus, high-risk sexual behavior and other topics linked in some way to sexuality.

"Those inquiries come in a very negative tone," said Dr. Auerbach. "And they cast aspersions on the quality and the content of the science from someone who doesn't know how to conduct science, and is not a scientist. So the N.I.H. has been put in the position frequently in the last year of having to re-justify research that has already been peer-reviewed, approved and funded."

Science has to suffer when the know-nothings come traipsing through the laboratories, infecting the research with their religious beliefs and political ideologies. Andrea Lafferty is the executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, which she says represents more than 43,000 churches.

"What makes us unique among all the conservative groups," she said, "is that I believe we truly represent the body of Christ."

Ms. Lafferty said she personally gave the list of scientific researchers to Representative Billy Tauzin, a Louisiana Republican who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. One of its subcommittees has been reviewing the awarding of grants by N.I.H.

"We never said any grant on there was bad," said Ms. Lafferty. But she said she wanted to know why the grants were being funded, and why so many had to do with H.I.V. and AIDS.

Ms. Lafferty acknowledged that her group has a problem with homosexuality. "We're concerned that it's a behavior-based lifestyle, that you're not born that way," she said.

She insisted that the coalition does not oppose research on H.I.V. and AIDS, but added, "How many times do you have to study something to find out how to stop the spread of AIDS?"

The public officials who got their hands on this sinister list could have thrown it in the garbage. Instead, the list is circulating, like an insidious disease, and some scientists are worried that they are not immune.

New York Times
The Big Chill at the Lab

2003-11-03

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/03/opinion/03HERB.html?tntemail1

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