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Archives - February 2000

February 29, 2000

VIDEO of the day: Cell phones and memory loss - Researcher Henry Lai exposed rats to microwave radiation and then made them swim through a powdered milk solution. Based on the results of this experiment, Lai claims cell phones may adversely affect long-term memory. In this RealVideo clip (WNBC-TV, New York, Feb. 9, 2000), Lai says that if this were to happen to humans, they wouldn't be able to find their way home -- a real scream!

You need a RealPlayer to view the clip. Click to download it for free

CONSUMERDISTORTS.COM of the day: Consumers Union supports Boxer bill to label biotech foods - Consumers Union says all biotech foods should be labeled.

MEDIA BIAS of the day: "Psychiatrist hired by tobacco companies found no addiction in smokers" - "A psychiatrist who has never conducted any smoking research found no addiction in two smokers seeking damages from cigarette makers who hired him after he struck up a conversation on a flight with a tobacco lawyer," reports the AP.

The above-captioned quote is the lead sentence in this AP report. When was the last time you saw the media throttle the credibility of an anti-tobacco, anti-technology, anti-chemical or environmental advocate in the lead sentence of a news article?

DEBUNKING of the day: Homocysteine, Heart Disease Link Doubted, New Study - The link between elevated levels of homocysteine and heart disease risk has been called into question by a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The study authors conclude, "In contrast to cross-sectional and case-control studies, results of prospective studies indicated less or no predictive ability for plasma homocysteine in cardiovascular disease. Instead, elevated homocysteine level may be an acute-phase reactant that is predominantly a marker of atherogenesis, or a consequence of other factors more closely linked to risks of cardiovascular disease."

Coffee drinking has been a major target of the homocysteine hysterics:
  • "An elevated plasma homocysteine concentration is a putative risk factor for cardiovascular disease... Unfiltered coffee increases plasma homocysteine concentrations in volunteers with normal initial concentrations." [Am J Clin Nutr 2000 Feb;71(2):480-4]

  • "Elevated blood concentrations of total homocysteine (tHcy) have been implicated in the pathogenesis of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease... These results support the hypothesis that increased protein intake and decreased coffee consumption may reduce tHcy and potentially prevent atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and other disease outcomes." [Am J Clin Nutr 1999 Mar;69(3):467-75]

  • "The health consequences of coffee drinking remain controversial. We report on an association between coffee consumption and the concentration of total homocysteine (tHcy) in plasma, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and for adverse pregnancy outcome." [Am J Clin Nutr 1997 Jan;65(1):136-43]

MYTH of the day: "Cancer Corridor' concerns: Massive study examining myth, reality at midpoint" - "Is there a 'Cancer Corridor' along the strip of petrochemical industry activity between Baton Rouge and New Orleans on the Mississippi River? Or is the corridor a place where people smoke too much, don't eat properly and have too little access to health care? Or does a combination of lifestyle and industrial emission exposures cause health problems? The Lower Mississippi River Industrial Corridor Study seeks to begin answering those and other questions. The study should be ready for public release in about three years."

Avoid the rush to see the "Cancer Corridor" myth exploded. Read Mike Gough's commentary today!

COMMENTARY of the day I: "The great biotech sell-out: Capitulation on UN's biosafety protocol leads to needless regulation" - Henry I. Miller and Greg Conko write in The National Post, "Walking away from this anti-competitive, anti-consumer agreement would have been preferable to the result: an arbitrary, one-size-fits-all regulatory system for gene-spliced products based solely on the way they're developed, and regardless of how safe or dangerous individual products may be. It's tantamount to imposing a punitive tax on certain cars, solely because they've been made on an assembly line, or on certain fruits because they've been machine-picked."

COMMENTARY of the day II: "Good Food: Fear Wins a Round" - Julian Morris writes in The Wall Street Journal - Europe, "Do the studies with GM foods prove that the food will never be a problem? No. But they demonstrate that there is no scientifically supportable reason to believe foods that pass these screens will become a problem. And they give confidence that governments around the globe should move forward to ensure their citizens have the benefits of the technology."

COMMENTARY of the day III: "The Kyoto tax" - Christopher Horner writes in The Washington Times, "War is peace, global cooling is now global warming, and the New York Times and its allies know no inconsistencies in the long march to energy rationing."


  • "US 'covered up warnings from its scientists on dangers of GM foods'" - "Tony Blair's fresh scepticism about GM foods was bolstered yesterday by claims that the US Government has covered up the safety fears of its own scientists... Internal documents from Washington's food safety agency indicate US Government scientists advised against the assumption that GM crops are as safe as ones developed by traditional methods," reports The Independent. Daily Telegraph coverage

  • "Blair faces attack over GM health risk comments" - "Tony Blair will be at the centre of a new storm over GM foods this week as scientists protest against a claim by the Prime Minister that the products could be harmful to human health. In sharp contrast to his previous comment that he would be happy to eat GM foods, Mr Blair said yesterday that he understood the concerns both of environmentalists and the 'safe food' lobby," reports The Independent.

  • "Irish food safety head criticises EU White Paper" - "A number of essential measures to ensure consumers are protected from food-related incidents are omitted from the EU's White Paper on food safety, according to Dr Patrick Wall, chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland," reports The Irish Times.

  • "GM Food Conference Opens Amid Controversy" - "A major international conference on genetically modified food opened on Monday amid protests about the safety of the controversial new technology," reports Reuters.

  • "Plea for state to up GM food war" - "Tasmania's organic farmers risked losing their GM-free status if the state continued growing genetically modified crops, a visiting UK writer warned yesterday," reports The Mercury.

  • "UK's Blair eats GM foods, says minister" - "Cabinet Office minister Mo Mowlam spoke to BBC radio as the British government sought to end a storm over whether Blair had suddenly changed his mind and turned against GM foods," reports The Financial Times (Feb. 28).

  • "http://newsnet.reuters.com/cgi-bin/basketview.cgi?b=rcom:health&s=n5983499" - "Genetically modified food could revolutionise Third World healthcare and even help prevent some cancers, a major international conference into the controversial new technology heard on Monday," reports Reuters.

  • "Genetic foods could bring health benefits" - "Genetically modified food could revolutionise Third World healthcare and even help prevent some cancers, a major international conference into the controversial new technology heard on Monday," reports Reuters.

  • "Scientist in GM safety row calls for more probes" - "Scientist Arpad Pusztai, who triggered concerns about genetically modified food last year, said on Monday he was convinced more needed to be done to ensure the technology was not harmful to animals and humans," reports Reuters.

'CONSTRUCTION PROJECT' of the day: "Clean Air Trust: Highway Lobby Presses Congress to Bulldoze Clean Air Act" - "When the House of Representatives returns this week from its Presidents' Day break, the highway lobby will ramp up efforts to relax the Clean Air Act. The road-building lobby, assisted by aides to Texas Gov. George Bush, is promoting legislation that would allow polluting highway projects to be funded even if those projects would clash with state clean-air improvement plans."

The Clean Air Act was amended in 1990 to remove science as a criteria for determining emission standards for so-called "hazardous air pollutants." The Clean Air Act allows the EPA to cavalierly ignore scientific standards and its own science advisors, and to hide scientific data from the public.

The Clean Air Act be bulldozed and its supporters paved over.

"UK's Blair meets business on climate change levy" - "The government will shortly publish its draft programme for all sectors of British business to cut greenhouse gas emissions, officials said," reports Reuters.

"Urban sprawl curbs food production, study shows" - "Urban sprawl limits the ability of the land to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and convert it to biomass, researchers conclude from an analysis of satellite imagery," reports CNN.

"France checks cancer risk for oil spill cleaners" - "Volunteers and troops who cleaned up spilled fuel oil on France's west coast in December may be tested for traces of cancer causing substances, Environment Minister Dominique Voynet said on Monday," reports Reuters.

"Anti-smoking drive targets clubs" - "Pub-goers and clubbers are the targets of the latest phase of the government's anti-smoking publicity blitz," reports the BBC.

"Mad cow disease detected in Denmark -ministry" - "Mad cow disease has been detected for the first time since 1992 in Denmark, which prides itself on strict food hygiene and veterinary control standards, the ministry of food and agriculture said on Monday," reports Reuters.

"Herd destroyed after new mad cow case in France" - "A herd of 100 cattle was destroyed in Brittany after the discovery of the country's eighth case of mad cow disease this year, the French agriculture ministry said on Monday," reports Reuters.

"Make Certain There's No Risk to Children, Ashcroft Tells Feds Drafting Air Bag Rules " - "U.S. Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.) called today for a federal rule on air bags that protects the lives of children and adults of small stature."

February 28, 2000

COMMENTARY of the day I: "A Child's Tragedy, A Parent's Character" - My op-ed in today's CNSNews.com. You won't want to miss this one!

TRIAL LAWYER, SCIENTIST SHAKEDOWN ARTISTS TEAM UP: Angelos, Carlo join to head up research program RCR News reports (Feb. 25),

"Baltimore superlawyer Peter Angelos is teaming with George Carlo, who headed the industry-funded mobile phone cancer research program before breaking with the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association last year, to create a new radiation-protection project that will include follow-up studies and establish a comprehensive surveillance system to help identify any health problems among the 84 million wireless subscribers in the United States.

"We're putting in place a program to follow up the work of the WTR [Wireless Technology Research L.L.C.]," said Carlo.

The industry insists most research proves mobile phones are safe, but others point to studies that show DNA and genetic damage from mobile phone-like radio-frequency radiation.

The radiation protection project is under final review by Angelos, who has litigated successfully against asbestos and tobacco companies and is currently pursuing lawsuits involving alleged personal injuries from lead paint manufacturers and from a tape-erasing machine that produces a strong electromagnetic field.

Carlo said Angelos, a multimillionaire, offered to fund the radiation protection project directly. Carlo said he declined, saying such an arrangement might taint subsequent research. Instead, Carlo said the two men agreed to raise an initial $6 million through outside fundraising...

Scientific data collected from Carlo's follow-up research could become the foundation for class-action lawsuits in the future."

A "research" program, indeed. The only "research" the notorious Angelos is interested in is figuring out how best to extort deep-pocket defendants. As far as Carlo is concerned, even EMF activists are skeptical of him.
* * * *

BEN & JERRY'S MOMENT of the day: "Med Center waste disposal raises concerns about dioxin" - The Stanford Daily reports (Feb. 25):

"At the People's Hearing on Dioxin, Health and Environmental Justice in Oakland Thursday night, community members affected by toxic pollution spoke out against their slow poisoning by dioxin, a carcinogen emitted by waste Incinerators.

Dioxin has become the focus of environmental justice debates in the area in part because the chemical accumulates in body fat, meaning that once exposed, there is no way to purge dioxin from the body. Dioxin is also suspected to stunt brain development, which leads to learning disabilities. Babies who accumulate dioxin early on through their mother's breast milk suffer these disadvantages before they even know how to talk.

Ironically, these environmental threats to health are fueled locally by the incineration of medical waste from Stanford Hospital."

It's too bad about the incinerator emissions. But there is a "bright" side for Oakland residents. They should be glad that Ben & Jerry's has no "scoop shop" located in Oakland. Otherwise, they might be exposed to dioxin -- via a single serving of Ben & Jerry's ice cream -- that is 200 times greater than the EPA says is "safe." I'm sure the incinerator emissions contain much less dioxin.
* * * *

BIOTECH ROUND-UP: Tony Blair U-Turn on GM Food?

  • "Blair's GM food comment not a U-turn says minister" - "The British government has maintained its position on genetically modified (GM) food despite an article by Prime Minister Tony Blair seen as signalling a shift in policy, a cabinet minister said on Sunday," reports Reuters.

  • "Mowlam defends GM policy" - "Cabinet Office Minister Mo Mowlam has denied the government's policy on genetically-modified (GM) foods is inconsistent, after the prime minister acknowledged they could have the potential to do harm," reports the BBC.

  • "Blair faces attack over GM health risk comments" - "Tony Blair will be at the centre of a new storm over GM foods this week as scientists protest against a claim by the Prime Minister that the products could be harmful to human health," reports The Independent.

  • "U-turn by Blair on GM food" - "Tony Blair yesterday embarked on the biggest u-turn of his premiership when he admitted for the first time that genetically modified foods could pose a health risk. In a move which was welcomed by environmentalists, Mr Blair said he understood the 'legitimate public concern' which he had dismissed as over-reaction only last year," reports The Guardian.

  • "How US put pressure on Blair over GM food" - "President Clinton was briefed to put intensive pressure on Tony Blair to open up Britain and Europe to US genetically modified food and crops during private talks at the Downing Street summit in 1998, papers released to the Guardian revealed yesterday," reports The Guardian.

  • "From gung-ho to acceptance of 'legitimate concerns'" - "Tony Blair came into office gung-ho about genetic engineering and the great benefits it would bring," reports The Guardian.

  • "Blair's GM food shift welcomed" - "Tony Blair's admission that genetically-modified foods are potentially damaging to human health and the environment has been welcomed by pressure groups," reports the BBC.

  • "Greenpeace claims GM victory" - "Mr Blair's concerns will be further amplified today by Mo Mowlam, the Cabinet Office Minister. She will tell an international conference in Edinburgh that consumers across the globe are utterly bewildered about claims of the health and environmental effects of GM crops." reports The Times.

  • "GM food on conference menu" - "Four hundred experts are meeting in Edinburgh to discuss the science, safety and regulation of genetically-modified (GM) foods," reports the BBC.

  • "Demand for better GM food labelling" - "Consumer groups are calling for improved labelling of genetically modified foods ahead of an international conference on biotechnology next week," reports This Is London

TODAY'S GORE-ING of the day: "Gore's Greenness Fades Under the Spotlight of Politics" - "In his 1992 book, 'Earth in the Balance,' Al Gore described boldly where environmentalism fit in his priorities: 'We must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization.' Eight years later, those words carry an ironic echo. As he runs for president, environmentalism has yet to emerge even as a central organizing principle of Gore's campaign - never mind his plans for civilization. Instead, improving the quality of air, land and water - an issue Gore once spoke of with almost spiritual fervor - has been at the margins of his race for the White House," reports The Washington Post.

COMMENTARY of the day II: "Air-bag Troubles, Continued" - Peter Spencer comments at IntellectualCapital.com, "Had the U.S. safety efforts been more focused on increasing seat-belt use over the past 20 years than on technology forcing, perhaps the belt-use rate would be approaching the 95% rates found in countries such as Canada and Australia. Tens of thousands more people would be living today, no thanks to air bags."

"Sooty Diesel Buses to Be Eliminated by New State Rules" - "Smoke-spewing transit buses must disappear from California's streets over the next several years under a far-reaching regulation unanimously adopted Thursday by the state Air Resources Board... Two years ago, the state air board declared diesel soot a cancer-causing air pollutant that could cause 14,000 Californians alive today to contract cancer over their lifetimes. The bus regulation is the board's first major action since then to lower the health threat," reports The Los Angeles Times.

"Ruling that environmental advocates failed to prove that the public faces a significant cancer risk from breathing diesel exhaust, a state judge in San Francisco has dismissed a major lawsuit against companies that manufacture engines," reported The Los Angeles Times (Aug. 26, 1998).

"Reassurance is theme of French agriculture show" - "France's food lovers gathered in Paris on Sunday for the opening of the nation's annual agriculture show. Despite recent food safety crises, farmers and political leaders are reassuring the public that traditional products have never been safer," reports the AP.

"Tobacco's Addictive Cash" - The Washington Post editorializes, "When the 1998 deal was concluded, cynics suggested that the tobacco industry once again had bought off its opponents: The multibillion-dollar payout to state governments would dull the states' enthusiasm for measures that actually might prevent smoking. Two years on, that remains an exaggeration; the settlement at least has forced a rise in cigarette prices, which in turn has discouraged teenage consumption. Unfortunately, the buy-off theory is only an exaggeration. It is not completely wrong."

February 27, 2000

'TO-DO' of the day I: "Blair shifts on GM food" - "Tony Blair has acknowledged that genetically-modified foods are potentially damaging to human health and the environment. The prime minister said the jury was still out on the new food technology and that there was cause for legitimate public concern," reports the BBC. The Independent coverage

Philip Stott asks you to join in this vital debate via the Official No. 10 Downing Street web site.

'TO-DO' of the day II: Register your support for biotechnology - Courtesy of EVAG, you can use register your support for the use of genetically modified ingredients in the human food chain with a number of food companies.

COMMENTARY of the day I: "Ralph Nader's wish list?" - The Boston Herald editorializes, "Ralph Nader has announced his presidential candidacy on the Green Party ticket. We missed hearing his platform, but we figure our national nanny surely must be toying with some of the following..."

COMMENTARY of the day II: "Warning Signs" - Alan Caruba's weekly column.

COMMENTARY of the day III: "Hyper-hyperbole. It's massive!" - Will Sutton comments in The Observer, "This is the age of hyper-hyperbole. If you want to attract attention - whether you're a political party, a charity, a campaigning organisation or a newspaper - you have to make claims so extravagant they go beyond even the normal rules of hyperbole."

JOURNALISTIC HYSTERIA of the day: "It's apocalypse now as world boils over" - "The world is slowly sliding into climatic uncertainty - yet there is little sign that we are capable of taking action that can halt this descent into elemental catastrophe," reports The Observer.

"Don't compound medical errors" - The Chicago Tribune editorializes, "President Clinton has a knack for identifying problems, calling for sweeping reforms and then moving on to the next problem. That way he gets the good publicity and somebody else, often Congress or the states, gets to grapple with the details. Last week it was the thorny problem of medical errors that got the full presidential treatment."

Check out "Doctoring the Data, Nursing the News?"

"American Cancer Society begins ad campaign to improve image" - "The American Cancer Society has launched an aggressive $12 million ad campaign, hoping to convince the public it does more than drum up donations for research. But some critics, while they support the nonprofit agency's efforts, say the money would be better spent helping patients," reports the AP.

"California's environmental vote" - The San Francisco Examiner editorializes, "The environment so far has not loomed large as an issue in the presidential jockeying, apparently because the leading Democrats both have decent credentials in that field while the top two Republicans are relatively uninvolved with the subject. The Sierra Club is trying to end this neglect of vital environmental questions."

"Asian Volcano could affect global weather" - "Atmospheric scientists around the globe are watching Mount Mayon erupt in the Philippines, because the volcano's plume has the potential to affect weather worldwide," reports The Age.

"Top sweetener condemned by secret report" - "Britain's bestselling sweetener was condemned as dangerous and potentially toxic in a report compiled by some of the world's biggest soft drinks manufacturers - who now buy tons of it to add to diet drinks. Coca-Cola, Pepsi and other manufacturers produced the report in the early 1980s before the sweetener, aspartame, had been approved for use in America. It warns that it can affect the workings of the brain, change behaviour and even en-courage users to eat extra carbohydrate, so destroying the point of using diet drinks... Dick Adamson, of the NSDA, said that, in l983, it evaluated the data on aspartame and posed a number of questions. Once they were answered, it no longer had concerns about the safety of aspartame in carbonated drinks." reports The Times.

"First CJD baby feared as surge in cases is forecast" - "Doctors are investigating Britain's first suspected CJD baby. The infant, born to a woman who has since been found to have new variant CJD (nvCJD), is thought to stand a high chance of having contracted the disease. If tests confirm that the baby girl is also ill, it will mark the first case in which the disease has been transmitted from one generation to the next. All 51 people known to have died of the disease are believed to have contracted it by eating beef products made from animals suffering from BSE," reports The Times.

