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Archives - February 2001

February 28, 2001

Christine Todd Browner? - Carol M. Browner's reign as Queen of the EPA was terminated by the election of George W. Bush. Apparently, though, Browner can now channel herself through new EPA Queen, Christine Todd Whitman.

In response to yesterday's disappointing Supreme Court decision on the air quality rules that Browner imposed on us, Whitman called the decision,
"a solid endorsement of EPA's efforts to protect the health of millions of Americans from the dangers of air pollution."
Adding insult to injury, Whitman commented after an appearance before a Senate committee,
"There's no question but that global warming is a real phenomenon, that it is occurring...And while scientists can't predict where the droughts will occur, where the flooding will occur precisely or when, we know those things will occur."
Whitman also said the Bush administration is considering imposing limits on carbon dioxide emissions from the nation's power plants.

These pronouncements are amazing considering her lack of expertise on the environment. When asked for her thoughts on global warming several months ago, Whitman responded,

"Still somewhat uncertain. Clearly there's a hole in the ozone, that has been identified. But I saw a study the other day that showed that it was closing. It's not as clear, the cause and effect, as we would like it to be."
As if confusing global warming with ozone depletion wasn't bad enough, she also endorsed the precautionary principle:
We must acknowledge that uncertainty is inherent in managing natural resources, recognize it is usually easier to prevent environmental damage than to repair it later, and shift the burden of proof away from those advocating protection toward those proposing an action that may be harmful.
Though it's not too late for Christie to exorcise the demon spirit of Carol Browner, don't hold your breath.

Even if Christine Todd Browner nee Whitman knew right from wrong on the environment, she likely wouldn't have the political courage to do the right thing.

The environment is a throw-away issue for most Republicans. They're typically unwilling to spend their limited political capital to fight eco-political correctness.

"Bangladesh - basket-case of choice for green alarmists" - "It's been hard to read recent press coverage of the latest global warming report without hearing mention of how low-lying areas, and especially Bangladesh, will be inundated by rising sea levels. Alarmists, like Lester Brown of the Worldwatch Institute, say that western energy profligacy is to blame for the devastation being wrought, and that we should look shamefacedly at Bangladesh, the poverty-stricken victim of our excess. Indeed, Bangladesh does provide some heart-breaking though interesting lessons, but not the ones Mr Brown is keen to promote. It is government control, backed by western aid that created and then sustained this basket case, not western energy use." (Roger Bate, Financial Express)

"Action on Hill Secures Funding For 'Gulf War Syndrome' Study; Scientist's Disputed Work Failed to Win Grants Through Usual Channels " - "A Texas scientist who believes that some veterans of the Persian Gulf War may be suffering brain damage from toxic chemicals has secured funding for his research through political intervention for the second time." (WashingtonPost.com)

Click for Michael Fumento's articles on Gulf War syndrome.

"Anti-Gun, Anti-Science The real enemy is shoddy research" - "Unfortunately, Kellermann and the 'guns-as-viruses' crowd are expertly adept at producing factoids which the anti-gun media eagerly then disseminate as 'scientific' proof of the perils of gun ownership. By the time that serious criminological or legal journals have disproved one public-health factoid about guns and public health, another one is being bandied about by the media." (Dave Kopel, NationalReview.com)

"Global-warming reports put hot issue on front burner for Bush" - "In his first few weeks in office, President Bush has been confronted with two disturbing new reports on global warming. ... Now, with environmentalists and American allies like Britain turning up the political heat by citing the U.N. reports, the new administration must decide soon how to deal with the issue. Early next month in Italy, climate change will be one of three items on the agenda at a meeting of environment ministers from the so-called Group of Eight -- seven Western industrialized nations plus Russia. Christie Whitman, Bush's Environmental Protection Agency chief, will attend." (Houston Chronicle)

Uh-oh! "Whitman Considers Global Warming" - "WASHINGTON — Calling global warming "a real phenomenon," Environmental Protection Agency chief Christie Whitman said Tuesday the administration is considering limits on carbon dioxide emissions as part of a broader anti-pollution strategy." (AP)

Whitman will be at the G8 meeting. Whitman doesn't yet know the difference between "global warming" (a real phenomenon) and "enhanced greenhouse" (an hypothesis). Oh no!

"Portland area emissions rise 7 percent despite reduction efforts" - "In 1993, Portland became the first city in the nation to adopt a plan to cut the carbon dioxide emissions often linked to global warming. Instead of dramatic reductions, the emissions continue to rise. In fact, total CO² emissions in Portland and Multnomah County grew by more than 7 percent during the 1990s. City officials cite a variety of reasons for that increase: population growth, more vehicles driving more miles and a growing reliance on natural gas for power after the closure of the Trojan Nuclear Plant. And although per capita carbon dioxide emissions fell slightly during the first half of the 1990s, they're on the rise as well." (The Oregonian)

"Warnings on global warming" - "Juneau -- Global warming may bring longer growing seasons and make it easier for ships to dock, a climate expert told lawmakers Monday. But the negatives, such as the engineering nightmare caused by melting permafrost under the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, will outweigh the positives. Gunter Weller, director of the Center for Global Change and Arctic System Research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, presented the results of years of climate research to the House Resources Committee. His graphs and charts documented how global warming is tearing down the fragile Arctic. ... "There is no longer a controversy on the effects of greenhouse gasses on ecosystems," Weller said. Though some people dispute the timing of the changes, "the majority of the scientific community is behind this." (Anchorage Daily News)

Ooh... Dr Weller! The difference between GCM fantasies proliferated by UNEP's political cadre, the IPCC and empirical measure makes the enhanced greenhouse hypothesis increasingly controversial. Temperature tracks such as those for Juneau and Kodiak, 1900-1999; Nome, 1907-1999; St Paul Island, 1916-1999; Talkeetna, 1919-1999; Fairbanks and Fort Greely, 1941-1999 don't show anything but normal variation. Where's this great Alaskan warming?

"It Was a Great Week for the Climate Alarmists... Now Let's Pop Their Bubble!" - "The world's climate alarmists hosted a great fossil fuel-bashing party last week. Following on the heels of the IPCC report released the previous month in Shanghai, China, wherein it was claimed that mean global air temperature could rise from 1.4 to 5.8°C over the next hundred years, their exuberance for disaster knew no bounds." | Dramatic Changes in Climate Model Predictions of Sea Level Rise Due to CO2-Induced Global Warming | Climate Variability Over the Holocene | The Thinning of West Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier: How Serious Is It? (co2science.org)

"Global Warming Leads Temperature Rise on Taiwan Island" - "HONG KONG, February 27 -- The effects of global warming have led to an increase of one degree Celsius in Taiwan's average temperature over the past century, reported Taiwan's local media. Temperatures recorded at weather stations in Taipei, Taichung, Tainan and Hualien show that the island is undergoing a climate change that has resulted in rising average temperatures, according to an analysis by the Taiwan's local weather observatory released Tuesday. Taiwan's climate has been steadily getting warmer over the past century, said the local observatory, adding that population density and urbanization are factors besides global warming effects that influence climate change. The annual volume of rainfall in Taiwan last year was also higher than the average, with Suao topping the list in this area, experiencing a rainfall volume of 6,595 mm for the year. The annual volume of rainfall is expected to increase by 7 percent from now until the end of the 21st century. Enditem" (Xinhuanet)

Taiwan is experiencing the same UHIE as is Totally tropical Tokyo - imagine that...

"Global warning on climate (2)" - "It's easy to mistake the latest automotive news for a joke. Consumers next year will be able to buy a passenger vehicle that is a metre longer than today's largest sport utility vehicle and twice - repeat, twice - as heavy. It sounds like a joke, but it's true - and all too symptomatic of North America's breezy insouciance toward gas guzzling and climate change." (Montreal Gazette)

Second part of The Gazette's enhanced greenhouse hand-wringing (click here for part 1). Their idea of "acting locally" in order to address a situation which exists only in a virtual world appears to be that you mustn't have a "Daimlerosaurus", as activists have dubbed the new DaimlerChrysler all-wheel drive truck, or any sort of Sports Utility Vehicle either.

"CEI Disappointed in Supreme Court’s Clean Air Act Decision - Legal Hurdles to EPA’s Rules Removed, But Scientific Questions Remain" - "WASHINGTON, DC — The Competitive Enterprise Institute today announced its disappointment with the Supreme Court’s decision concerning the Clean Air Act and urged Congress and the Bush administration to consider the questionable scientific merits of the regulations at issue. While the Court’s decision in Whitman v. ATA was based on the constitutional issue of delegation of authority, the future of the issue will rest on whether the data underlying the EPA’s past decisions stand up to scientific scrutiny. Today’s decision is a reversal of a 1999 Court of Appeals decision invalidating EPA standards for ozone and particulate matter. The Court also rejected the argument that EPA is permitted to consider costs in setting these standards. “It is unfortunate that this Court will not stand in the way of expensive regulations of questionable merit,” said Ben Lieberman, senior policy analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “We can only hope that the new EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman and Congress will explore the uncertain scientific support before moving ahead,” he added." (CEI)

"US High Court/EPA: EPA Should Rethink Ozone Rules" - "The EPA had argued that its rules were justified under the Clean Air Act, and would save lives and billions of dollars in health costs. But a divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concluded that they ran afoul of the constitution because the EPA "failed to state intelligibly how much (pollution) is too much." ... Not all of the ruling favored the EPA. The justices concluded the agency erred when it revised rules to reduce ozone in some of the nation's smoggiest regions, and ordered the EPA to rethink them. The court said the EPA's interpretation "goes beyond the limits of what is ambiguous and contradicts what in our view is quite clear." (Dow Jones Newswires)

"U.S. gets little mileage from energy research spending" - "The federal government has spent more than $110 billion on energy research in the last half-century. Tax breaks and other subsidies to encourage development of various sources of energy -- for everything from oil wells to nuclear plants to wind turbines -- easily double that figure. Scientists have tried to replicate the power of the stars inside doughnut-shaped reactors, brew fuel alcohol in huge caldrons of fermenting corn and harness the sun's energy through giant magnifying mirrors in the Mojave Desert. Yet all that spending has failed to produce what has become the Holy Grail of the modern era: a cheap, inexhaustible source of power. The vast majority of energy we consume is still pumped and mined out of the earth. "We make the wrong bet," said Daniel M. Kammen, a UC Berkeley physicist. "We use R&D money to try to pick winners by pouring tons of money into big projects, rather than funding lots of different research and letting the marketplace pick the winners." (Baltimore Sun)

Don't get a real lot of bang for the alternative buck eh?

On MIT's extraordinary mea culpa - they don't know what they did but, whatever it was, they did it (perhaps they should be charged with having tortured statistics and number abuse): "False solution on gender" - "The Massachusetts Institute of Technology made headlines around the world with its 1999 "study" confessing to "unintentional gender discrimination" against female faculty in the School of Science. Nancy Hopkins, the MIT biologist who originated the complaint, has become the Anita Hill of the gender discrimination industry. ... Did MIT actually discriminate against its female faculty? Check out the study yourself at MIT's website (web.mit.edu). You will notice an astonishing fact: MIT's study is innocent of evidence of gender discrimination. Not an iota of data is offered to show that MIT treated its female faculty any differently from its male faculty. No matter! The credulous and politically correct New York Times ran the story on its front page. Other newspapers picked up this tale of invisible gender discrimination without even bothering to solicit contrary opinions." (Judith Kleinfeld, CSM)

"From farm to plate - a sick industry" - "The drive for agricultural efficiency has produced high yields and low prices - but the benefits have come at a price." (Guardian)

Sigh... The Guardian essentially says that disease is a modern invention. Granted, a fairly foolish policy has facilitated spread of their current FMD outbreak (a policy, incidentally, precipitated by truly bizarre consumer demands for "safety and hygiene"). Modern agriculture and technology have reduced disease incidence significantly and, coupled with abundant cheap food enabled by modern farming systems, are responsible for the very quality of life and increasing healthy lifespans of which the populace fear technology and agriculture will rob them - go figure.

"Poultry bugs spark poisoning fears" - "Up to one in five chicken products in major supermarkets are contaminated with bugs that can cause serious food poisoning, research has found." (BBC Online)

Insist on irradiated food then and you'll largely avoid the problem.

"Irradiated Beef: In Markets, Quietly" - "IRRADIATED ground beef is now available in about 1,500 stores across the country, but retailers are apparently still nervous about consumer response. So nervous that Omaha Steaks, the large mail-order beef company, does not tell its customers in advance that all the ground beef it has been selling since January has been irradiated to kill potential bacteria." (New York Times)

Today's chemical scare: "Carpets spark chemical warning" - "Britain's could be being exposed to hazardous chemicals - due to carpets and vinyl flooring. The Healthy Flooring Network and Greenpeace UK say the products contain "surprisingly high levels of chemicals." (Ananova)

Speaking of chemical scares-for-profit, my mailbox has been bombarded with them recently. For example, the old "fluoride in toothpaste" ratbaggery has re-emerged, proliferated by someone called "Body Electric" who is trying to flog a product called "Pristine" at exorbitant rates so you can avoid being poisoned by your toothpaste (I kid you not). E-mails are arriving with subjects of "Your toothpaste may be making you sick"; "What's more poisonous than lead?" and; "Stop poisoning your children. Here's how." Meanwhile, another group called "Gardens Alive" are trying to cash in on US EPA's ridiculous restrictions on Dursban and Diazinon (another one supposedly "for the children" but apparently no better founded than the Alar nonsense) where someone calling themselves my friend "Bill Morgan" (never heard of you Bill - go away, I've no tolerance for fear profiteers) is trying to flog "alternative product" to "save" me from products about which I have not the slightest qualms using.

"Big rise in cancer cases" - "Cancer has become public enemy number one in England and Wales over the last 30 years, official figures show. Data from National Statistics show that the incidence of cancer has risen by around 20% in men and 30% in women since 1970. The report says that part of the recorded increase may simply be due to better detection of cases. But the upwards trend is in sharp contrast to other killers such as heart disease, stroke and infectious diseases, which are now killing less people." (BBC Online)

Gosh! We get better at treating heart disease, strokes and infections and people turn around and die of cancer! Did it ever occur to anyone that, as we reduce the incidence of "the major killers," other causes will ascend to the top of the mortality tables? Last I heard, Earthly immortality was not very common, suggesting that everyone dies of something.

"Americans Overestimate Survival After CPR" - "ORLANDO - Americans have unrealistic expectations about the chances of surviving after cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), according to a US expert in emergency medicine. He said those expectations are fueled in part by the miracles worked by doctors on TV hospital dramas. Even the medical community does not seem to be completely aware that only about 1 in 10 people who undergo CPR actually survive, explained Dr. Amal Mattu, an assistant professor of emergency medicine from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore." (Reuters Health)

"It's barely an exaggeration to say that Western civilisation was founded on alcohol." - "With this arresting statement, Mike Jay, author of the fascinating book Emperors of Dreams, opens an illuminating discussion of the 'temperance and prohibition' movements in America and Britain in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (p222). His observations that Classical Greece and Rome were both 'drinking cultures' and that wine and beer were 'deeply embedded in classical notions of civilisation' stand in marked contrast to the current tendency to regard alcohol only as a source of disease and danger." (Dr Michael Fitzpatrick, Spiked-Online)

"Arsenic: A new type of endocrine disrupter?" - "Hanover, NH — A team of Dartmouth Medical School investigators has uncovered what may be a unique mechanism for the way chronic exposure to low levels of arsenic increases the risk of certain diseases. The work is described in the March issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives." (Dartmouth College)

"Smokers cost US military over $130 million a year" - "Smokers cost the US military over $130 million a year, almost 1 per cent of the total annual training budget, shows research in Tobacco Control. Smoking was the single biggest predictor of premature discharge from duty, the study found. The research team tracked around 29,000 recruits in the US Air Force over 12 months. This section of the military has the lowest prevalence of smoking among its ranks at 28.5 per cent, as opposed to the Marines where the prevalence is almost 45 per cent." (BMJ)

"Smoking Sparks Unfriendly Debate in Friendship Heights, Md." - " A county council in Maryland last December enacted the most far-reaching tobacco ban in the nation -- an ordinance prohibiting outdoor smoking on public sidewalks, grassy areas, and parks in the Village of Friendship Heights outside the District. It's still OK to light up in cars, on private residential lawns, terraces, balconies, driveways, and outdoor business properties. But smoking on virtually all publicly owned areas is forbidden. Residents have engaged in a most unfriendly debate, despite the village's name. Proponents claim that cigarettes are noxious; ergo, smoking must be restrained for the good of the community. Opponents complain of an overreaching government making unwanted choices for individuals. For now, the ordinance is on hold, thanks to a county judge, who recently held a hearing on the issue. Whatever the judge's holding, it is certain to be appealed." (Robert A. Levy, Legal Times)

"Autism levels are 'ten times higher'" - "Autism levels have increased ten-fold over the past decade, according to research. ... Mr Shattock, who is also the vice-president of the World Autism Organisation, said the finding was based on an analysis of data collected between 1966 and 1999. ... The National Autistic Society said the research was "interesting", but said it was difficult to record autism figures as there is no central data base. Spokesman David Potter said: "It doesn't explain necessarily any increase in autism. "They are interesting figures but because we haven't ever had the central recording that is necessary to compare one year with another, it is very difficult to know whether there are real increases in autism or not." (BBC Online)

There are also huge differences in diagnoses and labeling between 1966 and 1999 making the purported increase as a population percentage unverifiable.

"Drug Makers Listen In While Bacteria Talk" - "Scientists have found in the last few years that quorum sensing, discovered more than 20 years ago in the glowing bacteria, is present in many other bacteria as well, including deadly pathogens. The pathogens, however, do not use quorum sensing to decide when to light up but when to unleash toxins that damage their host. ... If drugs can be developed to disrupt this communication system, the bacteria may be fooled into thinking they are alone. Instead of killing the bacteria, as many antibiotics do, such drugs would merely tame them until the body's immune system could wipe them out." (New York Times)

"Population to swell to 9.3 billion" - "UNITED NATIONS -- The world's population -- already more than double what it was in 1950 -- is projected to boom by another three billion in the next half-century, with Africa and Asia dwarfing Europe, even with the staggering toll of AIDS, a new UN study says. Today, there are some 6.1 billion people in the world. By 2050, that figure is anticipated to swell to 9.3 billion -- with nearly nine of every 10 people living in a developing country, one out of six in India alone, according to the study to be released Wednesday by the UN Population Division." | Africa, Asia will lead population boom, U.N. study says (AP)

UNDP "median figures" have generally needed down-revision while their low-estimates have been pretty good and suggest a peak human population figure something under 8 billion. Regardless, there will certainly be more humans on the planet before numbers begin to decline later this century and, with increasing wealth and standard of living expectations, these people are going to expect meat on the table. Implied then is that current farm productivity will not meet requirements in a decade or two, meaning any and all available techniques and technologies will need to be deployed to meet looming requirements. This includes biotechnology, although various supposedly conservation-oriented oppose it unconditionally. That they do so is extraordinary given that biotech is the fastest and most accurate means of increasing output while reducing input, something conservationists have long had as their mantra. The only obvious alternative is to plow down all remaining wildland in order to meet the production shortfall, which doesn't seem all that conservation friendly.

"Biotechnology Global Update (February 2001)"


  • Global Rice Genome Project to be Speeded Up
  • Vadodara Scientist Leads Rice Genome Research
  • Brazilian govt gives more power to National Biosafety Commission
  • Pakistan to set up National Biotechnology Commission
  • Russia Prepares for Era of Crop Biotechnology
  • Israeli Committee recommends spending $150m. on biotechnology
  • Biotech Basics – 1
  • Report Finds Biotech Foods Safe
  • Study proves fear of ‘super-weeds’ baseless
  • IRRI says firms have offered to share rice research
  • India signs Cartegena Protocol on Bio-safety
  • GM Crop Facts

"IRRI Scientist Backs 'Golden Rice' Studies" - "The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) yesterday urged critics to keep an open mind over research involving "Golden Rice," a genetically modified grain which has been enriched with Vitamin A. IRRI plant biotechnologist Dr. Swapan K. Datta yesterday urged that their research be allowed to proceed, saying IRRI has yet to do extensive studies before it can recommend the commercial production of Golden Rice. The first research samples of Golden Rice were delivered to the IRRI's main research station in Los Banos last month." (Business World)

"American Corn Growers Reach Out to European Union on GMOs" - "PARIS, Feb. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Speaking to the 9th annual AGROGENE Seminar on Genetic Traceability in Paris, France on February 22, American Corn Grower Association (ACGA) Program Director Dan McGuire praised the European Union as a multi-billion market for U.S. farmers and told seminar participants that European concerns, not governments, will have the final say on genetically modified crops (GMOs)." (ACGA release)

"GM canola has an edge on 'purity premiums'" - ABARE" - "CANBERRA - Conventionally-produced canola would need to attract price premiums of about 10 percent over genetically modified (GM) canola to economically justify producers' decisions to remain GM-free, the government's commodities think tank said yesterday." (Reuters)

"Genomics Won't Mean Cheap Drugs" - "Faster, better and cheaper drugs: That's the whole point of sequencing the human genome, right? But cost savings, if they occur at all, are not likely to be passed on to patients. High drug costs could become yet another albatross for an industry already shouldering public fears about gene therapy, genetic engineering and the possibility of human cloning. But many drugmakers say public outrage caused by high drug prices is best left to politics." (Forbes.com)

"Limitless Source of Repair Cells Comes From Fat" - "WASHINGTON - Scientists said on Tuesday a virtually limitless source of cells, from human fat, can be turned into cartilage, offering a good supply of repair materials for people with damaged joints. Feeding them just the right diet and giving them a comfortable gel matrix to grow in, the cells were coaxed into becoming cartilage instead of fat, and scientists said they hoped to one day use such cells to repair joints." (Reuters) | Researchers turn fat cells into cartilage (DUMC release)

Western society certainly has an unlimited supply of source material then.

Today's complete idiot feature: "Anti-GMO Group Torches Research Cotton Gin" - "The Earth Liberation Front burned a research cotton gin at the facilities of Delta & Pine Land Co in Visalia, Calif., on Feb. 20. The group, which is against genetic engineering, stated that the reason for the destruction of the plant was because Delta & Pine continues to pursue its Terminator technology “despite global opposition to the genetic engineering of plants to produce sterile seeds.” (AgWeb.com)

February 27, 2001

Supreme Court Sides with EPA in Air Pollution Case - "In one of the most important environmental and business decisions in decades, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected on Tuesday industry arguments that the federal government must consider cost and not just health benefits in setting national air pollution standards." (Reuters)

Click for the Court's full opinion (PDF format).

Junkscience.com says:

From a strictly legal perspective, the Scalia-authored opinion isn't altogether unreasonable or unexpected.

The problem, though, is that the key issues weren't considered in this litigation:

That EPA doesn't have to consider costs under the Clean Air Act and that EPA air pollution rules may be law-like are certainly MAJOR problems that Congress should address.

But the key flaw is how do we ensure there is a real need for the regulation in the first place? The Clean Air Act prevented the plaintiffs (American Trucking Association, et. al.) from reaching this issue.

Congress needs to open up the Clean Air Act and require that the EPA uses only rock solid science and that there is an adequate mechanism to challenge the agency if the science doesn't measure up.

The current legal standard for reviewing agency actions -- i.e., "arbitrary and capricious" -- is a joke. Virtually any effort by the agency to support its action -- no matter how lame -- satisfies that standard.

No Bush-whacking on global warming -- tonight, at least - Language supporting global warming regulation has been taken out of George W. Bush's speech, according to knowledgeable sources. Thanks to everyone who helped get the message to the Bushies.

However, this is just a temporary reprieve. Bob Novak was briefed by CEI's Fred Smith and Chris Horner before Novak interviewed Christie Todd Whitman on CNN's Crossfire last night. The transcript (below) confirms the worst.

Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill reportedly is lobbying his colleagues for action on global warming and that temporary holdovers from the Clinton-Gore Administration are helping to develop the U.S. position for the resumption of the Kyoto negotiations this summer. As one White House official told CEI's Myron Ebell, global warming is a global issue and the U. S. is a responsible global citizen and therefore can't just walk away from the talks.

CNN Crossfire Transcript 02/26/01

NOVAK: Governor, tonight as we sit here, the environmental conservatives are up in arms because they have heard that President Bush in his speech to Congress tomorrow might is going to call for a multi-pollutant strategy which would put -- which implies a cap on carbon dioxide. The only theory under which carbon dioxide is alleged harmful is a catastrophic global warming theory, which was, as I remember, it was Al Gore's, not George Bush. They are really upset. Have you gotten e-mails and phone calls on this today?

WHITMAN: I haven't gotten any today that I know of, but I've been at a lot of meetings today and with the National Governors. George Bush was very clear during the course of the campaign that he believed in a multi-pollutant strategy, and that includes CO2, and I have spoken to that. He has also been very clear that the science is good on global warming. It does exist. There is a real problem that we as a world face from global warming and to the extent that introducing CO2 to the discussion is going to have an impact on impact on global warming, that's an important step to take.

NOVAK: So, governor, the poor deluded voters who voted for George Bush thinking that he was different from Al Gore on the question of global warming, they made a sorry mistake, then. They didn't listen carefully enough.

WHITMAN: Well, I don't think they made a mistake because -- or maybe they didn't listen closely enough but he was very clear about that during the campaign. He talked about that during the campaign. He brought up the multi-pollutant strategy during the campaign and a lot of energy groups will tell you, and the energy companies, the utilities will tell you that they can, in fact -- it's going to be difficult. There will be challenges there, but there are ways that we can get to a multi-pollutant strategy on energy that would allow for energy and still meet some of these demands and the needs that we need to meet on global warming.

CEI wishes Ralph Nader a Happy Birthday! - ... and points out that Nader should count his blessings that auto safety defects haven't been criminalized.

