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Lawyers For Mining Companies Threaten Scientific Journals

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  • by StillNeedMoreCoffee (123989) on Monday February 27, 2012 @10:27AM (#39172759)

    Interesting the link to the to "a threatening letter that lawyers for the mining industry sent to various scientific journals " is not working. Maybe the letters have had effect?

  • by kimhanse (60133) on Monday February 27, 2012 @10:32AM (#39172833) Homepage

    This is the right link: http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/DEMS documents.pdf [sciencemag.org]

  • by TWX (665546) on Monday February 27, 2012 @10:33AM (#39172861)

    1) put lots of (mostly) men down in holes in the ground.

    2) Give them powered machinery that predominately runs on diesel power.

    3) Fail to properly ventilate the hole in the ground (citation: all of the major mining disasters in the US in recent memory have cited poor ventilation and air circulation).

    4) Act surprised when combustion gas fumes and particulates demonstrate being bad for said men?

    5) Profit!

    I guess we figured out the "???" step...

    I understand the importance of mining. I understand also that the direct cost of what we purchase as finished products is based in part on extraction costs of those raw materials that go into finished products, but I have a hard time believing that minor increases in extraction costs because of safety and equipment improvements would massively increase the costs of finished products, and honestly, I'd be willing to pay a little more for something if it means I'm not at least mildly culpable in killing people in order to get it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I wonder why we see considerably more "we need more women in science/engineering", but we don't hear much (if anything) about more women in mining.
      Where's the equality police?

      • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Monday February 27, 2012 @10:48AM (#39173051) Journal

        Because mining jobs don't look fun and "empowering" on brochures.

        • by Mashiki (184564)

          Because mining jobs don't look fun and "empowering" on brochures.

          Okay? And that's a problem? Because here in Canada I can make between $22 and $43/hr in mining right now just running heavy machinery. It might not be "empowering" but damn if it doesn't pay better than most jobs in the tech sector.

      • by snowgirl (978879) on Monday February 27, 2012 @11:03AM (#39173197) Journal

        I wonder why we see considerably more "we need more women in science/engineering", but we don't hear much (if anything) about more women in mining.
        Where's the equality police?

        Most concern about under-representation is for desirable jobs. I never saw people complaining that white people are underrepresented in fast food restaurant service staff in Seattle. Why? Because it's not a desirable job, and population representation is really only of significant importance with desirable jobs.

        When you have 500 applicants lined up for one job, then it's more likely that you will fill job positions statistically consistent with the population, but when you have 50 slots open per single applicant, then your job population will statistically represent those people who apply, and a lack of one particular subpopulation will usually indicate less of a "we don't hire people with trait XY" and more of a "we hire everyone who applies, but people with trait XY don't apply."

        This should always raise the question of "why are people with trait XY not applying?" but the answer for undesirable jobs is easy: because the jobs are undesirable. However, for desirable jobs (like software engineer, doctor, engineer, lawyer, etc), the question becomes much harder. Supposedly, these jobs are highly desirable, so why would people with trait XY not be applying?

        • by TWX (665546)

          In my experience being married to an MIT grad who's in aerospace/mechanical engineering type work, the underrepresentation of women in her workplace comes in part from conflicts of parenthood and what it can do to one's career, and in part from the field already being dominated by men, causing a corporate culture that's offputting without being outright illegal toward women. Tromping around military bases for testing in godforsaken parts of the US is probably easier for men who are encouraged to be macho a

          • by snowgirl (978879)

            I was hoping to avoid any specific answers, as I've been sent to mod-hell for advancing a feminist agenda here on Slashdot. As such, I've been sticking to more generalized questions. Like, why aren't white people working in-proportion at fast food restaurants in Seattle? (In Seattle, it's almost exclusively Hispanic people working behind the counters, in New Mexico, it's almost exclusively teenagers.)

            Or cleaning out sewer systems. Seriously, it's highly unlikely that any of these undesirable jobs would ever

      • You do in Australia because the wages are crazy here ($100,000 to drive a truck) and apparently female operators are gentler on the equipment.

      • by P-niiice (1703362)
        Because mining jobs are usually located in traditional/country/conservative/backwoods places where men provide the daily vittles and the womenfolk pluck the cows or whatever they're allowed to do there.
    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofUZNynYXzM [youtube.com]

      less falling coal down the guild-hall than in the mine...

    • by timeOday (582209) on Monday February 27, 2012 @11:02AM (#39173191)

      I have a hard time believing that minor increases in extraction costs because of safety and equipment improvements would massively increase the costs of finished products

      But that's just it - even if drastically improving the workers' health adds just a few cents per ton, and even if it saves a hundred times that in health care costs down the road, the market will still drive production to whoever does NOT do those things, because they'll be two cents cheaper.

