Question “facts” from Bush administration

Yet another report is accusing the Bush administration ofdistortions, misrepresentations and omissions in facts released tothe public. It joins other reports in alleging that the White Househas manipulated federal data to put its policies and positions in abetter light.

The latest, by the National Council for Research on Women, istitled “Missing: Information about Women’s Lives.” It uses numerousexamples to make its case that the administration has changedgovernment Web sites and documents to remove information aboutwomen’s health, economic status and other topics of interest towomen and girls.

Last month, the Union of Concerned Scientists accused theRepublican administration of misrepresenting or altering scientificdata and findings to fit its rhetoric in several key areas of theenvironment and public health.

In one example cited by both groups, a Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention Web site that related the effectiveness ofcondoms in preventing HIV and sexually transmitted diseases waschanged to focus on abstinence.

A guide to the correct use of condoms was removed, as was asection that discussed successful comprehensive sex educationprograms.

Also missing were Department of Labor Women’s Bureau fact sheetsabout earning differences between men and women and about women’srights in the workplace. New ones have popped up on the Web site onless controversial topics like “Hot Jobs for the 21st Century.”

In another example, the National Cancer Institute publishedmisinformation that linked abortion to breast cancer. The link isunproven, and the allegation was withdrawn after a publicoutcry.

The council also alleges the administration watered down areport on disparities in health care based on racial, ethnic andsocioeconomic factors.

Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, charges that the”Missing” report “outlines a disturbing pattern of decisions byfederal agencies to close down, delay, alter or spin data aboutwhat is happening to American women and girls.”

Obviously, politicians are masters at putting the best spin oninformation in order to aid their cause.

Yet, the Bush administration has gone way beyond spin doctoring.It’s altered government data and scientific findings to suit itspurposes.

Reliance on unproven or unscientific information could lead todecisions that damage the environment or public health. Misleadinginformation could encourage individuals to make poor personalchoices that affect their health.

“When scientific data on the effectiveness of condoms inpreventing AIDS, for example, is called into question, lifesavinginformation is denied to the young women and men who need it most,”the Missing report said.

The National Council for Research on Women is composed ofresearch institutions, women’s policy studies and leadershiporganizations. Its president, Linda Basch, pointed out that federalgovernment data has been the most reliable for Americans in thepast.

“This is no longer true,” she said. “Politics and ideology aretrumping science on important issues that affect women’s dailylives … as they make decisions about their health, careers orsafety.”

The scientists’ report was signed by more than 60 scientists,including Nobel laureates. It challenged administration actionsthat:

-Suppressed an Environmental Protection Agency revelation that acongressional clean air bill had greater health benefits than theadministration’s proposed Clean Skies Act.

-Downplayed scientific evidence that is important in identifyingendangered species and protecting their habitats.

-Eviscerated an EPA report on climate changes and globalwarming.

A month earlier, two scientists from the president’s advisoryboard on medical research accused the board of refusing to includeinformation in its last report that would challenge Bush’sdirectives limiting stem-cell research.

And last summer, the Democratic staff of the House Committee onGovernment Reform concluded the administration has “manipulated thescientific process.”

These reports show a disturbing pattern of actions apparentlyintended to control public and congressional opinion on issues ofthe day. Congress and the public should stay alert and challengethe “facts” that aren’t.

Laura Scott is assistant editorial page editor for the KansasCity Star.

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune InformationServices.