The Daily Muck

Ever since the expiration of the Protect America Act, President Bush has been arguing that Congress should pass the Senate’s version of surveillance legislation, which includes immunity for telecommunications companies who may have participated in the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. In yesterday’s press conference Bush talked about surveillance once again; the Associated Press has checked his statements against the facts. (AP)

Chemical industry lobbyists of the American Chemistry Council managed to remove an award-winning toxicologist, Deborah Rice, from an the Environmental Protection Agency research panel studying the dangers of a flame retardant commonly used in electronic equipment. The lobbyists claim that Rice is biased and EPA officials cite the “perception of a potential conflict of interest.” Meanwhile, a review of seven EPA panels organized last year reveals that “17 panelists are employed or funded by the chemical industry or had made public statements that the chemicals they were reviewing were safe.” (LA Times)

A year after the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency had unlawfully refused to “decide whether greenhouse gases cause or contribute to climate change” and must begin to regulate carbon dioxide, the EPA has still failed to act. The EPA has stated that “the agency does not have a specific timeline for responding to the remand” but that it is “taking very seriously our responsibility to develop an effective, comprehensive strategy.” (Think Progress)A newly released study by the Project on Government Oversight has found that federal inspectors general “often lead underfunded and poorly staffed units and are not as independent as the public has been led to believe.” Out of 64 inspectors general, over half – usually at smaller agencies – “are appointed by agency heads who in many cases control the watchdogs’ budgets and have on occasion retaliated against them over unfavorable reports by cutting funding or denying promotions to staff members.” (Washington Post)

The fact that the U.S. leads the world in both the number of citizens incarcerated (more than one in 100 adults in the U.S. is in jail or prison) and the percentage of its citizens incarcerated, is costing state governments almost $50 billion and the federal government $5 billion annually. The U.S. has become a world leader in incarceration despite the fact that the “nation’s incarcerated population has been growing more slowly since 2000 than it did during the 1990s.” (Washington Post)

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee focused on private security contractors (PSC) in Iraq yesterday during a hearing titled “An Uneasy Relationship: U.S. Reliance on Private Security Firms in Overseas Operations.” Among the Senators’ conclusions are that “there are no government-wide standards for the hiring, vetting and training of PSCs,” “oversight of private security contractors has been hobbled,” and “federal agencies are doing little to assess our future needs” for PSC. (Washington Post’s “Government Inc.)

Economist Joseph Stiglitz argues in a new book that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could potentially cost somewhere from a “very conservative $3 trillion” up to $5 to $7 trillion dollars – far more than the White House has estimated. In response, White House spokesman Tony Fratto stated that “people like Joe Stiglitz lack the courage to consider the cost of doing nothing and the cost of failure.” (Think Progress)

Senators met resistance form Agriculture Secretary Edward Schafer yesterday when they called upon his agency to ban “downer” cows – those unable to walk – from slaughter because of the higher risk that they carry E. coli and salmonella or have mad cow disease. Schafer rejected the calls for higher standards in large part because of the costs to ranchers, and since 2005 the department has refused to adopt Senator Herb Kohl’s (D-WI) subcommittee recommendations that inspection procedures be improved. (LA Times)

The FBI announced yesterday that it has launched a criminal investigation to determine whether Roger Clemens lied in his testimony to Congress on February 13 about his alleged steroid use. Representatives Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) and Tom Davis (R-VA), whose Committee on Oversight and Government Reform conducted the hearing where Clemens’ testified under oath, asked Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey on Wednesday to investigate Clemens’ statements. (New York Times)