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Archives - December 2001

December 31, 2001

"Making a circus of justice" - "Animal rights" extremists who argue that cows, pigs, rats and all other animals are entitled to the same rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as people have suffered a well-deserved courtroom defeat. (Paul Driessen, Washington Times)

"Schools fail kids by cutting phys ed" - U.S. SURGEON General David Satcher's recent report about an obesity epidemic - with 60 percent of American adults and nearly 13 percent of children overweight - reminded me of my own warning six years ago about our country's fat kids. (Tom McMillen, Baltimore Sun)

December 28, 2001

"Homeless Data Based on Politics, Not Numbers" - "Dec. 21 used to be the first day of winter. No more: Now it's "National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day.'

Last Friday, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson recognized National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day as he "encouraged the nation to take the time to remember the millions of homeless individuals who don't have a warm bed, a nutritious meal, or a family to go home to this holiday."" (Steven Milloy, FoxNews.com)

December 26, 2001

"Depriving Patients Of OxyContin Is A Crime " - "News stories and congressional inquiries focusing on the abuse of OxyContin but ignoring the drug's role in helping millions of pain sufferers frighten patients and paint a distorted picture of the drug. Banning this medication makes as much sense as banning cars because some people are killed in traffic accidents." (Alen J. Salerian, Hartford Courant)

December 21, 2001

"Animal Rights Activists Unleashed" - "Circus animal trainer Mark Oliver Gebel is on trial in California charged with abusing a performing elephant. What’s really being abused, though, is the law. The evidence against Gebel is flimsy and the prosecution is political. The spectacle would be a complete farce except that a guilty verdict would move animal rights activists closer to achieving their misguided slogan of "A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy." (Steven Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"There still is a Santa" - "When Virginia O'Hanlon was troubled by the claims of her eight-year-old playmates that there was no Santa Claus, she turned to the New York Sun for guidance. The resulting editorial by Francis Church: "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus," is doubtless the best-known editorial ever written -- its defence of faith, romance and childhood joy still rings true. If Virginia were to write today, however, it would not be her playmates that threatened the magic of Santa, it would be her teachers and assorted parenting experts." (National Post editorial)

From NOAA News: NORAD will answer children's questions on its comprehensive, six-language Santa tracking Web site. All site material, including the live tracking event, will be available in English, Japanese, French, Spanish, Italian and Brazilian Portuguese.

"Anti-gun lobby misfires" - "The national public-policy debate was plunged to a new low by the single-issue lobbying group Americans for Gun Safety (AGS). AGS is funded solely by Internet billionaire Andy McKelvey — a former board member of the gun-ban lobby known as Handgun Control Inc.

The new group is trying to make an outrageous attempt to link the terrorist strikes against this country to a national tradition as old as America itself — gun shows. Through advertisements and opinion editorials, AGS has shown it is no longer content to capitalize on the grief left in the wake of two homicidal teen-agers at Columbine High School. It is now seeking to exploit the fear of global terrorism left by the attacks of September 11, but its attack on gun shows is simply the same tired gun control agenda in new packaging. Furthermore, the facts of the cited case do not support the AGS effort." (James Jay Baker, Washington Times)

"Gun Shows a Terrorist Arms Bazaar?" - "Anti-gun groups are using the war on terror as a rationale for tightening gun control laws in America, citing the effort in their demands for more stringent background checks on gun sales at shows and over the Internet, according to Fox News.

In "The Facts About Gun Shows," Associate Policy Analyst David B. Kopel demonstrates that there is no "gun show loophole." "Despite what some media commentators have claimed," he writes, "existing gun laws apply just as much to gun shows as they do to any other place where guns are sold." Attempts to shut down gun shows are simply further attacks on the First and Second Amendments." (Cato Institute)

"Terrorism is not the only scourge" - "TERRORISM is like a hideous disease, and sensible countries seek to eradicate it. But it should not be forgotten that hideous diseases, of the non-metaphorical sort, kill and cripple far more people, especially in poor countries. Encouragingly, recent decades have seen huge progress in the struggle against sickness. Between 1960 and 1995, life expectancy in poor countries rose by 22 years, largely because modern medicine prevented millions of premature deaths. In the 1950s, 15% of children died before their fifth birthday; now only 4% do." (The Economist)

Science by telethon? "Diets high in red meat linked to stomach and esophageal cancers" - "Dietary factors are recognized as contributing to the development of stomach and esophagus cancers. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Chen et al. examined overall dietary patterns among patients diagnosed with distal stomach cancer, esophageal cancer, or cancer-free controls. Results suggest that several dietary patterns, particularly those high in red meat, confer a higher risk of stomach or esophageal cancer than other types of diets." (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)

These results are from "telephone dietary assessments."

"Wanted - more answers than questions: literature review" - "The purpose of medical research is to advance knowledge and solve clinical problems. These high ideals are difficult to achieve. Instead, academia sometimes draws criticism for apparently doing research for its own sake. I therefore carried out a systematic literature review to examine whether published research was providing more questions than answers, or vice versa." (Anthony S David, BMJ)

"Long-term soy consumption does not effect hormones in postmenopausal women" - "Interest in soy isoflavones continues to increase, especially among menopausal and postmenopausal women who look to them for relief of menopausal symptoms. Persky et al., publishing in this month’s American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, examined the effects of soy protein containing varying amounts of isoflavones on serum hormone levels in a group of postmenopausal women, and found that soy had no clinically significant effect on endogenous hormone balance." (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)

"Duke University researcher dispels 'sugar buzz' myth" - "Beth Hawkins has a lot of reasons that she doesn't want her 11-month-old son eating sweets, not least among them the notorious "sugar buzz" that makes children act silly and grownups go loopy. So Hawkins, a resident of Raleigh, N.C., and a Ph.D. candidate in zoology at North Carolina State University, is keeping the holiday goodies to a minimum for her son, Ethan Davis Godwin.

Pity. Although sugar may not be the most nutritious food, it packs no buzz. Not even a hum.

"Sugar has gotten a really bad rap," says Richard Surwit, chief of the division of medical psychology at Duke University and a researcher who has studied sugar's effect on the body. "Most simple carbohydrates, like potatoes and rice, have the same metabolic effect as granulated sugar." (Raleigh News & Observer)

"Tougher labelling rules set for herbal medicines" - "OTTAWA -- Ottawa plans stringent safety regulations for herbal medications and other products that will require manufacturers to be truthful about the promised benefits, product ingredients and potential side effects. It also will propose that all such products be licensed." (Globe and Mail)

"Manufacturers appeal Germany's kava kava ban" - "FRANKFURT, Dec 20 - A group of pharmaceutical companies have appealed a preliminary decision by the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) to ban the sale of the over-the-counter herbal medicine kava kava except in products containing only minute amounts.

The BfArM in November announced the decision after studying reports of two dozen cases of severe liver toxicity with suspected links to consumption of kava kava, which has become increasingly popular in the US and Europe as a sedative, muscle relaxant and diuretic. The toxicity in some cases caused hepatitis, cirrhosis and liver failure. One person died and, in November, three had undergone liver transplants." (Reuters Health)

"WA uni to probe link between mobile phones and car crashes" - "The University of Western Australia is conducting a world-first research project which will examine the link between mobile phones and road accidents. Medical epidemiologist Suzanne Cordova says some studies have already found phones are a safety hazard but they have been mainly simulated lab studies rather than real life testing. She says the 18-month research project, due to start early next year, will involve researchers speaking to people in emergency departments who have been involved in a traffic accident." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Environmental, Health Groups Petition EPA to Ban Hazardous Wood Preservatives" - "WASHINGTON, DC — Citing government inaction to protect the nation’s children from exposure to widely used and highly toxic wood preservatives, leading environmental and public health groups will petition EPA tomorrow to immediately stop the continued use of chromated copper arsenate (CCA) and pentachlorophenol (penta). The groups say that EPA has sufficient data on wood preservatives’ health and environmental risks and economically viable alternatives to initiate cancellation and suspension proceedings, rather than conduct further reviews." (Beyond Pesticides/National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides)

"Interior seeks lynx hair probe" - "Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton yesterday called for an inspector general to investigate why federal biologists planted false evidence of a rare wildcat in two national forests." (Washington Times)

"Conservationists patch it up; Urban wildlife may not use green corridors" - "Green corridors do little to aid wildlife, say UK ecologists. Their discovery that isolated wild ground contains just as many plant species as do patches linked by continuous greenery casts doubt on current conservation priorities." (Nature Science Update)

"Scientists discover coral bleaching in NT marine park" - "The environmental phenomenon known as coral bleaching has been detected in Northern Territory waters for the first time. The discovery has been labelled an environmental tragedy for the Territory's only marine park." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

Why? This is the first time anyone's looked - could be a common phenomenon for all anyone knows.

"Comply or else, EPA tells state air agency; Ecology Department fears a 'paperwork nightmare'" - "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has given the state of Washington official word that it has 18 months to fully comply with the Clean Air Act or face the possibility of losing federal transportation money. The agency issued a Notice of Deficiency, one of its heaviest mandates, to the state Department of Ecology last Friday. The notice concerns a short provision in one chapter of the act, which requires states to regulate "insignificant emissions." State officials, however, say they do not need to regulate emissions so small and innocuous that the federal government has labeled them insignificant." (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

"Still cool to facts" - "Fortunately, media hot air isn't affecting the Earth's surface temperature, which is rising at a slow but dependably steady rate we can adapt to." (Patrick J. Michaels, National Post)

"Model Behavior: EPA Promotes False Climate Scares" - "The Environmental Protection Agency is telling the Northeastern United States to be very afraid. "Climate change" will prompt flooding of its shores, it will chase away its current mix of flora and fauna, and it will generally make life, well, different. The agency has spearheaded a continuation of "regional" climate scares, this week's addressing the Northeast and summarized on the EPA's website. The EPA even pumped the scare for an hysterical story in the Washington Post, all despite a rare scientific certainty: it is impossible to honestly make their claims." (Chris Horner, Tech Central Station)

"Whither the Weather?" - "We are told that because we drive gas-guzzling utility vehicles and insist on repeatedly exhaling, greenhouse gases are entrapping the warm air, raising the earth's temperature, which will inexorably melt the polar icecaps and drown us all. And you were nibbling your nails about terrorism in the skies, or anthrax in the mails, or the prospect of post-prosperity. Forget about the end of history; instead, stressniks worry about the end of winter." (William Safire, New York Times)

"Research not to be sniffed at" - "SCIENTISTS in New Zealand have concluded that the biggest cause of global warming is not the burning of coal or oil, but the discharges of flatulent cows and sheep." (The Scotsman)

"White Christmases becoming more a dream than a reality" - "OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Dec. 20, 2001 – In 1942, Bing Crosby crooned about a white Christmas, and a dream is just what a snowy Dec. 25 has become in several parts of the United States, according to statistics provided by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Looking at 16 cities – mainly in the north -- since 1960, the number of white Christmases per decade declined from 78 during the 1960s to 39 in the 1990s. People in Chicago, for example, saw the number of white Christmases – defined as at least one inch of snow on the ground – drop from seven in the 1960s to two during the 1990s. In New York, the number declined from five in the 1960s to one this past decade, and Detroit had just three white Christmases in the 1990s vs. nine in the 1960s.

But in several cities, the number of white Christmases has been fairly constant. Looking at the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and’90s, Tahoe City, Calif., had eight, seven, eight and nine white Christmases, respectively. Salt Lake City’s number of white Christmases per decade were seven, seven, eight and eight. Minneapolis/St. Paul had eight white Christmases in the 1960s, seven in each of the following two decades and eight in the 1990s." (Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

UHIE artefact perhaps? And why choose the 1960s as baseline?

"Climate protection begins at home" - "I've been asked why, as mayor of Seattle, I chose to take a stand on a global issue like climate change. Isn't this issue better left to national and international authorities? Doesn't it require a global solution? The answer is simple: Global climate change is an acutely local problem. It may sound remote and difficult for a city to influence. But in the end, even the biggest global problems begin and end at home. Particularly in the absence of federal leadership on the issue, local initiative can pave the way to global solutions." (Paul Schell, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

"French Farmer Sentenced to Jail" - "MONTPELLIER, France - A judge sentenced militant French farmer Jose Bove to six months in jail Thursday, but not until riot police fired tear gas to force more than 100 of his supporters from the courthouse. The appeals court convicted Bove, a leading anti-globalization activist, for his role in destroying a genetically modified rice field in southern France in 1999. After the sentencing, a defiant Bove vowed to continue the fight against genetically modified crops. He said he would lodge his second appeal in the case, this time to France's highest court, the Court of Cassation - a move that could keep him out of jail for up to a year. Under French law, defendants don't have to being serving sentences until all appeals are exhausted." (AP)

"Farmers hit by European curb on use of fertiliser" - "FARMERS, still recovering from one of the worst years in living memory, suffered another blow yesterday when limits were announced on the amount of manure and fertiliser that can be used on the land. The Government said it was proposing to extend the amount of the country protected as a nitrate vulnerable zone - intended to reduce pollution of drinking water, rivers, streams and coastal waters - from 8 per cent to either 80 per cent or 100 per cent of the total area of England. Similar proposals are expected soon for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland." (Telegraph)

"Today in AgBioView"

  • Lomborg's Call for Help from Scientists - Critique in Scientific American
  • GM Soybean Planting In Brazil Said To Be Spreading North
  • Argentine GM Crop Area to Grow by 1.5 million Hectares
  • The Threat that Biotechnology Is
  • More on St. Laurence River 'Contamination' with Bt Corn Protein
  • Gene Flow to Wild Plant Relatives
  • Biotechnology Issues in Africa
  • AgBiotech Reporter
  • Unquiet on the Western Front
  • Biology: Under Transformation
  • Safety Fears Over Herbal Remedy

"Beating Up On Biotech" - "Nice farm you got there. Hate to see anything bad happen to it."

That's the basic message of a new briefing paper released by the anti-technology Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), working with the anti-biotech Genetically Engineered Food Alert. The paper, "GMO Liability Threats for Farmers," says farmers who grow genetically improved crops -- called by the European Union "even safer than conventional plants and foods" -- are at legal risk.

The message: If you can't beat 'em with science, take 'em to court.

IATP says this is just the first in a series of propaganda papers it will release with GE Food Alert. What's the motive? IATP is a left-leaning anti-corporate organization that uses its activist network to strong-arm American corporations into endorsing the "politically correct" trading model, which includes importing more food from "sustainable" growers in other countries. U.S.-produced new food technologies fly in the face of IATP's dogma. (For more on IATP, visit our new website ActivistCash.com, with more information on other activist groups coming soon.)

As for GE Food Alert, it isn't a group itself -- it's a coalition of groups (including IATP) that have been ganging up on genetic improvement for years. Among them: Greenpeace, which has led activist raids on grocery stores where they slap labels on biotech products, and the Organic Consumers Association. (There's info on both of these groups at ActivistCash.com as well.)" (GuestChoice.com)

"A Genetically Modified Comeback: As Monsanto Turns A Corner, It Sees Independence Up Ahead" - "Two years ago, Monsanto Co. was a mess. Protests by activists froze the company's, biotech operations in Europe and threatened its U. S. business. The company was tottering under more than $6 billion in debt from buying a slew of seed companies. Its unfocused portfolio included the vaunted arthritis drug Celebrex -as well as an herbicide sold to farmers. To top it off, Monsanto had a reputation as an arrogant outfit with no time or inclination to address the public's growing fears about biotech crops. ''In the beginning, we said, 'Go away. These are good products. Just accept it,''' says President and CEO Hendrik A. Verfaillie.

Today, St. Louis-based Monsanto has quietly turned a corner in its effort to build a successful biotech business. Under the stewardship of parent Pharmacia Corp., it has spruced up its balance sheet and installed tighter financial controls. More important, the backlash against genetically modified foods is fading as new studies ease fears about the health and environmental effects of such crops, though serious obstacles still retard their potential abroad. And there's a growing appreciation of biotech's ability to feed the world's hungry. Plantings are up, and protests are down. Roughly 90% of biotech crops worldwide contain a Monsanto gene, so the company is well-positioned to profit from this shift." (Business Week)

"FDA Warns of Misleading Labels On Genetic Modification in Foods" - "The Food and Drug Administration, trying to douse one of the hottest trends in food retailing, is warning Hain Celestial Group Inc. and five other natural-foods companies that they are misleading consumers with labels touting products as free of genetic modification." (Wall Street Journal)

"Agresearch applies to develop human proteins in cows' milk" - "The crown science company Agresearch is seeking approval to develop human proteins in cows' milk. Agresearch has lodged an application with the Environmental Risk Management Authority (Erma) to develop human therapeutic proteins in the milk of transgenic cows. Agresearch general manager, science, Paul Atkinson, said today the application would seek approval to transfer transgenic embryos to conventional recipient cattle housed in a secure containment facility. On maturity, it was hoped the resulting transgenic offspring would express therapeutic proteins in their milk." (New Zealand Herald)

"Brazil GM-Free Corn Exports Seen At Record" - "Brazil's record corn harvest of 42 million tonnes this season and its reputation for banning genetically modified crops have pushed the country's corn exports to all time highs, independent grains analysts Safras e Mercado said Wednesday." (Reuters)

"GM Soy Planting In Brazil Said To Be Spreading North" - "Natural food buffs may find it increasingly hard to buy non-genetically-modified soy products in Brazil, one of the world's few major soybean producers that still officially bans GMOs. Brazil's ban hasn't stopped GMO seeds from being smuggled in from neighboring Argentina - where more than 90% of the soy crop is genetically-modified - but illegal planting on the Brazilian side of the border was thought until recently to be limited to the southern part of the country. This, however, may no longer be the case." (Dow Jones via AgBioWorld)

December 20, 2001

"Fatwa on Obesity Carries No Weight" - "The surgeon general of the United States has hit the American people with a public health bombshell: Being too fat can be bad for your health. David Satcher vows that he will launch a campaign against girth that is equivalent to the one the office launched in 1964 against smoking." (Brian Doherty, LA Times)

"Wine fights heart foe" - "Indulging in a little fine Cabernet Sauvignon this Christmas could well do you good. Red wine blocks a cellular compound thought to be a key factor in heart disease, a new study finds, bolstering claims that red wine carries more health benefits than other alcoholic beverages." (Nature Science Update)

"'No payoff' from increased drinking" - "Men who increase their drinking in the hope that it will protect them from heart disease increase their risk of death from other causes, says a study. The authors say there is no justification for persuading non-drinkers, or those who drink only occasionally, to slightly increase their consumption. The benefits of moderate alcohol consumption are well-documented - a reduction in the risk of death from heart disease. However, no-one has ever checked to see if changing your drink habits to take advantage of this actually yields any benefit whatsoever." (BBC Online)

"The Pill, Heart Risk Linked" - "BOSTON -- The latest generation of birth control pills appears to carry a smaller risk of heart attack than its predecessor, a Dutch study found. The study of 1,173 women found that those who took second-generation pills had 2 1/2 times the heart attack risk of other women. But women who took the current, third-generation pills had essentially the same risk as other women, according to findings published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine." (AP)

"Lynx hairs, lies and spin" - "The U.S. Forest Service offers a preposterous explanation for how planted lynx hairs became part of survey samples gathered to set policy in two national forests. The loudest howls of outrage ought to come from conservation groups because the integrity of federal processes used to justify controversial decisions has been mugged. Supposedly, seven government employees from the Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife independently decided to test the accuracy of lab procedures; the spin is that the incident was spontaneous inspiration, not collusive mischief." (Seattle Times editorial)

"Western lawmakers want biologists fired" - "Western lawmakers yesterday called for the firings of federal wildlife biologists for planting false evidence of a rare wildcat in two national forests." (Washington Times)

"Endangered salmon increase very good news" - "A 14-FOLD increase in the numbers of endangered salmon the past five years has set off a ring of euphoria across California among the few who have learned of it." (San Francisco Chronicle)

"WHO Cares?" - "The World Health Organization cares more about its own life than the lives of the poor." (Brian Doherty, Reason)

"New car drivers exposed to toxic emissions" - "New car headaches may involve more than minor warranty problems. Research by CSIRO has found high levels of air toxic emissions in new motor vehicles for up to six months and longer after they leave the showroom. Dr Steve Brown, head of CSIRO's Air Quality Control research says, "Just as air inside our homes and workplaces is often much more polluted than the air outside, so sitting in a new car can expose you to levels of toxic emissions many times beyond goals established by Australia's National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC)." (CSIRO release)

"Shareholder Attack on ExxonMobil's Climate Policy Gets Big Boost" - "A campaign against the stance of the world's largest oil company on global warming received a major boost Tuesday when a veteran leader of the corporate accountability movement introduced a shareholder resolution calling for the board of ExxonMobil to rein in its controversial top executive and chairman, Lee Raymond. Robert A.G. Monks--founder of the leading United States corporate-governance consulting firm, Institutional Shareholder Services, Inc. (ISS)--announced the move, charging that Raymond's "increasingly extreme position" on global warming and other environmental and social issues was harming the company's reputation and share values." (OneWorld US)

"Mild winters cause of bird population recovery" - "Wildlife experts say an increase in the numbers of many of Britain's breeding birds could be the result of a succession of mild winters. A survey by the British Trust for Ornithology, with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and the RSPB, has been in operation since 1994. The 2000 results are published in the latest edition of BTO News." (Ananova) | British birds stage patchy recovery (BBC Online) | Long decline of Britain's wild birds may be over (Independent) | Warmer winters boost bird numbers (The Scotsman) | Good weather fails to help the skylark (Telegraph) | Number of wild birds climbing skyward again (The Times)

"Flickering sun switched climate" - "The flickering sun may cause rapid climate change, according to a new comparison of climate records. A 200-year cold snap 10, 300 years ago seems to have coincided with a passing slump in the sun's activity." (Nature Science Update)

Sigh... "Here comes the rain" - "EVEN just a degree or two of greenhouse warming will have a dramatic impact on water resources across western North America. Teams who have modelled the climate in the area are warning of greatly reduced snowpacks and more intense flooding as temperatures inch up during the 21st century.

It's the first time that global climate modellers have worked so closely with teams running detailed regional models of snowfall, rain and stream flows to predict exactly what warming will do to the area. The researchers, from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, and elsewhere, were surprised by the size of the effect generated by only a small rise in temperature. (New Scientist)

"VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT; December 18, 2001 Vol. 2, No. 46" - "With Michael Powell’s December 17th story headlined "Northeast Seen Getting Balmier," The Washington Post bids for a place alongside such potential tabloid gems as "Bin Laden Is My Alien Baby," "Santa Busted In Christmas Eve Breaking and Entering Spree," and "Cleveland Fans Win Good Sportsmanship Award." (GES)

Just for a little contrast: "Adelaide's cool start to summer equals 37-year-old record" - "Adelaide has had one of the coolest starts to summer on record. For the first time this month, Adelaide's maximum temperature was today higher than 30 degrees Celsius. The maximum temperature to 3pm was 33.6 degrees. For the first 18 days of December this year, daily maximum temperatures did not reach 30 degrees. The average maximum temperature for the period was only 22.8 degrees - 4 degrees below the long-term average of 26.8 degrees for December. The last time this occurred was in December 1964, when, for the first 18 days, the maximum daily temperatures was below 30 degrees. The average temperature for the whole of December 1964 was only 21.4 degrees. The coolest start to summer on record was in 1907, when the first 19 days of December remained below 30 degrees." (BOM release)

"Sun fails to burn off a cool record" - "You would think the last people to be wagering on Melbourne's weather would be the weathermen. But yesterday they were going "toe-to-toe" over whether the temperature would stay low enough to break a record that has stood for 145 years: the longest wait for a 30-degree summer day. The previous record was set in December, 1856, when Melburnians had to wait for the first 18 days of summer before 30 degrees Celsius (or 86 Fahrenheit, as it was known then) was reached." (The Melbourne Age)

Tasmania, too, has set a record cold start to the southern summer season. What do all these 'records' mean? Actually, nothing much - about as little as parts of the northern hemisphere enjoying a mild start to winter.

