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Civic Days at the OPP July 18-21! You all come! May 13, 2009

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Action Item, Annoucements, Press Release.
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Change has come to Washington DC—
and So Should You. Join Us!

The CFI Office of Public Policy invites you to participate in the second annual

Civic Days at the Capital, 18-21 July 2009

Come to Washington for four days of immersion in how Congress and the nation’s capital city work. You will hear about what’s on Congress’s agenda right now; about lobbying works; about The Credibility Project, an OPP-sponsored project exposing fake “scientists” who oppose global warming; visit the National Archives and other historical sites; go on a walking tour of Robert Green Ingersoll’s life in Washington; meet and hear from Congressional staffers; and lobby your own members of Congress. And you will also enjoy networking with other Friends of the Center from across the country.

The following is a tentative schedule of events. First lesson of Washington: Congress sets the agenda and we have to follow.

When: July 18, Saturday-July 21, Tuesday
Where: CFI Office of Public Policy, 621 Pennsylvania Ave. SE Washington DC 20003

July 18 Saturday
Informal welcome social at the OPP office from 12 noon to 9:00 PM.
Participants will be greeted by Toni Van Pelt, Director of Public Policy; Ruth Mitchell OPP staff associate; Melody Hensley, CFI/DC executive director; and members of the Civic Days Planning Committee.

July 19 Sunday
• What’s moving through the Congress. Briefing by Toni Van Pelt
• The Credibility Project, an analysis of the 650 global warming denier “experts.” Thomas O’Brien and Dr. Stuart Jordan, emeritus senior staff scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
• Private docent visit to the National Archives
• Ingersoll’s Life in DC, 1.5 mile, 2 hour walking tour. Steve Lowe, member of the Civic Days Planning Committee.Bring your favorite Ingersoll quotation to share.
• Private briefing with Friends of the Center congressional staff members.

July 20 Monday
• Briefing about current issues by a member of Congress (tba)
• Tour of Capitol Visitors Center
• Group Photo in front of Library of Congress
• Tour the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum, on Capitol Hill, a museum devoted to the history of women’s emancipation
• Teaming up, role playing and coordinating our lobbying appointments.
• Dinner together at Union Station
• Evening walk round the monuments.

July 21 Tuesday
• Day in Congress, beginning with breakfast in a House Office Building cafeteria.
• Meetings with legislators, attendance at congressional briefings or hearings.
• Fly home tonight.

We have several suggestions for hotel and b-and-b accommodations which will be e-mailed to registered participants upon request. We’ll include maps for easy Metro, bus, and walking directions to the OPP office and our other destinations.

Please go to http://ga1.org/center_for_inquiry/events/civic_days.

The phone number for the CFI/OPP is 202-546-2330. Toni Van Pelt can be reached by email at tvanpelt@centerforinquiry.net.

We’re looking forwarding to introducing you to Washington and its ways!


“Largest commitment to scientific research and innovation in American History” April 28, 2009

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Commentary, Press Release.
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President Barack Obama yesterday gave a major speech on science to the National Academies of Science. He detailed what he calls “the largest commitment to scientific research and innovation in American history,” consisting of funding basic research; developing technologies to produce new energy; reforming the U.S. health care system; and dramatically improving student achievement in math and science.

To read the whole speech, go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-the-President-at-the-National-Academy-of-Sciences-Annual-Meeting/

