Dr. James Mason, who ran the CDC from 1983 to 1989, acknowledges that politics has always been a force to be reckoned with at the agency but that "should come as no surprise."
Mason points out that the CDC is under the Department of Health and Human Services, whose secretary must be confirmed by the Senate.
"Of course you are going to have some political oversight and political influence," he said. "It's inherent and necessary."
But Mason argues that it's up to the individual in charge of the agency to stand firmly on the side of science when it conflicts with political interests. He recalls struggles with the White House during his tenure as he dealt with the burgeoning AIDS crisis. At one point, he was under pressure to alter a mass mailing about preventing AIDS that included information on needle sharing and use of condoms.
"I had to say that what went out was based on scientific opinion. There were people in the White House who weren't happy," he said. "We weren't fired when we took the scientific approach." (source)
Feinberg said: "We've paid out $1bn in Louisiana alone. Somebody's getting money. It might be the wrong people, but somebody's getting money."
According to chemist Dr Wilma Subra, whose lab ran the test on Boatright and two of his diving partners, all three had the same results, and the mix of chemicals was an ''exact fingerprint'' for those identified when they tested samples of the BP crude erupting from the ocean floor.
Subra, a renowned environmental toxicologist with more than 30 years' experience, has been dubbed ''a modern-day Erin Brockovich'' by CNN. She and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, which has been working locally since 1986 with more than 100 community organisations, have been conducting toxicity tests on clean-up workers, fishermen and coastal residents experiencing symptoms like Boatright's.
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