February 26, 2000

"Greenpeace ambushes GM ship" - "Police equipped with inflatable dinghies and an underwater search team have arrived in north Wales where campaigners from Greenpeace are continuing a protest on board a US cargo ship," reports the BBC. Other coverage: The Independent | The Guardian

Philip Stott asks for your help in protesting Greenpeace UK's actions.

"Justice to judge: Don't extinguish tobacco suit" - "The Justice Department urged a federal judge Friday to keep its massive lawsuit against the tobacco industry alive because the cigarette companies 'pose a continuing threat to the health and well-being of the American public,'" reports CBS Marketwatch. Reuters coverage

The Justice Department actually claims in this lawsuit, among other things, that it was somehow illegal for the tobacco comapnies to issue a press release critical of the U.S. Surgeon General. So I guess Mike Gough and I are really in trouble.

"Appeals judges leave smoke-trial gag order in place" - "Florida appeals judges on Thursday refused to undo a gag order in a high-stakes smokers class-action trial, shrugging off claims by cigarette makers that a ban against talking to reporters was confusing Wall Street," reports Reuters.

The Engle trial is big farce:
  • The lead plaintiff is a physician.
  • The judge is member of the plaintiff class.
  • A 44-year-old nurse who smoked for 30 years testified she didn't know smoking was risky.

" B&W Says Supreme Court Decision Will Have Major Impact on Tobacco Suits" - "A unanimous decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday limiting the scope of RICO actions will have a major impact on similar cases brought against the tobacco industry, said an attorney for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation.'While not concerning the tobacco industry, the high court's decision in the Rotella v. Wood case will severely restrict the ability of new and existing plaintiffs to bring RICO actions against tobacco manufacturers,' said Ken Bass, B&W's attorney at the Washington offices of Kirkland & Ellis."

"Bradley Vows to Save the Trees and Seas" - "Bill Bradley today vowed to take on the "Lords of Yesterday," the timber, agribusiness and water industries that he said threaten the ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest. The Democratic presidential candidate pledged to stop offshore drilling, stop the harvesting of old-growth forests and mandate that tugs accompany oil tankers through the ecologically sensitive San Juan de Fuca Straits," reports The Washington Post.

"Global warming hit London early" - "Excavations on a housing estate in inner London have yielded fascinating evidence showing that the southern part of what is now the United Kingdom basked in a Mediterranean climate a quarter of a million years ago," reports the BBC.

"Doctoring the Data, Nursing the News?" - Here's a longer version of the STATS commentary on the controversy over deaths due to medical errors.

"The Peoples’ Discretion" - Chris Fountain writes, "At the end of the twentieth century, we have been subjected to a barrage of television and radio programs and newspaper and magazine articles that tell us what a disastrous century it has been for humanity. There is tremendous despondency in the air. As one despairing Australian radio commentator said a couple of years ago: 'There is never any good news.'... And that is the point of this column. Each month, I will be bringing good news on environmental and technology issues. I won't dwell upon the gloomier side, as there are plenty of others willing to do that. Instead of trying to manipulate peoples' fears, I will attempt to inform their discretion. In my own small way, I hope to contribute to sensible environmental decision-making."

"GM firms fund friendly scientists" - "UK biotechnology companies are providing nearly £500,000 to a scientific panel 'to help achieve a more balanced debate about genetically modified (GM) crops'," reports the BBC. Reuters coverage

"Ozone layer 'thinning over Europe'" - "There is fresh evidence that the ozone layer is thinning over the UK and northern Europe. Scientists are alarmed by the depletion, which was previously thought to be a problem mostly confined to the southern hemisphere," reports the BBC.

"Scientists, consumer groups to gnaw over GM food" - "Scientists, regulators and consumer groups will tackle the thorny issue of GM foods at an international conference starting on Monday. The three-day event organised by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) will focus on the science of genetically modified food, how it is regulated and whether or not it is safe to eat," reports Reuters. Media release

"Cellular Phone Taskforce, et al., v. Cellular Teleommunications Industry Association et al." - Here's the court decision for this cell phone industry victory.

February 26, 2000

"Greenpeace ambushes GM ship" - "Police equipped with inflatable dinghies and an underwater search team have arrived in north Wales where campaigners from Greenpeace are continuing a protest on board a US cargo ship," reports the BBC. Other coverage: The Independent | The Guardian

Philip Stott asks for your help in protesting Greenpeace UK's actions.

"Justice to judge: Don't extinguish tobacco suit" - "The Justice Department urged a federal judge Friday to keep its massive lawsuit against the tobacco industry alive because the cigarette companies 'pose a continuing threat to the health and well-being of the American public,'" reports CBS Marketwatch. Reuters coverage

The Justice Department actually claims in this lawsuit, among other things, that it was somehow illegal for the tobacco comapnies to issue a press release critical of the U.S. Surgeon General. So I guess Mike Gough and I are really in trouble.

"Appeals judges leave smoke-trial gag order in place" - "Florida appeals judges on Thursday refused to undo a gag order in a high-stakes smokers class-action trial, shrugging off claims by cigarette makers that a ban against talking to reporters was confusing Wall Street," reports Reuters.

The Engle trial is big farce:
  • The lead plaintiff is a physician.
  • The judge is member of the plaintiff class.
  • A 44-year-old nurse who smoked for 30 years testified she didn't know smoking was risky.

" B&W Says Supreme Court Decision Will Have Major Impact on Tobacco Suits" - "A unanimous decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday limiting the scope of RICO actions will have a major impact on similar cases brought against the tobacco industry, said an attorney for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation.'While not concerning the tobacco industry, the high court's decision in the Rotella v. Wood case will severely restrict the ability of new and existing plaintiffs to bring RICO actions against tobacco manufacturers,' said Ken Bass, B&W's attorney at the Washington offices of Kirkland & Ellis."

"Bradley Vows to Save the Trees and Seas" - "Bill Bradley today vowed to take on the "Lords of Yesterday," the timber, agribusiness and water industries that he said threaten the ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest. The Democratic presidential candidate pledged to stop offshore drilling, stop the harvesting of old-growth forests and mandate that tugs accompany oil tankers through the ecologically sensitive San Juan de Fuca Straits," reports The Washington Post.

"Global warming hit London early" - "Excavations on a housing estate in inner London have yielded fascinating evidence showing that the southern part of what is now the United Kingdom basked in a Mediterranean climate a quarter of a million years ago," reports the BBC.

"Doctoring the Data, Nursing the News?" - Here's a longer version of the STATS commentary on the controversy over deaths due to medical errors.

"The Peoples’ Discretion" - Chris Fountain writes, "At the end of the twentieth century, we have been subjected to a barrage of television and radio programs and newspaper and magazine articles that tell us what a disastrous century it has been for humanity. There is tremendous despondency in the air. As one despairing Australian radio commentator said a couple of years ago: 'There is never any good news.'... And that is the point of this column. Each month, I will be bringing good news on environmental and technology issues. I won't dwell upon the gloomier side, as there are plenty of others willing to do that. Instead of trying to manipulate peoples' fears, I will attempt to inform their discretion. In my own small way, I hope to contribute to sensible environmental decision-making."

"GM firms fund friendly scientists" - "UK biotechnology companies are providing nearly £500,000 to a scientific panel 'to help achieve a more balanced debate about genetically modified (GM) crops'," reports the BBC. Reuters coverage

"Ozone layer 'thinning over Europe'" - "There is fresh evidence that the ozone layer is thinning over the UK and northern Europe. Scientists are alarmed by the depletion, which was previously thought to be a problem mostly confined to the southern hemisphere," reports the BBC.

"Scientists, consumer groups to gnaw over GM food" - "Scientists, regulators and consumer groups will tackle the thorny issue of GM foods at an international conference starting on Monday. The three-day event organised by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) will focus on the science of genetically modified food, how it is regulated and whether or not it is safe to eat," reports Reuters. Media release

"Cellular Phone Taskforce, et al., v. Cellular Teleommunications Industry Association et al." - Here's the court decision for this cell phone industry victory.

February 25, 2000

OFF-TOPIC of the day: "Teddy Rooevelt Jr. A Hero At Normandy" - My letter in today's Wall Street Journal.

John Calvin Batchelor's Feb. 17 editorial-page piece "All in the (Republican) Family" notes that "the Teapot Dome scandal so stained Theodore [Roosevelt] Jr. that when he tried to follow his father as governor of New York he lost badly to Al Smith and never tried for office again." This should not be sum and substance of how Teddy Roosevelt Jr. is remembered.

As a brigadier general and hobbled with severe arthritis, Roosevelt volunteered against his commander's wishes to land in the first wave of U.S. troops at Utah Beach on June 6, 1944. Roosevelt argued that "it will steady the boys to know that I am with them." The landing inadvertently occurred 2,000 yards from the planned location. But rather than try to redirect subsequent troops and equipment to the correct location, Roosevelt made the risky decision to "start the war from here."

For his conduct on Utah Beach, Roosevelt was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. On July 12, 1944, Supreme Commander Gen. Dwight Eisenhower confirmed Roosevelt's appointment as the commanding general of the 90th Division. But Roosevelt never learned of the appointment, dying the same evening of a heart attack. Teddy Roosevelt Jr. may have had a promising political career unfairly cut-short. But his heroic military exploits proved far more valuable to the causes of liberty and democracy.

Steven Milloy
Potomac, Md.

VICTORY of the day: "FCC Radiation Rules Approved" - "The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has rejected a challenge to final orders issued by the Federal Communications Commission governing the environmental effects of radio-frequency radiation," reports The New York Law Journal.

MEDIA RELEASE of the day: "NFPA Faults Introduction of Biotech Labeling Bill, Saying Legislation 'Puts Politics Ahead of Science'" - "'We believe Congress has already given FDA the authority it needs to address safety and labeling issues concerning food biotechnology,' Johnston said. 'Recently, FDA held a series of inclusive stakeholder meetings to provide a forum for the scientific community, farmers, the food industry, and consumers to provide input on biotechnology and FDA's current labeling requirements. FDA is now considering this input, in order to determine if any changes to existing policy are needed.'" Grocery Manufacturers of America media release

'POLITICALLY CORRECT-ED' STUDY of the day: MONICA study re-interpreted to fit public health establishment dogma - "Study casts doubt on heart 'risk factors'" was the August 25, 1998 headline from The Daily Telegraph. The story was that:

"The largest ever cardiology study has failed to find a link between heart attacks and the classic risk factors, such as smoking and high cholesterol levels. The MONICA study, which assessed 21 countries over 10 years, found the incidence of heart disease dropping across Europe, Australia and North America. But scientists could find no statistical connection between the reduction and changes in obesity, smoking, blood pressure or cholesterol levels."

Now an effort has been made by MONICA researchers to re-interpret and re-spin the embarrassing data.

The Lancet (Feb. 26) published a study and commentary addressing the "poor fit" between changes in heart disease rates and "traditional" cardiovascular risk factors. The strongest statement the researchers can make, though, is "Changes in the classic risk factors seem to partly explain the variation in population trends in CHD." [Emphasis added]

But note how Reuters reports the results:

"Heart disease remains the leading cause of death worldwide, but changes in lifestyle and better treatments have reduced the number of cases and deaths in most countries, according to research released on Friday." [Emphasis added]

Of course, the MONICA data aren't of very high quality to start with -- they are ecological data about populations. No data on individuals were collected. MONICA isn't much good for anything other than a case study of how the public health establishment doesn't take politically incorrect results lying down. Study (PDF format) | Commentary (PDF format)

REPORT of the day: "Joint Center Study Identifies Ways to Improve OMB's New Benefit-Cost Study" - "This paper critically reviews the draft of the Office of Management and Budget's third report on the benefits and costs of federal regulation. The purpose of this analysis is to offer constructive recommendations for improving that report." Study (PDF format)

CRITIQUE of the day: "MIT Tarnishes Its Reputation with Gender Junk Science" - Judith S. Kleinfeld writes "In March, 1999, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published a stunning study which confessed to unintentional but institutionalized gender discrimination against female faculty. The "MIT Study on the Status of Women Faculty" was conducted by the chief complainant of discrimination, Nancy Hopkins, professor of biology...

According to a feature story in the December 3, 1999 Chronicle of Higher Education, 'Nancy Hopkins has done for sex discrimination what Anita Hill did for sexual harassment.' Other universities plan to duplicate the MIT study, says the Chronicle, and MIT professor Nancy Hopkins has become the poster child for gender equity.

Why did MIT confess to gender discrimination? According to the Dean of the School of Science, Robert J. Birgeneau, the study of gender discrimination was 'data-driven and that’s a very MIT thing.'

But is this study 'data driven' - that is, based on an analysis of empirical evidence? The MIT study on gender discrimination, a careful reading shows, falls below basic standards for scientific evidence in the social sciences. Particularly suspect is the fact that MIT will not release the data."

COMMENTARY of the day I: "Field of dreams" - Michela Wrong writes in The Financial Times, "'It is going to be harder for the environmentalists to say they are battling for the poor if they're fighting something that benefits the poor,' says Gary Toenniessen, director of food security at the Rockefeller, acknowledging the looming ideological rift. 'But those groups were naive if they thought Third World countries were on their side to start off with.'"

COMMENTARY of the day II: "AIDS: Making the Worst Out of a Good Situation" - Michael Fumento writes in American Outlook (Winter 2000), "AIDS doomsayers have fallen on hard times. Just six years ago, the nation's top health official, Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, declared that after the epidemic there might not be "any Americans left." In fact, AIDS cases decreased from approximately 60,000 in 1997 to about 48,000 in 1998, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta (CDC), a 20 percent drop. That number is 42 percent below the 1995 peak of approximately 68,000. AIDS-related deaths plummeted from about 50,000 in both 1994 and 1995 to only 20,000 in 1998. Five years ago, AIDS was the eighth greatest killer of Americans; now, it no longer makes the top fifteen list. But to paraphrase the newspaper editor in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, when the truth conflicts with the legend, AIDSactivists brazenly print the legend."

COMMENTARY of the day III: "Anthrax Angst Syndrome" - Michael Fumento writes in American Outlook (Winter 2000), "The real threat here to U.S. military preparedness is not GWS or any vaccine; it is the willingness of the military and civilian establishments to kow tow to self-described victims when the evidence clearly shows that their claims are false. The government has already been far too craven in placating GWS activists. If it caves in to the anthrax-vaccine hysteria, the military may find itself unable to defend the nation at all."

COMMENTARY of the day IV: "Rx For Medical Errors" - The Detroit News comments, "A new layer of regulations and bureaucracy is unlikely to result in fewer medical mistakes."

COMMENTARY of the day V: "B.C.'s failed tobacco suit no victory for justice" - George Bragues writes in The National Post, "Much of the media coverage, as well as the tobacco industry's spokesmen, would have you believe that the B.C. Supreme Court has just set back the anti-tobacco lobby by invalidating a provincial statute designed to recover health-care costs from tobacco companies. It's not true. Sadly, the court told the anti-smoking lobby that core democratic principles like the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law don't impede their ability to confiscate the property of unpopular corporations, so long as these are within the jurisdiction of the confiscating government."

COMMENTARY of the day VI: "You’re eating genetically modified food" - James Freeman write in USA Today, "There’s no escape. You are consuming mass quantities of genetically modified food. The milk on your Cheerios this morning came from a genetically modified cow, and the Cheerios themselves featured genetically modified whole grain goodness. At lunch you’ll enjoy french fries from genetically modified potatoes and perhaps a bucket of genetically modified fried chicken. If you don’t have any meetings this afternoon, maybe you’ll wash it all down with the finest genetically modified hops, grains and barley, brewed to perfection - or at least to completion if you’re drinking Schaefer."

COMMENTARY of the day VII: "Ralph Nader, once so admired, now a has-been" - Marianne means writes in The San Francisco Examiner, "One of the saddest sights in politics is a fading public figure who refuses to concede that his or her time has passed. The latest egotist to ignore reality is Ralph Nader, the aging consumer advocate whose crusades stalled and popularity sagged long ago."

ENDORSEMENT of the day: "Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Says Gore is Best Choice for Environment in New TV Ad" - "In a new television ad released today, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., son of the late New York Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, tells New York voters who care about the environment that 'there is no more important choice that you can make this year than to support Al Gore for President.' Kennedy directs the Environmental Law Project at Pace University and the Hudson Riverkeeper program. "

At a fund-raiser last October, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. called Al Gore, "Our last, best chance to save the planet."

JUNK COMMENTARY of the day: "Phosphorous dilemma" - The Boston Globe editorializes, "hosphorous, a natural substance, plays a useful role in reducing lead and copper pollution in drinking water. Unfortunately, phosphorous and its compounds can also produce damaging growth of algae and plant life in streams and ponds, and government monitoring is inadequate to head off the problem. The monitoring should be expanded."

We need to be careful in jumping to conclusions about phosphorus releases to the environment. For years, the EPA refused to take phosphoric acid of the Toxics Release Inventory because the agency claimed -- erroneously -- that phosphorus discharges from industrial sources were causing eutrophication. A federal court in April 1999 forced the EPA to back-off this unsubstantiated claim and propose phosphoric acid for de-listing. Phosphorus loading is only one of many factors that contribute to europhication. As far as municipal wastewater is concerned, the phosphorus in human sewage most probably dwarfs that added to water to treat lead and copper problems.

"Vietnam To Aid Toxic Chemical Victims" - "Victims of toxic chemicals sprayed by U.S. forces during the Vietnam War will start receiving monthly allowances from the government, an official at the [Vietnam] labor ministry said Thursday. The decision, signed Wednesday by Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and retroactive to Jan. 1, applies to government workers, soldiers and volunteers working or fighting in areas sprayed in August 1961-April 1975 and their disabled children, he said. The monthly allowances range from $3.40 for those who are disabled but can still manage a normal life to $7 for those suffering from serious illness and incapable of working, he said. While that does not sound like much, the country's per-capita gross domestic product is only about $370, and many victims say they have been getting no help from the government. The official said a survey of victims of toxic chemicals used by U.S. forces during the war was completed late last year, but the results have not been released yet. Defoliants including Agent Orange which contains highly toxic dioxin were sprayed over central and southern Vietnam to eliminate cover for the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army. Washington and Hanoi have been talking about an agreement that would allow the two countries to share research on the effects of the defoliants," reports the AP.

This is another step in Vietnam's dance to extort -- aided and abetted by U.S. environmentalists -- billions of dollars from the U.S.

"Bio-crop technology to get new voice in UK" - "A new initiative, CropGen, will be launched on Friday to make the case for crop biotechnology and help achieve a more balanced debate about genetically modified (GM) crops in the UK," reports Reuters.

"U.S. obesity problem getting worse - experts" - "Despite education programs and a host of different diet plans, the U.S. obesity problem keeps getting worse, nutritionists said on Thursday," reports Reuters.

"Asia, not EU, best market for US biotech foods-expert" - "U.S. exporters have spent too much time fretting about the European Union's resistance to genetically modified foods, and ignoring the growing Asian consumer market that is more open to biotech crops, an industry analyst said on Thursday," reports Reuters.

"Up to one-third of all cancer cases may be prevented by healthy diets and exercise, notes FANSA" - "Healthy diets and exercise may prevent as many cases of cancer in the United States as not smoking, according to a recent statement by the Food and Nutrition Science Alliance (FANSA). Cancer kills more than 500,000 Americans every year. In a review of cancer research, FANSA found overwhelmingly conclusive evidence that the risk of several types of cancer can be dramatically lowered through healthy dietary practices and exercise."

