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Archives - December 2000

December 29, 2000

Organic, Schmorganic - "Organic foods are now an official, 'USDA-approved' scam. The U.S. Department of Agriculture just issued regulations defining what foods may be labeled 'organic.' Fruits, vegetables and meat and dairy products produced without the use of pesticides, irradiation, genetic engineering, growth hormones, or sewage sludge may carry the 'USDA Organic' seal as early as next summer." (Steve Milloy, FoxNews.com -- available Friday a.m. EST)

"Vodafone sued over brain cancer" - "British mobile phone suppliers are facing a billion-dollar legal action brought by US brain tumour victims." (The Times) | Reuters Health

Peter Angelos apparently doesn't follow the medical journals.

"Smoking 'triples skin cancer risk'" - "Smoking greatly increases the risk of developing a particular type of skin cancer, researchers have found. Squamous Cell Carcinoma is already one of the more common skin cancers, normally developing later in life." (BBC)

Some other statistical studies that have examined the association between smoking and squamous cell skin cancer, include:
  • "This epidemiological study strongly indicates that sun protection is the major modality to reduce sun-induced cutaneous tumors in Japanese." [From Araki K; Nagano T; Ueda M; Washio F; Watanabe S; Yamaguchi N; Ichihashi M. Incidence of skin cancers and precancerous lesions in Japanese--risk factors and prevention. J Epidemiol 1999 Dec;9(6 Suppl):S14-21.]

  • "The relatively weak effect of individual factors supports the view of a multifactorial disease and suggests that interactions between UV exposure and genetic predisposition may be more significant determinants of risk." [From Lear JT; Tan BB; Smith AG; Jones PW; Heagerty AH; Strange RC; Fryer AA. A comparison of risk factors for malignant melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma in the UK. Int J Clin Pract 1998 Apr-May;52(3):145-9.]

  • "..current cigarette smokers showed a 50% increase in the risk of squamous cell carcinoma compared with never smokers (relative risk = 1.5; 95% confidence interval = 1.1-2.1). CONCLUSION: Exposure to the sun leading to sunburn, particularly at early ages, should be avoided to decrease the risk of incident SCC." [From Grodstein F; Speizer FE; Hunter DJ. A prospective study of incident squamous cell carcinoma of the skin in the nurses' health study. J Natl Cancer Inst 1995 Jul 19;87(14):1061-6.]

  • "Smoking and alcohol consumption showed no statistically significant association with the risk of nonmelanocytic skin cancer." [From Kune GA; Bannerman S; Field B; Watson LF; Cleland H; Merenstein D; Vitetta L. Diet, alcohol, smoking, serum beta-carotene, and vitamin A in male nonmelanocytic skin cancer patients and controls. Nutr Cancer 1992;18(3):237-44.]

  • "No association was noted on our study between a history of psoriasis and development of SCC. Neither was an association between smoking and SCC found." [From Hogan DJ; Lane PR; Gran L; Wong D. Risk factors for squamous cell carcinoma of the skin in Saskatchewan, Canada. J Dermatol Sci 1990 Mar;1(2):97-101.]

"For women, night work may up breast cancer risk" - "Women who work at night, such as nurses or flight attendants, may be slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than women who work in the daytime, a Danish researcher reports." (Reuters Health)

Reviews of studies that examined the melatonin suppression/breast cancer link report:
  • "In all, there have been eleven occupational studies related to breast cancer in women, and statistically significant risk ratios have been observed: 1.98 for pre-menopausal women in occupations with high EMF exposure in one study, 2.17 in all women who worked as telephone installers, repairers, and line workers in another study, and 1.65 for system analysts/ programmers, 1.40 for telegraph and radio operators, and 1.27 for telephone operators in a third study. However, six of the studies did not find any significant effects and two found effects only in subgroups. The results of the eight studies of residential exposure and four electric blanket studies have been inconsistent, with most not demonstrating any significant association." [From Caplan LS; Schoenfeld ER; O'Leary ES; Leske MC. Breast cancer and electromagnetic fields--a review. Ann Epidemiol 2000 Jan;10(1):31-44.]

  • "Based on the published data, it is currently unclear if EMF and electric light exposure are significant risk factors for breast cancer." [From Brainard GC; Kavet R; Kheifets LI. The relationship between electromagnetic field and light exposures to melatonin and breast cancer risk: a review of the relevant literature. J Pineal Res 1999 Mar;26(2):65-100.]

"Thailand bans European beef over mad cow scare" - "Thailand's government has imposed a ban on imports of beef from seven European nations in order to prevent the spread of mad cow disease." (AP)

"Cancer deaths decline, says UAB " - "A new study of cancer death rates shows that this nation's decades-long "cancer epidemic" has been caused by one disease - lung cancer. The study by two UAB scientists raises compelling questions about winning the war on cancer, assessing the toll of cigarette smoking and overestimating the cancer threat of environmental pollution." (Birmingham News)

"Veterans Affairs Proposes Additional Aid for 'Atomic Veterans'" - "Veterans exposed to radiation during their military service and diagnosed with cancer of the bone, brain, colon, lung, or ovary will have an easier time applying for, and receiving compensation for their illnesses, if proposed regulatory changes are approved." (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs media release)

Contrary to this request, the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine reported in October 1999,

By beginning with the most complete lists of [atomic veterans] to date, identifying a comparable group of servicemen who did not participate in nuclear bomb blasts, and tracking death certificates through various sources, the researchers were able to draw this general conclusion: There is no difference between the two groups in overall death rates or in total deaths from cancer.

The researchers also investigated specific causes of death. When looking at leukemia, participants in the nuclear tests had a 14 percent higher death rate than those in the comparison group. But the study report points out that this difference is not statistically significant, meaning that the results may be due to chance.

Because leukemia was originally singled out as a primary target for investigation, the researchers also looked at subcategories of participants. For example, land-based participants -- those in the Nevada desert -- had a death rate from leukemia that was 50 percent higher than military personnel in similar units who did not take part in atomic tests. Sea-based test participants in the South Pacific, however, did not differ from their comparison group in leukemia deaths.

The leukemia findings are consistent with those of other studies of atomic test participants, the study group said. That is, the handful of other studies conducted have found slightly increased rates of leukemia.

The study report also points out some unanticipated results regarding two other kinds of cancer -- prostate and nasal. Deaths from prostate cancer were 20 percent higher among test participants than the comparison group, and even higher for nasal cancer. The prostate cancer findings have not been consistently seen in other studies of people exposed to radiation and are therefore difficult to interpret. The nasal cancer finding is even harder to interpret, in part because this is the first study of atomic test participants to look specifically for that cause of death. To date, nasal cancer has not been among the cancers considered to be caused by radiation.

December 27, 2000

National Anxiety Center: "The Most Dubious News Stories of the Year" - "We began the year 2000 having been told that every computer in the world would crash. We ended the year waiting a month past the national election to find out that George W. Bush was our President, thanks to the outdated technology of how we cast a vote."

"Meat 'bad for bone health'" - "Elderly women who get too much protein from animal products risk fractures and bone loss, researchers warn." (BBC)

"Clean Air Trust: Voters Want Tougher Clean Air Standards, Enforcement, Dirty Power Plant Cleanup; Survey Puts Spotlight on Sen. Bob Smith's Next Moves " - "On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Clean Air Act, post-election national and statewide New Hampshire surveys show that voters overwhelmingly want tougher clean air health standards based on new science rather than economics. Voters also want stricter enforcement of the law." (Clean Air Trust media release)

"Salmonella found to be resistant to drug" - "Salmonella bacteria resistant to the standard drug used to treat serious forms of the infection in children are emerging nationwide, government health experts warn." (AP)

"Mosquito pesticide takes toll on birds" - "Thousands of birds are dropping dead in Florida, and conservation groups are citing fenthion, a pesticide used to control mosquitoes, as the cause." (ENN)

"In France they are still counting the cost of nature and man-made errors " - "After a year of unusual weather in France and Europe as a whole -- a cool summer followed by an interminably mild and damp autumn -- it is tempting to blame the great storms of 1999 on global warming and the disruption of traditional weather patterns, but officials at France-Meteo are cautious. 'One freak storm proves nothing,' one said, 'though it is true that last autumn was also unusually wet and mild. This partly explains why so many trees were lost. The ground in many places was exceptionally soft and damp.'" (The Independent)

"After a year of weird weather we can expect only one forecast: there's a lot more to come" - "After 12 months of remarkable climatic ups and downs, with the sunniest winter and the wettest autumn on record and the third great storm in 13 years, our weather is likely to get more volatile still, according to Peter Ewins, chief executive of the Met Office." (The Independent)

"Salmon puzzle: Why did males turn female?" - "As the first report of environmental gender bending in wild Pacific salmon, 'this is an extremely important paper,' notes Don Campton, a regional fish geneticist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in Longview, Wash. Further studies are needed to confirm the result and find out whether it represents a one-season fluke. Nevertheless, he worries it may also signal risks facing other fisheries." (Science News)

"Organic Food Standards May Violate First Amendment " - "New standards for organic foods may violate First Amendment free speech rights, the Competitive Enterprise Institute said today. 'USDA’s organic rule attempts to create a single, nationwide standard for a concept that means different things to different people,' said CEI director of food safety policy Gregory Conko. 'These rules raise serious First Amendment problems. Not only do they prohibit producers from using standards that are less strict than USDA’s; they also prohibit standards that are more strict.'" (CEI media release)

December 26, 2000

"Biotech's allergy benefits" - "The furor over StarLink corn is all a tempest in a taco shell." (Mike Fumento, Wash. Times)

"A Cleanup for the Big Rigs" - "...The administration also argued that the public health benefits -- including reduced rates of cancer, asthma and other diseases -- would outweigh the projected costs." (New York Times editorial)

"How about an FDA warning label?" - "It seems that every year we have about 2.2 cases of salmonella per 100,000 people. This is not what you would call epidemic proportions. However, we are experiencing an epidemic of warning labels." (Dick Boland, Washington Times)

"UN Health Agency Sees Global Mad Cow Risk" - "The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday expressed concern about what it called "exposure worldwide" to mad cow disease and its fatal human form, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD)." (Reuters)

"UN Urges Extra Vigilance on Malaria in Africa" - "The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday warned holidaymakers heading for Africa to "take all possible precautions" against malaria, including the use of drugs and insect repellents." (Reuters)

"Smoking damages health early in life" - "Even healthy young adults may suffer negative health consequences due to smoking. Smokers in their 20s and 30s were much more likely to miss work or be admitted to a hospital in the short-term than nonsmokers, researchers report." (ReutersHealth.com)

"Staring ahead 'raises crash risk'" - "Staring intently at the road may actually increase the chances of having a crash on long repetitive stretches, say experts." (BBC) | Media release

"Chocolate 'protects the heart'" - "Scientists find more evidence that chocolate may help to protect against heart disease." (BBC)

"'Obesity a world-wide hazard'" - "A top nutrition expert warns that obesity is threatening the health of a growing number of people world-wide." (BBC)

"Australian beef free of mad cow disease: meat industry" - "Consumers are being reassured that Australian beef is free of BSE, or mad cow disease." (ABC)

"Cigarette pack pictures to shock smokers into health awareness" - "In an attempt to shock smokers into greater awareness of health hazards, cigarette packs on sale in Canada are to carry not only written warnings but also vivid illustrations." (ABC)

"OSHA Lists Highlights of Three Decades; Meeting the Mandate: Saving Lives, Preventing Injury, Preserving Health" - "At the beginning of its fourth decade, OSHA is meeting its mandate to see that workers go home whole and healthy. Since President Richard M. Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act on Dec. 29, 1970, work-related fatalities are down 50 percent and occupational injuries have declined by 40 percent." (OSHA Media release)

"'Ground Zero' for climate change" - "Rising global temperatures may change the face of Florida in the coming decades, with some experts predicting that much of low-lying South Florida could be underwater in the next 100 years." (Miami Herald)

"EPA research division concerned about harmful human testing" - "Deliberate human exposure to pollutants was an element of nine of the 110 projects approved last fiscal year by the National Center for Environmental Research, a division of the Environmental Protection Agency. Human testing has also been involved in studying the effects of a bacterium in causing diarrhea, and investigating whether certain doses of a water pollutant are harmful to humans." (AP)

Human testing is OK for air pollution, but not for pesticides?

"Environmental activists sticker SUVs" - "For four months, it's been hunting season for two mischievous middle-aged men in the Bay Area. Their prey is the far-from-elusive sport utility vehicle. They wield a bent toward civil disobedience and some strong glue. Robert Lind, who runs a deer-repellent business, and cohort Charles Dines, a construction worker, have scampered all over the region to smooth homemade bumper stickers onto hundreds of SUVs - the vehicles they love to hate." (AP)

"Japan bans European beef imports" - "Japan has decided to impose a total ban on beef imports from the European Union in a move to keep out mad cow disease, an agriculture ministry official said Monday." (AP)

"Germany to test sheep for mad cow disease" - "The head of Germany's disease control agency has called for tests of the nation's sheep for variants of mad cow disease." (AP)

"Blacks dying younger" - "The life expectancy of Aborigines has fallen in at least three states -- despite the nation's record run of economic growth in the 1990s and billions of dollars in government assistance." (The Australian)

But Robert Carruthers responds:

The study refers to unpublished and, therefore, questionable data.

It only mentions certain sub populations of the indigenous community in these "States" as having got worse - men in Western Australia and women in South Australia plus the Northern Territory. Presumably women in WA and men in SA and the NT have do not have reduced life expectancy.

The reference to The Economist -- "Australia is the only nation in the developed world to have a section of its population facing a shrinking life expectancy" -- is meaningless in the context in which it is used. The Economist article talks about the average age of countries' populations, not of all sub-populations within countries ("Tales of youth and age," www.economist.com).

December 20, 2000

"Handheld cellular telephone use not associated with risk of brain cancer" - "CHICAGO -- The use of handheld cellular telephones does not appear to be associated with the risk of brain cancer, but further studies are needed to account for longer induction periods, especially for slow-growing tumors, according to an article in the December 20 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)." (AHF)

"Landmark school-based 'social influences' smoking-prevention program found not to work" - "SEATTLE - The most ambitious, school-based smoking-prevention study of its kind has found that teaching youth how to identify and resist social influences to smoke - the main focus of smoking-prevention education and research for more than two decades - simply doesn't work." (FHCRC) [Failure of anti-smoking plan leaves researchers baffled (AP)]

"Drinking and smoking views under fire" - "MOST Australians believe regular consumption of alcohol and tobacco smoking is okay, while few approve of regular illicit drug taking, a new study has found. An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report says 60 per cent of adults approve of regular drinking of alcohol, and about 40 per cent approve of regular tobacco smoking." (news.com.au)

"Scientists sceptical of Phillips’ BSE theories" - "SCIENTISTS at Moredun animal diseases research centre yesterday rejected, some more robustly than others, the Phillips’ inquiry conclusion that BSE was the result of a prion protein mutation in cattle in the 1970s." (The Scotsman) [Mad About Sheep (New Scientist)]

"Voodoo medicine lives!" - "Just a few days ago, Dr. Patricia Marchuk saw a new mother who had brought in her three-month-old baby for a routine checkup. The baby was already late for her first set of shots. "I'm not going to give them to her," proclaimed the mom. "I'm terrified of them." She had it on good authority that immunizations are dangerous, and can cause crib death, allergies, asthma, even autism and juvenile delinquency." (GAM)

"The myth-buster" - "A Seattle comedian, mocking a rival station's alarmist consumer reports, made up a typical headline: "What you don't know about gravy can kill you." This got a big laugh, but the (unintentionally) funny thing is that many in his audience were probably thinking: "Gravy, huh?" Ever since the World Health Organization announced in the 1970s that most cancers were due to environmental causes, everything in our environment has been seen as a threat." (REPORT)

"Don't shoot the analysts" - "Maybe it's the holiday season, but we seem to be fielding an inordinate quantity of off-the-wall material. Over the weekend, for example, the vice-president of research at the University of Waterloo, lamenting an alleged shortage of basic research in Canada, came up with the darndest warning: "We could simply run out of ideas." (Terence Corcoran, National Post)

Paul Ehrlich - still wrong: "The bomb's still ticking" - "Paul Ehrlich wants to know whether anyone has brought sawdust to soak up the blood that might be spilt this sunny afternoon in Richmond at the biennial conference of the Australian Population Association. The Stanford University professor, who more than 30 years ago was shot to Nostradamus-like prominence when he predicted everything but the end of the world - ''The battle to feed all of humanity is over . . . hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death,'' he boomed in his famous tome, The Population Bomb - is about to tell a bunch of the Australian demographers that their country, indeed their planet, is well on the way to environmental, ecological, terrestrial, epidemiological ruin." (The Age)

"One-Child Policy Doesn't Stop China's Population Growth" - "According to the Associated Press, China hopes to cap its population at 1.6 billion by mid-century by persuading women to have fewer children and bear them later in life, a government policy paper said Tuesday. China's one-child policy has already slowed growth of the population, currently the world's largest at 1.26 billion and growing by 10 million a year, according to the paper. "If we relax our work in this regard, it is highly possible that this work will be undone," said Zhang Weiqing, director of the State Family Planning Commission. In "Defusing the Population Bomb," Stephen Moore shows how an increased population has not led to the doomsday scenarios predicted in the 60's and 70's and how quality of life is continually improving." (Cato Institute)

"Survey finds Indian fertility rate declining" - "MUMBAI: In what would sound music to family planning officials in a year when the population crossed the one billion mark in May, the latest national family health survey says fertility rate among Indians is declining." (Times of India)

"World Use Of Genetically Modified Crops Up 11% In 2000" - "MANILA-- The total global area tilled with genetically modified crops hit 44.2 million hectares in 2000, up 11% from 39.9 million hectares in 1999, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications said Tuesday. The ISAA is an independent international agency that monitors the global use of biotech crops." (DJN)

"US exports not hurt by StarLink incidents-embassies" - "WASHINGTON, Dec 19 - Japanese and South Korean diplomats said on Tuesday the discovery of StarLink bio-corn in cargoes destined for their countries` food and animal feed supply would not impact future U.S. corn exports. Two separate U.S. corn shipments destined for Japan`s food supply and South Korea`s animal feed industry were found on Tuesday to be tainted with the genetically-altered StarLink corn." (Reuters)

"Tests to block blight of GE seed imports" - "Border checks will be in place by March to test for genetically engineered material in imported seed shipments. Until now there has been no compulsory testing of imported seeds for GE contamination. The New Zealand move comes at a time when there are no international standards for quality assurance or border tests." (NZ Herald)

"BIO: U.S./EU Biotech Report Contains Positive Consensus" - "This morning, the EU/U.S. Biotech Consultative Forum report on biotechnology was released. In the report, biotech experts said the U.S. government should tighten control of biotech crops and food by establishing “content-based’ labeling." (AgWeb.com)

"EU says GMO "ban" to stay until at least mid-2001" - "BRUSSELS - The European Union will not lift an effective ban on new genetically modified organisms (GMOs) until well into next year at the earliest, Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom said on Tuesday." (Reuters)

"European Perception of Biotech Foods Skewed by 15 Years of Food and Medical Technology Scares" - "There's a new French paradox when it comes to dining today, but it is not related to wine consumption. Though a product of biotechnology, wine pales by comparison to the products of modern biotechnology in terms of paradoxical views on behalf of French and other European consumers. Wine is also unequivocally accepted. Pierre Deloffre, general manager of Bonduelle, a French fruit and vegetable product manufacturer, discussed what he called "a confused and irrational story" about biotech foods in Europe at the American Seed Trade Association's (ASTA's) Corn & Sorghum Seed Research Conference in Chicago on Dec. 8." (ASTA)

"U.N. Agency: World Still Gripped by Warming Trend" - "GENEVA - The warming trend that has gripped our climate for the past 20 years will make 2000 one of the hottest years since 1860, despite La Nina's cooling effect on the tropical Pacific and other anomalies, the United Nations weather agency said Tuesday." (Reuters) [AP]

One of myriad "It's really hot" releases currently proliferating. Using a rather dubious near-surface daily temperature amalgam, WMO is citing 2000 as being roughly +0.3°C above the 1961-1990 average. What does this mean? Here's the long-term graph of the contiguous US meteorological station composite, probably the best financed and most accurately maintained set in the world. The zero line is the 1961-1990 average and the red worm track is the 5-year running mean. Obviously, "the warming trend that has gripped our climate for the past 20 years" assumes much less importance when you can see that it is merely a recovery from the cooling subsequent to 1930 (always assuming that the warming is real and not an artefact of data corruption). The Goddard/CRU global temperature amalgam appears rather different from the US, suggesting a pronounced contemporary warming. There is an increasing divergence between surface amalgam sets and atmospheric temperatures measured by balloon and satellite. The satellite-measured tropospheric mean shows 2000 has been mostly cooler than the 1961-1990 mean.