"Build toward Kyoto goals: panel" - "An advisory panel to the minister of economy, trade and industry proposed Monday taking a staged approach toward a target of reducing green house emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. Japan is required to reduce emissions that cause global warming by 6 percent from 1990 levels by 2012, and a subcommittee under the Industrial Structure Council has been examining ways to achieve the target. In its interim report, the advisory panel calls for reviewing the effect of emission-cutting measures and the level of emissions every three years before 2008 to decide whether further action is necessary." (Japan Times)

"Japan Eyes Ethanol to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions" - "TOKYO - Japan, under pressure to cut greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming, is considering introducing a policy of blending ethanol with gasoline to reduce automobile emissions. Industry officials say use of the bio-fuel in Japan, if mandated by the government, would create a big export opportunity for ethanol-producing countries like Brazil." (Reuters)

"Implementing Kyoto Protocol requires two-stage approach" - "We all know that we have to implement measures as swiftly as possible to protect the ozone layer and prevent global warming--the most pressing environmental issues on the globe. But when it comes to actually taking action, it becomes clear that the two issues are a trade-off, meaning that steps to solve one problem only serve to exacerbate the other. It is not easy, and it requires enormous effort to solve the situation." (Daily Yomiuri)

"Southern ocean iron may have come from the depths, not the atmosphere, researchers conclude" - "WASHINGTON - Scientists believe that increases in plant life in the Southern Ocean are associated with increases in iron, which acts as a fertilizer, in the ocean water. This "Iron Hypothesis" was put forward a decade ago by the late John Martin. Iron is usually in short supply but, according to Martin, could have been delivered in greater amounts via dust falling into the ocean during intervals between glacial periods. Two researchers from Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) now cast doubt on dust as the principal source of iron and propose an alternative source of iron in the Southern Ocean. (American Geophysical Union)

?!! "India: Bt Cotton Fiasco: Stepping Onto A Booby Trap" - "ISN'T it like sending a soldier to the battle front and then ask him not to use the latest sophisticated assault rifle,'' a British radio journalist asked me the other day. He was referring to the Government's initial decision to burn down the illegally-grown genetically modified cotton on some 10,000 acres of farmland in Gujarat. ''It would certainly be tragic to deprive a soldier of the latest weapon. But it will be more sinister and criminal to provide the soldier with an AK-47 gun and then deliberately make him step onto a 'booby' trap,'' I replied, adding that Bt cotton containing a gene from a soil-borne bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is an attractive biological trap, more potent than the toxin it produces that kills the dreaded bollworm pest." (Devinder Sharma, Business Line)

"SCIENTISTS SAY MEXICAN BIODIVERSITY IS SAFE; Concerns About Cross-Pollination Unfounded" - "Auburn, AL, December 19, 2001 - Following allegations that genes from biotechnology-improved crops have been found in varieties of corn grown in Mexico, scientists around the world are re-affirming that Mexico's biological heritage is safe and that biotechnology will actually protect biodiversity, not harm it. "Organizations with vested interests and hidden agendas have used these tenuous claims and a campaign of hysteria to discredit modern biotechnology," said C.S. Prakash, a professor of plant genetics at Tuskegee University and president of the AgBioWorld Foundation." (AgBioWorld)

"Corn growers third annual survey shows more elevators requiring GMO segregation" - "In releasing the results of their third annual survey of U.S. grain elevators, the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) reports that over half of the elevators surveyed are requiring segregation of GMOs from non-GMO varieties either upon arrival at the elevator or on the farm. Almost 20 percent reported offering premiums for non-GMO corn or non-GMO soybeans. The survey included 1,149 grain elevators in 11 mid-western states." (Media Release)

"Philippines Biotechnology Bt Corn Field Tests Show Increased Corn Yield" - "According to a new GAIN report by USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service Bt Corn field tests during the wet season revealed an average yield increase of 40 percent over traditional corn varieties on top of additional savings as a result of reduced pesticide applications." (USDA Foreign Agricultural Service via AgBioWorld)

"Europeans Want Right to Choose on GMOs" - "A Europe-wide survey indicates that 94.6% want to have the right to choose whether to eat GM food or not. The Eurobarometer survey, which addressed a wide range of issues on science and society, also indicated that 85.9% wanted "to know more about this kind of food before eating it", and a similar proportion (85.8%) said that GM foods should only be introduced if it is scientifically proven that they are harmless." (Agbiotechnet via AgBioWorld)

"Vic government says no to GM zones" - "The Victorian Government has rejected the idea of setting up genetically-modified free zones within the state. A GM Free Zone is a designated area where genetically-modified organisms are not permitted in any form." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Green Light For First GM Food Crop To Be Produced in South Africa" - "Government has given the green light for the first genetically modified (GM) crops to be produced and sold in South Africa for human consumption, and is planning a huge public awareness campaign to allay consumer fears about GM food." (Financial Mail)

"Activists Say US and Argentina Using Pressure to Push GMO" - "WASHINGTON, Dec 18 Environmentalists worldwide have accused the United States and Argentina - two large agricultural exporters - of bullying small nations that have prohibited or proposed to prohibit the import of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)." (IPS)

December 19, 2001

As those who follow this site would be aware, I'm quite sparing when it comes to awarding 'Big J' JunkScience.com awards. However, some candidates simply select themselves:

J "Fox River PCB cleanup plan inadequate, toxicologist reports" - "The cancer rate due to eating fish contaminated by PCBs is roughly equal to the cancer rate experienced by individuals who smoke two to three packs of cigarettes a day, says a toxicologist commissioned by citizens groups concerned about polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in Wisconsin's Fox River and Green Bay.

President and CEO of the national organization Citizens for a Better Environment, Dr. Jeffery Foran was hired by Clean Water Action Council on behalf of a coalition of local and regional citizen groups. His task was to evaluate the health risk assessments used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for planning the cleanup of PCBs in the Fox River." (Environmental News Network)

Reminder: Dr Renate Kimbrough, who's initial small study on rodents raised possible concerns over PCBs has since done much more comprehensive studies following a huge cohort of workers chronically exposed to PCBs for an average of 31 years, some with blood serum levels 300-600 times higher than the population norm, and found "there was no association between PCB exposure and deaths from cancer or any other disease, including heart attacks and strokes." She further states "The findings in our study should come as no surprise to much of the medical and scientific community because they are consistent with the finds of four other earlier studies conducted by other researchers of workers in the same plants."

Fear mongering with 'clusters': "HOT SPOTS: CANCER CLUSTERS PROMPT FEAR" - "CONCERNS have been expressed that cancer spots exist across the country. The huge BP oil refinery at Grangemouth has long been of concern to nearby residents and with the addition of fears that chemicals are also spreading across the area from Kilroot power station near Belfast, the region has been dubbed a "death corridor" by environmental campaigners." (The Scotsman)

II "Missing link in child cancer" - "CONCERNS over a rise in childhood cancer highlight the uncertainty about how environmental factors play a part in triggering the disease. Among other possibilities, chemical plants, power stations and waste dumps have been blamed for cancer clusters and seem to be likely causes, according to experts. However, no absolute proof has been found. Dr Richard Dixon, head of research at Friends of the Earth Scotland, claimed it could take generations to find out how the clusters are formed." (The Scotsman)

"Gun Makers Must Face Municipality's Claims for Cost of Violence; State court judge allows suit to proceed" - "The first state court in New Jersey to rule on whether gun makers can be sued for the costs of gun violence has held that the case can go forward, at least in part.

Essex County Superior Court Judge Arthur Minuskin ruled Dec. 11 that the city of Newark, N.J., could proceed with causes of action grounded in negligence and nuisance, albeit not on product liability or unjust enrichment claims, against more than 15 companies that produce and distribute handguns.

Minuskin also found he had jurisdiction over claims against two Connecticut-based trade associations, National Shooting Sports Foundation Inc. and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute Inc., based on their advertising, soliciting, lobbying and use of mass media in New Jersey." (Law.com)

"Jury: Pfizer drug did not cause woman's death" - "HOUSTON, Dec 18 - A jury on Monday found that the prescription drug Rezulin did not contribute to the death of a diabetic woman who died in January 2000, Pfizer Inc., whose subsidiary Warner-Lambert made the drug, said. The verdict, in District Court in Harris County, was the first jury decision in litigation involving thousands of claims against the diabetes drug Rezulin, including current trials in Liberty, Missouri, and Corpus Christi, Texas. The drug, now withdrawn from the market, has been blamed in 63 liver-failure deaths worldwide between 1997 and 2000." (Reuters)

"Power lines 'increase cancer risk'" - "Prolonged exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) from electricity power lines doubles the risk of childhood leukaemia, a major international study has found. However, the scientists found no evidence that EMF exposure was linked to an increased risk of suicide, reproductive problems, heart disease or cancer in adults." (BBC Online)

They didn't find that EMFs cause childhood leukaemia either.

Hmm... even The Indy declined to beat this up: "Doubt over power line link with childhood leukaemia not proved" - "Strong electric fields from overhead power lines might be doubling the risk of childhood leukaemia in some families, a study shows. Although the scientists established a link between electro- magnetic fields and childhood leukaemia they do not believe there is enough evidence to confirm that power lines actually cause the disease." (Independent)

"Study Links Emissions, N.J. Cancer" - "TOMS RIVER, N.J. -- A six-year, $10 million government study of high cancer rates among children in this central New Jersey community found that contaminated well water and air emissions from a chemical factory were linked to some leukemia cases." (AP)

"Causes of Many Kinds of Cancer in Toms River Are Still Mysterious" - "TOMS RIVER, N.J., Dec. 18 — The residents came to the high school this evening hoping to hear reassuring certainties from state and federal scientists who have examined local fears that the community's high rates of childhood cancers were caused by pollution from industrial sites here.

What they got was the carefully hedged finding that only one kind of cancer might be due to contaminated wells and industrial air pollution, and the conclusion that no explanation exists for the other cancers that have stricken children in this shore town.

"No single environmental factor appears to be responsible for the elevated rates of cancer that were found in Dover Township over recent years," said Jerold A. Fagliano, the scientist from the State Department of Health and Senior Services who led the six-year, $10 million study. The findings were formally released here tonight." (New York Times)

"Samuel Broder, MD, Reflects on the 30th Anniversary of the National Cancer Act" - "Thirty years ago, confidence in US science and technology soared. A victory in the space race and two decades of steady economic expansion drove expectations for US achievement ever skyward. Philanthropist Mary Lasker saw an opportunity to turn these resources against the scourge of cancer. With Texas Sen Ralph Yarborough and other proponents, Lasker spearheaded a movement to establish a sweeping national campaign against cancer." (JAMA, Vol. 286 No. 23, December 19, 2001)

"Study: newspapers biased on mammography" - "PHILADELPHIA, Dec 18 - Women who look to newspapers for information about breast cancer may be getting a distorted picture about the value of routine mammograms for those in their 40s, a study released on Monday found. Researchers scrutinized the accuracy of 225 articles about mammography that appeared between January 1990 and July 1997 in six US dailies--USA Today, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and Houston Chronicle. What they found was that newspaper coverage was twice as likely to cite recommendations advocating regular screening for women ages 40 to 49, a group for whom the effectiveness of mammography for breast cancer is still being debated." (Reuters)

"Health site drkoop.com to declare bankruptcy" - "SANTA MONICA, Calif. - Troubled Internet company drkoop.com Inc. announced Monday it is shutting down and will liquidate its assets. The site, started in Austin, Texas, in 1997 by former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop and others, had hoped to find new financing, but the company said Monday it has run out of money and will declare bankruptcy. The company said it will ask a court-appointed trustee to sell its assets to satisfy its creditors. Shareholders, who have seen the value of the stock plunge from $45 soon after it went public, to pennies per share before it was delisted earlier this year, will likely not receive anything, the company said." (AP)

"Some say science must restrict access to research data" - "A blueprint for constructing an anthrax bomb. A recipe for making anthrax resistant to antibiotic treatment. The formula for how to turn a mouse virus into a killing machine. All these potential terrorist weapons are available to any member of the public who knows where to look. Perhaps never before has the flow of scientific information been so free - or so potentially frightening. The rise of the Internet, coupled with the end of Cold War-era security precautions, has made an unprecedented amount of detailed biotechnology research available to scientists and potential terrorists alike. Now, federal agencies and scientists themselves are trying to impose more secrecy and control over the burgeoning biotechnology field, concerned that the research might fall into the wrong hands." (Boston Globe)

"Biomedical Journals Ponder the Failures and Remedies of Peer Review" - "Barcelona - In the modern era of evidence-based medicine, medical journals and those who oversee them provide a critical bridge between research and practice. The soundness of this bridge has been under the scrutiny of editors of biomedical journals, researchers, and others who convened here for the Fourth International Congress on Peer Review in Biomedical Publication, looking for ways to ensure that the process of peer review provides essential quality control in the publication of new research findings.

The study of peer review and scientific publishing is a young and evolving field that comprises research on the editorial practices of biomedical journals - "a new science," in the words of Drummond Rennie, MD, a deputy editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), who chaired the meeting, which was sponsored by JAMA and the BMJ Publishing Group. And like any fledgling field, peer review is experiencing predictable growing pains as those who practice it attempt to uncover flaws and devise ways to improve the process." (JAMA)

"3rd Circuit Reverses New Jersey Environmental Racism Decision" - "In what may be its most important civil rights decision handed down this year, a divided panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held Monday that 42 U.S.C. § 1983 cannot be used to enforce a federal regulation "unless the interest already is implicit in the statute authorizing the regulation." (Law.com)

"That new smell can drive you to illness" - "IT'S true: New cars do smell new. And what's more, they could make you sick. CSIRO scientists have sniffed out a cocktail of volatile organic compounds in a two-year study of the cabins of new cars. Some pongs are so strong they can bring on headaches, nausea and drowsiness.

The smells come from organic compounds, released into the air from a heady combination of fresh plastics and glue. People most vulnerable to its effects appear to be those who are most sensitive to smells generally. Queensland allergy specialist Dr Graham Solley said many people were sensitive to a range of aromas – from cigarette smoke to the fumes from perfume. But he said he did not believe the new car smell would be a major problem." (The Courier-Mail)

"Lung infection may lead to asthma, study finds" - "CHICAGO, Dec 18 - A lung infection that is a common cause of pneumonia can persist even after recovery from the illness and may lead to chronic asthma, researchers said Monday. A study of mice infected with the bacterium Mycoplasma pneumoniae, a common cause of respiratory infection in people, found signs of the infection in the animals' lungs as long as 18 months later, with many developing the type of bronchial constriction associated with asthma attacks. "We speculate that Mycoplasma pneumoniae may be able to establish long-term infection in children and adults that leads to wheezing long after the initial respiratory infection has resolved," lead researcher Robert Hardy of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas said in a statement. From eight to 18 months after the test mice were infected, researchers found they had inflamed lung tissue similar to that in asthmatics and also detected the immune protein interleukin-4 in their blood, an immunological marker often found in asthmatics." (Reuters)

"Researchers call for summer clothing to be given UV protection factor ratings as many fabrics offer inadequate protection" - "A new study published in BMC Dermatology reveals that, contrary to popular belief, many articles of clothing offer little protection against ultraviolet light, exposure to which is linked to the development of skin cancer." (BioMed Central)

"Lynx count a hair off? Fur flies over fake find" - "U.S. Forest Service officials leapt into damage-control mode yesterday after a disclosure that federal and state employees on Washington public lands had sent bogus lynx-hair samples to a lab." (Seattle Times)

Here we go again: "U.N.: 2001 Temperatures to be High" - "The Earth's temperature in the year 2001 is expected to be the second highest since global records began 140 years ago, the U.N. weather agency said Tuesday. ``Temperatures are getting hotter, and they are getting hotter faster now than at any time in the past,'' said Michel Jarraud, the organization's deputy secretary-general. Nine of the 10 warmest years in the last four decades have occurred since 1990, he said." (AP) | This Year May be Second Warmest on Record (Earth Policy Institute) | 2001 the Second Warmest Year on Record (ENS) | 2001 'warm, but no record' (BBC Online) [ I've been known to sledge the Beeb's Alex Kirby quite severely in the past but, with tags like the 'Far from extraordinary' perspective in this piece, Alex continues to lead the Beeb away from the sensationalist junk environmental reporting of which it has recently been so guilty. A tip o' the hat to ye Alex - Ed. ] | 2001 to be world's second hottest year (Independent)

See also the pretty (* bizarre / meaningless / highly distorted / deceptive / imaginative / ... [* choose any]) release and graphics: Global temperature second warmest on record (WMO); Global temperatures (CRU) and Sea level rise (UNEP)

Curiously, WMO and CRU are still using the 1961-1990 average for calculating their anomaly. What's curious about it? The US has the best financed and maintained data collection and collation service on the planet - click here for a graphic of US mean temperatures 1880-2000 - and note that you'd need to go back to the 1901-1930 average to find a lower figure than 1961-1990. Why haven't they updated to the 1971-2000 average yet?

WMO and CRU also claim to be using air temps but their measure is certainly in serious disagreement with satellite MSU readings for the troposphere. The last time I captured a NASA GHCC Global Temperature Anomaly graphic was September and it certainly doesn't suggest the year's anything to write home about.

"Penguins 'could abandon' Antarctic" - "New research suggests Adelie penguins may abandon the Antarctic Peninsula if temperatures continue to increase. Scientists studying fossilised penguin remains near Britain's Antarctic base at Rothera say there were far fewer Adelie penguins here during warmer periods in the past.

"Most of Antarctica has been warming at about the same rate as the global average, about two thirds of a degree Celsius over the 20th Century," [Dr David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey] said." (BBC Online)

Really? Not the impression gained from Antarctic Base temperature tracks. (Courtesy John Daly, Still Waiting For Greenhouse) Still, comforting to know that penguins happily survived periods when it was warmer than it is now, I guess.

"Industrial Age Leading to the Greening of the Earth?" - "Summary: I've said it before, and I'll say it again: yes, it is. In fact, even members of the media are beginning to acknowledge that fact, although somewhat grudgingly, of course, for it's hard to switch horses in the middle of a race ... especially when you thought the finish line was a destination called Kyoto." (co2science.org)

"Solar Forcing of Little Ice Age Climate" - "Summary: A GCM with a new twist has recently reproduced several aspects of reconstructed climate change between 1680 and 1780, when solar irradiance is believed to have experienced a small but important increase in intensity. Does this finding encourage us? Not really. Science 294: 2149-2152." (co2science.org)

"Urban Heat Island Effects Appear to Inflate U.S. Coastal Air Temperature" - "Trends Summary: A comparison of century-scale air and seawater temperature trends along both the east and west coasts of the United States reveals the presence of growing urban heat island effects in these maritime regions. Geophysical Research Letters 28: 3935-3937." (co2science.org)

"Radical Climate Changes Independent of Atmospheric CO2 Concentration" - "Summary: They've happened before, and they can happen again. Where? Right where climate prognosticators claim CO2-induced climate changes should be strongest and most evident, which means (1) nothing unusual - much less "unprecedented" - has happened to the climate of this region over the past century, and (2) there is no compelling reason to blame the historical rise in the air's CO2 content for the rather mediocre - and totally normal! - temperature fluctuations that have occurred. EOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Union 82: 601, 607." (co2science.org)

Not a bad piece from National Geographic News: "Is Warming Causing Alaska Meltdown?" - "Alaska's glaciers are retreating, reports glacial geologist Bruce Molnia. Significant glacier retreat, thinning, stagnation, or a combination of these changes characterizes all 11 mountain ranges and three island areas that presently support glaciers." (National Geographic News)

"Scientists seek global warming clues in sheep's belches" - "Sheep are playing their part in a bid to cut New Zealand's contribution to global warming by more than 10 per cent. AgResearch scientists have fitted the sheep with devices to measure the amount of methane they let out when they belch. Methane released by New Zealand's 45 million sheep and 8 million cattle accounts for 44 per cent of locally produced greenhouse gases, which trap heat in the atmosphere." (New Zealand Herald)

"Focus turns to profiting from carbon constraint" - "While many business groups have come out against ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, the Business Council for Sustainable Development is focusing on the opportunities it presents to make or save money. The council has started a climate change project, co-sponsored by the Ministry of Economic Development, to identify business opportunities in a "carbon constrained" economy. These opportunities may arise from reducing costs by improving energy efficiency or cutting emissions of greenhouse gases in other ways." (New Zealand Herald)

Environment & Climate News December 2001 is now available (Heartland.org)

"Safety fears over herbal remedy" - "A popular herbal remedy could be removed from shelves across the UK following fears over its safety.

It follows the withdrawal of the product in Germany and reports that it has been linked with six cases of liver failure and one death on mainland Europe." (BBC Online)

Amazing isn't it? Some people obsess over the possibility of harm from tested and reviewed biotech-enhanced foodstuffs while consuming completely unknown quantities such as the above precisely because they contain (or are believed to contain) biologically active compounds. Don't know which compounds, don't know what quantity or quality variance may have occurred with varied growing conditions but it must be OK because it's 'natural.' Go figure!

"Study Finds Biotechnology Answer to Hay Fever" - "CHICAGO - A man-made antibody that binds to and blocks the action of the natural antibody involved in allergic reactions has proven effective in combating hay fever, scientists said on Tuesday." (Reuters) | JAMA Editorial

"INTERVIEW - Argentine GM crop area to grow by 1.5 mln hectares" - "BUENOS AIRES - Argentine crop area planted with cost-cutting genetically modified (GM) seeds will rise 1.5 million hectares to 11.44 million hectares in the 2001/02 season, the head of an international biotechnology group told Reuters in an interview." (Reuters)

"Biotech Companies Trying to Milk Cloning for Profit" - "Three firms, including Advanced Cell Technology, hope to change the way farm animals are bred, but the industry faces hurdles. First came Dolly, the cloned Scottish sheep that stirred debate in 1997. Then came Second Chance, a Texas-born cloned Brahman bull. Now a small herd of cloned livestock is moving from laboratories to farms--and closer to American dinner tables. Cloning is becoming a business, though it has generated few, if any, profits." (Los Angeles Times via Genetics News)

"Expression of GFP and Bt transgenes in Brassica napus and hybridization with Brassica rapa" - "The green fluorescent protein (GFP) can be used to monitor the movement of transgenes from transgenic plants to wild relatives. In their study, Halfhill and colleagues used transgenic, insect resistant canola and wild relatives as a model system." (Theor. Appl. Genet. via Bio-Scope)

"US pressures Brussels on modified crops imports" - "The Bush administration is stepping up pressure on the European Commission to approve imports of a dozen crops made with genetically-modified organisms, warning that a continuation of the moratorium could escalate into a serious trade dispute." (Financial Times via Agbios)

"Virginia Tech researchers join NSF Arabidopsis 2010 Project; may help produce plants that defend themselves without pesticides" - "Understanding the functions of the genes in the plant Arabidopsis could help with research in the fields of agriculture, medicine, and energy; and Virginia Tech researchers have received a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Arabidopsis 2010 Project Program to help understand those genes." (Media Release)

December 18, 2001

"Defense Bill Authorizes Continued Vieques Bombing" - "WASHINGTON, DC, December 17, 2001 - A planned referendum on the future of Navy training on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques will be canceled by the 2002 Defense Authorization bill reported by the U.S. House and Senate this week. The measure, which maintains live fire training on the island indefinitely, was denounced by the protest groups who have risked arrest to block the Navy's exercises." (ENS)

"Killing a Painkiller; The OxyContin hysteria inflicts pain" - "Last May a Kentucky physician reported that a former patient, a paraplegic with severe chronic pain, had killed himself. The man's new doctor, alarmed by official warnings about the prescription painkiller OxyContin, had drastically reduced his dose, leaving him in agony.

Stinginess with pain medication is not a new phenomenon. For decades pain experts have complained that many doctors are so worried about getting into trouble with state regulators or the Drug Enforcement Administration that they err on the side of letting patients suffer. The federal government's ongoing crackdown on OxyContin, egged on by a year of hysterical press coverage, is bound to make the problem worse." (Jacob Sullum, Reason)

Diagnostic and/or reporting artefact? "Children's cancer rises by one third" - "MORE children are being diagnosed with cancer, scientists announced yesterday, prompting concern that infections and environmental factors are to blame. The Cancer Research Campaign (CRC) has uncovered a "creeping rise" over the last 45 years in cases of brain cancer, leukaemia and germ cell tumours, some of the most common cancers in children. Environmental campaigners warned the use of chemicals that pollute the environment must be phased out in order to tackle the problem. The current rate of brain cancer in UK children is 36 per cent, higher than it was in the 1950s, while the rate of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) has gone up by a third." (The Scotsman)

"Antimicrobials in the production of farm animals - the Danish perspective" - "Currently in the United States, there is a keen debate about the desirability of banning the use of antimicrobial growth promoters (AGPs) in farm animal production. On the one hand, medical researchers and regulators believe that there is now convincing evidence that the use of antimicrobials in animal production is one factor contributing to the development of antimicrobial resistance in pathogens which infect humans. On the other hand, representatives of the farming and animal health industries take the opposite view and point to the problems a ban on the use of AGPs would cause for those in farm animal production. Attention is drawn to the fact that in Denmark where AGPs are no longer used there was a 30% increase in the amount of antimicrobials used to treat animals in 2000 compared with the previous year." (Press release)

"Owners may pass drug-resistant bug to their pets" - "CHICAGO, Dec 17 - An antibiotic-resistant bacterium largely limited to hospitals has been identified in domestic animals, some of which probably caught the bug from their owners, according to a new report." (Reuters Health)

"Scientists examine CJD 'link' to polio vaccine" - "Senior Government advisers sought to head off a potential public health scare yesterday after two people with the human form of BSE were found to have shared the same batch of polio vaccine. Although the two victims of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) both took the oral form of the vaccine, made using bovine blood, scientists believe the cases are a coincidence. Professor Peter Smith, chairman of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (Seac), revealed that an investigation by scientists has failed to find evidence of a link between other cases of vCJD and the polio vaccine." (Independent) | Link to polio vaccine is ruled out in CJD 'cluster' (Telegraph) | Two vCJD deaths linked to vaccine | Polio doses 'very unlikely' to be a risk for past recipients (The Times)

"Rare lynx hairs found in forests exposed as hoax" - "Federal and state wildlife biologists planted false evidence of a rare cat species in two national forests, officials told The Washington Times. Had the deception not been discovered, the government likely would have banned many forms of recreation and use of natural resources in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Wenatchee National Forest in Washington state. The previously unreported Forest Service investigation found that the science of the habitat study had been skewed by seven government officials: three Forest Service employees, two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials and two employees of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The officials planted three separate samples of Canadian lynx hair on rubbing posts used to identify existence of the creatures in the two national forests." (Washington Times)

"Study finds pregnancy makes dads gain weight" - "CANBERRA, Dec 17 - First-time dads-to-be are prone to put on weight and reach for the bottle during their partner's pregnancy rather than after the baby is born, according to an Australian study documenting a form of male "prenatal depression." A 3-year study by the Adelaide-based Flinders Medical Centre (FMC) found that, on average, men put on 3.5 pounds and one in seven started to drink a dangerous amount of alcohol before the baby's birth to counteract stress and less sex." (Reuters)

"Kitchen air pollution risk revealed" - "The health of young children is at risk from the air pollution in kitchens caused by gas cookers. A new study for the British government reveals that safety guidelines for nitrogen dioxide recommended by the World Health Organization are breached in most homes that cook with gas." (New Scientist)

Gasp! Energy-efficient (read: poorly ventilated) dwellings suffer comparatively poor indoor air quality!