"Schools Hooked on Junk Food: Reliance on Vending Proceeds Decried -- and Defended " - "... The biggest cost, some parents and health advocates say, is the health risk to students in a system that gives schools a financial interest in selling them more snacks. One recent study linked soft drinks to childhood obesity, and others point to tooth decay and caffeine dependence -- findings that the soda industry disputes..." (WashingtonPost.com)

"Gene-Spliced Wheat Stirs Global Fears: Buyers Spurn Grain Before It's Planted " - "Agricultural scientists have developed the first genetically engineered variety of wheat designed for sale to farmers, stirring intense controversy around the globe years before it is expected to come onto the market." (WashingtonPost.com)

"New Findings Energize Case for Life on Mars: Fossil Evidence Likely to Spur Research " - "Researchers who penetrated to unprecedented levels of microscopic detail inside a meteorite from Mars yesterday reported new evidence of possible fossil remains that closely resemble features found in bacteria living on Earth today... Word of the latest findings piqued the interest of even some outspoken and persistent skeptics. Adrian Brearly, a planetary scientist at the University of New Mexico who has studied the magnetite, said he remains unconvinced and believes some of the researchers have become "a little single-minded" about making the case for Martian life. On grounds that the simplest explanation is best, he argues that if 75 percent of the crystals were produced by nonliving processes, most likely they all were. "We just haven't found the particular mechanism," he said. At least one group has come close to reproducing similar crystals with non-biological techniques." (WashingtonPost.com)

It sounds like budget-time for NASA -- an agency in desperate search for a reason-to-be. Check out these Junkscience.com oldies, circa 1996 when Mars Rock Mania first struck: Mars Crock and Life on Mars Means Life on Earth (for NASA anyway). Also check out this 1998 Washington Post article, New Research Shakes Theory Of Life on Mars.

Some more hysteria from The Gazette: "Global warning on climate" - "It's getting harder to remain coolly nonchalant about global warming. In the most ominous warning to date, a United Nations panel said last week that the Earth's average temperature could rise by as much as 5 degrees C over the next 100 years. As if the planet hasn't warmed enough already. Not to be outdone by the North Pole, which last summer was remarkably liquid, Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro has now lost about 80 per cent of the icecap that it possessed when it was first measured in 1912, the UN scientists said last week." (Montreal Gazette)

Oh dear! The New York Times ended up with a very red face and a Letterman "Top 10" (Top Ten Signs The New York Times Is Slipping) for their silly part in nonsense claims about the summer Arctic Polar Ice Pack. Now the Montreal Gazette is recycling the same nonsense. The Kilimanjaro snowline panic also appears based in selective data with the base-period of the early 1980s being one of high precipitation and the recorded decline during a period of drought, see several items over the past week. Was the recorded ice region in 1912 "normal" or was it similar to 1983, when precipitation was unusually high?

"UN reports drought causing vast hunger" - "UNITED NATIONS - In northern Africa's Chad, the water holes ran dry long ago. In Ethiopia, the bleached bones of dead cattle litter the ground. In Tajikistan in central Asia, the wheat crops are stunted and withered, and in war-torn Afghanistan not even the winter snow brought relief. From Africa to Asia, severe, long-term drought now holds more than 20 countries in its grip. Combined with poverty and civil unrest, it is why a near-record 60 million people worldwide now desperately need emergency assistance including food, UN authorities and disaster relief specialists say. ... Meteorologists say the droughts, along with severe flooding in other parts of the world, may stem in part from erratic weather patterns prompted by the La Nina phase of El Nino, which occurs with a significant shift in the temperature of the Pacific Ocean off South America." (Boston Globe)

An unfolding tragedy indeed and, as far as we can ascertain, these cyclical droughts are heavily influenced by the ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation). Regrettably, either the UN or the Boston Globe could not resist the temptation to crank up the enhanced greenhouse hysteria:

"The deepening drought, and the starvation and disease associated with it, may only grow worse, according to a panel of scientists who last week predicted that global warming could lead to growing numbers of similar natural disasters that would have their most direct effects on the world's poorest countries."

Thus far, models have shown poor to very poor predictive skill with the moderately well-understood ENSO phenomenon. These models are, however, enormously advanced compared with GCCMs (General Circulation Climate Models) upon whose output, generated and collated by the IPCC's WGI (Working Group I), WGII base their absurd disaster prognostications by - you guessed it - feeding said results into yet more models using yet more assumptions. In case you got a little lost there, the situation is that UNEP's IPCC WGI generated a virtual-world extreme worst case scenario, which lead author John Christie described as "the one that's not going to happen", with their computer games, which UNEP's IPCC WGII then fed into their own computer game virtual-world and decided "things are grim."

Fortunately, we don't live in that terrible virtual world and need only worry about real world problems. A good way to start would be assisting impoverished regions with water storage infrastructure and using all available means, including biotechnology, to help them become self-sufficient in food production and security. This will be significantly more affordable if we stop wasting vast sums on generating pretend problems and then applying extraordinarily expensive "fixes" to that which doesn't exist to any measurable value in the real world to begin with.

"VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT Vol. 2, No. 7" - "Fully embracing fantasy, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Working Group II on February 19th released its summary of a report entitled Climate Change 2001: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Vulnerability. IPCC Working Group I already had laid out a scenario (storyline) under which there is potential of a 5.8°C change in global temperature by 2100. Using that extreme scenario, Working Group II’s Summary for Policymakers characterizes the not-so-distant future as one where there are far greater occurrences of starvation and tropical disease. There is to be more heat stress, stronger hurricanes, and more mudslides and avalanches. Oceans will swallow shoreline and entire(!) nations. Water shortages will spark political unrest." (GES)

"Politics foils objective U.N. Climate Change Report -- again" - "Once again, climate change is in the news, as the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a “Summary for Policymakers” based on the massive second volume of its “Third Assessment Report” on climate change." (Kenneth Green, Tech Central Station)

"Media melee" - "... It is hoped the public at large has learned a lesson. The electorate naturally needs the media to stay informed and engaged. But intrinsic biases are as unavoidable as human error. The American public must always question what it hears on the television and reads in newspapers. As the election coverage so aptly reminds us, no "news" can be regarded as definitive." (Washington Times)

For the benefit of non-US readers wondering whether all the Florida fuss was justified: Miami-Dade recount: Gore still loses - Study turns up few new votes (USA TODAY, The Miami Herald and Knight Ridder Newspapers)

"Federal ‘guidance’ poses greatest threat to state toxic site cleanups" - "Next week, Congress will, again, convene hearings on “brownfields.” By one estimate, more than 500,000 of these contaminated, old industrial sites -- so-called brownfields -- dot the American landscape. Both the Senate and House already have draft legislation to beef up -- and clarify -- the federal role in cleaning up these sites and moving them back into productive use. Many states, though, have already taken the lead in getting these sites cleaned up and redeveloped. Overly prescriptive federal action now could sink brownfield sites into the same regulatory mire that has slowed clean up of other sites under the embrace of the federal Superfund law." (Lynn Scarlett, Tech Central Station)

"Chicken Little calling" - "2/3 is the proportion of Britons estimated to own a mobile phone (The Times January 9th). Nasty old cynics are beginning to wonder why there are no epidemic outbreaks of terrible diseases. Newspaper articles appear almost daily warning of links between the phones, their masts and all sorts of afflictions. In The Times Interface supplement of February 26th  for example, Nigel Powell offers a two-page treatment that bends over backwards to present both sides of the argument. As readers of these pages and the associated book will recognise, however, the two sides of the argument are not of equal status. The scares are all based on “research” that reveals all of the typical characteristics of junk science – unacceptable risk ratios and confidence levels, isolated anecdotes based on the post hoc fallacy etc. Recent studies in America and Denmark have detected no link between mobile phone use and cancer, but what is the point of such studies? The whole of society is a permanent test-bed for such possible links. Say there is a tiny probability (e.g. 0.0001) of contracting toe-nail cancer from using a mobile phone. Would not someone in the health service notice the 4000 extra patients appearing in the wards with the disease? This is the amazing thing about the scaremongers. They carry on blithely delivering their message when the population at large can see quite clearly that none of it is happening, so 5.68 million Britons bought mobile phones for Christmas." (Number Watch) | Cellphone suits mount, even as science questions risks (USA Today)

"SAFETY FIRST? NOT ACCORDING TO CAR-BUYING DATA" - "Sometime in the next few days, weeks or months, it will be reported that a car, truck, van or sport-utility vehicle crashed and the occupants are suing the maker (automaker, not the Maker, because there are no lawyers where He lives) for $1 billion or so. Though the driver had bourbon in one cupholder, a brew in the other and a reefer in the ashtray, the vehicle traveling at 80 m.p.h. at 4 a.m. had to be at fault and the automaker will have to pay for its transgression. And within moments of the crash, the talking heads representing the public interest groups will go before the cameras insisting they have proof that the automaker knew that the car, truck, van or sport-ute had a defect and should be made to recall every car, truck, van and sport-ute built since 1901 to inspect and repair the vehicles." (Jim Mateja, Chicago Tribune)

"Activists, Acting Governmental" - "Ever since demonstrators squished that trade summit in Seattle 15 months ago, people have complained that nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) want nothing less than to block globalization. This understates their real ambition grievously. The NGOs that really count don't want to block globalization at all. They want to control it." (Washington Post editorial)

"UK asteroid response 'unsatisfactory'" - "Scientists have criticised the UK government's response to an expert report on the threat to the Earth from asteroids and comets. They say the reply, from science minister Lord Sainsbury, is "half-hearted" and "largely non-committal." (BBC Online) | Shallow impact (New Scientist)

Maybe Bruce Willis declined to do a sequel after getting nuked in Armageddon.

"Infection possible heart disease risk" - "Doctors are finding more evidence to link heart disease to infections. New research published in the journal Circulation suggests sinusitis, bronchitis and possibly urinary tract infections could play a role in heart disease." (CNN) | More Evidence Infection Linked to Heart Disease (Reuters)

"American tobacco companies win Marshall Islands case" - "American tobacco companies have won a major victory in the Marshall Islands with the High Court throwing out a multi-billion dollar suit brought by the government. Judge H-Dee Johnson dismissed for lack of evidence 10 of the eleven charges the Marshall Islands had filed against four US tobacco companies. The dismissal centered on the legal requirement that the Government's attorneys produce evidence showing the Marshall Islands had incurred special or additional medical expenses or costs due to smoking-related diseases. In his 20-page opinion, Judge Johnson strongly criticised the Government's US-based legal team, whom he described as "salesmen peddling a lawsuit" who had not done their homework for their clients." (Radio Australia)

"Liberty postponed" - "THE only good news for the Government to have come out of the latest outbreak of foot and mouth disease was yesterday's decision by the Countryside Alliance to postpone next month's Liberty and Livelihood march. ... The march organisers were clearly wise to put safety first. By their decision they have shown, as the Masters of Foxhounds Association did last week when it suspended hunting, that they have the interests of farmers and their livestock uppermost in their minds. In this, they have shown how different they are from animal rights activists who are happy to kidnap, castrate and mutilate beagles, or to terrorise people of whose lawful treatment of animals they disapprove, but show not the slightest practical concern for animal welfare." (Daily Telegraph)

"Animal rights demo 'could spread disease'" - "An animal welfare group has been branded reckless for demonstrating against a guinea pig farm despite warnings it could spread foot-and-mouth disease. Around 100 protesters gathered outside a farm at Newchurch, near Burton upon Trent, Staffs, yesterday to protest over the breeding of guinea pigs for medical research. Staffordshire Police said campaigners from Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs group ignored pleas to cancel the demonstration. Officers described their behaviour as "reckless in the extreme". The Government fears protesters, who travelled to the area from across the country, would increase the risk of spreading the highly contagious livestock disease." (Ananova)

"PeTA Takes Anti-Milk Message to School" - "It’s bad enough that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is in the business of unnecessarily scaring adults away from milk now the group is taking its propaganda straight to grade-schoolers. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that PeTA activists armed with leaflets, stickers, and trading cards, are visiting elementary schools throughout the Midwest, spreading an anti-milk message directly to children. One school’s principal shared her disapproval with the Sun-Times, saying: “They shouldn’t be giving my kids anything.” We couldn’t agree more." (GuestChoice.com)

"Teens Need a Love Affair With Calcium" - "... And consider this. One glass of milk contains 300 milligrams of calcium, barely 25 percent of the 1,200 to 1,500 milligrams teens need daily to achieve peak bone mass during adolescence, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). But the average teen gets only between 700 and 1,000 milligrams each day. Ninety percent of teen-age girls -- more susceptible to osteoporosis than males later in life -- and almost 70 percent of teen-age boys aren't getting sufficient calcium, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics." (HealthScout)

"Fat, Not Calcium, Is Heart Attack Culprit" - "NEW YORK - Patients whose arteries are clogged with fatty plaque may be more susceptible to heart attack than those whose arteries are coated with calcium-containing plaque, researchers report." (Reuters Health)

"Federal organic rules become effective" - "Federal rules governing organic food products went into effect Tuesday after more than 10 years in the formulation stages." (CNN)

"UK: Northern Foods' Haskins slams organics movement, supports GM food" - "Lord Haskins, non-executive chairman of Northern Foods and chairman of the UK government’s Better Regulation Task Force, has criticised the organics movement, saying it: "seeks to ban most scientific innovation and appears to have replaced the Church of England as a place where aristocrats take refuge from the real world." According to a report in the Grocer trade publication, Haskins, a known advocate of GM food, said that concern over the BSE crisis, fuelled by often spurious media scare stories, had created a climate "where scientific progress, notably with GM food, is being denied by affluent, educated middle class pressure groups." (justfood.com)

"Public 'Misled' On GE Risk" (Summary) - "According to The Press, “former Greenpeace director Patrick Moore, who also appeared before the commission, said the public had been misled over the risks of genetic engineering.“ "I find my former organisation has adopted policies in a number of areas I believe to be very off track, wrong-headed, and illogical," said Dr Moore, who helped found Greenpeace in 1971 but left the organisation 15 years ago. An example was Greenpeace's zero tolerance policy towards genetic modification. "They say even if you have a genetically modified plant such as the golden rice that has the potential of reducing the number of children going blind through vitamin A deficiency by half a million, they won't accept it." "They say they care more about the environment than people but our communities and farms are part of the environment," Dr Moore said." (TKC)

"Hong Kong Mulls Labels for Genetically Modified Food" - "HONG KONG - The Hong Kong government proposed on Monday that food containing five percent or more of genetically-modified (GM) material be clearly labeled. But the government has not yet decided if such labeling should be voluntary or mandatory, Lily Yam, secretary of the Environment and Food Bureau told reporters. While there is no evidence that GM food is unsafe for human consumption, some consumers might be allergic to the contents of a modified food product that incorporates genes from other plants or animals, she said." (Reuters)

"CHINA: Consumers call for clear GM labelling" - "A cluster of groups lobbying for environmental, consumer and community rights, has submitted a joint petition to the Chinese government calling for a comprehensive and mandatory labelling system for genetically modified food." (justfood.com)

"PhilRice Receives Golden Rice" - "The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) has received the first seed samples of the pro-Vitamin A enriched Golden Rice. A small number of seeds were presented to PhilRice's Executive Director Leocadio Sebastian by the Deputy Director General for Partnerships at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Dr. William Padolina." (Saigon Times Daily)

"Gene therapy success in the laboratory buoys hope for cancer treatment and prevention" - "Can simply swallowing a gene actually treat and prevent cancer? While the scientific jury is still out on that question, cancer geneticists and neuroscientists at Jefferson Medical College have seen stunning results in a gene therapy experiment in laboratory mice. Researchers, led by Carlo Croce, M.D., professor and chair of microbiology and immunology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and director of Jefferson's Kimmel Cancer Center, and Kay Huebner, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology at Jefferson Medical College, have devised a technique to prevent and perhaps treat cancer by giving oral doses of gene therapy. The therapy greatly reduced the incidence of stomach cancer in animals already genetically prone to develop tumors and which had been exposed to a cancer-causing substance. While it's too early to say how effective this may be in humans, the work is another step in the development of safe and effective use of gene therapy for cancer." (TJU release) | Gene therapy 'prevents cancer' (BBC Online) | Gene Therapy Prevents Cancer in Mice, Study Finds (Reuters)

February 26, 2001

Bush-whacked on global warming? - President George W. Bush plans to announce support for the regulation of carbon dioxide in tomorrow's speech before a joint session of Congress (this year's version of the state of the Union address), according to knowledgeable sources.

Regulating carbon dioxide may be tantamount to implementing the Kyoto global warming treaty.
Remind the White House that Al Gore lost the election!

"Health project maps cancer hot spots" - "On the World Wide Web today: a map of the cancer hot spots in the USA and the toxic chemicals lurking nearby." (USA Today)

There is no scientific evidence that the environment causes cancer.

"Cellphone suits mount though risks uncertain" - USA Today editorializes, "More and better science to settle the [cell phone-cancer] issues is already underway in both the United States and Europe. Until their verdicts are in, these lawsuits are premature." Note that USA Today gets cell phone hysteric George Carlo to admit the cell phones lawsuits are wrong.

For Washington, DC-area global warming fans: Capitol Hill global warming briefing by Dr. Richard Lindzen - The Cooler Heads Coalition invites you to a global warming briefing, "The Search for Scientific Consensus or The IPCC and the One-Handed Scientists," by Dr. Richard S. Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The briefing is Thursday, March 1, Noon-1:30 PM, 406, Dirksen Senate Office Building. Lunch is provided.

Reservations are requested. Please RSVP by calling (202) 331-1010, ext. 261. Or by e-mail: mmallinger@cei.org. For more information, please call Myron Ebell at (202) 331-1010, x216.

Lindzen's bio:

Dr. Lindzen is a lead author of Chapter 7 (on Physical Processes) of the U. N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's forthcoming Third Assessment Report. He is also a consultant to the Global Modeling and Simulation Group at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and a Distinguished Visiting Scientist at California Institute of Technology's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. One of the world's foremost atmospheric scientists, Dr. Lindzen has received the American Meteorological Society's Meisinger and Charney Awards and the American Geophysical Union's Macelwane Medal. He received his A.B., S.M., and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard University.
Abstract of briefing:


The combination of esoteric knowledge and the robe of objectivity make scientists the leading target for advocates seeking unanswerable backing for pre-existing agendas. The trouble is that scientists are notably reluctant to take strong positions on doubtful subjects. As Harry Truman is said to have complained about economists, they have two hands and every answer is of the nature, "On the one hand this, on the other hand that." The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has adopted a number of approaches to this problem:
  • Use a summary to misrepresent what scientists say.
  • Use language which conveys different meaning to laymen and scientists.
  • Exploit public ignorance (and the embarrassment about this ignorance) over quantitative matters.
  • Exploit what scientists can agree on in order to support one's agenda.
  • Exaggerate scientific accuracy and certainty.
  • Exaggerate the authority of undistinguished scientists.
Examples of each of the above will be presented at the briefing lecture.

A Global Warming Pop Quiz - The New York Times editorializes today that,

Scientists meeting in San Francisco a week ago heard a startling prediction: the seemingly indestructible snows of Kilimanjaro that inspired Ernest Hemingway's famous short story may well disappear in the next 15 years. To most mainstream scientists, the rapid erosion of Kilimanjaro's majestic ice cap, along with the steady retreat of mountaintop glaciers elsewhere, is further dramatic evidence of a relentless warming of the earth's atmosphere that cannot be explained by normal climate shifts and is at least partly traceable to the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil.
So how would you place these photos of Mt. Kilimanjaro in chronological order?

If you picked A-B-C -- as the New York Times apparently would -- you'd be wrong. The actual order is C-A-B.


Thanks to John L Daly for these photos. See the accompanying story, along with Kilimanjaro's local temperature anomaly track on Still Waiting For Greenhouse.

"Depleted uranium debate heats up in Europe" - "ROME -- NATO's unified defence of depleted uranium weapons developed some cracks recently with Italy's push to shelve the ammunition until more tests can prove the shells don't cause cancer. Senior members of the Italian government, under pressure from the Green and Communist parties, have revised their thinking on the safety of depleted uranium and now believe more scientific testing needs to be done before the armour-piercing ammunition is used again." (CP)

"N Korea requests beef from Austria: Report" - "TOKYO: North Korea has asked Austria to provide the famine-stricken country with beef from some 30,000 cattle to be slaughtered due to the scare over "mad cow" disease, Kyodo News said on Sunday. North Korea's ambassador to Austria asked Vienna on Tuesday to send the beef in the form of processed food, the news agency reported, quoting South Korean diplomatic sources in Seoul. Pyongyang has already made a similar request to Germany, which also plans to slaughter cattle as preventive measures against the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or "mad cow" disease." (AFP)

Hmm... a bit different when viewed from the perspective of the hungry isn't it? Not much concern here about slight risk of illness, which may or may not manifest itself in 30 years time (if they survive all other morbidities long enough).

"Britain to burn pigs, cows to curb foot and mouth" - "Britain prepared on Sunday to burn hundreds of pigs and cows in a bid to curb an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease that has brought the country's livestock industry to a standstill. But as the animals were being slaughtered on Saturday, there were cautious hopes that the spread of the disease had been arrested when no further outbreaks were reported." (Reuters) | If foot and mouth spreads, blame the men from Maff (Daily Telegraph) | Ministry criticised as vets build grim pyres of carcasses (Independent)

"Farmers' hopes go up in flames" - "A new outbreak of foot and mouth disease at a cattle and sheep farm in Devon yesterday demolished hopes of containing the disease and raised the spectre of a countrywide epidemic. There were even fears the disease might have already reached mainland Europe. As fires burned the carcasses of hundreds of condemned animals in Northumberland and Essex last night, the latest outbreak in cattle was confirmed at Burdon Farm, Highampton, the home of a large-scale sheep dealer, Willy Cleave, who exports to Europe via Dover." (Guardian) | Britain's mass slaughter of farm animals continues, new disease cases reported (AP) | Devon outbreak 'nightmare scenario' (BBC Online) | Cull spreads as the contagion grows | Europe starts to trace and destroy infected stock (Independent) | Foot and mouth may have spread to Europe | Wildlife may be culled as carriers (Telegraph) | Funeral pyre for farmers' hopes (The Times)

"Foot-and-mouth: The pointless slaughter" - "Up and down the UK the funeral pyres are burning, cremating the remains of pigs, cattle and sheep that could have contracted foot-and-mouth. The government's remedy for this highly contagious disease is to slaughter every animal judged to be at risk. In the last big outbreak in 1967, more than 400,000 animals were killed. But there are grounds for arguing that the slaughter policy is misconceived." (BBC Online) | Why animals have to be slaughtered (The Times)

Alex Kirby - again! While I don't necessarily agree with all of Mr Kirby's conclusions on contributive factors or even his take on why some actions were taken in the past (and their relative worth), full credit where credit's due and I must say I'm delighted to see serious analysis rather than hyperbole and reiteration (a point upon which Alex and I have been known to exchange correspondence in the past - I don't think he's yet forgiven me some rather blunt messages). You're batting 3 for 3 Alex, first breaking Climate 'uncertainty' stumps UN, then continuing with 'Odds against' a climate deal and now this, all in a week - very impressive!

"Study Deflates Oxygen Treatment for Cerebral Palsy" - "The use of high-pressure oxygen therapy does little to improve the condition of children afflicted with cerebral palsy, a new study has found. "Hyperbaric oxygen did not improve the condition of children with cerebral palsy, compared with slightly pressurized air," the study's lead author, Dr. Jean-Paul Collet, of McGill University in Montreal, reports in the Feb. 24 edition of the British medical journal, The Lancet." (HealthScout)

"Effort to streamline many environmental conventions" - "The 30 international conventions designed to protect wildlife and their environment are hurting more than they are helping, by draining the resources of developing countries that have to keep track of all their provisions, says the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). According to UNEP, millions of dollars could be saved by "steamlining" these conventions. Nations have to report their compliance with these conventions which puts an excessive burden on these governments, says UNEP." (Earth Times)

Getting rid of useless bureaucracy is good. How 'bout starting by filing said 30 international conventions in the wpb.

"Move a Frog, Go to Jail?" - "IF THE FEDS had their way, environmental consultant John J. Zentner, 46, would be in jail right now. One of his cell brethren eventually would ask, "What are you in for?" "Moving frogs," he could say." (San Francisco Chronicle)

"Gas Additives May Fuel Suit" - "Two Suffolk County lawmakers yesterday proposed hiring an environmental law firm to look into the feasibility of suing chemical companies that produce the gasoline additive MTBE, traces of which were found after fuel spills." (New York Daily News)

Everything may be up to date in Kansas City but news obviously travels but slowly to New Zealand. This from a New Zealand Herald article datelined February 24, 2001: "Carbon trading is the burning issue for pollution talks" - "The climate talks in The Hague may have collapsed in confusion and acrimony, but the death of the Kyoto protocol has been much exaggerated. The talks continue: at the Nice summit, at President Clinton's visit to London this week and through a maze of other channels. As reported in The Independent on Sunday, Clinton is determined to bring COP6 (the sixth session of the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties, see box) to a conclusion before he quits office in January, handing over negotiations to a decidedly unsympathetic Republican administration." [emphasis added] (New Zealand Herald)

Ah New Zealand eh? Should we tell 'em? Nah! They've got enough troubles with a Green/Labor coalition "gummint."

