Shooting the Messengers

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You think science has been politicized in the United States? Just feel lucky you’re not an Italian seismologist. A geologist friend of mine emails to let me know about an open letter the science community has written to the president of Italy. It starts like this:

Two weeks ago in Italy, the L’Aquila Prosecutor’s office indicted scientists, some of them members of the “Commissione Grandi Rischi” (Commission for High Risks), and civil protection officials for manslaughter. The basis for the indictment is that these people did not provide a short-term alarm to the population after a meeting of the Commission held in L’Aquila six days before the Mw 6.3 earthquake that struck that city and the surrounding area.

300 people died in the L’Aquila earthquake in 2009. The Independent reports:

L’Aquila’s public prosecutor Alfredo Rossini said yesterday: “Those responsible are people who should have given different answers to the public. We’re not talking about the lack of an alarm, the alarm came with the movements of the ground. We’re talking about the lack of advice telling people to leave their homes.”

The president of the Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, Enzo Boschi, and the director of the National Earthquake Center, Giulio Selvaggi, are among those under investigation. I have a feeling that Italian geologists may be very reluctant to serve on the Commission for High Risks in the future.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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