"Apples, selenium may lower asthma risk: study" - "NEW YORK, Dec 17 - A new UK study links intake of apples and the mineral selenium to a lower risk of asthma, suggesting that certain antioxidants may protect the lungs from disease. Antioxidants help neutralize damaging forms of oxygen that arise from normal metabolism. These free radicals are unstable compounds that can damage cells and are thought to contribute to chronic disease. Researchers have speculated that antioxidants may protect lung health, including lowering the risk of asthma. But studies on antioxidants like vitamins C and E have produced conflicting results. And even less is known about other antioxidants, such as plant compounds called flavonoids and trace minerals like selenium, according to Dr. Seif O. Shaheen and colleagues." (Reuters Health)

It's silly season: "Conservationists fear for future of wildlife as winters get warmer" - "WINTER could be wiped out altogether, with longer warmer autumns and earlier springs already threatening the existence of wildlife and habitats throughout Britain, according to a new survey by a prominent conservation charity. With the prospect of any real wintry weather diminished by global warming and climate change, the Woodland Trust has found that many natural events previously associated with spring are now happening before Christmas." (The Scotsman)

and getting sillier: "Northeast Seen Getting Balmier; Studies Forecast Altered Scenery, Coast" - "NEW YORK -- New England's maple trees stop producing sap. The Long Island and Cape Cod beaches shrink and shift, and disappear in places. Cases of heatstroke triple. And every 10 years or so, a winter storm floods portions of Lower Manhattan, Jersey City and Coney Island with seawater. The Northeast of recent historical memory could disappear this century, replaced by a hotter and more flood-prone region where New York could have the climate of Miami and Boston could become as sticky as Atlanta, according to the first comprehensive federal studies of the possible effects of global warming on the Northeast." (Washington Post)

"Forest investment fund extends offer" - "A highly-publicised venture to raise more than $200 million for investment in Australian native trees has been forced to extend its share offer by six months. Hancock New Forests Australia is seeking minimum subscriptions of $10 million from large companies interested in forest and carbon credit investment." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

World Climate Report Volume 7, Number 8, December 24, 2001 is now available.

"Vital climate research destroyed by fire, say scientists" - "A fire at a British research laboratory in the Antarctic has dealt a significant blow to research into the world's understanding of climate change. An electrical fault was identified as the most likely cause of the blaze that destroyed the £2m laboratory at the Rothera Station in September. Scientists prepared yesterday to restart studies in the harsh environment around the South Pole. The British Antarctic Survey (BAS), which analyses climate change and its effects on marine life off the Antarctic Peninsula, said a rebuilt Bonner Laboratory would be fully operational by the end of 2003 but the fire had interrupted its extensive research programme." (Independent)

Hmm... Professor Paul Rodhouse, the head of the biological sciences division of BAS, said: "If this season is one in which a major trend takes off or is pivotal in some way, clearly it would be more difficult to interpret what went on."

"German retail power bills seen up 6 pct from January" - "FRANKFURT - German householders will have to pay an average six percent more for their electricity from January 1, 2002, the VDEW industry association said yesterday, citing tax increases." (Reuters)

"Scientists Seek Ways to Rebuild the Body, Bypassing the Embryos" - "Human embryonic stem cells may not be the only source of tissue needed to repair damaged organs. Alternative approaches from the mundane to the exotic are being explored to avoid the ethical controversy surrounding embryonic stem cells. Those cells are obtained by destroying human embryos, which some people view as human life. Still, it may be hard for the alternative approaches to measure up to the potential of embryonic stem cells, which have two attributes that make them attractive for regenerative medicine." (Andrew Pollack, New York Times)

"A Thick Line Between Theory and Therapy, as Shown With Mice" - "Dr. Brigid Hogan has never worked with human embryonic stem cells — her expertise is with mouse cells. But patients with virtually every sort of chronic disease have found her, and they plead for help. "I even hear from patients whose fathers have lung cancer," said Dr. Hogan, a professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. "They have a whole slew of problems they think can be treated. They think stem cells are going to cure their loved ones of everything." If it ever happens, it will not happen soon, scientists say. In fact, although they worked with mouse embryonic stem cells for 20 years and made some progress, researchers have not yet used these cells to cure a single mouse of a disease." (Gina Kolata, New York Times)

"Colombia allows creation of transgenic animals" - "Colombia has become the second South American country — after Brazil — to introduce regulations permitting the application of genetic engineering techniques to animals." (SciDev.Net)

"Scientists milk animals for malaria vaccine" - "In their quest to mass-produce an effective malaria vaccine, scientists might one day replace expensive manufacturing facilities with a goat. In a study reported December 18 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online, researchers developed mice that could secrete an experimental malaria vaccine into their milk. When the purified candidate vaccine was injected into monkeys, it protected four out of five animals from a lethal dose of the malaria parasite. If the process can be scaled up to larger animals such as goats -- and early experiments indicate it can -- livestock might prove to be inexpensive, high-yield malaria vaccine factories.

“A vaccine must not only be effective, it must be cheap to manufacture if it is to be used in those countries hit hardest by malaria,” says lead author Anthony Stowers, Ph.D., a malaria researcher at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). “Using transgenic animals to achieve both ends is an exciting possibility. If it works, a herd of several goats could conceivably produce enough vaccine for all of Africa.” (NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

"Global Adoption of Biotech Crops Is Increasing Rapidly" - "According to a new report by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) an estimated 3.5 million farmers from industrial and developing countries derived multiple and significant benefits from 44.2 million hectares (109.2 million acres) of transgenic crops in 2000." (CropBiotech Net)

December 16-17, 2001

"Air Pollution Harmful to Babies, Fetuses, Studies Say" - "A growing body of research from around the world indicates that smog is exacting a much greater toll than previously known on infants and unborn babies. Scientists have long known that the extreme levels of air pollution found in the developing world can harm babies, and that lesser pollution in U.S. cities can sicken or kill the elderly and infirm. The new research shows that the harmful effects of dirty air can extend even into the womb. More than a dozen studies in the United States, Brazil, Europe, Mexico, South Korea and Taiwan have linked smog to low birth weight, premature births, stillbirths and infant deaths.

A UCLA study conducted by Ritz and scheduled for release Dec. 28, for the first time links air pollution and birth defects in Southern California." (LA Times)

Hmm... so far, no one's come close to a cause and effect relationship and the UCLA epidemiologic study has yet to be released. I guess that means this story is another "pollution-caused" premature birth.

"To S. Africa, risky DDT again a malaria miracle" - "Toxic insecticide, back in use, succeeds in fighting disease." (Baltimore Sun)

Yes, DDT is toxic (to insects). Yes, DDT is a dazzlingly efficacious human health-aid. Yes, DDT is a must-have for Third World countries.

"PCBs labelled `non-hazardous'" - "RESIDENTS are concerned that dangerous chemicals entering the Brookdale waste-treatment plant are labelled "non-hazardous". Photographs taken this week show drums of polychlorinatedbiphenyls on the back of a truck travelling along Waterworks Rd, Forrestdale. They are labelled "Non-hazardous waste. Low-level PCB-contaminated transformer oil". It has been illegal to manufacture PCBs for almost 20 years in Australia because of evidence that they can cause cancer." (Western Australian Sunday Times)

Same old media nonsense. While massive doses of PCBs can cause cancer in rodents there's no evidence of human harm from exposure to these low levels. Dr Renate Kimbrough, who's initial small study raised possible concerns over PCBs has since done much more comprehensive studies following a huge cohort of workers chronically exposed to PCBs for an average of 31 years, some with blood serum levels 300-600 times higher than the population norm, and found "there was no association between PCB exposure and deaths from cancer or any other disease, including heart attacks and strokes." She further states "The findings in our study should come as no surprise to much of the medical and scientific community because they are consistent with the finds of four other earlier studies conducted by other researchers of workers in the same plants."

Here we go again: "Agent Orange Suits Still Viable, 2nd Circuit Says" - "Seventeen years after a class action settlement intended to end lawsuits over Agent Orange, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that two Vietnam veterans may sue companies that made the product." (Law.com)

"EPA seeks advice on pesticide testing" - "WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency has sought the assistance of science advisers to determine whether it should use industry data gathered from human tests to help set limits on pesticide levels in food and water. The EPA last month said it has been looking at human testing in three or four cases. Physicians and environmentalists have criticized the practice, saying it would encourage pesticide makers to conduct more human tests in order to win approval of their products." (AP) | E.P.A. Reconsiders Human Tests of Pesticides (New York Times) | EPA Calls for Pause in Pesticide Tests on Humans (Washington Post)

"Wealthier children at more risk of diabetes" - "Children in affluent areas with few incomers are at the greatest risk of getting diabetes. Researchers have found a much higher likelihood of childhood diabetes in communities where there is little change in the population mix.

Children who are exposed to incomers, or who move to new areas, are also exposed to different types of infections, which challenge their developing immune systems, making them more robust, the researchers believe. Increased social mixing in the first year works in the same protective way, they said.

The research, the first of its kind, may explain the growing incidence of the condition. It suggests that diabetes, like asthma and eczema which are also on the rise, can be explained by the hygiene hypothesis: that in the modern world, growing immune systems are no longer challenged enough." (Independent)

Today's 'Henny Penny' item: "They come from outer space" - "Worried about an asteroid strike destroying our planet? Well, you should be, says Ian Brown. Scientists believe the danger is all too real." (Independent)

"Solarium skin cancer fear" - "CANCER experts are worried that a huge increase in the popularity of solariums will bring higher skin cancer rates. The number of solariums in Melbourne has grown 650 per cent in five years, Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria figures show. The study found there are 171 registered solarium outlets, not including solariums in beauty salons, hairdressers and gyms. The council is also concerned about data showing a surprising rise in the number of Victorians who are trying to get a tan. Its survey found 22 per cent of people are trying to tan, 5 per cent more than last year." (Melbourne Herald Sun)

"The answer isn't in the wind" - "ANTI-NUCLEAR campaigners must have been delighted by the claims in last week's New Scientist magazine that the Government is about to pull the plug on nuclear power. A leaked draft of the review, commissioned earlier this year by the Prime Minister, was said to concede that nuclear power is too dangerous and expensive, and should be phased out in favour of renewable energy sources. Campaigners should brace themselves for a big disappointment when the report finally emerges next year. For far from recommending the abandonment of nuclear power, the leaked report speaks of the need to keep open the option of nuclear power." (Robert Matthews, Sunday Telegraph)

"Blair wants UK to keep nuclear power" - "Tony Blair will this week order the Government to keep open the option of building a new generation of nuclear power stations, despite receiving a report calling for much more investment in green sources of energy. He and Energy minister Brian Wilson are determined not to close down nuclear energy in Britain, and will draw on passages in the report – prepared for him by his own Performance and Innovation Unit – that support this. Environmentalists, citing selective leaks from the report, claimed last week that it condemned nuclear power, and would finish off the industry in Britain. In fact it is more balanced and says that "policy should keep the nuclear option open". But it recognises that, at present at least, nuclear power plants are likely to be too expensive to be built." (Independent)

"46 charged after protesters storm nuclear facility" - "Police have charged 46 people with trespass after this morning's Greenpeace protest at Sydney's Lucas Heights nuclear reactor. The Greenpeace activists broke into the site early this morning in what police describe as a well planned and well executed action." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"German renewable energy groups slam econ min report" - "FRANKFURT - German renewable energy associations criticised Economics Minister Werner Mueller's recent report that described the promotion of green energy sources as an economic burden." (Reuters)

"Sour Climate Surrounding German Ecology Subsidies" - "BRUSSELS. The outcome of the conflict between the German government and the European Commission's cartel office over Germany's controversial ecology tax and its conformity with EU subsidy regulations hinges on two factors, according to the Commission's general director for competition, Alexander Schaub.

The German government must do a better job of proving the ecological advantages of industry's self-imposed accord to take measures for climate control, Mr. Schaub said in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "The German arguments do sound plausible. Still, we need concrete figures," he said.

The second, and more important, prerequisite is an effective monitoring and sanction program in order to be able to control and ensure that the fulfillment of climate control goals are actually being met, Mr. Schaub said. The climate control accord must clearly state that the claim to tax breaks would be invalidated should industry not achieve its goals for reducing carbon-dioxide emissions, he said." (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)

"Alaska's glaciers shrinking rapidly" - "Most of Alaska's glaciers have been shrinking in a meltdown that began at least two centuries ago and appears to be accelerating, according to a new comprehensive study that drew on thousands of historical and scientific sources." (Anchorage Daily News)

New items posted on Still Waiting For Greenhouse

"Keeping cool on global warming" - "Q. WHAT ARE you chuckling at?

A. This news story. Apparently satellite photos now confirm that the polar ice caps are shrinking and the planet's temperature is increasing. As more carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, more of the sun's heat is getting trapped. If it keeps up, the global climate change will be enormous.

Q. And you find that funny? What human beings are doing to the planet is tragic!

A. What are we doing to Mars?" (Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe)

"'Winter flowers' worry Greens" - "Genetically modified oil seed rape plant being grown at a Scottish test site is flowering abnormally early, according to the Green Party. The controversial crop is being grown at Roskill Farm near Munlochy, on the Black Isle in north east Scotland. Green MSP Robin Harper said he is going to ask the Scottish Executive why it has flowered in winter instead of spring. The list MSP said he was concerned the plant was flowering early because of genetic instability." (BBC Online)

"Benefits From EU's Upbeat Line, No Need For GM-Free Zone" - "Thai food exporters are likely to gain from the European Union's policy to open its market to genetically modified products. Charuayporn Tantipipatpong, the president of Thai Pineapple Canning Industry Corporation, said the EU's acceptance of genetically modified food as safe would make consumers more confident about the products. Thai food makers would benefit as they used some imported ingredients that had been modified. In some cases, the process used in modifying ingredients had reduced the chemical residue." (Bangkok Post)

"China GM Cotton Acreage Doubles-ISAAA" - "SINGAPORE, Dec 14 - The amount of land in China used to grow genetically modified (GM) cotton doubled to three million hectares (7.4 million acres) in 2000 over the previous year, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) said on Friday." (Reuters)

"New Zealanders want more information on GE" - "Almost half of New Zealanders say they are uninformed about genetic modification, while most of the remainder say they are 'just informed' according to research commissioned by the Ministry for the Environment. The research, which was conducted before the Government announced its response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, was designed to help the Ministry understand people's knowledge of genetic modification, whether they would like to know more about it, and how they would like to receive information." (New Zealand Herald)

December 15, 2001

For the sake of a vague and unsupported hypothesis: "U-turn over tonsil operations" - "The government has been forced to make a u-turn on the use of re-usable surgical instruments for tonsil and adenoids surgery. They had originally been withdrawn in January because doctors feared there was a theoretical risk of transmission of variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (vCJD) from re-usable surgical instruments. However, following the change surgeons, found more patients than before were being harmed during surgery. There was even one death linked linked to single-use instruments." (BBC Online)

Dishonor among shakedown merchants? "New York Firm Accused of Intimidating Clients in Fen-Phen Litigation" - "A New York law firm has come under attack by disgruntled fen-phen plaintiffs who charge the firm persuaded thousands of plaintiffs to opt out of the 1999 global class action settlement, struck a secret deal with American Home Products and then intimidated its clients to settle for far less than was promised.

According to a law suit filed Tuesday on behalf of 5,600 plaintiffs in the Southern District of New York, Napoli, Kaiser, Bern & Associates convinced diet drug users the settlement with American Home was inadequate, and that the plaintiffs would receive far more if their cases were handled individually.

"Their campaign led people to believe that the national class-action settlement was horribly under-funded, and that they would recover larger sums of money if they would allow NKB to represent them," said Seattle attorney Steven Berman, of Hagen Berman, in a press release. Berman filed the suit along with New York's Lovell & Stewart." (Law.com)

"EPA Considers Accepting Human Tests of Toxics" - "WASHINGTON, DC, December 14, 2001 - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering accepting studies involving human testing of toxic substances such as pesticides. In a letter released today, the agency asked the National Academy of Sciences to review the scientific and ethical issues posed by studies that use human subjects to identify or quantify toxic effects." (ENS)

"Fish out of drinking water but fleas are in: that's ethics" - "Not even the health of 4 million people overrides the special rights and privileges that come with having a backbone. That is why one of the most important jobs that the Sydney Catchment Authority delegates to the animal kingdom may be transferred to an invertebrate." (Sydney Morning Herald)

"Latex Allergy Not an ADA Disability, Federal Jury Finds" - "In a verdict that is sure to grab the health care industry's attention, a federal jury found that a nurse's allergy to latex does not qualify as a disability for purposes of the Americans with Disabilities Act because her symptoms can be completely controlled by simply avoiding latex and taking prescribed medications." (Law.com)

Here sabre-toothed kitty cat... "Lions, tigers and bears as pets?...Oh my!" - "NEW YORK, Dec 14 - Keeping exotic pets can be very dangerous hobby, a report in a recent issue of The Journal of Trauma demonstrates. In the report, doctors from LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah describe two men seriously injured by a lion and a camel, respectively." (Reuters Health)

Apparently, some people need keepers. Parenthetically, emus (large, flightless Australian birds) don't "deliver babies," the hens lay eggs which are incubated exclusively by the cockerels. Just what the cited restaurateur was trying to do when the camel lay on him remains a mystery.

Once again flaunting the Law of the Sea, engaging in piracy and international terrorism: "Greenpeace disrupts Japan whalers" - "Greenpeace vessels have been involved in a standoff in the Antarctic with Japanese whaling ships in an attempt to disrupt the planned killing of 400 minke whales." (BBC Online)

"LARGE VOLCANIC ERUPTIONS HELP PLANTS ABSORB MORE CARBON DIOXIDE FROM THE ATMOSPHERE" - "New NASA-funded research shows that when the atmosphere gets hazy, like it did after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines in June 1991, plants photosynthesize more efficiently, thereby absorbing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere." (GSFC)

So... atmospheric CO2 is rising because we've made the air... too clean? Interesting predicament for the rampant greenies since they've made such a deal out of CO2 - maybe they're now going to campaign for haze, sue to overturn the Clean Air Act perhaps?

"Adult Amazon Trees Gain Mass, Puzzle Scientists" - "Research has shown that mature forest trees in the Amazon have gained in size over the last 20 years, but scientists aren't sure what's causing it. Nor do they know what affect it might have on global warming, although tropical forests in the Amazon are an important component in the global climate and water cycle." (National Geographic News)

Let's see... atmospheric CO2 has risen; plants thrive under conditions of CO2 enrichment; Amazon trees are... plants? Gee, this is a puzzle!

"Antarctic mud reveals ancient evidence of global climate change" - "Scientists concerned about global warming are especially troubled by dramatic signs of climate change in Antarctica - from rapidly melting glaciers to unexplained declines in penguin populations. Records show that average winter temperatures are 10 degrees higher in parts of Antarctica today than they were 50 years ago. If that warming trend continues, say many climate experts, the vast Antarctic ice sheets could melt, causing catastrophic coastal flooding as the world's oceans rise.

But new geologic evidence unearthed from deep-sea mud deposits strongly suggests that Antarctica experienced periods of extreme warming and cooling long before the invention of the automobile. "We've got a sedimentary record that reveals very significant changes in water temperature and ice melt during the past 7,000 years," says Robert Dunbar, professor of geological and environmental sciences at Stanford. "The cause of these highly variable climate changes is still a mystery." (Stanford University)

"News Flash! We’re In For ‘NAS’ty Weather" - "A couple of days ago, the New York Times blared out in a dramatic headline that “Drastic Shifts in Climate Are Likely, Experts Warn.” It was a classic piece of virtual risk ecohype, emulated widely by other newspapers, such as the Washington Post, as well as scores of television news stations around the U.S. You will notice at once that the climate change involved has to be “drastic,” it is, moreover, “likely” -- although no immediate date is given -- and that they are “expert” Cassandras who are calling the shots." (Philip Stott, Tech Central Station)

"‘NAS’ty Report Cuts Kyoto Off at the Knees" - "Nothing has undercut the Kyoto Protocol limiting carbon dioxide emission from industrial countries like the latest report from the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises. The trite headlines in media coverage hint at the report’s nature, e.g., “Drastic Shifts in Climate Are Likely, Experts Warn” (New York Times). This title is as newsworthy as the banal “Blizzard Buries Boston.” (Dr. Sallie Baliunas, Tech Central Station)

"Scientists Unsure of Absorption" - "SAN FRANCISCO - Scientists are uncertain how much of the carbon dioxide given off naturally each year within the North American ecosystem is reabsorbed by that system, complicating calculations of the net effect of human activities on emissions of the greenhouse gas. The calculation is important because it establishes a baseline to gauge incremental sources of carbon dioxide - namely that produced by the burning of fossil fuels, scientists said Thursday at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Stating outright whether North America is a source or sink is currently ``problematic,'' said Pieter Tans, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist." (AP)

Alas, poor Germans... : "Germany passes law to do away with nuclear power" - "BERLIN - The parliament approved a plan Friday to shut down Germany's 19 nuclear power plants within 20 years, the final hurdle for a pledge Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder made to the environmentalist Greens party. The law, signed by Schroeder in June, was passed by the lower house of parliament with votes from the coalition government of Schroeder's Social Democrats and the Greens. It does not need approval in the upper house. The leading opposition party, the conservative Christian Democrats, had argued that eliminating nuclear energy would force Germany to use dirtier power sources." (AP)

December 14, 2001

"The Feds: Terrorizing With Fat" - "The federal health nannies worry we’re too fat. So the Surgeon General this week issued a "call to action" against overweight and obesity. "Thin is in" no longer is the slogan of a hip lifestyle—it’s government policy. But "thin" also describes the science and rationale behind the federal offensive against the American paunch." (Steven Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"Surgeon General warns obesity may overtake tobacco as leading preventable killer" - "WASHINGTON - Calling for changes in policies - from schools to the fast-food industry, the surgeon general warned Thursday that the nation's obesity epidemic has gotten so bad it soon may overtake tobacco as the leading cause of preventable deaths. Some 300,000 people a year die from illnesses directly caused or worsened by being overweight. The toll threatens to wipe out progress fighting cancer and heart disease, and could even exceed cigarettes' harm, Surgeon General David Satcher warned." (AP)

Today's revelation: "Poorer children miss out on healthy food" - "About two million children in the UK are living in families who cannot afford to eat healthily, says a report. Low income families know what healthy food they should buy but many struggle to afford even the basics, according to the charity Child Poverty Action Group." (BBC Online)

"Scots think healthy food is 'boring and tasteless'" - "Healthy eating is making people miserable. Research carried out in Scotland for the Food Standards Agency found that people think of healthy eating as being regimented, boring, and tasteless. The agency said that the findings are important and should be used to develop new methods of encouraging the public to eat better. In particular, it would like to see greater emphasis placed on highlighting the life enhancing benefits of a healthy diet rather than the more negative message about restricting choice to certain types of food. (BMJ News Roundup)

Book Review: "The Precautionary Principle" - "Indur Goklany is one of the nation's foremost authorities on risk assessment. His book, "The Precautionary Principle" applies risk assessment to three major environmental issues, DDT, Genetic Engineering and Global Warming." (Conservative Monitor)

"ActivistCash Revealed" - "As we've promised, we have unveiled our new website, ActivistCash.com. Here's what one journalist had to say:

"Activist groups, even though most receive non-profit status and must file with the IRS, have been reluctant to let anyone see their records," The Wall Street Journal's Kimberley A. Strassel writes this morning. "But now, thanks to a new Web site called ActivistCash.com, the average U.S. citizen can finally get the lowdown on the financial and organizational operations of many major activist groups in the country.