"Australia urges farmers to monitor burping cows" - "Emerald, Queensland – Australian cattle producers are being given “cow burp calculators” so they can help find out how much greenhouse gas is being emitted by the world’s biggest beef exporter. Central Queensland University is making the booklets available so ranchers can make their own methane gas calculations and get a better understanding of global warming. Cattle and sheep produce methane during food digestion. “Cattle release 90 percent of their methane by burping,” said John Rolfe, a researcher with Central Queensland University at Emerald, who is leading the study on green-house gases emitted by cattle in the region." (Business Report) | Cattle could be source for greenhouse gases (AP)

Uh-huh... rate of atmospheric methane (CH4) increase has been falling for more than a decade and it is expected to be in atmospheric equilibrium (as much consumed as produced) in 2004. Whether it declines after that point remains to be seen. CH4 is much more efficient at infrared radiation absorption than is CO2 and there were fears in the late 1980s that atmospheric content would rise exponentially, (this remains a key component of modeled climate forcing), dramatically escalating the non-water vapor greenhouse forcing (water vapor accounts for 9/10ths of the natural greenhouse effect that keeps the planet habitable). It is because assumptions used in models do not match or even resemble real-world situations and rely heavily on "positive feedback" from increased evaporation but ignore negative feedback from implied increased cloudiness that model-generated "predictions" are viewed as an embarrassment by scientists in physical disciplines. Recent IPCC-generated hysteria is based on these make-believe scenarios created in the virtual realm of computer models.

Some more proselytizing: "Cold facts on Warming" - "THE LATEST IN A mounting series of studies that demonstrate a link between human activities and global warming should reinforce determination to slow and ultimately reverse the rising level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Because many of the statistical changes seem small, span longer periods than human lifetimes, and are attributable in part to natural cycles, there is a temptation to ignore them. To do so risks compounding a problem already grown critical." (Boston Globe)

"The Week That Was February 24, 2001 brought to you by SEPP"


"GE parties fight to finish" - "Accusations of false evidence and a fight over who gets the final say have broken out as the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification prepares to wrap up. Life Sciences Network, an umbrella group of industry and scientists who support genetic engineering, wants the chance to contradict evidence given by groups opposed to GE and to put new evidence before the commission. In particular, Life Sciences Network wants to refute claims by a key Green Party witness, Dr Elaine Ingham of Oregon State University, that genetic engineering could devastate plant life." (New Zealand Herald)

"Japan threatens US over GM wheat" - "Japan's milling wheat association has warned it may stop buying US wheat, if genetically modified grain is allowed to contaminate the traditional industry. Its action follows a decision by the US wheat industry to scale back its commitment to GM wheat, bred by multinational, Monsanto. Professor CS Prakash, a member of the US Department of Agriculture's advisory committee on biotechnology, says the new gm wheat has not been well received by farmers or consumers." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Europe becoming two-tier GM/non-GM market - Toepfer" - "WASHINGTON - Europe is becoming a two-tier market due to consumer skepticism toward genetically modified grains and oilseeds, a top analyst for Toepfer International said on Friday. Klaus Schumacher, head of the economics department at Toepfer, an international grain merchant, said fear of brain-destroying "mad cow" disease compounded opposition against so-called GM crops. US farmers are world leaders in adoption of the crops, which they say allow superior weed control, lower costs and higher yields. They say the crops are safe and should be accepted worldwide. EU allows import of GM soybeans but not all GM corn (maize) varieties. "The EU is becoming a two-tier market," Schumacher said in a speech at the US Agriculture Department's annual Outlook Forum, with premiums going to non-GM crops." (Reuters)

February 24-25, 2001

Presumably, most people have heard about: "Ice caps in Africa, tropical South America likely to disappear within 15 years" - "Columbus, Ohio - Many glaciers and ice caps atop mountains in Africa and South America will probably have melted within the next 15 years because of global warming and little can be done to save them, an Ohio State University researcher explained today." (Ohio State University) Certainly New York Times' Bob Herbert had plenty to say about it in "Rising Tides" the other day. So, what's the situation?

This picture, taken in 1983, certainly suggests there was considerably greater snow cover on Kilimanjaro then than the following, taken in 1997.

Clearly, there has been a huge reduction in snow cover since the early 1980s. That proves it, right? Loss of snowfields must mean global warming and such a dramatic reduction in the last 20 years means it's happening at a frightening pace doesn't it?

Still, as good scientists, we always check to see that the twenty year baseline is reasonable and so we look to this picture from 1976 and... Oops! Suddenly, our baseline's not quite so constant.

These pictures extracted by John L Daly. See the accompanying story, along with Kilimanjaro's local temperature anomaly track on Still Waiting For Greenhouse.

"Joint effort imperative on climate change: U.N." - "Countries must settle their differences at climate talks later this year to minimize the impact of global warming, according to the head of a U.N. panel of climate change experts. Citing statistics from reports recently released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which he chairs, Robert Watson warned that temperatures will rise on average between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees in the next 100 years, with countries in northern latitudes seeing as much as a 7 degree jump." (Japan Times)

But Robert, of the silly high-end figures being quoted by yourself and the media, one of the lead authors of said reports, John Christie stated: “The world is in much better shape than this doomsday scenario paints. There were 245 different results in that report, and this was the worst-case scenario. It’s the one that’s not going to happen. It was the extreme case of all the different things that can make the world warm.

"'Odds against' a climate deal" - "A senior US climate expert says he thinks efforts to agree how to cut greenhouse emissions are unlikely to succeed. Professor Tom Heller, of Stanford University, said he regretted the failure of attempts to secure agreement at last November's conference in The Hague. He told BBC News Online that fears about climate change meant much less to Americans than to people in northern Europe." (BBC Online)

Hmm... Good work again Alex! Alex Kirby, whom I have long labeled "G. W." (for "Global Warming"), is doing some very good reporting on the issue lately. It was he who broke the Climate 'uncertainty' stumps UN story and here he is again, telling it like it really is, Americans are nowhere near as easily stampeded as Europeans with ridiculous "storylines" promulgated by agenda-ridden fearmongers. Alex, you call the facts rather than the fantasies and I cheerfully doff my hat. Good for you Alex, well done!

"Climate change: It's time for action" - "Was your last natural gas bill a shock? If that doesn't cause you to question our society's dependence on fossil fuels, perhaps the report recently released in Shanghai by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will. Central to the findings of this third assessment report is the statement: ``There is now new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities." (Toronto Star)

Obviously no one at The Star knows anything about climate or the IPCC - there's no new "evidence" in the TAR (Third Assessment Report), just an expanded set of "storylines" (IPCC's term, not mine) based entirely on computer games. Some three dozen "storylines" are based on almost 250 game (GCCM - General Circulation Climate Model) runs with varied input assumptions. While the press seem enamored with the most foolish "let's pretend" scenario presented and, in fact, present this as though it were real or even possible, they ignore the other end of the presented spectrum (climate stasis - equally unlikely). The best that could happen is Earth's continued recovery from the unfortunate chill of the LIA (Little Ice Age) to the near-Utopia of the MCO (Medieval Climate Optimum) when temperatures were warmer and the climate generally more benign. Regrettably, this does not seem to be happening.

"New twist in flooding battle" - "THE Association of British Insurers this week told the Government and local authorities in Britain to improve flood defences or insurers will eventually stop insuring high-risk areas. They say that the Scottish Executive provides a clearer, better approach to flood defences than England and Wales, but there is still a lot of room for improvement, considering the fact that the United Kingdom is seeing an increase in flooding as a result of global warming." (The Scotsman)

Nice try - the flooding occurs because people build in floodplains and the rainfall appears largely controlled by the North Atlantic Oscillation. When in a strong positive phase, as it has been recently, the UK is wet, wet, wetter than its usual fairly sodden state. See http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/NAO/; http://www.met.rdg.ac.uk/cag/NAO/; http://www.cpc.noaa.gov/data/teledoc/nao.html. Interestingly, a positive NAO also pushes more Atlantic warm water flow into the Arctic, which reduces Arctic ice thickness and produces many of the effects climate hysterics have been trying to pin on anthropogenic "global warming."

"Global warming spoiling Rio's tropical beaches: scientists" - "RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil Feb. 22 - The effects of global warming over the earth's oceans are spoiling Rio de Janeiro's tropical white-sand beaches, according to Brazilian scientists. A four-year study by oceanography scientists at the Rio de Janeiro State University says the beaches in Rio and elsewhere in the state may face increasing sand erosion from global warming, casting a gloomy future for the famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, both in the city's southern area. The scientists at the Rio de Janeiro State University's Geological Oceanography Observatory measured coastal erosion by monitoring the volume of sands that have been washed away by ocean currents. Scientists say the phenomenon is a consequence of a higher level the ocean waters over the past century as a result of the melting of ice caps in the polar regions." (Kyodo)

So, over four years they measured rising ocean levels from a century's polar melt... Well that proves it doesn't it - couldn't have anything to do with cyclical changes in oceanic currents, El Niño Southern Oscillation or any other of the great oscillations of which we are just becoming aware - in four years they've established a trend[!] and determined that it's due to global warming. Sigh...

"Coal to fire most of Wisconsin Energy's power growth" - "NEW YORK, Feb 23 - Wisconsin Energy Corp (WEC) a power producer that last fall announced the first U.S. plans in five years to build coal-fired electric plants, said Friday it plans another coal plant despite environmentalists' objections over the fuel's release of greenhouse gases. Coal will account for the majority of WEC's plans to inject 2,800 megawatts of new power capacity in Wisconsin, the company said." (Reuters)

"GM asks court to scrap Calif. zero emission rules" - "MARTINEZ, Calif. - General Motors Corp. filed suit Friday seeking to invalidate a recently approved California mandate which requires major automakers to offer as many as three million electric and low-polluting cars for sale in the state over the next decade. The world's No. 1 automaker said it decided to sue after the state's Air Resources Board denied GM's petition for a hearing on several key consumer and technical issues posed by the regulation. The lawsuit, filed in California Superior Court in Contra Costa County, asks a judge to review the state's January Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate. The automaker has already unsuccessfully petitioned the air resources board to repeal the rule." (Reuters) | General Motors Sues California Over Quota for Electric Car Sales (New York Times)

"Britain is top exporter of animal terrorism, says FBI" - "Britain is the global centre of animal rights terrorism and is responsible for exporting ideas and tactics to America and other countries around the world, according to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The FBI claims British activists are inspiring a recent upsurge in arson attacks in the US by eco-terrorists the Earth Liberation Front, which was originally formed in Britain in 1992. The ELF has been expanding links and gathering tactics from the activists of Britain's Animal Liberation Front, the FBI claims." (Independent)

"Animal lab boss attacked" - "The managing director of Huntingdon Life Sciences, Europe's biggest contract animal research centre, was recovering yesterday after being attacked at his home by three masked people carrying baseball bats. Brian Cass, 52, was set upon shortly before 8pm on Thursday outside his home in St Ives, Cambridgeshire. Police believe the attack to be the work of animal rights activists opposed to research carried out by HLS." | Malicious protesters | Ethical reasons why beagles have to die (Guardian) | Animal test lab director beaten by masked gang (Independent) | Animal lab boss defiant after attack (BBC Online) | Baseball bat gang attacks lab chief (Telegraph) | Lab chief beaten by animal rights bullies (The Times)

"Man charged over letter bomb attacks" - "A man has been charged in connection with a series of letter bomb attacks against the animal industry." (BBC Online)

"State expands virus battle" - "Saying they expect the West Nile encephalitis virus to reappear this summer, state officials will beef up their efforts to combat the mosquito-borne disease that killed one New Jerseyan and sickened five others last year." | Virus may be spread from bird to bird (Bergen County Record)

"Whitman weighs pesticides guidelines" - "EPA Administrator Christie Whitman is trying to decide whether to go along with a Clinton administration decision to honor tough pesticide regulation guidelines sought in a lawsuit by environmentalists and farm workers. With so many matters to weigh during her first weeks in office, however, Whitman has yet to make her priorities clear, let alone whether she considers the looming decision on the out-of-court settlement as her first big political test, as an environmental group contended Thursday. The consent decree, agreed to the day before President Bush took office, was based on the demands of the Natural Resources Defense Council and its co-plaintiffs of environmentalists and farm workers." (AP)

"How a clean home can be a killer" - "Tens of thousands of Britons could suffer anything from chronic ill-health to early death because of toxic chemicals used in consumer products in homes, according to [wait for it] a new book." (Observer)

Another book promotion, another scare - imagine that...

"Dioxin survey fails to support cancer claims" - "Early results of an intensive health survey in the wake of the recent dioxin scare in New Plymouth have uncovered no increases in cancers, multiple sclerosis or deaths from birth defects." (New Zealand Herald)

Fish are "in" again this week: "Fish boosts brainpower" - "PREGNANT women can help their children develop better memory and learning abilities by eating fish, according to new research. Australians have one of the lowest intakes in the world of omega-3 fats such as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentanoic), which help brain function and fight heart disease." (Sydney Sunday Telegraph)

"Herbs and surgery can be a harmful combination" - "SAN DIEGO: Using herbal supplements before undergoing surgery may interfere with anaesthesia or put patients at risk for complications such as increased bleeding. Patients would do well to lay off the herbs before going under the knife, according to Dr. Suzanne Yee, a plastic and cosmetic surgeon of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock." (Reuters)

"Olive oil no healthier than cooking oil" - "OLIVE oil is no healthier than cheap cooking oil, even though the EU has spent millions of pounds promoting its use, according to a new study. Consumers would do just as well to buy oils costing a fraction of the price, such as sunflower and rapeseed. Sales of olive oil in Britain have risen more than sixfold over the past decade to £54m per year, as the fashion for Mediterranean cooking and its association with a healthy lifestyle have grown. The authors of the study, published in The Lancet, have accused the EU of giving "unjustifiably favourable impressions of olive oil". Since 1990, the EU has spent more than £100m on publicity. It also pays subsidies worth some £1.6 billion per year to 2.2m growers in southern European countries - much of it fraudulently claimed - to assist production." (Sunday Times)

"Less tobacco may not mean less risk" - "WASHINGTON -- A new report says more research is needed to determine if using modified tobacco products like nicotine patches truly reduces the risks of disease associated with smoking. A committee from the Institute of Medicine looked at products approved by the Food and Drug Administration for short-term use to help smokers quit: nicotine patches, gum, inhalers and nasal sprays. Such "potential reduced-exposure products," or PREPs, contain small amounts of toxic substances such as nicotine. The committee found that while PREPs can reduce exposure to toxic substances, people who use them may not have less risk of tobacco-related diseases -- heart attack, lung disease, stroke and many types of cancers -- than smokers do. Too little research has been done to make that determination, the report said." (CNN)

"Apocalypse Then" - "They say lightning never strikes twice. Well, how about asteroids? A violent collision with a space rock, like the one that doomed the dinosaurs, may have also caused our planet's greatest mass extinction 250 million years ago." (NASA)

Let's see, about 250MYA (Million Years Ago) for strike 1, minus 65MYA for strike 2 = 185 million year interval. 185 - 65 (interval minus last event) = 120. So, if the odds are relatively constant, we've only about 120 million years left before the next big strike then?

"Britain says it is taking threat of asteroid impact seriously" - "It sounds like the stuff of science fiction – an asteroid smashing into the Earth, with devastating effect. But the British government today announced plans to watch and prepare for just such a threat. "The potential threat of asteroids and other Near Earth Objects to our planet is an international problem requiring international action," said the Science Minister, Lord Sainsbury. Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik, who has waged a long campaign for the asteroid threat to be taken seriously, said he was encouraged by the announcement. The government said it would review Britain's telescope facilities to improve monitoring of space objects, set up a facility to provide information on Near Earth Objects and prepare emergency evacuation plans." (Independent) | UK targets asteroid threat (BBC Online) | Watch Is on for Doomsday Asteroids, Comets (Reuters) | Britain on alert for disaster from space (Observer) | Britain leads defence against asteroid impact (Telegraph)

Evacuation plans? Deflection? Oh sure... sounds like they confuse Bruce Willis movies with reality: Say Harry, couldn't just go drill and nuke an asteroid for us could ya?

"The Great Moon Hoax" - "Moon rocks and common sense prove Apollo astronauts really did visit the Moon." (NASA/MSFC)

Oh dear, NASA are having to waste time and resources rebutting the old "moon hoax" thing. Next we know, there'll be official rebuttals for the paranoid schizophrenic's favorite standby, evil contrails!

"Holocaust lawyers may sue over mad cow disease" - "MUNICH: Two lawyers who secured substantial compensation from Germany for its use of Nazi-era slave workers said that they were preparing legal suits against European governments and industry over mad cow disease. Munich-based lawyer Michael Witti and U S colleague Ed Fagan said they were acting on behalf of farmers whose businesses have in some cases been ruined by the collapse in demand for beef since the health scare." (Reuters)

Groan ! "CJD prompts UK food supply crisis" - "FEARS were growing last night of food shortages after Britain's foot-and-mouth crisis forced a ban on the movement of all farm animals." (Melbourne's Sunday Herald-Sun)

Apparently, the Herald-Sun doesn't know the difference between FMD (Foot and Mouth Disease) and CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease). Doesn't really matter does it? It's something to do with the UK and they're always on about mad cows being associated with (new variant [nv/v]) CJD. Maybe the cows are mad because they have sore feet and mouths? Sadly, some people are forced to rely on the media for information and this is the kind of garbage with which they are provided.

"Foot-and-mouth disease - let's come to our senses" - "'Stay out of the countryside' screamed the London Evening Standard on 22 February 2001. According to the Standard's front page, this was the official advice of the UK government, after the discovery of foot-and-mouth disease among pigs in the Cheale Meats abattoir in Essex, and in a bull on a nearby farm owned by the same company. At the time of writing this article, no government press release had yet been issued on whether people should spend their weekend in the countryside or not. But on the afternoon of 22 February, the Ministry of Agriculture press office accepted that the Evening Standard's headline was a reasonable reflection of its advice - although the spokesperson was keen to stress that village pubs and town halls would be all right. Exactly how many more cases of foot-and-mouth will occur as a result of this outbreak cannot be predicted. But the response to the limited number of cases that have occurred so far seems certain to reach epidemic proportions." (Spiked Online)

"Pokémon Hysteria" - "FRIDAY, Feb. 23 -- Reports of an epilepsy outbreak in Japan following the 1997 broadcast of a Pokémon cartoon were as imagined as the plot lines of the popular children's television show, a new study shows. And the media most likely helped ignite the public's panic, researchers say." (HealthScout)

"From The Old World To The New" - "European nannies have been successful in scaring the Continent's people into fearing any food that is not organic. Check out the latest protests against genetically improved foods in England and Newsweek's coverage of the European political backlash against industrial agriculture. American nannies are imitating the methods of their European brethren, hoping for similar results. See how some are unnecessarily playing up mad cow fears in our special report, "Mad Cow: A New American Scare Campaign." (GuestChoice.com)

"A stampede for steak" - "It wasn't supposed to happen this way. In the '90s, cutting back on beef, Americans embraced chicken breasts, savored extra-virgin olive oils, and sampled world cuisine. Steakhouses were passe, their strips, filet mignons, and tenderloins the high fat heart-wreckers of yesteryear. So why is the steakhouse - with its retro hunks of meat and ritualized side dishes - all the rage today? Beef now outsells chicken in restaurants, 7.2 billion servings to 5.2 billion in 1999. East Coast sophisticates as well as Midwestern farmers settle down to steaks when they dine out, bumping steakhouse traffic up by 5 percent, twice the increase of the restaurant industry as a whole." (Boston Globe)

A lot of it could also be that people are plain sick of specious "warnings" and have decided to eat what they like. I believe Social Issues Research Centre dubbed it "warning fatigue."

"No gene for bad driving" - "SAN FRANCISCO -- Genetics is not destiny. For my money, that's the important lesson we learn from the sequencing of the human genome. "People won't find in the genetic code any justification for their prejudices," Craig Venter told me last week, the day before Venter -- the leader of one of the rival genome sequencing projects -- was to give a plenary lecture at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In other words, there's no gene for bad driving and leaving the toilet seat up is not a trait found on Y chromosome." (Michael Smith, CNEWS Science)

"The Great Gene Debate" - "First the presidential election needed to be recounted, now the very book of life. A former colleague and current rival of Celera Genomics President Craig Venter wants a recount. William Haseltine, CEO of top biotech Human Genome Sciences, insists that both Celera and the international Human Genome Project counted far too few genes in their maps of the human genome. When Celera and the international Human Genome Project unveiled their separate drafts of the human genome on Feb. 12, one of the biggest surprises was the number of genes. Previously, many scientists believed there were 100,000 genes. Now, it looks likely that there are a third as many. Celera says there may be as few as 26,000 genes. Human Genome Sciences (HGS) and another genomics companies have long advertised that they had found more genes than previously announced--a lot more. The Rockville Md.-based firm says it has discovered 90,000 genes, and Palo Alto, Calif.-based Incyte long claimed some of its databases contained 140,000 gene transcripts. Now HGS' chief is as mad about this alleged miscount as Al Gore was about the Florida debacle. ``This is not a trivial exercise,'' Haseltine says. ``It's vital to the future of medicine. A claim that substantially cuts the number of genes is a serious mistake. It is a mistake that, if people act upon it, can slow medical progress.'' Any impediment to medicine also slows the growth of emerging drug companies like HGS and companies that sell information to drug companies, like Celera and Incyte. A lot is riding on the genome. If Haseltine's right, a major advance is flawed. This will have ripple effects throughout the sector. If he's wrong, he and his company both look bad. The number of genes needed to make a human being is a matter of fact. Somebody must be wrong." (Forbes.com)

"Tissue transplant advance" - "The scientists who helped clone Dolly the Sheep say they have managed to turn cow skin into heart muscle in a move that could one day be used to create replacement tissues for transplant. The US subsidiary of PPL Therapeutics announced on Friday that it had re-wound the genetic clock of skin cells, to create "master" stem cells. The reverted cells were then programmed to develop into functioning beating heart cells, in the laboratory. The research has major implications for the controversy over using cloned human embryos to conduct research into new medical treatments." (BBC Online) | Stem cell breakthrough could end cloning row (Telegraph)

"Rice Of The Future" - "Exciting times for rice research but new varieties are still some years away" (India Today)

"Up with weeds" - "Individuals who believe that the movie, "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" is a documentary for what will happen if genetically modified foods are ever allowed to run wild, in well, the wild, should be relieved by the findings of a study recently published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature, which convincingly demonstrates exactly the opposite." (Washington Times editorial)

February 23, 2001

"Laboratory Animal Farm " - "All animals are equal," is the sixth commandment of animalism in George Orwell's Animal Farm. Animal rights activists want to bring this bit of fiction to fruition, lumping lab rats and other animals in with humans as deserving of equal treatment. And they threaten medical research in the process. (Steve Milloy, FoxNews.com)

The EPA's secondhand smoke report that never was? - Remember the EPA's 1992 risk assessment claiming that secondhand smoke caused 3,000 lung cancer deaths per year? It's the report that caused the 1990s push for smoking bans. The Institute of Medicine has apparently never heard of the report. Or maybe the IOM doesn't want to remember what happened to the report?

The IOM, part of the National Academy of Sciences complex, yesterday issued a report on "safer" tobacco products called "Clearing the Smoke: Assessing the Science Base for Tobacco Harm Reduction." (IOM Media release)

Appendix C of the report contains a time line of tobacco events. Though the time line mentions the 1986 Surgeon General's report on secondhand smoke, Vermont's 1993 smoking ban -- spurred by the EPA report -- and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences' May 2000 decision to label secondhand smoke as a "known human carcinogen," the time line inexplicably omits mention of the EPA secondhand smoke risk assessment.

Of course, the report also omits mention of the July 1998 federal court decision to vacate most of the EPA secondhand smoke risk assessment, including the portions claiming secondhand smoke causes lung cancer.

Does the IOM time line signal that the EPA report never happened?

"Can mercury from a thermometer pollute a lake?" - Medical toxicologist Kevin Wallace challenges the Portland (ME) Press-Herald assertion that, "The mercury in one thermometer - about half a gram - is enough to pollute an average-size lake, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency."

"ENHANCING FOOD SAFETY, IMPROVING CONSUMER EDUCATION KEY TOPICS AT FOOD IRRADIATION CONFERENCE FEB. 26-28" - "(Washington, D.C.) –Food irradiation technologies, regulatory petitions to expand their uses and effective consumer education initiatives are among the topics to be explored at "Food Irradiation 2001," a conference co-chaired by NFPA February 26-28, 2001 at the Washington Marriott Hotel in Washington, D.C." (NFPA release)

"Study: Global Warming Linked to Melting Ice Cap" - "LONDON - A study of melting ice caps has shown that global warming is the cause of rising sea levels and flooding in coastal communities, a team of international scientists said on Wednesday. Scientists in Canada, the United States and England used computer models to devise patterns, or fingerprints, of how melting ice caps affect sea levels around the globe." (Reuters) | Sea levels could hold key to global-warming puzzle (Globe and mail)

One of a number of stories spawned by Recent mass balance of polar ice sheets inferred from patterns of global sea-level change, [Mitrovica et al, Nature 409, 1026-1029] (Nature subscription required to view complete article - those without access can see small computer-generated graphics in the teaser piece linked yesterday). I freely admit I haven't had time to examine their model to determine how they're accounting for glacial rebound etc. but that won't prevent me from expressing some concern that, on the strength of a computer game, Mitrovica is apparently reversing his position derived by analysis of empirical measure. "... our re-analysis of century-long tide gauge records of sea level change has reduced previous estimates of ongoing global sea level rise and weakened arguments that the polar ice caps are melting. Furthermore, we have explained the enigmatic flooding of some continental margins over geological history as being due to the depression of these regions by forces associated with the subduction of tectonic plates." [Nature, 379, 331-333]

Basing assumptions on computer models like this is fraught with difficulties. I briefly mentioned glacial rebound, the gradual vertical recovery of landmasses relieved of the crushing weight of the massive ice sheets that compressed them during the last great ice age, and Greenland's ice sheet is certainly getting "taller."