"Phila. Jury Returns $8 Mil. in Fen-Phen Case" - "After deliberating for five hours, a Philadelphia jury yesterday came back with an $8 million verdict against the manufacturer of fenfluramine, the fen in the fen-phen diet drug combination, and a doctor who prescribed it to a popular jazz musician who developed primary pulmonary hypertension from taking it," reports the Law News Network.

"Consumer group seeks ban on lead candle wicks" - "The consumer watchdog group Public Citizen asked Thursday for a ban and recall on candles with lead in their wicks. The group said the candles pose a hazard because they can spew lead into the air as they burn," reports CNN.

"Paradise lost: it's a warming reception" - "The recent entry of four tiny Pacific nations to the United Nations - Tuvalu, population 10,600, joined last week - is adding a powerful touch of melodrama to the global warming debate. For they are claiming, with millennial conviction, that they will be paradises lost as the ocean submerges them. This is helping to concentrate the minds of the Cabinet of Australia, the South Pacific's dominant industrial power and thus alleged chief culprit, as it prepares to adopt Kyoto Protocol measures to sell carbon emission permits, ratcheting up power prices," reports the Australian Financial Review.

"Drugs 'slow mad cow disease'" - "Scientists have identified a new class of drugs that could lead to the first treatment for the human form of mad cow disease," reports the BBC. Media release

It has yet to be demonstrated humans can get nv-CJD from consuming beef from cattle infected with "mad cow" disease.

February 24, 2000

FIRST AMENDMENT ISSUE of the day: "First Amendment expert urges court to lift tobacco gag order" - "A First Amendment expert argued Wednesday that a Florida judge should lift a gag order keeping the tobacco industry from talking about a damage verdict expected soon in a landmark lawsuit by smokers." reports the AP. Reuters coverage

The Engle trial has got to be the biggest farce going:
  • The lead plaintiff is a physician.
  • The judge is member of the plaintiff class.
  • A 44-year-old nurse who smoked for 30 years testified she didn't know smoking was risky.

COMMENTARY of the day I: "Do Browner Pastures Lie Ahead?" - Michelle Malkin writes in The Omaha World-Herald (Feb. 23), "In the name of clean air, Browner has clogged up the judicial system, bullied internal EPA whistleblowers, withheld research from Congress, funneled tax money to left-wing lobbying groups, pushed to ban children's asthma inhalers, foisted the water-polluting gasoline additive MTBE on many states and even earned the rebuke of one federal judge for "adjust(ing) established procedure and scientific norms to validate the agency's public conclusions." If Al Gore is elected president in November, we can look forward to four more years of sullied science and Browner pastures to come."

COMMENTARY of the day II: "How to profit big from anti-smoking" - Terry Corcoran comments in The National Post, "The tobacco industry gained a bit of ground the other day when a B.C Supreme Court judge ruled that the anti-tobacco industry's plan to sue tobacco firms was unconstitutional. On the whole, though, the anti-tobacco forces -- a continental tyranny of politicians, lawyers, bureaucrats, health fascists, government-paid lobbyists, financial operators, investment bankers, consultants -- still have a long, fat lead."

JUNK COMMENTARY of the day I: "A matter of trust" - The Indianapolis Star-news comments, "The Defense Department's decision to procede with anthrax innoculations for American servicemen is decidedly unpopular with some and perhaps for good reason... After decades of denials, the government finally conceded that workers who helped make nuclear weapons beginning in 1952 were exposed to radiation and chemicals that produced cancer and early death. Following orders is a military imperative. Clearly the Pentagon views the anthrax inoculations as a sensible precaution, insurance of a sort for the troops. We hope years from now, it holds the same opinion."

Check out Michael Fumento's "If Only There Were A Vaccine for Hysteria" for the low-down on the anthrax controversy.

Watch for an upcoming Junkscience.com analysis debunking the U.S. Government's recent "admission" that nuclear workers experienced higher rates of cancer and premature death.

JUNK COMMENTARY of the day II: "Beware the appliance of science" - George Monbiot comments in The Guardian, "Nuclear power is inherently dangerous, not because it can't be made safe, but because it won't be made safe... Some of the world's most eminent biologists insist that genetically modified crops are 'low-risk'. When assessing the immediate food safety consequences of shifting DNA, they may be right, but the risks lie elsewhere: in the elevated pesticide residues in herbicide-resistant crops, in the ability they grant to farmers to eliminate almost all the remaining wildlife from their fields, in the seizure of the food chain by multinational companies."

The anti-technology Unabomber (Ted Kaczynski) must be writing under the nom-de-plume of "George Monbiot." Had Monbiot been around in pre-historic times, he probably would have discouraged the use of fire.

THE GHOST OF DEBUNKING TO COME: "Filtered coffee 'just as bad for you'" - "Filtering coffee does not remove a chemical linked to heart disease and stroke, researchers claim. Scientists in the Netherlands said they were surprised that levels of homocysteine did not drop when the coffee was filtered," reports the BBC. New Scientist coverage

The underlying basis for this study -- that homocysteine levels are predictive of heart disease risk -- is within days of being debunked in a major journal. Stay tuned!

NEEDLESS APOLOGY of the day: "New England Journal of Medicine apologizes over conflict of interest" - "In an extraordinary apology to readers, the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine admitted violating its financial conflict-of-interest policy 19 times over the past three years in its selection of doctors to review new drug treatments," reports CNN. NEJM apology | MSNBC coverage

There is no conflict-of-interest for many government-funded researchers -- government bias often wins the battle before the research even begins. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for example, issued guidelines for banning smoking to building owners years before the agency completed its risk assessment for secondhand smoke.

Wake me when government- and foundation-funded researchers receive the same scrutiny for conflicts-of-interest as researchers funded by industry.

BTW, I'm sure there is no researher bias in the new W. Alton Jones Foundation-funded, Ohio Environmental Council-commissioned study, reporting that air pollution in the Midwest is worse than in the Northeast -- the purpose of which is to boost the bogus argument that smokestack emissions from the Midwest foul Northeast air quality. Media release

ENDORSEMENT of the day: "Nobel Prize Winners Endorse Agricultural Biotechnology" - "Renowned US scientists James Watson and Norman Borlaug join more than 1,000 other scientists from around the world in endorsing the 'Declaration of Scientists in Support of Agricultural Biotechnology'," reports Business World (Feb. 21).

GLOBAL WARMING FEAR-MONGERING of the day: "Doctors Warn Global Warming Will Have Severe Impact on Health in Maine" - Physicians for Social Responsibility will host a press conference for the "public release of 'Death by Degrees: The Emerging Health Crisis of Climate Change in Maine,' a new report that alerts Maine residents to the health effects of climate change."

"Consumer reaction hampers GM food progress" - "However, U.S. agricultural strategy is now facing an unexpected uphill battle as campaigns against GM food by consumers in Europe and Japan have escalated," reports The Daily Yomiuri.

"Clinton May Act on Gas Additive" - "The Clinton administration is exploring whether to regulate the gasoline additive MTBE under a law that controls toxic chemicals, a first step toward a possible ban, government sources and a lawmaker said Tuesday," reports the AP.

MTBE may be problematic, but there is no credible evidence that it causes cancer.

"Tassie would have to 'go it alone' on GM crops" - "A forum in Hobart has been told if Tasmania wants to be free of genetically engineered (GM) crops, it will have to go it alone," reports the ABC.

"France ponders UK blood ban" - "France is considering banning donations of blood from people who visited the UK in the 1980s and early 1990s. The country's government ministers are worried about people becoming infected with CJD, the human form of the cattle brain disease BSE - or mad cow disease - which sparked a crisis in those years," reports the BBC.

February 23, 2000

BEN & JERRY'S MOMENT of the day: "US urges Japan to act on incinerator" - The United Press International reports:

"Senior U.S. State Department and defense officials are urging their Japanese counterparts to ensure that an industrial waste incinerator located next to a U.S. Navy base in central Japan does not continue to emit dangerously high levels of dioxin.

'Nobody disputes that there is a real health hazard resulting from these emissions of dioxin,' a U.S. official said. 'We hope that we will see a very prompt resolution of that and our preference would be to have the facility close down until an adequate solution can be found.'

The official said that Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Walt Slocombe and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Ralston raised the issue in 'very forthright terms' with their counterparts in the Japanese Defense Agency...

The highest levels detected -- tracked from about 250 meters (825 feet) from two Navy apartment towers adjacent to the incinerator -- were more than 70 times those deemed safe by Japan's Environment Agency.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says exposure to dioxin can cause cancer, severe reproductive and developmental problems and damage to the body's immune system as it accumulates in fatty tissue.

Defense Secretary William Cohen raised the specter of a lawsuit aimed at shutting down the incinerator in a meeting with Japanese Defense Minister Tsutomu Karawa in early January...

Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi pledged to Clinton last year to have filters installed in the incinerator's three smokestacks by this spring in order to reduce the dioxin emissions.

About 13,000 Japanese and 3,000 Americans live and work within one kilometer (0.6 miles) of Shinkampo."

The dioxin level reported in this article (70 times the level deemed safe by Japan) equates to 53 picograms of dioxin per cubic meter of air.

We measured 80 picograms of dioxin in one serving of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

I wonder if Cohen and crew have gone ballistic about the Ben & Jerry's ice cream sold in military commissaries?

* * * *

REGULATORY OVEREACHING of the day: "U.S. consumer agency warns of crib dangers in hotels" - "The Consumer Product Safety Commission Tuesday warned that most cribs found in hotels during a recent study were unsafe for infants and urged all hotels to join a campaign for safer cribs," reports CNN. CPSC media release | AP coverage

Despite kids under 2 years old spending 7 millions nights per year in hotels, no crib-related injuries have been linked with hotels. CPSC can only claim "Each year, about 40 babies suffocate or strangle in their cribs when they become trapped between broken crib parts or in cribs with older, unsafe designs. Soft bedding such as quilts, comforters or pillows can suffocate a baby. As many as 3,000 infants die each year from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and up to one-third of these may have suffocated on soft bedding."

It's no wonder "CPSC invited 24 national hotel chains to participate in the safety initiative, but only Bass Hotels & Resorts agreed." Why make hotels bear the costs of new cribs when it's not clear the hotels' old cribs are causing problems?

Oh, I forgot. Being a federal regulator means not having to have a reason for, or bear the consequences of regulation.

COMMENTARY of the day I: "Feeding hysteria over food science" - Tommy Schnurmacher comments in The Montreal Gazette (Feb. 20), "Joerg Haider had it all wrong. If he wanted to rehabilitate his image,... He should have started railing against genetically modified food and he would instantly have been hailed as a hero."

COMMENTARY of the day II: "EPA needs to clean air, not hinder democracy" - Randal O'Toole comments in The Houston Chronicle, "Far from being a grass-roots movement, smart growth is a movement of elites, funded by the EPA, who want to impose their wills on everyone else. The EPA should stick to its legal goal of trying to clean the air. Its policies of promoting congestion by funding anti-auto groups not only make air dirtier, they subvert the democratic process."

COMMENTARY of the day III: "Tobacco industry unfairly is a target" - Jerry Heaster comments in The Kansas City Star (Feb. 22), "Perhaps the most destructive aspect of the anti-smoking campaign is how it undermines reverence for the truth. No deceptive claim, it seems, is too grotesque if it's in the service of demonizing tobacco to legitimize plundering the industry."

COMMENTARY of the day IV: "Altered food labels don't promote choice" - Henry I. Miller comments in The Baltimore Sun, "If large numbers of people really want to avoid gene-spliced food, niche markets will arise -- assuming that consumers are willing to pay a premium for foods certified to be "gene-splicing free," as they do for kosher, halal and organic products. If we're really interested in expanding consumer choice, let's use the market, not government mandate."

OMISSION of the day: "Cities make their own weather" - "Cities can become so much hotter than surrounding areas that they generate their own weather, a Nasa scientist said on Tuesday," reports the BBC. Other coverage: The Guardian | The Independent

Oddly, these articles fail to mention the link between the "urban heat island" effect and the dreaded global warming.

"Record breaking temperatures seen as evidence of faster rate of global warming" - "Researchers at NOAA's National Climate Data Center (NCDC) have found evidence that the rate of global warming is accelerating and that in the past 25 years it achieved the rate of two degrees Celsius (four degrees Fahrenheit) per century. This rate had previously been predicted for the 21st Century." Los Angeles Times coverage

"Asbestos suits send Babcock & Wilcox into bankruptcy protection" - "Demands for higher settlements in asbestos-exposure claims drove Babcock & Wilcox Co. into voluntary bankruptcy protection Tuesday," reports the AP.

"Seek fair nuclear waste solution" - The Deseret News editorializes, "...those states responsible for generating nuclear waste should also be responsible for storing it. If that is impractical for some states, then setting up a system of smaller repositories nationwide is preferable to shipping all nuclear waste to the West, be it in Nevada or Utah. The West can and should take care of its nuclear waste. The same holds true for the East. Common sense, not politics, should be the deciding factor."

"Gore's Core Environmental Support a Little Soft" - "You'd think presidential hopeful Al Gore would have the support of environmentalists tucked away. Although he's long disappointed some activists with his positions on trade, he's widely viewed as the pro-environment candidate... But Gore has bumped into a lot of grumpy greens along the campaign trial," reports The Legal Times.

"Toxicologists discover traces of diesel exhaust in the body" - "Toxicologists at Nijmegen University have discovered substances in the bodies of test subjects caused by diesel exhaust and which can act as bio-markers. Such markers are necessary to determine health risks in the workplace. Until now, the risk of lung cancer from inhaling diesel soot particles has been assessed on the basis of cases of lung cancer in related occupational groups, for example drivers."

"Southwest warned to plan for dry decade" - "It's too early to know if North America is shifting into a new phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, but it's not too early for the Southwest to plan for an extended period of dry conditions, according to the Climate Assessment Project for the Southwest," reports CNN.

"Irradiated Beef Now Approved" - "The first irradiated meat should be available in supermarkets within a few weeks," reports CBS News. Other coverage: CNN | Associated Press

"Carrefour leads purchase of non-GMO Brazil soy" - "A pool of French pork and poultry farmers and animal feed makers led by retailer Carrefour has signed a deal to buy non-genetically modified soybeans from Brazil, a company official said on Tuesday," reports Reuters.

February 22, 2000

COMMENTARY of the day I: "‘Scare’ Tactics in Reprocessed Medical Device Debate" - A version of this commentary appears in today's Chicago Sun-Times.

COMMENTARY of the day II: "Global warming, myth or fact?" - The Washington Times editorializes, "More evidence that global warming advocates may be full of hot air was released - but given scant media attention - in the Feb. 17 issue of the academic journal, Nature... The Washington Post buried the story on page A13; somehow, it doesn't take a great deal of imagination to believe that had the conclusions arrived at in the Nature piece been supportive of global warming theory, the story would have appeared on Page One - above the fold."

VICTORY of the day I: "Court strikes blow to Canadian anti-tobacco suit" - "Canada's first lawsuit seeking damages for the public health costs of smoking-related illnesses suffered a setback on Monday after a court ruled it was based on an unconstitutional law," reports Reuters.

VICTORY of the day II: "Punitives in Toxic Dispute Tossed Out by L.A. Court" - "Executives at five major oil companies are likely celebrating today following a court ruling last week that threw out about $7.5 million in punitive damages in one phase of a massive toxic tort case involving Lockheed Corp.'s secretive Skunk Works plant," reports the Law News Network.

CONSUMERDISTORTS.COM of the day: Kids and Caffeine - Last week, ABC's 20/20 featured Consumer Reports' attack on caffeinated soda.

RESOURCE of the day: "The Real Green Dictionary" - Philip Stott deconstructs eco-speak.

POLITICAL SCIENCE of the day: "Senators continuing probe of medical mistakes" - "U.S. senators on Tuesday plan to continue hearings into medical mistakes that, according to a report, are plaguing America's health-care system. The errors kill between 44,000 and 98,000 hospitalized Americans a year, according to an estimate in the Institute of Medicine's recent report on medical mistakes. In comparison, about 42,000 people are killed annually in U.S. vehicle accidents," reports CNN.

Bet on Congress to jump on flaky statistics. Check out "Doctoring the Numbers?" from STATS.

JUNK COMMENTARY of the day: "The Grass Isn't Green" - Michael Holley comments in American Lawyer Media (Feb. 17), "Each day, the United States exports an estimated 60 tons of various 'unregistered' pesticides that it has never tested or has banned because they are too dangerous for domestic use... In comparison to these harms imposed on the Third World, the threat to U.S. consumers is minimal. This is because the organochloride pesticides, such as DDT, used in the 1960s and 1970s have largely been replaced by a new generation of organophosphate pesticides. These organophosphates are much more toxic to workers and the immediate environment, yet have less 'sticking power' as residues on the food products sent to the United States."

Organophosphate pesticides are only dangerous when misused or mishandled. If such hazards are unacceptable, then the eco-nuts have only themselves to blame for their indiscriminate attacks on organochlorine pesticides. In comparison with OPs, organochlorines -- such as DDT -- are far less toxic to humans. Just ask almost any World War II veteran, survivor of the 1943 typhus epidemic in Italy, or Holocaust survivor.

"Albright urges science boost in US diplomacy" - "Citing misguided fears over genetically altered food as a potential diplomatic flashpoint, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright today urged making science and technology a top priority in US foreign policy," reports the ABC.

"Democrats to begin food labelling campaign" - "The Australian Democrats will today try to kick-start the campaign for uniform labelling of genetically modified foods," reports the ABC. The Age coverage.

"Factory will make human protein from GM ewe milk" - "The company which helped to clone Dolly the sheep is to build a processing plant to produce a human protein from the milk of genetically modified ewes," reports The Daily Telegraph.

"Stores may sell more irradatied meats starting Tuesday" - "Ground beef that's been irradiated to kill deadly bacteria could start showing up in supermarkets next month. New rules that allow the irradiation of raw beef, pork and lamb take effect Tuesday," reports the AP.

"Urban sprawl reduces annual photosynthetic production" - "A study of the impact of urbanization and industrialization over the past seven years using satellites shows that annual photosynthetic productivity can be reduced by as much as 20 days in some areas where urbanization is intense, not unlike turning the lights off in a greenhouse during the growing season."

"Integrated regional assessment brings climate change home" - "A framework developed for assessing regional climate change may help scientists, stakeholders and government policy makers address the uncertainty and ambiguity of how predicted global changes will affect regions, and how regional and local decisions can mitigate or exacerbate problems, according to a Penn State geographer."

February 21, 2000

COMMENTARY of the day I: "Our scientists must be allowed to feed the world " - Norman Borlaug comments in The Houston Chronicle, "The general public fails to understand that biotechnology, including gene splicing, recombinant DNA and genetic engineering, are newer and vastly more precise tools -- part of a continuum -- to further improve our crops and animals beyond the levels that have been achieved with the traditional genetics in plant or animal breeding."

COMMENTARY of the day II: USA Today: "Don’t misrepresent biotechnology" - USA Today comments, "The food fight over genetically engineered crops and products is slopping over into corporate boardrooms... Biotechnology, like any tool, can be abused and misused. That's why regulatory agencies must closely monitor it. But the slop that opponents are tossing into boardrooms both misrepresents the technology's dangers and downplays its benefits. But the slop that opponents are tossing into boardrooms both misrepresents the technology's dangers and downplays its benefits." The opposing view says, "Why rush unproven products to market? When a product is rejected by consumers or proven unsafe, shareholders are left holding the bag. Whatever your concern - family, the environment, plants, animals or the future of a business - safety testing must come first."