"ActivistCash.com, unveiled yesterday, is run by the Guest Choice Network, an organization of 30,000 restaurant and tavern operators. The Guest Choice Network has become a front line defense against today's nanny culture. Or, as its first Web site -- nannyculture.com -- puts it: 'Unofficially we include anybody who stands up against the growing fraternity of food cops, health care enforcers, vegetarian activists and meddling bureaucrats who "know what's best for you." ' The site offers, among other things, information on junk science and food scares.

"Now, however, the group has gone further. Over the past year it has used freedom of information laws to get the IRS documents of the country's leading activist groups -- more than 100,000 pages of information the activists hope Americans won't see."

Some examples:

  • People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is using a private foundation called the Foundation to Support Animal Protection to funnel as much as $432,000 to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), another animal rights group. PCRM in turn promotes itself incorrectly as a medical organization.
  • Media mogul Ted Turner does more with his money than pay salaries for the Atlanta Braves. His own grant-making foundation lavishes over $40 million per year on activist groups including those who advocate confrontation with police.
  • Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) claims to be "entirely supported by tax-deductible contributions from people like you." But the F.M. Kirby Foundation has poured $440,000 into ASH in recent years to promote extreme anti-smoking regulations.
  • The Ben and Jerry's Foundation has given $10,000 to Mothers for Natural Law, a radical anti-food-technology group operated by disciples of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
  • The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, a Minnesota-based activist group, has accepted a $75,000 grant from the Foundation for Deep Ecology for -- and we quote -- "a campaign to end industrial agriculture."
  • The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) repeatedly attacks groups for taking funding for research. But CSPI took $50,000 from the Helena Rubenstein Foundation to fund an attack campaign against the fat substitute Olestra.

"The next time Americans get a flyer or a phone-call asking for a donation," writes Strassel, "they'd do well to spend a few minutes on ActivistCash.com." (GuestChoice.com)

Peta's telling porkies again: "Britney's nude performance" - "NEW YORK: Britney Spears is the latest star to take off her clothes for the cameras in support of an anti-fur campaign. The singer is to pose for a poster for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta). Spears, 20, agreed to take part in the I'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur campaign after coming under fire from Peta for using a tiger in one of her stage acts." (Sydney Daily Telegraph)

but: "Spears will not strip" - "POP vixen Britney Spears, who markets herself to teens as a sex kitten and to their parents as a dedicated virgin, has not agreed to shed her clothes to aid an anti-fur campaign, her spokeswoman said. Kasteler accused the group of spreading false information." (AAP)

Today's joke: "Global warming: WWF expert tells it like it is" - "Have difficulty getting your head around global warming? Join the club.
For the past few weeks, I have been researching climate change and the Kyoto Protocol. My discoveries gave me pause -- but not about climate. What surprised me was that so many people, scientists and environmentalists alike, were unable to explain the issue in clear, concise terms.

One notable exception was Richard N. Mott, vice president of World Wide Fund for Nature in the United States. Rather than tell you what he told me, I'll let him tell you himself, because he says it so well. Below are the highlights of our discussion." (Stephen Hesse, Japan Times)

In Hesse's defence, he did have a fair stab at a balanced article a few days earlier: The climes they are a-changin' (Stephen Hesse, Japan Times)

and here's another: "Physicians Call on Bush to Take Urgent Climate Action; Administration Must Work to Craft New Energy Policy, PSR Says" - "WASHINGTON, Dec. 12 -- With the release of the latest in a line of National Academy of Sciences (NAS) reports dating back to the 1972 that warn of the potentially devastating environmental and health effects of global climate change, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), called on President Bush today to take urgent action to prevent a climate catastrophe." (U.S. Newswire)

"Philosophy 101: Global Warming Myths vs. Empiricism" - "I think it's time to re-examine the concept of “global warming” more philosophically.

Weather and climate change every second, of every minute, of every day, of every week, of every year, of every decade, of every century, of every millennium, of every eon. There is no such thing as a stable, or “sustainable,” climate. Temperature is accordingly never static; it is always either rising or falling." (Philip Stott, Tech Central Station)

"The past says abrupt climate change in our future" - "San Francisco – Past climates changed abruptly, suggesting that abrupt changes in the future will also occur, according to a Penn State geoscientist. "When we look at records of the past, climate often changed abruptly rather than smoothly," says Dr. Richard B. Alley, the Evan Pugh professor of geosciences at Penn State. "This is true wherever and whenever you look."

Alley, who is currently chairing the National Academy of Science Committee on Abrupt Climate Change: Science and Public Policy, told attendees today (Dec. 13) at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Association in San Francisco, that while studies of ice cores, sediments and other relics of the past indicate these abrupt changes, the models currently used by those predicting the future of climate change do not do a good job of simulating abrupt changes in the past.

"If we look at what we know about climate, there is much we don't understand," says Alley. "However, we do know that abrupt change occurred in the past." (Penn State)

"VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT December 13, 2001 Vol. 2, No. 45" - "We heard the news, this week, oh boy. "The vast reshaping of the environment by modern civilization raises the chances of sudden and drastic upheavals in the climate, a panel of experts warns," writes The New York Times. The Washington Post chimes in, "While recent climate change studies have focused on the risks of a gradual rise in the Earth’s temperature, a new National Academy of Sciences report has concluded that greenhouse gases and other pollutants could trigger large, abrupt and potentially disastrous climate changes."

Such were the leads in press coverage of a just-released National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report entitled "Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises." A member of the NAS committee responsible for the report told us, "The intent of the report was to draw attention to a common field of interest [abrupt climate changes] so that they could raise awareness enough to generate some funding support. It was not meant to stir up the global climate change debate." (co2andclimate.org)

"Business likely to bear costs of 'green' energy" - "Tony Blair's long-awaited energy review is to call for a six-fold expansion in windfarms and other renewable sources, with businesses and households expected to meet the bill. The draft report, seen by the Financial Times, will say that one-fifth of Britain's electricity should be produced from "green" sources by 2020. It concludes that household power bills could rise by up to 6 per cent - with rises of up to 12 per cent for commercial customers - to meet the cost of cutting emissions of greenhouse gases." (Financial Times)

"Mad in Britain" - "Quem Juppiter vult pedere dementat prius" (Number Watch [scroll down for item])

"Blair warned on carbon cuts" - "The UK will probably have to make large cuts in carbon emissions by 2100, a leaked report says. The report, on future energy prospects, was commissioned by the Prime Minister, Tony Blair. A final draft, seen by BBC News Online, calls for a much bigger role for renewable energy. It also recommends keeping open the option of nuclear power to meet the country's needs." (BBC Online)

"Nuclear power may rise again" - "Anti-nuclear campaigners in the UK believe they may finally be scenting success. The latest support for their cause, they believe, is the energy review commissioned by the Prime Minister, Tony Blair. They say the leaked final draft of the review suggests that nuclear power could lose all public subsidies. But there are signs that the government is in fact warming to the nuclear option. A report in the magazine New Scientist says the review dismisses nuclear power as too dangerous and expensive, and believes it could be phased out by 2050. However, the executive summary of the review, which was sent to BBC News Online, says something quite different." (BBC Online)

"Agrobacterium genome sequence is complete" - "A combined public and private team of microbiologists has completed sequencing the genome of the plant pathogen Agrobacterium tumefaciens. This bacterium has become an essential tool for plant research and biotechnology, and researchers continue to seek ways of harnessing its infectious processes to bio-engineer plants for societal benefit." (National Science Foundation)

"US, EU Disagree On How To Label Biotech Foods" - "BRUSSELS -- The U.S. has a suggestion for Europeans worried about genetically modified foods: Buy kosher. That, at least, was the gist of a suggestion floated this week as U.S. diplomats struggled to discredit a European Union draft law that would subject all foods containing ingredients produced with the help of modern biotechnology to onerous testing and labeling." (Dow Jones Newswires)

"IATP Report: Yield Gains Don’t Pay for Bt Corn" - "The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) has released a study they say reveals Bt corn losses farmers money. The study states that over the last six years, farmers who planted Bt corn have lost $92 million – or about $1.31 per acre, according to farm-level economic analysis.

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) says they reject the conclusion of the report, saying economics rule in corn production and U.S. growers wouldn't use a technology that doesn't give a positive return on investment." (AgWeb.com)

"Positive Impacts of Crop Biotechnology Outlined at Entomology Meeting" - "At the Entomological Society of America (ESA) annual meeting, being held in San Diego, California this week, researchers identified major factors determining impacts of biotechnology-derived corn and cotton on the environment and grower choice." (AgWeb.com)

December 13, 2001

"Fat ruled disability for flyers" - "CALGARY -- An airline passenger who sparked a debate on whether being fat is a disability is delighted with a ruling that requires each case to be decided on merit. Linda McKay-Panos said that Wednesday's decision by the Canadian Transportation Agency "is a significant victory for obese people."

Although the federal panel ruled that obesity isn't a disability -- at least not in a overall sense -- it decided there is evidence some obese individuals do have a disability for purposes of the Canada Transportation Act." (CP)

"Vaccines breed viciousness" - "Inadequate vaccines can the encourage emergence of nastier bugs, placing the unprotected at risk, a new mathematical model shows. The effect could undermine future vaccination programmes. Many vaccines save people from dying of a disease, but do not stop them carrying and transmitting it. Over a few decades this may cause more virulent strains to evolve, predict Andrew Read and his colleagues of the University of Edinburgh, UK. In some situations, such as in areas endemic for malaria, deadlier disease strains could kill more people than vaccination saves. "Most of the time the benefits [of vaccination] will be eroded," says Read." (Nature Science Update)

"Autism and MMR link not proven, say experts" - "AUTISM is far more common than was previously thought and affects at least one in 166 children under the age of eight, according to a Department of Health funded report published yesterday. But the review found no convincing evidence that the disorder is on the rise in Britain or that it is linked to the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. Instead, doctors and parents may have become more aware of autism in recent years and be more willing to diagnose the condition in children who would previously have been labelled "mentally retarded." | Reasons to doubt MMR (Telegraph)

"Researchers: Autism Is More Common Than Thought" - "LONDON - Autism is more common than previously thought and affects up to six in every 1,000 children in Britain, researchers said in a report on Thursday." (Reuters)

"Don't starve this BSE research of vital funds" - "At the end of this month the money runs out for a research programme that must rank as one of the most important in medical science today. It examines the real cause of BSE in cattle; it challenges the theory that eating contaminated meat leads to CJD; and it suggests the remarkable possibility of a link between both these diseases and multiple sclerosis (MS), which kills 800 people in Britain every year." (The Times)

"EU citizens to shape environment policy" - "The European Commission has agreed measures to improve public participation in the development of EU environmental policy through electronic media. At today’s Environmental Council meeting, a directive was approved in cases where EU plans have "significant environmental impact" on the public. "Public participation in environmental decision-making needs to become a fully integrated part of administrative procedure", Environment Commissioner Ms Margot Wallström said." (Irish Times)

Well, certainly Joe Sixpack and Freda Aerobicsclass won't be able to make a more bizarre hash of it than the EC has done.

More Mittelstaedt hand-wringing: "Significant amounts of mercury, dioxin released, data show" - "Hundreds of companies, located in virtually all areas of the country, discharged significant amounts of mercury and dioxins onto their properties or into their surrounding communities last year, according to data released by Environment Canada. The two pollutants, some of the most feared byproducts of industrial activity, were emitted by power plants, incinerators, steel mills and a host of other facilities." (Globe and Mail)

"Local air pollution could be from Mongolian desert" - "SAN FRANCISCO - Thomas Cahill has a warning for Northern Hemisphere residents. Cleaning up polluters in your own part of the world won't guarantee you have clean air, he says. Nasty stuff can drift in from sources half way around the world - for example, the highest levels of arsenic in Nevada come from Mongolia." (Christian Science Monitor)

"International team returns from biggest-ever Antarctic research voyage" - "The largest-ever Australian Antarctic scientific expedition - a five-week study of the Southern Ocean's role in global processes - ends tomorrow with the return to Hobart of Australia's ice research ship Aurora Australis.

The voyage's wide-ranging study of changes over time to the ocean's physical and biological properties involved a traverse from the relatively warm waters near Tasmania to deep into the sea ice zone. Among its key findings:

  • The formation of dense, very cold "Antarctic bottom water" circulating through the world's oceans is aided by onshore flow of warmer water from the north. Data gathered on this voyage will allow the production rate of Antarctic bottom water to be determined.
  • The voyage confirmed a higher level of biological activity and abundance in the open ocean than previously thought, revealing north-south variations across different oceanographic zones.
  • Scientists found marked differences in production and degradation of methyl bromide, a "natural" ozone-depleting hydrocarbon, and found links between consumption of plant life by microscopic animals and the production of di-methyl sulfide (DMS), a gas that significantly affects the world's climate.
  • Iron, a key nutrient for Southern Ocean phytoplankton, or single-celled plants, was found to be scarce in both surface waters and sea ice." (Antarctic News)

It'll be most interesting to see whether the media pick up on just how much damage those few findings do to key assumptions in current climate models.

"Broken seesaw warms North" - The rise in levels of greenhouse gases has halted an oscillation of air pressures over the Arctic, bringing warmer, wetter winters to Northern Europe, Siberia and Alaska. The shift could get worse with increasing CO2 emissions, delegates heard this week at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, California. The trend is unlikely to have a natural cause, Nathan Gillett, a climate modeller at the University of Oxford in the UK, told the conference. "It is consistent with most climate models' response to greenhouse gases," he added." (Nature Science Update)

"LLNL scientists to present global warming mitigation tool for ridding the atmosphere of excess carbon" - "SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.—Researchers from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory today will present evidence that a new method for capturing carbon dioxide from power plants and placing it in the ocean has less impact on marine life than atmospheric carbon dioxide release or other global warming mitigation methods, such as direct injection and ocean fertilization.

LLNL earth scientists Greg Rau, Ken Caldeira and Kevin Knauss will showcase the research, called carbonate dissolution, today at the 2001 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The proposal would hydrate the carbon dioxide in power plant flue gas with water to produce a carbonic acid solution. This solution would be mixed with limestone — that neutralizes the carbon dioxide by converting it to bicarbonate — and then would be released in the ocean. This process occurs naturally (carbonate weathering), but at a much slower pace." (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

"Engineered strategies to mitigate global warming could influence biosphere" - "SAN FRANCISCO — Blocking the sun may not be such a cool way of counteracting climate change, scientists at the University of Illinois say. Potential effects upon the biosphere could be important to agriculture and forest production, and also could create secondary feedback mechanisms that may further change the climate.

A number of engineering schemes have been proposed as mitigation strategies for global warming, such as lofting reflective balloons into the stratosphere or erecting a huge parasol in orbit. By blocking some of the sunlight, these devices would create a cooling effect to offset the warming caused by increasing levels of greenhouse gases." (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

"Scientist: Moon Power Could Solve Energy Crunch" - "SAN FRANCISCO - With Earth's power consumption forecast to rocket to new highs in coming decades, one scientist is proposing a suitably far-out solution to the likely energy crunch -- power plants on the moon. Prof. David Criswell of the University of Houston's Institute for Space Systems said that lunar power plants that capture the sun's rays and send them on to Earth as concentrated microwave beams could provide inexpensive, abundant and stable energy for the Earth's growing population." (Reuters)

Not the stupidest idea hitched to the great global warming bandwagon, or the most expensive.

"Nuclear industry foiled by energy review favouring renewable sources" - "A big increase in nuclear power as an energy source for Britain is expected to be ruled out by the Government's forthcoming Energy Review. The magazine New Scientist claims today to have seen a final draft of the review, which will go to Tony Blair for approval in the next few days. And there is no sign in the document of a reported plan to build 15 new nuclear power stations. Instead, the review is likely to say that the best way to cut carbon pollution and tackle global warming is to replace oil and coal-fired power stations with renewable energy sources such as wind, wave and solar power." (Independent)

"Nuclear power is coming to its end" - "NUCLEAR power, for so long considered the energy of the future, is now disappearing swiftly into the past. The industry, currently supplying around a quarter of Britain's electricity demand, is expected to be cut off from the subsidies that protected it when the existing plants were built. Almost all of those are scheduled to shut down over the next 20 years. And if future nuclear power stations must pay their own way — and their clean-up costs — they are unlikely to be built." (The Times)

"Norway defends Arctic coal plan" - "Norway plans a big development of its coal industry on the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic. The proposal would mean about a threefold increase in the amount of coal mined there.

The development plan is the work of Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani (SNSK, the Great Norwegian Spitsbergen Coal Company). SNSK, a state-owned firm, has been mining coal on Svalbard since 1916, with an annual production ceiling of 400,000 tonnes. Under the plan production will rise to about 1.2 million tonnes a year, although SNSK says it needs to mine twice as much to make a profit.

WWF says the coal will be exported at a subsidised price to the European Union, and that by selling it Norway will be "actively working against implementation of the Kyoto Protocol" on climate change." (BBC Online)

"Scottish fossil fuel levy to be slashed" - "LONDON - Energy regulator Ofgem has said it would halve the fossil fuel levy in Scotland, which supports green energy schemes, because new measures are to be introduced to help fund the renewable power sector. The fossil fuel levy will fall to 0.6 percent in April 2002 from 1.2 percent at present, saving Scottish electricity consumers about nine million pounds a year, Ofgem said this week. The levy is a tax charged on domestic and industrial electricity bills with the proceeds funding green schemes which have higher costs than traditional generation." (Reuters)

"EU agrees ban on sulphur in petrol from 2009" - "BRUSSELS - European Union environment ministers agreed yesterday to ban sulphur in petrol completely from January 1, 2009, a move the oil industry says will cost billions of euros. The ban is part of the EU's strategy to reduce harmful pollutants and carbon dioxide from cars and requires all member states to introduce sulphur-free petrol and diesel from January 1, 2005. Four years afterwards, use of sulphur-free petrol will be mandatory in the 15-nation bloc. It is also planned to make sulphur-free diesel mandatory across the EU from 2009, but this is to be announced after a review by the European Commission, which is to be completed by December 2005 at the latest." (Reuters)

"U.S. is real peacemaker, not Kofi Annan" - "In Afghanistan, the war to liberate a people from the jackboot of theocracy is over. In Oslo, meanwhile, Kofi Annan accepted the Nobel Peace Prize and chided the Bush administration for infringing on civil liberties. What's wrong with this picture?" (Thomas Bray, Detroit News)

"Cloned monkey embryos are a 'gallery of horrors'" - "A high percentage of cloned monkey embryos that look healthy are really a "gallery of horrors" deep within, says a researcher at Advanced Cell Technology, the company that last month published the first paper on cloned human embryos. This could mean that there is something unique about primate eggs that will make cloning monkeys or people far more difficult than cloning other animals. At the very least, the experiments show that there's a lot to learn before primates can be cloned." (New Scientist)

"Rutgers helping Finns explore arctic microbes" - "NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, N.J. – A Finnish consortium aided by Rutgers has launched an $800,000, three-year project to mine the diverse, sturdy bacterial strains found in Finland's arctic region. Microbiologists suspect arctic Finland, a cold land of boreal forests and stark mountain tundra with long, dark winters, heavy snowfall and brief summers, may contain frozen biological bounty far more valuable than the region's current money-maker, the Santa Claus tourist trade. The group hopes to use the microbes' cold-loving biochemical powers to develop industrial processes and products, and to build a regional biotech industry." (Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey)

"U.S. says urgent for EU to end ban on new GM foods" - "BRUSSELS, Dec 12 - A senior U.S. official said on Wednesday it was ``urgent'' for the European Union to find a way to end a three-year-old ban on approvals of new genetically modified crops. ``We have been deeply concerned for over three years at the halt of the approvals process -- something that to our way of thinking is contrary to the EU's own regulations,'' Alan Larson, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, said." (Reuters)

"EU, U.S. At Odds Over Biotech Food" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium - Despite appeals from the United States for ``urgent'' action Wednesday, a top European Union official said it would probably be at least two years before the bloc lifts its moratorium on new biotech products. U.S. Undersecretary of State Alan Larson said the EU's 3-year-old ban on approving new biotech products for sale in Europe hurt not only U.S. farmers, but also Europe's own biotechnology industry and developing countries facing problems of hunger and malnutrition." (AP)

"Germany's Kuenast urges consumer choice on GM food" - "HAMBURG - German consumers should have a choice about whether they eat genetically-modified food, German farm minister Renate Kuenast said yesterday, opening talks about the possible commercial use of GM crops in the country. "Many consumers have reservations about the use of this technology," Kuenast said. Consumer choice means that GM food should be clearly labelled, she said. "At the same time, the rapid development and spread of this technology means there is a need to make political decisions about it." GM crops can be grown in Germany for research but commercial production is banned." (Reuters)

"Food Industry Opts Out of GM Labelling Costs" - "Major food processors have chosen to switch to using non-genetically modified ingredients in response to new labelling regulations rather than incur extra costs and risk possible negative consumer reactions. Laws requiring most products which contain GM ingredients to be labelled accordingly came into effect on Friday, but products with the new labels have yet to hit supermarket shelves." (Canberra Times)

"Transgenic Tobacco Detoxifies TNT" - "For more than 150 years, people around the world have made ample use of the explosive trinitrotoluene, otherwise known as TNT. Its use has had unintended consequences, however: the manufacture, storage and disposal of TNT—which ranks among the most toxic explosives employed by the military—have left large areas of land contaminated and polluted. So far, effective and affordable cleanup technologies have remained out of reach. But new research suggests that help may come from what might seem an unlikely source: the tobacco plant." (Scientific American)

"Europeans slowly accepting biotech food, official says" - "European consumers are likely to accept some of the biotech food products that they have vehemently rejected in recent years, but the change in attitude will come slowly, an administrator for the European Commission said Friday in Minneapolis." (Star Tribune)

"Innovation Challenges for the European Agbiotech Industry" - "The European seed and pesticide industries have gone through a period of great turmoil in the last decade of the twentieth century. Restructuring processes have been thoroughly influenced by the developments in plant biotechnology. Also, changes in the consumer market for food products and changes in government policies have led producers of plant protection products (PPPs) and producers of seeds to reconsider their innovation activities." (AgBioForum)

December 12, 2001

'Navel-gazing' of the day: "Bellybutton fluff more likely in older, hairy men: survey" - "Scientists have been doing a bit of navel gazing lately and it just goes to show, anything that can be studied, usually is. The results of an ABC Science Online survey has revealed that older, hairy men are more likely to have fluff in their bellybutton." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

Probably thought it was a maritime defence contract.

Hmm... well-balanced coverage from NS "US links fatal disorder to Gulf War service" - "Gulf War veterans are nearly twice as likely to develop Lou Gehrig's disease - a fatal neurological disorder - than military personnel who were not sent to the region, the US government said on 10 December.

The US Defense and Veterans Affairs departments compared medical data on almost 700,000 personnel who were in the Gulf during the 1990-1991 war with data on 1.8 million military personnel who were deployed elsewhere. They identified 40 cases of the disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), in the Gulf veterans, and 67 in the control group. "These findings are of great concern and warrant further study," said Anthony Principi, secretary of VA. Compensation will be paid to the victims and their families, he said.

But Richard Green of the UK's Motor Neurone Disease Association says the results may be nothing more than a statistical blip. "You would expect to find 33 cases of ALS in a group the size of the veterans group - and about 85 in a group the size of the non-Gulf War group," he says. "So you could also ask the question: why is the number of cases so low in the non-Gulf War group? "That is the problem with these kind of studies and these kind of statistics. You are dealing with such small numbers of cases that a handful of extra cases can distort the final figures." (New Scientist) | U.S. Reports Disease Link to Gulf War (New York Times)

"Study highlights cancer rates at plant" - "Higher than average rates of cancer have been found among workers and former employees at a National Semiconductor plant in Scotland. A study by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) at the company's plant in Greenock has suggested the higher incidence might be work related. However, the HSE said the results were inconclusive and that more research was needed to see if there was a work place link." (BBC Online)

"Another Study Showing Soy Fights Cancer " - "Preliminary results of an University of Missouri study indicate compounds found in high soy-based diets may help provide protection against prostate cancer. "We are looking to see if health-food products, particularly the ones that contain phytoestrogens, will have any effect on prostate cancer," said Dennis Lubahn, associate professor of Biochemistry, Child Health and Animal Science." (AgWeb.com)

Another, albeit preliminary, study suggesting health benefits from the consumption of weak hormone mimics - no great surprise and no argument, as chemical engines, humans ingest, recombine and utilise to advantage an extraordinary array of elements and compounds. It's how we live. We have also evolved effective techniques to handle toxic defences mounted by producer organisms, something we do pretty effectively, as evidenced by the fact we are still here despite only recently beginning to unravel the contents of that which we have collectively been consuming for thousands, if not millions of years.