Observe: Overall, the 1978-1988 spatially-averaged change in Greenland ice sheet elevation was reported to be + 2.0 ± 0.5 centimeter per year [Davis et al, Elevation Change of the Southern Greenland Ice Sheet. Science 279: 2086-2088]; Results indicate an average thickening of the ice sheet of 0.5 ± 0.7 cm per year (1993-1998) for elevations above 2000 meters, where the data are considered "most reliable." [Krabill et al, Rapid thinning of parts of the southern Greenland ice sheet. Science 283: 1522-1524]; In the words of the authors, "within the errors of our measurements, the higher elevation parts of the ice sheet have been almost exactly in balance (1993-1997) when considered as a whole and as northern and southern parts." [Thomas et al, Mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet at high elevations. Science 289: 426-428]

These studies, led by Davis, Krabill and Thomas, appear to suggest that the the Greenland ice sheet is simultaneously gaining altitude and yet remaining in net ice mass balance (getting "taller" but not adding ice). If so, then tectonic movement and/or glacial rebound may be raising Greenland (note that this is a speculative hypothesis and nothing is proven). If true, the sea will apparently be slightly shallower in adjacent tide gauges and the computer model will then falsely guesstimate that there has been a reduction in the Greenland ice sheet and a corresponding reduction in gravitational pull which caused a localized depression in sea level.

Mitrovica raises an interesting hypothesis and I hope to find the time to examine it in detail. First perusal, however, does little to change my somewhat jaundiced view of virtual-world examination of real-world situations.

"Rising Tides" - "The easiest approach for the time being is to pretend it's not happening. It's better for the nerves in the short run to remain riveted by the Clinton follies or the latest shenanigans on "Temptation Island" than to acknowledge that the majestic ice cap atop Mount Kilimanjaro, which seemed for so long to be an almost permanent feature of the planet, will vanish in less than 15 years." (New York Times)

Oh dear... Bob Herbert's at it again. The much-romanticized "majestic ice cap atop Mount Kilimanjaro" is a pathetic tropical remnant of the last great glaciation, at the beginning of the twentieth century it was a minute (by ice field standards) 4 square miles, now it's just 1. Here's a news flash - it's going to disappear completely unless the Earth re-enters a major glacial period. Whether it does so in the next 15 years or 150 is purely speculative and depends mostly on local precipitation but it is doomed nonetheless.

Regarding the Larsen Ice Shelf, the British Antarctic Survey specifically denies that its collapse is related to "global warming," pointing out that the Antarctic is generally cooling - see RETREATING ICE SHELVES. Ice shelves along the northern Antarctic Peninsula are believed quite young, having only formed during the Little Ice Age, and were anticipated to disappear with Earth's recovery from that unfortunately cool period.

Sea level rise? Well: "Dr Wolfgang Scherer, director of the National Tidal Facility (NTF) of Flinders University, South Australia, which undertook the review, told BBC News Online that the much larger increases in global sea level predicted by some climate models were not apparent in their regional data. "There is no acceleration in sea level rise - none that we can discern, at all," he said." ['No acceleration' in Pacific sea rise]

Growing seasons lengthening? Yes, compared with the 70s, when there was much consternation that they had shortened by a couple of weeks since the 50s - this was during the angst and hand-wringing about global cooling and impending ice age. ["The Cooling World" Newsweek, April 28, 1975, Pg. 64]

Not really worth going on is it - Herbert's an incorrigible climate hysteric who simply does not do his homework.

While Herbert is certain "global warming" is here now, James Baker, former administrator of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is hedging his bets: Global warming impact in 10 years, says US expert (Times of India)

"It's getting too hot for comfort; that puts the heat on old energy" - "The year is 2031. The temperature in Tokyo's Otemachi district peaks at a stifling 43.5 degrees in early July. That could well happen, says Takeo Saito, a professor of energy and environment at Tohoku University. According to Saito, Tokyo will be tropical 30 years from now. His projection is based on the impact of global warming." (Asahi Shimbun)

Tokyo is already emulating tropical weather but that has nothing to do with enhanced greenhouse and everything to do with UHIE (Urban Heat Island Effect). New Scientist made a feature out of a Tokyo Met. release last September:

"Totally tropical Tokyo" - Downpours drench the city, but don't blame global warming - "TOKYO is becoming tropical. But heat from buildings and cars rather than global climate change is mostly to blame, say Japanese meteorologists."

UHIE has been recognized since the 1970s and, coupled with the closure of non-urban recording stations, is the most likely cause for apparent increment in the near-surface temperature amalgam. This would explain the disparity between surface amalgams which suggest warming and the mutually-verifying balloon sonde and satellite MSU readings which do not. At present, no one can positively identify any net global warming having occurred for at least 6 decades.

"Volcano helps meteorologists find answer to climate change mystery" - "With some help from the massive eruption of a Philippine volcano, scientists from North Carolina State University and the National Climate Center of China believe they have solved a climate change mystery. That mystery, which has puzzled meteorologists in recent years, involves long-term climate trends in the southeastern United States and eastern China. According to experts' predictions, temperatures should warm globally, but should cool in both regions because of the presence of manmade air pollutants called aerosols. But while the Southeast has seen a mild cooling trend, the climate in China has actually warmed slightly over the last 50 years." (NCSU)

Gee, the atmosphere is actually quite complex and simplistic models just aren't cutting it? Doh... All facetiousness aside, this is yet more demonstration that, even if anthropogenic warming is real, Kyoto is the wrong way to go - it's all pain for absolutely no gain.

Perhaps there's hope for the media after all: "Gore leads class critique of media's environmental coverage" - "If Al Gore's first class as a professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism taught his students the meaning of ''off the record,'' his second class might have been labeled ''the importance of recognizing a politician's agenda.'' (Boston Globe)

"Global disease on the rise" (Guardian) Gasp! Is human disease running rampant with global warming? Relax - they're actually talking about transported FMD (Foot and Mouth disease):

"The illegal smuggling of animals, increased traffic of refugees, tourism, weak veterinary and waste services and the globalisation of trade are all making foot and mouth a more common global animal disease, according to the European Commission. The last two years have been among the worst on record with more than 60 countries experiencing outbreaks, including many which have not had one in generations."

"Will we break our dirty habits?" - "A TAX CUT. It has a good ring to it. But why not do something really smart and deal with the energy crisis too? Tax incentives for energy conservation and clean energy technologies could help wean us from our unhealthy addiction to fossil fuels." (Paul Epstein, Boston Globe)

Epstein has quite a fossil fuel mania doesn't he? He has a history of hysterical claims about fossil fuels causing global warming which, in turn, will cause "tropical" diseases such as malaria to run riotously through the developed world. Apparently, he is unaware Plasmodium falciparum (the most virulent of four types of human malaria) has an historic range reaching the Arctic Circle and was only beaten out of developed regions by drainage schemes and chemical assault (principally DDT) on malarial vectors. Disease distribution is largely independent of ambient temperature but is highly sensitive to carrier travel and containment dependent on wealth because public health care is an expensive business.

Topically, both the BBC and New York Times have run features this past week on research suggesting Roman Legions may have carried malaria to Europe as early as the 5th century, see DNA clues to malaria in ancient Rome; DNA Shows Malaria Helped Topple Rome.

"Nader warns of corporate science" - "The collusion of corporations and governments to push genetically engineered food is creating an Orwellian future, says American consumer advocate and Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader. At an all-day Feb. 16 conference in Ottawa on the impact of genetic manufacturing on food, people and the planet, Nader warned that ``corporate science`` is driving the GM revolution. He said it is a science that is secretive, product and profit oriented, lacking in peer review and often supported by taxpayer dollars. ... He drew hundreds to his speech closing the conference, organized by the anti-GMO Council of Canadians." (Western Producer)

What's the title of your next money-spinning scare Ralph - Unsafe In Any Seed perhaps? Complaints about "secret science" are pretty funny coming the fright-feature crowd - the only purported demonstration of mammalian harm from consumption of genetically engineered foodstuffs is supposedly Arpad Pusztai's poor starving rats but the published research letter was junk and, he claims, the real "evidence" is "secret" and so he won't put it on his website for anyone to evaluate. That there were no controls in the "study" is freely acknowledged, making said "study" about as useful as reading tealeaves, however, dark mutterings about "secrets" keep this nonsense alive.

"Majority of Americans Favor Biofood Labels--Survey" - "WASHINGTON - More than half of American consumers surveyed said genetically modified foods should be routinely labeled as such, even though the Food and Drug Administration believes special labels are not needed, according to a food industry group." (Reuters)

Today's moron feature: "Eight held over GM supermarket protest" - "Environmental activists dressed as cows have blockaded Sainsbury's depots in a protest over the sale of meat and dairy products raised on genetically modified animal feed." (Ananova)

"Misallocated Funds" - "Nevada state Senator Ray Rawson has introduced a bill that would designate a new license plate to raise money for "the rights of animals," money which would go to directly to the radical zealots at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). As the Nevada Appeal's editors put it, "PETA is an extreme organization that often puts animal rights above those of human rights… PETA has no place in the pipeline of funds collected by the Department of Motor Vehicles. SB 54, introduced by Sen. Ray Rawson, R-Las Vegas, should be amended to get PETA out of the language of the bill." (GuestChoice.com)

"Nurses health study links dietary glycemic load with cardiovascular risk factors" - "A study by Liu et al. strengthens the evidence that glycemic load, a measure of carbohydrate intake, can predict cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, especially in those who are insulin resistant. Recent recommendations for the replacement of dietary fat with carbohydrates may not be as heart-healthy as previously thought, because high carbohydrate consumption can raise fasting plasma triacylglycerol concentrations and reduce high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-concentrations." | Two studies find supplementation and moderation are keys to lowering homocysteine (AJCN)

"MMR Vaccination Linked to Bleeding Disease" - "LONDON - The triple measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) can cause a rash-like bleeding disease in young children but doctors say it is not dangerous and should not deter parents from having their children vaccinated. The illness, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), is an auto-immune disease in which the platelets, or cells that make blood sticky, are destroyed, causing bleeding under the skin. It occurs in about one in 10,000 people." (Reuters)

"Study links breast cancer to alcohol" - "A new study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare suggests that women who drink alcohol may have an increased risk of contracting breast cancer." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Fetal and prepubertal growth both programme cholesterol metabolism in adulthood" - "The body's ability to process cholesterol as an adult is likely to be programmed by size at birth, shows research in Archives of Disease in Childhood. But just as important are the years between 8 and 12." (BMJ)

"Too Much Iron, Not Anemia, Problem in U.S. -Study" - "WASHINGTON - American doctors have been trained to relentlessly check patients for anemia, but most older people may have too much iron in their bodies rather than too little, researchers said on Thursday. Nearly 13 percent of volunteers checked as part of an ongoing heart disease study had too much iron, while only three percent had low stores putting them at risk of anemia, the researchers reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition." (Reuters)

Sure sign of impending UK election: "Blair to reaffirm green credentials with support for solar power and rainforests" - "Tony Blair is preparing to give a major speech on the environment, in which he will announce initiatives to slow down global warming and protect the world's forests and oceans, in an attempt to reassert the Government's "green" credentials. The Prime Minister will signal incentives to use renewable energy, including solar and wind power, and will announce his commitment to prevent logging in the world's rainforests." (Independent)

"Ford May Raise Fuel Standards " - "WASHINGTON — For years the auto industry has been solidly united in fighting efforts to even study the idea of raising federal gas mileage standards. But cracks in the alliance may be forming. Ford Motor Co., which has adopted a more pro-environment stance under William Clay Ford Jr., says it is time to discuss at least the possibility of raising the standards — unchanged since 1975 — and other fuel-economy issues. Janet Mullins Grissom, who heads Ford's Washington office, said the federal standards ``might still be a stupid law,'' but ``I think the issue is ripe for conversation.'' | Automakers scrap fuel standards (AP)

"Officials seek to allay cancer fears" - "Health officials have sought to allay residents' fears of a link between cancer cases and a nearby chemical plant. An emergency meeting has been called in Dunfermline after members of the public expressed anxiety about the Mossmorran chemical plant. Residents in nearby Cowdenbeath and Lochore allege that there is an unusually high number of cancer cases in the area and said they want to know if the plant is to blame." (BBC Online)

Guilt by association. There is no indication of a cancer cluster in the region (must've lucked out with the data dredging) but some people get cancer (at the same rate evident for all Scotland) and there is a chemical plant, ergo, the chemical plant causes cancer. That's no different from seeing a crow and hearing a clap of thunder, therefore crows cause thunder.

"Jury Still Out On 'Safe' Tobacco" - "THURSDAY, Feb. 22 -- Modified tobacco products that go easy on tar and nicotine might sound like a good middle ground for smokers who want to reduce their risk of cancer and other illnesses. But there's no evidence any of these products offer a safer alternative to smoking." (HealthScout) | Researchers question safety of cigarette alternatives (AP)

Ah! Healthy skepticism in a journalist - most encouraging. "Media hype can seriously improve your health" - "So Zyban is killing patients? Funny that, I thought it was smoking that killed people – about 120,000 a year in this country on current form. None the less, no one wants to die of ignorance. We know smoking kills. We don't know – or didn't – that Zyban does." (Jeremy Laurance, Independent)

February 22, 2001

Cool about warming?

This is how BBC Online broke the news that the IPCC does not, in fact, endorse recent statements about the science of climate change (enhanced greenhouse) being "settled." Nor is it supporting an "action at any cost" response: "A draft report by United Nations advisers says deciding how to tackle climate change is shrouded in uncertainty. It urges "a prudent risk management strategy" and "careful consideration of the consequences, both environmental and economic." The item continues: "It says policymakers should be ready for "possible revision of the scientific insights into the risks of climate change. [Cites IPCC's recent hysteria] But the draft report on mitigation, by contrast, emphasises the uncertainties involved and the need not to decide policy without more information." Naturally, climate Chicken Littles are reported to be "dismayed."

"The future outlook is fine" - The latest doomsday weather scenarios are wrong, a US expert tells Barry Wigmore "... All grim, dire predictions leading to global chaos? Not according to Dr John Christy. As one of the world’s foremost climatology experts, he was lead author on last month’s report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in Shanghai. “The world is in much better shape than this doomsday scenario paints,” says Christy, who is professor of Atmospheric Science and director of the Earth System Science Centre at the US University of Alabama at Huntsville. “There were 245 different results in that report, and this was the worst-case scenario. It’s the one that’s not going to happen. It was the extreme case of all the different things that can make the world warm.” [emphasis added] (The Times)

"'Fingerprints' of melting ice caps point directly to global climate change and sea level rise" - "Global climate change is having a direct impact on the Earth's sea level and a group of scientists led by two University of Toronto geophysicists is providing the sea level "fingerprints" of polar ice sheet melting to prove it." (U Toronto)

Good call - they've been melting more or less consistently since Earth began to emerge from the last great glaciation. Pretty nifty when a model fits some of the observed facts isn't it?

"Cows' manners checked to keep greenhouse gas down" - "New research from Queensland is helping farmers work out how much greenhouse gas their cattle burp into the atmosphere. Central Queensland University is printing booklets to help farmers make the calculations. Methane researcher Dr John Rolfe says a third of Australia's greenhouse emissions come from cattle and sheep, and 90 per cent of that comes from their burping. He says research is underway to reduce their emissions." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

Whoops! "Insecticides banned abroad dumped in India" - "LUCKNOW: About 30 pesticides which have been banned in the western market because of their toxicity, have been dumped by 'powerful multinationals' in the Indian market," Vivek Singhal, president of All India Biotech Association (AIBA) said at a seminar on 'Integrated Pest Management' here on Tuesday. He said DDT which is permitted for use, is extremely hazardous because of its carcinogenicity." (Times of India)

While it is quite understandable that AIBA is out to promote biotechnology and also to highlight reduction in pesticide usage associated with some biotech crops, making spurious claims is not the way to do it. The simple fact is that DDT is largely benign and there is no compelling evidence to support the claim that it is a human carcinogen. Worse, India locally produces DDT for its own use in controlling disease vectors, it is not "dumped by 'powerful multinationals' in the Indian market." It is to be hoped that Vivek Singhal was horribly misquoted and did not make ignorant and completely irresponsible statements.

"Why aren't the Greens buying green?" - "When it comes to fighting global warming, most of my "greener" friends talk the talk. Fewer walk the walk by biking to, or living within walking distance of, work, and virtually none drives "the car." The car is Honda's gas-electric hybrid Insight, and data show that the Greens' archenemies -- Republicans -- have taken to the cute little thing in disproportionate numbers. Why aren't Greens driving the car?" (Patrick Michaels, National Post)

"Stuart Oil Shale developers play down health concerns" - "A new report claims the Stuart Oil Shale project near Gladstone will release high levels of a by-product known to cause cancer and birth deformities. Greenpeace commissioned the report, which claims the plant will release 40 kilograms of solid dioxins over the life of the plant, making it Australia's largest known source of the toxic substance." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

Really? Environment Australia's "Sources of dioxins and furans in Australia; air emissions" says prescribed burning (agricultural and grasslands) and bushfires account for about 75% of Australia's total emissions, followed by domestic and commercial wood burning, cement manufacture... I wonder if Greenpeace want us to get rid of all forests and grasslands in order to minimise emission of icky, nasty (and largely natural) dioxins. Seems rather an extreme thing to do just to reduce the incidence of chloracne, which is the only demonstrated health effect from significant, sustained dioxin exposure.

"Rules to protect lab rats decried by researchers" - "CHICAGO, Illinois -- An Agriculture Department plan that activists say would ensure the humane treatment of laboratory rats, mice and birds could endanger promising research into virtually all human diseases, a leading medical institution is warning. The USDA agreed to add the animals to species protected under the Animal Welfare Act to settle a lawsuit by animal rights activists. Larger animals such as cats, rabbits and primates are already covered. The October settlement is "a complete capitulation" to activists' demands and could have "dire human, scientific and economic consequences," Johns Hopkins University general counsel Estelle Fishbein wrote in an editorial in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association." (AP)

"Prescription drugs 'over-used'" - "International experts say developed countries are using too many prescription drugs. The UN International Narcotics Control Board issued the warning in its 2000 report. It looked at the use of mood altering drugs like benzodiazepines. It said the drugs were often given for what were social problems, such as unemployment or relationship difficulties, both in developed countries and those which were seeing fast economic growth, such as Malaysia and Singapore." (BBC Online) | U.N. Board Says Legal Drug Use Increases in Rich Countries | Study Finds Teenage Drug Use Higher in U.S. Than in Europe (New York Times)

"Apple juice 'protects the heart'" - "An apple juice a day could keep a trip to the heart doctor away, says new research. A team of researchers at UC Davis School of Medicine in the US have found that drinking apple juice appears to slow down a process that can lead to heart disease." (BBC Online)

"Diet, lifestyle affect vulnerability to cancer" - "Sixty-five to 85 percent of cancers are believed to be caused by lifestyle choices, including alcohol and tobacco use, sun exposure, physical-activity level and the quantity and kinds of foods we eat." (Monroe News-Star)

I wasn't going to give this a run but it has become increasingly obvious that non-scientists do not understand that these are (some of) the ubiquitous "environmental factors" frequently mentioned as causal factors in cancer incidence. Here's a quick guide for the uncertain: "environmental factor" and "pollution" are not interchangeable terms - etiologically, anything and everything which is not genetic is an "environmental factor."

"Researchers Find 'Important' Asthma Gene" - "WASHINGTON - A single gene could account for as many as 40 percent of all asthma cases, and might offer a target not only for new drugs but for a screening test, researchers said on Wednesday. The team of scientists at Britain's Southampton University, drugmaker Schering-Plough and Genome Therapeutics Corp. said they were astonished and heartened by the finding, which gives lie to the orthodox idea that diseases such as asthma have very complex causes." (Reuters)

"Gene Linked to Hormone Replacement's Heart Effects" - "NEW YORK - A mutation in a gene for a blood clotting factor may help explain recent findings suggesting that hormone replacement therapy actually increases the short-term risk of heart attack in some postmenopausal women, according to a new study. If future research confirms the connection, screening for the gene mutation may identify which women are most likely to benefit from hormone replacement, according to the study's authors." (Reuters Health)

"Gene Variant Cuts Heart Attack Risk" - "Scientists have identified a gene that may help explain why moderate drinking can ward off heart attacks. The researchers found that a variant of the gene makes the body break down alcohol very slowly. That slow breakdown, in turn, appears to raise levels of heart-protecting ``good cholesterol'' in the blood." (AP) | Modest Drinking Can Protect Against Heart Disease (Reuters)

"Groundbreaking find on muscular dystrophy" - "Melbourne researchers have corrected the genetic defect that causes muscular dystrophy in mice. The groundbreaking discovery was achieved by inserting normal mouse DNA into the cells of mice affected with muscular dystrophy, which actually corrects the genetic defect." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Leprosy Gene Map Could Point Way to Quicker Diagnosis" - "LONDON - An Anglo-French team of scientists has sequenced the genetic map of the leprosy bacterium which could point to new ways to diagnose and treat the disfiguring disease that strikes 700,000 people every year." (Reuters)

"Pipeline is full of new biotech medical products" - "Farmers who have found themselves pawns in the controversial application of biotechnology have often felt that if advancements had come first in the health and medicine areas, then the public might be more receptive to the science. Turns out there have been major advancements on those fronts, which have largely gone unreported and unnoticed. A record 32 biotechnology drugs, vaccines and new indications for existing medicines were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2000. Of the 32 FDA approvals, 21 were for new medicines to treat illnesses such as pneumococcal diseases in children, diabetes, cancer, heart attacks, hemophilia, high cholesterol and severe skin diseases." (AgWeb.com)

"Biotech Firms Hone Antibody-Based Cancer Therapies" - "DANA POINT, Calif. - Motivated by the success of first-generation antibody compounds developed to fight cancer, some early-stage biotechnology companies are moving ahead with a new generation of antibody-based cancer drugs." (Reuters)

"Future Is Bleak Without GM Food" - "The opponents of genetically modified plants and food can talk all they like about 'Frankenstein' foods and scientists playing God, but it is likely that the future will be very bleak for most of the world's population without GM foods." (Canberra Times)

"Environment-Agriculture: Transgenics Lose Ground, But Refuse to Give Up" - "MEXICO CITY, Feb 20 - The rate of growth of the number of hectares planted in transgenic crops worldwide has fallen off drastically in the past two years, following a three-year boom that began in 1996, leading environmentalists to begin to speak of a crisis in the sector. ... The area covered by crops that have been genetically engineered with the genes of other species to boost productivity or make them resistant to pests grew 25-fold from 1996 to 2000: from 1.7 million hectares to around 43 million." (IPS)

"Bush may hire biotech coordinator" - "President Bush is reportedly considering a proposal to hire a biotechnology coordinator to provide a single voice for the administration's views on biotech and genomic issues and avoid the conflicts when different federal agencies present differing opinions, according to U.S. Sen. Timothy Hutchinson, R-Arkansas." (The Boston Globe)

February 21, 2001

"Gut Gene Transfer May Cause Antibiotic Resistance" - "... Dr Salyers said that because the same resistance gene was found in a variety of Bacteroides species, she and her colleagues believe that the increase over the past three decades is due to horizontal gene transfer. "What we have shown is antibiotic resistance genes in nature can move about in the human colon. A surprising amount of gene transfer is occurring in the human colon, taking place in as little as an hour," she said. The researchers suggest their findings have important implications in light of recent concerns over the safety of consuming foods containing antibiotic-resistant bacteria - such as meat from pigs that are fed antibiotics - and the likelihood that such bacteria may transfer resistance genes to human intestinal bacteria." (Health Media)

"A heated argument about asbestos" - "In this issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Dr. Philip Landrigan and colleagues from the Collegium Ramazzini call for an immediate ban on all mining and use of asbestos. The topic has economic implications, because Canada is the world’s second largest producer of the mineral." (CMAJ)

Landrigan again eh? He has quite a history of asbestos and other manias, including, at least 'till a couple of years ago, the specious Alar scare. See also: Study Questions Cancer Threat From Asbestos; Unwarranted Warning; Of Apples and Alar; Of Apples and Alar (Cont'd); Organic solvents and fatty liver disease; Pesticide Turkeys; Pesticides Harm Kids;

Sigh... Consumer Distorts are at it again: "Fish Can Be Hazardous to Your Health" - "WASHINGTON, DC, February 20, 2001 - Inadequate regulations may allow unsafe, contaminated and spoiled fish to be sold at your local market, show studies by the General Accounting Office and watchdog magazine "Consumer Reports." The new research adds to a rash of recent warnings about the potential hazards of some seafoods, ranging from mercury contamination to chemical residues." (ENS)

"Scientists link cold virus to cancer" - "Scottish scientists have identified a link between the common cold and the viruses that trigger cancer. The scientists, from St Andrews University in Fife, hope to use their findings to develop new treatments for the disease." (BBC Online)

"Call centre health risk announced" - "There are claims that call centre workers face exposure to a new health epidemic said to be sweeping the industry. The Australian Services Union (ASU) says many call centre employees suffer from a condition known as "audio-shock" which can cause severe ear and facial pain, headaches and nausea." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Babies Born in Big U.S. Cities Face Health Problems" - "WASHINGTON - Babies born to women in large U.S. cities are less likely to be big and bouncing compared to the nation as a whole, a report published on Tuesday found. A mother's poverty, lack of education, but most of all a lack of access to health insurance are probably to blame, the report issued by the nonprofit Annie E. Casey Foundation concluded." (Reuters)

"Asthma and obesity inter linked" - "NEW YORK: Over the past 20 years, childhood asthma and obesity have risen in tandem, but the nature of the relationship remains unclear. Now, results of a study show that in US inner cities, obese children may have more trouble controlling their asthma compared with their thinner peers." (Reuters)

"Smoking in Pregnancy Ups Kids' Asthma Risk" - "NEW YORK Feb 20 - Children of mothers who smoke during pregnancy are almost two times as likely to develop asthma as those whose mothers did not smoke while pregnant, according to study of California children. This increased risk appears to be related to smoking during pregnancy and not to tobacco exposure after birth." (Reuters Health)

"New moms who smoke are more numerous here" - "Babies born in Washington state are generally healthier than in the rest of the United States, but the percentage of new mothers who smoke exceeds the national average, according to a national study released yesterday." (Seattle Times)

Today's mercury hysteria: "Bill would ban mercury in products" - "SALEM -- Mercury-filled thermometers, with a potentially toxic vein running through their cores, may soon become relics in Oregon. The top legislative priority this year for the Oregon Environmental Council, one of the state's most potent environmental groups, is eliminating certain mercury-laden products to protect Oregon's lakes, rivers and children. All it takes to contaminate a 20-acre lake, and the fish in it, is the mercury from a single thermometer, the group says." (Oregon Online)

Data dredging of the day: "East-end health woes probed for pollution link" - "Montreal Island's public-health officials are working to discover whether the relatively high levels of health problems in the city's east end are because of pollution from the growing numbers of factories and chemical plants." (Montreal Gazette)

 I wonder if they'll include the most significant known health factor, low socio-economic status?