STUDY of the day I: "Radiofrequency Exposure and Mortality from Cancer of the Brain and Lymphatic/Hematopoietic Systems " - "Our findings do not support an association between occupational RF exposure and brain cancers or lymphoma/leukemia," reports a study in Epidemiology (March 2000).

STUDY of the day II: "The Relation between Infant Indoor Environment and Subsequent Asthma" - "In homes where at least one adult smoked in 1988, reported infant exposure to smoking in the same room in 1988 was associated with increased asthma by 1995 (relative risk = 1.52; 95% confidence interval = 1.01-2.29) after adjustment for confounders. The associations between infant exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and asthma were not consistent, however," reports a study in Epidemiology (March 2000).

STUDY of the day III: "An Exploration of Awareness Bias in Two Environmental Epidemiology Studies" - "We conclude that self-reported illness was influenced by both worry and proximity to industry, but that worry about the hazard had the greatest effect on self-reported illness. We suggest that because absolute certainty about the role and extent of awareness bias in environmental epidemiology studies is unlikely to be achieved, self-reported data should be supplemented with other observations," reports a study in Epidemiology (March 2000).

"Genetically engineered food could be lifeline for developing world, Cornell researcher suggests" - "In the developed world, societies enjoy abundant diets more varied now than at any other time in history. That's in stark contrast to the developing world where millions of people confront profound food insecurity every day. Part of the solution to righting this imbalance might involve something that is increasingly controversial in the developed world: genetically engineered food."

"Cigarettes, drugs may share same brain mechanism" - "The same forces that make a smoker crave a cigarette could make drug users long for heroin or cocaine, researchers said on Sunday," reports Reuters. Media release

"Eat whole grain, live longer" - "A simple bowl of cereal could reduce the risk of two of Britain's leading killers - heart disease and cancer - by a third, a survey suggests," reports the BBC.

About a year ago, the New England Journal of Medicine rocked conventional thinking about high fiber foods with a large study that did not support the existence of an important protective effect of dietary fiber against colorectal cancer or adenoma.

"Unraveling Two Riddles Of Global Warming" - So writes The Washington Post's Curt Suplee. But can you really write a (credible) global warming article relying on Ben Santer?

"Blooming winter for showpiece gardens" - "Global warming is being credited with extending Cornwall's tourist season to February. The county's National Trust gardens opened at the weekend, two weeks early, as so many flowers are in bloom," reports The Times.

"Global Warming Inevitable" - "Global warming is so real and hard to stop that America has to learn to cope with a hotter and quite different lifestyle in coming generations, a panel of top scientists is saying after more than three years of intensive research," reports Knight-Ridder News Service.

"Two Gulf war veterans want lives back" - "Two Canadian veterans of the Persian Gulf war made an emotional appeal to the federal government yesterday to provide independent medical tests and treatments to restore lives they say were shattered in the conflict a decade ago," reports The Globe and Mail.

If you haven't read what Mike Fumento thinks about GWS, check these out:

"GM plants will help us live on Mars, says physicist" - "Our children will live to see the day when the first human colonies on Mars will breathe an artificial atmosphere created by a forest of genetically modified trees adapted to grow on the red planet, an eminent United States physicist believes," reports The Independent.

"EPA calls US government big water polluter" - "The federal government is polluting the nation's waterways at a record rate, violating the landmark Clean Water Act more frequently than private companies and six times as often as in 1993, according to a new report by the Environmental Protection Agency," reports The Boston Globe.

"Variety rights challenge to Asia rice industry" - "New laws allowing rice breeders to claim exclusive rights over seeds may benefit research but would also restrict sharing of new varieties of the grain that feeds half of the world, experts say," reports Reuters.

"French herd destroyed after mad cow disease found" - "A herd of 600 animals was destroyed in the Ain region of southeastern France after the discovery of the country's seventh case of mad cow disease this year, the agriculture ministry said on Sunday," reports Reuters.

February 20, 2000

"U.N. says cyanide levels decreasing in Danube" - "U.N. environmental officials said Friday that cyanide levels have diminished in the Serbian part of the Danube River to the point that only one recent sample showed concentrations of the poison above acceptable drinking levels," reports the AP.

'Global warming behind floods' - "South Africans are starting to feel the effects of fundamental changes in the world's climate, Worldwide Fund for Nature CE Ian Macdonald said yesterday," reports Africa News.

"International trade imperils U.S. plants, animals and crops" - "While the booming global economy promises greater prosperity in the next century, it poses a real threat to the country's native plants and animals as well as to its productive croplands, says an ecologist from the University of California, Berkeley. 'International trade has a really big cost associated with it,' said Carla M. D'Antonio, associate professor of integrative biology and an expert on invasive plants. 'Most harmful non-indigenous insect pests and plant pathogens arrive in the U.S. as stowaways on nursery stock, raw logs or cargo containers. And many invasive exotic plants are purposely introduced through the horticultural market.'"

"Solar system's ultimate fate" - "As soon as 3.5 billion years from now -- long before the planets go up in smoke -- all life in the Earth's fragile biosphere already will have perished from the heat."

"Earth's oceans destined to leave in billion years" - "The Earth's oceans will disappear in about one billion years due to increased temperatures from a maturing sun, but Earth's problems may begin in half that time because of falling levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, according to a Penn State researcher. "The sun, like all main sequence stars, is getting brighter with time and that affects the Earth's climate," says Dr. James F. Kasting, professor of meteorology and geosciences. 'Eventually temperatures will become high enough so that the oceans evaporate.'"

"Chlorinated tap water linked to birth defects" - "An independent study into the use of chlorine-treated drinking water has been ordered by the Government because of fears that it may cause spina bifida and stillbirths," reports The Daily Telegraph.

"Panel made to study biotechnology issues" - "A blue-ribbon panel of scientists and academics has been named to stir through the steaming controversy over genetically altered food. The 16-person panel, set up at the request of three federal ministers, has been asked to forecast biotech trends, consider health and environmental risks, and make policy recommendations," reports The Globe and Mail.

February 19, 2000

STUDY of the day: "No link found between PCBs and DDE and breast cancer risk in women" - "In the largest such study to date funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Environmental Health and Safety, researchers at the Yale Cancer Center did not find a significant relationship between exposure to PCBs or the pesticide DDE, and the risk of breast cancer in women. In a case-control study of nearly 1,000 Connecticut women, blood serum levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and the organochloride compound DDE were analyzed for an association with breast cancer risk. No significant difference in serum levels was found between the women with breast cancer and the control group. The research was reported in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention." BBC coverage

"ASU scientists probe salamander mysteries" - "The answers to some questions are not really answers, but more questions. Elizabeth Davidson, a pathologist at Arizona State University, does research on a lethal salamander virus. She is one of a large group of scientists from around the world who are working together to find out what has triggered the decline of amphibians in places as far and wide as North and Central America and Australia. Her particular study area has turned up a few exciting answers, and enough questions to keep this global group of biologists busy for years."

"Link between climate change, amphibian declines explored" - "A NASA-funded study to search for links between local climatic variation and the beginning of specific amphibian declines that have occurred in three areas of the world in the past several decades has turned up no significant correlation between the two. But University of Colorado at Boulder Professor Cynthia Carey, who undertook the study with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climatologist Michael Alexander, said they will continue to look for links between climate change and amphibian mortality. A professor in CU's environmental, population and organismic biology department, Carey said it is possible that the direct cause of death in many amphibians recently, disease, may be indirectly influenced by climate and environmental factors."

"Death by global warming?: Climate change, pollution and malnutrition" - "Coroners won't write "death by global warming," but that could be an ultimate cause as millions succumb to disease in an increasingly unhealthy environment, a Cornell University ecologist warns. Speaking today (Feb.18) at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), in a session on "Human Health and Climate Change," David Pimentel said global warming will create a favorable climate for disease-causing organisms and food-plant pests -- but a much more challenging planet for humans struggling to survive."

"Amphibian declines complicated, disturbing " - " People who are looking for a magic bullet that will explain all of the amphibian deaths and declines around the world are going to be disappointed, a leading expert said Friday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It's now a certainty that there are multiple causes which are contributing to this problem, said Andrew Blaustein, a professor of zoology at Oregon State University and one of the pioneers in this field of study. But the lack of a single, definite cause does not diminish the seriousness of this alarming ecological phenomenon, he said." BBC coverage

"Fossil plants' ties to ancient carbon redefined" - "To probe the links between fossil plants and ancient climate change and potentially help scientists gain new insight into climate change today, researchers at The Johns Hopkins University and the University of California-Berkeley turned to the fossil plants' next-of-kin: contemporary plants. Through a study of data on 176 species of modern-day plants, the authors found evidence that fossil plants can help scientists determine the sources of carbon in the atmosphere hundreds of millions of years ago, a source of useful insight into ancient climates. However, their results, published recently in 'Paleobiology,' put a potentially more direct link between fossil plants and carbonlevels in the prehistoric atmosphere in doubt."

"US Senate bill requiring biofood labels planned" - "Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer will introduce legislation on Tuesday to require consumer labels on foods made with genetically modified crops such as soybeans, corn and potatoes, an aide said on Friday," reports Reuters.

"Scientists launch petition to support biotech foods" - "More than 1,000 scientists, including two Nobel Prize winners, have endorsed genetically modified foods as safe, environmentally-friendly and a useful tool to help feed the developing world," reports Reuters.

"The Week That Was February 19, 2000" - Weekly commentary from the Science and Environmental Policy Project.

COMMENTARY of the day: "Gene therapy's trials and tribulations" - Henry I. Miller writes in The San Jose Mercury News, "Federal regulators have suspended gene therapy experiments at the University of California, San Francisco, because the testing was part of the same study in which a teenage patient died at the University of Pennsylvania. Like similar suspensions at other prominent research institutions, the Food and Drug Administration's actions illustrate the agency's tendency to react to perceived crises precipitately -- and wrongly."

Other crises precipitated by the FDA include fen-phen and silicone breast implants.

February 18, 2000

PRIMER of the day: Expressing the magnitude of adverse effects in case-control studies: "'he number of patients needed to be treated for one additional patient to be harmed' - From the British Medical Journal (Feb. 19): "In this paper, we propose a simple and intuitively understandable method for expressing the results of case-control studies."

The authors write, "...an odds ratio of 2 would weigh more heavily in the decision making process if it applied to an adverse event whose rate of occurrence in the unexposed population were 1 in 100 than if it were 1 in 100,000..." So what does that say about the OR for the EPA's secondhand smoke risk assessment which is 1.19 for an event (lung cancer) that has a rate of occurrence in nonsmokers of 1 in 10,000?

REPORT of the day: "Information Security: Fundamental Weaknesses Place EPA Data and Operations at Risk" - Here's the report that caused the shutdown of the EPA's web site.

COMMENTARY of the day I: "Politics, Misinformation, and Biotechnology" - Sen. Christopher 'Kit' Bond (R-MO) writes in Science (Feb. 18), "Through biotechnology, scientists are attempting to solve the real-world problems of sickness, hunger, and resource depletion. The hysteria and unworkable propositions advanced by those who can afford to take their next meal for granted have little currency among those who are hungry. It will be up to the policy-makers, advocates for the needy, scientists, the media, and others to ensure that reason, not hype."

COMMENTARY of the day II: "Anti-Nuclear Panic" - The New York Post comments, "Naturally, the anti-nuclear-energy crowd hopes to exploit the Indian Point incident for all its worth to try and get the facility shut down for good. But the fact remains that nuclear energy is safe -- and Con Edison and county officials behaved responsibly in not taking the kind of action that could well have provoked widespread frenzy and turned this into a real disaster."

COMMENTARY of the day III: "Genetically Modified Foods: Ending Starvation Forever" - Alan Caruba's "Warning Signs" column.

PROFILE of the day: "Citizen-Scientist Guru" - Science profiles (favorably) Stephen Schneider who "says scientists shouldn't shy away from painting 'scary scenarios'--such as deadly heat waves in New York City and a dried-up Mississippi River as possible results of global warming--to get a message across."

Tell Science that Schneider belongs in the publication Junk Science. Or has the journal already changed its name?

NONSENSE of the day: "Group Blames Increased Illness on Pollution, Pesticides" - "Persistent water and air pollution and dependence on pesticides are raising rates of cancer, asthma and other health problems in California, especially among children, poor city dwellers and agricultural workers, an environmental health advocates group reported Wednesday," reports The Los Angeles Times (Feb. 17).

Kids' cancer rates are going nowhere.

"US military rejects call to suspend anthrax shots" - "A congressional report on Thursday recommended the U.S. military suspend mandatory anthrax vaccine shots planned for all 2.4 million active and reserve troops. The Pentagon quickly rejected such a move," reports Reuters. Other coverage: CNN | MSNBC

Check out Michael Fumento's recent Wall Street Journal op-ed "If Only There Were A Vaccine for Hysteria"

"Scientist find clues to different warming rates" - "Three factors--the thinning of the ozone layer, emissions from the Mt. Pinatubo volcano, and the influx of sulfate aerosols and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere--may help explain why the lowest five miles of the earth's atmosphere has not warmed as quickly as the earth's surface, say a group of scientists in a paper appearing in the February 18 issue of the journal Science."

More global warming guesswork. For related info, click and scroll down to George Taylor's "COMMENTARY of the day" in the Junkscience.com update for Jan. 14.

"Panel recommends more rigorous testing of biotech crops" - "The government should improve its testing and monitoring of genetically engineered crops to ensure they aren't killing butterflies and other harmless insects, a panel of scientists says. The Scientific Advisory Panel, which makes recommendations to the Environmental Protection Agency, says the crops should be tested on a wider variety of insects than the four species currently done and that EPA should require more data from seed companies on the impact of crops in the field," reports the AP. Washington Post coverage

It's not like there is any credible evidence that GE crops are killing insects.

MARLBORO MAN/JOE CAMEL SAVE L.A.?: "L.A. Eyes Tobacco Windfall to Pay Police Corruption Liabilities" - "In yet another sign of how this city is reeling from a massive police corruption scandal, Mayor Richard Riordan today proposed using much of the $300 million it expects from settlements with tobacco companies to pay for lawsuits stemming from police abuse," reports The Washington Post.

"Candor on asbestos" - The Boston Globe editorializes, "W. R. Grace Co. is not a name to inspire confidence when it comes to environmental hazards. This is the company that settled a lengthy lawsuit over claims that it poisoned the drinking water in Woburn - a tale amply publicized by the book and movie 'A Civil Action.' Now Grace appears to have been less than candid in marketing asbestos-laced insulating material for nearly 20 years, before withdrawing it in 1984."

I don't know what the sitiuation is with Grace and asbestos, but the Woburn lawsuit was a bum rap.

"It bites, it kills, it's coming to Essex" - "Winters were bitterly cold in the days of the Tudors and Stuarts. Between 1550 and 1700, Britain suffered a little ice age. The Thames froze over; sheets of ice extended off Brighton beach; and the Arctic ice pack extended so far south that Eskimos took to landing their kayaks in Scotland. Oh, and England was gripped by malaria," reports The Independent.

"Agencies Square Off On Rule for Air Bags" - "A coalition of automakers, insurance interests and other groups said yesterday that they hoped the head of one federal agency--the National Transportation Safety Board--would broker a compromise in a dispute before another federal agency over test speeds for the next generation of air bags," reports The Washinton Post.

"Is Science Outpacing Regulators?" - "Gene-altered fish could soon land on your dinner table. As Wyatt Andrews continues his report on a new breed of fish for Eye on America, he asks, Who decides whether they're safe, and how can they know?" reports CBS.

"Experts say diet and exercise play critical role in cancer prevention" - " Poor diet and lack of exercise are behind just as many cancer cases as smoking, says Dennis Savaiano, dean of Purdue's School of Consumer and Family Sciences and professor of foods and nutrition."

Perhaps. But the important question is who can the trial lawyers sue?

"High rates of skin cancer among airline pilots" - "Rates of skin cancer among airline pilots are up to 10 times higher than expected, shows research published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Pilots regularly flying over five time zones seem to be at particular risk, the research shows, suggesting that disturbances in circadian rhythms may be implicated."

"Study says U.S. eugenics paralleled Nazi Germany" - "U.S. doctors who once believed that sterilization could help rid society of mental illness and crime launched a 20th century eugenics movement that in some ways paralleled the policies of Nazi Germany, researchers said on Monday," reports Reuters.

"French cow tests negative for mad cow disease" - "The French Farm Ministry said on Thursday that laboratory tests on a cow suspected of having the fatal brain-wasting mad cow disease proved negative," reports Reuters.

February 17, 2000

NEWS of the day: EPA web site shut down - Responding to congressional pressure, the EPA has shut down its web site because the agency does not have adequate security to protect sensitive and confidential information located on its computer systems. For more info:

JUNK of the day: "Twentieth century 'warmest in 500 years'" - "Studies of temperature records preserved deep in underground rocks show that the Earth has been gradually warming over at least the last 500 years. And the studies, by scientists in the US and Canada, show that the trend accelerated markedly during the 20th Century, which was the warmest of the past five centuries," reports the BBC. Media release | Reuters | AFP | The Guardian

So why was it so warm 500 years ago -- long before the Industrial Revolution and the internal combustion engine?

STUDY of the day I: "Plankton are not affected by ozone depletion" - "The ozone hole above Antarctica may not be damaging life in the ocean below after all. If Californian researchers are right, then increased ultraviolet radiation is having scarcely any effect on the growth of marine plankton, the base of the ocean's food chain." New Scientist coverage

Fred Singer called this one eight years ago.

STUDY of the day II: "Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance May Have Psychological Component" - "A recent study by Canadian researchers in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) suggests that patients with idiopathic environmental intolerance (IEI, formerly known as multiple chemical sensitivity) display high anxiety sensitivity similar to patients with panic disorder (PD) under controlled conditions."

CARTOON of the day: "Don't Eat Your Peas!" - By Henry Payne, in The Detroit News.

COMMENTARY of the day: "Lifestyle Nazis go after fat Americans" - Walter Williams comments in The Deseret News (Feb. 16), "Lifestyle Nazis have the support of all manner of kooks, quacks and lunatics, plus millions of taxpayer dollars. Most of them are based in Washington and have easy access to congressmen and bureaucrats anxious to do their bidding."

"Secrecy in academic science: young, productive researchers most likely to be denied data" - "Although open sharing of the results of research is an underlying principle of modern science, the reality is that researchers sometimes withhold the results of their work either by delaying publication in scientific journals or by refusing requests from other researchers for access to data or materials. In the February 2000 issue of Research Policy, researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Institute for Health Policy and Harvard Medical School report a survey of scientists around the country on the topic of data withholding. They found that those most likely to be victims of data withholding were scientists who were just starting out in the profession, those who were highly productive, or those involved with commercial activities. In addition, scientists who had a history of denying their own data to others were more likely to have their requests for information refused."

For more on "secret science," read "The Case for Public Access to Federally Funded Research Data" (Cato Institute, February 2, 2000)

"Stream size major factor in nitrogen reaching the Gulf of Mexico" - "A U.S. Geological Survey study supports previous findings that most of the nitrogen pollution delivered to the Gulf of Mexico by the Mississippi River originates far upstream in the upper Midwest and Ohio Valley states."

Michael Fumento commented in Forbes (Nov. 15, 1999), "Fertilizer runoff clearly contributes to the Gulf hypoxia. But how much? The problem, says Jonathan Pennock, an associate professor of oceanography at the University of Alabama, is that since 1950 there has been a tremendous increase in nitrate concentrations in the Mississippi, and there has been an increase in hypoxia in the Gulf. But since 1985 the hypoxic area has doubled, even as the fertilizer concentration has gone down."