      • by poetmatt (793785)

        only for companies dumb enough to make such a short term decision.

        See, things like health care are long term decisions involved with making your business viable. Literally spending the 2 cents a ton in healthcare costs saves them probably 200k per employee in the long run (including lawsuits, health claims, etc).

        • by nedlohs (1335013)

          That would depend on how many tons they produce per employee.

        • by gstoddart (321705) on Monday February 27, 2012 @12:12PM (#39174075) Homepage

          only for companies dumb enough to make such a short term decision.

          Have you not been paying attention? In the last 10 years or so, both the stock market and the way most companies has become very focused on short-term [greenbiz.com] decisions. Long-term thinking seems to have gone away.

          Now it's all about meeting your quarterly numbers so the executives can get their bonuses ... by the time any of this "future" stuff you talk about comes along, they'll have moved onto other companies and it won't be their problem anymore. They don't invest in infrastructure or R&D to make sure they'll be viable in 10 years ... they cut, slash, and tweak to make sure that they're profitable in the near term.

          It also means they're leaving themselves a bunch of things which they'll never be able to properly fix, because by the time it becomes an issue they'll not be in a position to fix it. Kind of like having a baloon payment on your mortgage and ignoring that you don't have the money for it.

          Sadly, the stock market has come to expect this ... if you're not growing 10% every year (which is impossible to sustain indefinitely) you're "underperforming". I find it completely unsurprising that companies are acting penny wise and pound foolish ... the incentive is to save the pennies now and look good on paper, and hope that down the road is someone else's problem.

          In part, I blame the shift in management that happened when all of a sudden you had people who only had a business education, no actual experience, and no experience in the industry they're working in. It became a purely "cut costs/increase performance bonuses for the management team" mentality.

        • by khallow (566160) on Monday February 27, 2012 @12:25PM (#39174257)
          You assume spending money on healthcare costs saves money down the road. My take is that in practice, looking for expensive healthcare problems finds expensive healthcare problems and those who pay for such healthcare don't actually save money by being proactive. For example, if an employee suddenly drops dead of a untreated preventable illness, that's a win for the insurance company. Even if the employee doesn't pick up large expenses from a preventable illness, odds are good that they would have picked up large expenses from some illness anyway.

          There are some exceptions to this. I imagine insurance companies would be relatively eager for child immunizations and prenatal care, both which are low cost ways to prevent high cost problems for the insurance company.
        • by ultranova (717540)

          See, things like health care are long term decisions involved with making your business viable. Literally spending the 2 cents a ton in healthcare costs saves them probably 200k per employee in the long run (including lawsuits, health claims, etc).

          The "them" who benefit from long-term decisions is a different bunch than the people who benefit from short-term decisions, and it's the latter people who make the decisions.

    • by Russ1642 (1087959)
      People are willing to pay a little more. The key word there is little. People do not understand that a change of this magnitude will affect end price in a big way.
      • by ultranova (717540)

        People do not understand that a change of this magnitude will affect end price in a big way.

        For that to be true, mining the raw materials must represent a large portion of the final cost of a product, and filtering the exhaust of any engines used in a mine must, if done, represent a large portion of a cost of running a mine. Both of these seem pretty unlikely proposals, especially since taken together they would mean that mining companies are getting a large proportion of all money spent on industrial prod

    • 1) put lots of (mostly) men down in holes in the ground.

      2) Give them powered machinery that predominately runs on diesel power.

      Actually... I believe most sub-surface mining equipment runs on electric power to lessen the emissions and remove a potential source of ignition. They still have to ventilate though because of the risk of dust and methane explosions. So even if the workers had SCUBA gear (or whatever the mining equivalent is) they would still have to deal with air circulation issues as they relate to safety. I'll also mention that while you hear about a bad mining accident every 5-10 years here... you don't hear about the

    • not to mention that mining is a job where there is about 500 "things" that could possibly kill a guy and i think that diesel fumes rates not even in the top 100 things.

      So i would guess that unless this is all part of ensuring that enough O2 gets into the mine (which is a subset of making things "livable") its just Eco-Noise.