Some of the coverage being given this release is quite extraordinary. In The Guardian - "Extremes included the first thunderstorm ever recorded on the northern tip of Alaska..." Hmm... maybe but in the Journals of Captain Franklin "... They reached the mouth of the Mackenzie on 30 August in a violent gale with thunder, lightning and torrents of rain." This was in 1826 and the mouth of the Mackenzie is about the same latitude, roughly 20° east of Alaska's Point Barrow - perhaps high latitude thunderstorms are not quite so novel after all.

To return to the original lead, how can a warming atmosphere warm the planet when the atmosphere is not warming? While it may be ideologically desirable for some to insist that the atmosphere must be warming because the surface amalgam proves warming is occurring, this is an exercise in circular reasoning. Given that two diverse and mutually verifying methods show that atmospheric warming is not actually occurring as computer game oracles insist, the suspect must then become the measurement technique which is out of step with the other two - especially when it is known that this third technique is plagued by significant interference from urban heat island effect, closure of rural recording points, very limited sampling of the Earth's surface and quite extraordinary variance in data quality. Has there been any net warming since the 1930s? That seems very doubtful.

"VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT #44" - "One month and four Virtual Climate Alerts ago, we were dismayed that the National Climate Data Center’s by now predictable annual announcement of "the hottest year on record" (often made before a full year’s data is available) jumped the gun at October’s end and proclaimed the first ten months of 2000 to be the warmest since record-keeping began. It was projected that if the trend continues, 2000 would become the hottest year on record. November’s data is in. Were this an AAAU track meet, we’d see NCDC climatologists waddling back to the starting line, blushing ear-to-ear at their over-eagerness. Preliminary data from NCDC reveals November 2000 to be the second-coldest November on record." (GES)

"UPS AND DOWNS MARK YEAR IN WEATHER FOR 2000, NOAA SAYS FORECASTERS UPDATE WINTER 2000-01 OUTLOOK" - "December 19, 2000 — The year began with a record warm winter, but 2000 is ending with a record cold winter and a legacy of topsy-turvy weather events during the months in between, including a deadly F-4 tornado in Alabama over the weekend. At a news conference today in Washington, D. C., NOAA officials said the recent blast of cold air that broke several records last week is a preview of what the nation can expect for the rest of the winter. "Generally, while we experienced above-average temperatures in 2000, colder-than-normal temperatures emerged later, especially during November," said NOAA Administrator D. James Baker, adding that November was the second coldest on record." (NOAA)

Sigh... "Sahara jumps Mediterranean into Europe" - "Global warming threatens to create dust belt around the globe" (Guardian)

A few months ago, the same areas cited as drying were the fault of  excessive water diversion and groundwater extraction to support huge numbers of Mediterranean tourist resorts in traditionally desert or near-desert regions (valued for the purpose by virtue of their consistently fine and warm weather conditions). Same 'problem' now seconded to support the global warming scare.

"Sweden makes climate deal top priority" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Sweden is to make the signing of a global deal on greenhouse gas emissions a priority during its presidency of the European Union." (CNN)

"Pew report: Warming trend could wipe out familiar U.S. species" - "Planetary climate warming induced by human activities will cause ecological havoc in the United States, as plants and animals migrate in a desperate search of new habitats where they can survive, according to a new study." (CNN)

I was told the other day that PCGCC does not stand for Pew Center for Generating Climate Claptrap - if the hat fits...

"Man-made fires can worsen drought in Africa" - "SAN FRANCISCO, California -- Fires made by humans for cooking and other reasons in the African tropics slow down rainfall and can contribute to drought on the continent, according to a new report. Scientists studying the world's tropical rainfall determined that a storm over a populated area in Africa may generate only half the rain as the same kind of storm over the ocean. A main reason is smoke pollution, according to lead scientist Daniel Rosenfeld, a professor of meteorology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem." (CNN) [New satellite-generated rain maps provide improved look at tropical rainfall (NASA/GSFC)]

December 19, 2000

"Removal of EPA Investigator Called Political Revenge" - "WASHINGTON, DC, December 18, 2000 - A federal investigator whose revelations about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were damaging to Al Gore's unsuccessful bid for the White House was relieved of his duties last week by a political appointee of the outgoing Clinton administration." (ENS)

"Beer, in moderation, cuts risk of cataracts and heart disease" - "HONOLULU, Dec. 17 - When you're planning for that Super Bowl party next month, be sure to include a six-pack of your favorite antioxidants. That's right, antioxidants! Turns out that beer - in moderation, of course - is chock-full of healthy stuff that can reduce the risk of cataracts and heart disease, according to research presented here today at the 2000 International Chemical Congress of Pacific Basin Societies." [Abstracts are available by clicking here, here, and here.] (ACS)

"Soya 'may reduce cancer risk'" - "Teenagers eating soya products may help prevent them getting breast cancer in later life, say experts. Hawaiian researchers have suggested a long-term diet rich in soya could reduce risk by up to 50%." (BBC Online) [Click here for abstract.]

"Can Theology Of Environment Change Old Trends?" - "A book entitled, Earth and Faith, published by UNEP details how the religious approach to environmental conservation can save the already threatened six thousand years of life on earth. The theology of environment; that is environment on pulpits and shrines of worshiping is founded on the tenet that man's spiritual assignment is to make sure that God's creation is not interfered with, and must be respected." (ACIS)

Nothing new here - modern "environmentalism" is purely a matter of faith (Gaia worship?) and has no foundation in science or even simple common sense.

"'Vegan' Iceman had a taste for wild goat" - "NEOLITHIC man was a carnivore and not, as American scientists have claimed, a vegan, according to a new study led by a British researcher." (The Times)

Biofuel not a panacea? "Fuelwood Accounts for 80 Percent of Energy Supply in DRC" - "Fuelwood accounts for about 80 percent of domestic energy consumption in the Congo DR, according to a senior official, who also condemned the poor management of forests in the country. Addressing a press conference in Kinshasa at the weekend to mark 25 years of the creation of the Environment Ministry, Permanent Secretary Dosithe Hadelin Mbusu Ngamani, noted that coal accounted for 10 percent of DRC's energy supply, hydro- electricity four percent, and hydrocarbons, nine percent. He said the poor management of forest resources is the root cause of environmental degradation in the country, where forests have virtually disappeared around major cities." [Fuelwood Depletes Zambia's Forests] (PANA)

"Science declares rare species a bum steer" - "An elusive and incredibly rare species of wild steer native to the mist-shrouded highlands of Cambodia and Vietnam is likely to be taken off the list of endangered fauna - never to return. The reason: the creature never existed at all." (AFP)

"Annan Urges Commitment On Treaties" - "UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, has urged the international community to give equal attention to all Conventions negotiated or signed in relation to the 1992 "Earth Summit," in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil." (PANA)

Certainly they are deserving of equal treatment - scrap the lot for the sake of the planet and humanity.

"Dr. Strangelunch" - Or: Why we should learn to stop worrying and love genetically modified food "Ten thousand people were killed and 10 to 15 million left homeless when a cyclone slammed into India’s eastern coastal state of Orissa in October 1999. In the aftermath, CARE and the Catholic Relief Society distributed a high-nutrition mixture of corn and soy meal provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development to thousands of hungry storm victims. Oddly, this humanitarian act elicited cries of outrage." (Ronald Bailey, Reason)

"Mad Cow Reality Confronts Phony Biotech Scare" - "Have Greenpeace protesters finally thrown up one barricade too many against biotechnology and the benefits it offers? ... Instead of GM's dangers, though, these activities offer a wake-up call about Greenpeace as a threat to health. For the day after Greenpeace spread its phony fears about imports of GM soybeans, the British science weekly Nature warned of something truly frightening. The report, by epidemiologist Christi Donnelly of London's Imperial College School of Medicine, found that as many as 9,800 French cattle had become infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad-cow disease. Worse, still, some of their meat has entered the human food chain." (Duane D. Freese, TCS)

"Biotech corn risk to butterflies appears minimal" - "WASHINGTON -- Life in genetically engineered corn fields may not be as dangerous to monarch butterflies as once feared, say scientists who studied the insects this summer. Pollen from the corn can be toxic to the butterflies, whose favorite food, milkweed, grows in and around corn fields. But the research to be published next year suggests the risk is low, the scientists say. The federally subsidized research is the first comprehensive effort to determine the impact of biotech corn on monarchs." (AP)

"Study Validates Safety of Bt Crops" - "Yet another study supports previous evidence that Bt (Bacillus thuringienisis) crops are just as safe as conventional plant varieties, and because they provide protection against insects, they also provide significant benefits. However, the study was carried out by Monsanto, a seed company known for its Bt products. The study appears in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology." (AgWeb.com)

"Pioneer postpones 6 hybrids for 2001 that aren't cleared in EU" - "Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., will postpone sales of six Pioneer(R) brand corn hybrids that contain a combination of the YieldGard(1) gene and LibertyLink(2) gene for the 2001 growing season. In a statement, the firm says the move is to minimize confusion in the marketplace for its customers." (Pro Farmer)

"Texas Researchers Clone Calf for Disease Resistance" - "Researchers at Texas A&M University (TAMU) have successfully cloned a calf that may provide the genetics to develop disease-free cattle. The month-old black Angus calf, which was named 86 Squared, was cloned using cells that were frozen for 15 years. The cells came from Bull 86, which was naturally resistant to brucellosis. In laboratory conditions, Bull 86 was also resistant to tuberculosis and salmonellosis." (AgWeb.com)

"New potato glows green to ask for water" - "LONDON, England -- Scientists have pioneered a genetically modified "super potato" which glows when it needs water, the head of the project said on Monday. Researchers at Edinburgh University injected potato plants with a fluorescence gene borrowed from the luminous jellyfish aequorea victoria, which causes their leaves to glow green when dehydrated." (Reuters) [AFP]

"French drug maker faces $164m GM corn payout" - "Aventis SA, France's largest drug maker, is facing a payout of 100 million euros ($A164 million) to cover costs relating to the recall of its StarLink strain of genetically engineered corn. The 100-million-euro figure is "currently the best estimate that we can provide," said Aventis chief financial officer Patrick Langlois in a statement faxed to news agencies on the weekend. The charge won't "alter the earnings outlook on a full-year basis." (The Age)

"Protection of crops given new approach" - "A FRESH approach to crop protection technology was unveiled by one of the biggest multinationals in the field yesterday. This is aimed at linking the demands of the end user - processor, retailer or consumer - with the agronomic needs of the primary producer. It will bring together specific crop treatments, including an enhanced biological control approach, with highly customised seeds and in time a strong biotechnology, or genetically modified, bias." (The Scotsman)

"The Cartagena protocol on diversity" - "The first intergovernmental meeting aiming to minimise the potential risks to the environment and human health posed by biotechnology and its movement between countries takes place this week in Montpellier, France." (The Guardian, Dec 15)

"Govt to promote biotech in farm, food sectors" - "NEW DELHI: The government will soon take several steps to popularise the use of biotechnology in the agriculture and food processing sectors. It will also establish ``more functional biotechnology parks'' to trigger a revolution in biotech industries, Union HRD and science minister Murli Manohar Joshi said on Monday." (Times of India)

"Panel Wants Tighter Biotech Control" - "WASHINGTON - A committee formed by the United States and the European Union recommended tighter controls Monday on genetically engineered foods, including mandatory labeling of products with biotech ingredients." [US, Japan To Test for Biotech Corn] (AP) [Panel Backs Stronger Rules for Some Food (NY Times)]

"Effect of Climate on Ancient Societies Debated" - "Radical climate change might ravage civilization -- but it won't be the first time, scientists say. The world is littered with the weedy ruins of ancient societies like the Mayans -- peoples that once thrived, then collapsed because they failed to endure sudden climate shifts, researchers said yesterday at the conference of the American Geophysical Union." (San Francisco Chronicle)

"Scientific ignorance blinds leaders to global warming say panel" - "A panel of scientists says the world's leaders suffer from scientific illiteracy, which makes them blind to increasing evidence of global warming. A professor of meteorology at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California, Richard Somerville, says this ignorance is routinely seen at various conferences investigating recent worldwide climate changes." (Radio Australia)

Double-edged sword - if not for scientific illiteracy there wouldn't be an enhanced greenhouse scare to begin with and there'd be no UNFCCC or IPCC either. This whole farce is enabled only because politicians don't know that climate change is the normal state of the world - climate stasis would be most alarming by introduction of a new and abnormal state.

Sensibly: "U.S. rejects fresh climate talks" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Hopes of restarting international talks aimed at reaching agreement on greenhouse gas emissions have been dashed after the United States rejected a new meeting with European leaders. EU environment ministers had hoped to resume the talks -- which broke down last month in The Hague -- later this week, but a French government spokeswoman said on Monday that the U.S. had turned down an invitation to attend. The so-called "U.S. umbrella group," consisting of Canada, Australia, Japan and New Zealand, also rejected the invitation to travel to Oslo, Norway for the talks." (CNN) [EU Says U.S. Rejects Oslo Meeting on Climate Change; U.S. declines new climate talks with Europe (Reuters)] [EU fails in bid to broker climate deal (Guardian)] [Last chance for an emissions deal before Mr Bush steps in; Americans dash hopes of climate change deal (Independent)] [US 'spurns' global warming talks (BBC Online)] [Hopes fade of climate talks deal (Financial times)] [Climate talks 'are over until Bush arrives' (Telegraph)]

Even if there were any merit in the enhanced greenhouse hypothesis, it is absolutely scandalous to contemplate such an elitist clique meeting without the developing world's participation. Then there's the little matter of how utterly pointless it would be without China and India, who will shortly be the world's most prolific emitters of the gases supposedly of concern.

"A November to Remember" - "Cultural historians will remember November 2000 for its 30 days of cable Tee-Vee talking heads reporting on a Presidential election, 24 hours per day, with the caption "Breaking News—Florida still too close to call" running for 30,000 hours straight. That news story broke about as quickly as "Act Now—Global Warming on It's Way!" The blessing in disguise is that, thus distracted, the U.S. media completely and almost unilaterally ignored the global warming treaty negotiations in the Hague. So let us fill you in. At the meeting, the same folks who have been chanting, "Save the Planet, Plant a Tree" for 30 years suddenly started sounding remarkably like strip-mall developers. The United States proposed that we eat up a bunch of our emissions by planting trees and the greens said no, thank you." (GES)

"Robot sub to find secrets of Antarctic krill" - "... Krill are small, shrimp-like creatures that graze the underside of sea ice. 'They are crucial to all wildlife in the southern oceans,' said Brierley, of the British Antarctic Survey. 'Krill eat a form of algae called phytoplankton, and in turn are eaten by everything else - fish, seals, polar bears. If krill die out, so would all these creatures.' Researchers have recently discovered that krill thrive in climatic extremes. When winters are severe and sea ice is thickest, then the crustaceans do well. In warm, iceless periods, they decline. ... 'It is crucial that we find out exactly what is going on, however - for if global warming continues, and sea-ice shrinks as we expect, then the world's krill could die out, taking out all creatures that feed on them.'" (The Guardian)

Quite apart from the simple fact that there has been a net increase in Antarctic sea ice area since the 1950s (which is as long as we have been observing it), current evidence indicates that Antarctic denizens prosper in milder Antarctic seasons. For example, in February, AAP echoed this AFP bulletin: Fine weather and abundant food have led to a penguin "baby boom" near Japan's Showa Antarctic expedition base, Japanese researchers said today. The number of Adelie penguin chicks which left a nesting area some 25 kilometers south of Showa Base this season jumped 40 percent from a year earlier to 215, according to a Japanese pool press report from the base. ... "Fine weather has prevailed this season and ice did not close up holes through which food is caught," said Yutaka Watanuki, associate professor at Hokkaido University. Watanuki has led the one-and-a-half-month research of penguin population growth. He said that krill, tiny planktonic crustaceans, which are the main source of food for penguins, had been abundant this nesting season. ... Record growth was registered in the 1997-1998 nesting season [during the period of extraordinary El Niño-induced warmth] when 356 chicks left their nests as strong winds pushed ice away from the sea around the nesting site, enabling the parents to catch food in a short time. ... In the 1998-1999 season, bad weather covered the sea with thick ice, and many chicks starved to death as their parents were forced to travel long distances in search for food.