"'Bad' Cholesterol May Not be the Best Predictor of Heart Disease Risk in Generally Healthy Individuals " - "New information published recently in 'Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association,' from the landmark AFCAPS/TexCAPS study of lovastatin (Mevacor(R)), suggests that low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C, the "bad" cholesterol) is not the best predictor of risk for a major coronary event in generally healthy persons with average LDL-C and below average high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C, the 'good' cholesterol) levels."

What does this say about the FDA's basis for requiring that trans fats be labelled?

"Pilots have higher rates of skin cancer - study" - "Airline pilots have up to 25 times the normal rate of skin cancer and scientists in Iceland suspect it could be due partly to disturbed sleep patterns. Cosmic radiation and lifestyle factors, such as more frequent sunbathing, could also be involved, but scientists at the University of Reykjavik said pilots who flew over five or more time zones had 25 times as many cases of malignant melanoma as the general population," reports Reuters.

"Germany says suspends approval of GM maize" - "The German government suspended its approval of sales of genetically modified (GM) maize until a federal agency had decided on the matter on Friday, the health ministry said on Wednesday," reports Reuters.

"Paleoclimatologist Sees Another Ice Age Coming" - "Paleoclimatologists agree that during the 10,000 years since the end of the last ice age -- a period known as the Holocene -- Earth has enjoyed a relatively warm and stable climate. During this period, human civilizations blossomed into global dominance. The question now is whether another ice age is on its way. And if so, when?" reports UniSci.

"US farmers desert GM crops" - "The first firm evidence has emerged that the bio-tech food revolution is in retreat in its heartland - the vast cornfields of the American Midwest where the overwhelming bulk of the world's genetically engineered crops are grown. US farmers have just finished buying seed for the coming growing season, and early studies suggest that a significant proportion are abandoning GM," reports The Guardian.

"Seeds offered growers a miracle, but may be just another liability " - "As the ranks of ecologists and GM industry lobbyists prepare to do battle once more this year, the US farmer is again caught in between, and finding it increasingly hard to survive. He or she must either buy ordinary seed and pay the added costs of herbicide and insecticide; or go the GM route, and face the possibility that - come harvest time - no one will want to buy the crop," reports The Guardian.

"Tobacco chief dismisses MPs as 'kangaroo court' " - "Martin Broughton, BAT's non-smoking chairman, ripped up a copy of an internal memo handed to him that referred to smuggling cigarettes into Canada. He said angrily: "The words 'select committee' mean kangaroo court. I think this is absolutely absurd. 'You have given a journalist, who is basically looking to promote his own name and an organisation committed to destroying the industry, a platform for their views.'" reports The Guardian.

"Electronic responses to: 'Reanalysis of epidemiological evidence on lung cancer and passive smoking' - From the eBMJ. Note the response of Martha Perske.

"EU assembly delays GMO animal feed directive" - "The European Parliament on Wednesday refused to endorse European Union legislation on the authorisation of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) and other additives in animal feed," reports Reuters.

"Farmers' free-for-all: Europe loosens curbs on animal drugs in the soil" - "In a move that has stunned environmental regulators, Europe's veterinary scientists have decided to drastically loosen controls on the release of antibiotics and other animal medicines into the environment," reports New Scientist.

"Lake Tahoe 'Gravely Imperiled' by Algae Growth, Scientists Say " - "Lake Tahoe's legendary clarity could be irreversibly doomed within a decade without a heroic effort to stem the growth of algae that is turning its waters a murky green, according to a scientific study to be released today. 'Time is short,' concludes the executive summary of the 1,200-page report. 'Lake Tahoe is gravely imperiled.'" reports The Los Angeles Times (Feb. 16).

February 16, 2000

SCARE of the day: "Alert declared after radioactive release at New York power plant" - "A leak in a steam generator at a Hudson River nuclear power plant resulted in a brief release of radioactive steam but it was below dangerous levels, power company officials said," reports CNN. FYI: about lawsuits alleging harm from the the 1979 Three Mile Island incident, a federal judge wrote in June 1996:

"The paucity of proof alleged in support of the Plaintiffs' case is manifest. The court searched for any and all evidence which construed in a light most favorable to Plaintiffs' case creates a genuine issue of material fact warranting submission of the claims to a jury. This effort has been in vain."

BEN & JERRY'S MOMENT of the day: "Large amounts of endocrine disrupters detected in breast milk, KFDA says" - "A large amount of dioxin, a chemical capable of disrupting human endocrine, was detected in human breast milk, a study commissioned by the Korea Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) has found. The study, conducted by a research team led by Dr. Kim Myung-soo of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, showed yesterday that the average concentration of dioxin in first-drawn human breast milk was 31.78 pg TEQ/g fat... KFDA officials said the amount is 24 to 48 times the local Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) of 4 pg per 1 kg of body weight... The concentration level also greatly exceeds the 0.002 pg TEQ/g fat and 1.41 pg TEQ/g fat detected in powdered milk and cow's milk, respectively," reports The Korea Herald.

The level of dioxin we measured in Ben & Jerry's World's Best Vanilla ice cream was 5.1 pg TEQ/g fat. This level is about 200 times greater than the EPA's "virtually safe dose."

RACHEL'S HOLOCAUST: "US government agency signs plan on malaria vaccine" - "The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said on Monday it had signed an agreement with a non-profit group to use some Microsoft cash to speed development of a malaria vaccine," reports Reuters.

It's great that development of a malaria vaccine is being given greater urgency. But experts say DDT should be used now to fight malaria. Reknown entomologist and DDT expert J. Gordon Edwards of San Jose St. University says that judicial use of DDT could substantially decrease malaria incidence (between 270 million to 480 million annually) and deaths (about 2 million annually).

Blame for the Malaria Holocaust ongoing in the third world lies with anti-DDT environmentalists who believe that people in the third world are "Rather dead than alive and riotously reproducing." [Agency for International Development official quoted in Malaria Capers, W.W. Norton & Company, 1991.]

Genocide by junk science is no different than genocide by the gas chamber. I wonder what the Third World thinks of the quaint U.S. practice of naming elementary schools after, and otherwise honoring Rachel Carson? Her legacy of death is unfathomable.

For more on DDT and the Malaria Clock, check out "100 Things You Need to Know About DDT."

CONSUMERDISTORTS.COM of the day: Media allows Consumers Union to promote biotech scare - The Buffalo News inadvertently reveals how Consumers Union gets away with fearmongering.

"American Lung Association of Minnesota Welcomes The Minnesota Corn Growers To The Clean Air Fuels Education Alliance" - "The American Lung Association of Minnesota (ALAMN) welcomes the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) into the Clean Air Fuels Education (CAFE) Alliance. The CAFE Alliance is building a public education and awareness campaign to alert consumers about cleaner fuels and vehicles that are available. To be recognized under the CAFE Alliance, a new product must demonstrate air quality benefits that exceed clean air requirements. Ultimately, wider use of these products will reduce the impact of fuel and vehicle emissions on the environment and human health."

The Minnesota Corn Growers should remember that when you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas. Click for an example of how the ALA operates. [BTW, this link was extensively quoted in a Chemical and Engineering News write-up in 1997.]

COMMENTARY of the day: "The Baby Brain Boondoggle" - Michelle malkin writes in Jewish World Review, "When politicians start yammering about the undisputed scientific benefits of "early childhood learning," hold on tightly to your toddlers -- and your wallets. The movement, popularized by First Lady Hillary Clinton three years ago, has spread across the country with mindless bipartisan support."

JUNK of the day: "New Study Finds 4 of 10 Top Executives are Obese - Study Shows Alarming Percentages of Health Risks Among Fortune 500 Executives" - "Results of a new study presented today at the Corporate America Health Summit 2000 at the Disney Institute suggest that the boardroom may not be the healthiest place for executives to sit. It shows that many senior executives may be living unhealthy lifestyles, flirting dangerously with heart disease and, consequently, putting their companies at risk."

But under new federal obesity standards, nearly 55 percent of the U.S. population are overweight.

ECOHYPE of the day: "Cents and sensibility" - Read this Guardian op-ed about so-called 'ethical investments' being those designated as such by environmentalists and then accept Philip Stott's invitation to sound-off about it.

"Cigars increase lung cancer risk fivefold - study" - "Men who smoke cigars increase their risk of lung cancer by five times, researchers said on Tuesday," reports Reuters. American Cancer Society media release | BBC coverage

"Group Cites 'Greenest' And 'Meanest' U.S. Vehicles" - "The 'greenest' vehicles in the United States tend to be low volume, possibly electric and small, while those deemed the 'meanest' to the environment are popular, gas guzzling sport utility vehicles, an energy policy research group said on Tuesday," reports Reuters.

"EU legal move expected against Germany on UK beef" - "The European Commission is expected to start legal moves against Germany on Tuesday because of delays in lifting a ban on British beef over fears of mad cow disease, EU officials said," reports Reuters. Financial Times coverage

"It's claimed G.M. products could destroy an SA image" - "South Australian farmers are being warned any planting of genetically modified products could destroy the State's image as a producer of natural foods," reports the ABC.

"Global warming ruffles wildlife, study says" - "Climate change may be disrupting the hibernation and migration patterns of animals and birds, according to a recent study. A study in the Feb. 15 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that global warming may pose special challenges to species that depend on seasonal cues for their survival," reports CNN. Study (PDF format) | Scripps McClatchy coverage

"Medical Miracles or Misguided Media?" - "News reports are filled with the latest breakthroughs, but they are often exaggerated by inexperienced reporters, overeager editors and self-interested scientists," reports The Los Angeles Times (Feb. 13).

"When a species disappears" - Mitzi Perdue comments for Scripps Howard, "'There are some situations in which one and one no longer make two. Sometimes one and one makes five." You might think that Chris Bright, a researcher at the Worldwatch Institute, is kidding when he says this. Not only is he not kidding, but also there's a good chance that he can convince you of this new math."

February 15, 2000

PERPETUATED MYTH of the day: "Once Near Death, a Comeback Bird Thrives in Cities" The New York Times' Jane Brody perpetuates the myth that DDT was responsible for the demise of the peregrine falcon.

But the decline in the U.S. peregrine falcon population occurred long before the DDT years. Peregrine falcons were deemed undesirable in the early 20th century. Dr. William Hornaday of the New York Zoological Society referred to them as birds that "deserve death, but are so rare that we need not take them into account."

Falconers were blamed for decimating western populations.

In 1966, scientists impaneled by the United Kingdom government concluded: "There is no close correlation between the declines in populations of predatory birds, particularly the peregrine falcon... and the use of DDT."

Many experiments on caged birds demonstrate that DDT and its metabolites (DDD and DDE) do not cause serious egg shell thinning, even at levels many hundreds of times greater than wild birds would ever accumulate.

After seven months of testimony during 1971-1972, an administrative judge in the Environmental Protection Agency concluded that DDT had no deleterious effect on wild birds. He was overruled by EPA administrator William Ruckelshaus. He decided to ban DDT, even though he never attended one minute of the DDT hearings and never even read the hearing transcript.

For more info, check out "100 Things You Should Know About DDT."

CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION of the day: "Criminal probe of EPA lab" - "A criminal investigation is under way by the Justice Department into the doctoring of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency test results from some of the Midwest's most polluted sites, a federal official told the Sun-Times Monday," reports The Chicago Sun-Times.

ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION of the day: 'The Insider' gets 'Best Picture' Nod - "The Insider," the movie about tobacco industry whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand, was nominated for the "Best Picture" Academy Award. A more appropriate nomination would have been "Best Propaganda Film."

'TIT-FOR-TAT' of the day: "Lung Association Presents Top Honor to EPA Administrator Browner" - The EPA gives the American Lung Association millions of dollars in grants. The ALA gives EPA administrator Carol Browner an award. Science and the taxpayers get sodomized.

TODAY's GORE-ING I: "Friends of Al?" - The Wall Street Journal editorializes about no one asking Al Gore to distance himself from the Earth Liberation Front.

TODAY's GORE-ING II: "Bradley Attacks Gore's Environmental Record" - "Bill Bradley accused Vice President Gore today of neglecting the environment while showboating on the issue, then complained that Gore had made "shameless" statements and used scare tactics in criticizing Bradley's health plan," reports The Washington Post.

'TO DO' of the day: "Researchers Probe Cell-Phone Effects" - Science News reporter Janet Raloff never met a health scare she couldn't fan a little. For some perspective on radio frequency hysteria:

Ask Science News how much longer it will allow Janet Raloff to write articles that scare rather than inform?

FRITO HYPOCRITO of the day: "Olestra may lead to misdiagnosis of intestinal disorders" - "Consuming potato chips that contain the "fake fat" olestra may result in a misdiagnosis of sometimes serious digestive disorders, results of a recent study conclude," reports Reuters Health.

Frito-Lay recently told corn suppliers it would not buy genetically modified corn because "we're a consumer products company. There is some consumer concern [about GM corn] out there."

But there's also "some consumer concern out there" about olestra, which is used in some Frito-Lay products. The concern may be wacky -- like that for GM corn -- but it's out there.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration thinks both olestra and GM corn are safe for consumption. But not Frito-Lay. Do existing Frito-Lay products -- chips that may contain GM corn -- threaten public health? If GM corn is less safe than olestra, should current products be pulled from the shelves?

For more info, click and scroll down for the Feb. 4 Junkscience.com article.

COMMENTARY of the day I: "Bag the Mandate" - The Detroit News comments, "Federal regulators will soon issue yet another costly air bag mandate . They seem to think that through sheer persistence they will get the darn thing right some day. But there is no remedy for a policy so fatally flawed, and Congress would do well just to scrap it."

COMMENTARY of the day II: "Polluting Lake St. Clair" - The Detroit News comments, "The Clean Water Act encourages communities to go after the best known polluters -- not the worst ones. It thus results in a misallocation of cleanup resources without bringing appreciable environmental benefits. To stem this waste, Congress ought to insist that the EPA set clearer and more reasonable cleanup standards."

PRIMER of the day: "A Guide to Global Warming" - Q&A on climate change from the Marshall Institute.

CHALLENGE of the day: "Hudson Institute Agriculture Scholars Challenge Organic Food Industry's Misstatements" - The Center for Global Food Issues Director Dennis Avery rebuts the organic food industry's "damage control" efforts just days after its leaders were questioned extensively on ABC's 20/20.

"Firms face battle over altered food: Shareholder activists want to force votes on genetic engineering" - "Eighteen big-name restaurant, food, grocery and seed companies face proxy fights led by opponents of genetic engineering in the largest wave of social-issue shareholder activism since corporations were challenged for doing business in apartheid-era South Africa," reports USA Today (Feb, 14). The Independent coverage

"Scientists struggle to unravel baffling rise in lymphoma" - "Even as many other types of cancer have leveled off or even dropped, this mysterious immune-system cancer has been making a stealthy but astounding rise; rates have nearly doubled since the 1970s. Is diet to blame? Pesticides? Air pollution? Viruses? Obesity? Nobody knows," reports The Independent.

"Geneticists say GM fears are misplaced" - "Leading European geneticists and molecular biologists have said consumers are mistaken in believing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) pose 'unusual dangers'. This public perception is holding up the application of biotechnology, especially in agriculture, they warned in a statement issued through the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO)," reports The Irish Times.

"Eastern Africa caught in vicious weather cycle" - "Separate from global warming, natural climate change in eastern Africa over the past millennium has resulted in extended periods of drought followed by periods of heavy rainfall, a new study shows," reports CNN.

"Ottawa set to begin key air-pollution talks with U.S." - "The most important transboundary air-pollution negotiations between Canada and the United States since the acid rain talks of the 1980s are set to begin later this week in Ottawa. The two countries are trying to craft an agreement to reduce ground-level ozone, the main component of the choking blanket of smog that has become a summertime fixture throughout much of Eastern Canada, southern British Columbia, and the United States," reports The Globe and Mail (Feb. 14).

"Cyanide spill 'worst environmental disaster' since Chernobyl" - "A stream of cyanide winding its way through eastern Europe is losing some of its deadly impact as it seeps into the Danube River. Reports say the poison has been diluted to 'non-lethal' levels," reports the CBC. Washington Post coverage

"N.C. soldier blames illness on anthrax vaccine" - "Kevin Edwards has no scientific proof that the anthrax vaccine he received from the U.S. military caused his illness. But the Army specialist from Fayetteville, N.C., says the strange illness that caused skin lesions started just a month after his third shot," reports the AP.

"Sea disaster seen for millions" - "Huge tracts of the Earth's surface could disappear under rising oceans, creating millions of 'environmental refugees,' says a British scientist. Climate specialist Sir John Houghton said in Auckland last night that the world could see up to 150 million people made homeless as oceans rose because of warmer temperatures caused by the greenhouse effect'" reports The New Zealand Herald.

"W.R. Grace, government slow to warn about attic insulation, report says " - "W.R. Grace Co. and at least three government agencies knew that Grace's attic insulation contained asbestos while it was on the market, according to a published report Monday," reports the AP.

"German states oppose ending British beef ban" - "A government plan to reintroduce British beef into Germany could founder as a majority of Germany's 16 powerful federal states are against lifting the embargo, a newspaper reported on Saturday," reports Reuters.

"France's Glavany sees BSE tests by end-March" - "France could begin testing its cattle for mad cow disease (BSE) by late March and may unearth more cases than previously thought, Farm Minister Jean Glavany was quoted as saying on Monday," reports Reuters.

"France reports sixth mad cow case this year" - "France on Monday reported its sixth case of mad cow disease this year amid concerns the epidemic may be more extensive than previously feared," reports CNN.

February 11, 2000

SEN. DASCHLE MEETS BEN & JERRY's? Senate Minority Leader Urges Research About the Effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam - Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) issued on Feb. 9 the following media release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 9, 2000 Daschle Encouraged By Efforts to Allow U.S. Scientists to Return to Vietnam to Continue Needed Research on Agent Orange Says We Must Study Health Effects of Exposure to Toxin Before Critical Evidence is Lost WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Daschle today said he is encouraged by the progress being made in U.S. - Vietnamese negotiations to allow American scientists to continue studying the health consequences of Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam. Daschle, who meet with U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Douglas Peterson on Tuesday to discuss that status of the negotiations, said additional research is necessary to assure that those who were directly or indirectly exposed to the dangerous dioxin in Agent Orange receive the proper health care. "If we do not act soon dioxin levels in Vietnam may become too small to measure. We can not afford to lose the small window of opportunity we have right now to conduct research. We owe it to our veterans and their families to learn everything we can about Agent Orange exposure while we have the chance," Daschle said. In 1994, at Daschle's request Congress approved funds to allow the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to conduct research on Agent Orange in Vietnam. This funding allowed U.S. and Vietnam Scientist to work collaboratively in both countries, but it was ended in 1995 with many questions left unanswered. This year, Daschle is pressing Congress to approve $ 1.5 million in funding to support Agent Orange research in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. The research will help ensure American veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange get the compensation they deserve. "Enhanced scientific cooperation between the U.S. and Vietnam will hopefully help us to solve many of the mysteries surrounding Agent Orange exposure," Daschle said. "For the sake of our nation's veterans, I am hopeful that Vietnam will allow U.S. scientists to complete the research they need." Daschle said that a Canadian consulting firm, which spent five years conducting research in Vietnam has called for additional s tudy into the health consequences of Agent Orange exposure. The firm's research found high levels of dioxin in the country's food chain and in the blood streams of people born after the war. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences has also repeatedly called for Agent Orange research in Vietnam.