"Chlosterol fighters face ban in foods" - "CHOLESTEROL-reducing phyto-sterols would be banned in all food except for table spreads under a proposal before the Australian food regulator." (Sydney Daily Telegraph)

Hmm... whether these products impart any net societal health-benefit remains moot. Then again, whether they seriously impede micronutrient absorption also remains moot.

The new diet bad guy? "New Hints of Amino Acid's Link to Strokes" - "FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Evidence is building that high levels of the amino acid homocysteine, long linked to heart attacks, also increase the risk of strokes. The possible link between homocysteine and strokes is controversial, in part because no one knows for sure whether the substance actually causes them or whether lowering it protects against strokes." (AP)

"DU shell test-firing resumes" - "The government has defended the decision to go ahead with new tests of depleted uranium weapons at a military range in Scotland. The exercises resumed on Tuesday at Dundrennan, near Kirkcudbright, the only range in the UK where DU shells are test-fired. Many local people are opposed to the firing amid growing fears about health risks which have been highlighted by ex-service personnel who served in the Gulf War." (BBC Online) | MoD denies health risk from shells fired into Firth (Telegraph)

"Nuclear ship protest just cynical political posture" - "A little flotilla of anti-nuclear protest ships has set off to intercept what is said to be a dangerous cargo passing through the Tasman Sea on its way to Japan. In the eyes of some, perhaps many, they are engaged in an important and heroic mission. Certainly they seem to go with the blessing and approval of the Government. This is an extraordinary situation, bearing in mind that the safety of the shipments has been certified by international regulatory authorities - the International Materials Organisation and the International Atomic Energy Agency - and that, in hundreds of voyages and millions of kilometres of such cargoes, there has never been an accident that resulted in nuclear material being released. The feared accident has had no exemplification." (New Zealand Herald)

"Study Finds Drinking And Cycling Don't Mix" - "CHICAGO - Riding a bicycle after just one alcoholic drink increases the risk of fatal or serious injury by five times, while five drinks raise that risk twentyfold, researchers reported on Tuesday. Previously published studies had indicated that about a third of all U.S. bicycle deaths were alcohol-related, but details of the risk had not been assessed until now, said the study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore." (Reuters) | Use of Alcohol as a Risk Factor for Bicycling Injury (JAMA) | Drink linked to a third of cycle deaths (Telegraph) | Cyclists risk drink curbs (The Times)

Just before anyone compares the personal injury risks for motor vehicle drivers after one drink it should perhaps be pointed out that having a cyclist run down a bus shelter full of people involves a little less third party risk than does having the driver of say, a Ford Excursion, do so. Having said that, cycling with a skin-full is not necessarily safer for you than any other activity so, if you're going to hit the sauce, take a cab. End of problem.

"Poverty Is Root Cause Of Environmental Degradation" - "Attention has been drawn to the fact that an increase in poverty gives rise to an equal increase in environmental degradation thereby necessitating the need to improve the quality of living. Green Earth Organisation, a non-governmental organisation, recently held a round table discussion in Accra on 'Poverty Reduction Strategies and its Implications on the Environment'." (Ghanaian Chronicle)

Another in a series of articles published over the last year, largely in Africa. It appears there is some realization (finally) among conservation groups that environmental protection and repair are largely hobbies of the relatively wealthy and that people struggling to survive have little interest in the genteel niceties preferred by affluent wannabe world-savers. Pure protectionist conservation is totally reliant on wealth generation. Where affluent populations perceive a need for wildspace and nature preserves, impoverished populations see only a need to source food, energy and shelter. Perhaps the message is sinking in that is not a case of develop or save the natural world but rather develop to save it.

"DNA clues to malaria in ancient Rome" - "Signs of malaria have been found in the skeleton of a child buried in a Roman cemetery. British researchers say it is the earliest genetic evidence that the disease plagued the classical civilisations of Rome and Greece. The child was buried at a site north of Rome more than 1,500 years ago." (BBC Online) | DNA Shows Malaria Helped Topple Rome (New York Times)

So, this tropical disease reached about 45° North latitude some one and one-half millennia prior to supposed anthropogenic warming facilitated such distribution? Interesting. Also interesting that recent IPCC-generated hysteria largely ignores global travel, which may certainly facilitate broad distribution of currently localized diseases and so does, yet claims that hypothesized enhanced greenhouse warming will cause broad distribution of these morbidities. Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice reportedly did say.

Following are a couple of the UNEP releases upon which recent media climate hysteria is based. Somehow, UNEP neglected to mention that these come from a "storyline" based on the most extreme (and completely unrealistic, being devoid of any empirically-measured support) computer game (a.k.a. climate model) run in a series of 245. Among the assumptions used for this "storyline" are unprecedented population growth, unprecedented energy use, unprecedented greenhouse gas emission, an extraordinary climate sensitivity to the slightest atmospheric gas perturbation and the bizarre concept that only positive feedback mechanisms are possible. Casting doubt upon such assumptions requires no more than recalling a recent NASA/GSFC release (The eastern U.S. keeps its cool while the world warms) where cooling in the eastern U.S. was associated with increased cloudiness as a result of the enhanced evaporation from a warm tropical Pacific Ocean (which results from an El Niño event) and thus is a negative feedback mechanism. While water vapor is certainly the most significant greenhouse gas, especially in the tropics where it forms "dimers" (double molecules which completely block the radiation window), increased evaporation and condensation increases cloud formation and nice, fluffy, white clouds increase albedo (reflection of solar energy), in turn, this "shading" of the planet reduces its temperature rather like a thermostatic control cutting the energy supply to an appliance. This is why water vapor is not the infinite positive feedback relied upon in "climate models" to induce significant warming not possible with even a fourfold increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Despite obvious fatal flaws in this "storyline," last time I checked, the Irish Times was still displaying an AFP release claiming projected global temperature increase of +6°C over the next decade, a rate of warming more than two orders of magnitude greater than the estimated +0.3°C - +0.6°C increment since 1890 - go figure!

"Significant Changes Likely In The Arctic From Climate Change" - "ARENDAL — Massive changes in the Arctic, which are likely to have dramatic impacts on the world's weather systems, fisheries, wildlife and people living in the far North, are today (MON) forecast by scientists studying global warming." (UNEP)

"Global Warming: Africa Hit Hardest" - "NAIROBI--A report, published today (MON) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), says heavy, monsoon-like, rains and higher temperatures will favour the breeding of disease-carrying mosquitoes, allowing them to thrive at higher altitudes." (UNEP)

What remains to be addressed, of course, is the inconvenient problem of how hypothesized enhanced greenhouse warming of the atmosphere can cause surface warming when the atmosphere is demonstrably not warming, as the models insist it must.

Don't think this is a problem? Here's a little exercise for you: how long would you need to leave say, a cup of coffee, in a convection oven at +50°C in order for it to reach your desired consumption temperature of say, +70°C? When you've figured that out, determine a plausible mechanism by which the atmosphere may induce planetary warming without warming itself. If you can do that, congratulations, your fortune is assured, I'm sure the IPCC would pay billions for anything that would so justify their gravy train.

"Canadian Hydropower Association - Hydropower to Fight Global Warming" - "OTTAWA, Feb. 19 /CNW/ - Hydropower can play a key role in helping Canada meet its international commitments in reducing the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which contribute to air pollution, urban smog, and acid rain, are also seen as the cause of global warming. The burning of fossil fuels such as gas, coal and petrol is the main source of GHG emissions around the world, and three sectors-transportation, industry and electricity-generation-produce most of these GHGs. For example, the burning of fossil fuels to produce electricity is responsible for 17% of GHG emissions in Canada and approximately 40% in the United States." (Canada News Wire)

CHA can't be blamed for jockeying for position like this I suppose but their figures are fatally flawed. What they mean is that the burning of fossil fuel is estimated to account for the cited proportion of anthropogenic GHG emissions. Total anthropogenic emissions, however, account for a scant 3% of global emission, the bulk being entirely natural emissions from biological activity in oceans, forests and soil, natural decay of the Earth's crust and volcanic activity. Much of humanity's CO2 emission comes from transport fuel use and the amount liberated during electrical generation is less than 1% of the global carbon cycle. Nice try though.

"Hot spell equals 95-year record" - "ADELAIDE yesterday equalled a record for hot summer days established 95 years ago. With a maximum of 38.9 degrees at 3pm in the city, it was the 29th day of the summer to reach 35 or more. The last time that happened was in 1906." (Adelaide Advertiser)

Meaning there has been no net warming in a century?

"The Most Important Global Change" - "In a special issue of the international journal Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment (1), J.S. Wallace of the UK's Centre for Ecology and Hydrology makes some important observations about the state of the earth, leading him to conclude that "the massive and inexorable increase in the number of human beings in the world should be recognized for what it is - the most important global change facing mankind." (co2science.org)

"Elevated CO2 Enhances the Effectiveness of Foliar Applications of Bt Pesticides" - "With respect to the important agricultural technique of pest management using toxins produced by Bacillus thuringiensis supplied to crops via foliar applications, the authors state that "increasing atmospheric CO2 is making the foliar applications more efficacious."  Hence, science has documented yet another way in which the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 concentration is helping the farmers of the world produce the food upon which we all depend for our sustenance." (co2science.org)

"Climate Variability Over the Past Hundred Millennia" - "As with many studies we have reviewed in the past, this brief overview of what we know about climate variability indicates that climate is much less stable during glacial and glacial/interglacial transition periods than it is during warmer interglacials.  In addition, the only current-interglacial perturbation noted in this review article is a temperature decrease, not a warming, suggesting that earth's climate just does not spike to the extremely high temperatures that are being predicted by climate modeling exercises during warm interglacials such as the one in which we are presently living.  Hence, whereas climate alarmists are attempting to create global anxiety - actually fear - over extremely weak climatic possibilities, strong climatic probabilities based on real-world data serve to remind us that although almost anything is possible, there should at least be some precedent for what is being predicted if it is to be considered tenable.  And in the case of dramatic CO2-induced global warming within an interglacial such is totally lacking." (co2science.org)

"The Atmospheric CO2 and Temperature Records of Dome Concordia, Antarctica" - "The results of this paper drive another nail in the coffin of the CO2-induced global warming hypothesis.  As we have reported before (see our CO2-Temperature Correlations Summary and related referenced material), scientific data, such as those of the present study, do not support the notion that CO2 is the all-important driver of climate change that the climate alarmists have made it out to be.  In fact, it appears, like us, to be merely along for the ride." (co2science.org)

"UN scientists warn of climatic Armageddon" - "SCIENTISTS yesterday predicted an environmental catastrophe of biblical proportions, with the world ravaged by droughts, flooding and disease. The chilling vision, presented in the report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), reveals that large portions of the world’s population are threatened with imminent disaster. This vision of disaster for humanity is matched by the impact of climate change on the natural world." (The Scotsman)

Alright - I admit it - I really included this silly piece because I liked the picture.

"Some People Are Just Never Happy" - "... The professional environmental protesters who flourish in Vancouver like weeds are a case in point. They invariably pick issues where they believe they can destroy enterprise and kill jobs, in a futile effort to return to a mythical Garden of Eden (complete with orthodontists and fuel-cell-powered vehicles, of course). When they're not complaining about the felling of old trees, they're carping about the planting of new crops -- in particular, those which are genetically modified." (The Vancouver Province)

"Biotechnology in the front line" - "Biotechnology will provide the most effective defence against bioterrorism, military and public health experts have told a major scientific conference in the United States. The completion of the human genome project, and developments in our understanding of diseases like anthrax and botulism, will help in developing tests and vaccines that will protect society against bioterrorist attacks - as well as natural epidemics." (BBC Online)

"Rice Of The Future" - Exciting times for rice research but new varieties are still some years away. "Two significant developments took place recently concerning our staple food, rice. On January 19, the Manila-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) received the first research samples of "golden rice" from the scientists and companies who had originally developed it. Second, on January 26, two private companies from Switzerland and the US unveiled the complete map of the rice genome. New varieties are, however, at least five years away." (India Today)

"More U.S. Consumers Expect Biotech Benefits" - "IFIC’s fifth survey on U.S. consumer attitudes toward food biotechnology indicates consumers are paying attention to the biotechnology issue—or are they? ... Consumers may have mixed feelings on the labeling issue. When asked, unaided, to identify what information is currently not on food labels that they would like to see added, 74% say "nothing” and only 2% mention "genetically altered." (International Food Information Council)

"Ontario Corn Producers Heighten Debate on GM Labeling" - "An article published in the Toronto-based Globe and Mail written by Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby last week called for mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods. In response to the article, the Ontario Corn Producers Association (OCPA) asks “what benefit is it to consumers to have almost everything labeled as GM?” and “who pays?” (AgWeb.com)

"Weed Develops Roundup Resistance" - "A pesky weed is developing resistance to Roundup in some East Coast farm fields, according to University of Delaware research released last week. Horseweed, or conyza canadensis, isn't yet known to resist the popular herbicide outside Delaware and New Jersey. ... However, John Goette of Monsanto, the St. Louis company that developed the herbicide, defended the weed killer as comparatively benign. "We have only two resistant plants after one quarter century" of use, Goette said." (StarNews.com)

"Old Fashioned Plant Breeding KO's Insects" - "DONALD - Feb 20/01 - STAT -- Combining traditional plant breeding methods with DNA analysis, plant breeders in Australia are on the verge of creating sorghum varieties which not only naturally resist insects, they kill them. Plant breeders are using traditional methods to combine genetic material, but relying on DNA analysis to quickly identify lines of plants which contain the genes they are looking for in an effort to breed in insect resistance." (STATpub.com)

"Hot potato debate on biotechnology comes to Canada" - "Arpad Pusztai's 150-second interview on British television two years ago left the biotechnology industry reeling. The research scientist, now visiting Canada, likened consumers to guinea pigs and said genetically modified (GM) food on supermarket shelves was not properly tested. A media frenzy followed. Pusztai's work was widely condemned, and he was fired from the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland." (National Post)

February 20, 2001

Reading recommendation of the week: The Tyranny of Health: Doctors and the Regulation of Lifestyle - Stuart Derbyshire reviews The Tyranny of Health,

In the preface to this remarkable book Dr. Fitzpatrick describes breaking into the house of an elderly couple during a bitterly cold February. The couple had succumbed to a combination of infection and hypothermia. While waiting for the ambulance, Fitzpatrick, a primary care physician working in a blue collar Borough of London, England, found an untouched leaflet describing the dangers of anonymous sex and the virtues of condoms. This leaflet had been distributed to 23 million homes in the UK, around half of which contained either an elderly couple or an old person living alone. At this moment Fitzpatrick reflected upon the absurdity of the "everyone is at risk" campaign and the motives of a government that did little to prevent the elderly from freezing to death and yet enthusiastically supported "healthy living".

The conclusion that Fitzpatrick reaches will surprise and enrage both those who agree and disagree with his view. The author is nothing if not blunt stating, "the governments health policy is really a programme of social control packaged as health promotion." In an era when social institutions are increasingly discredited (think Congress, the Senate or any other political institution), irrelevant (e.g., unions) or ignored (e.g., religious proscriptions against premarital sex) the government has seized upon personal health as a means of reconnecting with society and regulating and supervising people's lives.

At first glance Fitzpatrick's contention might be viewed as absurd and eccentric but think about it, how many aspects of your life are affected by concerns about health? Do you feel guilty driving to work when you might walk? Do you eat salad when you would prefer a steak? Do you miss out on a Friday night excursion so as to not have a drink or to avoid a smoky atmosphere? Medical jurisdiction over lifestyle extends into the home, the workplace, our schools and neighborhoods. This might not appear coercive but combined with endless screening programs of increasingly intrusive nature and daily announcements regarding another necessary alteration to keep us healthy and the insidious regulation of life becomes more apparent.

This might all be forgivable if it were the case that these changes in lifestyle were of benefit but Fitzpatrick explains they are not. With the exception of smoking there is very little evidence that the proposed adoption of a "healthy lifestyle" will have any noticeable benefit to the individual. For example, changes in diet to reduce cholesterol will increase the life expectancy of an average 65-year-old man by between 2.5 and 5.0 months. If you are younger than this, the benefits are so small as to be incalculable. Essentially your odds of having a heart attack under the age of 65 are very small; if you start a diet of muesli and skimmed milk while avoiding all fatty food your risk will be reduced to very, very small. When stated like this many might choose to live happily, if a little more riskily, eating bacon and drinking whole milk rather than existing "safely" on a boring diet.

Fitzpatrick's bottom line is that people need less moralizing when they are well and more health care when they are ill. Doctors should retreat from the moral sphere and return to helping people live their lives, as long and as healthily as possible, with their vices that make life happy and livable.

Order The Tyranny of Health from Amazon.com and support Junkscience.com.

"Doubters Fault Theory Finding Earlier Puberty" - "A widespread belief about the onset of puberty in girls is coming under vigorous attack, led by a group of medical specialists who say that it is based on flawed science and that it can have dire medical consequences." (New York Times)

"Household products - toxic shocks? " - "Friends of the Earth (FoE), the UK environmental lobby group, has declared war. Together with the National Childbirth Trust, a charity devoted to educating parents, it will be 'mobilising mothers of babies and young children to fight for new controls on risky chemicals in household products'." (Bill Durodie, Spiked-online.com)

"Some Biotech Upstarts Fizzle Against Native Plants" - "Just being genetically engineered does not make a plant any more likely to become an invasive or persistent weed, according to a huge new decade-long study published this month in Nature." (New York Times)

"Opposition Braces for Rule Rollback " - "Members of public-interest groups, who played key roles during the Clinton administration in bringing many environmental, labor and food-safety rules to fruition, now find themselves scrambling to protect their handiwork." (Washington Post)

"Kyoto and Oslo: Two failed legacies" - "There are certain parallels between the negotiations over the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which had their start with the 1992 Climate Treaty, and the Oslo peace process, which began in 1993. Both sets of negotiations collapsed in 2000, after much political investment and despite (or perhaps because?) strong pressure from the Clinton White House. And in both cases, Kyoto and Oslo, politicians and various interest groups are now scurrying about, desperately trying to put the pieces back together again." (Fred Singer, Washington Times)

"NASA debunks moon landing hoax conspiracy" - "Did NASA land men on the moon? "Yes, we did," the space agency proclaimed Monday on the Internet, rebutting newly boosted claims from conspiracy theorists that the Apollo missions were faked." (CNN)

Yeah, it was faked and there's no such thing as satellite communication either - it's really people talking (very loudly) into cans tied on very long strings - right?

If people can actually believe the above then it's probably little wonder climate hysteria gets such a good run. This next item is my favorite from the current batch:

"Global warming may raise temperatures by six degrees - UN" - "Global warming will increase world temperatures by almost six degrees Celsius over the next ten years, according to a report unveiled today by a UN scientific group." [emphasis added] (Irish Times)

Oh well, if you're going to publish unfounded hysteria you might as well really crank up the nonsense I suppose. +6°C in just 10 years - and the energy required to achieve this extraordinary feat is coming from... ?

Here's some more make believe and a lot of it, as expected:

"VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT Vol. 2, No. 6" - "... We would propose an alternative, alternative scenario. Perhaps the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) might for once tell the truth about climate change rather than make up scary and unrealistic "storylines" about earth’s future climate rather than scenarios containing selective use of science and limited understanding of the world’s cultures. Nearly every story about global warming contains variations on the phrase Stern and Antholis use, "Average worldwide temperatures could rise by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit in the next 100 years." Reporters seldom (if ever) append a note after that quote that points out that such a result is produced by only one out of 245 possible scenarios that the IPCC fed into its computer. The other 244 produce less warming. That’s because the scary one incorporates the most extreme assumptions imaginable concerning future emissions and the climate’s sensitivity to them." (GES)

"In an Uncertain Climate, Philanthropy Is Slowing" - "Philanthropy, one of the nation's most spectacular growth industries for the last decade, is feeling the pinch of the market turnaround, several indicators suggest. In a survey of the nation's largest foundations, to be published this week in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, 79 of the 142 foundations included said they expected their giving to remain flat or drop this year — and slightly more than half said their assets had shrunk over the last year." (New York Times)

Hmm... just think about the effect implementing the Kyoto Protocol would have on philanthropy.

"To Control Risks, Use Precaution With Care, Says Risk-Expert Charnley" - "... At one pole of the debate over how society manages risk are those who support a scientific approach to risk management that allows setting priorities for risk-management resources. Under such an approach, regulations are generally only favored if rigorous scientific testing has demonstrated that an alleged risk is real, and that the proposed regulatory remedy would do more good than harm. This approach is generally called a “risk-based” approach, since the first activity is making a scientific assessment of risk. At the other pole of the debate are environmental advocacy groups such as Greenpeace, who promote an alternative principle of using regulation before an alleged risk has been scientifically demonstrated, and before the impacts of the regulatory remedy have been scientifically analyzed. This approach is often characterized as embodying “the precautionary principle,” reflecting the fact that regulations are crafted based on the principle of precaution, not in response to a demonstrated risk or hazard." (Kenneth Green, Tech Central Station)

"Eco-petulance runs amok in conflicted California" - "Californians refuse to acknowledge that in the real world their desire for one good (an unsullied environment) might actually conflict with another (their desire for hot water in their Jacuzzis). The conflict between hyper-environmentalism and energy shortages applies to more than just electricity. Oil prices spiked last year. And in the past 12 months, natural gas prices have tripled. Yet for decades, environmentalists have successfully restricted offshore drilling, exploration on federal lands, and, of course, tapping the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for its potentially huge oil and natural gas reserves. ... And for reasons of nothing less than hysteria, they have also blocked the one supply-side solution to the environment vs. energy conundrum: nuclear power." (Seattle Times)

"The deadly cost of economy class" - "Heightened concern about thrombosis risks on flights, following the death last October of 28-year-old Emma Christofferson after a Qantas flight from Australia to London, has prompted a rush of prospective claims of negligence against airlines." (Independent)

"Your chance of blood clot: 1 in 2 million" - "The risk of healthy long-distance air travellers developing potentially fatal deep vein thrombosis (DVT) was roughly one in two million arrivals, scientists said yesterday. Announcing plans for a wide-ranging study into the links between air travel and DVT, the specialists emphasised that the risk of airline passengers contracting the illness had been vastly overstated." (The Age)

"Civil rights groups in jeopardy over new laws" - "The law extends the definition of terrorism, previously an exclusively political crime, to anyone motivated by a "political, religious or ideological" cause and who uses violence and the threat of violence against people or property. This means those campaigning against GM foods and for animal welfare could face prosecution." (Independent)

Hmm... they seem a little upset. The answer seems simple, don't commit violence against persons or property. They have a problem with that?

Uh-oh! This won't go down well with the "mustn't-munch-meat" brigade: "First, catch your cow" - "Research into the diet of ancient hunter-gatherers shows that our diet of cereals and grain-fed meat is not what we have evolved to eat, writes John Macgregor. A group of scientists, from dozens of disciplines, has lately started to put together a model of the diet "designed" by evolution for the human body. When the dust settles on their investigations, most of today's arguments about human nutrition might have been laid to rest." (Sydney Morning Herald)

"Researchers offer the skinny on fat genes" - "SAN FRANCISCO - Obesity researchers gave an American Association for the Advancement of Science symposium here Monday a grim assessment: It's looking less and less like the molecular pathway to thinness is going to be a one-size fits all solution." (Scripps Howard)

Eat less, do more - or both.

"Herbal Remedies May Have Side Effects" - "NEW YORK - While the jury is still out on whether the popular supplement echinacea fights the common cold, it does seem the innocent-sounding herb can pack drug-like side effects. A 41-year-old man realized this while using echinacea for his flu-like symptoms, according to Canadian researchers. The case study, published in the February issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, highlights the dangers of self-treating and the common misconception that herbal remedies are harmless." (Reuters Health)

"Mistletoe Extract Judged Ineffective for Cancer" - "NEW YORK - Preparations made from the mistletoe plant have become increasingly popular as alternative therapy in the fight against cancer. But a new study finds that supplementing regular cancer treatment with mistletoe extract is of no added benefit to patients suffering from at least one type of cancer." (Reuters Health)

Now here's a turn of phrase: "US backs plan for Russia to import nuclear waste" - "... This provoked a strong reaction from Vladimir Slivyak, co-chairman of Ecodefence, which released the document. "The US energy department and the American nuclear industry are looking to set up an international radioactive toilet in Russia," he said." (Guardian)

"Greenpeace May Attack Rice" - "Evidently, rumors that Greenpeace will not attack fields of golden rice because of humanitarian concerns are apparently premature, as are notions that the activist group understood the erroneous calculation behind its assertion that people would have to eat monstrous quantities of the rice to benefit." (Andrew Apel, AgBioView)

The London Independent February 17, 2001, Page 2
Letter to the Editor by Benedikt Haerlin
Sir: Greenpeace is opposed to the intentional release of genetically modified organisms; that is the basis for all our campaigning in all areas of genetic engineering. Clearly the industry promoting a crop such as golden rice with claims that it could save millions of lives (“Greenpeace promises not to halt trials of GM rice”, 10 February) attempts to bring a moral dimension into the debate. What was made clear by me at the press conference in Lyon, but sadly not widely reported, was that there is no evidence that this invention can produce any beneficial effects. The average person would have to consume a massive 9kg of cooked rice per day to prevent symptoms of vitamin deficiency, a figure confirmed by the inventor of the product. The acknowledgement that we have no plans to disrupt field trials of golden rice is in no way a U-turn in our policy, but simply practical recognition of the resources we have available for our work in the Philippines. Golden rice has not been ruled out as a target for direct action in the future.
Greenpeace International Genetic Engineering Campaign Coordinator Berlin.