"Cats and Dogs, Models and Reality" - "We don’t know how to explain this, but it seems there are an awful lot of universal polarities. Cats and dogs do not get along. Neither do Republicans and Democrats. Nor, most of the time (it seems), do men and women. Likewise for scientific modelers and data gatherers. Indeed, we have often joked that the very creative people who design and tinker with general circulation models (GCMs)—which form the basis for the Kyoto Protocol and other major greenhouse concerns—seem to thrive in a data-free environment." (GES)


Really? NOAA's own CPC provides this map for November temperature departure from normal (latest available), showing most of the US to be distinctly below normal, in fact the second coldest since 1895. Their Sep-Nov three-month average also seems to indicate mostly sub-normal temperatures while the annual mean departure map shows most of the US within about 1°F of long-term mean (neither here nor there in terms of normal interannual climatic variation). Tropospheric mean temperature shows the world is actually a little on the cool side.

"Historic records reveal links between El Niño, coastal erosion, and shifting sands of beaches in central California" - "SAN FRANCISCO, CA--Erosion of seacliffs, damage to coastal structures, and the comings and goings of beach sand along California's central coast are all closely linked to the intense winter storms associated with El Niño. Two new studies by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, reveal the connections between this climatic heavy hitter and the processes that shape the coastline of California." (UCSC) [The Oregonian]

Couldn't resist the global warming-induced sea level rise - despite IPCC-sponsored studies finding absolutely no supportive evidence for such a contention. Sigh...

"West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be a smaller source of current sea-level rise" - "The West Antarctic Ice Sheet’s contribution to global sea-level rise may be much slower today than it was in the past. New evidence indicates that the size of the ice sheet thousands of years ago has been overestimated and the ice sheet may not have been as big or as steady a source of sea-level rise as scientists thought. ... "Our previous best estimates that the ice sheet is adding 1 millimeter per year to global sea level are almost certainly too high," says Bindschadler. ... "The portion of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet we have focused on for the past ten years appears to be in stage of near-zero retreat now," says Bindschadler, "but what it will do in the future is still uncertain." (NASA/GSFC)

December 18, 2000

In the "Oh!" zone: "Study: Despite efforts, ozone layer will take long time to heal" - "SAN FRANCISCO, California -- For decades we've been cutting out use of aerosol cans and foam cups because the chemicals in them -- CFCs -- harm the atmosphere. Now there's new science that says recovery of the ozone layer may take not just several years, but perhaps half-a-century or more. In a study presented this week at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco, scientists say they were stunned by findings that up to 70 percent of the ozone layer over the North Pole has been lost." (CNN)

Hmm... I believe these results were derived from THESEO 2000 (NASA's cooperative effort going under the label "SOLVE"): THESEO 2000 (Third European Stratospheric Experiment on Ozone) media release. The release reads, in part "Ozone losses of over 60% have occurred in the Arctic stratosphere near 18km altitude during one of the coldest stratospheric winters on record. These losses are likely to affect the ozone levels over Europe during spring. This is one of the most substantial ozone losses at this altitude in the Arctic." Sounds very dramatic doesn't it? Let's look at a little more of the release. Buried further down, below the emphasised section, we find: "The effect on column ozone was slightly mitigated by the fact that ozone loss was less dramatic above 20 km altitude... The average polar column amount of ozone for the first 2 weeks of March was 16% lower than observed in the 1980's." So, instead of Arctic ozone depletion of over 60%, as the press has dutifully reported, for two weeks it was actually about 16% "low" - the 60-70% 'loss' figure apparently applies to 'at 18km altitude.' On the whole, not very exciting in the context of normal variability. Check out the massive ozone levels in the Northern Hemisphere compared with the Southern during this 'depletion event' - here's the global total ozone maps, March 1; March 8 and; March 15 - the period eliciting such concern. Some two-thirds of total global ozone seems to be in the Northern Temperate and Arctic zone during this period. How's it compare with before and after views? Here's the February 8 and April 8 shots (there's nothing magical about the 8th, I just arbitrarily chose that as the middle of the THESEO-mentioned 'first two weeks' with a calendar month offset before and after). The near-complete archive of Earth Probe TOMS images since July 25, 1996 can be accessed here

So, is this 'depletion' definitely the result of aerosol can propellents and refrigerant gases? Actually, theories abound - try this one, if for no other reason than novelty value: Moscow Times, March 24, 1999 - Scientist Calls for Curb on Harmful Rocket Launches - "... Alexei Yablokov, head of the Center for Environmental Policy, said that pollution from rocket fuel was a major cause of damage to the earth's ozone layer ... Chief among the dangers, Yablokov said, are the clouds of hydrogen and carbon dioxide left hanging in the atmosphere for weeks after launches. He attributed 50 percent of the shrinking of the earth's ozone layer to rocket launches." So much more interesting than hairspray and refrigerators isn't it? For a little more variety try: Sun to blame for ozone hole, not people claim scientists  - "... The hole in the ozone layer in the South Pole is due to the Sun, not people, according to research by a Chinese scientist, Xinhua news agency said today. Yang Xuexiang, a professor of geological sciences at Changchun University of Technology, believes the damage is caused by solar winds, a current of high-energy particles, rather than the use of freon, the official news agency said." Of course, the European Space Agency says ozone is not depleting but actually increasing due to increased solar UV irradiance and the simple fact is that no one knows what it 'should' be or what cycles can and should be expected in Earth's conceptual 'ozone layer.'

So take your pick, Earth's ozone is decreasing/stable/increasing and this is caused by surface use of heavier-than-air gases/volcanic activity/rocket launches/solar activity.

Not having the vaguest notion of whether or not the Earth's ozone layer has a boo-boo, we're going to 'fix' it - it's just going to take a lot longer (and much, much more taxpayers' money) than we first thought.

"The New Uncertainty Principle" - "For complex environmental issues, science learns to take a backseat to political precaution" (Scientific American)

David Appell promotes the Precautionary Principle in Scientific American. Curiously, The Principle is ill defined, often misquoted and almost invariably misapplied. Principle 15 (the Precautionary Principle) from The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992), reads: Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

I read that as meaning: Where there is reasonable certainty of a cause-and-effect relationship resulting in significant harm from a specific, well-defined activity, absolute proof should not be required to initiate cost-effective remedial action. At face value that would seem simple common sense. Regrettably, that is not how the misanthropist anti-science fraternity cite or wish to apply The Principle. What they wish to do is corrupt The Principle to something along the lines of: No activity must be permitted where there is an absence of proof of absolute safety. Obviously such a condition is impossible to satisfy and becomes a situation in which any enterprise or activity of which any ideologue disapproves may be disallowed on those grounds.

See also the Social Issues Research Centre's Fickle precaution: Ironically, perhaps, it is the Precautionary Principle itself which should come with a health warning - a large sticker which declares "This principle may set back the course of scientific progress to the extent that lives will be endangered, medical innovations will be postponed and reduction of famine word-wide will be delayed significantly."

"Belgian Expert Bemoans EU Panic Over BSE" - "BRUSSELS - Belgium's top mad cow expert joined others on Saturday in warning that the European Union's latest attempts to stem the spread of the disease smacked of panic and could exacerbate risks to human health. "The European Union has played panic football under pressure from the consumer," Emmanuel Vanopdenbosch of Belgium's Centre for Veterinary and Agrochemcial Research said in an interview with the newspaper De Standaard." (Reuters)

"Mad cow disease waning in Europe, say experts" - "Swedish experts said Friday that mad cow disease is on the wane in Europe, with new slaughtering and animal feed production rules combining with intensified quality controls to make EU beef safe. "BSE as a problem is becoming extinct," Stig Widell, a senior official at the animal department of the national board of agriculture told a seminar on bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, the brain-wasting cattle disorder commonly called mad cow disease." (Reuters)

"Sun-loving doctors ignore cancer risk" - "DOCTORS and nurses are ignoring their own warnings on the dangers of sunbathing and putting themselves at risk of skin cancer, according to a new study. Members of the medical profession do not apply their knowledge about the risks of sun exposure to themselves and are just as likely to get sunburned on holiday as their patients, researchers at Dundee University found." (Sunday Times)

"WHAT ON EARTH?" (Washington Post)

Dita Smith delicately reproduces the usual misinformation (cited as coming from WWF and WWI) on POPs, including the perennial favourite, male alligators with physical abnormalities and difficulty reproducing. The ol' 'alligators with small phalluses' line again eh? Mike Fumento did a piece Hormonally Challenged last year, well worth the read but if you're in a hurry just scroll down to the cute 'worried gator' graphic for the section on Alligator angst and wildlife woes.

"UK reveals why cod have had their chips" - "The British government has revealed the real truth behind the disappearance of cod from the North Sea — they just can't swim very well." (Reuters)

"Ecology takes a beating with increasing mouths to feed" - "MANGALORE: Meeting the food requirement for the increasing world population could be ascribed as one of the major causes for converting forest land into agricultural production. And this could be the mother cause for most of the environmental deterioration, said V.R. Patil of Rallis Research Centre, Bangalore here, on Thursday." [Science congress has food for thought on hand] (Times of India)

How inconsiderate that people are not willing to starve for some wealthy nation's conservation ideal.

"Weathermen find that life is wetter in the suburbs" - "... The British rain research – carried out, aptly enough, in Manchester, and published in the journal Atmospheric Research – suggests that both the shape of cities and the way they heat up the air around them swells rain clouds, which are then blown by the wind to drop their contents nearby." (Independent)

Gosh, they've discovered UHIE and local weather generation. New Scientist ran a feature Totally Tropical Tokyo on the same thing back in September. The significance to the wider debate about enhanced greenhouse is, of course, that surface temperature recordings are becoming increasingly biased to urban recording sites - meaning that we are wrecking the temperature record by reading cities' microclimates (less than 1% of the planet's surface) rather than what is happening in the real world. This is the most likely reason for urban-biased readings suggesting dramatic warming while analysis of long-term rural and remote stations and the balloon and satellite readings show little or no net warming since the 1930s. With the much-touted surface warming very likely purely illusory as a result of data bias we hit the major hurdle for the computer games (climate models). Much has been made in recent days about a model able to (supposedly) reproduce the last century's mean temperature track. Big problem - if it's reproducing a recent warming trend which does not exist in reality then it is guaranteed to produce projections of future warming which will not exist either. Basing global policy decisions on illusions is a very bad idea.

CoP6 I(c)? "Final bid to stop warming" - "Ministers will this week launch a last-ditch bid to save the world's battle against global warming, in the wake of last month's disastrous summit in the Hague. European environment ministers, who failed to reach agreement in the Dutch capital, will tomorrow try to hammer out a joint position and, if successful, will then fly to Oslo for an emergency summit on Wednesday." (Independent)

December 16-17, 2000

"Studies show normal children today report more anxiety than child psychiatric patients in the 1950's" - "WASHINGTON — Two new meta-analytic studies involving thousands of children and college students show that anxiety has increased substantially since the 1950's. In fact, the studies find that anxiety has increased so much that typical schoolchildren during the 1980's reported more anxiety than child psychiatric patients did during the 1950's. The findings appear in the December issue of the American Psychological Association's (APA) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology." (APA)

Wonder if this is something of which the press and whacko brigade is particularly proud? Despite significantly increased lifespans, quality of life, health, standards of living, demonstrably improving environment, air and water quality etc., etc., kids are being effectively terrorised and have higher anxiety levels than those of 50 years ago (when global thermonuclear war was seen a genuine and pressing threat). Greenpeace, Sierra, Pew, Suzuki et al, take a bow for scaring kids witless with your utter nonsense - you must be proud. The blathering left-of-centre press deserves much credit for so aiding and abetting the B.S. campaigns too. Well done, so very well done. Regrettably, they are not the only ones:

"Panel Says Estrogen a Cancer Agent" - "WASHINGTON - Estrogen, the so-called female hormone, should be listed as a known cancer-causing agent, government advisers said on Friday. The hormone, which has long been associated with breast and uterine cancers, should be added to the latest report on cancer-causing agents, the advisers to the National Toxicology Panel (NTP) said." (Reuters)

Well isn't this just Jim Dandy! Estrogen, naturally produced or otherwise, is a carcinogen. So mothers' milk, naturally containing estrogen, is a noxious carcinogen. By extension, compounds which bind to estrogen receptors will be considered likely carcinogens by activity class. I'm trying to imagine some foodstuff which doesn't contain animal or plant estrogens but I just haven't got any entries on my list yet. So all foods should be considered carcinogenic?

Pray, why would we terrorise the general populace by placing on the 'nasty' list compounds which we know do significant good and suspect of doing much more of enormous value? We are already noting health problems with people avoiding essential UVB exposure to the point where they are not synthesising sufficient vitamin D and so enhancing their risk of bone disease, cancer, etc., so why are we doing this?

Where is the health advantage in terrifying people with negligible risk possibilities when there are definite benefits in consumption or exposure? The NTP appears to be the greater hazard.

"Survey shows drop in smoking by teens; use of drug Ecstasy up" - "WASHINGTON -- Teenage drug use held steady in 2000, the fourth straight year it has either fallen or stayed the same, the federal government reported Thursday. Smoking dropped significantly but use of the club drug Ecstasy climbed for the second year in a row." (AP)

Oh well, there's a dazzlingly good risk exchange - let's devote a few more billion to convert even more of our kids from potential smokers to junkies.

"Cell-phone ban omitted in BLM wilderness areas" - "Dec. 15, 2000 - WASHINGTON - The Clinton administration has decided not to ban cellular telephones or other hand-held electronic instruments, such as the increasingly popular global positioning devices, from the 5.5 million acres of wilderness controlled by the Bureau of Land Management." (Denver Post)

Not banning safety equipment? That's very nice of them.

"Govt grants $1.2m to mobile phone health research" - "The federal government today signed off on a $1.2 million research project into possible links between mobile phone use and cancer. Health Minister Michael Wooldridge said the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) project was prompted by public concern about the possible health risks of mobile phones. The funding will support a special research program to investigate whether the electromagnetic energy from mobile phones has any harmful effects on people." (AAP)

On and on it goes... I used to think the only plausible mechanism left for human harm from cell phones was having one fall on you from a great height but it was recently pointed out to me that they are becoming so small now that they may be an ingestion risk.

"Phone tower fears ignored" - "Health issues alone should no longer be grounds for rejecting cellphone tower sites, says the Ministry for the Environment. Guidelines the ministry released yesterday say that the health risks from radio frequency transmitters are negligible as long as they comply with the New Zealand standard." (NZ Herald)

"Traces of Environmental Chemicals in the Human Body: Are They a Risk to Health?" - "NEW YORK — All living organisms are continually exposed to foreign chemicals, also known as "xenobiotics." These chemicals include substances that are natural (e.g., toxins produced by molds, plants, and animals) and man-made (e.g., drugs, industrial chemicals, pesticides, and pollutants). ... For more information and a complete version of the publication, please refer to the following link: http://www.acsh.org/publications/booklets/traceChem.pdf" (ACSH)

"Let Them Eat Fat" - "You know that to stay healthy you should eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. But should you feed your children the same way? Not when they're newborns, says the Instituto de Nutricion y Tecnologia de los Alimentos at the University of Chile." (HealthScout)

"Did genetically modified foods reach India?" - "AFTER the brouhaha over cheap Chinese imports, the focus has now shifted to genetically modified foods. Stung by the criticism that genetically engineered foods may have "unknowingly" found their way into India as part of US aid and relief to the Orissa flood victims, the government has begun the process of looking into the issue." (Economic Times)

This is a result of Vandana Shiva (pictured) et al whingeing that Orissa cyclone survivors had been 'subjected' to 'biotech contaminated' grain 'dumped' by the US. The alternate explanation is that survivors received part of the normal US grain supply, which includes a range of approved biotech-improved varieties, donated in their time of need. Shiva does not appear on intimate terms with starvation, although I suspect this has more to do with her stipend as a physics professor at an obscure Indian university than it does her organic garden. One of Shiva's claims to fame (or do I mean infamy?) is the assertion that the green revolution is responsible for starvation and that the world, particularly India, would be awash with surplus food if only everyone switched to organic agriculture. I make no secret of my opinion that Vandana Shiva is an A-grade flake.

"Organic food for thought" - "In June, the food chain Iceland announced that all future own-brand frozen vegetables would be organic but that their price would not increase – organic food often costs up to twice as much as conventionally-produced food. A leader in challenging GM foods, Iceland is now moving to make organic food available to more consumers (although it may well remain beyond the incomes of the quarter of the British population living in poverty). But ironically the company's announcement raises other health and environmental concerns." (Health Matters)

Note also that organic accounts for just 1% of the UK market while the 3% of UK agriculture devoted to its production can supply only one-fourth of that. Implied then is that organic agriculture's footprint is an order of magnitude greater than that of conventional agriculture. How 'environmentally friendly' is that?