      Mining is a job where somebody mixing grams/centimeters and ounces/inches could actually kill a buncha folks

    • Troublingly, I find your steps show a remarkable similarity to those listed in industry whitepapers on implementing an IT department.
  • "Threaten"? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 27, 2012 @10:36AM (#39172891)

    Not to stick up for the mining companies, but the letter actually seems like it's asking publishers nicely.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's also not some random idle threat of "don't you publish this or else". They've clearly already gone through proper legal channels, and the litigation is ongoing. They're simply making publishers aware of the litigation, and that they should not publish the report until the litigation is concluded.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Thank you both. Now I don't have to post. The letter was not threatening in any way and is complying with litigation, which is basically what one would want.

      • Re:"Threaten"? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mspohr (589790) on Monday February 27, 2012 @11:47AM (#39173721)

        It is a polite "lawyer talk" letter which points out they they have already sued the US Government to suppress the results of the study and they have lined up some well paid congressmen to suppress the results of the study and they are "just sayin" that it would really be a shame for anything bad to happen to that nice journal you have there and that if you all go along with the game here to suppress the results of the study then we will leave you alone... for now.

  • ..brought to you by: Coal! America's power source."

    That one cracks me up every time.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by beltsbear (2489652)
      Or even more infuriating.... Clean coal. Those two words should not be allowed NEAR each other in a pro-coal ad until at least 5% of the coal industry is actually clean.
  • So? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Troyusrex (2446430) on Monday February 27, 2012 @10:40AM (#39172953)
    The lawyers aren't being egregious, they are just making people aware of ongoing litigation and court orders that might land them in the middle of something they don't want to be in the middle of if they publish. I don't think it's extortion as they don't claim they will sue if the study is published, they just warn the publication there's an ongoing issue and an injunction. Moreover, it makes it clear that it's only a 90 day restriction. Without reading the lawsuit I can't judge at all if the mining industry is being nasty and litigious to the authors or if they have a valid claim but either way warning publications to talk to counsel seems like a good idea.
    • by snowgirl (978879)

      Moreover, it makes it clear that it's only a 90 day restriction.

      90 days after the complaints have all been addressed. As the USA is appealing the decision, this likely has not occurred yet. The court order also says that the defendant (the USA) was supposed to distribute this exact material to scientific journals as well. I suppose the plaintiff, not wishing to wait for the appeal to be heard before the government would move and notify the publishers, decided instead to fulfill that part of the court order on behalf of the defense, rather than suffer potential harm from

      • For anyone interested in a fairly unbiased, but lengthy, rundown on the history of the issue: Here [politicsdaily.com]
      • Re:So? (Score:5, Informative)

        by phantomfive (622387) on Monday February 27, 2012 @11:18AM (#39173373) Journal

        90 days after the complaints have all been addressed.

        Really? My reading of the court order (in the first link that doesn't work) says 90 days after they provide the paper to the opposing side in the lawsuit. 90 days after that, they can do whatever they want. Here is the relevant part from the court order, so you can interpret it yourself:

        IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, as agreed to by Plaintiffs, that Plaintiffs and Plaintiff's counsel, agents, or contractors shall not disclose or disseminate further the drafts, data, or materials produced hereunder during the 90 days commencing on the date the Defendants send those drafts to Plaintiffs except for the purpose of making comments about the drafts to defendants, the publishing journals, or to the Congressional Committee.

        Also, here is another paragraph from the court order that explains why the lawyers sent the letter in the first place:

        IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that defendants immediately inform all recipients, including journals, of the above described study draft reports, not yet published, that they are prohibited from further distribution of said drafts until at least 90 days after Defendants have complied with this order

        • by snowgirl (978879)

          I should rephrase, when I said "complaints had been addressed", I meant legal complaints... namely, that the drafts had been sent to the plaintiffs. They're claiming in the letter that they don't think that the defense has actually met the conditions of the court order, and so that the 90-days have not actually even started.

          Of course, that's just what they're claiming.

          • They sent the letter because the court order requires them to, in the second paragraph I quoted.
            • by snowgirl (978879)

              They sent the letter because the court order requires them to, in the second paragraph I quoted.

              The court order didn't require the PLAINTIFF to send the letter, it required the DEFENDANT to send the letter. But since the defendants are appealing, and so likely are not going to follow the court order until the appeal fails, the plaintiff decided to send the letter instead.

    • Isn't this an obvious attempt to suppress publication of data that will likely lead to mining companies having to pay in full for the health consequences of what until now have been cost-cutting practices that only save money as long as they don't have to pay for the cancers that result? Having one judge in the Deep South who goes along with this attempt at suppressing both science and the rights of mine workers to a healthy work environment show only that our courts too are deeply corrupt - something we've

    • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday February 27, 2012 @11:46AM (#39173699) Journal

      It's a scientific study. You attack it on its merits or lack thereof. A legal challenge to the publication of scientific is a direct attack on science.