Our tests of Ben & Jerry's ice cream reveal children may consume an amount of dioxin in one serving that is 500 times greater than the level the EPA says is "safe."

Since Sen. Daschle is so keen on researching dioxin, e-mail your recommendation that he start with the Ben & Jerry's "scoop shop" located near Capitol Hill (327 7th St., S.E.)?

OBSERVATION of the day: Computer Models and global warming - Dan Cipra writes in Science (Feb. 11), "Computer simulations give the impression of precision, but they are founded on a raft of assumptions. Making uncertainties evident is a tough challenge... Much of the global warming debate, for example, is fueled by the radically different numbers that different models produce. As the explosive growth of computer power allows researchers to tackle ever-bigger problems with ever-more-complex models, even the experts have a hard time sorting the scientific wheat from the numerical chaff."

STUDY of the day I: "Reanalysis of epidemiological evidence on lung cancer and passive smoking" - "A modest degree of publication bias leads to a substantial reduction in the relative risk and to a weaker level of significance, suggesting that the published estimate of the increased risk of lung cancer associated with environmental tobacco smoke needs to be interpreted with caution," reports a study in the British Medical Journal. TheIndependent coverage.

STUDY of the day II: "Exposure to foodborne and orofecal microbes versus airborne viruses in relation to atopy and allergic asthma: epidemiological study" - "Respiratory allergy is less frequent in people heavily exposed to orofecal and foodborne microbes. Hygiene and a westernised, semisterile diet may facilitate atopy by influencing the overall pattern of commensals and pathogens that stimulate the gut associated lymphoid tissue thus contributing to the epidemic of allergic asthma and rhinitis in developed countries," reports a study in the British Medical Journal. Is this a better explanation than air pollution -- which has been on the decline for decades -- for the recent rise in asthma?

TEXT of BIOSAFETY PROTOCOL: Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety - The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was adopted on January 29, 2000. The full text is now available from this Web Site in HTML format or in PDF format.

POSITION PAPER of the day: "Oceans could rise by 8 metres" - "The world's oceans are likely to rise by seven to eight metres over the next 1,000 to 2,000 years, a leading Australian research institute said today, but drastic change is unlikely in the next few centuries," reports The Independent. Antarctic CRC Position Paper

"Timing slips for Australasian GM food labelling-NZ" - "The completed Australia/New Zealand mandatory labelling regime for genetically modified foods would be delayed several months and finalised in May, New Zealand Health Minister Annette King said on Thursday," reports Reuters.

"Environmental Ratings for Congress Released: Senate Sets Record for Number of 'Zeroes'" - "A record number of U.S. Senators earned a "zero" environmental rating on the 1999 National Environmental Scorecard released today by the League of Conservation Voters. Thirty-seven Senators, more than one-third of the chamber, failed to cast a single environmental vote -- the highest number of Senate 'zeroes' since the League started keeping score in 1970."

"Clinton asks for $7.3 billion for EPA in 2001" - "President Clinton's request of $7.3 billion for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the fiscal year 2001 represents the largest budget for the agency during his administration," reports the ENN.

"Nestle Hong Kong to phase out GE food" - "Greenpeace today welcomed the decision of Nestlé Hong Kong to phase out genetically engineered (GE) food. In a letter to Greenpeace Nestlé stated that the majority of its products sold in Hong Kong do not contain GE-ingredients, and that Nestlé is in the process of removing GE-ingredients in remaining products." South China Morning Post coverage

"Flame Out!" - "Poisonous gases released into Alberta's otherwise clean air during oil-well flaring can cause abortions, disability and death, experts say," reports The Globe and Mail.

"EU rejects efforts to block German nuclear pullout" - "The European Commission said on Thursday it could not stop the German government going ahead with plans to withdraw from nuclear energy," reports Reuters.

"Swedish team working on anti-smoking vaccine" - "A research team at Sweden's medical Karolinska Institute is talking to drug companies about developing a vaccine against tobacco addiction, the professor in charge of the unit said on Thursday," reports Reuters.

"Timber mills leave legacy of poison" - "A cleanup up of timber-mill sites contaminated with deadly PCP, or pentachlorophenol, is making progress. But something has been forgotten in the process - 5000 workers exposed to the poison. Union representatives complain that New Zealand is more interested in cleaning up the sites than providing adequate care for those who are victims of the dioxin in PCP," reports The New Zealand Herald.

February 10, 2000

MULTIPLE CHEMICAL SENSELESSNESS of the day: "Of Bug Spray and Bagels: A Hole in EPA Protection?" - The Multiple Chemical Sensitivity mob placed this ad on the op-ed page of yesterday's The New York Times. For some facts rather than fearmongering:

  • The Board of Directors of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology recently issued an updated Position Paper about Multiple Chemical Sensitivity/Idiopathic Environmental Intolerances (MCS/IEI) concluding that findings to this point do not support the theory that IEI symptoms are caused by environmental chemicals, foods, drugs, or other exposures. Click for a summary appearing in the Journal of Allergy and Clincial Immunology.

  • Check out Michael Fumento's Reason (June 1996) article, "Sick of It All."

  • A Minnesota Court entered a summary judgment against the plaintiffs in A Dursban lawsuit because their "scientific" evidence was unreliable. Below is my article on that decision.

    On February 4, 1998, the District Court for the Sixth Judicial District, St. Louis County (Duluth), Minnesota, entered summary judgment in favor of The Dow Chemical Company and Dow AgroSciences in this litigation arising from a residential application of Dursban insecticide. In ordering summary judgment, the Court excluded from evidence the January 1995 memorandum entitled "Review of Chlorpyrifos-Associated Cases of Delayed Neuropathy," authored by Jerome Blondell, Ph.D., and the January 1997 memorandum entitled "Review of Chlorpyrifos Poisoning Data," prepared by Jerome Blondell, Ph.D. and Virginia Dobozy, V.M.D., M.P.H. Both memoranda contain anecdotal reports of alleged neurological injuries purportedly caused by chlorpyrifos and other organophosphates.

    The Court also excluded all causation-related testimony of plaintiffs' proposed experts, Janette Sherman, M.D. and Kaye Kilburn, M.D. (both of whom are frequently employed by plaintiffs' counsel in toxic tort litigation). Dr. Sherman had proposed to testify that the plaintiffs - two parents and their teenage son - each suffered permanent brain damage and peripheral neuropathy as the result of their alleged exposure to Dursban. Similarly, Dr. Kilburn sought to testify that the plaintiffs suffered brain damage and "chemical encephalopathy" as a result of their Dursban exposure.

    The Court found the Blondell memoranda to be scientifically unreliable and therefore inadmissible in evidence. In addition, the Court held the proposed expert testimony of Drs. Sherman and Kilburn to be unsupported by generally-accepted scientific and medical methodologies, based upon speculation and conjecture and of no probative value to a jury. Specifically, the Court stated in its Judgment Orders: more...

  • CONSUMERDISTORTS.COM of the day: "Chicken Little: This Time It's Industry that's Crying the Sky Is Falling" - Check out the latest in pesticide hysteria from Consumers Union's Jeannine M. Kennedy, Edward Groth III and Charles M. Benbrook.

    COMMENTARY of the day I: "Fear of the Future" - The Wall Street Journal editorializes, "Imagine what would have happened if Henry Ford had been forced to introduce the automobile in a "precautionary" world. Tut, tut; allowing folks to hurtle around at high speeds presents certain dangers. And our crystal ball tells us that hundreds of thousands around the world will be killed by cars annually. A precautionary world of course would have banned the automobile. But consider a world without the automobile. Surely hundreds of thousands more would die of things like hunger and disease without access to efficient means of transportation."

    COMMENTARY of the day II: "Rachel Carson's curse" - Ken Smith writes in The Washington Times, "... safety can be very dangerous. Rachel Carson and her disciples in this administration deserve great credit for helping to make it so."

    SCARE of the day: "Droughts worse than the 1930's likely in the twenty-first century" - "Dramatic research by two Queen's University biologists and a scientist from the University of Ghent suggests that the world's supply of fresh water could plummet causing drought-induced famine, political unrest and large-scale migration worldwide. The research, which will appear in the January 27th edition of Nature, proves for the first time that extreme fluctuations in the earth's water-resources during the last millennium occurred naturally in Eastern Africa. Mounting scientific evidence now suggests that large changes in climatic conditions have occurred across the globe over the last millennium and could reoccur independent of human-induced global-warming."

    STUDY of the day: "LDL may not be best predictor of heart risk in healthy" - "Blood levels of LDL cholesterol -- known as the 'bad' cholesterol -- may not be an accurate predictor of heart attack or other cardiac events in healthy adults, researchers report. Instead, the investigators suggest that blood levels of two proteins found in cholesterol -- apoB and apoA1 -- may be better 'markers' for heart risk in persons without the signs and symptoms of heart disease," reports Reuters. This raises even more questions about the FDA's proposal to label trans fatty acids.

    MEDIA RELEASE of the day: "Doctors Criticize Clinton Tobacco Fines for Underage Smokers" - "The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), issued the following statement by Jane M. Orient, M.D., executive director, in response to President Clinton's proposed $3,000 fine on tobacco manufacturers for each underage smoker: As physicians, we find reprehensible the use of excessive government intrusion and control to force changes in behavior affecting health and well-being. Many other voluntary activities are associated with adverse health effects, some more probable and more immediate than the hazards of tobacco use."

    CORPORATE DODGE of the day: Frito-Lay responds to criticism on GMO decision - The Frito Bandito says "some consumer confusion" fuels its decision to ban GM corn. Check out the Archives (Feb. 4 update) for background.

    "Federal judge rejects settlement favoring nuclear workers" - "A federal judge has rejected a proposed deal to provide health coverage for thousands of people involved in a lawsuit that claims they were exposed to dangerous radiation," reports the AP.

    "Federal court upholds Winfrey's win over cattlemen" - "A federal appeals court said Wednesday that Oprah Winfrey 'melodramatized' the mad cow disease scare, but did not give false information about it or defame cattle producers," reports the AP.

    "Food fight truce: Accord on 'GM' foods leaves unanswered questions" - The Sacramento Bee editorializes, "In the hope of averting chaos in the international trade of genetically modified plants and animals, 131 countries have agreed in Montreal on a biosafety protocol to the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity. On its face, the action appears to be a victory for the United States; whether that turns out to be so will depend on how the agreement is implemented."

    "Pesticide rules shaped by politics, not science" - "An inside look at three years of behind-the-scenes wrangling shows how politics -- not science -- drives pesticide regulation in the United States," reports MSNBC.

    "Oceans to rise 90cms each century" - "Oceans around the world will rise by as much as 90 centimetres a century, according to scientists from the Antarctic Cooperative Research Centre. Researchers today released a definitive position paper into rising sea levels as a result of global warming," reports the ABC.

    "Air pollution may raise risk of lung cancer" - "People who live in cities are exposed to substantial levels of air pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), according to study findings. This exposure may cause a small increase in the risk of lung cancer, researchers report... They estimate that exposure to PAHs causes about one case of lung cancer every 2 years in a city the size of Grenoble." reports Reuters.

    "EU delays decision on U.S. hormone-free beef" - " European Union veterinary experts have delayed by one month a decision on whether to impose a definitive ban on U.S. hormone-free beef, the European Commission said in a statement on Wednesday," reports Reuters.

    "Clamp down on food biotechnology denied" - "The US Environmental Protection Agency has rejected media reports suggesting its recent announcement of new control measures on GM crop production amounted to a clampdown on food biotechnology," reports The Irish Times.

    "Gas Additive Found in Maryland Water" - "A widely used gasoline additive that makes cars pollute less but may cause cancer has been fouling water systems in Maryland, authorities said. The additive, known as MTBE, has been detected in about 210 private wells and 140 monitoring wells drilled near gas stations since 1998, state officials say. It has also turned up in 66 of the more than 1,000 public water systems in Maryland, which began testing in 1995," rpeorts AP. There may be a lot of problems with MTBE, but cancer is not one of them.

    "EU to make polluters pay for environmental damage" - "The European Commission endorsed plans on Wednesday to force firms and individuals who pollute the environment to be legally liable for the cost of the damage they have caused," reports CNN.

    "Official: 61 million Russians live in poor environmental conditions" - "Russia's environmental chief said Wednesday that 61 million Russians -- almost half the country's population -- live in environmentally dangerous conditions," reports CNN.

    "Loggers' Forest Service Suit Tossed" - "A federal judge on Wednesday threw out a loggers' lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service and two environmental groups that claimed the Forest Service was being influenced by a nature-based religion... The case was a battle between environmentalists and loggers over commercial tree-cutting in Minnesota's forests, but also became a fight over the separation of church and state. The loggers' lawsuit, filed last fall, claimed followers of the philosophy of 'deep ecology,' which regards the natural world as sacred, were dictating Forest Service policy," reports the AP.

    "Cigarettes have 600 additives" - "Tobacco firms have admitted putting 600 secret ingredients and additives in cigarettes, the Health Secretary disclosed yesterday," reports The Times.

    February 9, 2000

    STUDY of the day: "Exposures to second-hand smoke lower than believed, ORNL study finds" - "Exposures to environmental tobacco smoke may be lower than earlier studies indicated for bartenders, waiters and waitresses, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Department of Energy¹s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)."

    CONSUMERDISTORTS.COM of the day: "Consumer Reports Defamation Trial Starts: Isuzu Challenges Magazine's Rollover Claims About Trooper SUVs" - "Isuzu Motors Ltd. has accused the magazine and its nonprofit parent, Consumers Union, of rigging tests to show that the 1995-96 Trooper sport-utility vehicle displayed a propensity to roll over when making emergency turns," reports The Washington Post.

    'LETTER TO THE EDITOR' of the day: "Nuclear Alarmists" - Members of the American Nuclear Society write in the Washington Post, "If the public continues to fear exposure to radiation, nuclear technologies will no longer be employed. Benefits such as nonpolluting nuclear power, radiation diagnoses and therapy, and art and archeological identifications must not be lost to society because of anxieties irresponsibly raised by exaggerated projections of risk."

    McCAIN-ing of the day: "Nature, Up for Sale" - The Greens clobber "The Manchurian Candidate," Sen. John McCain. T.H. Watkins comments in The New York Times, "For all his claims of environmental sensitivity, [McCain] has voted on the "green" side only 20 percent of the time, bringing him dangerously close to people like Representative Don Young of Alaska (10 percent), a cheerful opponent of nearly every environmental law on the books."

    COMMENTARY of the day I: "Fear of food" - The San Jose Mercury-News editorializes, "The United States and its few allies fended off the most draconian of the proposed regulations on bioengineered food in this round of negotiations. Before the next one, the biotech and agribusiness industries should concentrate on reassuring their potential customers around the world."

    COMMENTARY of the day II: "Seeds of doubt harmful" - The Columbus Dispatch editorializes (Feb. 8), "There seems little doubt that an evolution is in store for the appropriate use of biotechnology to produce more and better food. But first the public has to be assured that fooling with Mother Nature is a good idea when it's done right."

    COMMENTARY of the day III: "Crime, not caring" - The Indianapolis Star-News editorializes, "There is an unhealthy change in the attitudes and actions of some environmental protest today. The older generation of environmentalists were educated ecologists or people who had achieved success in fields outside the environment. They used public demonstrations, litigation and political pressure but they eschewed crime and violence."

    "Ashcrofts confronts Albright for supporting Biosaftey Protocal" - "Sen. John Ashcroft told Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Tuesday that the United States made a bad deal worse by announcing that it will abide by the new Biosafety Protocol. Grilling Albright in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Ashcroft, R-Mo., argued that the protocol gives Europe the sort of trade restrictions on genetically modified food that it has demanded for years in the World Trade Organization," reports The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

    "Austria Abolishes Independent Environment Ministry" - "Austria's controversial new government looks set to make few changes to existing environmental policy. It has, however, already angered the Austrian green movement by announcing that the environment ministry is to become part of the agriculture ministry," reports ENS.

    "Chicken Little Can Relax" - "Astronomers sounded an all-clear yesterday one day after raising the prospect that a newly discovered asteroid had a one-in-a-million chance of hitting Earth in 2022," reports The New York Times.

    "'Treat nicotine as a hard drug'" - "The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has called for a much tougher regulation of tobacco products, and for concerted action to help addicts quit," reports the BBC. Other coverage: CNN | The Independent | Daily Telegraph

    "EU to consider ban on U.S. hormone-free beef" - "European Union veterinary experts will consider whether to impose a definitive ban on imports of U.S. hormone-free beef on Wednesday because of poor health checks, EU officials said on Tuesday," reports Reuters.

    "French official says British beef ban will stand for now" - "The agriculture minister said Tuesday there is no chance that France will lift its ban on British beef imports in the near future," reports the AP

    "PIPA: President's Global Warming Initiative Likely to Draw Public Support" - "The American public is likely to support President Clinton's $4 billion budget request to encourage energy efficient technology and research. According to a comprehensive review of all publicly available polling data, conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) of the University of Maryland, a strong majority of Americans believes evidence for global warming is persuasive enough to justify moderate spending in support of reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

    "Friends of the Earth: Environment Shrinking in Federal Budget" - More is less for the FOE.

    "Ergonomic chairs might not protect computer users from wrist injuries" - "This study debunks the commonly held view that a good ergonomic chair alone will reduce the risks of carpal tunnel syndrome. We see no evidence for that," says Alan Hedge, professor of design and environmental analysis at Cornell and director of Cornell's Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory. "We tested typists of all sizes in high-end ergonomic chairs that were adjusted for each participant according to manufacturer recommendations. Typists worked on a keyboard on a high-end, flat, adjustable keyboard tray that was also adjusted to them. None of the chairs made any difference in protecting the wrist angles of the typists."

    "Study shows industrial hog operations appear to impair health, life quality among neighbors" - "Detailed surveys of people living in three rural North Carolina communities suggest industrial hog farms both reduce the quality of life for people living near them and adversely affect their health, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study concludes."

    "Albright says biosafety food pact less than perfect" - "A new international agreement to regulate trade in genetically modified organisms is "less than perfect," but should not disrupt world food trade, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said on Tuesday," reports Reuters.

    "GMB denies charge of unsafe environs for workers" - "The Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) has denied that 'toxic' ships are being recycled in the 180-odd ship-breaking plots at Alang-Sosiya yard near Bhavnagar and toxic material are handled without taking adequate safety measures. Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, board vice-chairman and chief executive officer P N Roy Chowdhury refuted charges that the number of casualties at Alang has been swelling. The use of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) identified by renowned environment organisation Greenpeace International as a hazardous substance has been discontinued since 1976. The paint on ships could be a PCB layer, he said," reports The Times of India News Service.

    February 8, 2000

    CRANK of the day: "Joint Release Issued by the Cancer Prevention Coalition and the Environmental Health Network" - Today's crank is Sam Epstein who wants to scare you about poisoning your Valentine with Calvin Klein's "Eternity" perfume. Don't miss Mike Fumento's "Samuel Epstein: Science Meets the X-Files."

    TESTIMONY of the day: "News coverage about smoking dangers was significant, historian testifies" - "Smokers were exposed to significant news coverage about the dangers of cigarettes and very little coverage on the tobacco industry's view that those risks were small, a historian testified Monday in a landmark smokers' trial," reports the AP.

