When I was an avid listener of National Public Radio, I often noticed that when an interview was on a subject I knew zip about, the interviewer always seemed so brilliant and asked such pointed questions. But when the interview was on a subject within my (admittedly limited) sphere of knowledge, the interviewer seemed clueless and missed every opportunity to deflect or detect spin. An NPR interview on the Johns Hopkins human experiments on Baltimore children is a good example of the later. See my Apr 14 blog post on the experiments.
The interview, dated April 24, was conducted by Farai Chideya. Here’s a link to the audio, it’s about 12 minutes long. (Thanks Maureen) Chideya starts out interviewing John Heilprin, one of the reporters who exposed this Nazi-inspired human research with a series of AP articles, which, apparently isn’t finished yet.
Then Chideya dials into the Hopkins spin machine and gets Dr. Michael Klag, dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at JHU. Klag attacks the AP article on the grounds that the BS that was put in the kids’ yards was totally safe because it was Class A, which is the good stuff – Class B is the stuff to worry about. No damage, no foul. What a load of BS.
Does Chideya go after him? Does she point out that Class A sludge has the same exact risks as Class B for being contaminated with pharmaceuticals, thallium, mercury, cadmium, dioxins, drug resistance genes, or any of thousands of additional toxic metals, synthetic organics and biologicals? Does Chideya confront Klag with what Dr. Thomas Burke, who chaired the 2002 NAS report on BS and who is also a professor at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, said in the original AP article about the Class A BS that was spread in the kiddie experiments?
“There are potential pathogens and chemicals that are not in the realm of safe,” Burke told the AP. “What’s needed are more studies on what’s going on with the pathogens in sludge — are we actually removing them? The commitment to connecting the dots hasn’t been there.”
Nope, not a single pointed question. Chideya gives this Rovian spin-meister, Klag, the last word: the BS was as safe as mothers’ milk. He was, of course, talking straight to the potential jurors who are going to hear this case when Hopkins gets sued for fraud or when the researchers who conducted the experiments go on trial for child endangerment.
But now it looks like Burke, who, of course works for Klag, is being forced into line. Over at Yahoo.com LINK they have tagged the following note onto an op ed of Apr 21 titled “Of Sludge and Syphilis”:
“Update: A Kennedy Krieger Institute representative has contacted us to dispute the accuracy of the AP report cited. The materials used in the Baltimore study were Class A grade, and are sold commercially for residential use. We spoke with Thomas Burke, one of the experts cited in the original AP report, who confirmed their safety. According to Burke, his quote–and the EPA reports referenced in the article–were referring to the potential hazards of Class B sludge. No correction has yet been posted on the AP website.”
Burke’s retraction is as smelly as his boss’ spin-job. After all, in his original quote to AP Burke is asking the question of whether “we” are actually removing all of the pathogens from the sludge. Well . . . hello – Class A is the only sludge in which any attempt is made to reduce pathogens to acceptable levels. Furthermore, the whole AP interview was about Class A. There was never any confusion about what class was put down. So of course Burke was referring to Class A.