Bizarrely, while touting the (frequently merely alleged) health benefits of phytoestrogens (estrogen-like compounds found in plants), some groups foment fear regarding the supposedly harmful effects of trace exposure to so-called 'endocrine disrupting' compounds. Coumestrol (a phytoestrogen) has an endocrine-modulating activity (as assessed by yeast-based estrogen receptor assay) about 1/80th the potency of estradiol (the primary human estrogen) while Bisphenol A (a chemical used in certain plastics and favorite activist target) rates about 1/15,000th and DDT (top of the chemical-haters' hit parade) rates a lowly 1/8,000,000th. We are struggling to demonstrate in vivo effect of compounds with 1/80th the potency of estradiol - how in the world did activist claims of dire risk of catastrophic human endocrine disruption from compounds whose endocrine-modulating activity is fully 5 orders of magnitude weaker again ever get any credence?

"‘You Dirty Rats’: Activists Jeopardize Biomedical Research" - "In mid-November Congress approved an agriculture spending bill that allows the US Department of Agriculture to start developing new rules to regulate the use of mice, rats and birds in scientific research. These creatures, roughly 30 million of them, represent 90 to 95 percent of the animals used in experiments annually and animal rights groups have long lobbied for their oversight. Biomedical groups for their part are against a new rule, insisting that it will merely spawn a lot of useless red tape while siphoning millions of dollars from research budgets." (Sally Satel, Tech Central Station)

"Hostile fire from eco-extremists" - "Which is more important: Well-trained Navy pilots or well-rested toads? Increased military preparedness or increased antelope populations? Improved bombing facilities or improved fairy shrimp habitats? The choice of environmental extremists, no-growth activists and NIMBY ("not-in-my-backyard") agitators across the country is clear. Even in wartime, this gang of greenies continues to put obscure plants, microscopic critters and sacred "open space" above their countrymen." (Michelle Malkin, Washington Times)

"Detroit Readies a Fresh Fleet Of Large, Gas-Guzzling SUVs" - "DETROIT -- With tensions rising in the Middle East, experts are wringing their hands about America's continuing dependence on foreign oil. Is this any time to prepare a new fleet of gas-guzzlers? Detroit certainly thinks so. Car makers plan to come out next year with a new generation of large SUVs that feature more-luxurious interiors, a better ride, fresh exterior styling and bigger engines." (Wall Street Journal)

"New GM SUV, the Hummer H2, irks environmentalists" - "DETROIT, Dec 11 - General Motors Corp. brags that its new Hummer H2 sport utility vehicle can surmount the most challenging off-road courses and go just about anywhere -- but don't expect to find it in the garages of environmentalists." (Reuters)

"Auto Firms Need New Strategy For Battle Over Fuel Economy" - "Watch out, Detroit. Your gas guzzlers are showing. Last week, while Attorney General John Ashcroft was getting grilled about military tribunals in one Senate hearing room, things were getting almost as hot for big auto makers in another part of the Capitol. Led by Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry, a group of senators from across the political spectrum climbed all over Detroit for failing to engineer trucks and sport utility vehicles to get better gas mileage." (Wall Street Journal)

Hmm... "Greenpeace claims anti-shale oil victory" - "Greenpeace has claimed a victory in its campaign to stop Southern Pacific Petroleum and Central Pacific Minerals (SPP/CPM) from developing Australia's oil shale industry. The group says that in a letter from BP, the company's Australasia Regional President Greg Bourne wrote that despite buying the first shipment of shale oil from SPP/CPM, we "currently have no interest in further purchases." (WorldOil.com)

"Greens see red as Norway plans Arctic coal mine" - "OSLO - Environmentalists yesterday slammed Norway's plan to increase coal mining from Arctic Svalbard, saying coal was the most polluting source of power and could damage the islands' fragile ecosystem." (Reuters)

"Eco-electricity has attracted only 4,000 customers" - "Only some 4,000 customers have elected to purchase eco-electricity, or environmentally friendly electricity. The price of eco-electricity has been deemed high by most consumers.

It has been calculated that there are some 2.9 million electricity customers in Finland, including corporations.

The weak demand for eco-electricity has surprised all the electricity companies that offer the alternative. One company reports that most interested clients are women aged 20-30, and that the extra price of FIM 120 on an annual level seems too much for most customers." (Helsingin Sanomat)

"Sweden sees Barseback reactor closure by end - 2003" - "STOCKHOLM - The Swedish parliament decided yesterday that the time was not yet ripe to close the Barseback 2 nuclear power reactor, but said the conditions required for its closure ought to be in place by the end of 2003." (Reuters)

"DOE Amends Rules on Nevada Nuclear Waste Site" - "The Department of Energy has changed the rules for a proposed permanent nuclear waste storage facility in Nevada so that the government no longer must prove that the site's underground rock formations would prevent radioactive contamination of the environment.

The new rule, which takes effect Friday, permits energy officials to rely on a combination of advanced storage containers and natural geological barriers to satisfy new, rigorous environmental standards for protecting ground water and the atmosphere from the release of dangerous levels of radioactive material.

DOE officials said yesterday they were justified in making the changes based on an extensive review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency, but Nevada's governor and attorney general accused the DOE of lowering standards to win approval for the long-debated Yucca Mountain storage site. They said they plan to challenge the new rules in court." (Washington Post)

Let there be light: "Scientists Warn of Climate Change" - "WASHINGTON - Scientists said Tuesday the earth's gradual warming from pollutants in the atmosphere could someday trigger climate changes so abrupt that people and ecosystems may have trouble adapting. A report by the National Research Council likened the climatic effect of global warming to increasing pressure from a finger flipping on a light switch." (AP)

"Drive on Soot Could Slow Global Warming - Expert" - "SAN FRANCISCO - Greenhouse gases are blamed by many scientists for contributing to global warming, but at least one researcher says the real key to modifying world temperatures is diesel soot. "If you want to control global warming, the first thing to go after is soot," Mark Jacobson, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, said Tuesday." (Reuters)

"Satellites help track carbon stores" - "New satellite readings show forests in the US, Europe and Russia have been storing nearly 700 million tons of carbon a year for the last 20 years." (Ananova)

"A Bright Future for the Biosphere" - "Summary: The past president and founder of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change reminds us that the legacy of the historical-and-still-ongoing increase in the air's CO2 content is not all bad. In fact, he suggests it is primarily good, providing a much-needed positive perspective on the biological aspects of the issue that is like a breath of fresh air in these troubled times of environmentalist gloom- and doom-mongering." (co2science.org)

"3 Antarctican Glaciers Shrinking" - "SAN FRANCISCO - Three of Antarctica's largest glaciers are rapidly thinning, and in the last 10 years have lost up to 150 feet of thickness in some places, scientists said Monday. The three glaciers in western Antarctica have collectively lost 37.6 cubic miles of ice to the ocean, according to a decade of measurements. That's enough to raise global sea levels by 0.015 inch, according to two scientists who presented their conclusions Monday at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union." (AP)

"Melting Glaciers in Antarctica Are Raising Oceans, Experts Say" - "SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 10 — Antarctica appears to be melting and contributing to the slow rise in the oceans, scientists reported to their colleagues here today.

No obvious explanation exists for the melting. The rise in global temperatures — about one degree Fahrenheit over the last century — would have negligible effect in the frigid climes of Antarctica, scientists say." (New York Times)

Well done Kenneth Chang. While the +8" (+200mm) / century rise in sea levels is moot, the irrelevance of a global +1°F temperature increment to Antarctic ice mass thaw is a worthy inclusion.

"Ice Sheets (Antarctica)" - "Summary: What's happening at the bottom of the world? Periodically, climate alarmists speak in ominous tones about another chunk of ice the size of a small state breaking loose from Antarctica and setting sail upon the Southern Ocean, or about the warming of the Antarctic Peninsula and how the meltdown of the mountains of ice that cover the continent would cause the world's seas to inundate much of the planet's highly populated coastal areas. Are these concerns legitimate? Do we all need to head for the hills? What's really up ... down under?" (co2science.org)

"Trees Spend More Time Sequestering Carbon with More CO2 in the Air" - "Summary: A little-heralded effect of atmospheric CO2 enrichment is that it often enables plants to do productive work earlier in the day, as well as later in the day. Working longer hours, or at least parts of hours, tireless trees thus store more carbon in their tissues and the soil bank beneath them." (co2science.org)

"The Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age in Ireland" - "Summary: From the dark reaches of an Irish cave comes more evidence of the approximate 1500-year non-CO2-driven warm/cool climate cycles of which the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age extremes are but the most recent manifestation. Science 294: 1328-1331." (co2science.org)

"What We Don't Know About CO2 and Climate" - "Summary: There's a lot; and it can hurt us. Climate Research 18: 259-275." (co2science.org)

"Study of Cirrus Clouds May Improve Climate Change Forecasts" - "The work done by a group of scientists studying cirrus clouds could lead to improved forecasts of future climate change. Starting next summer, scientists from NASA and other agencies will investigate cirrus clouds in Florida, aiming to reduce uncertainties in forecasts of the Earth's future climate. The project focuses on studies of high, tropical cirrus clouds, which are composed of tiny ice crystals floating at altitudes from 20,000 to 55,000 feet. Scientists will take measurements with aircraft and ground instruments for four to six weeks starting in July. The analysis should take about two years." (Cosmiverse)

"Research indicates Alaska's Columbia Glacier will retreat 10 miles in next decade" - "New University of Colorado at Boulder research indicates the massive Columbia Glacier in Alaska will continue to increase its rate of recession over the next decade, possibly retreating as much as 10 miles in that time and creating a new fjord. The findings represent more than 25 years of study of the glacier by CU-Boulder Emeritus Professor Mark Meier of the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research." (University of Colorado at Boulder)

The Sp!ked-Online 'Great Global Warming Debate' heats up. See Viner's fallacies: a logical analysis by Sorry, Wrong Number! The Abuse of Measurement author John Brignell, one of several responses to David Viner's rather rash foray into ad hominem assault in lieu of scientific debate.

"Air pollution poses threat to crop yields" - "Two new air pollution threats to Britain which could wipe out vulnerable plant species, cut crops yields of wheat and potato by 20% and affect human health, have been identified by scientists working on a government study.

So concerned is Michael Meacher, the environment minister, about the findings, released yesterday, that he is to raise the matter with fellow EU ministers at a meeting in Brussels tomorrow. He said that a new international agreement to cut ozone pollution, on the same lines at the climate change convention was required to tackle the threat." (The Guardian)

"CAP doubling the price of food" - "THE Consumers’ Association claimed yesterday that shoppers in the UK pay twice as much as those in New Zealand for fresh produce, mainly because of the distorting effect of the European Union’s common agricultural policy. The cost of 15 items in the UK, including beef steak, lamb chops and olive oil, was £84.65, while in New Zealand - where there have been no farm subsidies since 1984 - the bill for the same items was £39.48. The Consumers’ Association said there was growing disenchantment about the CAP among shoppers throughout Europe, repeating the claim that the policy costs an average family of four £16 per week in taxes and higher food prices." (The Scotsman)

"Fear of Frankenfood will fade, regulator says" - "Australia's food industry has turned off genetically modified ingredients in the face of consumer resistance, but the nation's new gene technology regulator expects public suspicion of GM food to fade. Sue Meek said public concern about GM food - coined Frankenfood by some critics - already appeared to be shifting and that this would "evolve" as familiarity with genetic technology developed." (Sydney Morning Herald)

"GM protest meeting" - "ONLY 20 people were on hand to hear a rallying call at Inverurie by campaigners against genetically-modified crops. They held a public meeting yesterday when they called on local residents to take direct action against GM trials at nearby Daviot and Rothienorman. The meeting, at Inverurie Academy, was organised by Scottish Genetix Action (Aberdeen). Organisers insisted they were not disappointed by the poor turnout." (Aberdeen Press & Journal)

"Alcatraz offers future for GM crops" - "Discovery of a plant gene mutation that keeps fruit "imprisoned" and could minimize the dispersal of genetically modified (GM) seeds as well as greatly improving crop yields is being hailed as an "exciting" advance by independent experts. "It could certainly have very important practical implications," said Robin Child, research leader at the Institute of Arable Crops Research (IACR) in Long Ashton, UK." (BioMedNet News)

"Biotechnology and Development: A balance between IPR protection and benefit-sharing" - "Governments have to adjust their legislations according to their own, specific needs to achieve a balance between efficient protection of genetic resources, efficient protection of IPRs and mechanisms to regulate the access to genetic resources and traditional knowledge including benefit-sharing mechanisms." (Electronic Journal of Biotechnology)

"Patent Ruling Aids Seed Biotech Firms" - "In a victory for companies that develop genetically modified plants, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that seeds and seed-grown plants can be patented. The 6-2 ruling, which upheld a court of appeals decision, strengthens the intellectual property rights of the nation's largest seed biotechnology companies. If these protections had been struck down, companies such as DuPont, Monsanto Co. and Sygenta would have seen hundreds of patents invalidated or restricted, giving other companies and farmers access to their technology without having to pay for it. "We have spent hundreds of millions, if not billions, to bring forth our products, some biotech solutions, some not," said Monsanto spokeswoman Lori Fisher. The court "clearly wanted to protect the rights of investors." With biotechnology advancing at a rapid pace, the ruling sends a signal that the nation's highest court is taking a tough stance on intellectual property rights in every industry, said analyst Donald Carlson of J.P. Morgan." (LA Times)

December 11, 2001

"Study finds link between Lou Gehrig's disease and Gulf War" - "WASHINGTON -- Americans who served in the Gulf War were nearly twice as likely to develop Lou Gehrig's disease as other military personnel, the government reported Monday. It was the first time officials acknowledged a scientific link between service in the Gulf and a specific disease." (AP)

And here's the 'however': The results released Monday have not yet been reviewed by other scientists or published in an academic journal, and officials cautioned that they are preliminary.

"Ultrasound scans may disrupt fetal brain development" - "Ultrasound examinations may disrupt normal brain development in unborn babies, say Swedish scientists. They have urged mothers-to-be to avoid unnecessary ultrasonic scans, but not cancel routine examinations." (New Scientist)

"Fetus Hears Ultrasound, But It's Not Harmful: Study" - "Ultrasound scans are audible to a fetus, researchers reported at last week's meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. But the sound is not harmful to the fetus, they said." (UniSci)

"Vegetarian diet may mask eating disorder in teens" - "NEW YORK, Dec 10 - Teenage vegetarians may be at greater risk of eating disorders and suicide than their meat-eating peers, according to researchers. Their study found that adolescent vegetarians were more weight- and body-conscious, more likely to have been told by a doctor that they had an eating disorder, and more likely to have tried a variety of healthy and unhealthy weight control practices including diet pills, laxatives and vomiting. They were also more likely than their peers to have contemplated or attempted suicide." (Reuters Health)

Yule log? Bah! Humbug! "Some cities consider banning construction of homes with wood-burning fireplaces" - "SANTA ROSA, Calif. - On some brisk winter evenings here, the air can hold the pleasant, peppery scent of firewood being burned in hundreds of home fireplaces and heating stoves. The problem is, that same scent - and the potentially unhealthy soot that goes with it - just won't go away. So city leaders are considering what a few other Bay Area communities have already done: Ban the construction of new homes with traditional wood-burning fireplaces and stoves in favor of cleaner gas-fired or pellet-burning devices." (Sacramento Bee)

"Food transport from afar wasteful, risky - UK group" - "LONDON - The distance food travels to reach British plates has increased by 50 percent over the last decade, choking the atmosphere, losing nutrients from fresh produce and spreading disease, a report said yesterday. The report, by UK lobby group Sustain, said products bought from British supermarkets for a traditional turkey dinner could have travelled more than 24,000 miles (38,620 km) by ship, truck or aeroplane - a long, unnecessary journey. By ignoring local food supplies, Britain was wasting fuel, sacrificing food security and harming the environment, it said." (Reuters)

"Study shows acid rain improvement" - "Pollution linked to shipping has cast a cloud over new research showing an improvement in levels of acid rain falling on the UK. The findings of a two-year study into the effect of pollution on the British environment were published on Monday." (BBC Online)

"Britain to Urge Cuts in Pollution" - "LONDON - Britain is urging the European Union to push for international initiatives that will cut air pollution caused by traffic and industry. Environment Minister Michael Meacher said Monday he will ask European Union ministers this week to find ways to persuade countries to reduce pollution. Meacher said Britain's freshwater lakes and streams are recovering after a 50 percent cut in the past 12 years in sulphur oxide emissions, which cause acid rain that kills fish and corrodes buildings." (AP)

"UK to change renewables rules to overcome planning" - "LONDON - Britain's energy minister yesterday said he will introduce new rules which will revive renewable energy projects that have failed to get planning permission. "These new rules will unlock around 100 renewable energy projects, currently blocked by planning constraints, to drive forward a significant expansion in the production of green energy," said Brian Wilson at the opening of a wind farm in Wales." (Reuters)

"Pollution in mountains traced close to home" - "ASHEVILLE -- A decade-long study of bad air in the southern mountains has found that most pollution is home-grown. The Southern Appalachian Mountains Initiative, formed by eight states in 1992, wants to find a regional answer to pollution that is dimming mountain views, sending people with asthma to emergency rooms and leaching acid into trout streams. The study contains the most extensive research to date on the origins of bad air in the mountains. For years, some blamed other parts of the country for the Carolinas' problems. But while winds can spread pollutants hundreds of miles, most of what's wrong with the air here did not come from out of state, researchers said Thursday." (Charlotte Observer)

"Pollution in Asian air mass likely measured on both sides of Pacific" - "Scientists watched closely last spring as a haze of pollution, which had been tracked by satellite as it crossed the Pacific Ocean, settled over a large swath of North America from Calgary, Canada, into Arizona. Now it appears that, for the first time, researchers on both sides of the Pacific took detailed measurements of the same plume, a cloud that contained Gobi desert dust as well as hydrocarbons from industrial pollution. Heather Price, a University of Washington doctoral student in chemistry, found that the amount of light reflected by the particles in the air was more than 550 percent greater than normal for that time of year. The mass of Asian air contained elevated levels of all pollutants measured, Price said, "but the only thing that came close to being alarming was the level of particulate matter." (University of Washington)

"Red alert! 'recycled' ozone adds to health hazards in Zambia" - "Researchers analyzing harmful low-level ozone or "smog" over the African country of Zambia measured high amounts of pollution throughout the burning season in the year 2000, and discovered that the pollution is "recycled" from other southern African countries. Anne Thompson, an Atmospheric Chemist from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., led the study of ozone transport in Zambia during the Southern African Regional Science Initiative (SAFARI 2000) last year. Ozone measurements from balloons launched over Zambia in September 2000 by Thompson, Jacquie Witte of Science Systems and Applications, Inc., and Agnes Phahlane of the South African Weather Service showed multiple ozone pollution layers generated by the burning of vegetation throughout the country." (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center--EOS Project Science Office)

"Ozone efforts put at risk by the developing world emissions" - "SPIRALLING ozone levels caused by the rapid expansion of industry in the developing world could eclipse European attempts to reduce emissions, an expert has warned. Dr David Stevenson, of the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Meteorology, said the rapid and largely unregulated development of industry and car use in Asia and parts of Latin America and Africa will raise global ozone levels, despite the efforts of other governments to improve air quality." (The Scotsman)

"Lester's Brownout: Activist Exploits Poor Islanders" - "The environmental activist Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute has been accused of many things throughout his career, but poor taste had never been one of them. That was, until America suffered the worst terrorist attack in history.

Just 24 hours after the World Trade Center morphed instantly from a thriving center of commerce to a harrowing mass grave, Brown claimed that rising sea levels from human-caused global warming are "a potential for disaster that could make what happened in New York yesterday look small… Civilization is being trapped between expanding deserts and rising sea levels -- two forces of our own creation." (Dr. Sallie Baliunas and Dr. Willie Soon, Tech Central Station)

"Methane explosion warmed the prehistoric Earth, possible again" - "A tremendous release of methane gas frozen beneath the sea floor heated the Earth by up to 13 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius) 55 million years ago, a new NASA study confirms. NASA scientists used data from a computer simulation of the paleo-climate to better understand the role of methane in climate change. While most greenhouse gas studies focus on carbon dioxide, methane is 20 times more potent as a heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere. In the last 200 years, atmospheric methane has more than doubled due to decomposing organic materials in wetlands and swamps and human aided emissions from gas pipelines, coal mining, increases in irrigation and livestock flatulence. However, there is another source of methane, formed from decomposing organic matter in ocean sediments, frozen in deposits under the seabed. " (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center--EOS Project Science Office)

"New study shows early signals of climate change in earth's cold regions" - "Global mean temperatures have risen one degree Fahrenheit over the past 100 years, with more than half of the increase occurring in the last 25 years, according to University of Colorado at Boulder Senior Researcher Richard Armstrong. "As slight as that may seem, it’s enough to make a difference," said Armstrong, who is affiliated with the National Snow and Ice Data Center headquartered at CU-Boulder. "Now, long-term monitoring of a series of cold region, or cryospheric, parameters shows that for several decades the amounts of snow and ice around the world have been decreasing." (University of Colorado at Boulder)

"COTTON DOESN'T SHRINK FROM CLIMATE CHANGE" - "A new NASA-funded study finds that cotton yields are likely to increase in the Southeastern United States if carbon dioxide levels continue to rise as projected this century, and if farmers can adapt their agricultural practices to the resulting climate change.

Researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) entered various scenarios into their computer models to simulate the effects of elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere on cotton crop yields. If carbon dioxide emissions increase at their present rate, many scientists believe that the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are likely to double compared to pre-industrial levels by the year 2060.

Along with climate change, atmospheric CO2 enhances plant growth by stimulating photosynthesis. In one scenario, adaptations to farming practices resulting from a lengthened growing season, elevated CO2-induced climate change and enhanced plant growth, were all factored into model simulations. The results predicted that cotton yields would increase by as much as 26-36 percent." (GSFC)

"Ignore and Pillory" - "Dr David Viner from CRU in East Anglia, writing in `Spiked-Science' said: "Those who still believe ... (there is no climate change) are in a way removing themselves from serious scientific debate, and as a result should be ignored and pilloried."

`Ignored and pilloried'? Firstly, someone sporting a `Dr' before his name should know better than to make a public demand for what are mutually exclusive actions. You cannot `ignore' someone if you are at the same time subjecting them to public pillory, and you cannot `pillory' someone if you are also ignoring them.

And what does `pillory' mean exactly? According to the Oxford English Dictionary it has two meanings. To `pillory' (verb) is to "expose to public ridicule or contempt". On the other hand, a `pillory' (noun) is "a device for punishment, usually a wooden framework mounted on a post, with holes for trapping the head and hands, and in which an offender was confined and exposed to public assault and ridicule."

Verb or noun, we get the picture loud and clear.

Viner's attitude has more in common with the priests of the medieval inquisition than with those early heroic scientists who suffered at the hands of those priests. With his call for skeptics to be `pilloried' we appear to have gone full circle, many of today's climate `scientists' now playing the role of medieval `defenders of the faith', undeserving and unworthy inheritors of the mantle of Galileo." (John L Daly, Still Waiting For Greenhouse)

"Genetic Pollution" - "The way we think about and deal with pollution has always been governed by the straightforward rules of chemistry. You clean the stuff up or let it fade with time. But what do you do about a form of pollution that behaves instead according to the rules of biology? Such a pollutant would have the ability to copy itself over and over again, so that its impact on the environment would increase with time rather than diminish. Now you’re talking about a problem with, quite literally, a life of its own." | Precautionary Principle (Michael Pollan, New York Times)

"Mexico investigating transgenic corn" - "MEXICO CITY - The Mexican government is taking samples of corn from Puebla and Oaxaca states to check for genetically modified corn, forbidden as a commercial crop in Mexico since 1998." (Reuters)

"Plant genomics and agriculture: From model organisms to crops, the role of data mining for gene discovery" - "Abstract: Sequencing and analysing of the Arabidopsis thaliana genome, the first plant kingdom genome to be unraveled, will always remain a scientific landmark. International initiatives to sequence rice, the most important cereal in Asia, are underway. However as functional information piles up in Arabidopsis and rice, researchers working in other crops will benefit from this new knowledge and apply it to their studied plants or crop species. The increasing role of public databases of model organisms and bio-informatics in data mining, presents a new opportunity as well as a challenge to researchers to develop more focused molecular tools for gene discovery and deployment. The work presented in here describes how such an approach has benefited sorghum, a rainfed semi-arid troprical cereal." (EJB Electronic Journal of Biotechnology)

December 10, 2001

Quote of the day: "The Hardest Part of Exercise" - "WASHINGTON -- For most new exercisers, it's easier to quit than to get fit. Keeping the will to stick with a program can be the hardest exercise. ``Most people who adopt exercise will quit within a short time -- 50 percent within 6 to 8 weeks, another 25 percent by the end of the year,'' said sports psychologist William F. Morgan of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. ``We must be doing something wrong,'' Morgan said." (AP)

"Study Examines Garlic Supplements" - "WASHINGTON -- Garlic supplements, often taken in hopes of lowering cholesterol, can seriously interfere with drugs used to treat the AIDS virus, a new federal study concludes.

The study makes garlic the second popular herbal remedy found to interact dangerously with prescription drugs. Experts already warn that St. John's wort, which claims to ease depression, can block the effectiveness of several drugs, including AIDS treatments and a medicine vital for organ transplant recipients.