Greenpeace have been unfortunately successful with their distortions regarding vitamin A provision, confusing Western RDAs with the amount needed to prevent death or blindness. See Potrykus' recent response here.

Dubious doings Down Under: "Biologist makes shocking bacteria claim" - "Wellington (NZ) - A royal commission investigating genetic modification was in uproar on Monday after a scientist claimed the United States had engineered a bacterium with the potential to kill all plant life on the planet." (Independent Online) | Uproar over life-killing evidence given to genetic study (Radio Australia)

"Life Sciences Network produces evidence that Green Party witness testimony to Royal Commission is without scientific validity" - "The New Zealand Life Sciences Network (Inc) today presented rebuttal evidence from three scientists showing the key Green Party witness, Dr Elaine Ingham, presented assertions to the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification which were without foundation in science. "Dr Ingham made outrageous and scientifically unsupported assertions about ecological devastation for all terrestrial plant life arising from genetic modification of a single soil bacterium," the Network's Chairman, Dr William Rolleston, said today. "Her evidence, while not given on oath, was nevertheless bound by normal standards of ethical behaviour expected of scientists. These standards, according to one authority, the Greenpeace Chief Science Advisor, require scientists to avoid extrapolating 'from tests on a single organism to predict effects on an entire eco-system'. "Dr Ingham also told the Royal Commission the United States authorities had approved field tests of the bacterium. No such approval was ever given. "This doomsday evidence is all the worse for its potential to create fear in the community. Dr Ingham's evidence calls into question the ethics of opponents to genetic modification and their apparent willingness not to let inconvenient facts get in the way of startling revelations. That the Green Party and Greenpeace should have been involved in the presentation of demonstrably inaccurate, careless and exaggerated information is also very troubling. "The discovery of Dr Ingham's reliance on a research paper which never existed and her distortion of facts also raises questions about her personal conduct as a senior staff member of Oregon State University. We will bring our findings to the attention of the University authorities," concluded Dr Rolleston." (New Zealand Life Sciences Network)

Michael Fumento provides a supplement to yesterday's item "Gene technology unsafe says ex-proponent"

The straight dope on the soybeans with a Brazil nut gene: Accidentally inserting allergens into a transgenic plant is indeed a potential problem, as shown by an experiment that successfully put an allergy-causing Brazil nut gene into soybeans. But that was the sole purpose of the research, published back in 1996. The plant was not caught by industry or regulators at the last minute like thalidomide, as some activists would have us believe. In so doing, the activists have converted in the public’s mind a good thing – researchers being on the lookout for health problems – into a scary thing. Agbiotech companies are very concerned about the potential for transferring proteins into new crops that may cause allergies, and have developed a multi-layered system to prevent it from happening.

  1. Julie A. Nordlee et al., "Identification of a Brazil-nut Allergen in Transgenic Soybeans," New England Journal of Medicine 334(11[14 March 1996]): 688-692.
  2. Mara Bovsun, "Allergy Causing Proteins Jump from Nuts to Soybeans in Gene Transfer," Biotechnology Newswatch, 18 March 1996, p. 1.

"Cute, Cuddly Controversial" - "In fact, what really worries scientists like Murray is that the controversy over biotech crops will stifle experiments to design animals that can better fill the meat and dairy appetites of a growing world population. "Whether you like it or not, the past tells us that as people become more affluent, they tend to consume more meat," said Vernon Pursel, a biotech researcher at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Beltsville, Md. "We're going to have to feed them on less (arable) space than we have now because the people are spreading out." (San Francisco Chronicle)

"Modern Day Witch-Burning on the Farm" - "CHURCHVILLE, Va.--"In the Middle Ages, they burned witches; today they burn transgenic plants," sighed the elderly Frenchman. Meanwhile, his son, Jose Bove, was starring at the World Social Forum, a meeting held a few weeks ago in southern Brazil. The younger Bove is the radical French farmer famed for wrecking his local McDonald's, protesting biotech foods and opposing trade." (Dennis T Avery, Knight Ridder/Tribune)

February 19, 2001

"Cherry-picked Science on Secondhand Smoke" - The authors of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine's position statement on secondhand smoke claim there is "robust epidemiologic evidence" implicating environmental tobacco smoke as a cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers. Martha Perske says, "It appears, however, that in this case, 'robust' evidence is little more than cherry-picked evidence. Misleading and selective data are presented. Results that are inconsistent with the desired position (banning smoking) are simply excluded."

"Mothers urged to fight this everyday chemical peril" - "Mothers are being urged to fight for new controls on risky chemicals in household products. Friends of the Earth is accusing the government of inaction on the issue. In contrast, Swedish has outlined a new law to ensure it has a "toxic free environment". The FoE campaign includes a colourful "parents guide" produced and sent to more than 4,000 mothers." (Ananova)

Aptly named FoE are starting up their "Let's terrorize new mothers" campaign in the UK again. Last time we saw this nonsense was June 1999 when, in conjunction with WWF, they tried to frighten mothers out of breastfeeding their infants because trace amounts of chemicals can be found in breast milk. Even if there were a problem with trace amounts of chemicals being present, and there is not the slightest suggestion that this represents any problem at all, there is no safer provender for human infants than human breast milk. Switching to formulas wouldn't help since these would also be similarly "contaminated" and so there is absolutely no gain for young mothers in these campaigns. FoE are real prize-winners when it comes to running some of the most irresponsible fundraising scares on the planet.

Whoa! "Gene technology unsafe says ex-proponent" - "A scientist who once vigorously promoted gene technology now condemns it as unsafe. ... Professor Traavik, appearing on behalf of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth during a two-day sitting in Auckland to hear evidence from anti-GE groups, likened the release of genetic organisms into the environment with chemical pollution. ... He gave as an example the insertion of a gene from the Brazil nut into soyabean plants which, although not known to cause allergies in humans, caused an allergic reaction in people who ate the soyabeans." (New Zealand Herald)

In an experiment to try to increase the nutritional value of soy, one company, I think it was Pioneer Hi-Bred, certainly transferred a Brazil nut gene into soy and then had it tested by the University of Nebraska (?Steve Taylor) in 1995 to see if people's allergy to Brazil nuts would be triggered by the recombinant soy. The tests were positive and the project abandoned - hardly a demerit from the food safety angle. Since it was tested pre-release, something which does not happen with crops derived by any other means than biotechnology, how did anyone come to eat the soy in order to suffer said allergic reactions?

Hopefully this confusion is merely the result of sloppy reporting or some language difficulties experience by Professor Traavik, otherwise we would have to assume Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth guilty of yet more misinformation.

"Anti-smoking drug concern after 18 deaths" - "The safety of the anti-smoking drug Zyban is under renewed scrutiny after health officials were told that 18 people have died after being prescribed the drug. The deaths have been reported by GPs to the Medicines Control Agency (MCA) as part of an "intensive monitoring exercise" undertaken after Zyban was introduced last July." (Independent) | Worries over anti-smoking drug dismissed (Guardian) | Deaths 'linked to smoking drug' (BBC Online) | 18 anti-smoking drug patients die (Telegraph) | Anti-smoking drug to be monitored after deaths (The Times)

"Cause of MS and diabetes 'passed on in pregnancy'" - "Scientists believe they may have found the underlying cause of the mysterious "auto immune" diseases including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and type-1 diabetes. Microscopic quantities of blood passed between mothers and their babies during pregnancy have been linked with triggering an aberrant attack by the body's immune defences on its own tissues and cells, causing the autoimmune reaction." (Independent)

"After beef and pork, Austria spooked by shrimps" - "VIENNA - Environmental group Greenpeace has urged the Austrian government to ban all imports of farmed shrimps from the tropics after it claimed to have found traces of prohibited antibiotics in the crustaceans. Consumer confidence in Austria has already been damaged by the BSE cattle scare and allegations of illegal antibiotics being used in pig rearing. Although Austria has reported no cases of mad cow disease, beef sales have plummeted." (Reuters)

"Vikings: rape, pillage and myocardial infarction" - "They first invaded our shores in the Dark Ages – and new research suggests they are still killing Britons today. The Vikings, who raped and pillaged their way across northern and eastern Britain for nearly 300 years, before the ill-fated King Harold finally defeated their last army in 1066, may have left us a legacy more deadly than any of their raids. The world's largest-ever study of family heart disease, sponsored by the British Heart Foundation and the Medical Research Council, has uncovered a series of genetic anomalies in North-east England which experts are suggesting could be a fatal inheritance from three centuries of inter-breeding with the Nordic hordes." (Independent)

"Need for hazard prediction" - "A senior American scientist has called on natural disaster experts to work towards predicting extreme events such as earthquakes and floods. Forecasting when and where such events might occur has largely been dismissed as an impossible goal, but Charles Groat, director of the US Geological Survey, said prediction was not only possible but essential." (BBC Online)

"Uncertainty of rapid climate change more crucial than ice ages" - "San Francisco, Calif. – Climate always changes and what we are used to today is about as stable as climate gets, according to a Penn State glaciologist who has investigated climate records from both poles. "Today, because of the circulation of the Atlantic Ocean, we can grow roses in Norway and we have been able to do that for a long time," says Dr. Richard Alley, Evan Pugh Professor of Geosciences. "But there is no such thing as a stable climate; if the warm current were not there, we would see more polar bears and fewer roses." (Penn State)

"Ice caps in Africa, tropical South America likely to disappear within 15 years" - "Columbus, Ohio - Many glaciers and ice caps atop mountains in Africa and South America will probably have melted within the next 15 years because of global warming and little can be done to save them, an Ohio State University researcher explained today." (Ohio State University) | White peak on Kilimanjaro to disappear (BBC Online)

Maybe, maybe not. Extrapolating the last 3 years' rate of retreat into a prediction for the next 15-20 is certainly brave. Several things affect glacial advance and retreat. Was there a change in precipitation in the period? If there is an increase in snowfall then glaciers can be expected to advance but if there is an increase in rain then this will increase glacial decay, leading to rapid retreat. If there was a change in precipitation, was it due to the 1997/98 El Niño event and will it now return to "normal?" Then we would also need to know when these glaciers advanced to their present extent. Are they in long-term retreat having advanced during the last major ice age? Did they only appear during the Little Ice Age or were they present during the warmer preceding period? This would be significant in trying to determine whether current temperatures represent a warming or merely a recovery to that which preceded the LIA. The cooling and subsequent recovery from the LIA has certainly had an effect on glaciers:

"Europe's biggest glacier shrinks" - "The glacier has been shrinking for most of the 20th century," Dr David Evans, of Glasgow University's Geography and Topographical Science Department, told CNN.com. ... But he dismisses panic theories that the loss of the glacier is man-made or even permanent. "It really is not a human-induced situation," he said. "This glacier is receding from the coast because it advanced to the coast during what is known as the Little Ice Age. "Relatively speaking, things have become warmer, but they were warm before the Little Ice Age." Evans says that 300 years ago the coastal land around Breidamerkurjokull was ice-free and used for farming by local people. Then, in the early decades of the 18th century, the climate grew colder and giant rivers of ice spread out from the Vatnajokull sheet, including the Breidamerkurjokull glacier. These moved miles down to the coast, covering pastures and crushing farmhouses that lay in their path. "The Little Ice Age lasted almost 200 years, reaching its peak, in Iceland, in 1890, when Breidamerkurjokull got closest to the sea," said Evans. "That mini-ice age is over now, and the climate has been getting warmer for the past 100 years. Hence the shrinking and disintegration of the glacier." (CNN)

The day's collection of climate fantasies (not a lot this early in the day - give the media time):

"Global Warming in a Politically Correct Climate" - "This is the title of a new  book by Dr M. Mihkel Mathiesen, recently published in the USA by Writers Club Press. The book on the one hand deals comprehensively with the mountain of physical evidence which shows that the claims of global warming by the IPCC, are at best highly suspect, and at worst completely false. However, Dr Mathiesen goes a step further and catalogues in great detail a long history of suppression of scientific debate on a variety of recent environmental issues which have become the victim of `political correctness'. He demonstrates convincingly that essential scientific debate on such issues has become paralysed by the pressures of political correctness, or what he calls `spontaneous collective action' which becomes both oblivious to, and even hostile to, any attempt at objective debate, or presentation of contrary evidence. In dealing with both the science and the political background to the global warming and other scares, his book is a valuable addition to the growing literature calling for a restoration of objectivity and freedom of thought in the environmental sciences. The book is available in paperback ex-stock from Barnes & Noble. Dr Mathiesen also has his own website here." (Still Waiting For Greenhouse)

"The Week That Was February 17, 2001 brought to you by SEPP"


"Genomics portends the next revolution in agriculture" - "SAN FRANCISCO - Depending on your point of view, the great promise or peril of modern agriculture has germinated on millions of acres of North American cropland as the genetically modified organism -- or GMO -- has taken center stage. But as science begins to accumulate and explore plant and animal genomes - the entire set of genetic instructions for a particular organism - a new revolution is in the offing and, according to University of Wisconsin-Madison biologist Robert Goodman, promises a long-lasting and favorable impact on agriculture worldwide." (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

"Language can fuel, or abate, public fears about bioengineered foods" - "Frankenfoods or miracle crops to help feed a hungry world? Your feelings about genetically modified foods depend, in good measure, on how their benefits and potential risks are explained to you. The words used, and the way they're used, color your perceptions. That seems obvious enough, says Dr. Steven B. Katz, associate professor of English at North Carolina State University. So how come so many scientists and policy-makers don't get it?" (North Carolina State University)

"New GM crop directive requires "traceability" - EU" - "WASHINGTON - New European Union rules for the approval of genetically modified crops would require US industry to closely track the new varieties as they move through commercial channels, EU aides said on Friday. John Richardson, deputy chief of mission at the European Commission's Washington office, said the "traceability" requirement would allow Brussels to collect data on the potential health effects of the crops, which are still viewed by many European consumers with deep suspicion. Over time, the data hopefully would build confidence the varieties are safe, he said." (Reuters)

"Labeling GM food may clear economic jam for farmers" - "SAN FRANCISCO - As the rest of the world continues to reject genetically modified (GM) foods, American farmers might look to government-mandated labels as their ticket back into the global market. Lydia Zepeda, an associate professor of consumer science for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, draws that conclusion in an analysis of the current GM-food market. Zepeda is part of a forum examining the public sector's role in biotechnology at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting Sunday, Feb. 18, in San Francisco." (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

"Danish consumer group urges tighter GM measures" - "COPENHAGEN - A leading Danish consumer group said on Friday it backed the government`s move to maintain the EU`s moratorium on genetically modified (GM) foods, but called for further measures." (Reuters)

"UPDATE - Aventis says gets European patent for GM plants" - "PARIS - Life sciences company Aventis said on Friday the European Patent Office had awarded it a patent for plants that are genetically modified to resist its glufosinate herbicide, ending a long battle with environmental activists. Aventis, formed from the 1999 merger of Hoechst and Rhone Poulenc, said in a statement that in approving the patent the European authorities had rejected an appeal filed by environmental group Greenpeace." (Reuters)

"Brazil says not about to grow GM cane commercially" - "RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazil has no plans to produce genetically modified (GM) cane on a commercial scale as its experiments into cane varieties are still at the research stage, leading growers said on Friday." (Reuters)

February 17-18, 2001

On Monday, February 19th, the much publicized and extensively pre-released and pre-hyped IPCC Third Assessment Report (Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability) will be released. Contrary to media hyperbole, the "report" actually contains no new data or evidence of any description, it is a speculative collection of "story lines" ranging from the conservative (no change) to the bizarre (that which has been repeatedly touted in the media over the last few weeks). Whether the "official" release retains the one significant quote from the draft version ("In sum, a strategy must recognize what is possible. In climate research and modeling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-liner chaotic system, and therefore that the prediction of a specific future climate state is not possible." -- Final chapter, Draft TAR 2000) remains to be seen. Given the media's recent fixation with the most extreme (and least likely) "story line" distributed by the IPCC, it seems doubtful whether the media would admit that damning quote's presence even if it has been retained in the "official" publication.

Since this "official" release of the much pre-released document is likely to be the media event of the week (month?) and the enhanced greenhouse hypothesis is unlikely to be unseated as junk science of the decade, the enhanced greenhouse of cards again leads the weekend's collation.

?!! "The seakeeper" - "It is almost impossible to get a scientist to say anything rock solid. Ask Dr Julie Hall, the newly appointed secretary of the international Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (Scor), whether global warming is real rather than scaremongering by scientists, and she hands me a thick report from the United Nations. (Answer, after 20 minutes' reading, yes, very probably.)" (New Zealand Herald)

1,000 pages, with roughly 250 model runs on varied scenarios, about 40 "story lines" and this NZH journalist understands it - in 20 minutes! I simply must meet this paragon of science! Please, whoever you are - contact me immediately or, better yet, just have Scottie beam you across here that you may explain this extraordinary revelation.

"Experts prove how warming changes world" - "The world's governments and top climate scientists will confirm for the first time tomorrow that global warming is drastically altering the face of the planet." (Independent on Sunday)

"Climate report: Little hope for poor" - "Feb. 16 —   A U.N. draft report being circulated among scientists and policymakers describes a future where the poorest suffer most from global warming, according to a copy obtained by MSNBC.com. But critics of the report counter that the computer models used to draw the conclusions are too simplistic to reliably predict where Earth is heading." (MSNBC)

"Global warming portends disaster for subcontinent" - "SANTA CRUZ, California: Rapid global warming bodes ill for the Indian subcontinent, where calamities like floods and epidemics could increase in frequency, according to a UN report. The report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was featured in the US News and World Report magazine, which in its cover story called it the "most definitive -- and scary -- report yet, declaring that global warming is not only real but man-made." (Times of India)

"Britain will face malaria threat as world warms up" - "BRITAIN could become a haven for malaria-carrying mosquitoes and some water supplies may become tainted by sea water, a United Nations report on global climate change will warn tomorrow. The 1,000-page draft volume entitled Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability will be adopted in Geneva by government delegates from more than 100 countries. The assessment details the possible effects of a predicted rise of average global temperature of between 1.4C and 5.8C over the next 100 years. The proliferation of organisms such as ticks, mosquitoes and sandflies is likely to increase the risk of transmission for tropical diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. Malaria existed in Britain in the 16th and 17th centuries, but better housing and the draining of marshland eradicated the disease." (Sunday Times)

"Bush Team Under Attack on Emissions Talks" - "The Bush administration is only slowly turning to climate issues and so is being left on the sidelines in international talks that could shape a treaty curtailing global warming, say government officials and executives involved in the discussions. At the administration's request, United Nations officials agreed on Monday to delay the next round of formal treaty negotiations, earlier set for May, until June or July. But other meetings and informal international discussions that could significantly shape the final agreement are taking place weekly, and the treaty is expected to be a central topic at a meeting of environment ministers from the Group of 8 industrialized nations that begins in Trieste, Italy, on March 2." (New York Times)

Well, that much is true, the enhanced greenhouse talk-fest calendar is becoming so crowded that it is now common for 2 or more to be held concurrently. Smile - you're paying for all these jaunts and all-expenses-paid vacations in exotic locations (and their contributions to "greenhouse emissions" from all that air travel and tourism catering). Makes you proud doesn't it?

"Saudis try to weaken climate change talks" - "Saudi Arabia, the world's largest crude oil producer, was trying to weaken a report on the impact of climate change, senior diplomats and environmental activists said. The Saudis "have a systematic pattern to water down the report in a selective and often wrong scientific terms," Bill Hare, climate policy director with the environmental group Greenpeace International told United Press International. "The Saudis are introducing…text which qualifies the benefits of climate change and which reduces or qualifies references to the negative aspects of climate change," Hare said." (UPI)

Well goodness! Fancy anyone mentioning potential benefits from hypothesized global warming and [gasp] qualifying negative aspects. How dare they interfere with the hysterical claims based on fanciful imaginations and non-existent data! Really - we should all refuse to use their rotten oil and then they'll see the the error of introducing fact and reality into a carefully nurtured emotional frenzy!

"Climate tax sparks job fears" - "The government has unveiled plans to get industry to cut its use of energy, with the aim of reducing the emission of greenhouse gases linked to global warming. The new tax comes into force in April, amid fears that it could lead to job losses and hurt smaller companies' profitability." (BBC Online)

"Overtones of Armageddon" - "THE Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will release its latest report in Geneva tomorrow. The report, a joint project of the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organisation, includes a specific chapter on Australasia. It follows the ominous IPCC report released in Shanghai last month which removed any doubt the world is warming and was a firm rebuff to the handful of scientists who questioned the reality of global warming. The report found: The 1990s were the hottest decade since instrument records were first taken in 1861. 1998 was the hottest year on record. If greenhouse gas emissions continue at current rates, temperatures will rise up to 5.8 and sea levels will rise up to 80cm over the next century." (Sunday Tasmanian)

"The impact of global warming" - "WHEN a one- year- old boy is 30, the Tasmanian beach he is plays on will probably look very different; if it exists at all. A rise in sea level may have taken back the yellow sands we now take for granted. Thirty years from now, hot days like those experienced this month could be 40-plus stinkers rather than the 38 most Tasmanians complained about recently. And night-time temperatures will be warmer." (Sunday Tasmanian)

"Agro-forestry could reduce global warming, experts say" - NAIROBI--Planting row after row of tree may be the best bet to reduce global warming and at same time reduce poverty in developing countries, says the International Centre for Research on Agro-Forestry (ICRAF) here. A recent study by the center indicates that transforming low productivity croplands to agro-forestry systems provides a global service by taking carbon out of the atmosphere and putting it back in the soil and in the biomass." (Earth Times)

"Ministry panel discusses revising law to curb global warming" - "TOKYO Feb. 16 - The Environment Ministry's Central Environment Council committee on Friday discussed revising the law promoting measures to curb global warming to realize Japan's reduction target for greenhouse-gas emissions, ministry officials said. " (Kyodo)

"ICAO eyes CO2 cuts for international flights" - "TOKYO Feb. 17 - The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) plans to make it obligatory for developed countries to have their air carriers cut carbon dioxide emissions in international flights, ICAO sources said Friday. The plan is expected to be approved at the U.N. agency's general assembly in September, they said." (Kyodo)

"Swiss find scant plutonium traces in Balkans" - "A Swiss laboratory has found only minute traces of plutonium in NATO depleted uranium weapons used by NATO-led forces in the Balkans, Swiss radio reported this week. "It is already clear that only extremely small, if any, traces of plutonium were found in the shells and shell fragments that were checked, and these in no way pose a potential health risk, according to scientists," the radio reported." (Reuters) | Scientists find plutonium in Nato shells fired in Kosovo (Guardian) | Kosovo DU rounds contained plutonium (BBC Online)

"Museum fined over radioactive exhibits" - "A top UK museum that exposed visitors and staff to radioactive materials has been given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £6,305. The Natural History Museum in South Kensington, London, exposed members of the public and one member of staff to radioactive rocks in its geological exhibits." (BBC Online)

Oh for Heaven's sake! These are natural ores we're talking about and could possibly have exposed the public to less than 1% of the benchmark all-source annual radiation exposure. I f this is a "problem" then people will need to be banned from spending a day in the sun or from having a medical or dental X-ray. Via mild stimulation of the immune system this exposure was likely a health-benefit for museum visitors - get a grip!

"New AAAS project links judges to experts in science and engineering" - "San Francisco, CA —16 February 2001—Judges who would like to understand the scientific concepts in a complicated case now will have a place to turn to for expertise. Starting this month, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is offering to help federal judges find well-respected, impartial scientists and engineers to serve as expert witnesses, a step that could help the judiciary understand increasingly complex issues without having to depend on experts whose fees are being paid by the parties in a trial." (AAAS)

"Wanted: 'Civic scientists' to inform the public, press and policy makers" - "Scientific illiteracy is a big problem in this country, and scientists have to do something about it, said two Stanford faculty members who were part of a Feb. 16 panel called "Cultivating the Civic Scientist" at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Because of this problem, many people fear things they don't understand, the press legitimizes inaccurate and erroneous pseudo-science, and the government sometimes promulgates wrongheaded and dangerous public policies, said Lucy Shapiro, a microbiologist." (Stanford University)

"Dying forests hold cancer hope" - "THE cure for cancer may be lost forever if we continue to destroy rainforests, experts say. National Cancer Institute statistics show that 70 per cent of plants known to fight cancer cells are found in rainforests in countries around the world – including Australia. A quarter of ingredients in cancer drugs comes from organisms found only in rainforests." (Sydney Sunday Telegraph)

Little more than tree-hugger desperation. While it is true that many of the useful compounds found by bio-prospecting have come from forests there are orders of magnitude more not yet analyzed in say, coral reef populations, soil- and water-borne bacteria (and our own backyards)... it is simply the case that most investigation has taken place in tropical forests. Whether any compound exists in the natural world that will "cure" human cancers remains moot after many decades of fruitless searching but it is not true to insinuate that tropical forests are the only remaining hope. This is more Hollywood-style "Medicine Man" mythology.

"Fluoridated Water: Some Say It Is Unnecessary" - "NEW YORK - Countless studies have shown that water fluoridation may prevent tooth decay. However, members of the New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation believe that the practice may be unnecessary or even harmful." (Reuters Health)

Yeah - but dental caries certainly are both unnecessary and harmful while there is no contraindication for fluoridation of reticulated water supplies where fluoride levels are not naturally high.