    COMMENTARY of the day: "CDC: Caught Devouring Cash" - Michelle malkin comments in Jewish World Review, "Our federal health watchdogs at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta suffer from a chronic condition: bureaucratic obesity. Symptoms include super-sized arrogance, flabby political agendas, overconsumption of junk science, and a rapidly expanding waste line."

    DDT MOMENT of the day: "KwaZulu-Natal reintroduces worldwide-banned DDT to fight malaria" - "Kwazulu-Natal has reintroduced DDT, a toxic insecticide banned worldwide, to fight malaria in the northern parts of the province, African Eye News Service reported yesterday." Click for "100 Things You Should Know About DDT."

    "How Good is Organic Food?" - "According to Dennis Avery, a former researcher for the Agriculture Department and a leading critic of organic produce, the products are more likely to be infested with bacteria. Manure can be a breeding ground for bacteria such as E. coli that may then make their way onto the produce. Avery says that it should be those higher concentrations of bacteria, rather than pesticide residue, that should concern us," reports 20/20.

    SCIENTIST WELFARE for the FY: Media releases on the federal science budget for FY 2001 - It's a good thing for federal researchers, grantees and contractors that they're never held acountable for the billions we spend on their "research." Click for a Reuters Health summary of the proposed budget.

  • "Today's Science for America's Tomorrow: the USGS FY 2001 Budget" - "The President has proposed a budget of $895 million for the Interior Department's U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Fiscal Year 2001. The FY 2001 budget reflects an $82 million net increase over FY 2000 enacted funding..."

  • "ASM statements on FY 2001 federal budget proposal: NIH, CDC, NSF" - "The American Society for Microbiology recognizes with appreciation President Clinton's and Vice President Gore's proposed budget increase of $1 billion in FY 2001 for the National Institutes of Health... The ASM applauds the Administration's proposed $20 million increase in FY 2001 for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's emerging infectious diseases initiative... The American Society for Microbiology endorses the President's unprecedented NSF budget request as a positive step toward a future doubling of the Foundation's entire budget..."
  • Isn't the ASM terrific at sucking up?

    "Genetically altered food: Safe or threat? Worldwide war hits home as research at MSU spurs vandalism" - "Four hours before the new millennium began, vandals torched a landmark building at Michigan State University. The blaze caused $400,000 in damage in the 4th-floor office of a professor who leads a project to promote bioengineered crop research around the world. Although no one was hurt and no arrests were made, an organization called the Earth Liberation Front took credit for the fire. In doing so, the radical environmental group landed another blow in an escalating global battle over genetically modified foods, which are increasingly finding their way onto American grocery shelves," reports The Detroit News (Feb. 6).

    "Vandalism Hurting Case Against Genetically Engineered Foods; Plant stomping at UC Davis, Berkeley is unnecessary, stupid" - Tom Abate comments in The San Francisco Chronicle (Feb. 7) "This vandalism is not only cowardly but tactically stupid, since food critics have been making plenty of headway in the courts, the markets and the regulatory arena."

    "Monsanto Puts Hold On GE Wheat Trials" - "The US agrichemical company, Monsanto, has announced it will withdraw its application for a field test of herbicide-resistant wheat, to make way for the Royal Commission of Inquiry into genetic engineering," reports Newsroom.com. New Zealand Herald coverage

    "GM crops warning to Scots farmers" - "A group of farmers from the USA has travelled to Scotland to warn their counterparts about what they see as the dangers of GM crops," reports the BBC (Feb. 7).

    "Australia expands ozone protection role" - "Environment Minister Robert Hill has released a new National Halon Strategy, reaffirming Australia's commitment to lead the world in the responsible management and phase-out of the ozone-depleting gas."

    "Carpeting takes on a 'green' pattern" - "Mr Anderson chose to take seriously the warnings of some scientists and environmentalists who said contemporary production methods and consumption patterns were causing climate destabilisation," reports The Financial Times.

    "Algae toxins plague sea mammals, researcher finds" - "Dr Scholin said his studies indicated a probable link between algal toxins and the deaths of sea lions on the Californian coast," reports The Mercury (Tasmania).

    "Britain has 40 more species of birds than in 1800" - "The see-sawing fortunes of Britain's wild birds over the past 30 years are vividly recorded in a comprehensive newreport, which shows that while some species have plunged into dire straits others have made remarkable recoveries from decline," reports The Independent.

    "Environment-conscious businesses seeing green" - "A new kind of 'e-business' is coming into its own. It's not as speedy as the Internet. Critics say it's about as exciting as watching a forest grow. Nevertheless, the trends are clear - companies are going 'environmental'," reports the Christian Science Monitor Service.

    "Seahorses in peril" - "Man is responsible for this decline in a number of ways - we are destroying their coastal habitats with holiday developments and pollution, leaving fewer and fewer places where they can lurk in the sea grass and pounce on their prey," reports the BBC.

    "Millions turn to organic food" - "More than one person in four now eats some form of organic food, according to a survey by Health Which? magazine. However, the survey also found that many people are put off organic food by high prices," reports the BBC.

    February 7, 2000

    COMMENTARY of the day: "Unreasonable precautions" - My op-ed in today's National Post about cell phone towers, biotech, British beef and the precautionary principle. Click for today's Chicago Tribune editorial on sensible precaution.

    'TO DO' of the day: "Register your concern with Frito-Lay" - Frito Lay recently told its corn suppliers not to grow GM corn. Click for more info from the Feb. 4 Junkscience.com. Tell Frito-Lay what you think of its reaching for the panic-button, courtesy of my Aussie friends at EVAG.

    "Crimes against the soil, the air & the water" - The latest full-page wackiness from The Turning (My Stomach) Project. Click to evaluate for yourself the Project's credibility.

    "Supermarket war on salt " - "The UK's leading supermarkets are preparing to support an initiative to cut the amount of salt in processed foods," reports the BBC. Is this panic warranted?

    "The West engineered better foods but China may reap the harvest" - Dennis Avery comments in The San Diego Union-Tribune (Feb. 6), "The United States and Europe have spent billions doing basic research in genetically modified crops and animals to make foods that are better-tasting, more nutritious and kinder to the environment. Will China now step in and charge the United States and Europe steep royalties for the right to grow the new organisms that result from this research? Those are all strong possibilities, in the wake of the environmental group Greenpeace's stunningly swift and successful campaign to ban genetically modified foods and crops."

    "Restaurant Smoking Ban" - "Smoking in restaurants and cafes could be banned as part of proposed new anti-smoking measures," reports The Newsroom. New Zealand Herald coverage.

    "Workers at federal plant included in some 1950s uranium experiments" - "Some workers at a federal uranium processing plant took part in experiments in the 1950s that had them breathing the radioactive element, The Courier-Journal reported Sunday," reports the AP.

    "Italians ban cars for a day to fight pollution" - "Travelling by bus, bicycle or on foot, millions of Italians reclaimed the traffic-plagued streets of their historic city centres on Sunday as cars were banned for the day in a fight against pollution," reports Reuters.

    "Animals eat banned feed" - "France, which has maintained a ban on British beef, itself failed to ensure that animal feed no longer contained substances banned in the wake of Europe's mad cow disease scare, according to Le Figaro," reports The Observer.

    "Rising tides threaten ageing nuclear stations" - "Government scientists and experts in the nuclear industry are preparing for a doomsday scenario caused by rising tides around Britain's ageing atomic power stations," reports The Observer.

    "Environmental health risks will be examined" - "From lead in drinking water to radon in basements, New Hampshire residents are exposed to environmental health risks daily. Yet how much is really known about those risks? State legislators say it is time to find out, and have scheduled a hearing this week on a bill that would look into the problem," reports The Boston Globe (Feb. 6).

    "Health standards will create differences in WTO farm talks" - "Safety and health standards on agricultural produce will be one of the most contentious issues as negotiations on agriculture under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are launched in Geneva in the next fewdays," reports The Times of India.

    February 6, 2000

    "Girl Scouts and Others Sue Over Toxic Waste Exposure" - "A Superior Court judge has certified a class action suit that seeks medical monitoring for Gloucester County, New Jersey, residents -- including former Girls Scouts -- who fear they were poisoned by toxic waste dumped at one of the state's worst Superfund sites," reports the Law News Network.

    "Exposed: the great organic food rip-off" - "Supermarkets are taking advantage of the huge demand for organic food by charging grossly inflated prices, according to the most extensive survey of its kind to date. Customers shopping at the big-name retailers are being asked to pay 60 to 70 per cent more for organic meat, vegetables and other foods than for the ordinary equivalents. In some cases, the difference is far greater; organic potatoes in one high street supermarket last week cost 285 per cent more than the non-organic kind. Thanks to BSE and the GM food scare, demand has risen for produce farmed organically, without chemical pesticides and fertilisers. Sales are expected to reach £1bn a year by 2002. Organic production costs are a third higher, but the new survey reveals that the average price difference on the shelves is double that," reports The Independent.

    "We Can Engineer Nature. But Should We?" - Andrew Pollack comments in The New York Times, "Nonetheless, it seems clear that the way to acceptance of genetically engineered foods lies through the creation of regulations that the public trusts and the delivery of benefits the consumer sees and tastes."

    "Chernobyl nuclear plant to be shut down this year" - "Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said Saturday that the Chernobyl nuclear plant - the site of the worst nuclear accident in history - will be shut down this year," reports the AP.

    "Federal panel to examine the health of farm workers" - Will pesticides get the blame?

    "Adults puff away, knowing habit can kill" - "Although most smokers in the US know that cigarettes can cause heart and lung disease, few have been able to kick the habit, according to results of a nationwide poll. The survey of more than 1,000 adult smokers revealed that 89% know that smoking increases the risk of lung cancer, 86% know that it increases the risk of heart disease, and 84% believe that it will shorten their lives. While 70% of respondents have tried to quit smoking in the past, none were successful, according to the poll, conducted by New York City-based Harris Interactive," reports Reuters Health.

    February 5, 2000

    CARTOON of the day: "Federal regulators put the SUV to the test..." - From Larry Wright, in The Detroit News.

    COMMENTARY of the day: "Global Warming Scam" - Fred Singer writes, "The White House has pulled off a magnificent public relations scam on the global warming issue, with great deftness and apparent success. The OSTP (Office of Science and Technology Policy) parlayed a dry technical report by the National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences into an impending climate crisis. Leaking a misleading press release to CBS (which broke the news embargo) weeks prior to President Clinton's State of the Union address, the Executive Branch laid the groundwork for its message that environmental catastrophe is around the corner 'unless we act.' Indeed, President Clinton's final address to the nation raised fears of 'deadly heat waves,' more frequent droughts, flooding of coastal areas, and general economic disruption."

    "California Campaign Kicks Off Green Season; State primary means environment will be on agenda" - "While the environment isn't yet looming large in the stump speeches of presidential candidates, it soon could become a defining issue in California, where even the staunchest conservative must turn a little green to survive," reports The San Francisco Chronicle.

    "Radiation standards 'too low'" - "The risk to workers at nuclear plants has been under-estimated because scientists have used the wrong measures, it is claimed. Researchers say a reliance on studies into survivors of the A-bombs dropped on Japan at the end of the Second World War do not give an accurate picture of the effect on nuclear power workers," reports the BBC. Media release

    "Experts blow off 'flawed' wind chill index" - "The wind chill index, a term tossed about by TV meteorologists so often that even schoolchildren know what it is, is a lot of hot air, some experts say," reports the AP.

    "Broken windows, blighted areas a factor in STD rate" - "Physical deterioration of neighborhoods, such as the presence of derelict properties and broken windows, are associated with increased rates of high-risk sexual behaviors and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among the people living there, according to a team of New Orleans researchers. The finding suggests that 'gonorrhea is clustered in neighborhoods that are physically deteriorated,' the investigators write. Improving living conditions in such blighted areas may ultimately help to reduce gonorrhea and other STD rates, they suggest," reports Reuters.

    "Farmer puzzled by weed killer's surprise crop" - "Mr Schmeiser's crop possessed Monsanto's gene. Although Mr Schmeiser says he had never bought seed from Monsanto or signed a contract, the corporation sued him for cultivating its gene, demanding all profits from the crop and unspecified punitive damages," reports The Sydney Morning Herald.

    "Sowing the seeds of doubt" - "Sowing the seeds of doubt Springfield, Illinois: Last spring, Terry Wolf planted half of his central Illinois farm with genetically modified soya seeds and they gave him, he says, an edge in the never-ending battle with weeds. This year, he will plant none of the high-tech beans. Mr Wolf and other farmers across the state are turning away from GM for the first time since the crops stormed the market in 1995. They fear the crops might be hard to sell if controversy over GM organisms grows," reports The Sydney Morning Herald.

    "Breast cancer findings questioned after probe" - "A South African researcher may have misrepresented results from a widely publicized study that showed women with breast cancer fared better with a controversial treatment than with more standard care, a group of oncologists said on Friday," reports Reuters.

    "Japan groups voice concern at GMO food label plans" - "Japanese consumer groups charged the government's current plans for labelling genetically modified (GM) foods are inadequate and urged the Health Ministry to propose a law to close loopholes in the system," reports Reuters.

    "Cancer summit launches global commitment to improve cancer care, research and treatment" - "Paris, 4 Feb., 2000 - Today more than 100 international leaders of government, patient advocacy, cancer research organizations and corporations will reaffirm and expand their commitment to the global eradication of cancer by signing The Charter of Paris Against Cancer at the first World Summit Against Cancer."

    February 4, 2000

    The Frito Hypocrito? - It's a sad day for the Frito Bandito - at least since the day his politically incorrect existence was expunged from the records of Frito-Lay.

    Last week Frito-Lay announced it would not be buying genetically modified corn. But on Jan. 12, Food Labeling News reported Frito-Lay "is urging FDA to drop the mandatory health warning on products made with olestra, arguing that the company is 'misbranding' its snack products because there is little evidence that consumers are experiencing significant gastrointestinal problems from the olestra-containing snacks."

    Olestra is the controversial fat substitute manufactured by Procter & Gamble. Products with olestra carry a label reading, "This product contains olestra. Olestra may cause abdominal cramping and loose stools. Olestra inhibits the absorption of some vitamins and other nutrients. Vitamins A, D, E, and K have been added." http://www.angelfire.com/ny/totrecords/bandito.html

    • It's interesting that Frito-Lay considers olestra to be okay for consumers, despite having to warn consumers about potential gastrointestinal problems. But genetically modified corn is not okay for consumers, despite that no warning label is required.

    • What do you suppose is the thought process at Frito-Lay as far as believing Greenpeace about GM corn, but not the Center for Science in the Public Interest about olestra? Neither scare is credible. Neither group is credible. But why pick one over the other?

    Here's the new jingle for Frito's Corn Chips (sung to same tune as the original):

    I am the Frito Hypocrito.
    I love Fritos Corn Chips without GM corn,
    Olestra is safe but of it we warn?

    Michael Fumento suggested this additional verse:

    I am the Frito Stupido.
    I reject biotech on the basis of nothing at all,
    For the enviros and kooks,
    I happily do crawl!

    BEN & JERRY'S MOMENT of the day: Greenpeace: 'US threatens to block reaty on toxic pollutants' - A Greenpeace media release says, "A letter, leaked by Greenpeace today, from the US State Department to the European Union (EU), reveals that the US is demanding that the EU drops its current commitment to elimate some of the world’s most toxic chemicals. The debate centres on US attempts to break EU support for developing countries (G-77) that are aiming to eliminate synthetic chemicals that are by-products of industrial processes, such as dioxins, that are known human carcinogens."

    If dioxins are "known human carcinogens" then why does Greenpeace allows its name to be used by Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Inc. -- purveyor of ice cream tested to contain 200 times (about 500 times for children) the amount of dioxin the U.S. EPA says is safe?. The US is urging the EU to vote with them and do no more than reduce toxic emmissions at the next negotiations of the global persistent organic pollutants (POPs) treaty, meeting in Bonn, March 2000.

    Question: Are Ben & Jerry's "Peace POPs" named after the dioxin in their ice cream?

    TODAY's GORE-ING/CARTOON of the day: "... it's Gore by a nose!" - By Henry Payne, in The Detroit News.

    COMMENTARY of the day I: "European hysteria over Frankenfood" - Michael Fumento writes in The National Post, "Yet even if Europe banishes biotech, it wouldn't be the end of the world. Says Carole Brookins, a Washington, D.C. trade consultant: 'We need to remember there's almost six billion people outside of Europe and start concentrating more on them.'"

    COMMENTARY of the day II: "Making a meal of it" - Tom Addiscott comments in The New Scientist, "The nitrate scare was the wrong scare. You used to see some roadside stalls around Britain claiming "Hot dogs--no nitrates". Stallholders wanted to reassure passing customers that this fast food wouldn't give them cancer. If they still exist, such signs should now be treated as a warning about the risk of gastroenteritis. With up to five million people dying worldwide from gastroenteritis each year, it is time that nitrate had a better press."

    'LETTER TO THE EDITOR' of the day: "Glacial response to global warming claim" - Robert W. Bradnock writes to The Guardian about global warming, glacier melting and Bangladesh.

    CONTEST of the day: "Has the Greenpeace monster turned on its creators?" - What caption do you think should go on this picture?

    "The Worst Science of the Century" - "In a century which has seen the greatest leaps forward in scientific progress in history, there have been several ignominious ideas which have held mankind back. From the application of eugenicist theories to the current hysteria over biotechnology, we fell for our fair share of foolish fancies. Here are STATS' awards to the top ten contemptible concepts to blight the century."

    "Dubious Data of the Past Decade" - Also from STATS: "The 1990s saw the public bombarded with scientific and statistical information like never before. Much of the knowledge stuck, but not all of it proved up to scratch."

    "ADM changes tack on genetically modified crops" - " Agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland Co. said Friday it would not turn away genetically modified grains, four months after warning its grain suppliers to segregate the crops," reports Reuters (Jan. 28). National Corn Growers Association's comments

    "Let's Not Ignore Sound Science" - Sen. Richard Lugar comments in the Progressive Farmer (Feb. 3), "Myth has, heretofore, characterized the European debate over biotechnology, and we must take great care that it does not prevent a truly informed discussion here."

    "Genetic Modification Isn't An Unnatural Process, Borlaug Says" - "Norman Borlaug has a point to insert into the debate over genetically modified foods: Ordinary leavened bread is made from wheat that carries the genes of three plant species. And the genetic engineering didn't happen in the past decade or even the past millennium. Nature spliced the genes before the rise of the Roman Empire, reports The Minneapolis Star-Tribune (Feb. 2).

    "Out with the 'bad' fat" - The Washington Post reports on the new federal dietary guidelines taht warn of the dangers of so-called "trans fats." But the trans fats scare is unwarranted. Click for my long Junkscience.com article and shorter Chicago Sun-Times op-ed on trans fat hysteria.

    "Wildlife thrives as climate warms" - "A warming world should benefit some creatures, say researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. They have found clear evidence of the way a species responds to changes in climate," reports the BBC.

    "Gaining on greenhouse gas" - "The biggest reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions ever undertaken in Canada is occurring at a sprawling DuPont plant here, a jumble of stainless-steel pipes and smokestacks that make chemicals for nylon production. Through new pollution controls, the facility has reduced Canada's greenhouse-gas emissions by the same amount spewed out each year by about 1.5 million cars. It is expected to achieve a reduction equal to approximately two million cars, or about 20 per cent of the country's total fleet, when the system is fully utilized next year," reports The Globe and Mail (Feb. 3).