CFI/OPP Presents Awards to Members of Congress March 25, 2009

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Annoucements, Press Release.
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The CFI Office of Public Policy last week presented awards to five members of the House of Representatives who worked to further our values in the 110th Congress, 2007-2008. They are:Representative Vernon Ehlers of Grand Rapids Michigan, who is a tireless worker for education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM); Representative Brian Baird of Vancouver, Washington, who is promoting science as vital international cooperation; Representative Diana DeGette of Denver Colorado, who tried over and over again in the 110th Congress to get federal funding for embryonic stem cell research; Representative Michael Honda of San Jose, California, who supports education in science and eloquently speaks for the rights of Muslim Americans; and Representative Henry Waxman of Los Angeles, who held committee hearings which exposed the attempt to muzzle climate scientists during the Bush years.
OPP director Toni Van Pelt presented each representative with a crystal tower engraved with the award and embellished with a globe that represents the transnational nature of the Center for Inquiry. She read a citation and a professional photographer took pictures that we will post as soon as we receive them. Citations detailing the achievements of each awardee are posted on the OPP website, http://www.centerforinquiry.net/opp.

Freedom to speak in government agencies: the Union of Concerned Scientists Reports October 19, 2008

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Annoucements, Commentary, Press Release.
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Scientists who work for Federal government agencies should be able to tell us, the general public, about their research. But they haven’t always been able to do so freely during this administration. We all remember the case of James Hansen, the NASA climate change expert whose attempts to speak freely were heavily censored by political appointees.
Following up on their work to preserve scientific integrity, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) researched free access to the media for scientists in 15 government agencies. They published their report card recently and it looks like this–very mixed.

They looked at freedom to speak to the media along two dimensions: policy, which means a written published statement setting out the agency’s guidelines for communication with the media; and practice, which means what agency scientists experienced, as reported to UCS researchers through surveys and interviews.   Looked at along this dimensions, even the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) isn’t completely satisfactory–it gets an “A” for policy, but practice needs improvement. The worst is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and two agencies get “Incompletes” in the policy department, although the National Science Foundation is “outstanding” in allowing its scientists free access to the media in practice.

In general, the UCS concludes, agencies that employ scientists need a change to a culture of openness.  The public needs to know what scientists find in their research and what it means for public policy.

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McCain’s Answers to Science Debate 2008’s 14 Questions September 15, 2008

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Annoucements, Press Release.
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The other candidate for president, Senator John McCain, has now answered Science Debate 2008’s 14 question about science, technology, and health (see Science Debate 2008 below). We’ll summarize his answers here, as we promised.
Without going into detail about the answers to all 14 questions (the complete answers can be found at http://www.sciencedebate2008.com/www/index.php?id=42), we’ll point to major themes that emerge from McCain’s answers.
Senator McCain twice invokes his career as a Navy officer in the course of 14 answers. In one case, he points out the dependence of military personnel on science and technology, and in the other he cites his Navy career in calling for better scientific understanding of the oceans, especially their role in climate change. He strongly supports nuclear power as an answer to our dependence on fossil fuels: he promises to put the country on track to build 45 new reactors by 2030.
He is also committed to exploring other ways to produce the increasing amount of energy the country will need, such as investing $2 billion a year for the next 15 years on clean coal technologies, and a $5,000 tax credit annually for any American who buys a zero-emission car. He will establish a $300 million prize–$1 for each American–for the development of a battery package that will essentially replace the gasoline engine.
McCain believes that education in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology (STEM) is the key to maintaining our ability to compete in the global economy. He will not only promote student achievement in STEM, but will also provide incentive bonuses to teachers. A competitive grant program, funded with $250 millions, will expand online education in STEM.
McCain cites his experience as chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee when he endorses the commercial space industry. He sees space exploration as a national priority and wants to maximize the research and commercial possibilities of the space station’s laboratory.
While supporting federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, he will refuse “to sacrifice moral values and ethical principles for the sake of scientific progress.” He believes that the major concern with the American health care system is that it costs too much, and that the appropriate use of technology will reduce costs.
In general, McCain supports science education, scientific research and the development of technology to implement a “global competitive agenda,” involving business and industry as partners with the U.S. government.

