Friday, July 11, 2014

Scripps CEO gets unanimous vote of no confidence from faculty; Reports $21 million deficit



The following two article offer some insight on internal conflicts that, with any hope, could tear the corporation apart before it destroys the Briger Forest for new labs for its profit-driven animal testing and genetic engineering research. Corruption and turmoil comes as no surprise from an operation whose previous CEO, Richard Lerner, was a scientists for the tobacco industry...
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Scripps Faculty Call For Ouster Of CEO Michael Marletta

Scripps President and CEO Marletta
Credit: David Freeman/Scripps Research Institute
Proposed merger with USC angers researchers

United in dissent, faculty at biological research powerhouse Scripps Research Institute are reportedly calling for the resignation of the organization’s president and CEO, chemist Michael Marletta.

At issue is a June 16 announcement that Scripps is considering merging with or being acquired by the comparatively wealthy University of Southern California, in order to stabilize Scripps’ increasingly shaky financial outlook.

Scripps faculty have vehemently opposed this option. In a June 20 e-mail sent to Marletta and Scripps’ trustees board chair Richard A. Gephardt, 10 faculty department chairs and the dean of graduate and postdoctoral studies expressed “deepening concern for the future of our beloved institution.”

In the e-mail, faculty members say they are confident Scripps can and should remain independent. “We believe that the proposed path with USC would destroy much of what has been built and what we and others in the community value so much,” the group writes.

Marletta took over leadership of Scripps from longtime president and CEO Richard Lerner in January 2012. He is also a member of C&EN’s advisory board. Marletta served as chair of the chemistry department at the University of California, Berkeley, before moving to Scripps.

Scripps, a private research organization with campuses in San Diego and Jupiter, Fla., had a $398 million operating budget in 2012. It relies mostly on grants and, to a lesser, extent philanthropic donations for its funding. In 2013, 85% of its revenue came from the National Institutes of Health, according to credit rating agency Fitch Ratings.

But in recent years, competition for NIH funding has increased as the federal agency’s budget has stagnated. Meanwhile, Scripps is projecting a $21 million deficit for the current fiscal year ending Sept. 30. 

Scripps Project at Briger Forest: Enviros File Second Legal Challenge

Briger Forest in Palm Beach Gardens, threatened by Scripps

By Fire Ant, from New Times,

Palm Beach Gardens city leaders greenlighted the bulldozers early this month, cheering on the clearing of Briger Forest, the last major tract of undeveloped land along I-95 in Palm Beach County. Jobs! Progress! Townhomes!

But as night follows day, local environmental activists soon replied with a renewed assault on the developers' plans, pressing on with a challenge to the South Florida Water Management District's permits for the project.

See also: Scripps Florida Expansion Faces New Legal Roadblock, Environmental Challenge

Briger Forest, while not virgin, is relatively unspoiled. Straddling I-95 north of Palm Beach Gardens, covering almost 700 acres of land, it is a mix of hardwood forest, freshwater marshes, and prairie, an important locale for migrating birds. In addition to the Eastern Indigo Snake, an endangered species, it is home to the gopher tortoise, wood stork, snowy egret, and hand fern.
The developers' plans are tied to the local establishment's Ahab-like quest for the White Whale of bioscience dollars, the idea that public investment in projects like the Scripps Research Institute will ultimately bring a flood of money and jobs to the area.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Anti GE Tree Activists Kicked Off Florida University Campus, Spied on by FBI

by Maureen Nandini Mitra – December 2, 2013

Colleges and universities offer little room for informed discourse on plant biotech

A few months ago, while reporting an article about genetically engineered trees for Earth Island Journal’s Autumn issue (read the story here), I had a mighty hard time locating plant biologists or genetic engineers at academic institutions who were willing to talk about the possible risks of growing GE trees in massive plantations. It seemed there was little debate over this controversial issue within the biotech community on college campuses — the very places where most of the research into GE trees is carried out.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

