Monday, June 14, 2010

Barack Obama wants you...

Posted By on Mon, Jun 14, 2010 at 9:46 PM

... to donate.

As the president tours the Gulf coast over the next two days, he sent out a letter to supporters, asking to add their name to an unspecified petition and contribute $10 to $1,000 to unspecified efforts regarding climage change and energy policy. Obama hopes the oil disaster will generate movement in the Senate to get key energy legislation moving forward.
In a message from the Democratic National Committee's Organizing for America, a link (that reads "Please stand with me today in backing clean energy. Adding your name will help Organizing for America create a powerful, public display of support for making this change happen") sends you to this page, which reads like a standard online petition. Once you've submitted your information, you're sent to another page — this one seeks donations of $10 to $1,000 (or "other"). It's a fairly standard fundraising tactic for politicians as legislation heats up — and with the Gulf disaster lingering as a potential defining issue in his first four years, Obama is keen on getting it moving as a potential silver lining in the oilpocalypse. Here's the accompanying message on the donations page:

We cannot miss this moment.

Thank you for standing with President Obama in forging a clean-energy future for America.

Now, we need to make sure legislation passes through the Senate.

We need you with us every step of the way. We'll be fighting on voters' doorsteps, on the phones, in the halls of Congress, and in the press -- to send a message that now is the time for clean energy.

Donate today -- support Organizing for America and our efforts to bring real change to our energy policy.

Meanwhile, Obama is touring the Gulf with local officials. He's been snacking on Gulf seafood and has pronounced it safe it eat.

President Barack Obama says from the oil-stricken Gulf of Mexico that seafood from the region is safe to eat and announced a new coordinated effort to make sure it stays that way.

In remarks from Theodore, Ala., on Monday, Obama said that the government will step up its inspections and monitoring to help ensure that the Gulf Coast food industry is getting the kind of protection and certification it needs to sell its products around the country.

Obama said, "We don't want tragedies on top of the tragedy we're already seeing."

Read more about Gulf seafood safety in this week's Gambit, or read it online.

Update: The Deepwater Horizon Response team has sent out a a massive press release ensuring the safety of Gulf seafood. Hit the jump to read it in full.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are taking additional steps to enhance inspection measures designed to ensure that seafood from the Gulf of Mexico reaching America’s tables is safe to eat.

The federal government, in conjunction with Gulf States’ regulatory agencies, is playing an active role in ensuring the safety of seafood harvested from federal and state waters. The federal government, led by FDA and NOAA, is taking a multi-pronged approach to ensure that seafood from Gulf waters is not contaminated by oil. The strategy includes precautionary closures, increased seafood testing inspections and a re-opening protocol.

“Closing harvest waters that could be exposed to oil protects the public from potentially contaminated seafood because it keeps the product from entering the food supply,” said Dr. Jane Lubchenco, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Combining the expertise of NOAA and FDA is the best way to use our scientific abilities to help the American people in this emergency.”

The first line of defense is NOAA’s fishery area closures, which began May 2 and are adjusted as the spill trajectory changes. The FDA has concurred with this approach. The current federal closure of 32 percent of federal waters encompasses areas known to be affected by oil, either on the surface or below the surface, as well as areas projected to be affected by oil in the next 48 - 72 hours. The closed area also includes a five-nautical-mile buffer as a precaution around the known location of oil.

“FDA and NOAA are working together to ensure that seafood from the Gulf is not contaminated with oil,” said Margaret Hamburg, M.D., Commissioner of Food and Drugs. “It is important to coordinate seafood surveillance efforts on the water, at the docks and at seafood processors to ensure seafood in the market is safe to eat.”

To help prevent tainted seafood from reaching the market, NOAA created a seafood sampling and inspection plan. Just after the beginning of the spill, it collected and tested seafood of commercial and recreational fish and shellfish species from areas where oil from the spill had not yet reached. NOAA is using ongoing surveillance to evaluate new seafood samples to determine whether contamination is present outside the closed area. If fish samples have elevated levels of oil compounds, NOAA will consider whether to expand closed areas.

The federal effort to ensure seafood is not contaminated with oil will also include NOAA’s dockside sampling of fish products in the Gulf. NOAA will verify that catch was caught outside the closed area using information from vessel monitoring systems that track the location of a vessel or information from on-board observers. If tainted fish are found in dockside sampling, NOAA will notify FDA and state health officials for further action.

The FDA operates a mandatory safety program for all fish and fishery products under the provisions of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the Public Health Service Act and related federal regulations.

The FDA will first target oysters, crab, and shrimp, which due to their biology retain contaminants longer than finfish, for additional sampling. Finfish rapidly metabolize the oil so the risk of exposure is far less than the other seafood species previously mentioned. The sample collection will target primarily seafood processors who buy seafood directly from the harvester. Monitoring this first step in the distribution chain will help to keep any potentially contaminated seafood from consumers.

FDA has also created a focused inspection assignment designed to help seafood processors review their individual source controls to ensure proper documentation and exclusion of any seafood obtained from unknown sources from entering commerce.

The two agencies are also establishing a re-opening protocol. NOAA will reopen closed areas only if it is assured, based on consultation with FDA, that fish products within the closed area meet FDA standards for public health and wholesomeness.

“We recognize that the effects of the oil spill continue to grow as oil continues to flow,” said Dr. Lubchenco. “As remediation efforts continue, it may be possible to alleviate some of the economic harm caused by the oil spill by reopening previously closed areas. NOAA will reopen areas only if assured that fish products taken from these areas meet FDA standards for public health.”

Before the BP oil spill, NOAA operated seafood inspection services in the Gulf – consisting of a handful of personnel – on a fee-for-service basis for the seafood industry.

Today, samples collected as part of NOAA’s efforts are sent to the National Seafood Inspection Laboratory in Pascagoula, Miss., where federal and state sensory testing analysts trained to detect certain thresholds of chemicals, which are not normal background odors in seafood, evaluate the catch. Samples are also sent to NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle for chemical testing

According to the most recent data available, seafood samples had been collected during 18 sampling missions by NOAA and contracted fishing vessels in areas inside and outside the closed fishery area.

From those 18 sampling missions, 640 fish and shrimp samples were processed for either sensory or chemical testing. Of the 640 samples, 118 fish samples were presented to the team of 10 expert assessors for sensory testing in the Pascagoula Laboratory. Four hundred sixteen fish and shrimp samples were sent to NOAA’s Seattle testing laboratory for chemical analysis.

“FDA has set up a hotline for reporting seafood safety issues,” said Commissioner Hamburg. “We encourage fisherman and consumers to report potential contamination to 1-888-INFO-FDA.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is responsible for ensuring the safety and quality of more than a trillion dollars worth of products that are critical for the survival and well-being of all Americans. Find FDA online at

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at or on Facebook at

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