Obama’s answers to Science Debate 2008’s 14 questions September 12, 2008

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Annoucements, Commentary, Press Release.
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One candidate for the presidency, Democrat Senator Barack Obama, has answered Science Debate 2008’s question about science, technology, and health (see Science Debate 2008 below). We’ll summarize his answers here. When Republican Senator John McCain answers the questions, we’ll summarize them in this space too.
Without going into detail about the answers to all 14 questions (the complete answers can be found at http://www.sciencedebate2008.com/www/index.php?id=40), we’ll point to major themes that emerge from Obama’s answers.
He emphasizes the need for improved science education at all levels, kindergarten through college and into graduate school, and promises increased funding for basic research to maintain U.S. competitiveness. Research will be the foundation for innovations in energy conservation and replacement, as well as in defense technologies.
To address global climate change, Obama will implement a market-based cap-and-trade system, enforce targets for reduction in carbon emissions, and reconnect the U.S. with United Nations and international organizations to focus on energy and environmental issues worldwide.
He supports both genetic and stem cell research and the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA). He connects genetic and stem cell research to improving the quality of health care in the U.S. His health-care plan covers everybody by limiting the power of insurance companies and extending tax credits to small business.
Obama will restore scientific integrity and eliminate political interference in science by appointing a Chief Technology Officer and strengthening the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. He will issue an Executive Order establishing guidelines for the timely release of scientific findings undistorted by political considerations.
In general, Obama sees science as vital to facing the “grand challenges of the 21st century,” and proposes to fund education, research, and development in science and technology to the extent needed to find solutions.

Say No to Funding for Abstinence-Only Education! May 5, 2008

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Press Release.

Scientific research shows that abstinence-only sex education programs are ineffective, inefficient, and in some instances even harmful. Since their inception, these programs have failed to accomplish or even advance their intended goals and millions of teens and adolescents across the United States are losing out. Not only do abstinence-only programs fail to prevent premarital sex and teen pregnancies, they also threaten the separation of church and state and prevent funds from being used for other more effective programs.

Despite the overwhelming evidence, abstinence-only education programs have been the main focus of the Bush administration’s sex education. In total, over $1.5 billion in federal funds has been wasted on abstinence-only programs. But in his budget request for the 2009 Fiscal Year, President Bush is asking for $204 million more in abstinence-only funding.

Enough is enough. It is time for Congress to stop wasting money on ineffective programs. The Office of Public Policy recently urged members of Congress to eliminate funding for abstinence-only programs in Fiscal Year 2009 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill (S.1710). We believe that tax dollars should go toward funding effective programs that maintain the separation between church and state and will educate teens and adolescents about all of the options, instead of just one.


Marriage or Civil Unions? Center for Inquiry Urges Equality First, Last, and Always April 17, 2008

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Press Release.

Whatever the official relationship is called—marriage, civil union, registered partnership—the Center for Inquiry believes it should be the same for same-sex and heterosexual couples. All couples should have equal rights under federal and state law, the Center urges in its recent position paper, “Same-sex Marriage—and Marriage,” available at http://www.centerforinquiry.net/advocacy.

At present, same-sex couples are essentially second-class citizens, even in Massachusetts where they can legally marry. Their marriages or civil unions do not apply outside the boundaries of the state and not on the federal level because of the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 2004. (more…)

CFI Urges Congress to End Federally Funded Discrimination February 1, 2008

Posted by Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy in Press Release.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI), urges voters to contact Senate members to halt re-authorization of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Act (SAMHSA) unless critical changes are made to the so-called “charitable choice” provisions in current law. These provisions have undermined civil rights and religious liberty protections since their enactment in 2000.

Although the reasons to oppose charitable choice are numerous, there are three main reasons to oppose this legislation: discrimination against employees, devastation of local civil rights legislation, and the destruction of constitutional religious liberties. First, charitable choice allows federally funded programs to discriminate against potential employees solely on the basis of the candidate’s religious or non-religious affiliation. Second, charitable choice threatens to devastate local civil rights legislation by preempting local anti-discrimination laws. Third and finally, charitable choice destroys the religious liberties protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.