South FL Enviro-groups File Federal Challenge Over the Scripps/Briger Phase II Project


To help with the lawsuit, please DONATE 

In the ongoing fight to save the Briger Forest, the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition (PBCEC), The South Florida Wildlands Association, The Sierra Club of Florida led by its Loxahatchee Group, and the Palm Beach County Green Party have submitted a letter today notifying the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of violations of the Endangered Species Act in connection with the consultation process that the two agencies engaged in over the Scripps Briger Development of Regional Impact (DRI) Project in Palm Beach County, Florida.  The letter has been submitted by William S. Eubanks II of the Washington, D.C. public interest environmental law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein and Crystal.

As one of the last remaining sizable tracts of contiguous forested land in Palm Beach County, the project site is critical for various wildlife species including the federally protected eastern indigo snake.  With major highways and heavy development on all sides, the site plays a key role in providing habitat for numerous species which, simply put, have nowhere else to go.

However, in their Biological Opinion written for the project, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to account for the parcel's value as habitat or refuge for wildlife.  In authorizing construction and operation of a massive facility that will eliminate habitat for snakes and other wildlife on the parcel – leading to the eventual elimination of all remaining eastern indigo snakes, a federally listed threatened species, from the property – alternative ways of conserving the project site were not even considered.  Indeed, by failing to minimize deaths and injuries of eastern indigo snakes at all – let alone analyzing various ways that the agency could have minimized such deaths and injuries – the Service has failed to comply with its duties under the Endangered Species Act.

Christian Minaya of the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition said his group has had longstanding opposition to the development of this tract.  "Our vision for the future of the Briger Tract is one of preservation. A vital link to old Florida, a preserved Briger Tract will undoubtedly prove to be a precious resource for the continuation of biological diversity in the area, as well as a great boon for education and recreation for local residents."

Suki DeJong of the Palm Beach County Green Party echoed those remarks. "In the future we see the land being acquired through private and public funds, invasive species removed, the ecosystem restored to a natural state, and ultimately the whole area managed and kept for passive recreation. A living laboratory, the Briger Tract holds unfathomable potential as a teaching tool for the community as well as being a treasure trove for diverse science disciplines.  We believe it is time that Palm Beach County treasure and preserve its natural resources - not facilitate their destruction."

"As growth continues unabated in south Florida, the habitat available for wildlife shrinks at a steady rate", said Matthew Schwartz of the South Florida Wildlands Association.  "This puts our biodiversity at extreme risk.  For many species, rigorous enforcement of the Endangered Species Act is the only lifeline they have.  The Fish and Wildlife Service had many options here - including requiring changes to the development plan.  It's unfortunate that they gave a green light to complete destruction of habitat in this locale."

If you want to support this fight, please donate now.


Full text of the notice letter.
Exibits A, B, C, D.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Major Setback for Those Hoping to Develop Briger Forest!


A major component of the Scripps biotech plan, the research hospital backed by Tenet Healthcare, may not be feasible after a recent ruling by a Florida State Judge. 

In an article released recently from the Palm Beach Post, Staff Writer Stacy Singer reported that State Administrative Judge James H. Peterson, III strongly recommended the denial of the hospital's application with Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration (FAHCA) based on legal grounds. The Document in question is the Certificate of Need (CON) which is intended to justify that the new hospital is needed. Based on the judge's decision, the construction of the new hospital is not necessary.

The appeal against the CON of the Tenet hospital was filed by Jupiter Medical Center and West Palm Hospital who made claims that they would suffer severe economic loss with the construction of this new facility. As justification for the appeal, Jupiter Medical Center claimed to expect over $11 million in losses in the first year if the new hospital were built. The two hospitals in opposition to the project are within a few miles of the proposed Tenet hospital, and they can't even keep hospital beds full. In fact, South Florida Business Journal reported that only 54% percent of the beds are occupied and about 657 beds are empty every day. Furthermore, Tenet, one of the largest for profit hospital organizations in the country, already owns 60% of the hospitals in the northern Palm Beach County area and the addition of this new hospital would essentially provide them a monopoly over Palm Beach County's healthcare prices. It was the judge's opinion that this would likely increase insurance rates for customers in the area.