  • Anonymous and Wikileaks please help! Peoples lives depend on results kept hidden by two gangs of crooks, and only wikileaks and/or anonymous can save peoples lives... The government sure as heck won't help the people, the crooks are actively against us... the only people who can save lives are you two. go go go

    1) One bunch of crooks makes money by letting people die in mines for higher profit. Evil personified.

    2) One bunch of crooks makes money by charging both authors and readers to distribute research

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Monday February 27, 2012 @11:49AM (#39173745) Homepage

      No, Annoymous and WikiLeaks should not publish this. The journal should. This, folks is how science is done:

      1. Do research
      2. Publish research
      3. Critique research

      Critique can include request for information concerning materials, methods and results. BUT you don't do that before the results are published. They diesel dudes will get their day in court and in the lab, they just have to sit on their hands for a bit. But coopting the system is a very, very bad precedent.

      • by sohmc (595388)

        I would so mod you up if I had the points.

        But yes, this is the point of scientific journals. You publish your results and then people, regardless of their orientation, either confirm or bash it in. Hell, the Coal industry probably has a couple of labs in it's pocket. I'm sure it could get one of them to cook up some results that refute the study. But then they have to do the same thing: publish.

        WikiLeaks should only publish this if the journal feels that it cannot due to liability, risk, etc. But then

  • You know the drill, any increased risk of cancer = dead zone, mandatory evacuation.
  • by PhysicsPhil (880677) on Monday February 27, 2012 @10:45AM (#39173007)

    It seems that this report is the subject of litigation, and there is a court order outstanding that says:

    IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendants immediately inform all recipients including journals (emphasis mine) of the above described study draft reports, not yet published, that they are prohibited from further distribution of said drafts until at least 90 days after Defendants have complied with this Order;

    The "threatening" letter, which seems to be from the Plaintiffs in the action, informs the journal that the report is the subject of litigation, draws their attention to the court order, informs the journals that the Plaintiffs don't think the Defendant has yet complied with the court order and asks them to check with their legal counsel before publishing.

    This isn't a standard "publish and we'll sue" letter, it's "publish and you risk contempt of court". It looks like an advisory letter rather than a direct threat.

    • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Monday February 27, 2012 @11:06AM (#39173229)
      It seems to me that this is utterly backwards. The scientific journals should be sending cease-and-desist to the lawyers, saying that a peer reviewed study is pending and all litigation should cease until 90 days after it has been published.

      Sound stupid? But the idea that lawyers are the best judge of science is currently having more and more of a throttling effect on the USA. In fact, if you weigh in sociology and experimental psychology, it can be argued that scientists should have more part in law making than at present. Though the concept that people who make laws should have exact knowledge of something might adversely affect some politicians.

      • by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday February 27, 2012 @11:50AM (#39173747) Journal

        The idea that lawyers are the best judges of anything other than the intentionally complex navel gazing industry they themselves created is what I find the worst aspect of this. They have basically become the high priests of the law.

      • by inviolet (797804)

        It seems to me that this is utterly backwards. The scientific journals should be sending cease-and-desist to the lawyers, saying that a peer reviewed study is pending and all litigation should cease until 90 days after it has been published.

        Sound stupid? But the idea that lawyers are the best judge of science is currently having more and more of a throttling effect on the USA. In fact, if you weigh in sociology and experimental psychology, it can be argued that scientists should have more part in law making than at present. Though the concept that people who make laws should have exact knowledge of something might adversely affect some politicians.

        You would only think that if you did not work in those fields. Those who do work in those fields (including my best friend) are keenly aware of the comically low quality, the embarrassing irreproducibility, and the appalling "p hunting", that all enter in to studies in psychology, experimental psychology, and sociology. Not to mention the very grave "selection bias" problems that stem from the fact that most psychology and sociology studies are poorly funded and are therefore conducted on fellow psycholog

    • by SydShamino (547793) on Monday February 27, 2012 @11:34AM (#39173533)

      Any press publication with a two-bit lawyer will laugh at a judge who issues an injunction to prevent publication of a factual story.

      They'll go back through the story with a fine-toothed comb and make sure everything is 100% based on reliable sources, but they'll publish nonetheless and have the full backing of the Constitution as their defense.

  • by benjfowler (239527) on Monday February 27, 2012 @10:51AM (#39173093)

    More right-wing anti-science.

    These are the same people who are paying professional shills and con artists to lie about global warming for their own private profit. Their actions speak for themselves.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by cirby (2599)

      Oh, look - another idiot who bought into Gleick's fraudulent "memo."

      The "anti-science" part gave it away.

