The SEJ WatchDog

 

The WatchDog TipSheet is a biweekly source of story ideas, articles, updates, events and other information with a focus on freedom-of-information issues of concern to environmental journalists in both the United States and Canada.

Journalists can receive WatchDog TipSheet free by subscribing to the SEJournal Online, the digital news magazine of the Society of Environmental Journalists. To subscribe to the e-newsletter, email your name and preferred email address to sej@sej.org

WatchDog TipSheet is also available through the searchable archive below and via RSS feed.

Latest WatchDog TipSheet Items

March 21, 2012

  • At Ethics.gov, search several databases with a single search-term entry, potentially speeding discovery of information. It includes data on lobbying registrations, political action committees, contributions to candidates, travel reports, foreign agents registrations, and more. But some open-government advocates consider it merely a down payment on a more comprehensive system.

  • On December 27, 2012, EPA submitted to the Office of Management and Budget its proposal to alter the interpretation of the Toxic Substances Control Act to require disclosure of the identities of the chemicals subject to health-effects studies before they are used in manufactured products. On January 20, 2012, a secret meeting took place between OMB officials and chemical industry lobbyists. We don't know what they talked about, but we do know that the meeting took place and who attended it.

  • The Mexican Senate on March 13, 2012, approved a constitutional amendment making attacks on journalists a federal crime — which would help journalists bypass possibly corrupt local police officials. The measure must now be approved by a majority of Mexico's state legislatures.

March 7, 2012

  • Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (pictured) signed the so-called "Ag Gag" bill into law March 2, 2012, making it a crime to obtain access to an agricultural facility "under false pretenses" — without defining "false pretenses." Does this apply to hidden cameras? Animal rights activists have often resorted to hidden cameras — and shared with news media photos and videos of shocking cruelty to animals.

  • Congress still refuses to publish unclassified reports on subjects of general public interest done by the Congressional Research Service, even though they are funded by taxpayer dollars. Here are several, courtesy of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy.

  • Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R, pictured at left), who avows himself a global warming skeptic, had sought from the University of Virginia grant applications by former U.Va. climate scientist Michael Mann, creator of the "hockey stick" graph, and emails between Mann and other scientists.

February 22, 2012

  • A landmark Supreme Court decision awarded Port Townsend residents the right to know about the potential location of explosives on the Indian Island Naval Magazine near their town. After losing the case, the Defense Department bolstered its legal grounds for secrecy by asking Congress to slip into the 2012 Defense Authorization an amendment creating a new statutory exemption to FOIA for the DOD.

     

  • The Patton Boggs lobbying firm, which represents the mining industry, has sent letters threatening unspecified legal action against four scientific journals if they publish results of a study about the exposure of miners to diesel emissions, according to Science magazine.

  • This year's Farm Bill deliberations have been less transparent than ever before. In that spirit, SEJ's WatchDog shares a backgrounder, published by the Federation of American Scientists, on the 2012 Farm Bill done by the Congressional Research Service — which keeps their taxpayer-funded reports secret from the public.

  • The complaints came out at the Vancouver meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) this month — the main multidisciplinary science conference held yearly on the continent. Also during the meeting, a letter from six journalism and science groups called on Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to end the muzzling-scientists policy was released.

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