Doctors ``and patients should not assume that dietary supplements are benign therapies,'' wrote Dr. Judith Falloon of the National Institutes of Health, co-author of the garlic study." (AP)

"Urenco plans $1bn uranium enrichment plant in US" - "Urenco, a European uranium enrichment supplier, is seeking regulatory approval to build the first new enrichment facility in the US in half a century. Its partners in the project, estimated to cost $1bn, will be Duke Power and Excelon, the US energy conglomerates that are leading the campaign to revive the nuclear power industry in the US. Other partners may be added as Urenco forms a worldwide syndicate to raise the financing, said Klaus Messer, Urenco's chief executive, who is in Washington this week for preliminary meetings with regulators. It plans to apply for regulatory approval next month." (Financial Times)

New items posted on Still Waiting For Greenhouse

"Selective breeding is more worrying than GM food" - "When does it stop? At what point does the search for ever cheaper food come up against the obstacle of legitimate concern for animal welfare? The answer should be: some time ago.

The standard chicken reared for meat grew to a full size of 1kg in 1976. Just a quarter of a century later, selective breeding has produced a fully grown bird of 2.6kg. And this unfeasible creature is reared in just 42 days – seven weeks from egg to slaughter. Popular alarm about genetic manipulation seems misplaced when breeding alone can produce such walking blocks of oven-ready meat. And it will be selective breeding which will raise the target weight to 3kg and beyond in the next few years, while cutting the time taken to achieve it to five weeks or less." | Warning as chickens reared at faster rate | The growing pains of a selectively bred chicken (Independent)

"Montreal professor clones three calves" - "ST-HYACINTHE, Que. -- A veterinary doctor at the University of Montreal has cloned three healthy calves using a technique he says will make cloning cheaper and more efficient. Dr. Lawrence Smith says the benefits of his finding range from increasing the production of milk in cows to saving species on the verge of extinction." (CP)

"Opinion: Ecoagriculture" - "The environment ministers of the nations of the Caribbean and Latin America gathered in Rio de Janeiro recently to discuss an agenda for the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. A major theme of next year's World Summit in Johannesburg—also known as Rio + 10—will be the critical issue of poverty in conjunction with conservation. Where poor and hungry people have few options other than to encroach on the environment for a day's pay, conservation efforts will be stymied. This issue must be as familiar to Brazilians as it is to Costa Ricans: the need for more food and better livelihoods continue to sidetrack conservation efforts worldwide." (Oscar Arias Sanchez, Future Harvest)

December 9, 2001

"Resignations and recriminations over cloning claim" - "Scientists have cast serious doubts on whether the American biotechnology company that claimed a fortnight ago to have cloned a human embryo actually did so." (Independent)

"Study Sets Off Debate Over Mammograms' Value" - "A new study in a British medical journal has stirred a passionate debate among doctors in Europe and the United States by asserting that mammograms do not prevent women from dying of breast cancer or help them avoid mastectomies." (New York Times)

'Left-handed' study of the day: "Ultrasound scans linked to brain damage in babies" - "EVIDENCE suggesting that ultrasound scans on pregnant women cause brain damage in their unborn babies has been uncovered by scientists. In the most comprehensive study yet on the effect of the scanning, doctors have found that men born to mothers who underwent scanning were more likely to show signs of subtle brain damage.

During the 1990s, a number of studies hinted that ultrasound scanning affected unborn babies. Research has suggested that subtle brain damage can cause people who ought genetically to be right-handed to become left-handed." (Telegraph)

"Cream 'fails to prevent bone disease'" - "A hormone cream used by women to prevent the bone disease osteoporosis has been shown to be ineffective in tests. Researchers carried out a year-long study into natural progesterone cream, which observational studies had previously shown improved bone health after the menopause. Results of the study were presented to the National Osteoporosis Society (NOS) annual conference in Bath, the leading UK conference on the condition, where bones crumble and fracture easily.

Women have chosen the cream as a natural alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The Osteoporosis Research Unit at Southampton University carried out a randomised trial to compare HRT, the progesterone cream and a placebo version. Only the group taking HRT saw their bone density increase." (BBC Online)

"Milk 'best calcium source' for girls" - "Girls would do better to drink milk than take calcium supplements to build bone density, according to new research.

Experts think many young girls are not drinking enough milk because they mistakenly believe it leads to weight gain. They also fear vegan diets and others which eliminate dairy products are behind girls turning away from milk. A campaign by Animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), which claimed milk was bad for children's health, was recently suspended." (BBC Online)

"B.C. property rights: endangered species" - "SALTSPRING ISLAND - There was much rejoicing and self-congratulation from the boiled felt people on Saltspring last weekend, as the Conservancy won a thousand acres of Texada land for a yet another provincial park, at a cost to the bankrupt provincial government of $9-million. There were private and federal donations too, but none came anywhere near the $9-million mark. It seems to have escaped many of my fellow islanders that bullying that kind of money out of a government that cannot keep family practitioners or emergency rooms in business, and must fire one-third of the provincial civil service, is questionable." (Elizabeth Nickson, National Post)

Who says indoctrination campaigns aren't effective? "No more nukes, say public" - "Fewer than one in 10 Britons support the Government's plan to build more nuclear power stations, according to a new opinion poll. And only three per cent oppose the construction of wind farms, despite a vigorous public campaign against them. A poll carried out by BRMB International will shock the Government as it puts the finishing touches to its new energy policy, due to be revealed next month." (Independent)

"Power companies plan a sea of wind turbines" - "Power companies plan to build huge offshore wind farms, each covering more than 77 square miles, under government plans for more use of renewable energy. Shell, British Energy, Powergen and Scottish Power are secretly drawing up schemes to build a series of "super wind farms" with up to 400 turbines off eastern and south-east England, Wales, the North West and South Coast. Large areas of shallow water in Cardigan Bay off west Wales, the Irish Sea off Lancashire and Cumbria, and several hundred miles of inshore waters from Flamborough Head south to Dover, have been identified as potential sites." (Independent)

And the countdown for campaigns to save the cetaceans/birdies/jelly fish/benthic organisms/... begins. Who knows? Maybe they'll make their sea-borne white elephants economically viable by putting fish pens at the base of the bird-mincers in order to supplement the fish food on the 'cheep' (ooh!).

"Study projects Scotland as the powerhouse of green Britain" - "THE tempestuous coastline of Scotland is capable of providing 75% of the UK’s energy needs, a report for the government will reveal tomorrow. The abundant wind and wave power available on and off the coast could even be exported to the Continent, according to consultants to the Scottish Executive.

The study by Garrad Hassan is the most comprehensive to date of Scotland’s ability to provide relatively cheap power based on renewable technologies. It will pave the way for a massive expansion of renewable power north of the Border, endorsed by the Executive. But it will also deal a damaging blow to the nuclear power industry, which is trying to persuade Westminster that a new generation of nuclear plants is needed to plug a looming ‘energy gap’." (Scotland On Sunday)

"Protesters to target climate 'terrorist' US" - "Climate change campaigners are marching to the US Embassy in London to protest against America's policy on global warming. The march is due to start at the Afghanistan Embassy. It aims to highlight US President George Bush's refusal sign up to a worldwide treaty to reduce carbon emissions. Organisers The Campaign against Climate Change have branded Bush a "climate terrorist" and are calling on him to join other world leaders in committing themselves to the Kyoto Treaty." (Ananova)

Fairly balanced piece by Andrew Revkin: "Yes, It's Been Warm. And Why?" - "The warm spell that kept New Yorkers in shirt sleeves (until today) and gave the United States its second-warmest November and the planet its warmest October on record was caused by — well, climate scientists cannot quite agree." (New York Times)

"Attaching Good Genes to Bad Viruses" - "Anxious about anthrax? Scared about smallpox? Then consider this: a special strain of virus, born in the laboratory, that’s made up of equal parts Ebola and H.I.V. It may sound like the diabolical creation of terrorists, but in fact it’s the product of research at the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Human Gene Therapy. If scientists working there get their way, human patients will one day ingest these microbes as a way of curing genetic disorders." (New York Times)

December 8, 2001

You've got HOT mail - or at least the charred remnants: "Mail treated for anthrax catches fire in New Jersey" - "BRIDGEPORT, N.J. - Batches of mail being treated with radiation to eliminate possible anthrax contamination were destroyed in fires likely caused by the material becoming overheated, officials said Friday. Hundreds of large envelopes and magazines - 90 pounds in all - were destroyed during two small fires, one Thursday and one early Friday, the Postal Service said." (AP)

"The Sorry CSAP Flap: It’s Worse Than It Looks" - "On November 1st, Christina Hoff Sommers, a noted feminist scholar, was invited to speak at a conference hosted by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP), part of the Department of Health and Human Services. The topic: should CSAP undertake "Boy Talk" - a program intended to prevent development of social pathologies (drug abuse, crime, and so on) in young men. It would be patterned after an existing program called "Girl Power!." For years, Sommers has been a thoughtful and vocal critic of Girl Power!, deeming it ineffective. "There is no good evidence," she says, "that gender-specific drug and alcohol programs are better than gender-neutral programs." An hour or so into the Boy Talk conference, things got ugly. The audience - largely populated by agency staff and invited consultants, CSAP grantees - was hostile to Sommers' insistence that data be used to inform the creation of a new program. (Sally Satel, Tech Central Station)

"Researcher discovers toxic chemicals infiltrating glacial water" - "OTTAWA, ON — While most of us are thinking about flying south for the winter, research led by a University of Ottawa biology professor is investigating a much more serious northward migration – that of chemicals like PCBs and DDT, called persistent organic pollutants or POPs." (University of Ottawa)

This will likely stir more anti-chemical hysteria. It's virtually guaranteed the media will omit mention that no human harm can be demonstrated from environmental exposure to these compounds.

"'Encouraging' malaria vaccine" - "Progress may have been made towards a vaccine against one of the biggest killer diseases in the world. A vaccine for malaria developed in a joint project between the UK and Gambia, so far has only a moderate success rate. However, its inventors are hopeful the principle can be refined to make it much more effective. Traditionally, efforts to protect against malaria have met with very little success. An estimated 2.7m die every year as a result of the disease, which is carried by certain types of mosquito, and common across large swathes of the globe." (BBC Online)

This 'success' is not, however, anywhere near sufficient to allow the misanthropic anti-DDT brigade to block Third World counties' access to one of the world's greatest health aids. The case against DDT is largely fraudulent, the cost is a needless premature human death every 10.5 seconds and 300 million to 500 million people afflicted each year. The drain on the economy and health systems of impoverished nations is horrendous and attempts to deny them their only affordable effective defence unconscionable.

"Environmental group loses tax status over politics" - "VANCOUVER - The Friends of Clayoquot Sound -- a key player in anti-logging protests of the mid-1990s that saw hundreds arrested -- has been stripped of its ability to issue tax receipts to donors because it is too political." (Ian Bailey, National Post)

"Anti-globalization's time is past" - "This week, the Friends of Clayoquot Sound had its charitable tax status removed because of its political activism. Could this be a sign governments are finally realizing that by funding and kowtowing to activists they are digging their own graves? Has Sept. 11 finally ended the party for the most recent reincarnation of the ever new/never changing Left?" (Peter Foster, National Post)

"Vitamin link to asthma" - "Pregnant women could prevent their children developing asthma and other allergies by eating food which is rich in vitamin E, new research has suggested. Researchers at Aberdeen University discovered that children whose mothers had a higher intake of the vitamin in their diet were less sensitive to common allergens like pollen and dust mites." (BBC Online)

Hmm... the way I read this suggests that a subset of a few hundred umbilical cords appeared less likely to be asthmatic - what will develop in the children themselves remains unknown.

"Cold air and exercise trigger asthma" - "The key triggers for asthma attacks are cold air, exercise, the menstrual cycle and aspirin, according to a new study." (BBC Online)

"Breathe Easy, But Not for Long" - "America's air quality continues to get better. A recently released Environmental Protection Agency report concludes that "since 1970, aggregate emissions of six principal pollutants tracked nationally have been cut 29 percent."

This good news may come as a surprise to most people. We may be exposed to cleaner air, but we're also exposed to the drumbeat of gloomy media accounts to the contrary. However, the reality that air pollution is declining needs to be taken into account in current debates over costly new air quality measures." (Ben Lieberman, Tech Central Station)

"Margaret Beckett: The US must join the world on climate change" - "Taken from a speech given by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in Washington DC" (Independent)

"Nobel Winners Slam U.S. on Climate, Missile Shield" - "STOCKHOLM - More than 100 Nobel laureates have signed an appeal criticizing the climate change and missile defense policies of the United States under President Bush." (Reuters) | The Statement | Stupidity is the enemy; idealism is our only hope (John Polanyi, Globe and Mail)

"Warming Up to the Notion of Warming" - "IF you've been enjoying 72-degree weather in December, you may appreciate Robert O. Mendelsohn's new analysis of global warming. He, too, concludes that it's not such a bad deal for New York.

Global warming has been the most notorious environmental menace since the summer of 1988, which was so miserably hot in New York and Washington that the resident journalists looked for a villain. The greenhouse effect made front-page news and the cover of Newsweek. "Danger: More Hot Summers Ahead," warned the cover, which showed a family sweating profusely inside a glass dome amid a cracked, parched plain.

But there's another side to global warming, even if the recent weather hasn't inspired a cover story headlined, "Good News: More Pleasant Autumns Ahead." Warmer weather is not something that Americans dread — to the contrary, people and businesses have been migrating south. They apparently see benefits to climate change, and so does Dr. Mendelsohn, an economist at the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies." (John Tierney, New York Times)

The global warming debate continues at Sp!ked Online. It appears to be divided largely upon ideological lines still but (is it me?) I get the impression that nay-sayers are more inclined to evidence and science while pro-warmers resort to ad hominem assault in lieu of such inconvenience. Most curious.

"Forecasters predict active Atlantic hurricane season in 2002" - "DENVER - The Atlantic hurricane season in 2002 will be more active than usual, one of the nation's leading hurricane forecasters predicted Friday. In their first forecast for the 2002 season, Colorado State University professor William Gray and his associates said they expect 13 named storms between June 1 and Nov. 30. They predicted that eight will become hurricanes and four will evolve into major or intense hurricanes. "This upcoming hurricane season appears to have the potential for continued above-average hurricane activity," Gray said. "We foresee an increased level of hurricanes forming in the deep tropics in 2002 and hurricane activity coming earlier than it did this year." (AP)

"United Soybean Board research shows consumers not influenced by anti-biotechnology groups" - "ST. LOUIS -- Despite prolific and vocal campaigning by anti-biotechnology activist groups against national food manufacturers and retailers, research conducted this year by the United Soybean Board (USB) demonstrates that a surprisingly low number of U.S. consumers are aware of activism related to biotechnology. These findings, part of USB's 2001-2002 Annual Report on Consumer Attitudes About Nutrition indicate that while the voices of the activist groups may be loud, few are accepting their message." (PRNewswire)

"GM foods safe say supporters" - "Supporters of genetically modified (GM) crops say those approved for sale in the UK are in practical terms as safe as most others. They say the four approved GM foods are "as safe as other supermarket foods". The claim comes in a report published by CropGen, which describes itself as "an information initiative designed to make the case for crop biotechnology". CropGen aims to reduce the ignorance it believes surrounds the subject. It concludes GM technology can no longer be dismissed as not independently tested." (BBC Online)

"NFU's stand on GM crops not a ban for members" - "REGINA – The National Farmers Union doesn't much like genetically modified crops. But it's not about to tell its members they can't grow them. A resolution passed at last week's NFU convention called on the federal government to ''make absolutely certain that any genetically modified grain or food have rigorous long term research to address concerns with marketability, agronomy, health and safety, the environment and organic production.'' The union's policy manual already included a call for a moratorium on the production, importation, distribution and sale of GM food until all those questions have been answered. And it also calls for mandatory labelling of food containing GM ingredients." (Western Producer)

"New GM labels may lift food prices" - "Consumers have been warned the costs of some foods may go up, because of new labelling laws for genetically modified products. Under the new laws which come into effect today, labels must stipulate if modified genetic material or protein is present in the food." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"GM labels scarce as regime starts" - "Mandatory labelling for genetically modified (GM) foods started yesterday, not that anyone would notice. Very few products would need labels because GM ingredients were scarce in the country's food supply, said Melissa Hodd, executive manager of Foodstuffs, which includes the New World and Pak'N Save supermarket chains." (Evening Post)

"SWISS BIOTECH: Government Shoots Down GM Plant Trials" - "ALLSCHWIL, SWITZERLAND--In a blow to Swiss biotechnology, the government has rejected a high-profile application to conduct field trials of genetically modified (GM) wheat. The decision, now being appealed, has caused widespread consternation among Swiss scientists, who argue that it amounts to a de facto moratorium on field tests of any transgenic plant. Five members of the federal biosafety commission have resigned in protest, including its president, Riccardo Wittek. "If I were working in plants," Wittek says, "I would leave the country." (Science)

"Volunteer GM canola a problem says no-till farmer" - "The Europeans will not accept grass seed that has volunteer canola in it," Stevenson said, during a gathering last week in Brandon organized by the Manitoba Zero Tillage Research Association to discuss Roundup Ready crops." (Western Producer)

"Fed's biotech policy called 'whitewash'" - "Canada -- The government agreed that a "precautionary approach" is needed in assessing GM food, although it did not endorse the critics' definition of the "precautionary principle," which would keep products off the market if there was anything less than 100 percent scientific agreement on their long-term safety." (Western Producer)

December 7, 2001

"When Environmental and Political Science Clash" - "The Environmental Protection Agency moved closer this week toward polluting New York’s Hudson River. But don’t be shocked. That’s what happens when agency policy decisions meet the political ambitions of EPA administrator Christie Todd Whitman." (Steven Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"Endocrine disrupters and human health" - "Infertility is an emotive issue, and having children is a recognised "right," so any implication that environmental pollution affects reproduction has to be taken seriously. When the putative causative agents might also be responsible for various cancers and other diseases, then the level of interest that the issue attracts is unsurprising - hence the calls in the early 1990s for action in line with the "precautionary principle." In men hypospadias, cryptorchidism, cancer of the prostate, testicular cancer, and semen quality and in women breast cancer, cystic ovaries, and endometriosis have all been suggested as indicators of adverse trends in reproductive health. The idea that these trends are real and are connected with environmental pollution is gaining credence internationally. The effect on human health of environmental chemicals that are mediated through the endocrine system - endocrine disrupters - has generated huge interest and investment. Why is this, and what is the evidence for the assumed association?" (BMJ editorial)

"Europe and the US: Separated By a Common Science" - "It was George Bernard Shaw who perceptively observed that the US and the UK are "two nations divided by a common language." We might further comment that they are now divided by a ‘common science,’ and that this division extends to Europe as a whole." (Philip Stott, Tech Central Station)

"Science and society divide European culture" - "The wound between science and society in Europe shows no sign of healing up, according to the results of a Europe-wide survey to be unveiled tomorrow. Two thirds of Europeans say they are not well informed about scientific issues, and almost half the population doesn't even want to be informed." (BioMedNet News)

"America Arms; Gun rights gain in the wake of Sept. 11" - "Liberal Delaware (Gore by 13.06%) awoke the other morning to the news that gun sales are up 32% since Sept. 11, range use is up 25%, and advanced gun classes are booked through February.

The Diamond State is not alone. The FBI reports that in the month after the attacks, requests for gun-related background checks through its National Check System rose 20%. Concealed-weapons applications tripled in Texas, and, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, filings for gun-purchase background checks increased 50% in the weeks following Sept. 11. Florida news articles report "a dramatic increase in gun and ammunition purchases, particularly among women, senior citizens and first-time gun owners."

In other words, the people who feel the most vulnerable are taking action to protect themselves." (Wall Street Journal)

'peas fundraiser of the moment - more anti-chemical hysteria: "Anti-Incineration Protests Across Spain" - "MADRID, Spain, December 6, 2001 - A new campaign against waste incineration was launched last weekend in Spain with protests outside 12 cement-works and municipal waste incinerators aimed at generating public debate about health risks associated with the emission of dioxins and furans. The actions were organized by a newly formed coalition of the environmental NGOs Greenpeace and Ecologists in Action, national trades union confederation CCOO and 10 local protest groups." (ENS)

"Panel Says Air Quality on Planes May Be Problem" - "WASHINGTON - For years airline passengers and cabin crew have blamed a range of health problems on the air quality of modern passenger jets. Now a scientific panel says they may have a point and recommends further study of the problem." (Reuters)

"UK pasteurisation procedure 'should be changed'" - "The procedure for processing milk in the UK should be changed to ensure bacteria associated with Crohn's disease are killed, says the Food Standards Agency. In the meantime, people at risk of the disease should avoid either boil pasteurised milk or drink alternatives such as soy or UHT milk, says a leading bowel specialist.

However, many scientists are sceptical that a bacterium is to blame for the debilitating gut disorder.

In Europe, milk must heated to 70C for 15 seconds. But this is not long enough to kill MAP. The FSA now recommends that the treatment time should be increased to 25 seconds. But there will be no final decision until a period of further consultation finishes in March 2002.

In the US, pasteurisation involves heating milk to 70C for 42.5 seconds." (New Scientist)

Note that the cause of Crohn's disease is unknown, although roughly one-third of cases are believed genetic in origin.

"New folic acid claim" - "PREGNANT women who take iron and folic acid supplements may reduce the risk of their unborn baby developing leukaemia later in life. A preliminary study found they were 60 per cent less likely to have children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a form of the disease which strikes in childhood." (Telegraph)

Hmm... this preliminary and small study involves just 83 cases and 166 controls. A very definite maybe with a slight chance it could mean something (but we couldn't really say what).

Hmm... "Canadian farms forecast to be eco-friendly by 2005" - "QUEBEC CITY - A combination of public and peer pressure should make Canadians farms environmentally friendly within four years, Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief said yesterday. "It is my goal to have an environmental farm plan at each Canadian farm by 2005," the minister told reporters in Quebec City after a speech before the Quebec Farmers Union." (Reuters)

"Adult obesity and growth in childhood; Children who grow rapidly during childhood are more likely to be obese as adults" - "Over half of all adults in the United States and the United Kingdom are overweight, and developing countries are increasingly facing the public health problems of overnutrition as well as undernutrition. In the past 20 years or so, the prevalence of obesity and overweight in both adults and children has increased dramatically. These time and geographical trends argue against a primarily genetic cause of obesity, and both behavioural and pharmaceutical interventions in obesity have limited effectiveness. Prevention through environmental, social, or behavioural interventions is a logical focus for tackling this epidemic." (BMJ)

Lest anyone needed reminding that poverty isn't good for you: "Poorest women 20 times more likely to die in childbirth" - "Women in the most disadvantaged groups of society are nearly 20 times more likely to die from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth than women in the two highest social classes, the latest Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths for the United Kingdom published this week has shown." (BMJ)

"Risk of adverse birth outcomes near landfill sites" BMJ letters in response to this study, previously commented here.

No surprises in veggie/animal libber/organic front group PCRM's 'gift ideas': "Doctors Pick Top Ten Healthy Holiday Food Gifts" - "WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 -- Just in time for the peak online shopping season, the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is announcing its top ten healthy food gift ideas." (PRNewswire)

"Western lawmakers seek focus on destruction by radicals" - "WASHINGTON - On Sept. 20, as much of the country was still in shock from the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, self-proclaimed members of the Animal Liberation Front firebombed a primate research lab in New Mexico, causing $1 million in damage.

In October, a federal land management facility in California was torched, causing $85,000 in damage. Members of the Earth Liberation Front claimed responsibility. The same movement is suspected of planting two homemade bombs in November at a forestry research center at Michigan Tech University.

As the Bush administration pursues its war on terrorism at home and abroad, some political leaders, particularly from Western states, want to expand government's focus to include domestic environmental and animal rights groups." (Boston Globe)

Protect weeds - kill the butterflies?: "Proposed regulations would prohibit growing, releasing Monarch butterflies" - "WASHINGTON - The classic school science project - raising Monarch butterflies, then watching them flutter into the wild - could become illegal, a victim of federal bureaucracy eager to protect threatened Western milkweeds. Farmers who raise Monarchs for profit and ship them to other states say proposed new Agriculture Department regulations would forbid any release of the butterflies with the bright orange and black wings. "School children could still raise the butterflies. But then they would have to kill them," Pennsylvania butterfly raiser Rick Mikula said Wednesday." (AP)

Wonder if this means street theatre protests will now ditch "killer butterfly" costumes in favour milkweed outfits?

"Little Sense in Setting Fuel-Efficiency Targets" - "Gasoline prices have fallen sharply, to below $1 a gallon in some places, encouraging Americans to drive more. The war on terrorism, meanwhile, is raising questions about relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia and the future of Persian Gulf oil supplies. In response, some activists and commentators are calling for government action to require more fuel-efficient automobiles.

