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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Taxes didn’t pay for Jell-O wrestling

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I am distressed by the blatant inaccuracies trumpeted about the National Science Foundation sponsoring Jell-O wrestling in Antarctica ("Tax dollars fund shrimp on treadmills, Jell-O wrestling in Antarctica," Web, Politics, Thursday).

There is no truth to the statement that "taxpayer money has gone to fund such programs as Jell-O wrestling at the South Pole." First, McMurdo Station is not at the South Pole. Amundsen-Scott Station is at the South Pole; McMurdo is more than 800 miles to the north. Second, the Jell-O wrestling in question was done on a lark, during off-duty hours, with Jell-O that was paid for and brought to the ice by the hosts of the party. If the NSF funded it, why was the host of the party fired?

Aside from the fact that the event took place indoors, in an NSF-owned building without permission, in no way can it be construed that the NSF is funding Jell-O wrestling. Do you say the U.S. Postal Service is funding murderous rampages when an employee opens fire in a postal facility? When a senator is accused of having an affair or worse, is that a reflection on the entire legislative branch of the U.S. government?

The YouTube video example you cite was similarly not made at taxpayer expense, and it was done in off hours. We sleep at the station when we are not at work. Is that to be construed as the NSF paying its employees to sleep?

I was present in McMurdo that season, as I am right now. I don't expect that people in the normal world (aside from the military folks) understand what it is like to work nine hours a day, six days a week for months and months on end, away from friends and family, in the harshest environment on Earth. We do things to amuse ourselves such as make films, play sports and play music. Yes, some people make bad decisions about their entertainment, but they pay the price (i.e. get fired as a result).

There is bound to be waste in the NSF. I'm sure there is plenty of waste in Congress, too. But this article is sensationalism based on half-truths and misinformation.

DANIEL JENNINGS

McMurdo Station, Antarctica

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