"THE CANADIAN BIOTECHNOLOGY ADVISORY COMMITTEE RELEASES BACKGROUND PAPERS ON GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS, PATENTING OF HIGHER LIFE FORMS, GENETIC PRIVACY AND ETHICS" - "Ottawa, December 15, 2000 - The Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee (CBAC), today released ten background papers on key biotechnology issues. The papers were commissioned by CBAC to assist the Committee in its shaping of advice to government on public policies relating to biotechnology. ... These papers, which are posted on the CBAC website (cbac-cccb.ca) were released in accordance with CBAC's commitment to openness." (Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee)

"Gene-Altered Corn: The Furor Is Unwarranted" - "The bottom line on corn products recalled because they contain StarLink, a genetically improved corn variety approved only for animal consumption, is that not one person has been or is likely to be harmed by eating StarLink corn (front page, Dec. 11). Exhaustive testing has revealed no allergic reactions, toxicity or any other problem with StarLink. ..." (Henry I Miller's letter to the NY Times)

"EU Says Preparing New GMO Labeling Rules" - "BRUSSELS - The European Commission (news - web sites) confirmed on Friday it was preparing a raft of new legislation designed to reassure consumers about the safety of food made from genetically modified crops (Reuters)

"Rockfeller grant for rice molecular breeding scheme" - "COIMBATORE: The Rockfeller Foundation of the US has sanctioned a Rs 52-lakh research scheme for rice molecular breeding to Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU). The grant would be utilised to conduct research in the development of strategies in three key areas of rice molecular breeding to augment the conventional plant breeders to speed up their development process, a TNAU release said on Thursday." (Times of India)

"A nuclear debate" - "Sometimes, environmental disagreements come down to a single troubling question. Today's is: Can you live without electricity?" (GAM)

"The Greens need to think again about nuclear power" - "We talk about the weather at the drop of a hat, but for once we are justified: it has been a remarkable autumn. More than that, an extreme one: the wettest ever, with heavier rainfall than any since records began in the 18th century. December, moreover, is likely to be one of the warmest on record, with strange consequences in the natural world, as we report today. Although neither of these facts can be directly linked to global warming, they do fit the predictions that scientists have been making about climate change, so now is perhaps a good time to think again about the options available to tackle this most pressing of worldwide problems." (Independent) [Nuclear power is back in fashion with the Finns (The Times)]

"Scientists Study Threat of Huge Volcanic Eruptions" - "SAN FRANCISCO - Scientists said on Friday they were stepping up research into the global threat posed by massive volcanic eruptions -- devastating and inevitable explosions of magma, ash and gas that promise to have severe and lasting impact on the world's climate. ... Hans Graf of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany, said a drive was underway to establish a clearer understanding of the effects of volcanic explosion on the atmosphere, which range from venting huge amounts of ozone-damaging chlorine and bromine compounds to filling the skies with aerosol droplets that can absorb solar heat." (Reuters)

"Nature blooms in mysterious ways during a British winter that thinks it's a spring" - "... Summers may not be much hotter, but winters are certainly less cold." (Independent)

The Indy takes a whole column to get around to the real crux of enhanced greenhouse warming prediction - less severe cold events and that is exactly how misnamed greenhouse warming would work, it should be called global less-colding but that doesn't have the same scary connotations.

Three-fourths of estimated increase in global mean temperature is made up from the super cold air winter masses of Siberia and Canada descending to less-severe extremes and has nothing to do with increase in maximum temperature at all. Whether this is a trend or whether it is simply an artefact of cycles we don't yet recognise remains to be seen. THESEO 2000 reported increased Arctic ozone destruction this year due to, you guessed it, particularly cold winter air mass. Most unfortunately for Mongolia, last winter they suffered through their 'Zud' - an especially harsh winter following summer drought - and this year looks like being a repeat performance (please consider making the Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies' Mongolian Relief Appeal one of your charitable donation recipients this year). Canada and the US, most people will be aware, are suffering heavy snow and ice storms fairly early in the season as successive breakouts of cold Artic air occur. A year or two's events do not make a trend in climatic terms but these will tend to suppress the mean temperature trend significantly - making our global less-colding virtually non-existent.


"Scientists Suggest New Threat to Antarctic Ice" - "SAN FRANCISCO - The West Antarctic ice sheet, closely watched as an indicator of the impact of global warming, may be imperiled by a different threat -- a slowing of the "ice streams" which nourish the massive shelf. Scientists told a meeting of the American Geophysical Union on Friday that new research indicated the ice streams could be slowing because of the gradually changing shape of the ice sheet over the past 10,000 years. Slawek Tulaczyk, an assistant professor of Earth Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said the new model proposed that the ice streams -- fast, river-like flows which move ice out into ice shelves floating on the sea -- were slowing and in some cases stopping altogether. "In the most extreme case, some models suggest that these changes could result in a shift from the current interglacial climate to another glacial period," Tulaczyk said." (Reuters)

Maybe, certainly cooling is evident in the South Pole record measured at the Amundsen-Scott Antarctic scientific base.

"Recovery of Arctic ozone layer may take longer than expected" - "Scientists expect that recovery of the Arctic ozone layer may be slower than previously expected because of unusually low stratospheric temperatures. ... These panelists have worked on the joint SAGE III Ozone Loss and Validation Experiment (SOLVE) and Third European Stratospheric Experiment on Ozone (THESEO 2000) and obtained comprehensive measurements of halogen compounds (chlorine and bromine) that have given them a better understanding of how human-produced compounds destroy the ozone layer. These observations have shown how factors other than CFCs and halons contribute to winter ozone decreases." (NASA/GSFC)

Another shock, simplistic notions of anthropogenic gas emission = ozone depletion don't work out in the real world. Translation: there will be 'a delay in repair of the ozone layer' because the Montreal Protocol is a farce, the conceptual ozone layer isn't actually broken and we need to defer expectation of promised result from our solution to a non-problem to a point far enough in the future that we'll be safely retired and expired before people are sure how wrong we are.

"'Raining' electrons contribute to ozone destruction" - "Scientists involved in the study of Solar-Atmospheric Coupling by Electrons (SOLACE) will report on this finding at the Fall American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco, December 15-19, 2000. They have determined that this coupling can create a significant amount of nitrogen oxides highlighting a new aspect of natural ozone destruction." (NASA/GSFC)

Gasp! You mean those who have been pointing to solar wind variations coupling with ozone destruction events may know what they are talking about after all? Imagine that...

"President gives farewell warning on global warming" - "President Bill Clinton used his last big foreign speech yesterday to focus on the plight of the developing world, especially the devastation caused by Aids and by climate change." (Guardian)

Yep, here's the track of the atmospheric warming we're not having.

"Global Warming Could Make Water A Scarce Resource" - "OAKLAND, California, December 15, 2000 - Global warming could have serious impacts on water resources in the United States, and some of those effects are already being felt, a new report released today concludes. To counter those effects, government and water management officials must act now - a prescription that may be a hard sell under the new George W. Bush administration." (ENS)

Amazing. General Circulation Models rely absolutely on massive positive feedback because even a trebling of CO2 and all the other minor greenhouse gases combined are known to be incapable of producing anything like the desired catastrophic warming. This positive feedback takes the form of significant increase in the only major greenhouse gas - water vapour. And what would we expect from significant increase in atmospheric water vapour but increased precipitation (duh!).

What effects would we expect from increased precipitation? Well, increased fresh water supplies for one. Another point so-often overlooked is that increased precipitation would also mean increased polar precipitation, with associated increase in land ice in the major ice shields - which would slow or even reverse sea level rise. Of course, increase in the major ice sheets would have associated increase in albedo - meaning that more solar radiation would be reflected back to space and thus would have a cooling effect on the Earth, damping rather than exacerbating postulated enhanced greenhouse warming as a significant negative feedback. Oops!

Not to worry - just don't mention such little flaws and crank up the hysteria another notch - the press will run any scare if you hype it enough.

"Hotter Earth is confirmed by computer" - "THE most sophisticated computer simulation of the world's climate is published today, and concludes that recent global warming is man-made and will continue. For the first time, scientists have combined the most important human and natural factors in one model to create what they claim is the most comprehensive simulation of 20th-century climate." (Telegraph) [We’re to blame for the weather (The Scotsman)]

Moral: don't live in a computer - try the real world instead. Now for an admission of just how much we don't know about predicting weather:

"Cold? Blame the Hudson Bay Vortex" - "There is an unpredictable monster sitting above Hudson Bay and it's being blamed for this week's snow chaos and cold temperatures, and could be responsible for more to come. The polar vortex, recently dubbed the Hudson Bay Vortex, is a mass of low pressure spinning in the Arctic. Its counter-clockwise motion is pushing cold arctic air south, making things chilly in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba." [It's not been so white in 21 years] (Toronto Star)

"Climate treaty looks shaky" - "Paris - Hopes for implementing a key UN treaty to fight the threat of global warming look at best uncertain after George W. Bush's election win, analysts say. Under a Bush presidency, the US is likely to delay or even reject the Kyoto Protocol, leaving the European Union (EU) and other parties to try to make the treaty work without the country which is the biggest source of the problem." (Sapa-AFP)

They couldn't stitch together anything like an agreement at CoP6 (or at CoP6 I a and CoP6 I b either) and this is president-elect George Walker Bush's fault?

December 15, 2000

"Gagging on Statistical Pollution" - "You don't have to be able to smell or see air pollution to die from it." That's that how the Associated Press reported news of the latest study on air pollution (see "Study: Tiny Particles Do Increase Deaths"). The study in the New England Journal of Medicine (Dec.14) claims to be "consistent evidence that the levels of fine particulates in the air are associated with the risk of death from all causes and from cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses." "The findings should squelch criticism that earlier research at the Environmental Protection Agency, Harvard and elsewhere was inconclusive, said James H. Ware, dean of the Harvard School of Public Health," reported the AP. Hardly. The study is simply statistical flim-flammery." (Steve Milloy in Fox News)

"Talc Removed From Cancer List" - "WASHINGTON — A federal scientific panel wrestled over the safety of talc powder on Thursday before finally deciding that it shouldn't be added to the nation's list of cancer-causing substances. Some studies have associated the use of talc in feminine hygiene products with ovarian cancer. But after a daylong debate, the scientists voted 7-3 that the evidence wasn't convincing enough that talc powder was a carcinogen. The committee of scientists advises the National Toxicology Program, a branch of the National Institutes of Health that every two years updates the federal list of proven and suspected cancer-causing substances. Still facing scrutiny as the panel concludes its meeting Friday are estrogen — the types used for birth control and post-menopausal treatment — and inhaled wood dust. On Wednesday, the panel voted to add ultraviolet radiation — those sunburn-causing rays long known to cause skin cancer — to the official carcinogen list." (AP)

Score half-point for rationality - lose fifty points for lunacy. Just who, might one ask, would someone sue for "excess solar irradiance," for example? ("Pardon me Lord, but I have a summons for you"?) Do we go after trees for producing carcinogens later found in sawdust? How about fruit and vegetables for containing phytoestrogens? Does the term "bureaucracy gone mad" ring any bells?

Let's be brutally honest shall we? Talc is, well... natural. Sunlight is, uh... natural. Environmental exposure to plant and animal hormones is, you guessed it, natural. Guess what? Cancer is natural too. It is the absence of carcinogens that is unnatural. You don't have to like them but you sure can't regulate your way to freedom from them.

Groan! Must everything be "someone else's" fault? "DVT actions could encompass train, coach trips" - "Litigations relating to "economy-class syndrome" could encompass long-distance train and coach travel after a report that a woman died following a journey on the Indian Pacific, a Perth solicitor said today. A middle-aged woman died after a Perth-Sydney trip on the trans-Australian train about five years ago, indicating long road trips could result in deep vein thrombosis (DVT), said lawyer Murray Posa from legal firm Hoffmans. As well as leading lawyers Slater and Gordon, Hoffmans is investigating possible litigation on behalf of people who have suffered DVT, or blood clotting reported after long plane rides." (AAP)

A pox on lawyers, I say! In life (and death), you pays your money and you takes your chance - and it's about time to take responsibility for your own actions. I'm not certain about taxes but death is inevitable and businesses don't try to kill paying customers (no profit margin or repeat business in it). Gimme a break!

"Gunmakers not about to run up white flag" - "Lawsuits may have forced Big Tobacco to buckle - first one company and then, like dominoes, the rest. But the same see-you-in-court tactic does not seem to be working, at least so far, with the nation's gun manufacturers. True, Smith & Wesson, America's largest gunmaker, agreed nine months ago to make significant changes in the way it makes and markets its products. And the company settled a major lawsuit this week with Boston, one of dozens of cities across the US that have gone to court to try to force gunmakers to help pay for the costs of gun-related violence. But smaller gunmakers, heeding the advice of the National Rifle Association (NRA), have remained strong in their resolve to fight such lawsuits. "Other gun manufacturers are still doing things by the old rules, winning lawsuit after lawsuit," says Robert Pugsley, professor of criminal law at Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles. "The NRA has played a very major role," he adds, taking "a hard line in front of what is likely to be intense pressure." (CSM)

"EU fails to back tougher cigarette health warnings" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium: European Union health ministers declined on Thursday to endorse European Parliament proposals for bigger, more graphic health warnings on cigarette packages, saying they will seek to tone these down in negotiations with the EU assembly. In a related development, EU Health Commissioner David Byrne told the ministers he will propose a new bill to curb tobacco advertising to replace EU legislation the European Court of Justice voided in October saying it was legally flawed." (AP)

"Deaths prompt fears of new CJD cluster" - "Health officials are investigating a possible link between the deaths of two men from the human form of BSE. Steven Lunt, 34, and Paul Dickens, 28, one of the latest victims believed to have died from variant CJD, both lived in Adswood, Stockport, Greater Manchester. Their proximity is bound to raise fears of a new "cluster" such as those already being examined in Leicestershire. There have been five victims in the county, four with links to the village of Queniborough, and three victims from Armthorpe, near Doncaster, south Yorkshire. The Leicestershire investigation is concentrating on the preparation and sale of meat products locally in the 1980s. But although infected beef is prime suspect for the entire vCJD epidemic, there is still no proof." (Guardian)

Gasp! "U.S. finds little health benefit in organic foods" - "More than 10 years after a law required the federal government to issue standards on organic food, the Department of Agriculture is about to release rules that say such products are neither safer nor more nutritious than conventional foods." (AP via Bergen Record)

"U.S. sets environmental guidelines for future trade pacts" - "WASHINGTON -- In a bid to clean up the image of free trade, the Clinton administration on Wednesday issued final guidelines for assessing the impact future trade agreements could have on the environment." (Reuters)

Let's be unambiguous and unequivocal - free trade promotes wealth generation and wealth generation is the prerequisite for environmental protection and repair. Anything interfering with free trade, including warm and fuzzy baggage in trade agreements, hampers said environmental protection and repair and should be expunged for the sake of the environment. Slick Willy's quest for a 'legacy' should be impeached too.

"Robert Kennedy Jr. And 650,000 Americans Urge President Clinton To Designate Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain A National Monument" - "Standing next to sacks holding more than 650,000 petitions, Robert Kennedy Jr. and members of the Alaska Coalition today called on President Clinton to designate the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain a national monument." (INTERNET WIRE)

Lemme see, Bob endorsed, uhm... Nader wasn't it? But second choice is to have Slick Willy harm American citizens because Ozone Al has missed his big chance to do so?

"Foolish Fat Tax Reappears" - "The Center for Science in the Public Interest's (CSPI) Michael Jacobson continues his crusade for a "Twinkie tax" on high-calorie food in this month's CSPI newsletter. Jacobson says the reason for the tax is to "fund health campaigns," but that's not really what's behind this movement. The real thinking behind the "Twinkie tax," as expressed by Yale Professor and Center for Science in the Public Interest board member Kelley Brownell who first proposed the tax, is to sharply increase the cost of high-calorie foods so they will be priced out of reach." (GuestChoice.com)

"GE 'vital' for treating haemophilia" - "New Zealand must continue to make genetically altered therapies available to patients with haemophilia and other genetic bleeding disorders, the royal commission investigating the technology was told yesterday." (NZ Herald)

"Biotechnology ready to grow But critics would shuck it all, even the less-fatty fries" - "With the first wave of genetically engineered foods -- crops with built-in pesticides or herbicides -- biotech companies in the '90s focused on farmers, promising to reduce the cost and labor of repeated applications of chemicals. With the second wave now starting, many experts say they're hoping to appeal to the rest of us. Genetically modified crops in development promise better tasting, more nutritious and less expensive food. The new wave also promises to bring plants that can produce pharmaceuticals and fuels." (USA Today)

"Threat that never was" - "A laboratory study which suggested that GM crops harmed butterflies provoked protests across Europe. Now environmentalists are having to backtrack. Mark Henderson reports" (The Times)

"Gene map will revolutionise farming" - "Thalecress is a weed but it promises to trigger a new agricultural revolution: for the first time, scientists have unravelled the complete DNA blueprint of a plant. Some 300 scientists across the world have spent £50m on a six-year hunt to identify the 116m ``base pairs`` that make up the genetic code of Arabidopsis thaliana, a cabbage relative. According to a report in the journal Nature, researchers now have a toolkit with which to understand the planet`s huge array of flowering plants. The information has been placed in a public database, free to researchers everywhere." (Guardian)

"Protesters at French Biotech Talks" - "MONTPELLIER, France -- Greenpeace activists dumped tons of genetically modified soy meal onto a U.S. flag on Wednesday at a protest outside a biotechnology conference in France. The activists oppose the U.S. policy of exporting genetically modified crops, which they say pose health risks." (AP)

"Biotech Is Answer to, Not Cause of, Food Allergies" - "Where's that talking Chihuahua when you need him? If he hadn’t been sent to the old dogs home with Benji and Spuds Mackenzie, he’d be shaking his head at the furor over Aventis’ StarLink corn and saying, "Drop the baloney!" (Michael Fumento)

"Italian Scientists Blast GMO Restrictions" - "COPENHAGEN--While plant scientists around the world celebrate the complete sequence of the genome of the mustardlike plant Arabidopsis thaliana (see p. 2054), embattled colleagues in Italy are protesting new rules that bar all field trials involving genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The researchers hope to turn the prevailing tide by bringing their plight to the attention of colleagues around the world and exerting pressure on their government through a petition drive." (Science)

"Analysis: Victory sends tremors through Europe" - "... European leaders will be worried by Bush’s allegedly robust views on such issues such as global warming and climate change following the rows between the United States and the Europeans at the recent Hague conference, which broke up in acrimony. Al Gore had a reputation to defend as an environmental enthusiast, and although American politicians tangle with the gas-guzzling U.S. lifestyle at their peril, Europeans would have expected him to be more co-operative than Bush in seeking a compromise on greenhouse gases." (CNN)

The world has much to be grateful for in the 7:2 non-partisan decision of the Supreme Court. [The partisanship myth] [Landslide Bush]

"Generators of the electricity mess" - "Windmills and candles and warm woolen mittens. Staticky sparks from the fur of small kittens. Campfires and solar panels and thermal paddings. These are a few of the favorite things that radical environmentalists would rather rely on for warmth, light, and electricity than the modern power plant. To the delight of eco-Luddites, energy shortages in California and the Pacific Northwest are forcing residents to live like 17th-century peasants." (Michelle Malkin, Washington Times)

"African Countries Commended For Ozone Layer Protection" - "The Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, Dr. Klaus Topfer, Tuesday night officiated at the launch of a prospectus paying tribute to African countries, parties to the Montreal protocol, international organisations and bilateral partners. Titled "Model of success: Africa and the Montreal Protocol", the pamphlet enumerates Africa's accomplishments within the framework of the fight against substances that deplete the ozone layer." (PANA)

Tðpfer is the very same whacko expecting the planet to go to water wars in the near-future ("the next war in the world will be not idealogical, it will be linked with water"). Here he is, lauding Africa's delusion in wasting effort on the completely irrelevant rather than addressing real and pressing problems. Figures...