The judge also claimed that the Tenet hospital offered little to Scripps in its research and clinical trials beyond what other hospitals could provide. The CON claimed one of the hospital's primary functions would be to facilitate research from the Scripps lab being used in clinical trials. However, the Tenet hospital had prepared to have only one staff position dedicated to this task. According to the judges report, this was not the only claim made by Tenet Healthcare that was highly inflated. Although it was stated in the CON that this facility would become a world class medical research facility, the judge found that there was no evidence of this being the case. It is for these reasons that the judge issued the order that essentially denies the construction of the hospital.

Florida's Health Care Administration has 45 days from issuance of the recommendation to come to a decision on whether they will challenge the judge's official order. Though there is precedent for such action, it is unlikely. Especially since FAHCA's Secretary Liz Dudek didn't officially recommend the project's approval the first time around. Normally when a project is proposed it is recommended for approval or denial, but this one wasn't. In Dudek's own written words:

"There is no need for an additional small community hospital that offers basic services."

Tenet, Scripps, and the PBG government will likely have to appeal the judge's ruling in a Florida State Court of Appeals if they hope to see this decision overturned.

So, what does this mean for the Scripps Phase II project? Scripps wanted Tenet bad. A previous PBP article reported that the land that Tenet would be building on is owned by the county, but Scripps leases it from the county for $1 a year. A letter of Intent signed in 2011 between Tenet and Scripps would have Tenet lease the land from Scripps for $5 million dollars a year, profiting big off the benevolence of the county. Over the course of a 34 year lease, Scripps would have profited nearly $170 million from the proposed hospital. Scripps would also have had Tenet employees count towards their employee total, which is important for Scripps when demonstrating their job creation ability.  With the $310 million state grant for the Scripps Phase II/Briger project expiring this year, Scripps is likely to run into financial difficulties and the loss of revenue from this hospital could be disastrous for them. The CEO of Scripps, Michael Marletta, is quite disappointed in the decision, but says they will still try to get a hospital built on the county property.

Even Shannon Laroque, the Assistant County Administrator and Scripps Program Manager, is pretty upset about this. She pushed hard for this hospital to get approved and found it an integral part of Scripps Phase II. In a 2011 article she made it clear by saying,

"Every other successful biotech/biomedical industry cluster is 'anchored' with large non-profit research facilities, a major university, and a teaching/research hospital. We cannot realize a return on the very large investment made by the Board of County Commissioners and the State of Florida without it."

Additionally, The Kolter Group, the development firm looking to buy the portions of the Briger Forest not zoned for biotech, may not be as interested in becoming involved in light of the project's recent difficulties.
As upset as all these profiteers are, we in the fight to protect the Briger are thrilled! Councilman David Levy said this decision could set back development of the Briger property two or three years. If we have anything to say about it, those few years will turn into the permanent preservation of the land. We're still here to make sure they never break ground on this project. Keep it wild!

Voice your opinion. Tell Secretary Liz Dudek to respect the judicial order of Judge James H. Peterson, III and deny the Certificate of Need for the Tenet Healthcare Hospital by contacting her Chief of Staff:

Jenn Ungru, Chief of Staff- FAHCA
(850) 412-3606
Reference CON Application No. 10130

Extra sources:
The Sun Sentinel, Jupiter Medical Center, HCA Oppose Tenet/Scripps Medical Hospital

Palm Beach Post Blog, http://blogs.palmbeachpost.com/npbc/2013/05/03/gardens-council-react-to-tenet-hospital-rejection/

Sunshin State News, http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/story/scripps-jupiter-facility-falling-short-job-creation, Rockwell, L.

JMC Tenet Judge Order