Not so, say economists who study the program. The standards do not do a particularly good job at lowering consumption. And that goal itself is questionable." (Virginia Postrel, New York Times)

"US drivers in SUV gas-guzzling buying spree" - "NEW YORK - U.S. drivers are buying gasoline at a feverish clip despite the nation's recession, due largely to low pump prices and an autumn buying rush for gas-guzzling SUVs, analysts said this week." (Reuters)

Gosh-darn profligate 'muricans! Look what your gas-guzzling ways have done now!:

"Pictures Show Climate Change on Mars" - "WASHINGTON - It sounds dire -- polar ice caps disappearing, the sun's rays beating down and sending the ice right into the atmosphere." (Reuters) | Study Suggests Mars Ice Caps Eroding (AP) | Mars Ski Report: Snow is Hard, Dense and Disappearing (Space.com)

Agreement on Mars climate (and climatic change) appears about as close as that on Earth:

(AP) Experts say that over time such changes could allow water to return to the Martian surface and turn the frigid planet into a ``shirt-sleeve environment.''

(Reuters) ``With the amount of carbon dioxide on Mars we see today, you couldn't get enough to get a greenhouse effect and have liquid water on the surface,'' Zuber said.

Guess it depends on whether you consider sub-zero to be a "shirt-sleeve environment."

"TINY PARTICLES OF POLLUTION MAY CARRY LARGE CONSEQUENCES FOR EARTH'S WATER SUPPLY" - "According to a United Nations Population Fund report released Nov. 7, water use has grown six-fold over the past 70 years. "Water may be the resource that defines the limits of sustainable development," the report notes.

A new study issued by researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, argues that particles of human-produced pollution may be playing a significant role in weakening Earth's water cycle, much more than previously realized. The study was funded in part by NASA and used new satellite data from NASA's Terra satellite revealing the global nature of the particles.

Tiny aerosols primarily made up of black carbon, the authors argue, can lead to a weaker hydrological cycle, which connects directly to water availability and quality, a major environmental issue of the 21st century." (Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

Hmm... haven't had a chance to go through this study (PDF) yet but the gist of the release seems to be that aerosols are shading the oceans (70%+ of the planet surface) to the extent that evaporation is reduced and the hydrological cycle weakened. First thought? So much for the idea of "pollution" warming the planet then - it's (according to this) shading us from the solar energy that could do so and reducing the availability of the most significant greenhouse gas - water vapour.

"British environment official urges U.S. to extend its anti-terror diplomacy to fighting against dangers to ecological health" - "WASHINGTON -- Britain's new environment secretary urged the United States Wednesday to extend its coalition-building against terrorism to the fight against global warming and other widely accepted threats to ecology." (AP)

Terrorist attacks somehow equate to global warming? Oh puh-lease!

"Energy supply illogic" - "It's nice to see my greener friends peacocking their colorful logic. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the September 11 attack and the subsequent war were caused by our dependence on foreign oil. Therefore we shouldn't exploit domestic sources by drilling in a tiny corner of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Such "thinking" screams "hidden agenda." (Patrick J. Michaels, Washington Times)

"Vattenfall mull swapping Barseback n-plant for gas" - "OSLO - Swedish state utility Vattenfall, struggling to find alternatives after a parliamentary vote to shut its Barseback nuclear reactor, said yesterday a natural gas plant at the same site was the only realistic solution." (Reuters)

And herein lies a problem for Kyoto-promoting, anti-nuclear Sweden. Shutting down existing nuclear power generation because it's, well... bad (the Greens told them so) and capping consumer power cost means finding power from elsewhere (Kyoto no-no because all available external sources are icky-nasty coal-fired generation, putting Kyoto pressure on the precious EU "bubble"); "renewable" generation (too damn expensive, falls foul of the no consumer cost increase rule) or; replacing nuclear with gas-fired generation (going from zero CO2 emission from reactor-generation to at least some from gas combustion, falling foul of Kyoto again). It'll be interesting to see which of these mutually antagonistic goals triumphs in the battle of irrational fears.

"UK minister, Ofgem at odds over green power costs" - "LONDON - The high cost of renewable energy should not be a barrier to the expansion of green power schemes, Britain's Energy Minister Brian Wilson said yesterday. Earlier this week, UK energy regulator Callum McCarthy warned plans to build dozens of wind farms and small hydroelectric schemes in remote parts of Scotland would be poor value for money." (Reuters)

'nother model: "THE SUN'S CHILLY IMPACT ON EARTH" - "A new NASA computer climate model reinforces the long-standing theory that low solar activity could have changed the atmospheric circulation in the Northern Hemisphere from the 1400s to the 1700s and triggered a "Little Ice Age" in several regions including North America and Europe. Changes in the sun's energy was one of the biggest factors influencing climate change during this period, but have since been superceded by greenhouse gases due to the industrial revolution." (GSFC)

Solar activity has increased since low solar activity "could have caused the Little Ice Age (LIA)" but "greenhouse gases due to the industrial revolution" recovered the planet's temperature. Right... Why was it this warm before the onset of the LIA?

"SOLAR VARIABILITY TUTORIAL OPEN TO SCIENCE WRITERS AND NEWS MEDIA" - "Science writers and news media are invited to a talk at next week's American Geophysical Union fall meeting to learn about what causes change in the Sun's powerful activity, from flares that release as much energy as a billion megatons of TNT to planet-sized dark areas on the solar surface laced with strong magnetic fields to eruptions that blast a billion tons of electrified gas into space at a million miles per hour." (NASA News)

"Denmark seals its first CO2 pollution deals" - "COPENHAGEN - Danish power companies said yesterday three carbon dioxide (CO2) credit deals of a total 160,000 tonnes had been completed with U.S. and German companies under the government's pioneer emissions trading programme." (Reuters)

"Italy Approves Dam Scheme to Keep Venice Afloat" - "ROME - Italy gave the green light on Thursday to build a series of moveable dams to keep the slowly-sinking lagoon city of Venice afloat as part of a controversial project dubbed ``Moses.'' An inter-ministerial commission headed by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi approved the initial $2.3 billion proposal and now the details will be drawn up in an executive project, a spokeswoman at the Environment Ministry said." (Reuters)

"Don't Impede Medical Progress" - "To many biologists, the recently announced creation of a cloned human embryo was no big deal. True, researchers at Advanced Cell Technology replaced the nucleus of a human egg with the genetic material of another person. And they got that cloned cell to start replicating. But their results were modest. It took 71 eggs to produce a single success, and in the best case, the embryo grew to only six cells before dying. That's not a revolution. It's an incremental step in understanding how early-stage cells develop." (Virginia Postrel, Reason)

"One hundred percent safe?; CropGen launches report into safety of approved GM foods" - "London, 7th December 2001 – A new report, released today by CropGen, points to evidence from over one hundred publicly available sources showing that approved GM foods are in practical terms at least as safe as other supermarket foods." (CropGen)

"Green shoots of recovery for GM" - "Most of the British food industry now privately backs the return of genetically modified foods to the shelves, a debate arranged by The Grocer magazine has concluded. In a secret vote among more than 100 representatives of the food industry, from farmers to retailers, 64 per cent supported its re-introduction.

The vote followed a debate this week between Hugh Grant, executive vice-president of Monsanto, the biotechnology company, and Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association." (Financial Times)

"African biotechnologists debate GM foods" - "Genetically modified (GM) foods can help overcome hunger and malnutrition in Africa, but they should not be introduced hastily, biotechnologists from Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Ghana said last week. Rigorous assessment is essential to ensure that attempts to alleviate food shortages do not lead to health or environmental crises, the scientists agreed at a workshop on the communication of biotechnology to the public in the Kenyan capital Nairobi." (Charles Wendo, The Lancet)

"The Impact of GM Wheat on International Trade" - "As the commercial introduction of Roundup Ready wheat looms on the horizon, controversy continues about its affect on the livelihood of growers. Will it boost their bottom line because of lower input costs, or will it batter their essential export markets?

Eric DeVuyst, an ag economics researcher at North Dakota State University, along with fellow researchers Won Koo, Cheryl DeVuyst and Richard Taylor, has stepped into the fray with a recently released mathematical model of market response to genetically modified (GM) wheat. The research team offers five scenarios each of which suggests that long term, the technology provides a benefit to growers and consumers." (AgWeb.com)

"India allows sale of GM cotton" - "The Indian Government says it will soon allow genetically modified cotton crops to be sold commercially for the first time. The head of the Department of Biotechnology, Manju Sharma, told the BBC that a date for the sale has not yet been set. The announcement by the India is the culmination of over a year's experiments involving GM cotton crops." (BBC Online)

"Mandatory GM labelling begins" - "New laws requiring all packaged food products containing genetically modified (GM) crops to be labelled, come into effect today. But the association representing food and grocery companies says consumers will have to look hard to find any on the shelves. Head of the Australian Food and Grocery Council, Mitch Hooke, says since the laws were first proposed companies have been cutting genetically modified ingredients out of their products." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

December 6, 2001

"More in US carry guns; restrictions lose support" - "WASHINGTON AND TUCSON, ARIZ. - It's a busy shopping day at the Pecos Gun Shop. Customers wander the store, staring at gun grips and revolvers and hunting rifles. They consider the options, ask about prices, and - most important to David Dodson - they buy. Mr. Dodson, who runs the Tucson, Ariz., store, says the past few months have been boom times. Sales have jumped 40 percent, and many customers are first-timers. "I think a lot of people who might have been antigun no longer feel that way," Dodson says. "And if they were already thinking about buying a gun, then [the terrorist attacks] pushed them over the edge." (Christian Science Monitor)

Fumento.com has been fully renovated. Why not stop by and stay "a step ahead in a changing world"?

Here's a view on cell phone chatter you won't find very often: "Evolution, Alienation and Gossip" - "In the fast-paced modern world, we had become severely restricted in both the quantity and quality of communication with our social network. Mobile gossip restores our sense of connection and community, and provides an antidote to the pressures and alienation of modern life. Mobiles are a 'social lifeline' in a fragmented and isolating world." (Social Issues Research Centre)

"Impurifying our precious bodily fluids" - "Fear of fluoridation takes a left turn" (Ronald Bailey, Reason)

"Cumulative Pesticide Risk Assessment Methodologies Developed by EPA; Preliminary Report Released For Organophosphates" - "WASHINGTON, Dec. 4 -- EPA is releasing its preliminary assessment of the cumulative risks of organophosphate pesticides and is seeking both scientific peer review and widespread public comment on the scientific methodologies used to develop the risk assessment. These risk assessment techniques represent a significant advance in EPA's abilities to evaluate pesticides. The new methodologies, developed over the past five years with extensive scientific peer review, allow EPA to evaluate potential exposures to multiple pesticides, taking into account food, drinking water and residential uses. A public comment period is open through March 8, 2002." (U.S. Newswire)

EU Scrooge? "Shipment of Sony game consoles stopped in Europe for flunking environmental tests" - "TOKYO - European shipments of Sony's PlayStation 1 first-generation game console were halted for cadmium levels that exceed environmental limits, a company spokeswoman said Wednesday." (AP)

"Kerosene use in Ethiopia yields allergy clues" - "NEW YORK, Dec 05 - Burning kerosene fuel for heating or cooking in the home may increase a person's risk of developing allergy symptoms, according to the results of a study by UK researchers. Allergic illnesses are becoming more and more common in the developing world, especially in urban areas, and some investigators have hypothesized that these illnesses are somehow related to increasing affluence and urbanization." (Reuters Health)

"Timing: Asthma Risk Often Begins Before Birth" - "First-born children have been found to be more susceptible to asthma than younger brothers or sisters. A new study conducted on England's Isle of Wight suggests that this "sibling effect" may be put in place during pregnancy. The study challenges the leading theory about the sibling effect, which suggested that the effect occurred after birth, not before. According to the earlier theory, the presence of siblings increases the chances of infections in early life." (New York Times)

Maude's been at it again: "Qatar talks won't threaten our water" - "Council of Canadians chair Maude Barlow and I must have been at different ministerial meetings of the World Trade Organization in Qatar last month. In the declaration adopted by 142 countries launching a new round of multilateral trade negotiations, Ms. Barlow sees a dark plot to export Canada's water. The only water I saw was in the Persian Gulf." (W.A. Dymond, Globe and Mail)

"Senate Democrats Push Energy Conservation" - "WASHINGTON - Senate Democrats offered an alternative on Wednesday to a Republican plan to allow drilling in an Alaskan wildlife refuge and instead called for more energy conservation and stricter fuel mileage standards for cars and sport utility vehicles." (Reuters)

"More renewable fuel use will help US economy - study" - "WASHINGTON - A four-fold increase in renewable fuel use in the United States by 2016 would add $6.6 billion to the U.S. farm economy and 300,000 new jobs, while modestly raising consumer food prices, an industry study said yesterday. The study, prepared by three pro-ethanol groups, was released the same day Senate Democrats unveiled an energy bill that called for a significant increase in renewable fuels." (Reuters)

"Dutch sign CO2 cutting agreement with Panama" - "AMSTERDAM - The Dutch environment ministry said yesterday it had signed an agreement with Panama to buy credits from clean energy projects there toward meeting its carbon dioxide (CO2) reductions targets." (Reuters)

"France Criticizes US on Global Pact" - "PARIS - French President Jacques Chirac said Tuesday he regretted the United States has refused to join an international pact to stop global warming, but promised that France would ratify the treaty next year." (AP)

"Beware of leap year when predicting climate change, warns researcher" - "A word of warning to scientists studying climate change: Don’t forget to factor leap year into your calculations. Otherwise, you will end up either overestimating or underestimating the pace of global warming, says Stanford researcher Raphael Sagarin.

Writing in the Dec. 6 issue of the journal Nature, Sagarin focuses his attention on recent climate studies documenting the early arrival of spring – an important indicator of global warming. He points out that, by ignoring leap year, climate experts have inadvertently allowed statistical bias to creep into their analyses, resulting in false estimates of spring’s actual arrival." (Stanford University)

"On Global Warming, We Know What We Don’t Know" - "After nearly a decade of heated debate about climate change, the effect of human activities on global warming is still one great big unknown. The lack of light on that issue results from one thing - too much politics and not enough solid science." (Duane D. Freese, Tech Central Station)

World Climate Report Volume 7, Number 7, December 10, 2001 has been posted

"TOPEX-Poseidon Radar Altimetry: Averaging the Averages" John L Daly on sea level measures from space.

"Insecurity Blanket: Greens Preparing Kinder, Gentler Guilt Campaign" - "September 11 brought to the fore numerous realities that in our comfort we had sublimated, including the frivolity of numerous erstwhile “serious” pursuits. Only a truly rich and seemingly safe world would spend tremendous sums of human and financial capital to indulge such hypothetical risks as “man-made global warming.” The US even signed a treaty promising a near-immediate one-fifth reduction in carbon dioxide emissions - the intentional product of employing fossil fuels to produce energy. This was a sure sign of a society removed from critical thought." (Christopher C. Horner, Tech Central Station)

"Two New Reports Identify Steps For Reducing Economic Impacts Of Climate Action On Affected Communities, Workers" - "Policymakers can do a great deal to ease the economic burden of addressing climate change by taking specific steps to assist affected workers and communities. This according to two new reports released today by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change." (U.S. Newswire)

"German government calls new talks on GM crops" - "HAMBURG, Dec 5 - German farm minister Renate Kuenast has called a new round of talks for December 12 on the possible commercial use of genetically-modified (GM) crops in the country, a ministerial spokesman said on Wednesday. Among those invited are representatives of the GM seeds industry and, for the first time, representatives of churches, trade unions, general farming associations, scientists and groups interested in environmental and consumer protection. At present GM crops can be grown for research in Germany but commercial production is banned." (Reuters)

"OECD Biotechnology Update" - "OECD Biotechnology Update is a newsletter, which is published approximately every six months. Its purpose is to provide information on the diverse activities at OECD related to biotechnology. It is mainly intended for delegates to OECD meetings who already know something of its work. But we hope that it is also useful to the wider biotech community." (OECD)

"U.S.-China Soybean Trade Back on Upswing" - "An interim U.S.-China agreement that permits U.S. soybeans to be exported to China has resulted in 1.6 million tons of U.S. soybean exports to China for October through the first three weeks of November. The agreement removes obstacles that had blocked U.S. soybean exports since June, officials said." (Reuters)

"India may soon allow sale of gene-altered seeds" - "BOMBAY - India may approve commercial production and sale of a genetically modified (GM) cotton seed variety later this month, a top government official said on Wednesday. ``Procedures are being streamlined,'' Manju Sharma, secretary in the federal Department of Biotechnology in New Delhi, told Reuters." (Reuters)

"GMO Liability Threats for Farmers" - "Introduction: As giant agribusiness corporations control more and more of the genetics that go into farmers’ crops, the entire food supply may face yet-to-be-discovered risks. This article focuses on possible legal risks of farmers in relation to genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It is not intended, however, to be a comprehensive analysis of the multitude of legal issues farmers must take into account when making decisions related to GMOs. (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy)

"INTERVIEW - Standard GMO crop tests in the pipeline" - "CHICAGO - International researchers are working on a set of testing procedures for gene-altered crops that could be adopted throughout the world and help reduce cases of conflicting results, a researcher said yesterday." (Reuters)

December 5, 2001

"Hopkins study dispels 'panic' myth and suggests ways to involve public in response to a bioterrorist attack" - "Planners and policy makers have long discounted the public’s ability to participate in a response to bioterrorism, because of a belief that an attack would create mass panic and social disorder.

However, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who reviewed the public’s response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the recent anthrax mailings, and other disasters concluded that the public does not react with panic but with effective and adaptive action and can be an valuable response force and that should be considered in biodefense planning." (Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health)

"The Weaknesses of Science for Profit" - "Last week Americans briefly diverted their eyes from Afghanistan to consider the announcement by a small New England biotechnology company that it had created human embryonic clones. President Bush expressed grave concern, and some members of Congress made renewed calls for legislation to ban the practice outright. One might think that a cloned human baby had been born. In truth, what the investigators did was much less significant, and it was undertaken for a different purpose." (Harold Varmus, New York Times)

"Tar ponds, coke ovens no danger, official study says" - "SYDNEY, N.S. -- The health risk of living near what has long been considered one of the most contaminated industrial waste sites in North America is very low, according to a major assessment being released today. The report, commissioned by the federal and provincial governments, found that average lead and arsenic levels in soil in homes near the coke ovens of the now-defunct Sydney Steel plant were only marginally higher than those in a nearby community that has little industrial activity." (Globe and Mail)

"EPA orders GE to dredge upper Hudson River" - "WASHINGTON - The Bush administration on Tuesday ordered tons of PCBs removed from New York's upper Hudson River, initiating one of the largest dredging operations in the nation's history. General Electric Co., which dumped 1.3 million pounds of PCBs into the river before the substance was banned by the federal government in 1977, bitterly opposes dredging. The cleanup is expected to cost the company some $500 million. The final decision from the Environmental Protection Agency mirrors a plan formulated by the Clinton administration and endorsed by EPA last summer." (AP)

"Genes, chemicals and the law make a heady brew" - "Rapidly accumulating information on how individuals respond to chemicals - "natural" and otherwise - appears likely to have a big impact on both tort law and regulatory policy. As a meeting on gene expression and proteomics in environmental health research opened today at the US National Institutes of Health, law and ethics were high on the agenda." (BioMedNet News)

"Japanese opt for organic food, but farms struggle" - "Japan's warm, humid summers make an ideal environment for plant diseases and pests to thrive. Ordinary farmers thus tend to use far more chemicals than their North American counterparts -- some estimates put the figure at seven times as much." (Reuters)

Interesting... as much as seven times the ag-chem usage in the land of great longevity. Doesn't provide much support for the alleged hazards of pesticide residues and/or trace chemical exposure really.

?!! "Is Organic Better?" - "There are many comparisons of foods grown organically and foods grown using conventional farming methods. Most of the interest in the organic varieties stems from a desire to avoid synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.

But organic foods have another plus.

According to the journal Alternative Therapy Health and Medicine, organic foods have a higher nutrient content. They have more ascorbic acid, more protein, and less nitrate.

The reason organic foods have more nutrients: They contain less water. The higher water content of conventionally raised crops causes a nutrient dilution, which isn't present in organically grown fruits and vegetables." (HealthScoutNews)

Hmm... not dry weight comparisons apparently. Oh, what the heck, I'll say it - sounds all wet to me.

"Anti-Meat Activists Raise A Beef" - "The risk of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)" -- that's "mad cow" disease -- "occurring in the United States is extremely low." So says the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which has just released a Harvard study showing that mad cow is not a threat to Americans. "We are firmly confident that BSE will not become an animal or public health problem in America," says project director Dr. George Gray. [Click here to view the complete report.]

This good news for consumers got those who profit off the mad cow scare angrily mooing. Tom Pringle, who runs a mad cow scare website, says the government should not take this definitive research data at face value. One group even plans to inundate the National Institutes of Health with angry letters. And John Stauber of PR Watch, who writes a "Spin of the Day" column, has a spin of his own, calling the study "flawed" -- and plugging his own book, the anti-beef diatribe Mad Cow USA.

All this fuss over very good news -- Americans can continue to enjoy beef without fear. Looks like anti-beef activists will keep trying to cash in until the cows come home." (GuestChoice.com)

"Male HRT 'could fight heart disease'" - "Doctors believe that boosting testosterone levels in middle aged men could help fight heart disease. Research carried out at Sheffield Hallam University has found that blood vessels dilate when testosterone is added. The hormone can also stop arteries from thickening, one of the major symptoms of heart disease. Dr Peter Pugh and Dr Hugh Jones told the Society for Endocrinology annual conference in London that the discovery could help to develop treatments for a range of conditions." (BBC Online)

"Power of nature is profound, says Cornell researcher in finding that living amid green space is highly beneficial to children" - "ITHACA, N.Y. -- A house surrounded by nature seems to help boost a child's attention capabilities, a study by a Cornell University researcher suggests. "When children's cognitive functioning was compared before and after they moved from poor- to better-quality housing that had more green spaces around, profound differences emerged in their attention capacities even when the effects of the improved housing were taken into account," says Nancy Wells, assistant professor of design and environmental analysis in the New York State College of Human Ecology at Cornell. Wells also conducted a study that suggests the mental health of adults improves with a move from poor to quality housing." (Cornell News Service)

Amazing! People going from rat-holes to decent dwellings feel and do better. How do they do it?

Groan! "Radiation zaps bystanders; Radon may pose a greater cancer threat than has been thought" - "Radon damage to irradiated cells spreads to their neighbours, new research has found. The result suggests that small amounts of this radioactive gas could cause widespread harm." (Nature News Service)

If this little in vitro experiment held in vivo and radon effluence from the Earth's crust caused lung cancer then we should see significant disparity between regions for lung cancer incidence (radon emission rates vary widely). So why can't we map lung cancer incidence by geology? Looks like this is a non-starter.

"Maryland can no longer enforce clean air laws" - "ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Maryland has become the first state in the nation to be stripped of its power to enforce federal clean air laws. The state lost its authority on Monday because it failed to comply with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency order that it allow increased public input in the process of issuing industrial pollution permits." (AP)

Next feeding frenzy? "Legal action for FMD firms" - "A CAMPAIGN to claim more than £6 billion compensation from the government for losses caused to small businesses by foot-and-mouth will reach Scotland next week. The campaign, organised by London-based specialist solicitors Class Law, has been picking up speed in England and Wales. Now the firm has been encouraged to hold a meeting in Dumfries, on 12 December, to explain why they think claimaints for compensation would succeed." (The Scotsman)

Odd time for hand-wringers like this: "Climate change threatens New York, experts say" - "In the next 100 years, United Nations experts say global climate change may raise the average temperature by up to 10 degrees and world sea levels by as much as 35 feet. In New York, extreme weather could cut into farm crops like hay, corn and silage. Heat deaths could go up in the summer months, as temperature spikes transform cities into heat islands. And extreme weather events, including catastophic floods, could affect public health and the economy." (Democrat and Chronicle)

"As the crow used to fly before global warming" - "Hamburg - Global warming is changing the migration patterns of many birds, altering flight paths that have remained unchanged for generations and that were firmly anchored in their genes, say scientists. "Warming in Europe has probably changed the migration direction of the warbler," said behaviour researcher Eberhard Curio of Bochum University in western Germany, Ruhr region." (Sapa-DPA)

"Climate change the most pressing issue: Prescott" - "Britain's Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, has made a plea for world governments to take climate change and global warming more seriously. He says with 1998 the warmest year on record in Australia, and the UK last year suffering its worst storms since the 17th century, climate change is the most pressing threat the world faces." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Britain urges Australia to sign up to global climate pact" - "British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott warned Australia it was time to join international efforts to reduce global warming. Australia should abandon its position of using Washington's refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol as an excuse for its own recalcitrance to sign up to the global climate treaty, Prescott said on Tuesday." (AFP)

"Maple Leaf Jitters: Canada Blinks on Kyoto" - "It's a rule of thumb that when President George W. Bush leaves the United States to visit other Western countries, the press can be counted on to report the conventional wisdom that US opposition to the Kyoto Protocol regulating climate change runs afoul of the popular opinion and official positions of our Western allies. However, since President Bush labeled the Kyoto "fatally flawed," this conventional wisdom has been changing. Consider our friends to the north, the Canadians." (Dr. Willie Soon, Tech Central Station)

"'Rural solutions' to climate change" - "The threat of climate change should be met by increased renewable energy, say rural campaigners. The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) urged ministers on Tuesday to look at new methods of reducing greenhouse gases." (BBC Online)

"Are the Near-Surface Air Temperature Data We Possess Precise Enough to Detect a Component of Historical Global Warming that Can Confidently Be Attributed to the Model-Predicted Greenhouse Effect of the Past Century's Anthropogenic CO2 Emissions?" - "Summary: The question is lengthy, but the answer is not. In fact, it can be stated in but a single short word ... and it's not the word "yes." (co2science.org)

"Internal Modes of Climate Variability" - "Summary: Sometimes people's moods experience significant swings for no apparent reason. Sometimes earth's climate does the same. Could it be doing so now? Journal of Geophysical Research 106: 4349-4367." (co2science.org)

"Solar Radiation Reductions at the Earth's Surface" - "Summary: They're just what the doctor ordered to keep the planet from running a fever. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 107: 255-278." (co2science.org)

"Evaporation Data Refute Claims of Global Warming" - "Summary: Wherever one seems to look, the world of nature tells a very different story than the one nearly all climate alarmists and many unthinking (or deviously thinking) politicians are attempting to cram down our throats. Nature 377: 687-688." (co2science.org)

"Storms" - "Summary: The air's CO2 content has risen by fully 33% since the inception of the Industrial Revolution, while concomitant increases in other greenhouse gases have exacerbated its purported global warming influence even more. According to climate alarmists and Kyoto Protocol promoters, this dramatic alteration of the atmospheric environment should have vastly increased the frequency and intensity of storms around the world. Has it?" (co2science.org)

"Renewable energy targets to double" - "Ministers are planning to deliver a blow to the nuclear industry's hopes of a major revival by setting a costly target doubling the proportion of electricity to be generated by renewable sources. The government already has a target of increasing generation from renewable energy sources to 10% by 2010. It is planning that a fifth of all electricity be generated by renewable energy sources by 2020." (The Guardian)

Essential Biosafety represents an offering of the latest scientific and regulatory information for genetically modified and other novel crops and foods.