A few warming proselytisers have been writing, taking me to task for my scepticism over enhanced greenhouse and most particularly for my assertions that atmospheric carbon is a precious resource for the biosphere and that warmer is better than colder. A common theme has been the 'decimation' of fisheries due to purported warming. Well, in August, with the reported warming of the North Atlantic, came Large increase in Scottish salmon numbers reported while New cool-water cycle in Pacific sends marine populations soaring. These harvestable (adult) fish in the Pacific north-east didn't suddenly materialise out of cool water so, where did they come from? Could it be that breeding success and survival was enhanced by warmer conditions? No one would deny the El Niño-induced warming of the central Pacific 1997-98 and yet fisheries boomed in the Pacific north-east and now:

"Poor world prices for tuna force some fishing fleets back to harbour" - "Poor world prices for tuna have forced some pacific island fishing fleets back to harbour. Sean Dorney reports that the problem is world oversupply: The Pacific newsagency, PacNews, is carrying a report out of American Samoa saying the oil dock at Utulei and the docks at both fishing canneries in Pago Pago are crowded with fishing boats which have been tied up for several weeks. It says it's a depressing period for Samoan fishermen with locally based purse seiner and long liner crews taking unscheduled leave without pay. The news service quotes the Star Kist Manager in American Samoa, Phil Thirkell, as saying tuna prices have fallen to an all-time low with the price of skipjack taking the biggest drop. It's a similar scene elsewhere in the Pacific. The Forum Fisheries Agency says prices have been falling since last year due to big catches in all fisheries especially in the Eastern Pacific. In its latest annual report the Agency says prices are likely to remain low while markets are oversupplied." (Radio Australia)

Following the warmer conditions there is an oversupply of fish. Could the two events be related? Of course, see El Niño's Dramatic Impact on Ocean Biology for some idea on the enormous surge in phytoplankton that took place with the El Niño rebound - that's a lot of fish food. Incidentally, that bloom consumed an extraordinary amount of carbon and the majority of that bloom (that which didn't end up as part of the food chain at least) is now on the bottom of the Pacific - sequestered, in other words.

It is entirely possible that warmer conditions enhance fish breeding success, just as it seems likely that infusions of nutrient-rich cold currents enhance fish growth. It is simply not true to say that warm = bad. Nor is it true that there is any advantage for life on Earth in limiting the availability of the essential trace gas, carbon dioxide (CO2).

Sorry fellas, but your assertion that available carbon is somehow bad for carbon-based life forms, well... stinks. Even if increased carbon availability were to lead to warming (unfortunately, a highly implausible hypothesis) this would be greatly preferable to life-unfriendly cooling.

"Finally someone has brought the climate change debate back down to Earth" - "Ottawa Talks Can’t Break Ice Jam; What Happens When You Run Out of Emissions Credits?; IEA Predicts Rising Energy Use; CO2 Demoted as Climate Driver; Sun Elevated as Climate Driver; Cold November" (The Cooler Heads Coalition)

Well lookit: "Climate Change Could Cause Major Changes in U.S. Ecosystems" - "Washington, Dec. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Global climate change will cause major changes in natural ecosystems -- and the plants and animal communities that make up these ecosystems -- across the United States, according to a report released today by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change." (Pew Center for Generating Climate Claptrap)

The PCGCC is proliferating more bizarre (and completely baseless) scare stories. Imagine that...

"Antarctic Ice Tongue Disintegrating" - "The Ninnis Ice Tongue, 350 square miles (900 square kilometers) of floating ice extending into the Indian Ocean, has broken off the edge of the continent and is slowly disintegrating. ... An ice tongue occurs when a glacier flows out into the sea, forming a mass of permanent ice that is essentially floating while at the same time attached to the land. There is no evidence linking the demise of the Ninnis Glacier Tongue to warming in the region. "The disintegration is likely to be the consequence of a natural progression of events that periodically occur in floating glacier  tongues around the margin of the Antarctic Ice Sheet," says Rob Massom, in a NASA report. "What remains a mystery is why these breakouts occur." (National Geographic)

In a significant improvement over recent reporting, National Geographic notes that the Ninnis was severely overextended and has simply broken back to a more 'normal' profile, while the adjacent Mertz is still growing. No 'global warming' symptoms here.

More 'global warming' disasters? "SWEEPING WINTER STORMS CONFIRM RETURN TO COLDER WINTER" - "December 14, 2000 — In October, NOAA forecasters warned that the winter of 2000-2001 would be colder than the past three years of relatively mild winters. Last week brought confirmation of this forecast, as Arctic cold swept through the Midwest and Southern Plains, bringing record low temperatures, snow and ice that paralyzed transportation and caused eight deaths. High winds, snow and ice raked the Northeastern United States, while the Mid-Atlantic region escaped with just a day of sleet and freezing rain." (NOAA)

December 14, 2000

Chasing test tube-pure air: "Deadly Breath" - "WEDNESDAY, Dec. 13 -- The red sky at night that gives sailors delight is hardly good news for land lubbers. So say Baltimore scientists, who've shown that daily spikes in the amount of fine particle pollution -- one reason for color wheel sunsets -- are an important source of death from lung and heart diseases." (HealthScout) [Samet et al, NEJM]

"Particulate Air Pollution and Mortality -- Clearing the Air" - [As well as noting the significant improvement in US urban air quality over recent decades] "... Although substantial reductions can be achieved at a reasonable cost, a reduction in 24-hour exposures to levels consistently below the current range would be prohibitively costly, if not impossible, in the foreseeable future." (NEJM editorial)

"First plant genome completed" - "A multi-national research team reports the completion of the Arabidopsis genome in the December 14, 2000, issue of Nature." (UCMC)

"Biotech Sees Riches in Weed's Genetic Secrets" - "LONDON - Biotech firms hope the genetic secrets of a humble weed will revolutionize crop production in the same way that mapping the human genome is transforming medicine. The completion of the first gene map of a plant, the weed Arabidopsis thaliana, or Thale cress, promises to speed the development of a new generation of higher yielding and better tasting genetically modified crops." (Reuters)

"Fishing for Clues" - "The genetic map of the lowly fugu could help scientists decipher the human blueprint" (San Francisco Chronicle)

"Greenpeace Targets Ships Carrying GM Soybeans" - "AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Environmental group Greenpeace warned shippers on Wednesday it was likely to block more vessels carrying genetically modified (GM) soybeans to European animal feed producers. Italian Greenpeace activists said on Wednesday they had held up a ship carrying GM soybeans headed for Venice, after similar blockades in France and Belgium in recent weeks." (Reuters)

"Environmental Concern Or Marketing Plan?" - "Greenpeace's unwarranted genetically improved foods fear mongering has so upset consumers that many of them will buy only organic food products. Greenpeace is stepping in to fill the organic demand it created with its own line of organic products, on sale now in Brazil. Don't be surprised to see Greenpeace products on a supermarket shelf near you soon. ("Greenpeace to license organic products in Brazil," Agence France Presse, 12/12/00)" (GuestChoice.com)

New SCOPE forum: "The Risks and Benefits of Genetically Modified Food" (Science Controversies On-Line: Partnerships in Education (SCOPE))

"Gardenburger Announces Move to Non-Genetically Altered Soy" - "PORTLAND, Ore., Dec. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Gardenburger Inc. announced today that it has begun making its famous Gardenburger® meat alternative products with traditional soybeans unaltered by genetic engineering, known as ``non-GMO'' soy. Gardenburger Inc. is the only food company among the major veggie burger producers to make such a commitment to consumers." (PRN)

Despite the fortuitous demise of UNFCCC CoP6 (The Hague), we are still being deluged with enhanced greenhouse scare pieces of varied ilk. In case you were wondering why - the reason is quite simple - the warming advocacy groups are desperately trying to stitch something together for the Clinton-Gore administration to sign on to before Dub-yah gets control of the Presidential Seal. We had CoP6, CoP6 I(a) (at the Euro conference) and here's attempts to set up CoP6 I(b) (CoP6 II is to be held next May or June to set up for CoP7):

"Norway could host climate talks before Christmas" - "Norway may host top-level climate talks before Christmas to try to salvage a pact to curb global warning after last month's failed negotiations in The Hague, the Environment Ministry said today. The Ministry's information chief, Eva Nordvik, told Reuters that the so-called "umbrella group" — the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand — and the European Union have been invited to attend a meeting in Oslo." (Reuters)

But wait, there's more:

"Climate talks fail to reach agreement" - "Hopes of new climate talks that would bring Australia, the European Union, the United States, Canada and Japan to a negotiating table in Oslo have reportedly ended. The German magazine Der Spiegel says efforts to flesh out measures to battle global warming have floundered, after video conference involving representatives of the nations involved fell apart." (ABC News Online)

For some reason people just won't go for devastating their economies and slashing standards of living to make poverty universal, so more scares are obviously in order:

"Global Warming Greater minus El Ninos, Volcanoes" - "BOULDER, COLORADO — Removing the masking effects of volcanic eruptions and El Nino events from the global mean temperature record reveals a more gradual and yet stronger global warming trend over the last century, according to a new analysis by Tom Wigley, a climate expert at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The analysis supports scientists' claim that human activity is influencing the earth's climate. The findings are published in the December 15 issue of Geophysical Research Letters. NCAR's primary sponsor is the National Science Foundation." (UCAR)

Tom Wigley recycles 'aerosol cooling masking warming' that models insist should be but the world refuses to produce. Strangely concurrent with PCGCC's latest 'lethal warming' piece (see below) - PCGCC sponsored Tom's last 'the-warming's-there-we-just-can't-detect-it' effort.

'Lethal' warming: "Warming May Pose Risks to Human Health, Report Finds" - "Washington, D.C.- Global climate change may exacerbate health risks for the elderly, the infirm, and the poor - although there is substantial capacity to reduce these risks - according to a new report commissioned by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. And while the study finds that over the next few decades the United States may have sufficient resources to prevent the worst possibilities, poorer countries may not fare as well." (Pew Center for Generating Climate Claptrap)

Really? Rather topically, among the reviews released today by co2science.org, we find:

"Temperature Effects on Coronary Death in a Mild Climate" - "This study provides further support for the growing body of evidence that indicates that cooler weather is more conducive to the occurrence of death due to coronary artery disease than is warmer weather, even in a climate where it does not get very cold. Hence, it naturally follows that global warming, if it occurs in the future, is likely to be beneficial to much of humanity by reducing the incidence of death due to coronary artery disease, which is a major cause of death the world over." (co2science.org)

Global warming to kill reefs: "Reef experts sound warning, U.S. takes new protections" - "Report predicts 70 percent could die by 2050" (MSNBC)

Ozone 'depletion': "Frying fish" - "UV light could be cooking cod larvae to death" (New Scientist)

See comments under yesterday's item "The Incredible Shrinking Ozone Hole"

Rising sea levels - again: "Lawyers help island nations keep afloat" - "As they battle for insurance payouts for all the floods of the past few months, the inhabitants of Uxbridge, Middlesex, might spare a thought for the people of Samoa. On small islands like this, and others including the Maldives and Marshall Islands, there is more than just insurance at stake. In this location global warming could mean islands being so swamped they disappear." (Guardian)

Brewing dot.bomb: "Investors warm to climate change theme" - "The failure of last month's Hague conference to reach agreement on measures to reduce climate change will do little to reduce the worldwide importance of the issue, now that a consensus seems to have emerged that climate change is happening and that human factors are behind it." (Reuters)

See yesterday's comments under "Down to earth" for more on the so-called 'climate consensus.' While we certainly do not yet have the data or anything like the predictive skills to make confident statements about what is likely in a few months, let alone a half-century hence, current conditions suggest a slightly enhanced probability of another period of global cooling, possibly of 2-3 decades duration. Significant cooling, back into a major glaciation, is certainly likely in a scant few millennia.

"Capping carbon" - "Over vast stretches of geologic time, earth has evolved ways to swap its treasure trove of carbon among various "accounts": the atmosphere, oceans, land surfaces - and even hoarded deep beneath its crust." [Algae at the climatic Rubicon] (CSM)

Despite (correctly) calling carbon Earth's "treasure trove," CSM then rabbits on about ways to lock away this marvellous resource. One point always omitted in the current drive to reclassify an essential trace gas (CO2) as a 'pollutant' is that the carbon causing so much concern, that liberated by humans through combustion of fossil fuels, came originally from the atmosphere and has long been denied life on Earth. That we are returning it to availability is good for the biosphere. This is a 'pollutant' there should be more of.

"Will Global Warming Devastate Crops?  Read All About It!" - "Every once in a while - much more often, in fact, than one would hope would be the case - a great hue and cry is raised over an experimental finding reported in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.  Worse than that, much is often made of an isolated report in a non-referred science magazine.  There are even cases where word-of-mouth accounts of research that has not yet been submitted for publication, much less even written in a suitable format for journal review, make their way into the news services.  And all of a sudden, the dramatic new finding - based on only the claims of its authors - becomes the mantra of some pre-existing movement (such as the Climate Alarmist Craze) that realizes how the new information can be used to promote its own agenda." (co2science.org)

"Solar Variability and Climate Change" - "Current global warming commonly is attributed to increased CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere," the authors note.  "However," they continue, "geophysical, archaeological, and historical evidence is consistent with warming and cooling periods during the Holocene as indicated by the solar-output model."  They therefore conclude that the idea of "the modern temperature increase being caused solely by an increase in CO2 concentrations appears questionable."  Their findings also clearly suggest that as far as humankind is concerned, warmer is better." (co2science.org)

December 13, 2000

"LIFESAVING CHEMICAL ESCAPES UNITED NATIONS BAN" - "Washington, DC, December 11, 2000 - An international coalition of public health and advocacy groups applauded United Nations' recent vote against erecting a global ban on the pesticide DDT. "This decision is a great victory for public health," said Dr. Don Roberts, a tropical disease expert and spokesman for the Save Children From Malaria Campaign. "It will help blunt the devastating re-emergence of killer diseases like malaria and should save the lives of millions of people in the next decade alone." (FightingMalaria.org)

"Clean Up Hudson River PCBs Now, Congressman, Local Residents Demand" - "SARATOGA SPRINGS — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today began asking for comments on its plan to remove toxic PCBs from the Hudson River, and local residents responded with a cry to clean it up now. Despite a massive public-relations blitz by General Electric, which dumped the PCBs into the river, residents are demanding the company remove the cancer-causing chemicals from the Hudson." (Sierra Club)

Why? Renate Kimbrough, who, perhaps rightly from the results she had back in 1975, initially raised a flag of concern over PCBs, has since done significantly larger studies and found no cause for concern. See Fear no more; Study finds little risk from PCBs; An Earth Day Lesson; Study shows no PCB-cancer correlation. There's never been any evidence of harm from PCBs save perhaps transient eye and skin irritation, merely a precautionary alarm to which virtually everybody overreacted. Even if PCBs were harmful, stirring them from where they are being entombed in river silt is hardly a sensible act. This is not an environment issue - it's an ideological attack on a large corporation simply because they are a large corporation. To launch a half-billion-dollar's worth of vandalism on a river system because you don't like a corporation that acted perfectly legally at the time is the height of stupidity.

"Doubts about handling toxic pesticide grow" - "The federal government's move to ban diazinon, a common pesticide, by 2003 while not encouraging its disposal has generated doubt about the proper way to handle the toxic household substance. ... But the agency said consumers do not need to get rid of diazinon that might be in the house or garage. As long as products with diazinon are properly handled, the agency said, they pose no immediate danger." (The Oregonian)

Well if there's no danger from properly handled diazinon - and there certainly is no evidence otherwise - why ban it to begin with? It's been safely used since the 50s but now people can't be exposed to it - unless they've already bought it, in which case it's still safe to use. Right...

"Coffee-and-cigarettes combo seen fighting off cancer" - "LONDON - Drinking coffee regularly may play a role in protecting smokers from bladder cancer, a new study suggests. Researchers found that bladder cancer was about half as likely to occur in smokers who regularly drank coffee as in smokers who did not. "This could suggest that the coffee consumption modifies the effect of tobacco smoking," said Dr. Gonzalo Lopez-Abente, the Spanish researcher who led the study, published this week in the London-based Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health." (AP) [BBC Online]

"Maryland county upholds outdoor smoking ban" - "ROCKVILLE, Md. - A county council narrowly approved the toughest outdoor smoking restriction in the nation Tuesday, upholding a community's plan to impose $100 fine for smoking or discarding cigarettes in public areas." (AP)

"False scientific research 'endangering the public'" - "Doctors are fabricating research results to win grants and advance their careers but the medical establishment is failing to protect the public from the menace of these scientific frauds, a committee of medical editors said yesterday Eighty cases of fraudulent research have been detected in the past four years, and 30 have been investigated in the past year. Many individuals and institutions are driven by the need for recognition. In some cases, institutions have covered up wrongdoing to protect reputations but it is patients and, ultimately, science itself that will be the losers if public trust in research is undermined, the Committee on Publication Ethics (Cope) said." (Independent)

Uh-huh... "Tempers Flare at Environmental Justice Conference" - "ARLINGTON, Virginia, December 12, 2000 - Members of a federal government advisory panel today lambasted President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to aggressively combat the scourge of "environmental racism" that they maintain is afflicting many poor communities and communities of color." (ENS)

You don't suppose variation in things like cancer survival rates may have something to do with genuine physiological differences:

"Protein linked to prostate cancer risk in black men" - "SAN FRANCISCO: The prostate tumours found in black men have more than 20 times the level of a certain cancer-promoting substance as the tumours found in white men, researchers reported at the American Society for Cell Biology meeting here." (Times of India)

"Clinton leaves his mark on landscape" - "President has protected some 5 million acres, angering property-rights advocates." (CSM)

Hmm... 'mark' - that's another word for 'blight' isn't it?

"Altered Gene Linked to Allergic Reactions And Asthma" - "NEW YORK - People with allergies and asthma are more likely than their peers to have a specific variation in the gene for a cell-signaling chemical, researchers report. The chemical is known as RANTES, and it binds to the surface of immune cells and can attract the cells to sites of inflammation in the body. In a new study, Dr. Ali Hajeer from the University of Manchester, UK, and associates found that a certain variation in a RANTES-associated gene was more common in the allergy-prone compared with those who are allergy-free. The gene was also associated with lung obstruction, an indicator of asthma. Those with two copies of the genetic variant--one from each parent--were more than six times as likely to have moderate to severe airway obstruction than those with one copy or no copy." (Reuters Health)

So, is the observed increase in asthma incidence an artefact of increased environmental irritants or rather one of dramatically increased breeding success of those with defective gene copies due to improved environment and medical support? Think about it.

