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On the Road Again! November 21, 2008

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Annoucements.
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Toni Van Pelt, government affairs director of CFI’s Office of Public Policy, will make another appearance in Florida in the New Year.  You have a chance to hear and talk to her on:

January 5, 2009, 6:00 to 8:00 PM at the Marks Street Senior Center, 99 East Marks Street, Orlando.  Toni will present her talk, “The Dangers of Freethinking Women” to Orlando Chapter #519 of Amnesty International. Contact Bill Voss at 407-841-3900 for further information.

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Working for Change November 19, 2008

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Annoucements, Commentary.
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These are exciting times in Washington DC.  The word on everyone’s lips is “transition.” The Office of Public Policy at CFI is doing its bit by working with coalition partners to ensure that the values of secular humanism guide selection of policy and personnel.

We are part of a team headed by the Alliance for Justice to recommend nominations for federal judges to the incoming president. As of January 1, there will be 14 vacancies on appeals courts round the nation that will be filled by the new administration. We want to make sure that suitable judges are located, vetted and nominated.

We are members of the Coalition against Religious Discrimination (CARD) which is focused on the future of charitable choice and faith-based initiatives. While understanding that there is a place in the delivery of social services for faith-based organizations, we insist that they must not discriminate in their employment practices.

As a member in a coalition of women’s and health advocacy groups–more than 60 of them–we have signed on to  Advancing Reproductive Rights and Health in a New Administration , a comprehensive agenda to improve the nation’s health care.  We’ve already posted the Union of Concerned Scientists’ agenda (see below, “Scientists Spell Out Their Agenda for President-Elect.”)

It’s one thing to agree with an agenda, another to see it carried out. That will be our task after 20 January 2009.

Check out OPP’s positions on major issues November 17, 2008

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Annoucements.
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The Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy has published a series of in-depth papers on major policy issues. These include stem-cell research; bioengineering; same-sex marriage; sexuality education; creationism and intelligent design among other topics. If you would like to know the Center for Inquiry’s position on these issues and the supporting arguments for our position, please go to the Office of Public Policy website at http://centerforinquiry.net/OPP and click on Position Papers.

The papers are listed in alphabetical order. When you click on the link, you’ll get the full text of the paper.

Obama pledges openness in government November 10, 2008

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Annoucements, Commentary.
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President-elect Obama plans to open up government to the sunshine that’s been missing for the past eight years. He’s going to use technology to allow access to records in all corners of the government.

In particular, he has pledged to protect scientific information from the political interference suffered during the Bush administration.

To achieve openness, the president-elect suggests appointing a Chief Technology Officer to “ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies, and services for the 21st century.”  Among other sunshine measures, he proposes creating online databases of information about lobbying, ethics, and campaign finance; online reporting of corporate tax breaks; and posting of non-emergency legislation for five days on the White House website so that the public can see it and comment.

Above all, the president-elect will nullify the Bush executive order stifling release of presidential records.

To follow up on plans for open government via technology, go to: http://www.change.gov/agenda/technology and http://www.change.gov/agenda/ethics.  For more on the integrity of science, go to www. ucsusa.org/scientific_integrity/solutions/big_picture_solutions.

Scientists Spell Out Their Agenda for President-Elect November 5, 2008

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Commentary.
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The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), allies of the Center for Inquiry’s Office of Public Policy, proposes a three-point program for newly elected President Barack Obama. The organization urges the president-elect to make these issues a priority for his administration:

* building a clean-energy economy, by investing $150 billion in alternative energy sources over the next ten years; implementing strong emissions reductions; and getting the U.S. back at the head of international climate negotiations;

* freeing the world from the threat of nuclear weapons, by extending the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty before it expires next year; ending plans for a new generation of nuclear weapons for the missile defense system in Eastern Europe; and working with Congress to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty;

* restoring scientific integrity in the U.S. government.

The Center for Inquiry has been especially involved in protecting and promoting scientific integrity, and we’ll continue to work with UCS and with Congressional committees. Check out on this blog “Science Board Advises Caution on BPA” and “Freedom to Speak in Government Agencies.”

For in-depth discussions of OPP’s position on scientific integrity, go to our website, http:/centerforinquiry.net/opp and click on “Position Papers.” You’ll find two papers on “Protecting Scientific Integrity” authored by Ronald Lindsay, Derek Araujo, and Daniel Horowitz.

As the UCS says in its message to members and supporters, it won’t be easy to implement a positive scientific agenda, but this is a moment of “enormous opportunity” that we can’t let pass without action.

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Science Board Advises Caution on BPA November 2, 2008

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Annoucements, Commentary.
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You thought that bisphenol A (BPA) was safe? Bisphenol A is the ingredient in the lining of baby bottles and drink containers that has been suspected of toxicity.  The government of Canada thinks it is toxic, and has banned its use in anything used by children.

But a U.S. government agency, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), released a draft report in August saying that BPA is safe, even for babies and children.  Turns out that the report was based on work done by the American Chemistry Council and the American Plastics Council, organizations who represent the manufacturers of BPA and similar chemicals.

Now a scientific subcommittee has released a report blasting the FDA’s process in evaluating BPA. While it says that small amounts of BPA may not be seriously harmful, it also calls for a greater margin of safety in the use of BPA.

Responding to the subcommittee report, the FDA agrees that more research is needed and it declares that it is already looking at the effects of small amounts of BPA.  But the FDA also advises parents to use glass or other bottles instead of polycarbonate plastic bottles to feed babies; not to heat baby formula in these plastic bottles; and consult with their pediatrician about switching to powdered formula.  The Acting Surgeon General adds that “the best source of nutrition for babies is the mother’s breast milk. ” He adds that infant formula is next best, but he doesn’t say what bottles to use.

The FDA is not off the hook on BPA–Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach has been asked by the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation to explain the earlier endorsement of BPA  Stay tuned!