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Law firm snatches back ‘inbreeding’ memo

When a new study suggested mountaintop removal coal mining might be responsible for an increase in West Virginia birth defects, it was no surprise to see a critical response from Crowell & Moring. After all, the Washington-based firm represents the National Mining Association.

What came as a surprise, though, was one of the points included in a memo published on the firm’s website last month: “The study failed to account for consanquinity, one of the most prominent sources of birth defects.”

When bloggers began to howl at the suggestion that West Virginia inbreeding might explain reports of birth defects, Crowell pulled the memo down from its website and issued an explanation, but the damage was done.

Critics saw the comment as a dig at West Virginia’s mountain culture, and gleefully pointed out that the word is properly spelled “consanguinity” (with a g rather than a q).

In its explanation, Crowell said consanguinity is commonly considered in studies of this type, regardless of geography.

By Peter Vieth

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