"Exciting Challenges For Food Scientists" - "The United Nations estimates that 800 million people around the world are under-nourished, 400 million women of child bearing age are iron deficient and about 100 million children suffer from vitamin A deficiency which is a leading cause of blindness." (New Straits Times)

"Biotech wheat goes under the microscope" - "Wheat is the world's most widely eaten food grain and the top grain traded internationally. It's a main crop in Oregon, where the wheat grown is the product of decades of cross-breeding and tinkering by researchers at public land-grant universities. Now, wheat produced through genetic engineering is on the horizon in the Northwest." [OREGON'S POTATO CROP] (The Oregonian)

'Indian BT cotton seeds have no ill-effect on goats' - "NEW DELHI: Studies conducted by government agencies on Indian BT cotton seeds indicate that there is no ill-effect on goats while such studies are underway on lactating cows, buffalos, poultry and fish. According to official sources, the commercial release of the seeds would be considered on completion of the studies." (Times of India)

"Global Meeting Defines Biosafety Measures" - "MONTPELLIER, France, December 12, 2000 - With concerns over genetically modified foods unabated around the world, officials from the 177 member governments of the Convention on Biological Diversity are meeting in Montpellier to discuss practical steps for minimizing some of the potential risks of biotechnology. The negotiators on the Intergovernmental Committee for the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (ICCP) convened yesterday and will continue talks through Friday." (ENS)

"Argentine GM policy endangers investment - Monsanto" - "BUENOS AIRES - Agribusiness giant Monsanto Co may close some operations in Argentina if the government does not loosen restrictions on genetically modified (GM) food production, a company official said. Argentina's policy of authorizing new GM products only if they have been approved in European Union endangers Monsanto's projects including an $8 million cotton seed processing plant joint venture, said Miguel Potocnik, Monsanto's agriculture director for southern Latin America." (Reuters)

"European Greens Propel Agreement on GMO Release Law" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium, December 12, 2000 - The European Parliament and Council of Ministers have agreed on revisions to the European Union law on deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) after what have been described as heated conciliation talks." (ENS)

"Climatologist: 'La Nina is Back'" - "Iowa State University climatologist Elwynn Taylor reports the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) in early December has exceeded the previous high set in January 1999. As a result, Taylor says the Midwest could see extra moisture over the winter, especially in the eastern portion of the Belt." (AgWeb.com)

"Down to earth" - "THE recent failure by governments gathered in The Hague to reach agreement on carbon emissions to contain global warming has fuelled a general scepticism about international treaties to protect the environment. The climate talks flowed directly from the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit of 1992, and highlighted the fact that many worthy initiatives emanating from that landmark event have come to nothing." (Business Day)

Hmm... may have more to do with the simple fact that the warm and fuzzy ideals of the Earth Summit are couched neither in practicality nor sound science. So atrocious and misguided were the aims and ideals that The Heidelberg Appeal was publicly released at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. By the end of the 1992 summit, 425 scientists and other intellectual leaders had signed the appeal. Since then, word of mouth has prompted hundreds more scientists to lend their support. As at Earth Day 1996, more than 2,700 signatories, including dozens of Nobel Prize winners, from 102 countries had signed the appeal. By 1995 this was joined by the LEIPZIG DECLARATION ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE and, later, the Anti-Global Warming Petition, now endorsed by nearly 20,000 scientists from around the globe. So much for the great 'climate consensus.'

If science and scientists are not really driving this, what is? Perhaps this quote offers a clue: "Isn't the only hope for the planet that the industrialised civilizations collapse? Isn't it our responsibility to bring that about?" -- Maurice Strong, head of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and Executive Officer for Reform in the Office of the Secretary General of the United Nations. Science? Looks like zealotry to me.

"Global warming's hot air balloons" - "How strong is the U.S. economy? One telling sign is that months of climbing gas prices have produced only grumbles from American motorists. But let's say prices start soaring again, until they surpass $3 or $4 a gallon. Would the complaints grow louder? Of course they would. That is why consumers ought to be glad that efforts to amend a treaty that would severely limit the "greenhouse gases" thought to fuel global warming went down in flames at a recent United Nations conference in The Hague." (Angela Antonelli, Washington Times)

"Europe can't kick nuclear habit" - "Atomic power gains post-Chernobyl life as clean alternative to fossil fuels" (Ottawa Citizen)

Big deal of the day: "The Incredible Shrinking Ozone Hole" - "December 12, 2000 -- After reaching a record-breaking size in mid-September, the ozone hole over Antarctica has made a surprisingly hasty retreat, disappearing completely by November 19, NASA scientists said. The ozone hole waxes and wanes with the seasons every year, slowly vanishing as the Southern Hemisphere reaches the peak of its summer." (NASA)

The Antarctic Ozone Anomaly appears every spring and disappears by mid-summer - how incredible is that? Earth Probe TOMS images are archived here, dating back to late July 1996. Choose any interval you like, six monthly, quarterly (provides perhaps the best quick overview), monthly or whatever and check back through the archive to see just how variable is Earth's conceptual 'ozone layer.' At the same time as 'depletion events' occur, the temperate zone in the same hemisphere exhibits truly extraordinary ozone density. Depletion or displacement? If it's depletion then the adjacent zone is producing one hellovalotta ozone at the same time. Plenty of people have tried to make an issue out of the annual anomaly but its relevance to life on Earth is negligible at most. Nobody sunbathes at the South Pole at the end of winter and UV strengths penetrating the 'hole' are really quite mild compared with the equatorial zone on any normal day. Ozone levels at the depths of the 'hole' are not greatly different from 'normal' autumn levels and UV penetration is virtually indistinguishable. An interesting phenomenon from a scientific viewpoint but certainly nothing for the wider public to get excited about for it has absolutely no bearing on the man in the street.

December 12, 2000

"Who Says PCBs Cause Cancer?" - "The EPA's assertion that PCBs in fish pose a human cancer risk is based solely on observations that high-dose, prolonged PCB exposure causes tumors in laboratory animals. But this is very different from the question at hand: Is there any evidence that the traces of PCBs in Hudson River fish increase the risk of cancer in humans? The EPA, an environmental regulatory agency, isn't known for its competency in the scientific discipline of cancer causation. We therefore need to turn elsewhere for expert opinions on any causal relationship between PCBs and cancer." (Elizabeth Whelan in the Wall Street Journal)

"Scientists discover new stage in malarial infection" - "St. Louis, Dec. 11, 2000 -- Researchers have identified a previously unknown step that enables the malaria parasite to spread in the bloodstream. And they have found a way to block this key event. The findings, reported in the Dec. 12 online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may lead to promising targets for drug development. Malaria afflicts 300 to 500 million people worldwide and kills nearly 2 million children each year. The parasites that cause the disease multiply inside red blood cells, bursting from them to invade new cells." (WUSM) [HHMI release]

"New Treaty Bans or Limits 12 Most Toxic Chemicals" - "JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, December 11, 2000 - After a week of deliberations to ban the world's most toxic chemicals, delegates have reached an agreement, which "constitutes a declaration of war on persistent organic pollutants," said conference chairman John Buccini. ... DDT has been exempted because it is still needed in many countries to fight malarial mosquitoes. The aim is to allow countries to protect against malaria until they are able to replace DDT with green alternatives." (ENS)

"Final report from the POPs convention" - "... The US compromised slightly on the "precautionary principle" language. This will probably have the broadest implications for the convention, since new chemicals will be listed more easily than with a science-based assessment. Manufacturers of other potential POPs will be looking over their shoulders in the coming months/years." (Roger Bate, FightingMalaria.org)

Natchural [wheeze] idn't beddah? "Researchers link mice to inner-city asthma" - "BALTIMORE, Maryland -- Common house mice may be a major contributor to asthma among inner-city children, according to scientists at Johns Hopkins University. ... For years, researchers have known that cats, dogs, dust mites and cockroaches can cause allergies that trigger the wheezing and constricted air passages of asthma. "While cockroach is the more important allergen, mouse is second in line," said Dr. Robert Wood, associate professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins and the study's lead investigator." (AP) [Johns Hopkins release] [HealthScout]

Isn't it funny how juvenile asthma is rising in apparently inverse proportion with decades of restrictions and outright bans on synthetic pesticides. These restrictions and bans are for our health you say?

"Kids get marching orders" - "PARENTS should be forced to drop kids off hundreds of metres from the school gates to help them shed weight, a child obesity conference was told yesterday. ... The obesity conference at a Sydney hospital also heard the demise of the see-saw, slippery dip and roundabout partly explained the increase in the number of chubby children. Outdated and boring council-run playgrounds were breeding inactivity, adolescent health expert Dr Michael Booth said. The high cost of litigation was also discouraging councils from investing in playgrounds." (Herald Sun)

You mean actually letting kids play fun games, even at risk of bumps, scrapes and the odd breakage may actually be good for them? Imagine that...

"Coffee Fails Gall Bladder Test" - "MONDAY, Dec. 11 -- Drinking java to ward off gallstones? Hold off on that second cup, says a new study. It suggests that coffee doesn't stop the gall bladder from forming stones, despite earlier studies showing the opposite. A report on the finding appears in the latest issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology." (HealthScout)

Hmm... gotta admit that gallstones are the last thing on my mind when reaching for my bottomless cuppa but - each to their own...

"Talks On For Golden Rice Tech Transfer" - "'Golden rice', the genetically-engineered rice fortified with Vitamin A on which agrochemical multinationals hold patents, has raked up a controversy with environmental activists questioning the Government's moves to bring the technology to India. The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) had held a series of meetings with both the Swiss and German team of inventors with a view to formalising a technology transfer agreement." (Hindu Business Line)

"Gene-Altered Corn Changes Dynamics of Grain Industry" - "CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — At the Archer Daniels Midland Company's plant these days, the arriving truckloads of No. 2 yellow corn all need to pass the same test: they are checked for odor, damage, moisture, and something called Cry9C." (NY Times)

"Biotech's Glories" - "To the anti-technologists who probably would consider Louis Pasteur a dangerous madman if he were around today, few menaces loom larger than biotechnology. To the starving and malnourished souls in the Third World, few promises offer so much hope." (Richmond Times Dispatch)

"The Green Peril" - "While the green movement claims to have the future of the planet in mind, economist Deepak Lal warned of the new imperialist threat posed by the ecological movement, particularly for the developing countries. Prof.. Lal, who is the James Coleman Professor of International Development Studies at the University of California, at Los Angeles, USA, was delivering the inaugural Julian L. Simon Memorial Lecture organised by Liberty Institute, in New Delhi, on Saturday." (Liberty Institute)

"Rip it up" - "A wind chill of minus-17 degrees greeted senior environmental officials from the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan and the South Pacific in Ottawa last Wednesday as they went behind closed doors for two days of talks to try to reignite burned-out negotiations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Over the next week, more talks are expected in Oslo, Norway. The aim appears to be an agreement in time for French President Jacques Chirac's meeting with President Clinton when they meet in Washington Dec. 18. But it would be far better for Mr. Clinton's legacy — and the world economy — if no deal is reached. And, even if one is struck, the reception of Congress would be far chillier than the winds of Ottawa." (James K Glassman, Washington Times)

Sigh! The Indy still can't let go on 'global warming': "Now the blame's on Nao – our own El Niño, but more peculiar" - "Britain's stormy recent months have partly been caused by our own El Niño, the Meteorological Office said yesterday. It believes that a mysterious Atlantic "cousin" of the notorious Pacific weather system has been responsible for the wettest autumn on record, together with short term blockages in weather patterns and global warming." (Independent)

"VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT #42" - "Talk about power of the press! Newsweek’s senior science and environment editor Sharon Begley is intent upon repeal of the First Law of Thermodynamics: the law of physics that dictates heating things up causes warming. Begley repeats in the December 4, 2000, edition the star turn first evident in her cover story in the January 22, 1996, edition. You’ll recall that 1996 cover. "THE HOT ZONE" it screamed. It showed some poor soul stumbling, head-down, gloveless hand on hat into the teeth of a raging blizzard. The sub-head said it all, "Blizzards, Floods and Hurricanes: Blame Global Warming." Now, Newsweek’s readership is warned (hold onto your hat again, fella) global warming will cause an Ice Age!" (GES)

"VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT #43" - "For an environmental press demanding of peer-reviewed science as the platinum standard in all things climate related, it’s payback time. The Institute of Food and Agricultural Services (IFAS) at the University of Florida leads a recent press release with, "Temperature increases anticipated as part of global warming appear to significantly reduce rice yields, a finding that has worrisome implications for the third of the world’s population that relies on rice as a primary staple." Well, there you have it! Or do you?" (GES)

December 11, 2000

Stupid celebrity of the day: Pierce Brosnan: '007' or just '000'? - "The illnesses that we suffer come from the air and the food and what we breathe, our environment," says James Bond-actor Pierce Brosnan in People (Dec. 18). Brosnan will be honored later this month at the Environmental Media Awards.

"Treaty curbing chemicals is drafted" - "JOHANNESBURG, Dec. 10 —  Negotiators for 122 nations reached an agreement for a phased-in, global ban on PCBs and other highly toxic chemicals early Sunday after extending a final U.N. summit on the issue into a seventh day with all-night talks. ... ‘It is a possibility that this could lead to a higher cost. For example, manufacturing factories are going to have to address reduction of releases of dioxins and furans.’ — JOHN BUCCINI, Summit chairman" (AP) [BBC Online] [Reuters] [The Times]

Uh-huh... and who's going to bear the pain over release of dioxins and furans emitted by forest fires, stubble burning, domestic wood fires, volcanoes... All irrelevant and all headed for UN 'control.' Bizarre!

At least essential use of DDT was not banned outright, although 'precautionary' wording was slipped into the text. It will be interesting to see if sufficient countries come to their senses over the next 5 years to ensure the stupid thing isn't sufficiently ratified to bring it into force.

"Greenpeace applauds NZ move at toxin conference" - "... Greenpeace is monitoring the conference, its spokeswoman Sue Connor says the goal of a worldwide ban on dioxins is now in sight." (NZ Herald)

Really? Australia's emissions inventory shows three-fourths of dioxins emitted by wildfires. What are you gonna do? Issue Ma Nature with a summons? Geeez!

"Coffee Consumption and the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease and Death" - "Conclusions: Coffee drinking does not increase the risk of CHD or death. In men, slightly increased mortality from CHD and all causes in heavy coffee drinkers is largely explained by the effects of smoking and a high serum cholesterol level." [View Full Text] (Arch Intern Med. 2000;160:3393-3400)

That coffee consumption is not a significant coronary heart disease (CHD) risk is not news, what is noteworthy is that a negative correlation has been published. The normal publication bias is toward allocation of culpability (substance X causes problem Y), notification that X doesn't cause Y is significantly less common - leading to the illusion that risks abound when, in reality, the majority of studies don't indicate positive association at all. Relax, the world's a much safer place now than it was a hundred years ago and things are improving all the time. A big pat on the head for AIM.

"Cell shapes could amplify mobile phones' effect" - "The shape of human cells can amplify the effect of mobile phone radiation on human tissue, researchers reported today. Computer models used to explore the effects of radiation from mobile phones have in the past treated cells as simple spheres. But a Spanish team led by Professor Jose Luis Sebastian at the University Complutense in Madrid has found that the intensity of electric fields induced in cells is heightened when more realistic geometric shapes are used." (ABC News Online)

Yeah, hurray. Every time I see could, might or may in the heading I lose interest pretty quickly because it really means something along the lines of "Fred (or whoever) guesses something is a possibility but hasn't managed to demonstrate it." It becomes science when said Fred demonstrates some supportive evidence for their hypothesis. It becomes a theory when other scientists in the same or related disciplines reproduce the same results and it becomes established fact when the effect can be demonstrated in a replicable manner. This piece falls into the category of "Fred says..." Whoopee!

"Cleaning up Hudson River: Who should foot the bill?" - "EPA and GE wage a $460 million fight that may impact pollution cleanups nationwide." (CSM)

Actually, the heart of the matter is whether there is any sense in the proposed action at all. See Final Countdown at EPA and Stirring up Sleeping Dogs in the Hudson.

"Law firm to launch 'economy class syndrome' class action" - "Australian and international airlines could face damages bills exceeding $100,000 for allegedly failing to warn passengers of the risk of flying economy class. Ten Australians are taking legal action against Qantas, British Airways, Air France and Air New Zealand." (ABC News Online) [AFP]

"Alarm at spread of CJD" - "Evidence has emerged that the human form of the brain-wasting illness BSE has spread wider than previously thought, after reports that a 35-year-old South African woman, who had never travelled abroad, died from the disease six months ago." (Independent)

Oh, well - it really must be extra terrestrially sourced then (see "Mad cow disease may be extraterrestrial" from the weekend's postings).

Homocysteine - the latest bad guy? "Can a vitamin a day help keep heart disease away?" - "ANN ARBOR, MI - The jury is still out on exactly how much benefit our hearts can get from lowering the level of homocysteine in our blood. But that doesn't mean people at risk for heart disease should wait for a verdict from big clinical trials before having their levels tested and getting more homocysteine-lowering nutrients, a new University of Michigan study finds." (UM) [BBC Online]

Good junk, bad junk? "Pizza Not Necessarily Nutritional No-No" - "... Pizza is an acceptable food choice because you get almost every food group, except maybe fruit -- and if you get a Hawaiian pizza, you even get that," says Connie Diekman, a registered nurse at Washington University in St. Louis and a spokeswoman for the American Dietary Association." (HealthScout)

"Ban on import of oil from GM oilseeds likely" - "New Delhi : The Union Agriculture Minister, Nitish Kumar said that the government is considering to ban imports of edible oils made from genetically modified (GM) soyabeans and other seeds. He said that this measure will stall dumping by some producer countries that has adversely affected the Indian farmers. He said these countries resort to dumping by taking undue advantage of the low WTO bound-rate duty of 45 per cent for imported soyabean and rapeseed oils. All other oils attracted a higher import duty of up to 300 per cent. The minister said much of the soyabean oil coming from abroad was from genetically modified seeds." (Indian Express)

GM issue or trade protectionism?

