Burning Bush-Whacked

UC Irvine atmospheric-chemistry and climate-science professor F. Sherwood Rowland is among a bipartisan slate of Nobel Prize winners and former federal science officials who blast the Bush administration on Feb. 18 for politicizing science and call for an independent congressional investigation into federal science-advisory policies. "When scientific knowledge has been found to be in conflict with its political goals, the administration has often manipulated the process through which science enters into its decisions," charges a document signed by the nation's 60 leading scientists. Rowland and his fellow eggheads object to: the break-up of advisory panels on nuclear weapons; the muzzling of scientists who work for Dubya's Cabinet departments; revisions to the Endangered Species Act limiting comments from scientists regarding the protection of natural habitats; the removal of highly qualified scientists from panels probing lead-poisoning, the environment, health and drug abuse and replacing them with industry representatives; and the dismissal of assessments by national lab experts on the likelihood that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. A Bush mouthpiece characterizes the document as a "conspiracy report" of "disconnected issues that rubbed somebody the wrong way." Rowland may have been rubbed the wrong way after serving on Dubya's blue-ribbon panel that concluded global warming was a real threat and most likely human caused. Bush ignored that one, too.

SOURCE SPOT Lawyers for Wen Ho Lee file motions in federal court on Feb. 19 to compel journalists to reveal sources who leaked to the press that the former Los Alamos nuclear scientist was at the center of an investigation into Chinese espionage. The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times and CNN all ran stories in early 1999 questioning the conduct of Lee, who would go on to be smeared in that summer's infamous Cox Report—named after the head of the congressional committee that issued it, Representative Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach). The feds a year later charged Lee with 59 counts, although none involved espionage. In a plea agreement, he copped to just one minor offense, and the judge rebuked the government and apologized to Lee. The New York Timesalso apologized, saying its coverage may have amounted to "a witch-hunt." As to the identity of the leaker, then-FBI director Louis Freeh believed it may have come from Capitol Hill, and the Weekly's R. Scott Moxley seconded that emotion when he wrote that "all signs point to a Republican on Cox's committee" ("The NY Times' Deep Throat," Dec. 1, 2000). Cox, who had the most to gain politically by whipping up the spy frenzy, never apologized to Lee. FAREWELL, FRANK. HELLO, NOTHING Orange County Latinos not only lose a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist when Los Angeles Times associate editor Frank del Olmodies of a heart attack in his office on Feb. 19, but they also lose their lone voice on a Southern California daily newspaper—the Times' troglodyte editorial cartoonist (and UCI alumnus) Michael Ramirez notwithstanding. Sure, Del Olmo—whose paced, pointed prose and active mentoring of Latino journalists made him an icon on the level of the martyred Ruben Salazar—rarely wrote about la naranja, yet the independent streak he exhibited in his Latino-focused columns still struck a cord with local Latinos. It wasn't that way as recently as three years ago, when readers here could bounce between del Olmo for national Latinos issues, Times Orange County columnist Agustin Gurza for his take-no-prisoners stories about local Latino life, and Orange County Register writer Yvette Cabrera for poofy profiles. Now? Del Olmo is gone, Gurza is exiled to the Times' Calendar section, and it's been eight months since Cabrera has written a column as she's apparently finishing up a massive story on the Ciudad Juarez murders. In a county where Latinos are the fastest-growing ethnic group and aching for newspaper coverage that isn't confined to salsa, gangs and salsa, the lack of an uncompromising Latino voice should prompt Orange County Latinos to boycott both newspapers pronto. GOODNIGHT, NURSE Speaking of the LA "By God" Times, it used to be embroiled in a hearty turf war with The Orange County Register over the piece of property you're currently drooling over. But to gauge how much the Times has retreated in OC since the paper was bought out by a Chicago syndicate several years ago, take a look inside their Costa Mesa plant. Morticians go there for laughs. Oh, what a bustling place it once was, its deep-pocket former owners sparing no expense, even employing a staff nurse. That position eventually became a casualty of the Tribune's deep cuts. The replacement was a metal box filled with aspirins, bandages and other first-aid remedies. (Who says the Trib ain't got heart?) Well, a demoralized Times staffer calls Feb. 20 to say a sign has been placed on the metal box stating that aspirins now cost 25 cents apiece "due to pilferage." As much as we feel for our Sunflower Avenue comrades, we're also a mite jealous. Here at the Weekly, all 25 cents gets us is a rusty syringe and half-eaten cough drop. PORN FREE The Orange County-bred pastors who founded XXXchurch begin filming their latest anti-porn television commercial on Feb. 20—with a pornographer at their side. Mike Foster and Craig Gross, who the Weeklyprofiled when they made a spot with a midget (see my "Anti-Porn Star," June 27, 2003), got an unusual reaction to that ad from self-described "jizz biz" producer Jimmy D (The Supornos, Succubus). He agreed that porn stunts your growth emotionally when you make skin flicks. So Jimmy D met the pastors at an adult-video convention and offered his services. But his ad doesn't star a midg . . . er . . . little person; it features Pete the Porno Puppet, who talks about catching his daddy watching "a bunch of naked mommies" on TV. XXXchurch should have the commercial up on local cable by late March. See it sooner on their website: xxxchurch.com. Gustavo Arellano contributed to this week's report. New Column!
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