"Worried Sick" - "The Internet, with thousands of sites dedicated to human health, is enabling anyone with a computer easy access to an unprecedented array of medical information that was once largely the realm of physicians. While most doctors say the Web is helping patients find out the latest in treatment advances and empowering consumers with the knowledge to take better care of themselves, there is a downside. For people prone to hypochondria, the Internet can stir up fears as debilitating as any disease." (HealthScout)

"Gradually, British press catches on to another BSE theory" - "The mad-cow phobia has gained such a momentum that nobody in the media checks anymore to verify the science. Although the entire chain of cause and effect is based on a presumption, that's now passed along as fact: Meat and bone meal contain the infectious agent, which is passed along to other cattle, and in turn eating "infected" meat exposes humans to the disease." (AgWeb.com)

"Survey Shows Antibiotic Use in Animals Up Slightly" - "The increase from 1998 to 1999 is largely attributed to greater use of ionophores and arsenicals, which increased 2.5 million pounds from 1998 to1999. Ionophores and arsenicals are classes of antibiotics that are not used in human medicine." (AgWeb.com)

Are PETA Fenton clients? There seems to be a bit of theme developing here: "Dairy Council Challenges Author's Cancer Claims" - "The National Dairy Council (NDC) is taking issue with a British geochemist who claims eliminating dairy products from her diet saved her from dying of breast cancer and says others can also beat cancer by following her example." (AgWeb.com)

"Group Says Americans Eat Too Much Cheese" - "Recent research indicates that cheese is the main source of artery-clogging saturated fat in Americans’ diets, according to a report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)." (AgWeb.com)

Americans are fat because calories consumed is greater than calories used - period. It isn't because their diets contain dairy foods, which are a very important part of a balanced diet and should not be excluded without a very good reason. A fully balanced diet properly represents all the food groups and matching calories consumed with calories used - i.e., if you don't do a lot then don't eat a lot and you won't pack on the pounds.

"Winston: Animal research 'vital for human welfare'" - "Lord Winston, the Labour peer who pioneered in-vitro fertilisation, backed animal research yesterday, insisting that it was vital for human welfare. Lord Winston said the public was suspicious of science, and criticised "irresponsible" reporting by some newspapers. He said: "Perceived pressure may persuade people to go down a route which is not going to promote human welfare. We have a major job – animal research is essential for human welfare. Every single drug we take is based on it. Without it, those drugs would be unsafe." (Independent)

Today's moron feature: "Protesters raise the stakes with new weapons of terror" - "Activists resort to bombs and intimidation as campaign against cruelty widens to include cancer research and fish and chip shops." (Independent)

"UK Takes Action to Curb Animal Activists" - "LONDON - Measures to restrain the activities of animal rights extremists have been outlined by Home Secretary Jack Straw following last weekend's violent demonstrations against several major pharmaceutical companies, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said Friday." (Reuters Health)

"Seniors in a huff about smoking" - "Puffing seniors at Brentwood Care Centre say the facility's smoking area is "hazardous" to their health. At issue is a temporary 2.7- by 7.3-metre trailer set up outdoors for the seniors to smoke in. To get to it, Brentwood seniors -- most of them wheelchair-bound -- must push open a heavy door, then make their way up a ramp. A week ago, Irene Marriott, 84, wound up in a snowdrift coming down the ramp in her wheelchair." (Calgary Herald)

Political correctness gone mad? These seniors are in their 80s and 90s and they are hounded out to the back shed to engage in a perfectly legal practice? Watch out - "gray power" is the rising voting block with the aging of the population. Politically correct lawmakers could easily find that the baby boomers rise up and bite them in the ballot box. Are you going to tell octogenarians they're not old enough to smoke if they want to?

"Cot death gene claim" - "Genetic defects which may contribute to a baby's risk of cot death have been identified by scientists. However, they concede that the study is unlikely to provide the only reason why babies fall prey to the condition. But it could help doctors identify which babies are most at risk." (BBC Online)

"Unep's Days Feared Numbered" - "Is there any threat to the continued existence of the Nairobi-based United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP)? Observers fear there is. New developments on the international scene seem to point to the fact that the UN agency that seeks to make the world a better place to live in, was in serious jeopardy." | UNEP Advocates Streamlining of Environmental Conventions (PANA)

We can but hope. UNEP appears to be no more than a collection of gravy trains with no evidence that they have ever contributed to environmental or human well-being. Burn the damn thing down and take a tax loss.

"Health risks from crowded Earth" - "Scientists and agricultural experts have warned that the rapidly growing numbers of livestock projected for the coming decades could considerably increase the risk of the spread of disease, particularly in the developing world. They said that as the populations of animals and people rose, congested space would encourage the spread of bacteria and other disease-carrying agents. Experts have also reiterated the need for huge increases in food production to feed the world in the next half century." (BBC Online)

"Poof! You're a Skeptic: The Amazing Randi's Vanishing Humbug" - "FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — James Randi was standing at the front of Florida Atlantic University's sloping auditorium here before his lecture when a couple walked over to ask for an autograph. In turn, he had a favor to ask. Would they run down the street to the Eckerd drugstore and buy him a box of sleeping pills? He gave the man $5 and a slip of paper on which he'd drawn a picture of the box. When they returned, he placed the box on the lectern, and soon after starting his talk he opened it and gobbled down all 32 pills. He then went on to lecture for two hours without so much as a yawn. It was not as spectacular a stunt as, say, the time he extricated himself from a straitjacket while hanging upside down over Niagra Falls, but it made his point: namely that homeopathic remedies are quackery." (New York Times)

"Darwin's natural heir" - "I'll probably get it in the neck from my conservationist colleagues, but we've got to go all out on genetically modified crops. There doesn't seem to be any other way of creating the next green revolution without GMOs. The last green revolution saved millions from starvation but it did so at immense environmental cost. [The new revolution] has got to work at two levels, using new plants that are outside our current habits, but also by using GMOs. We've got to be able to cultivate dry ranch land with the right crops; we've got to be able to convert wasteland, including the low biodiversity salt flats or areas destroyed by overuse and abandoned." -- Conservationist extraordinaire Edward O. Wilson (Guardian)

"Greenpeace and Golden Rice" - "I am just back from India, where Golden Rice has strong support up to the Prime Minister. We have prepared the organizational structure for transfer and things are moving fast now. Coming back, I realized that I have again to write something in response to the Greenpeace actions. Here it is:" (Professor Ingo Potrykus)

"Potential for GM is long-term" - "SUPERMARKETS who have announced they will ban meat produced from animals fed any genetically modified produce are simply "short-term opportunists" said a leading agricultural economist this week. Professor Sir John Marsh of Reading University, said: "Companies banning GM crop use in animal feed are doing a major disservice to their own credibility. It’s a short-term opportunist reaction which will rebound on them." Marsh told fellows and associates of the Royal Agricultural Societies meeting at Ingliston that there was great long-term potential for GM crops, although shorter resistance from a "rich, fickle and neurotic" public might continue." (The Scotsman)

"Australian Scientist Says ‘Risks if we don’t’ greater than ‘if we do’" - "While much debate has occurred regarding possible risks of genetically modified crops and foods, says Dr. TJ Higgins, an Australian plant researcher with CSIRO’s Plant Industry Division, little consideration has been given to the risk of “if we don’t” adopt the technology. He says Australian risk losing their international competitive advantage as an efficient ag producers if the country doesn’t widely adopt advances made through gene technology." (AgWeb.com)

"Steer clear of GM labels" - "The "expert panel" that reported on the future of Canadian food biotechnology ruled as outside its mandate "the broader social, political and ethical" considerations of the rancorous debate over labelling requirements for genetically modified foods. Just as well, given the report's raft of regulatory proposals, the continued furor in Europe over licensing and labelling, and ongoing anti-GM food demonstrations here in Canada." (Neville Nankivell, National Post)

"GMO defenders say report `biased and flawed`" - "Defenders of genetically modified food fought back furiously last week against suggestions that health and safety regulations are inadequate to protect consumers in the face of new, more complex GM products. ``Our industry is completely committed to a rigorous, science-based system and any improvements that really enhances Canadians` confidence in their food,`` said Joyce Groote, president of the industry promotion group BioteCanada. ``But we think our system is excellent and has an excellent track record.`` She said that recommendations to government by an expert panel of the Royal Society of Canada were just ``one perspective. It has to be balanced.`` (Western Producer)

"Victory for our 'name GM sites' campaign" - "All GM crops growing anywhere in Europe will have to be made public under a new EU law agreed after secret British sites were exposed. The new law, finalised last week, will force the Ministry of Agriculture to change its policy and reveal precisely where modified crops are being cultivated." (Independent on Sunday)

So, the Indy on Sunday unequivocally declare themselves rampant anti-biotech advocates? For only crop-destroyers stand to gain from publication of precise location details of these crops - to everyone else this information has no more relevance than knowing where wheat variety XYZ123 (I made that up) for cooler, high rainfall areas happens to be grown.

"Going organic 'no way to fight world hunger'" - "Rome - Going organic to fight world hunger is "just a pipedream" but genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not the answer either, the head of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome said in an interview with AFP." (Sapa-AFP)

February 16, 2001

"FDA Censors Diet-Health Debate " - "Cran it," said the Food and Drug Administration to Ocean Spray about posting on the Internet information on health claims related to its grapefruit juice products. But the FDA’s information superhighway roadblock may extend beyond the cranberry growers cooperative to other food processors. With much new diet and health information emerging, consumers stand to be the ultimate losers. (Steve Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"No Green Peace" - "People, it's 2001, we were supposed to be in orbit around Jupiter right now. Instead, we're living in a Continent gripped by fears -- of depleted uranium, mad cows, poisoned toys, and GM foods -- more appropriate to the Middle Ages." (Wall Street Journal Europe editorial)

"Study shows new link between salt sensitivity and risk of death" - "A sensitivity to salt increases the risk of death as much as high blood pressure, according to a study supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The study is the first to show that salt sensitivity increases the risk of death even for those with normal blood pressure." (NHLBI Media release)

The Salt Institute responds: "Right issue, wrong response. Salt sensitivity is the problem, and the good news is that we know how to eliminate it."

"AAAS atlas shows human impact on environment" - "The AAAS announced today the publication of an atlas that graphically illustrates the link between population and the environment" (Media release)

"Debate over genetically modified food gets an educational home on the web" - "Will genetically modified food benefit society, or will it ultimately pose threats to human health, the environment and the world economy? These questions are debated in scientific circles, but the public gets just a narrow glimpse of the debates, usually in highly charged news articles" (Media release)

"Where To Turn For Breast Cancer Prevention - Experts disagree in light of new studies" - "Health news can be confusing - especially when it comes to nutrition. It often seems as though what's touted as good to eat on Tuesday is out of favor by Friday. And it seems to be happening again with the most favored food groups - fruits and vegetables. Although numerous epidemiological studies support the concept that consumption of ample amounts of these foods can help protect against various types of cancer, a study in the February 14 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) finds no such benefit, at least with respect to breast cancer." (Dr. Ruth Kava, ACSH)

"Boost in farm output needed to feed world, experts say" - "Wasteful and inefficient farming methods are threatening the natural resources on which the world's food supply depends, requiring a dramatic increase in agricultural production to close the shortfall, according to a study released Wednesday. The study, paid for by the World Bank, cited the stripping of soil, water pollution and the demise of plant and animal species as the biggest threat to the food supply. Satellite-provided data and digital mapping were used to scan Earth's "agro-ecosystems" in what researchers said is the first comprehensive look at the planet's capacity to provide food, goods and services." (UPI)

Interestingly, this means using modern, high-productivity, low-tillage farming methods. In turn, this means chemically-assisted farming and the use of veterinary chemicals including antibiotics in animal husbandry and feeding. See also The importance of high farm yields to wildlife conservation.

"Scientists, vets debate antibiotics use" - "ABERDEEN, South Dakota -- Scientists and veterinarians are debating whether antibiotics are still being fed to livestock in large quantities in the United States. The Union of Concerned Scientists, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, estimated in January that 25 million pounds of antibiotics are fed to healthy livestock annually for things like promoting growth, compared with 16 million pounds in the mid-1980s. The scientists say the heavier use will lead to more antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that could be hard to control -- in humans as well as animals." (AP)

Question: is veterinary use a primary concern in antibiotic resistance or should we be more concerned with over-prescription by GPs handing out antibiotics for coughs, colds and pimples on the belly? [See also: Antibiotic prescribing and antibiotic resistance in community practice: retrospective study, 1996-8]

Another question: is there really significant overlap between farm veterinary antibiotics and those required for human use? For example, the class of products known as ionophores are unable to be used in humans due to absorption by the intestine but are able to be used in animals with a different intestinal structure. They prevent bloat in cattle and reduce methane production. Ionophores are also widely used to prevent coccidiosis (an intestinal parasitic organism) in poultry, pigs and cattle.

Blanket bans on the feed use of antibiotics would paradoxically lead to more animal disease, resulting in more therapeutic use of antibiotic classes that are more likely to lead to cross resistance. This has been the case in European Countries where such bans have been put in place.

And just how certain are we that exposure is the 'cause' of resistance? Actually, we're not:

September 16, 1999 - Rodent Study Queries Traditional Antibiotic Theory - "LONDON - British scientists have questioned the prevailing wisdom that says managing antibiotic use carefully can help control the worrying spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Until now, efforts to reduce this resistance have been based on the assumption that it can be found in bacterial populations that have been exposed to antibiotics, and that restricting the use of antibiotics should restrict the spread of resistance. But British scientists who studied wild voles and wood mice in northern England said this was not necessarily the case. ``Our results show that resistance to antibiotics is widespread in at least some wild populations even though these have never to our knowledge been exposed to antibiotics,'' Anthony Hart of the University of Liverpool wrote in the science journal Nature Wednesday." (Reuters)

Perhaps more pertinent questions that should be posed might be: how many scientists are in UCS? What are their disciplines? They certainly appear to be running more emotion and rhetoric than facts about antibiotic use and resistance. See also Junkman's article Where's the Beef on Farm Antibiotics? on FoxNews.com.

"Children with runny noses are at less risk of developing asthma" - "Repeated viral infections early in life may reduce the risk of developing asthma up to school age by stimulating the child's immune system, finds a study in this week's BMJ." | The protective effect of childhood infections (editorial) | Early childhood infectious diseases and the development of asthma up to school age: a birth cohort study (BMJ)

Hmm... "Study Shows New Link Between Salt Sensitivity and Risk of Death" - "A sensitivity to salt increases the risk of death as much as high blood pressure, according to a study supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health. The study is the first to show that salt sensitivity increases the risk of death even for those with normal blood pressure. Prior studies had found that salt sensitivity increases the risk of death, as well as heart attack or other cardiovascular events, among those who already have high blood pressure, also called hypertension. The new study’s findings were true for African Americans and whites, as well as men and women." (NHLBI)

A DASH of Data in the Salt Debate; The (Political) Science of Salt

"Cough Syrup Component Doesn't Cause Birth Defects" - "NEW YORK - A cough syrup ingredient suspected of causing birth defects does not appear to cause fetal malformations in humans, according to a study of women who took the drug either because they did not know they were pregnant or because their cough was so severe that they took it anyway. A highly publicized study conducted in chick embryos seemed to suggest that the drug, dextromethorphan, could cause birth defects--particularly neural tube defects." (Reuters Health)

"Something fishy about documentary" - "Last night on the CBC, Canada's $545-million salmon farming industry once again came under attack from its traditional foes in the environmental movement. While it's true the British documentary aired on The Nature of Things introduced new verses to the well-worn chorus of accusations aimed at aquaculturists, the real target of the subsequent backlash might be the broadcaster itself. If the experience of the BBC (which aired the documentary last month) is any indication, the venerable old CBC might be facing a consumer controversy that echoes from coast to coast." (Anne McMullin, National Post)

This commentary is on CBC's broadcast of the BBC's "warning" (Warning from the Wild – the Price of Salmon) over farmed salmon due to "contamination" of farmed fish with PCBs - at a rate, according to Number Watch [scroll down to "A Fishy Story"], of about 1 part in 300,000,000,000 - see also "Fish Balls"; Error in salmon study undermines toxin claims (the 8 [yes, just 8] fish tested in this Suzuki Foundation stunt were misidentified and include or are all wild fish) and; BBC 'created health scare to plug programme'.

"Breast best despite danger from dioxin" - "Breast-fed infants, women and older people are the New Zealanders most exposed to dioxin, a highly toxic family of chemicals which infiltrates and confuses body cells. Kiwis' exposure to dioxin is only a third of that for people living in Europe, but an Environment Ministry report notes that our dietary intake is still 70 times above a daily limit recommended by the US Environmental Protection Agency." | Environment Ministry denies secrecy on dioxin (New Zealand Herald)

Follow up from yesterday's: Kiwi chemophobia: "Dioxin's fatal toll in secret report" - "EXCLUSIVE - A secret Government report says New Zealanders have been exposed to unacceptable levels of the toxic chemical dioxin, which could cause up to 50 cancer deaths each year. ... Dioxin exposure gives Kiwis a lifetime risk of three to seven more cancers per 1000 people, says the report." (New Zealand Herald)

EVAG featured this Down Under yesterday but I omitted it here. However, since they're obviously going to make a deal out of it we might as well share it.

So, these "lethal" dioxins, how much of a problem are they really? Actually, they're not. The following is extracted from "NATURE'S CHEMICALS AND SYNTHETIC CHEMICALS: COMPARATIVE TOXICOLOGY"

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

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

"Smoking In Pregnancy Causes Many Child Asthma Cases" - "Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) in the womb increased the rate of physician-diagnosed asthma in young persons while current ETS exposure was associated with wheezing but not with physician-diagnosed asthma. Researchers who studied 5,762 school-aged children residing in 12 Southern California communities made this significant finding." (UniSci)

What's wrong with this picture?

  1. We're told that smoking rates are down and falling (presumably, so is ETS exposure).
  2. Asthma rates are up and rising (along with obesity and diabetes).
  3. We're told ETS exposure causes asthma.

If smoking declines and asthma increases that's an inverse relation isn't it? If we use the same associative license above then we'd determine that smoking is protective against asthma, obesity and diabetes (actually, for the latter two, it might be on the grounds that ex-smokers seem always to want to occupy their hands and mouths and food is a common surrogate - leading to obesity which is a major diabetes risk). To me, this one smells like a stale ashtray.

"Sleepyheads, snorers face risk of stroke" - "FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Feb. 15 – Sleeping for more than eight hours a night, snoring and daytime drowsiness was associated with an increased risk for stroke, researchers reported today at the American Stroke Association’s 26th International Stroke Conference. The American Stroke Association is a division of the American Heart Association." (AHA)

"Study: Sodas linked to obesity" - "LONDON, England -- Children who drink sugary soft drinks are at higher risk of becoming obese, researchers in the United States report. Their work, published in the British medical journal The Lancet, is the latest in a string of studies warning that American teenagers are increasingly putting their health at risk by consuming too much junk food." (CNN)

"Researchers Say Coffee Can Raise Cholesterol" - "NEW YORK - There may indeed be a casual relationship between drinking unfiltered coffee and high cholesterol levels, according to results of a new study." (Reuters Health)

Ah, coffee's bad again this week - well, at  least politically incorrect unfiltered coffee is - filtered is OK until next week (or is that when decaf is on the out? Whatever...).

"Czech Mission Finds No Uranium Threat in Kosovo" - "PRAGUE - A Czech army mission to Kosovo said on Thursday it had detected no threat of uranium contamination to the country's peacekeepers stationed there. Although the team had not yet completed examination of all samples, results so far proved no evidence of unusual levels of radiation among either Czech troops or in the air, water and food tested in areas where they were based. "The levels of radiation were normal," team leader Major Vaclav Hanzlik told a news conference, adding that he saw no risk for Czech KFOR (Kosovo Force) troops." (Reuters)

"'Danger' chemicals get EU all-clear for continued use" - "Everyday chemicals suspected of causing birth defects, allergies and learning problems in children can still be produced and sold in the European Union under a white paper published yesterday by the European Commission. Shocked environmentalists said it was a victory for the chemicals industry, which had resisted curbs on products unless there was conclusive proof they damaged health." (Guardian)

"New border worry: soil" - "DOUGLAS - From atop a mound of shimmering, crushed black rock, U.S. Border Patrol agent Philip Johns watches for immigrants moving through the brush-filled arroyo, a popular spot for illegal crossings from Mexico. Johns knew danger was part of the job description when he signed on six years ago to protect America's borders. "I expected confrontations with aliens, even with drug smugglers," said Johns, scanning the international boundary below. "Exposure to hazardous materials was not part of the deal." But Border Patrol union representatives say the toxic threat is real, with agents stationed on the site of a defunct Phelps Dodge copper smelter getting sick from suspected hazardous materials such as arsenic and lead." (Tucson Citizen)

Um, the smelter worked for 83 years but no one seems to be suggesting that the people who lived around there and worked it during that time suffered huge health problems - usually the first thing that gets a run, regardless of cleanup standards since, if there's any vague sniff of a problem. If there's no historical problem why would it now make people ill who are just standing around looking?

"Fat is not a government issue" - THEY must all be losing weight at the National Audit Office, so hard and late do they work. What has been the subject of their toil? The relative costs of hip replacement surgery throughout the NHS, perhaps? Bed management in different parts of the service? Not quite - though the NAO investigated both matters fairly recently. No, the boys and girls at the NAO have been busy calculating the body mass index: that's weight in kilograms divided by height in metres squared. Or to put it more plainly, they have been investigating fat, and they think there's too much of it around." (Telegraph)

"Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?" (Who is guarding the guards?) - "The National Audit Office's 'Vision' statement is "To help the nation spend wisely" - a laudable aim which reflects nicely Gordon Brown's shrewd insistence on prudence in all matters fiscal. Its role is to scrutinise how government departments and agencies spend public money and to identify areas of unwarranted profligacy. All fine, laudable stuff which, according to the NAO, "saves the taxpayer millions of pounds every year". But who, we wonder, audits the NAO's own activities and spending? The NAO's latest report Tackling Obesity in England is a 72-page document which summarises costly research on a wide range of nutritional and clinical issues, a task more normally, and more appropriately, conducted by specialists within the Department of Health, the Food Standards Agency or the many other statutory bodies with a specific interest and expertise in this field. The rationale given by the NAO for their involvement in the debate is that since obesity costs the country, they claim, £2 billion per year, the NHS needs to get its act together and develop a more consistent approach to the problem, including the promotion of "long-term changes in lifestyles." (Social Issues Research Centre)

"Statistical abuse" - "'Every six to 20 seconds in the UK a woman is abused by the man she lives with.' Statistics such as these are designed to provoke a response. Too rarely, that response is 'Really?' or 'Can that possibly be true?' or 'Where did these figures come from?'. Few questioned the claim that 'every six to 20 seconds in the UK a woman is abused by the man she lives with' when it came out in October 2000. But why would they? Figures like these are constantly bandied about in the USA and the UK - not only by victim support groups, but by the highest echelons of the government and police." (Spiked Online)

"Where Money Is No Object" - "Should the Environmental Protection Agency consider costs when setting air-pollution standards? Under Carol Browner, its Clinton Administration boss, the agency argued that the Clean Air Act and past court decisions prohibit any such thing. It is possible that the new EPA director, Christine Todd Whitman, will come around to a different view, but her hands may be tied. A pending U.S. Supreme Court case, American Trucking Associations et al. v. Browner, will determine the issue. If the court sides with the interpretation of the law advocated by Browner, her successor will be stuck with the result unless and until Congress chooses to rewrite the law. The stakes are huge. The EPA concedes that full compliance with its new smog and soot standards will cost almost $50 billion a year. The standards will likely require, for example, costly new controls on electrical generation and auto emissions. Even backyard barbecues and wood-burning stoves could end up in violation." (Ira Carnahan, Forbes Magazine)

"Greenouts" - "By most measures, Intel chief Craig Barrett is just the kind of civic-minded, self-sacrificing executive that California is counting on to help the state overcome its dependence, even its addiction, to energy. He turns his office lights out during daylight hours, dims others and turns off the air-conditioning in the building as needed. On top of that, he runs a neatly trimmed chip-manufacturing business without creating the sort of pockmarked landscape and environmental degradation that comes with the operating instructions of old, hard-line manufacturing and mining operations. It's all true, but Mr. Barrett is under no illusions that the solutions to California's energy problems are more Barretts and more Intels. Far from it. Mr. Barrett has announced that his company won't expand in the state's "Silicon Valley" or in California, now in its 30th day of a high-level "energy alert," because the possibility of rolling blackouts threatens to ruin his products and cost the company millions of dollars. While state officials pleaded with large users Wednesday to reduce their use, Mr. Barrett has said flatly that the state needs more electricity. "Nuclear power is the only answer," he told Bloomberg News, "but it's not politically correct." (Kenneth D. Smith, Washington Times)

Today's climate hysteria: "A Rapidly Changing Earth" - "SAN FRANCISCO - Tropical glaciers in the Andes of Peru and the Mt Kilimanjaro ice fields of East Africa are retreating at such alarming rate that, if current warming trends continue, they could be completely ice free within 10-20 years, says glaciologist, Professor Lonnie Thompson from Ohio State University. According to Professor Thompson, Quelccaya in Peru, the only true ice cap in the tropics, retreated 32 times faster in the last two years (1998-2000) than during the 20 years from 1963 to 1983, and the Mt Kilimanjaro ice fields have retreated by at least 80% since 1912. (International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme)

This was supposed to be embargoed to Sunday 18 February, but ENN have already broken that so you might as well have it now.

Tropical glaciers are remnants left over from the last major glaciation and it's hardly a surprise that they're melting. How quickly they retreat is naturally dependent on local influences and it is reasonable to expect that the El Niño-induced heat spike of 1997/98 gave small, thin glaciers a bit of a hurry-up. Now that atmospheric mean temperature has returned to a little below average it is also reasonable to expect this to be reflected in the rate of retreat of these glaciers. How quickly glaciers react to ambient temperature variation depends on the ice mass and shape involved. Large, thick masses react very slowly because ice transmits heat poorly and it may take centuries or millennia for a 1°C change to be transmitted from surface to base. Rainfall will accelerate glacial decay while snowfall will retard it or cause the glacier to advance once more. Regardless, unless Earth returns to another ice age, these glaciers are destined to continue melting, as they have been doing for millennia.