  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@ l y n x.bc.ca> on Monday February 27, 2012 @11:04AM (#39173213) Journal

    Are they essentially claiming a copyright on a subset of reality?

    If so, then wow. Just, wow.

    • by cirby (2599)

      Actually, it's "a court order following a strong possibility raised in court that the study isn't reflecting reality."

      So it's the other way around.

      Here's a tip, folks: just because it's a "scientific study," it's not always correct or honest.

      • Here's another tip: if it's not correct, you prove it in the field of science, not law.

        Unless, of course, you can't. Then sue.
        It's only certain kind of people who insist on science being decided on courtrooms. One name for them is "anti-science", because that's what it is, the very idea that if you disagree with a study, you can disprove it without science. Anti-science.
  • by phantomfive (622387) on Monday February 27, 2012 @11:09AM (#39173273) Journal
    When I read the summary, I thought it was some letter (maybe in the style of Jack Thompson) threatening anyone who published any research related to the lawsuit, thus attempting to create a chilling effect over any impartial researcher who might be studying the field.

    Instead, it's one group in a lawsuit against another. I have no clue which side is right, but clearly neither side is impartial. Furthermore, it is overall a rather polite letter, and doesn't threaten anyone.

    Most importantly, it doesn't prevent anything from being published, merely requests a 90 day waiting period before publishing anything from the parties in the lawsuit. There could be some funny business going on here, but this letter doesn't show it.
    • by inviolet (797804)

      When I read the summary, I thought it was some letter (maybe in the style of Jack Thompson) threatening anyone who published any research related to the lawsuit, thus attempting to create a chilling effect over any impartial researcher who might be studying the field. [...]Most importantly, it doesn't prevent anything from being published, merely requests a 90 day waiting period before publishing anything from the parties in the lawsuit. There could be some funny business going on here, but this letter doesn't show it.

      What, did you just arrive on this planet after thumbing a ride on a passing spaceship piloted by a green bug-eyed monster who was headed for the Basingstoke roundabout? What do you think will happen during those 90 days if the studies reach any conclusion that is not "OMG underground diesel exhaust is teh AWESOMES!!!11!"?

  • Perspective (Score:3, Interesting)

    by theswimmingbird (1746180) on Monday February 27, 2012 @11:10AM (#39173287)

    I am a computer science major from West Virginia. One summer I bit the bullet and took a summer job at McDonald's, and one of the guys working there quit his job in a coal mine because it was so bad he'd rather work fast food.

    Every time I hear about a mining disaster, it strikes a little close to home... most of them are in my state. Virtually all the money made from it goes out of state. All of them could have been prevented, had money not been placed above improving safety or mining technology.

    Greed is king.

  • Micro and nano particulates have long been known to cause various lung problems: asbestos, smoke particles, cooking "fumes" from wood fires in Asia, silica, farm dust, etc. Living near those sources gives people more problems.

    Anyone on either side of the issue has to admit the evidence is rather clear that you don't want those in your lungs and it is not a left or right issue, but just plain human health.

    It is time past to fix the problems. So those who waited to do the fix will now suffer the legal bill

  • Everything is known to the state of California to cause cancer. The lawyers should sue them.
    • by oneiros27 (46144)

      I'm pretty sure that research causes cancer.

      I have no evidence if lawyers cause cancer, but if we study it, we'd likely cause more cancer in the process.

  • It is posturing only. There is freedom to conduct research as seen fit. If I got a letter like that I would politely wipe my ass with it and return it certified mail.
  • by MacGyver2210 (1053110) on Monday February 27, 2012 @12:06PM (#39174003)

    I am certain this is the exact intention they had in mind when the US legal system was created and amended over the years.

    Every single one of those lawyers should have to go into one of these questionably-ventilated mines to understand what is truly going on down there.

  • ... need to learn their place.

    They should be building what they're told, not telling people about the harm that might be caused. Especially if it gets in the way of profits.

    /snark

  • by Skapare (16644) on Monday February 27, 2012 @03:14PM (#39176805) Homepage

    I've read many scientific papers and have found that scientists are right well more than 99% of the time. Sure, errors, mistakes, and sometimes even fraud, take place. But the courts are NOT a place that is competent of scientific fact, and as such are not qualified to make scientific judgments. But, alas, there is a way that scientific publishing corrects itself. And that is by other scientists publishing opposing papers. Then the community sorts it out based on scientific facts (not on silly rules of civil procedure).

    Oh, BTW, I've attended court and read judicial rulings many times and have found that lawyers are only getting it right about 50% of the time. Scientists have you beat.

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