"Centre to encourage research on GMOs" - "CALCUTTA: The Centre would encourage research on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) but approval for their commercial use would not be given unless the field trials yielded satisfactory results. "We will encourage research on the GMOs. We have allowed field trials on the transgenic plants. But approval for commercial use of the same would be given only after the results of the trials are proved to be beneficial for the farmers and the consumers," Dr S R Rao, director, department of biotechnology under the Union ministry of Science and Technology, told PTI here." (Times of India)

"Debating the Food Debate, Two Views (1)" - "... The bottom line is that not a single person is at all likely to be harmed by this product, which differs from other commercial varieties by the presence of a Bacillus thuringiensis protein called Cry9C. The foods in question are actually far less likely than thousands of other products on the market to cause allergic or other health problems. For example, fava beans, a fixture of upscale restaurant cuisine in the United States and Europe, can be life-threatening to persons with hereditary glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency; by contrast, even after exhaustive testing, no allergic reactions, toxicity, or any other problem has been demonstrated with Cry9C or any substance similar to it." [Debating the Food Debate, Two Views (2)] (The Scientist)

"Gene technology and the environment" - "New research by CSIRO is exploring the safety of genetically modified crops once they are released commercially into the environment, a National Science Briefing was told in Parliament House Canberra today (Dec 7)." (CSIRO)

December 9-10, 2000

"U.N. Talks Close to Deal on Toxic Treaty" - "JOHANNESBURG - Delegates from 122 countries were close to clinching a global agreement aimed at curbing or banning some of the most dangerous pollutants on Earth, a United Nations official said on Saturday." (Reuters) [SA will continue use of DDT (Sapa) [Third report; Fourth report & Fifth report by Roger Bate from the POPs convention]

"A Wind-Borne Threat to Sierra Frogs" - "A study finds that pesticides used on farms in the San Joaquin Valley damage the nervous systems of amphibians in Yosemite and elsewhere." (LA Times' resident whacko, Marla Cone)

Ms Cone manages to get quotes for toxic chemical drift and even dredged up Andrew "the-ultraviolet's-gonna-get-us" Blaustein for the old "ozone depletion" chestnut but curiously omitted the main thrust of current research into frog population decline - chytrid fungus. Perhaps that one's not popular as a target due to thought that it may have been spread by eco-tourism and amphibian researchers themselves. Another postulated mechanism for spread of amphibian pathogens has been the boom in migratory bird populations and effort is underway to try to determine whether declines are prevalent along migratory flight paths. There's another rather embarrassing cause postulated for amphibian declines around the world - the proliferation of gambusia (mosquito fish) as an "environmentally friendly" alternative to pesticides - trouble is, the rotten things have a taste for tadpole and these now-feral populations are decimating amphibians. They're not the only introduced fish to find amphibians a tasty treat either, stocking for recreational fishing has taken a severe toll too. Frog deformities have been largely attributed to trematode (tiny parasitic flatworm) infection. Ms Cone seems to have missed a couple of things.

"Mad cow disease may be extraterrestrial" - "THE mad cow disease could have come from outer space, according to two professors. Alien organisms may have reached Earth among space debris from falling comets before being eaten by grazing cattle, they say. Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe and Sir Fred Hoyle put the blame for BSE on prions -- infected pieces of protein -- coming from comets and meteor showers." (Sunday Telegraph (Aus))

Nope - I'm not saying a word.

"Britain offers safety precautions for cell phones" - "LONDON - The British government launched a package of safety precautions for cell phones Friday. The package includes leaflets advising that children be discouraged from using the handsets at all. ... The leaflets summarize the safety research to date, saying experts have concluded that although no evidence exists that using a cell phone causes brain tumors or other ill effects, a health risk cannot be ruled out, particularly for children." (AP) [BBC Online] [Telegraph] [Hands-free mobiles lose safety approval (The Times)] [Mobile phone research fund about to hang up on genetic concerns (SMH)]

"Estrogen may join carcinogen list Talc also under consideration; benefits don't play into decision" - "Estrogen, used in hormone replacement therapy, and talc are among the substances being considered for listing in the next federal ''Report on Carcinogens,'' due in 2002. The only public meeting in the review process will be next week in Washington." (USA Today)

"California proposal puts brakes on electric-car proliferation" - "LOS ANGELES - California regulators are concluding that the drive to cleaner air shouldn't necessarily be in an electric car. In a move that alarmed environmentalists but failed to placate automakers, staff for the state's air-quality board Friday proposed to sharply scale back a rule that would put thousands of battery-powered vehicles on California roads by 2003." (AP) [NY Times]

"Only One Side Of The Risk Equation" - "The precautionary principle is increasingly being invoked as an approach that governments should embrace to deal with risks, especially environmental and health risks arising from new technology or new products. However, the precautionary principle biases the process of "decision-making under uncertainty" against the new. It is arbitrary, does not compare risks, and addresses only the risk of innovation, not the risk of stagnation." (CID)

Well lookit: "Keep GM tests in the lab, farmers warn" - "The benefits of gene science are over-hyped and the rush to patent new technology is nothing more than bio-piracy, the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification has been told. Organic farmers put their case to the commission in Wellington this week, asking that gene experiments be confined to the laboratory." [GM labelling takes effect in 12 months] (NZ Herald)

What a surprise - organic farmers are afraid their marketing illusion will fall down...

"Ecologically grown foods not healthier" - "Ecologically grown foods are not healthier nor safer than other foods, according to the Norwegian Food Control Authority. The Authority is also of the opinion that the benefit to the environment is minimal, Dagsavisen reports. It also points out that ecological and ordinary foods are subject to the same standards for food safety." (Norway Post)

"Regulator to rule gene technology" - "SCIENTISTS involved in human cloning risk 10-year jail terms and protesters two years' jail for damaging genetically modified crops, under Australia's first gene laws passed by the Senate. A Gene Technology Regulator will be set up with the same sweeping powers as the federal police and the tax office to inspect laboratories and farms for illegal GM activity." (The Australian) [Gene crops subject to stricter controls (The Age)]

"A Biotech Crop Risk Is Downgraded" - "Genetically engineered crops pose little risk to monarch butterflies and may even benefit the insects, scientists were cited as saying Wednesday." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

"Testing Corn Affects Cheetos Supply" - "DALLAS - Cheetos lovers, prepare for a crunch. Supplies of the cheese-flavored snack are down by as much as 10 percent as maker Frito-Lay Inc. attempts to keep genetically engineered corn from the recipe." (AP)

"Tokyo orders rooftop gardens on new buildings" - "Authorities in Tokyo are ordering owners of new buildings to turn part of their rooftops into gardens to combat rising temperatures in the city. The nationally circulated Mainichi newspaper says the order, which will take effect next April, requires that plants cover at least one fifth of all available rooftop space. ... Rising output of gases believed to be warming the Earth's atmosphere, combined with a decrease in heat-absorbing greenery, have caused the annual average temperature in Tokyo to rise 2.9C (5.2F) in the last century." (Ananova)

That rise isn't "global warming" though, it's UHIE (Urban Heat Island Effect). Actually, New Scientist ran the feature "Totally Tropical Tokyo" discussing (albeit briefly) this a few months ago.

Canada waking up to the cost of demagoguery? "Canada's dirty new image" - "Country has gone from being a green leader to having a reputation as an environmental bad boy" (says MARK MacKINNON) [Global warming deal stalls] (GAM)


"Kyoto can't be fixed" - "Failure to reach an agreement on implementing the Kyoto protocol is no surprise, writes S. Fred Singer. Neither science nor politics will support it" (National Post)

"What Nature Creates, Humans Put Asunder" - "Last issue, we speculated that the timing of two important articles in Nature magazine was no accident. Appearing just before the big United Nations confab at the Hague, that publication argued that so-called "sequestration" of carbon dioxide by forestation might in fact make global warming worse. Those articles were in direct contravention of a large body of scientific research (see Cutting Edge). In fact, researchers such as Song-Miao Fan at Princeton have demonstrated that North American forests may in fact capture more carbon than is emitted during the industrial activity of the United States and Canada (Figure 1)." (GES)

"EU urges Japan, U.S. to drop 'sink' proposal: officials" - "NICE, France Dec. 9 - The European Union (EU) has urged Japan, the United States and Canada to withdraw their joint proposal to cut levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions through so-called carbon ''sinks,'' or the natural absorption of the gas by trees and soil, to secure a deal to tackle global warming, officials close to a talk held in Ottawa this week said Friday." ( Kyodo)

"The Curious Case of the Forest Sink" - "The latest climate models cast a baleful future abetted by plants and soil. In the models, future global warming upsets the ability of plants and soil to hold carbon—so much so that they will add to the air’s carbon dioxide beyond the direct emissions from human activities, thus worsening global warming. How?" (GES)

"The Week That Was December 9, 2000 brought to you by SEPP" - "NEW ON THE SEPP WEB: In addition to providing a "scientific cover" for Al Gore's campaign speech on global warming, the leaked IPCC draft Summary was also supposed to boost the Hague climate negotiations. But by now, most of the world had been immunized to scary weather stories and climate disasters. The collapse of the Hague talks could have been predicted - and was -- from the tone of the massive ads that ran in major newspapers. Our article in the Financial Times (Canada) provides an analysis of the US position that proved to be unacceptable to Europeans." (SEPP)

"Green credibility took a pasting" - "When you hear talk of saving the planet from now on, count your spoons. Hardly anybody seriously uses a phrase like "saving the planet" out loud - it sounds too grand and silly. But some people write it on posters and protest placards and, lately, in newspapers lamenting the collapse of climate change talks at The Hague. The casualty of that collapse was not the planet so much as the credibility of those who claim to be most concerned about it." (NZ Herald)

"Japan should consider environment tax: panel" - "TOKYO Dec. 10 - The Japanese government should consider introducing a tax on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and other economic measures in order to reduce waste and tackle global warming, according to a draft proposal from the Central Environment Council. The draft, obtained Saturday by Kyodo News, outlines a comprehensive program with specific measures and numerical targets which the council says is essential to tackle global warming and other environmental problems in a strategic manner." ( Kyodo)

"Will Global Warming Increase El Niños?" - "During the height of El Niño mania in 1998, a few scientists, most prominently Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, began pushing a theoretical El Niño–global warming linkage. Surely, people reasoned, El Niños must get worse or become more common as carbon dioxide levels increase. Mustn't they?" (GES)

December 8, 2000

"Get the butterfly net for inattentive media" - "'Good news isn't news' appears to be the media's attitude to- ward food biotechnology controversies. Environmental Protection Agency science advisers just determined that the biotech corn involved in the recent taco shell recall is unlikely to cause any health problems." (Steve Milloy, Washington Times)

"Final Countdown at EPA" - "Lame duck EPA administrator Carol Browner just announced her plan to clean the Hudson River -- by polluting it. New York residents are lucky that Browner’s plan won’t survive the litigation that’s almost certain to follow. The rest of us are lucky that this is one of the last acts of a demagogic bureaucrat who abused her office and politicized the EPA like no prior administrator." (Steve Milloy at FoxNews.com)

"Toxic chemical treaty in sight despite EU-U.S. spat" - "Global talks to ban or curb production of some of the world's most dangerous chemicals resumed in South Africa today with delegates confident of a deal despite a dispute between Europe and the United States. The talks, under the auspices of the U.N. Environment Programme, are the fifth round of global discussions on POPs and are expected to produce a treaty to be signed at a diplomatic conference scheduled for Stockholm next May." (Reuters) [Third report from the POPs convention (Roger Bate, FightingMalaria.org)]

"South Africa Defends DDT Use to Fight Malaria" - "JOHANNESBURG - South Africa said on Thursday it needed to keep using DDT to fight a growing threat from the lethal, mosquito-borne disease malaria. South Africa is hosting U.N.-sponsored talks aimed at curbing or eliminating 12 persistent organic pollutants (POPs) including DDT, which has been used since World War II to protect people from malaria." (Reuters)

"POPS TREATY NEEDS PRECAUTIONARY APPROACH" - "JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, December 6, 2000 - Negotiators for the United States say the U.S. supports taking a precautionary approach to protecting human health and the environment - at least as far as the ongoing negotiations to control persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are concerned." (ENS)

"A biting truth" - "... In this context, a brute application of the precautionary principle would seem to suggest that, with the dangers of malaria so obvious and with the virtues of prohibition so uncertain, no one should demand that DDT be banned for malarial uses until something better -- a vaccine, an equally effective and cheap pesticide -- is available. Anything less isn't environmental precautionism; it is murder in the name of environmental absolutism." (GAM)

"Greenpeace raises dioxin concerns" - "The environmental group Greenpeace says its discovery of what it has described as a mid-range amount of dioxin in a sample of Australian butter sounds a warning on toxic chemicals." (ABC News Online)

Well blimey! The `peas have found dioxin in animal fat! Given that mammals dump ubiquitous dioxin in fat, without regard for whether these compounds are the natural result of combustion of organic material (at less than 2,500°C) or whether they bear tiny 'formed through human action' labels, this should come as no surprise to anyone.

How important is it to people? Probably not very. Studies conducted for more than 50 years are, at best, contradictory. For example, among the commonly cited research are studies (of 2,3,7,8-TETRACHLORODIBENZO-P-DIOXIN - perhaps the most 'toxic' of the 200+ compounds known as dioxin) which suggest a possible slight increase in cancer incidence among workers exposed to significant dioxin levels over sustained periods - except that overall mortality rates are lower than anticipated. This means that people exposed to significant levels of dioxin over sustained periods may expect to live longer than the normally expected lifespan for the region but, when they do eventually die, there is a slightly enhanced risk that they will have cancer. Note, however, that there are no known instances of people exposed only to dioxins and therefore the increased incidence of cancers observed may be due to other compounds to which they were simultaneously exposed.

How about teratogenic and/or carcinogenic potential then?  The following is extracted from "NATURE'S CHEMICALS AND SYNTHETIC CHEMICALS: COMPARATIVE TOXICOLOGY" (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA Classification: Medical Sciences Contributed by Bruce N. Ames)

If TCDD [2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin] is compared with alcohol it seems of minor interest as a teratogen or carcinogen. Alcoholic beverages are the most important known human chemical teratogen (43). In contrast, there is no persuasive evidence that TCDD is either carcinogenic or teratogenic in humans, although it is both at near-toxic doses in rodents. If one compares the teratogenic potential of TCDD to that of alcohol for causing birth defects (after adjusting for their respective potency as determined in rodent tests), then a daily consumption of the [US] EPA reference dose of TCDD (6 fg) would be equivalent in teratogenic potential to a daily consumption of alcohol from 1/3,000,000 of a beer. That is equivalent to drinking a single beer (15 g ethyl alcohol) over a period of 8,000 years.

Given that much of the industrialised world has production and distribution industries for the express purpose of providing consumers with ethyl alcohol, and that said alcohol is consumed in units roughly 3,000,000 times the equivalent of the US EPA's reference dose for dioxin, then we must assume that dioxins are quite irrelevant. With the exception of chloracne, there is no known dioxin-causal association with human ill-effect.

It is perfectly true that a few polychlorinated dioxins and furans are highly toxic and extremely dangerous - it is not true that the traces of dioxin the `peas found in butter is any more dangerous than Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

"US Gulf War study cuts chemical release by half" - "WASHINGTON - A plume of low-level nerve gas released shortly after the Gulf War ended and investigated for possible links to mysterious symptoms affecting US troops, contained about half the chemical agents than initially believed, the Pentagon said on Tuesday." (Reuters)

"Supreme Court to rule on lawn pesticide ban" - "OTTAWA -- Seven Supreme Court of Canada judges will decide whether a Quebec bylaw banning cosmetic pesticides oversteps municipal powers after two companies challenged the bylaw Thursday. Environmentalists defended the bylaw in a case that could affect lawns and gardens across Canada. The high court reserved judgment and is not expected to rule for several months." (CP) [Reuters]

"The Last Word On Organic Safety" - "National standards for organic food will be released soon, and they will make clear that such products aren't safer or more nutritious than conventional products, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman says. (Some people maintain that organic foods are actually more dangerous. Glickman said the final regulations "will be clear that these rules are not to disparage in any way any other kinds of foods." (GuestChoice.com)

"Glickman: Organic Standards Coming" - "WASHINGTON — National standards for organic food will be released soon, and they will make clear that such products aren't safer or more nutritious than conventional products, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman says." (AP)

"Fears grow over CJD link to polluted water" - "FEARS of a CJD epidemic grew yesterday following EU claims that mad cow disease and its human variation may be passed on through polluted drinking water. A major alert was sounded after the surprise EU disclosure that BSE (mad cow disease) could be transmitted through water from the excrement of infected cattle." (Irish Independent)

"Green Fuels Threaten Britain's Bird Population" - "LONDON - Chemicals used to make environmentally-friendly fuels could spell disaster for many British birds, experts said on Thursday." (Reuters)

"Norwegian drivers prove astonishingly sober" - "OSLO, Norway -- Norway called out nearly its entire police force to test the country's drivers for alcohol before a new law goes into effect imposing tougher limits on blood alcohol content. The drivers overwhelmingly passed. The drunken driving test had been announced in advance in a campaign to raise awareness of the new alcohol limits that take effect Jan. 1. The law lowers the blood alcohol threshold for drunken driving to 0.02 percent from the current 0.05 percent -- the equivalent of one beer." (AP)

"Games strain on children" - "A doctor has warned about the danger of computer games after treating a young boy for repetitive strain injury." (BBC Online)

"‘Smart growth’ is hotly debated" - "ATLANTA, Dec. 7 —  The country’s top proponents of “smart growth” — dense development that combines homes within walking distance of schools, stores and workplaces — met this week in sprawl-impaired Atlanta, and the hot topic was one seen across the nation: overcoming local opposition to change." (MSNBC)

Read: imposing your worldview on more rational people.

Today's moron feature: "ECOTERRORISTS STRIKE LONG ISLAND CONSTRUCTION SITE" - "LONG ISLAND, New York, December 7, 2000 (ENS) - Last Friday, members of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) attacked a development site in Middle Island, Long Island, leaving a trail of property destruction in their wake. The ELF smashed more than 200 windows of houses already erected, pulled up survey stakes to delay clear cutting, spraypainted structures with slogans denoucing urban sprawl, and sabotaged 12 construction vehicles." (ENS)

"Fearing Bush Will Win, Groups Plan Pollution Suits" - "WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 — Saying it was increasingly likely that Gov. George W. Bush would be the next president, a number of leading environmentalists have enlisted trial lawyers in a strategy to circumvent what they predicted would be the antienvironmental spirit of a new Bush administration. The strategy would rely on the filing of huge lawsuits against polluters as an alternative to the enforcement of federal regulations and would borrow heavily from the legal tactics honed in the tobacco wars." (NY Times)

I take this to mean that misanthropists realise their flake-in-chief will not be able to use executive orders to impose Earth In the Balance as a universal policy manual and they will therefore use endless litigation to destroy commerce and people's living standards. Hopefully the judiciary will recognise the hazards posed by this development and make this tactic short-lived and extremely expensive for the whacko brigade.

