Another scandal

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Here's something you may find nearly as interesting, and a bit more significant, than the price of career-killing call girls.The federal Centers for Disease Control ordered a massive study of health conditions and environmental hazards in the Great Lakes states, including Michigan. The report was finished last July.

But you didn't get to read it. Neither did anybody else.

That's because our government suppressed it, initially without saying anything to anybody about why.

You might have thought the journalists who cover such things would have started squawking. But they didn't, at least not initially. To be sure, lots of reporters have been laid off or left the business in disgust. And besides, the public can handle only so many health stories at once. As you no doubt know, Britney Spears was also having mental health issues last summer, and you can't expect the fact that we all may be drowning in our own poisons to compete.

Fortunately, a copy of the report, "Public Health Implications of Hazardous Substances in 26 U.S. Great Lakes Areas of Concern," was leaked and is posted on the Center for Public Integrity's Web site. I talked with Sheila Kaplan, an investigative reporter formerly with Mother Jones magazine, after she studied and wrote about it.

"It indicates that environmental conditions are worse here, perhaps, than in any other part of the country," she told me.

The study warns that more than 9 million people who live in the so-called "areas of concern," including the Detroit area, face, Kaplan says, "elevated health risks from being exposed to dioxin, PCBs, pesticides, lead, mercury or six other hazardous pollutants."

And, oh, yes, researchers found "low birth weights, elevated rates of infant mortality and premature births, and elevated death rates from breast cancer, colon cancer and lung cancer."

So why was this very important report suppressed? Kaplan thinks it may have been because the Bush administration didn't want anyone calling for money to clean this up.

Once the report leaked out last month, the administration came up with an excuse. It had not been released, they said, "because some of the science was weak." Almost nobody believed that. Had that been the truth, the CDC would likely have merely delayed its release while they checked its findings.

Michigan Congressmen John Dingell and Bart Stupak immediately began pressuring for the report to be released. They said suppressing it "raises grave questions about the integrity of scientific research at the agency." Scientists joined in. Finally, the report was released a week ago. As a face-saving move, the CDC said it was sending it to an independent outfit to review the science.

Even if the report has flaws, suppressing it was nuts, Dr. Peter Orris told Kaplan. He is a professor at the University of Illinois School of Public Health. The report doesn't claim to determine the cause for the pollution levels. But releasing it is exactly what is needed, Orris said, to spur further research.

"Not to release it is putting your head in the sand," he said.

One question, however, was answered decisively. If you wondered whether the Bush administration was capable of corrupting everything in the federal government, wonder no more.

One boo for Michigan's Obama supporters: As I write this, the Democrats seem to have agreed to ask the state to let them hold a privately financed primary on June 3, the last possible date.

That's a sound, solid and reasonable decision. The sticky points will be raising the money, getting the Michigan Legislature to agree, which means Republicans in the Senate, and making sure a privately financed public election doesn't violate the state Constitution.

However, while the Clinton camp is on board, as of last weekend, Obama's people weren't. They clearly were spooked by Clinton's larger-than-expected Ohio victory, and fear they won't do well here. They are also handicapped because pretty much the entire Democratic establishment declared for Clinton early.

What the Obama forces seem to want is A) either for Michigan not to be seated at all or B) for the delegates to be divided equally without a new vote. Sorry, that would be just plain wrong. As wrong, that is, as Clinton's earlier attempt to suddenly have the meaningless and illegal primary count. I have roundly beaten up on Hillary Clinton and her campaign plenty in this column.

So now it's time to give the local Obamaites a slap. If they want to win this nomination, and the general election, their candidate needs to be prepared to compete anywhere and everywhere. Barack Obama's candidacy this year has already shattered all the rules and expectations. So now is the time for him to come into Michigan and campaign like a tiger. Senator: Show us why we should vote for you, and for the future. Defy the odds, and get in here. You've been doing what they said you couldn't do since Iowa. Michigan, more than anywhere else in the nation, needs a new vision.

If you can't take on heavy hitters the likes of Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick and Jennifer Granholm (yes, that's sarcasm) how do you expect to knock off John McCain and the full Darth Vader power of the United Republican Dirty Tricks Machine in the fall?

This week's Kwame Moment In History: There is very little I can add to what everyone else in town already has said about his thuggish race-baiting at the end of his State of the City speech.

Except, that is, for two things: First, what our mayor managed to prove is that he really doesn't give a damn about Detroit or its residents, or about anything other than clinging to his title and his paycheck, even if he totally destroys the city as a result.

Consider this. Any city competing with Detroit to attract jobs must have rushed to get a video of the Kwamester whining that he'd been called a "nigger" and raving about death threats.

Why, he told the world that his is a city where "you can say anything, do anything, have no facts, no research, no nothing and you can launch a hate-driven bigoted assault on a family."

All lies, of course, but that's indisputably our leader. And he's managed to do wonders for our image in the eyes of the nation. "So, want to move your business there?" I can hear the marketing director of Kokomo telling prospects. "If that's not enough for you, read a little more about how Detroit's mayor manages money."

But you do have to give Mayor Text Message credit for something I would never have dreamed possible. He made old Client No. 9, the whoremongering, sanctimonious governor of New York, look classy. When he was caught in a federal sting, Eliot Spitzer essentially fessed up, with dignity and decorum, apologized and promptly quit. (True, he did obscenely drag his poor wronged wife before the cameras as a prop, but they all seem to do that.)

As far as I can tell, Spitzer seems to have damaged only himself, and drained only his own family's money. Kwame Kilpatrick, however, has cost his city untold millions. Yet he has made it clear he'll have to be blasted out of office. So ... is there a nitroglycerine salesman in the house? (No, baby, that wasn't another death threat. It's what they call a metaphor.)

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]
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