    "Vegetarian diet in pregnancy linked to birth defect" - "Mothers who ate a vegetarian diet during pregnancy had a five-time greater risk of delivering a boy with hypospadias, a birth defect of the penis, according to a report from British researchers. The team suggests that phytoestrogens, hormone-like compounds found in soy, may be responsible for the link," reports Reuters.

    "Antibodies may hold key to Gulf War syndrome" - "Researchers have discovered a biological common denominator to the mysterious array of symptoms known as Gulf War syndrome -- linking the illness not to toxic exposures in the Persian Gulf, but possibly to the vaccines soldiers received to protect them from viruses and chemical and biological warfare," reports Reuters.

    "Genetic Concern welcomes food trade safety protocol" - "The new bio-safety protocol on GM food trade means an international acknowledgement of the environmental risks associated with such produce, says Irish campaign group Genetic Concern," reports The Irish Times.

    "On-the-job chemical exposure may affect sperm counts" - "Men who are exposed to benzene and other hydrocarbon chemicals at work may have lower sperm counts, according to researchers... In the study, Ruth De Celis of the Mexican Institute for Social Security in Guadalajara, and colleagues examined the sperm quality of 90 rubber factory workers. About half of the workers were exposed to various levels of benzene, toluene, xylene, and other hydrocarbons for anywhere from 2 to 24 years," reports Reuters.

    "Memories of news events change over time" - As you read this news story, keep in mind that many epidemiologic investigations-- e.g. those on secondhand smoke, diet or chemicals -- are based on exposure data collected from study subjects' memories that are often years and, sometimes, decades old.

    "Warning Signs" - Alan Caruba's weekly column has 10 questions for Al Gore.

    February 3, 2000

    "Clinton to announce new money to fight global warming" - "The White House will announce a $2.4 billion proposal Thursday to deal with global climate change, a senior administration official said," reports CNN.

    STUDY of the day: "Cato Institute Study Finds That Federal Scientific Data Often Flawed When Not Reviewed; Shelby Amendment Improves the Quality of Federally Funded Research" - A new Cato policy analysis on the data access law by Michael Gough and the Junkman. Executive Summary | Full text of Policy Analysis (PDF format)

    E-mail Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), Senator@shelby.senate.gov, and compliment his legislation promoting public access to federally-funded scientific data. Tell Sen. Shelby the current law should be expanded to include all taxpayer-funded data (not just data collected through grants issued after October 1999) used by reguatory agencies to support any and all regulatory policies and actions (not just regulations; risk assessments, too).

    NEWS of the day: European Commission adopts precautionary principle - The EC issued its Communication on the precautionary principle today. Here it is in PDF format.

    'LETTER TO THE EDITOR' of the day: "Cast votes for a good heart" - My letter in The Deseret News on Al Gore's candidacy for a heart attack.

    CORPORATE FOOL of the day: BP AMOCO's SIR JOHN BROWNE "Greenpeace Welcomes FTC Ruling to Oppose BP Amoco-Arco Merger" - "Greenpeace welcomes the Federal Trade Commission's decision to oppose BP Amoco's merger with Atlantic Richfield Corp (ARCO). But the international environmental organization stresses that as the merger now heads to federal court, the FTC must broaden its review to include consideration of environmental impacts the merger may bring, particularly in Alaska. The BP Amoco-ARCO merger threatens yet greater oil expansion into the Arctic, which will result in more global warming and a greater danger of oil spills. Already Arctic regions are under duress from global warming, as sea ice has thinned by some forty percent over the last 40 years, threatening the habitat of Arctic wildlife, including polar bears."

    Sir John Browne is BP Amoco's chief executive. He broke ranks with other oil companies in 1997 by saying that global warming needed to be addressed. "Sir John" agreed to try to limit greenhouse-gas emissions from BP products in a joint venture with the Environmental Defense Fund, and by setting a goal of $1 billion in alternative-energy sales within 10 years.

    Last April 1, The New York Times reported Browne, "is a soft-spoken and charming man who rarely appears ruffled. He is fond of ballet and pre-Columbian art and often listens to Puccini operas at BP Amoco's Edwardian headquarters in London. For an oil executive, he is unusually sensitive to environmental concerns and has even had dinner with the leaders of Greenpeace."

    Pardon me, but it sounds like Greenpeace is now having the BP Amoco-Arco merger for dinner.

    "Greenpeace climate campaigner Matthew Spencer says: 'Sir John Browne has been very clear that he wants to make BP distinct from the rest of the oil industry and he has decided that the environment is one area where he can do that. But there are few signs that he has truly understood what it means to be green.'"

    I guess Sir John will now get a (well-deserved) lesson!

    COMMENTARY of the day: "Attacking the phantom 'big guy'" - Eric Peters writes in The Washington Times, "It's one thing to seek legitimate compensation for an actual damage or wrong objectively provable by facts and testimony. It is quite another for a jury to endorse a trial lawyer's lust for ill-gained loot, irrespective of the merits of his claims, simply because he represents the "little guy" in a dubious contest against the faceless malefactors of corporate 'bigness.'"

    "U.S. investigating cancer-causing hormone in exported beef" - "A criminal investigation is under way into the shipment of American beef last year that contained an illegal growth hormone. But federal officials said Wednesday there is no evidence that there has been any other use of the banned substance," reports the AP.

    "Let battle commence" - "Governments last weekend won the right under international law to ban imports of genetically modified organisms. Or so they hope. But concessions won by major grain-exporting nations such as the US in the final hours of negotiations in Montreal may create a scientific and legal minefield," reports The New Scientist.

    "Gene Flow In The Environment - Genetic Pollution?" - John Hillman writes, "Ecological invasions are an intrinsic part of ecology and evolution and we only consider them bad if they impoverish our health, livelihood or living conditions."

    "Radiation risks linked to air travel" - "If you fly a minimum of 75,000 miles [120,000 kilometres] a year, that brings you to a level where radiation exceeds the legal permissible radiation dose to a non-occupational person [a person who is not officially classified as a radiation worker]," reports The South China Morning Post.

    "Will We Run On Green Or Black Gold?" - Edward J. Sylvester and Lynn C. Klotz write in USA Today (Feb. 1), "Assuming that the world's population will expand and will try to thrive economically, we either must support agricultural biotechnology's quest to find alternative energy sources and reduce crops' energy needs, or we must support increased oil exploration and production, indefinitely."

    "GAO says more data needed on drug errors " - A study in the April 15, 1998 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that bad reactions to prescription and over-the-counter medicines kill more than 100,000 Americans and seriously injure an additional 2.1 million every year. But the recently GAO testified that while adverse drug events is a serious problem, it is impossible to quantify because of a lack of data. GAO report (PDF format)

    "Scientists warn of supervolcano that could blot out the Sun and bring a global winter" - "Geologists will warn MPs today of the threat posed by a supervolcanic eruption that could devastate the global climate, disrupt agriculture and cause severe food shortages," reports The Independent. BBC coverage

    "Farmland flooded to save a disappearing coastline" - "Britain's battle against global warming has taken a step forward with the first concerted attempt to replace coastline being lost to sea-level rise," reports The Independent.

    "Politicians urged to take lead on global warming" - "The world must wake up to the dangers of global warming to prevent an increase in violent and unusual weather patterns such as floods, droughts and storms, according to a new report," reports The Independent (Feb. 2).

    "Germany may lift beef ban " - "The European Commission welcomed the German government's decision to consider lifting a ban on UK beef imports. A German cabinet proposal to resume normal trade subject to clear labelling of beef from the UK will be followed by a final vote of Germany's regional governments on March 17. The Commission said: "The German cabinet recommendation is very welcome. We hope very much that the parliamentary procedures will follow through. We hope that legal action against Germany will therefore not be necessary." Simon Murphy, the leader of the UK Labour party's Euro MPs said Germany's move towards lifting the ban isolated France. Jean Galvany, the French agriculture minister, claimed that the move was no more than an act of good faith and did not represent a change in Germany's position." reports The Financial Times.

    "Green groups accuse Clinton over advisory committees" - "Leaders of environmental groups are planning to ask US President Bill Clinton to ensure various business advisory committees include green groups who have been kept out of their closed-door proceedings," reports The Financial Times.

    February 2, 2000 -- Happy Ground Hog Day!

    VICTORY of the day: "Expert Testimony Springs Leak Court reverses big verdict, questions assumptions" - "Questions about the reliability of an expert witness's testimony were a key factor in the reversal of a $218 million jury verdict in a Kentucky case involving farmland contaminated by PCBs. The case is one of several brought against Rockwell International Corp. because of leakage of polychlorinated biphenyls at its Russellville, Ky., aluminum casing plant... 'There is no scientific basis for the assumption upon which it rests, that any quantity of PCB contamination increases the risk of cancer in humans and may harm animals and/or crops,' Judge Joseph Huddleston wrote in the opinion," reports the Law News Network.

    COMMENTARY of the day I: "Anyone for global warming?" - Roger A. Pielke Jr. and Daniel Sarewitz comment in The Washington Times, "Predictions of the future can be more dangerous than ignorance, if they induce us to behave in ways that reduce our resilience in the face of inevitable uncertainties and contingencies. When predictions are made about events decades or centuries hence, such as the level of the stock market or the conditions of a changing climate, it is simply impossible to verify their accuracy, no matter how impressive the supporting science may be."

    COMMENTARY of the day II: "Biotech food protocol adds to the confusion" - The Seattle Times editorializes (Feb. 1), "National and cultural politics are pummeling the promises of genetically modified foods before the new industry has a chance to get launched or be seriously challenged by science."

    OUT-OF-CONTROL BUREAUCRACY of the day: "CDC Misled Congress on Spending, Records Show" - "The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified the killer as a previously unknown strain of hantavirus, a mouse-borne disease with a staggering mortality rate. An alarmed Congress responded by giving the CDC up to $7.5 million a year to fight it. At least, Congress thought it did. Instead, apparently without asking Congress, the CDC spent much of the money on other programs that the agency thought needed the funds more, interviews and documents show. One official said the total diverted is almost impossible to trace because of CDC bookkeeping practices, but he estimated the diversions involved several million dollars," reports The Washington Post.

    "Peace talks begin" - The St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorializes, "Opposite sides of the genetically modified organism debate hammered out the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in the early hours of Saturday morning in Montreal. It was the first such agreement after years of bitter contention. It is by no means an end to the international controversy over the safety of seeds, microbes, fish and foods whose DNA been altered. Rather, it is an encouraging beginning to a peaceful, reasoned solution."

    "P&U offers to scrap $600m GM plan research" - "Pharmacia & Upjohn, the drugs group, has offered to axe a $600m research and development budget for genetically modified foods in an attempt to pacify shareholders unhappy about its takeover of Monsanto, the US biotechnology company... In a further sign that the new company wanted to distance itself from the GM business, it announced last week that it would drop the Monsanto name. It will be called Pharmacia if investors approve the deal," reports The Guardian.

    "Physicians Group Sees DOE Admission as Important Beginning" - "After decades of denial, the U.S. government has finally acknowledged what Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and the rest of the nuclear disarmament community has long held true: the very business of producing nuclear weapons is harmful to workers and citizens."

    "Local and remote aerosol measurement techniques compare" - "Researchers from the University of Illinois, the University of Washington and the University of Arizona recently met near Bondville, Ill. (about 155 miles south-southeast of Chicago), to study the influence of aerosols on climate change, and to compare results from two fundamentally different measuring techniques. The program was supported by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration."

    "Unfiltered coffee may increase heart attack risk" - "A new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicates that some forms of coffee could have deleterious effects on cardiovascular health. Grubben and colleagues at the Agricultural University Wageningen in The Netherlands examined the effect of heavy consumption of unfiltered coffee on the levels of homocysteine in the blood. Patients with high concentrations of homocysteine are known to be at greater risk for stroke and heart disease."

    "U.S. 15-year-olds less likely to watch television or smoke" - "Compared to adolescents in other parts of the industrialized world, U.S. students are less likely to watch television. Moreover, although 15 year old U.S. adolescents were among the least likely to smoke, U.S. 11 year olds began smoking at rates as high as those of 11 year olds in other countries. U.S. adolescents were also less likely to exercise frequently, and less likely to have a good diet than were students in other countries, according to a new report issued by the World Health Organization (WHO)."

    JUNK INDEX of the day: "Prototype Of Environmental Quality Index Unveiled" - "If the worldwide "Green Revolution" has an Achilles’ heel, it is the inability to quantify overall environmental quality. After all, without hard numbers to measure and compare, how can we know if we’re making progress toward environmental goals or falling further behind?"

    "Come 2100, New Orleans Could Be an Underwater Attraction" - "When Fat Tuesday rolls around on Mar. 7, the faithful hordes will congregate once again in New Orleans for the annual Mardi Gras celebration. With the high purpose befitting a ritual, society bands will march, jazz will reverberate down Bourbon Street, and tons of crawfish and oysters from local waters will be washed down with various libations. But the days of this popular rite of spring may be numbered. Within a hundred years, scientists say, New Orleans could be under water," reports Business Week

    "Senator: Biosafety Deal Hurts U.S." - "Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and an outspoken proponent of biotechnology, said the labeling rule will be 'a substantial problem' for U.S. farmers," reports the AP.

    "Scientist honored for ozone studies" - "As a 30-year-old scientist, Susan Solomon led expeditions to Antarctica that gave new insights into what was causing the ozone "hole." Her observations provided the first direct evidence that chemical reactions involving man-made chlorine were responsible for the ozone depletion," reports The Denver Post (Feb. 1). Click for perspective on so-called "ozone depletion."

    "Filtered coffee takes heaviness out of life" - "A team of international scientists has found that filtered coffee can remove up to 90 per cent of heavy metals from tap water... Both copper and lead have long-term toxic effects on humans and lead is linked to intellectual impairment, especially in children," reports the ABC.

    "Govt urged to notify safe level of room pollution" - "Environmentalists have urged the [Pakistani ]government to take steps for reducing indoor air pollution caused by smoking and other elements in public buildings which are used comparatively by larger number of people," reports Dawn.com.

    "Smelly planes cause illness" - "Airline passengers' health could be at risk from fumes leaking into some planes, a Senate inquiry heard yesterday," reports The Daily Telegraph (Australia).

    "Scientist raises organic concerns" - "A leading Scottish scientist has warned that organic farming poses considerable risks to human health," reports the BBC.

    February 1, 2000

    'LETTER TO THE EDITOR' of the day: Al Gore's Health Scare - Salon.com runs my letter-to-the-editor about Al Gore's male pattern baldness, high cholesterol and risk of heart disease. Click for the unedited version with more details.

    CREDIT CARD FRAUD of the day: "UK advertising standards authority upholds Complaints over anti-pvc publicity" - "The ASA upheld four out of six complaints [against Greenpeace and a bank], finding that the division of scientific opinion on hormonal effects had been ignored, manufacture and disposal of PVC made little contribution to dioxins and the advertisements used language that was alarmist and shocking. Rejecting two complaints, the Authority found that general claims made in the advertisements regarding the effect of environmental dioxins on learning and behavioural characteristics of children, and on levels of dioxins in breast milk were not excessive," reports High Performance Plastics.

    COMMENTARY of the day: "Food Gene Label Unneeded" - The Los Angeles Times editorializes, "Labeling is required, and justified, only if the added or modified gene differs from its conventional counterpart in that it changes nutritional value or causes allergic reactions. The labeling proposals of Sens. Hayden and Sher would only confuse a simple process."

    "EU sets criteria on 'precautionary' bans" - "The European Commission will on Tuesday attempt to halt a growing source of friction within the European Union - and with some EU trade partners - by establishing criteria for banning or restricting the use of potentially dangerous substances," reports The Financial Times.

    EC issues "White Paper on Food Safety" - The European Commission recommends establishment of an independent "European Food Authority."


  • "Are Bioengineered Foods Safe?" - FDA Commissioner Jane Henney answers questions about the safety of GMO foods.

  • "Frito-Lay Angers Farm Groups" - "The American Farm Bureau Federation, which says biotechnology can produce larger and more nutritious crops, accused Frito-Lay of caving in to anti-biotech activists," reports the AP.

  • "The 'Organic Myth'" - Phlip Stott on organic farming.

  • "Monsanto says populous pair banking on GM crop" - "The world's two most populous countries China and India, were yesterday said to be racing to develop genetically modified (GM) crops to feed their growing populations. A biotechnology race was 'already under way in Asia, led by China and India, because there is no other way to deal with their population and preserve their environment,' said Charles Martin, vice-president of Monsanto's corporate communications in the Asia-Pacific region. Field trials on modified crops had gained ground in Asia, despite grave concerns in Europe over the long-term environmental and health effects of genetically modified food," reports The Hong Kong Standard.

  • "Bio-crops under attack by militants" - "Opponents of genetically engineered foods have staged night attacks on university and corporate research sites in at least 18 incidents and seven states since July," reports USA Today (Jan. 30).

  • "Crying Wolf" - The Calgary Herald comments (Jan. 30), "While the benefits of genetically engineered foods are huge — disease and pest-resistant strains which diminish the need for pesticides -- some thoughtful lobbies have questioned the costs. It's a pity that showy groups like Greenpeace have injected bad science and frivolous stunts into the debate. No doubt it helps their fund-raising but it doesn't help the public understand the issues when they are told the Monarch butterfly is at risk from genetically-altered corn when studies show that it is not."

  • "Australian Farm Lobby To Fight Montreal GMO Treaty" - "Australia's main farm grouping said Monday it will seek legal advice on the validity of the weekend decision by more than 130 countries to agree to the world's first treaty on genetically modified organisms (GMOs)," reports Reuters.

  • "Pact shows there’s biosafety in numbers" - "Some observers expected another Battle of Seattle, with angry protests and collapsed talks on the controversial issue of genetically engineered foods. But no "Brawl in Montreal" materialized. Except for an incident in which a protester threw a pie in the face of an industry lobbyist on the first day of the talks, the demonstrations were peaceful," reports MSNBC.

  • "Sutton lambastes Greens over call to halt GE trials" - "Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton has hammered the Greens for wanting to stop testing of genetically engineered sheep with a human gene in trials aimed at cystic fibrosis treatment," reports The New Zealand Herald.

  • "EU and biotech industry welcome GM accord" - "The European Commission and European biotechnology firms on Monday welcomed an agreement reached by international negotiators in Montreal on regulating trade in genetically modified organisms (GMOs) used in food," reports Reuters.
  • "Small success seen in fight against 'mad cow' maladies" - "Scientists have demonstrated that mad cow disease and related illnesses may one day be curable. Mad cow belongs to a group of diseases called prion diseases. These occur when certain proteins in the brain suddenly begin to change shape. Proteins, the bulky molecules that make up much of the body, are like paper airplanes. If they're not folded right, they don't work. Now, in test-tube experiments, researchers have created a molecule that coaxes an abnormally folded prion protein back into the correct shape," reports The Dallas Morning News (Jan. 31).

    "Tobacco giants face curbs" - "A clampdown on the activities of tobacco companies was promised last night by a senior World Health Organisation official. Derek Yach, head of the UN body's anti-smoking campaign, said an international treaty was planned to curb powerful cigarette firms," reports The Guardian.

    "Japan Reports Reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions" - " In Japan,... carbon dioxide emissions dropped by 3.8% in 1998. Although about 60% of that is believed to be due to the country's economic slump, some was the result of efficiency improvements, according to Japan's Environment Agency," reports The Los Angeles Times (Jan. 29).

    "£500,000 grant from Europe to aid beef industry" - "The European Commission is to provide more than £500,000 to try to salvage the British beef market. But Brussels has refused to compensate farmers over the illegal French ban on UK beef imports," reports The Independent.