"No meeting of minds at telepathy trial" - "THE world's biggest psychic experiment yesterday failed to come up with a shred of evidence for telepathy. But then, the true psychics would have known that anyway. Over the course of 10 experiments, several hundred people failed to project a set of images to volunteers in a sealed room several hundred feet away. The volunteers should have got between two and three images right just by random chance. In fact they scored one out of 10." (Telegraph)

"Gene technology regulation becomes law" - "Controversial laws regulating gene technology in Australia have been passed by parliament after a marathon debate in the Senate. The laws, governing the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) such as crops and GM foods, are a first for Australia, with GMOs currently overseen by a regulatory body. The minor opposition parties tried but failed to pass a number of amendments to the laws." (AAP) [MPs' marathon gives gene law go-ahead (SMH)] [Deal over GM law a 'disaster' (The Age)]

"GM laws 'not tough enough'" - "AUSTRALIA'S organic farmers today warned controversial new legislation on gene technology would not protect farmers from the spread of genetic crops." (AAP)

"Starlink's Risks Minuscule" - John R. Cady, president and CEO of the National Food Processors Association, writes in this op-ed that the presence of StarLink corn in human food products for which it currently is not licensed is a regulatory violation that should never have happened. But, says Cady, the overwhelming body of scientific evidence indicates that products containing StarLink cornpose no health risk to consumers. This is why the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should grant a temporary exemption to allow the inadvertent presence of StarLink corn in food products. (USA Today)

"Texas A&M Biologists Are Developing Genetically Modified Rice Resistant To Insects And Microbes" - "Texas A&M University biologists are developing genetically modified rice resistant to insects and microbes, which could revolutionize the food and agriculture industries and help alleviate hunger in developing countries. For many years, spraying insecticides on rice crops has been the best way to protect rice crops from insects. Scientists are now creating new strains of rice plants that would contain insect-killing proteins, so no insecticide would be needed." (Science Daily)

"Environmentalists Target Eastern Europe Tastes" - "BRUSSELS - Environmentalists who successfully steered public tastes in western Europe away from genetically modified (GM) foods said on Thursday they would now target the former communist countries of eastern Europe." (Reuters)

"Diabetes gene therapy draws closer" - "Scientists have engineered mice to make human insulin in the gut, in a move that could one day free diabetics from regular insulin injections. The rodents manufactured the hormone in intestinal cells when they were fed. Normally, only cells of the pancreas can make insulin. Canadian researchers who carried out the experiments propose that similar gene therapy techniques might eventually be used to correct diabetes in people." (BBC Online)

"Developing Edible Vaccines Against Hepatitis B Virus" - "The hepatitis B virus has infected more than 2 billion people alive today and 350 million of these are chronically infected carriers of the virus and are at increased risk of death from active hepatitis, cirrhosis and primary hepatocellular cancer. Edible vaccines may play a big part in the future for protection against Hepatitis B infection, scientists heard Wednesday when Prof. Yasmin Thanavala from Roswell Park Cancer Institute in the US described her research at the British Society for Immunology's Congress 2000 in Harrogate, UK." (UniSci)

"Ground-breaking solutions to global warming" - "Could the solution to the problem of global warming lie in the soil? As negotiators resumed their efforts this week to agree on a deal to combat climate change, soil was the last thing on their minds. But it seems that farming carbon rather than crops could be the agriculture of the future." (Independent)

"Climate change about to be Bushwhacked" - "... One of Mr. Bush's Texas colleagues in the House of Representatives, Joe Barton, said the other day that if Mr. Bush wins the presidency, he (Barton) would recommend the United States abandon the Kyoto agreement to control greenhouse gas emissions. He reached that conclusion after observing the scene at the recent climate change negotiations in The Hague, just before they crashed. "What you are seeing here is an exercise in futility in the worst case, or an exercise in fantasy in the best case," he said, "and nothing I have seen this week is going to be voted on in a positive way" by the U.S. Congress." (Terence Corcoran, National Post)

"Climate Change Officials Edge Closer to Agreement" - "OTTAWA, Ontario, Canada, December 7, 2000 - Two days of informal climate talks have narrowed the gap between the European Union and other industrialized nations on precisely how to limit the emission of greenhouse gases linked to global warming." (ENS)

"Effort to rescue climate deal fails" - "Senior officials from the United States, the European Union and other key countries have failed in their attempt to salvage something from the abortive climate change summit in November in The Hague." (BBC Online) [Reuters]

"Arctic sea ice 'thins by almost half'" - "... Dr Wadhams told BBC News Online: "Between summer 1976 and summer 1996 there was a 43% thinning of sea ice over a large area of the Arctic Ocean between Fram Strait and the North Pole. "This came out of measurements which I did (on both occasions) from British submarines - Sovereign in 1976 and Trafalgar in 1996." (BBC Online)

Interesting dates. See the contiguous US temperature chart for a clear view of the cooling that occurred ~1945-1975 (when there were cries of impending ice age and the global cooling crisis) and subsequent recovery ~1976-current. Implied then is that polar ice was thicker at the end of a cooling phase and thinner after a quarter-century recovery. I'm wondering if that should be seen as terribly surprising. Of course, ambient temperature is only one factor, and possibly a minor factor given the importance of the warm current conveying tropical Atlantic warmth to Europe and beyond, without which The Hague would host polar bears instead of climate confabs. This could be a response to the NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) or to another phenomenon we know little about, the AO (Arctic Oscillation). Then again, it might be none of the above - we'll just have to wait a few decades and see what happens.

"MAJOR ARCTIC OUTBREAK THREATENS WESTERN AND CENTRAL UNITED STATES" - "December 7, 2000 — A severe Arctic cold outbreak is poised to sweep through the western and central United States, endangering large portions of the country, according to NOAA's National Weather Service. "This cold air system is an example of the type of weather the United States can expect as we return to a normal winter," said retired Air Force Brigadier General Jack Kelly, director of NOAA's National Weather Service. "Because we are expecting variable and sometimes severe weather conditions this year, it is particularly important that people pay attention to weather forecasts and be prepared." (NOAA) [U.S. Warns of 50% Rise in Heat Costs (NY Times)] [Cold weather heats up worries about electricity (The Oregonian)]

"ANALYSIS - Cleaner coal arrives, but will it become mainstream?" - "NEW YORK - Environmentalists have long lobbied to dethrone coal as the top power source in the US, but with soaring natural gas prices, and new cleaner-burning technologies, coal's reign may extend well into the future, industry experts said." [Soaring natgas prices revive interest in coal] (Reuters)

"Carbon dioxide's climate-warming link challenged" - "... Many factors can warm the climate, and carbon dioxide is just one of them, says Dr. Jan Veizer, a geologist who is the lead author of the controversial report. And the gas, he says, does not appear to play a leading role in triggering warming. "What we are showing is that in the past, in very big climate changes, there is no correlation with CO2," he says. During an ice age about 400 million years ago, the evidence indicates the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was about 15 times current concentrations. "If CO2 is a driver, how can you get an ice age when CO2 was 15 times higher than they are today?" Dr. Veizer said in an interview." (National Post) [BBC Online]

"CO2 and global climate: Is history bunk?" - "The consensus that atmospheric carbon dioxide has been the driving force in global climate change is brought into question by a new reconstruction of tropical sea surface temperatures throughout the past 540 million years. Is it that currently accepted historic reconstructions of past carbon dioxide concentrations are unreliable, or are current climate simulations calibrated such that they give unreliable 'predictions' for what happened to past climate? The new results come from a database of oxygen isotope concentrations in calcite and aragonite shells which indicate that large oscillations in tropical sea surface temperature were in phase with the coming and going of ice ages, but at odds with predictions based on carbon dioxide as the cause." (Nature)

Wishful thinking of the day: "Smokestack Lightning" - "... Corporations have another motivation for taking the initiative: buy low, pollute high. Right now, companies can buy the credit to emit carbon dioxide for anywhere between $1 and $4 a ton. Natsource, a broker in carbon dioxide and other emissions, estimates that reductions now worth $600,000 could reach prices as high as $12 million in an official market." (Village Voice)

There are a few little problems with this - zealots have amply demonstrated that they are not the least interested in limiting carbon emissions (and nor should anyone else be for CO2 is not a 'pollutant' but a trace gas essential to life on Earth). Enviro-flakes and the EU block they control literally sank carbon sinks (which could work if there were a need for them) for the simple reason that they want energy use and human endeavour limited - the enhanced greenhouse nonsense is merely a convenient tool for the purpose. It is irrelevant to them (and the planet) exactly who does what with carbon as long as people don't prosper (that's bad for Gaia, or something like that). You think you're going to make big bucks out of hot air guys? Here's some really sad news for you. Even under the nightmare scenario that Kyoto should ever be ratified and brought into force, 'carbon credits' won't make it because the zealots driving the entire farce are dead set against them. Your hot air credit is now, and will always be, worth squat.

"EPA to crack down on recreational vehicle emissions" - "The list of air-pollution sources cleaned up by the Clinton administration reads like a child's book of things that go: cars and pickups, locomotives and tugboats, big rigs, tractors, even riding lawnmowers.  Now the Environmental Protection Agency is getting ready to restrict air pollution from just about everything else that moves and has an engine, including recreational vehicles that are the favorite playthings for millions of Americans." (USA Today)

"The Ozone Layer" - "It is good news indeed to hear that the holes in the earth's ozone layer, which opened up over polar regions between the 1950s and the 1980s, will soon begin to shrink. Indeed they could close up completely over the next 50 years, if progress continues in tackling the problem. This demonstrates that preventative action taken by governments, based on scientific research and advice, can make a crucial difference in protecting the earth's environment. It should give heart to those who have lamented the failure to agree on the separate problem of global warming at the United Nations climate change conference in The Hague last month." (Irish Times)

Healed? It is far from certain that the conceptual 'ozone layer' is even injured.

December 7, 2000

"Second report from the POPs convention" - "India and Tanzania requested exemptions for DDT use (India for production and use; Tanzania for use) under the treaty, which brings the number of countries who have asked to use DDT for malaria control to 11. At least 10 countries without stockpiles of DDT have not asked for exemptions, but they hopefully will do so over the next few days. Some are still concerned about pressure from donors." (Roger Bate, FightingMalaria.org)

Oh, here's a gem: "Talc, Wood Dust Eyed as Carcinogens" - "WEDNESDAY, Dec. 6 -- It's an end-of-the-year list no substance -- or its maker -- wants to make."  (HealthScout)

Check out this item from the list: "Ultraviolet Radiation: The government says ultraviolet light in general is known to cause skin cancer, so it merits inclusion in the list of known carcinogen. However, NIEHS says it's not clear whether one form of UV rays -- UVA or UVB-is more dangerous than the other, so each should be considered likely carcinogens."

Ooh... this is a good one. For how many years have people been indoctrinated about the dangers of UVB, supposedly so much more prolific at Earth's surface due to purported depletion of the ozone layer? Ozone hysterics have always blithely ignored changes in fashion and lifestyle - in the period in which skin damage from ultraviolet now manifesting itself in rising skin cancer incidence was done, people went from neck-to-knee swimsuits to bikinis, from negligible outdoor leisure time to significant - but no, it's depletion of the ozone layer that is to blame.  (Ozone has the formula O3; it is always present in trace quantities in the Earth's atmosphere, but its largest concentrations are in the ozonosphere. There it is formed primarily as a result of shortwave solar ultraviolet radiation (wavelengths shorter than 242 nanometres), which dissociates normal molecular oxygen (O2) into two oxygen atoms. These oxygen atoms then combine with nondissociated molecular oxygen to yield ozone. Ozone, once it has been formed, can also be easily destroyed by solar ultraviolet radiation of wavelengths less than 300 nanometres. Because of the strong absorption of solar ultraviolet radiation by molecular oxygen and ozone, solar radiation capable of producing ozone cannot reach the lower levels of the atmosphere, and the photochemical production of ozone is not significant below about 20 km (12 miles). Even though the ozone layer is about 40 km (25 miles) thick, the total amount of ozone, compared with more abundant atmospheric gases, is quite small. If all of the ozone in a vertical column reaching up through the atmosphere were compressed to sea-level pressure, it would form a layer only a few millimetres (one-eighth of one inch) thick. Molecular oxygen (O2), some 20.9% of the free atmosphere, blocks the vast majority of solar UV radiation.) The finger of blame had to be pointed at UVB or the ozone scare would not work because prolific O2, one-fifth of the atmosphere, effectively blocks UVA. And here's NIEHS happily admitting that we don't know which is particularly dangerous (if any), so we'll declare both likely carcinogens. Of course, Warnings on sun cancer [are] `one-sided' by some reckonings and people are blocking too much essential UVB exposure to synthesise sufficient vitamin D to reduce the risk of fractures, colon cancer and other diseases.

So, we have already terrorised some people into poor health with an ill-founded scare campaign, knowing that clothing fashion and lifestyle have been the significant determinant in skin cancer risk, all the while blaming 'depletion' of the ozone layer - which may or may not be true but only occurs in localised regions at freezing temperatures (obviously a lot a people likely to be sunbathing then) and now, NIEHS are out to formalise the hysteria by declaring essential sunlight as 'a likely carcinogen.' Bloody marvellous!

"Scientists look to smoking genes link" - "Scientists are trying to identify specific genes associated with increased difficulty in quitting smoking. The team, headed by geneticist Professor Nick Martin of the Queensland Institute of Research, has attracted an $8 million grant from the US National Institute of Health." (ABC News Online)

"Working environment greater cause of absenteeism than lifestyle" - "Monotonous work, outdated management practices, the lack of possibilities to influence decision making, and a poor atmosphere at work are a greater cause of absenteeism from work than obesity, the lack of exercise, heavy smoking, or excessive consumption of alcohol. These findings are among the results of the Kunta8 study, involving eight cities and towns of different sizes. One part of the study focuses on the impact of problems involving an employee’s lifestyle and those of the working environment on absenteeism from work. The survey involved about 6,500 municipal employees." (Helsingen Sanomat)

"EPA's Absurd Dredging Proposal Sets Course For Environmental Devastation of Hudson River"

"EPA's proposal today charts a course of environmental devastation for the Upper Hudson River for a generation or more. The proposal is absurd. EPA has willfully ignored its own finding in 1984 that a massive dredging program like the one proposed today would be ``devastating to the river ecosystem.'' This proposal makes no sense because, as people who live near the river know, the Hudson is dramatically cleaner today than it was when EPA rejected dredging sixteen years ago." (GE) [EPA set to unveil huge New York river dredging project; EPA vows to clean Hudson River; GE opposes plan (CNN)] [Hudson neighbors split over dredging (MSNBC)] [U.S. to Order $490 Million River Cleanup by G.E. (NY Times)]

Any colour you like, as long as it's green? "Ford Chairman Trades on Green Credentials" - "... Along with martial arts, he embraces acupuncture and homeopathy and has studied yoga, as well as Zen and Tibetan and Vipassana Buddhism. He has been a vegetarian for 10 years. But Mr. Ford says his real passion is the environment." (Herald Tribune)

?!! "Avoiding Pesticides: Simple Steps Can Make a Big Difference" - "You can protect your health and the health of the environment by avoiding pesticides" (iVillage)

Really? According to Bruce Ames, 99.9% of pesticides in the human diet are all-singing, all-dancing, all-natural. Every plant not long-since consumed out of existence employs one or both of two strategies to minimise predation by consumers. Either they produce toxins and/or irritants - pesticides - or they produce sticky sap to clog the mandibles of consumers, or both. As consumers, we have evolved strategies to deal with this. Either we metabolise the toxins to some benign form or we lose our appetite for the item prior to consuming a lethal dose. In any case we handle an extraordinary array of toxins on a daily basis with minimal ill-effect. Even the negligible portion of synthesised compounds we consume are within our hereditary experience and ability to handle because the vast majority of synthesised compounds are mimics of that which we have found in nature (we're not really that inventive but are getting better at copying that which other 'critters' have developed by trial and error over millennia).

Avoid pesticides? Absolute twaddle!</p>

"How do you want it grilled? Well-flipped, easy on the amines" - "The safest hamburger may be a well-flipped hamburger, a new study from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California suggests." (NY Times)

See Hamburger Report Not Well Done

"Acne drug will come with warning" - "WASHINGTON -- Patients who take the powerful acne drug Accutane will soon get special warning brochures outlining side effects -- including a possible, but not proven, link to suicide." (The Oregonian)

The end for organic produce? "Food claims 'must be honest'" - "A code of practice to ensure that health claims on food are truthful and helpful to shoppers is being launched on Thursday. The code has been backed by consumer groups, the food industry and regulators, including Sir John Krebs, chairman of the Food Standards Agency. It is designed to stop manufactures making health claims that they cannot substantiate." (BBC Online)

"EU admits BSE test is to increase confidence, not safety" - "The European Commission has admitted that the BSE test it hopes to introduce throughout Europe cannot be used to reassure the public over the safety of continental beef. The admission follows yesterday's report in The Independent that the test for "mad cow" disease has never been properly validated." (Independent)

"Hey parents - Skip the soda, go for the milk" - "The next time your child's thirsty, skip the soda pop and give him or her milk ... or juice. It's a good habit to get into, according to a study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, which noted nutrient deficiencies in children who regularly chose carbonated soda over milk or juice. Milk and fruit juice are among the top sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus for children in the United States. According to the study, children who consumed soda regularly weren't likely to meet the daily recommendations for these vitamins and minerals, all of which are necessary for a child's growth and development." (Mayo Clinic)

Uh-oh! PETA won't like this - don't you know they disapprove of milk products and sound human nutrition? See also: PETA's zeal pushes the envelope too far for some

"Drink to think" - "TOO much alcohol dulls your senses, but a study in Japan shows that moderate drinkers have a higher IQ than teetotallers." (New Scientist)

"USDA to Report on Health Effects of Popular Diets" - "WASHINGTON - Diet doctors beware: the Agriculture Department will release a report next month summarizing the latest research on the health and nutrition effects of popular diets, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said on Wednesday." (Reuters)

"Food body leads push to zap herbs, spices" - "All imported herbs and spices sold in New Zealand could soon be dosed with radiation following moves to outlaw the alternative method of decontamination. The push by Australian-based regulators who set food standards on both sides of the Tasman would mean consume