Information has been classified into three discrete areas that include: a database of safety information on all genetically modified (GM) plant products that have received regulatory approval, training tools in the form of case-studies for food and environmental risk assessment, and a library of pertinent biosafety references and online documents.

AGBIOS is proud to acknowledge the support of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) in facilitating the distribution of this material and Monsanto Company for providing financial assistance to aid in the creation of this resource. (EssentialBiosafety.info)

"No evidence that transgenic maize in Oaxaca is a threat to biodiversity in Mexico" - "For decades, the creole varieties have lived together with commercial varieties, without causing their disappearance. Our creole materials and the materials improved through conventional techniques have had the opportunity to interchange genes, and this not only has not eliminated the biodiversity of our creole materials but has enriched them." (Dr. Luis Herrera Estrella, CINVESTAV Unidad Irapuato)

"FEATURE - Indian farmers caught in war over GM crops" - "MODASA, India - When Ambalal Patel's cotton field stayed pest-free this year, he thought it had more to do with favourable planetary positions than the hybrid seeds he had planted. But Patel's joy over the success of his cotton crop planted in his tiny, one-acre plot proved short-lived. Authorities have found Patel and hundreds of other farmers in India's western Gujarat state - a major cotton growing belt - used genetically modified (GM) cotton seeds, banned by the government." (Reuters)

"Food And a Better Livelihood Through Poverty Alleviation" - "The plant science industry and a variety of stakeholders support smallholder farmers in developing countries to reach sustainable agricultural production. This collaboration clearly illustrates that joining forces is in the interest of all concerned." (Press Release)

December 4, 2001

"Government pushes 'power-drunk, anti-alcohol agenda' " - "... If NHTSA estimated alcohol-related fatalities with a more realistic BAC standard, it would probably find that alcohol-related facilities don't change significantly from year to year. Of course, such a report wouldn't further NHTSA's power-drunk, anti-alcohol agenda." (Steve Milloy, Washington Times, letter in response to Sobering 'drunk-driving' stats)

Revelation of the day: "TV news skews viewer perception of threats to life and limb" - "Reporting in the first epidemiological study of its kind, UCLA researchers say television news in Los Angeles skews viewer perception of actual threats to life and limb, causing unwarranted anxiety over some risks while masking the danger of others." (University of California - Los Angeles)

"Poll: Mold harm serious; Damage to homes, health a problem in state, Texans say" - "AUSTIN – Nearly four out of five Texans believe that mold in a home can cause major health problems, and a solid majority says mold damage in residences has become a serious problem in the state, according to a new Texas Poll." (Dallas Morning News)

Hmm... "Monkey Eggs Grow Into Embryos in Experiment" - "Scientists who created a furor by cloning human embryos said yesterday they had made monkey eggs grow into embryos without the benefit of sperm in a process known as parthenogenesis." (Reuters)

but: "Embryo clone leads to fall-out" - "One of the editorial advisors to the online science journal that published details of the "world's first human embryo clones" says he is resigning from his position. John Gearhart, one of the scientists to pioneer research into human embryonic stems cells, said his decision to step down was prompted by concerns over openness and integrity. The Johns Hopkins University researcher claimed important data were missing from the online paper featured in e-biomed: The Journal Of Regenerative Medicine, and that the experiment was in his judgement a failure and should not have been published." (BBC Online)

"Study: WTC Dust Contains Asbestos" - "Bird's-eye scientific snapshots of the World Trade Center disaster site, as well as chemical tests on dust samples, show only pockets of asbestos contamination following the collapse of the twin towers. Federal officials say recovery workers at ground zero should continue to wear respirators and other protective equipment. But they said ongoing studies show the plume of dust and grit that blanketed Manhattan following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks contains very low concentrations of dangerous materials and pose no serious environmental and public health hazards." (AP)

"No federal pesticide rules for schools" - "Dec. 1 — A congressional committee has killed legislation seeking to protect public school children and staff from certain pesticides. The provision was backed by Democrats, the nation’s largest teachers union and even a pesticide group, but it was opposed by Republicans and the National School Boards Association wary of jurisdictional disputes and the possibility of costly, and unfunded, mandates." (MSNBC)

Regular in, decaf out: "Scientist finds decaffeinated coffee doubles chance of rheumatoid arthritis" - "Older women who drink four or more cups of decaffeinated coffee a day are more than twice as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis (RA) than regular coffee drinkers, according to research presented recently at an American College of Rheumatology meeting. Dr Ted Mikuls, assistant professor at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, led the 11-year study into the link between ‘decaff’ and RA, following the consumption habits and health of 32,000 woman aged between 55 and 69 in the Iowa area. He concluded: “Women who drank regular coffee did not have the increased risk of RA - so it seems as if there is something about the decaffeinated coffee that is increasing the risks.” (just-food.com)

"No link found between child vaccines and diabetes" - "NEW YORK, Dec 03 - Standard childhood vaccinations--including the more recent additions to recommended shots--do not raise children's risk of diabetes, according to US researchers. "The results of our study and the preponderance of epidemiologic evidence do not support an association between any of the recommended childhood vaccines and an increased risk of type 1 diabetes," writes a team led by Dr. Frank DeStefano of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. "Suggestions that diabetes risk in humans may be altered by changes in the timing of vaccinations also are unfounded," they add in the December online edition of the journal Pediatrics." (Reuters Health)

Yes, it does. No, it doesn't. Today: "Estrogen holds promise as preventive therapy for cardiovascular disease" - "Taking estrogen appears to reverse thickening in the arteries of healthy, postmenopausal women, according to a study by researchers at the USC Atherosclerosis Research Unit. Atherosclerosis—accumulation of plaque in the arteries—decreased in women using unopposed estrogen therapy in the trial, according to Howard Hodis, M.D., principal investigator and associate professor of medicine and preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. The article appears in the Dec. 4 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine." (University of Southern California)

"Forum warned water crisis as bad as global warming" - "An international conference on the world's freshwater resources opened in Bonn to a call to place water scarcity on the same level as global warming, as a looming crisis in need of a swift response." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

If only potable water was such a non-issue as "global warming" ...

"Floods ain't what they used to be; Study shows wing dams have made them worse" - "Like so many other things, floods just aren't what they used to be. In the Midwest, they are worse than ever, according to Robert Criss, Ph.D., and Everett Shock, Ph.D., both professors of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. And they say that recent flood magnitudes and frequencies cannot be blamed on global warming or climate change, the popular notions. They point to human engineering of the rivers to try to control them for navigation." (National Science Foundation)

"Benchmark for solar UV radiation set from space" - "The Sun's energy can have profound effects on Earth's upper atmospheric regions, heating and changing their chemical composition and affecting the global climate. These effects are particularly strong during solar maximum -- the peak of the sun's 11 year cycle when it releases enormous amounts of ultraviolet radiation." (Environmental News Network)

"Energy coalition set to lobby against Kyoto signing" - "CALGARY - Some oil and gas companies are preparing to step up pressure on Ottawa to withhold its signature from the Kyoto protocol on pollution, which is expected to come as early as next June. "We've come away with the impression that Kyoto is kind of a runaway train," said Keith Macdonald, chairman of the Small Explorers and Producers Association of Canada." (Financial Post)

"Shipboard aerosol measurements enhance climate models" - "CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Sea-level measurements of aerosol properties, obtained last spring under both clean and polluted conditions in the Pacific Ocean, are helping to quantify aerosol optical properties related to climate change. “Recent models and measurements have strong evidence that man-made aerosols exert a significant influence on global climate,” said Mark J. Rood, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Illinois. “By reducing model uncertainties, aerosol measurements made in key geographic regions are an important contribution to improving climate models.” (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

"Stratospheric polar vortex influences winter cold, researchers say" - "CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A mechanism to explain how the behavior of the stratosphere may affect tropospheric weather patterns has been proposed by scientists at the University of Illinois. If correct, the idea could be included in models to better understand the climate system and predict the weather." (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

"Esso says effects of UK protests not yet clear" - "LONDON, Dec 3 - Esso said on Monday that it was too early to tell whether a UK-wide protest at up to 300 of its UK petrol stations last weekend had dented retail sales. ``It's too early to say on sales...but the vast majority of our sites were unaffected,'' a company spokesman said. Esso has more than 1,500 forecourt sites in Britain.

But hailing the boycott on Saturday as a success, the StopEsso campaign, a coalition of green groups, political parties and transport activists, said that 3,000 of its supporters picketed Esso garages in protest at the oil giant's stance on global warming." (Reuters)

"AGBIOS and ISAAA Launch Essential Biosafety on CD-ROM" - "AGBIOS, in association with the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), is pleased to announce the launch of the first edition of Essential Biosafety, a CD-ROM with comprehensive information about the safety of genetically modified crops. Innovations in biotechnology are increasingly identified as significant contributors to global food security and sustainable agriculture. Consequently, access to clear and factual information is critical to building an understanding of the issues, including the risks and benefits associated with agricultural products of biotechnology." (Press Release)

"Illegal Bt cotton in India haunts regulators" - "New Delhi, India -- In the first litigation of its kind, India's environment ministry is preparing to file a case with the supreme court, charging Navbaharat Seeds (Ahmedabad) with violating the Environment Protection Act (1986). The move follows the discovery of $30 million worth of unauthorized GM cotton growing on some 11,000 hectares in the western state of Gujarat. While the episode highlights the inadequacy of India's regulatory system, it also indicates how the tide has turned in favor of biotechnology in the country." (Nature Biotechnology)

"New Zealand's compromise calms GMO lobby" - "Wellington, New Zealand -- The New Zealand government appears to have appeased both sides of the country's genetic engineering lobby, announcing a conservative approach for the future of genetically modified organisms: although an 18-month voluntary moratorium on field trials of GMOs will end, new mandatory controls are to be imposed on trials, and a two-year ban is to be placed on the commercial release of GMOs, except those used in human and animal medicines." (Nature Biotechnology)

"Genetic debate sprouts over trees" - "Roasting chestnuts on an open fire — it's a vanished Yuletide tradition that geneticists are making possible once more. And therein lie the seeds of debate. Scientists working in the laboratories of academe and industry are altering the genetic makeup of trees to create super specimens that will grow faster, devour pollutants and resist disease, drought and insect pests. Some environmentalists, however, object that the researchers are "playing God" with trees and taking risks that could lead to "silent forests," devoid of small plants or birds." (Washington Times)

"Plotting a course for GM forestry" - "In recent months, the destruction of transgenic field experiments and the firebombing of our own university offices and laboratories by extremists from the Earth Liberation Front have propelled GM trees into the headlines. Ironically, at the same time that our research was under attack from "ecovandals", we were in the final stages of putting together a two-day symposium bringing together all sides of the debate for a discussion of the science, ethics, and policy of forest tree genetic engineering." (Nature Biotechnology)

"Grafting for transgene containment" - "In recent years, significant effort has been devoted to developing strategies for containment of reproduction for transgenic trees. There has been great concern from environmentalists, governmental organizations, and scientists regarding the dispersal of genetic material from transgenic plants through pollen and seeds. Solving this problem for forest trees has proved technically challenging, and as yet no general solution has been found. We propose a simple inexpensive method, based on traditional technology, that can establish complete control over reproduction of transgenic trees." (Nature Biotechnology)

"Regulation and exploitation of genetically modified crops" - "Functional foods, nutraceuticals, and plant-derived medicines may improve public relations for transgenic crop technology, but could leave manufacturers with tricky business decisions to make." (Nature Biotechnology)

"UPDATE - China endorses deal on GMO soybeans - USTR" - "WASHINGTON - China has formally embraced a tentative deal reached in October with the United States removing obstacles to the shipment of genetically-modified soybeans from the United States, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative said yesterday." (Reuters)

"FEATURE-Biotech reaps venture cash despite tech meltdown" - "SAN FRANCISCO, Dec 4 - Venture capital firms are jumping on the biotechnology bandwagon, pumping cash into start-up labs and related information technology, even as they slash financing for ventures in other technology sectors." (Reuters)

"FEATURE-IT firms bet on biotech to lift high-end sales" - "TORONTO, Dec 4 - The world's largest computer makers, faced with sagging consumer demand, are betting that the huge data crunching needs of nascent biotechnology firms will grow into a multi-billion dollar market for their equipment and consulting services over the next decade. International Business Machines Corp., the world's biggest computer company, believes the life sciences market will be worth at least $30 billion in annual sales by 2004." (Reuters)

December 3, 2001

New Scientist reviews Junk Science Judo - "... It's certainly true that media coverage of health news can be lamentable, from PR-driven claims for wonder foods and new treatment studies to stories linking cancer to...well, just about every substance on the planet. Milloy lays out ways to evaluate the latter type of report, from examining internal logic to assessing statistics. Most of his rules of analysis make perfect sense." says Wendy Grossman, New Scientist.

Back on the ol' 'synergy' trail: "Pesticides mix 'threatens health'" - "The mix of pesticides in food could be putting people at possible risk of brain damage and cancer, new research suggests. Scientists at Liverpool University have found that food containing the residues of more than one pesticide can be many times more toxic when acting together than individual chemicals." (BBC Online)

with suspiciously coordinated release: "Chemicals linked to chronic fatigue" - "Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) could be caused by common chemicals such as head lice treatments and insect repellents, a United States expert has told a Sydney conference. The condition, which affects up to one in 250 adults, has been derided as "yuppie flu" or dismissed as a psychological illness, but doctors are now in general agreement that it is real, an international conference on CFS at Manly heard at the weekend. Chemicals that were relatively harmless when used independently of each other could become highly toxic to the brain when used together, said Mohamed Abou-Donia, a professor of pharmacology, cancer biology and neurobiology at Duke University Medical Centre." (Sydney Morning Herald)

New items posted on Still Waiting For Greenhouse

The Week That Was December 1, 2001 brought to you by SEPP

Here we go again: "State warned on rising sea levels" - "RISING sea levels and storm events associated with climate change should be taken into account in Tasmanian coastal planning, a conference in Swansea has been told. The Coastcare Conference and Festival heard from the chairman of New South Wales' peak coast care body that his state was already mapping out a "planned retreat" from eroding coastlines." (The Mercury)

Really? Somehow, the evidence available suggests otherwise - see: The `Isle of the Dead' - Zero Point of the Sea? Part 1 of a two part report by John L. Daly; Part 2 of  `The Isle of the Dead' - a review of the evidence and; Testing the Waters: A Report on Sea Levels by John L. Daly.

"Editorial: Caution required on warming cure" - "In a burst of messianic environmentalism, the Government has committed itself to ratifying the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change by next September. It seems undeterred by the reluctance of the United States, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, to sign an agreement that would be far from global. Only developed countries would be obliged to reduce their emissions, to an aggregate 5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister has said, "We must lead by example." (New Zealand Herald)

"FEATURE-Biotech and IT link up as technologies converge" - "LONDON, Dec 3 - Today's battle against disease is being fought inside supercomputers as much as in laboratories. The convergence of biotechnology and computing at the cutting edge of biology has already bred dozens of new alliances and could pave the way for mergers between previously distinct industries." (Reuters)

December 1-2, 2001

"Mobile phone safety findings welcomed" - "The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association has welcomed the release of the European Commission's latest findings on the safety of mobile phones. Europe's Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment has found there is no scientific reason to change the rules governing exposure to electromagnetic radiation. It also found no epidemiological evidence that mobile phones have a detrimental effect on the human immune system, heart and blood pressure or the nervous system." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Ottawa proposes regulating road salt use" - "OTTAWA - Environment Canada is proposing to declare road salt toxic. The department wants to cut down its use on roads. A plan by the department was released as part of a revision to the Environmental Protection Act." (CBC) | Road salt dangerous pollutant, Ottawa says (Globe and Mail)

"Study figures $802 million spent to develop a drug; consumer group disagrees" - "NEW YORK - A study calculating that each new drug costs pharmaceutical companies an average of $802 million to develop was immediately attacked Friday by critics of the industry, who called the figure inflated." (AP) | Research Cost For New Drugs Said to Soar (New York Times)

"British gov't advises exercise to combat 'economy-class syndrome'" - "LONDON - The British government has issued a health advisory concerning "economy class syndrome" or travellers' thrombosis — when blood clots develop in the legs. It's the first time a government has acknowledged the problem and provided a warning." (CBC) | Travel blood clot warning issued (BBC Online)

Watch this bring wacky green obstructionists out of the woodwork: "Samut Prakan plans to have incinerators; Rubbish dumps are bad for public health" - "Rubbish dumps in Samut Prakan could soon become a thing of the past as parties concerned have lent full support to a proposal to substitute them with incinerators. A meeting of local administration officials, Samut Prakan governor Sawang Srisakun and the House panel on environment agreed garbage incinerators should be introduced. The meeting felt that the public and privately-run landfills scattered in the province were bad for public health and the environment. Garbage incinerators were deemed to be more environment-friendly." (Bangkok Post)

"Europe Sets Binding Limits on Dioxin in Foods" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium, November 29, 2001 - European Union Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne today welcomed the adoption by the European Council of a rule setting legally binding limits on the presence of dioxin and other contaminants in food. Any food exceeding these strict limits will be excluded from the food chain after the regulation enters into force on July 1, 2002." (ENS)

Coffee might be bad this week: "Caffeine may up miscarriage risk for some women" - "NEW YORK, Nov 30 - Contrary to what researchers expected to find, women who rapidly metabolize caffeine may be at risk for having a miscarriage, unlike women who take longer to clear caffeine from their bodies. The new study findings add to the body of research on caffeine and its effects on the risk of early miscarriage. "There is a longstanding debate about whether caffeine intake during pregnancy can influence a woman's risk for miscarriage," according to the study's lead author, Dr. Lisa B. Signorello, an epidemiologist at both the International Epidemiology Institute in Rockville, Maryland, and Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. This debate, she told Reuters Health, "is not at all resolved." Some studies have shown a possible risk associated with caffeine, but others have not, she said." (Reuters Health)

"Leaked Report Blasts Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Site" - "WASHINGTON, DC, November 30, 2001 - The draft version of a congressional investigation leaked to reporters is hypercritical of the U.S. Department of Energy for using incomplete information as a basis for its recommendation to entomb nuclear waste inside Nevada's Yucca Mountain." (ENS) | GAO investigators unsold on possible nuclear waste dump in Nevada (AP)

"UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Good to Go" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium, November 30, 2001 - The European Commission has cleared Britain's industrial greenhouse gas emission trading program to launch in April, while warning that London must align its rules with a European Union system for the same purpose meant to start in 2005. There were "substantial differences" between the British and European plans, the Commission said Wednesday, which might lead to unacceptable market distortions in the future." (ENS)

"Global Warming Could Help Greenback Cutthroat Trout" - "Colorado native greenback cutthroat trout may actually benefit from increased temperatures attributed to global warming, according to recent research findings at Colorado State University." (UniSci)

"Scattered clues to climate change" - "A new way of using data from satellite-based radar is providing scientists with a unique insight into the effects of climate change on ice caps, plant life and land surface. As ESA's Mark Drinkwater explained "for the first time, in this scatterometer climate-record pathfinder study, we have generated a consistent, long-term global microwave radar data set. With this data, scientists will be able to monitor long-term trends over the entire land surface of the Earth. Importantly, we have assembled data from a variety of satellites, going back to the late 1970s, with which one can begin to piece together a clear picture of global change over decades." (ESA News)

"Super Bergs Lock McMurdo in an Antarctic Ice Jam" - "WASHINGTON, DC, November 30, 2001 - Two super icebergs have caused an unprecedented ice jam in the Ross Sea, forcing U.S. authorities to call in a second icebreaker to try to open a channel to the McMurdo Base, the main U.S. scientific station in Antarctica. The bergs are so large they have upset the currents and wind regimes of the Ross Sea, impeding the seasonal pack ice break-up, according to the U.S. National Ice Center." (ENS)

Sigh... "A tiger out of your tank" - "Tomorrow's Stop Esso protests should begin the massive campaign to switch to renewable energy" (Polly Toynbee, Guardian)

Oops: "UK: Iceland sees H1 profits plummet, sales stabilise and new corporate identity" - "Bill Grimsey, CEO of British frozen food retailer Iceland, claimed yesterday [Thursday] that the 94% plummet in profits for the first half reflected a newly “stabilised” business, and he denied as he unveiled Iceland's new corporate name that it is too grand for the company.

Grimsey, who took over from company founder Malcolm Walker in January after the latter's controversial share sale, also revealed some of his ideas (purchased at a cost of £5.7m from consultants Price Waterhouse Coopers) for the future of the firm. He has already replaced the entire top management team, and reinvested in the buy-one-get-one-free offers the chain was famous for before Walker's disastrous organic strategy." (just-food.com)

"Greens Out In Cold As Public Gives Government's GM Stand A Big Tick" - "The government has scored a hit with the public on the volatile issue of genetic modification, a new poll out today has found.

The National Business Review-Compaq poll revealed 67% of people supported the government's decision on GM, a move that opened the way for field trials of GM products but on a case-by-case basis with strict controls and monitoring. The commercial release of GM products is banned for two years. Twenty-six per cent of people opposed the government's move and 7% said it depended or were unsure." (National Business Review)

"Cotton Mills Body Advocates Cultivation Of Bt Cotton" - "The India Cotton Mills Federation (ICMF) has advocated the cultivation of Bt cotton saying that the variety would be beneficial in increasing cotton output along with raising the income levels of the farmers due to less expenditure in pesticides and insecticides." (Business Standard)

"Plant Biotechnology Booming in China, Study Finds" - "DAVIS, Calif. -- Research and development on plant biotechnology is flourishing in China, which now accounts for half of the developing world's expenditures on plant biotechnology, according to a recent study by researchers at University of California, Davis and in China." (AScribe Newswire)

"Identity preserved crops promise big payoff" - "Prairie farmers could reap great rewards if the amount of identity preserved grain production is increased, says farm management consultant Gary Pike. "I think this is a huge opportunity for agriculture in Western Canada," said Pike, head of Pike Management Ltd. in Lethbridge, Alta., and one of the speakers at a grain industry conference in Winnipeg." (Western Producer)

"Movement of transgenes through maize in Mexico" - "CropGen response to the study by the University of California in Berkeley, published 29th November 2001, Nature" (CropGen)

"Mexicans See Banner Year for Monarch Butterflies" - "SIERRA CHINCUA SANCTUARY, Mexico - Mexico could see a banner year for its embattled butterflies as millions of migrating monarchs begin settling into the south-central mountains to spend the winter, experts said this week. Between 25 million and 170 million of the orange- and black-winged creatures travel as far as 3,000 miles each autumn to a monarch nature reserve in the states of Mexico and Michoacan, where they remain until March." (Reuters)

"China says delays issuing details of GMO rules" - "China's Ministry of Agriculture said on Friday it was delaying the issue of long-awaited details about its controversial rules on genetically modified organisms (GMO), but offered no new timeframe for their publication." (Reuters)