"Genetically Modified Foods Are Safe, Says Professor" - "Humans have been meddling with nature since time immemorial. A chihuahua would hardly compete with the wolves from which dogs were bred. Maize would not be recognised by the ancient middle Americans who began breeding from its progenitor, teosinte, some 7,500 years ago. And wheat would probably not be passed by food regulatory authorities if it were introduced today because of the numbers of people who are allergic to it." (Prof Jennifer Thomson, WOZA)

"EU Approves Strict Safeguards For Biotech Crops" - "The European Union approved a system of strict safeguards that the biotechnology industry hopes will help win public acceptance for genetically modified crops. But a flood of such crops into Europe remains unlikely any time soon. Consumer groups and several EU countries have already said that they want even more safeguards in place before they will support lifting a moratorium on approval of new genetically modified crop varieties." (Wall Street Journal)

"EU Seeks Early Lifting Of GMO Moratorium" - "Health Minister Umberto Veronesi spoke out in defence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) today, less than 24 hours after the government gave in to scientists' demands for fewer restrictions on biotech research. "There is a slow but progressive recognition that genetically modifying an organism isn't a form of devilry," said Veronesi on the sidelines of a medical conference here in Rome." (Italian News Agency)

"European Biotech Firms Face Hurdles" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium - Biotech firms are heralding a new law that ends the European Union's ban on licensing genetically modified products, but a more daunting hurdle - consumer wariness - makes it unlikely that Europe will see a sudden biotech boom." (AP)

"France Leads Move to Maintain EU Moratorium on GMOs" - "BRUSSELS - Six European Union countries attached conditions to a new EU law on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on Thursday in a move that could keep the bloc's ban on hi-tech foods in place for many months. The move will come as a blow to biotechnology companies that were told on Wednesday the new law -- setting strict rules on testing and monitoring GM plants -- would lead automatically to the EU lifting a two-year ban on new strains of GMOs." (Reuters)

"Montreal activist against genetically modified foods fights mischief charge" - "MONTREAL - A fight against genetically modified foods was a key part of the mischief trial Wednesday of an activist accused of slapping warning stickers on processed supermarket products. Martin Petit, 31, is seeking to use the court as a podium against federal government reluctance to impose mandatory labelling that identifies genetically modified food products in stores. "For sure," Petit said outside when asked if he was using the case to make a statement. He is acting as his own lawyer." (CP)

"Canadian Panel Concludes GM Crops Need More ‘Rigorous’ Testing" - "The Royal Society of Canada, in a report commissioned by the government, concluded that genetically modified (GM) foods and crops in Canada should be subject to more rigorous testing. The scientific panel said the level of government support for independent research on the safety of food biotechnology is inadequate. The government of Canada has assured the public it will study the report in detail to determine how it can improve its regulatory system." (AgWeb.com)

"Australians Growing More Accepting Of Gene Modified Foods" - "Australians were growing more accepting of genetically modified (GM) food, a survey by a federal government agency has found. A spokesman for agency Biotechnology Australia, Craig Cormick, said 44 per cent of Australians believed GM food would become more widely accepted and less risky over the next few years. "The last survey in late December last year (shows) people still think the risks outweigh the benefits, but they think there will be a turnaround in the near future," Mr Cormick told AAP." (Australian General News)

"Animal activists push for total GE ban at commission hearings" - "The benefits of tampering with animal genes to help fight human disease are over-hyped and the practice should be banned, says Save Animals from Exploitation (Safe)." (New Zealand Herald)

Save Animals From Exploitation? How 'bout we save people from starvation and a surfeit of morbidities?

February 15, 2001

"The Toxic Tooth Scare" - "[New York State] Assemblyman Richard Brodsky is so obsessed with the dangers of mercury, he wants your dentist to scare you by warning you - falsely - that the filling you're about to get is toxic." (Steve Milloy, New York Post)

"SORTING OUT JUNK SCIENCE" - "Junk science is not a science centered on usable refuse. Neither it is garbology. Is it bad science? Can science be bad? Can it be junk? Should we trash "junk science?" (Jack Raso, Sidney Shindell, David W. Cragin, and Gilbert L. Ross) | Junk Science in historical perspective | Autism and 'Voodoo Science' Treatments (ACSH)

"Something Rotten at the Core of Science?" - "Abstract: A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision and an analysis of the peer review system substantiate complaints about this fundamental aspect of scientific research. Far from filtering out junk science, peer review may be blocking the flow of innovation and corrupting public support of science." (Bio Med Net)

"Paving the Planet: Cars and Crops Competing for Land" - "WASHINGTON, DC — As the new century begins, the competition between cars and crops for cropland is intensifying. Until now, the paving of cropland has occurred largely in industrial countries, home to four fifths of the world's 520 million automobiles. But now, more and more farmland is being sacrificed in developing countries with hungry populations, calling into question the future role of the car." (Worldwatch Institute release)

Interestingly, Lester Brown and his backing band, Worrywarts Inc., never seem to look at the alternatives. What would have happened had we stayed with draught animals which require year-round forage and grain supplies and thus compete for cropland with food and fiber crops. Substituting tractors and diesel engines for draft animals in the 1930s is reported to have released another 50,000 square miles of land for cash crops in the US alone and farm productivity soared. How much of the world would still be wildlands and wildlife habitat today if humanity was reliant on beasts of burden rather than mechanized transport? Between forage and crops devoted to maintenance of draught animals, and the reduced productivity of farms worked only by draft animals, would we be able to afford any conservation reserves at all? It seems very doubtful. However, because we are mechanized we can and have greatly increased productivity and a significant amount of North America has been allowed to return to wildlands. Forest cover is increasing in the UK and Europe too, would this occur without the car culture making transport and agricultural engineering economic and farming cheap and highly productive?

Lester and the Worrywarts eh, have they ever been right?

"Farming Methods Risk Global Food Production" - "WASHINGTON, DC, February 14, 2001 - How will the world feed an extra 1.5 billion people over the next two decades when current farming methods have already jeopardized world food production? That is the question posed by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the World Resources Institute (WRI) in a report released today." (ENS) | Feast and famine (New Scientist)

All the more reason to rush biotech application and development? Could be, but bear in mind IFPRI and WRI are serial disaster prognosticators roughly akin to Worrywarts Inc. (and they have a similar failure rate).

"Chemical flame retardant found in salmon" - "Madison -- University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists have found in Lake Michigan salmon some of the highest levels reported in the world of a common chemical flame retardant. ... All 21 salmon examined for the study contained chemical compounds called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, which are chemically similar to PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and dioxins. Like PCBs, PBDEs resist breaking down in the environment and accumulate in animal tissues. Their health risks to humans and wildlife have not been fully assessed, although several studies indicate the risks may be similar to those of PCBs." (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

In that case there's nothing to get excited about is there. Renate Kimbrough, who, perhaps rightly from the results she had back in 1975, initially raised a flag of concern over PCBs, has since done significantly larger studies and found no cause for concern. See Fear no more; Study finds little risk from PCBs; An Earth Day Lesson; Study shows no PCB-cancer correlation and Who Says PCBs Cause Cancer?

"Babies may catch asthma from breast milk, say scientists" - "Asthma may be passed from one generation to the next in breast milk, researchers suggest today. The theory is one of two put forward by scientists to explain the unexpected finding that breast-fed babies of asthmatic mothers are up to eight times more likely to develop asthma than those that are bottle-fed. The researchers suggest there may be chemicals in asthmatic women's breast milk affecting their children's immune response, so increasing their later risk of developing asthma. The other theory is that as breast-feeding is known to protect against infections in early life, and exposure to infection is important to the development of the immune system, breast-feeding may be disadvantageous for susceptible children." (Independent) | Asthmatic Breast Milk Linked to Disease in Children (Reuters)

"Obesity soars in England" - "The number of people who are obese has tripled over the last 20 years, and is still rising say experts. Figures to be presented to Parliament in a National Audit Office (NAO) report on Thursday, show most adults in England are overweight, and one in five is obese. The report 'Tackling Obesity In England', showed obesity caused 30,000 premature deaths in 1998 alone." (BBC Online) | Growing problem of obesity costs £2.5bn a year (Independent) | Obesity Weighs Heavy on British Economy (Reuters) | Britain on course to match American levels of obesity (Telegraph) | Fast food route to becoming fatties of Europe (The Times)

"Slip, slop, immunise: sun vaccine is coming" - "Sunscreens that immunise the skin against sunburn could be available within five years, a scientist said yesterday." (Sydney Morning Herald)

Sounds excellent doesn't it? Just one teeny problem, buried in the bowels of the article: "The only catch is that the source of such a sunburn vaccine has yet to be found. "It's blue sky research," he admitted, adding however he was confident it existed in nature, in plants and animals that spent all day in the sun. Finding it would be a matter of going "bioprospecting."

"Kansas restores evolution to science standards" - "TOPEKA, Kan. -- Evolution was restored Wednesday as a central theory in the state's science classes, ending 18 months of debate and international ridicule over how Kansas teaches the origins of man." (AP)

"Is Bacterial Infection Carcinogenic?" - "Abstract: Can bacteria cause cancer? The author discusses the discovery of a link between bacterial infection and cancer, the mechanisms by which bacteria cause cancer, and the potential for treatment." (Bio Med Net)

"Natural cures for the common cold?" - "We've all felt the symptoms: sniffling, sneezing, coughing, congestion. The average American suffers two to six colds a year, and as yet, there's no known cure. Nevertheless, pharmacies and stores that sell alternative medicine therapies are stocked with products claiming to be natural remedies for the common cold. Herbal industry experts say Americans spend about $400 million each year on cold treatments like zinc and echinacea. But natural remedies such as these are only loosely regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and are on the shelves despite conflicting evidence about whether they work." (CNN)

"Electric cars, electric bicycles remain a novelty to consumers" - "Don't plan on junking that conventional car just yet. Electric vehicles have enjoyed increasing popularity with local governments eager to use anti-pollution grants to try alternative power sources. But to consumers, electric bicycles and cars are still a novelty. "They're a niche market," said Steve Somerville, director of the Department of Planning and Environmental Protection for Broward County." (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

"Smoking Out UN-Science" - "Last issue, World Climate Report was up in arms about the United Nations' preposterous pronouncement of a possible 11°F warming this century, as predicted in a future projection they called a "storyline." In that particular storyline, the cooling of sulfate aerosols, which some theorize has countered the warming we should have been seeing, abruptly comes to an end as antipollution measures curtail their emission. Their absence then rapidly jacks up the warming. It also supposes those particles were cooling the earth twice as much as it has warmed in the last 100 years. Well, this is how that story ends." | Expect the Unexpected & N(A)Ot Again! (WCR)

Today's U.N.-generated hysteria: "Climate change threatens food security" - "Geneva - Global warming could threaten food security, especially in poor tropical countries, the United Nations' top panel of climate experts says in a draft report. The document also warns that atmospheric warming could unleash violent storms, extreme droughts and floods, inflicting costs that will damage the global economy. Agriculture around the world will be affected by global warming, raising major worries about ensuring food supplies for the planet's burgeoning population, say the experts, a working group of the UN's Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)." (Sapa-AFP)

Meanwhile: "Isle meet makes strides in predicting climate" - "International climate researchers are planning a 15-year program to work together to try to understand long-term climate changes. "The legacy I hope we would be leaving here is an observing system and beginning of a rational attempt to sample the ocean," said Robert Weller, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Weller led a weeklong workshop here last week, attended by world-wide scientists involved in the Climate Variability and Predictability Project, an international program aimed at learning how to better predict climate. The International Pacific Research Center, a U.S.-Japan climate program at the University of Hawaii, hosted the meetings. "I like to think we can look back in 10 or 15 years and say us CLIVAR guys did a good thing -- that we found a way to sample what is being put in and stored in the ocean in terms of heat and how it is moved around," said Weller, a physical oceanographer." (Honolulu Star-Bulletin)

Another stop for the gravy train: "NZ to push emissions cuts" - "New Zealand will host a top-level meeting of international officials next month aimed at breaking an impasse in climate change issues." (New Zealand Herald)

Surprise!... "HAWAIIANS OPPOSE OCEAN CARBON DUMPING" - "KAILUA KONA, Hawaii, February 14, 2001 - This summer 63 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) are scheduled to be pumped into the sea off the Kona coast to study the effects of sequestering excess CO2 in the ocean. Hawaiian environmentalists are furious. They are calling the experiment a threat that could devastate Hawaii's sport and commercial fishing industries, cripple ocean related businesses, weaken tourism and violate the traditional sacred oceanic cultural beliefs of the Hawaiian people. Carbon sequestration is one method being explored for preventing the release of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, which can lead to global climate change. ... Opponents of the planned experiment have begun forming a coalition of local conservationist and business/tourism groups, and are appealing for support from legislators." (ENS)

"Under the Tuscan Sun" - "What might the world be like if carbon dioxide seeped from the earth at high enough concentrations to raise atmospheric levels up to 700 parts per million (ppm), almost double the current global average? In Tuscany, it does. Indeed, the 200-mile area of Italy between Florence and Naples produces an enormous amount of carbon dioxide. Italy’s carbon dioxide vents, as they are known, expel gas from deep in the ground, providing a kind of natural greenhouse that is ideal for scientists looking to assess the effects of the gas on plants and trees." (WCR)

"New evidence supports theory of global climate mechanism" - "Orono, Maine -- Climate changes at the end of the last Ice Age appear to have been operating in unison in parts of the northern and southern hemispheres, according to an article published in this week's edition of the journal Nature. The findings will be useful in other research aimed at determining the causes of abrupt climate changes that occurred in the past." (University of Maine) | Pollen record from Chilean lakes indicates global "togetherness" during last ice age (University of Cincinnati)

"Energy tax fear as gas prices surge" - "A SENIOR Labour backbencher yesterday appealed to the Government to delay the introduction of the climate change levy or energy tax for a year because of the huge jump in gas prices. Martin O'Neill, chairman of the Commons Trade and Industry Select Committee, urged Peter Hain, energy minister, to press the Treasury to postpone the start of the contentious tax. He pointed out that companies were already suffering steep rises in gas prices and that the levy would add to their problems." (Telegraph)

"Melting Permafrost may Increase Global Warming" - "NAIROBI--A report released here by environmental scientists states that rising temperatures in the Arctic are causing permafrost to melt resulting in the release of greenhouse gases like methane in to the atmosphere." (Earth Times)

Earth Times is recycling - so will I, see comments under Feb. 8th item "U.N. Warns Global Warming Is Melting Arctic Soil"

"Researchers, producers divided over safety of genetically modified crops" - "GUELPH, Ont. - The University of Guelph was divided Tuesday over genetically modified organisms. Retired research scientists Arpad Pusztai and Susan Bardocz of Aberdeen, Scotland, began two days of seminars and public debates on potential health and safety risks of genetic modification." (CP)

Retired? Pusztai was fired from the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen for big-noting himself with junk science on British television. Considering that some of The Lancet reviewers' comments on this research were: "The only thing they have shown is that rats fed raw potatoes do not do very well. It has nothing to do with GM, it is simply that raw potatoes are not very nutritious"; "I had seen the data and how inadequate it was in terms of tackling the question in hand. I was very critical of the work because it is a shambles really"; "If this was a PhD thesis, I'd reject it," and one of those who worked on the same studies has written to The Lancet expressing his concerns about the "unsupported assertions" and "anecdotal" nature of the results. He says the conclusion that GM plants cause some undefined health problem is "simply unscientific; it is the attitude of the medieval witchcraft trials" and another who has seen the research data "This isn't science. It wouldn't be published in a serious plant biology journal. Their conclusion is not correct." then RRI were probably quite correct to terminate his employment. "Retired" is a novel description for it though. The research scientist supporting Pusztai's position in UG's seminars and debates, Susan Bardocz, is also known by another name: Mrs. Pusztai.

"Global Implications of Biotechnology" - "Abstract: Nearly 40,000 people -- half of them children -- die every day due to hunger-related causes. In the year 2000, six national science academies (U.S., Britain, Brazil, China, India, and Mexico) and the Third World Academy of Sciences endorsed biotechnology as a valuable tool to help alleviate world hunger. Biotech-derived plants resist pests and disease, a major cause of crop damage in the developing world. More nutritious strains of staple crops are also being developed using biotechnology. Golden rice, which has an increased iron and beta-carotene content, could help more than 100 million children who suffer from vitamin A deficiency. Research is underway on fruits and vegetables that could deliver life-saving vaccines. Finally, biotechnology sustains the land's ability to support continued farming by developing crops that more efficiently absorb nutrients from the soil so farmers need less fertilizer and non-renewable resources, such as oil and natural gas." (The Forum for Family and Consumer Issues 6.1 (2001))

"Europe OKs New Biotech Food Rules" - "STRASBOURG, France - The European Parliament approved rules on the marketing and production of genetically modified food that may end the EU's 3-year-old moratorium on the licensing of new biotech products as early as next year." (AP) | Europe approves new GM rules (BBC Online) | Battle fields (New Scientist)

"Protection from food technology sought" - "As the nation debates the safety of genetically modified foods and crops, state legislators are calling for laws they believe will help protect the public and the environment from any potential harm. Lawmakers have introduced three bills: one to place a five-year moratorium on planting genetically engineered crops in Massachusetts, another to set a higher standard of legal liability for any harm the crops or food products may cause, and a third to label genetically modified foods." (Boston Globe)

"Italy's scientists demand GM freedom" - "More than a thousand Italian scientists and researchers have staged a protest rally in Rome against limitations on their right to research. The demonstration was in response to a decision last year by the government to place a moratorium on research into genetically modified (GM) crops, but the scientists are also worried about the influence of the Church in limiting developments in biotechnology. The scientists believe that the current scare regarding BSE is fuelling uninformed and ideological resistance." (BBC Online)

"Genetically Modified Food Bill Fails in Colorado" - "DENVER -- A bill that would have required labeling of food containing genetically engineered ingredients in Colorado died in a state legislative committee Monday on a 4-3 vote. Sen. Ron Tupa, D-Boulder, who introduced the legislation, said he would "almost certainly" bring it back next session, and a consumer group said that if it fails again, the next step would be a ballot initiative in 2002." (U-WIRE)

"'Setback' for GM fish" - "Genetically modifying plants may help them to grow better but the technology does not always work as well in fish, according to Canadian research." (BBC Online) | Fat fish (New Scientist) | Study: GM Trout Not Always the Biggest And Best (Reuters)

"Author rethinks biotech" - "The Iowa State University professor of philosophy and religious studies was a fervent critic of biotechnology and genetically modified crops, until a decade of intellectual tussle led him to embrace parts of the new technology." (Des Moines Register)

February 14, 2001

"Fruits, Vegetables Don't Prevent Breast Cancer" - "TUESDAY, Feb. 13 -- A diet rich in fruits and vegetables has no significant effect on the risk of breast cancer, says a study looking at data on more than 350,000 women. The study, reported in the Feb. 14 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, is the latest blow to the idea that the kind of low-fat, high-fiber diet routinely recommended to prevent heart disease can reduce breast cancer risk." (HealthScout) | Extra fruit makes no difference to breast cancer risk (Independent) | Fruits and veggies may not prevent breast cancer (AP) | Fruits, Veggies Doubted in U.S. Breast Cancer Study (Reuters)

From the Valentine killjoys: "Avoiding a Virulent Valentine" - "By not kissing that special someone, you're also not exposing yourself to the 500 or so bacteria in your partner's mouth, and you're not letting viruses in either. "Kissing is a great way to pass a virus," explains Dr. Lewis Smith, a professor of medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago. When an infected person exchanges fluids, or even touches, his or her partner, they basically set up their true love for total viral attack." (ABC News)

But wait! There's more... "Valentine's Day warning: Kissing spreads cavities" - "NEW YORK: Star-crossed lovers may have to settle for holding hands this year. Kissing can spread the bacteria that cause cavities, according to a California dentist." (Reuters)

This, however, is bound to be popular with some: "Heart Experts Recommend Sex for Valentine's Day" - "LONDON - Chocolate will pile on the pounds and the flowers will eventually wilt, but British heart experts recommended another way to celebrate Valentine's Day -- sex. It not only burns up 100 calories but it is also good for a healthy heart." (Reuters)

Oh good grief! "Study finds teen love may be dangerous" - "Publishing a huge study of adolescents in love, researchers say real-life teen-age romances can be as tragic as Romeo and Juliet's famous heartbreak. Researchers found falling in love makes adolescents more depressed, and more prone to delinquency and alcohol abuse than they would have been if they had avoided romance. The reported effect on depression is small, but it's bigger for girls than boys. The researchers suggest it could be one reason teen girls show higher rates of depression than teen boys do, a difference that persists into adulthood." (AP)

And just how was the effect of teen-romance distinguished from the other myriad minor stressors associated with puberty and transition to adulthood? Two interviews, one year apart, involving 11 questions and, in the opinion of teens who had just suffered a junior romance break-up, life sucks (at least for a few days). That proves it I guess - junior love is dangerous, perhaps we should ban it.

"Today's Topic: Classic Scare Tactic" - "A recent wire service story headline trumpeted "Obese Kids, Heart Disease Link Found." This was in response to publication of a study that overweight children have elevated levels of a protein in the blood that has been linked with increased risk of heart disease in adults. The study appeared in the January 2001 issue of Pediatrics. Over 3500 children, aged 8 to 16 in the U.S., were studied. It was found that children in the top 15% of body fat were 3 to 5 times more likely to have high C-reactive protein (CRP) levels in their blood. This amounted to 20% of the heaviest children with elevations compared with only 4-8% of the others. Overweight children also had more white blood cells, another marker of inflammation.

HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: While the results point to a state of low-grade inflammation in overweight children, it does not necessarily mean they have arterial damage. C-reactive protein is a nonspecific marker that goes up when you have a cold, any other infection, or noninfectious inflammation in the body; it is well known that CRP levels vary markedly over time. Perhaps obese children are more susceptible to infections, which has been shown for adults." (NUTRITION NEWS FOCUS, Feb 13)

EC chemophobia: "Health threats of untested chemicals" - "The average human body is accumulating more than 300 artificial chemicals - many of which could be damaging our health. According to a new report many of the chemicals have never been tested and the effects of these on long term health are not known. A European Commission White paper warns that without further research they cannot say whether the chemicals are affecting health." (BBC Online)

requiring manufacturers to prove a negative: "EU to tell chemical makers to prove products are safe" - "BRUSSELS - The chemicals industry is bracing itself for tough new environmental controls European Union lawmakers are set to unveil on Tuesday that aims to make chemicals companies prove their products are safe. Under a plan from the EU's executive arm, the EU Commission, chemicals producers would have to prove tens of thousands of products which are already widely used pose no threat to human health or the environment - or have them banned from the market." (Reuters)

Here's a question: if you take all the chemicals out of a person, what's left? If the EU do manage to remove all risk from their environment they'll end up in a vacuum (some would say that's the best place for them) - they'll all be dead but they'll have removed all risk of dying. And this makes sense to EU Green coalition governments?

"Alzheimer's: Curse of the Good Life?" - "TUESDAY, Feb. 13 -- Fat-laden food and a softer life may mean American blacks are twice as likely as African blacks to develop Alzheimer's disease, says new research." (HealthScout) | U.S. Study May Shed Light on Alzheimer's Disease (Reuters)

Here's a leap of faith. With the difference in average life expectancy between America and Kenya, who's to say Kenyans most prone to Alzheimer's are even surviving long enough to be included in the study?

"Offspring of men with birth defects twice as likely to have defects, too" - "Men born with a birth defect have a substantially increased risk of having a child with a birth defect, a large population study revealed today. Compared with other fathers, the risk was doubled." (NIH/NIEHS) | Study Ties Higher Birth Defect Risk to Dads (HealthScout) | Norwegian Study Traces Birth Defect Implications (Reuters) | Birth Defects Cut Men's Chances of Fatherhood (Reuters Health)

So, they're suggesting that maybe it's genetic?

"Double Helix With a Twist" - "Incyte Genomics advertises access to 120,000 human genes, including 60,000 not available from any other source. Human Genome Sciences says it has identified 100,000 human genes, and DoubleTwist 65,000 to 105,000. Affymetrix sells DNA analysis chips containing 60,000 genes. But now it turns out there might be only around 30,000 genes. If that's the case, what exactly have these companies been selling?" | Genome's Riddle: Few Genes, Much Complexity (New York Times)

Hype, like most of the human genome razzle-dazzle. Have no illusions, mapping the human genome will be a wonderful achievement - when we succeed in doing so. It will open the door to doing some work of immense value - mapping the quarter-million or so proteins expressed and trying to figure out what each one does and how it interacts with all the others. It's a huge task and it has only just begun.

"Hormone Therapy Does Not Slow Artery Clogging" - "NEW YORK - Contrary to some earlier reports, a new study suggests that hormone replacement therapy does not slow the progression of atherosclerosis--a build-up of fatty plaque in the arteries--in postmenopausal women." (Reuters Health)

Today's mercury hysteria: "Thermometer worries heat up over toxin dangers" - "TORONTO -- Mercury fever thermometers are perhaps the most common household medical instrument in North America, but their days might be numbered because of growing calls for them to be banned." (Globe and Mail)

"European Union Goes Organic to Tackle BSE Scare" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium, February 13, 2001 - Organic farming is at the heart of a seven point plan announced today by the European Commission to tackle the continent's BSE crisis." (ENS) | Organic farming could slow mad cow disease, EU says (AP)

"Mad Cow Panic Syndrome" - "In her article about mad cow fears being overblown, The Washington Post's Abigail Trafford says, "Earth to Chicken Little! The sky is not falling on steak. Not here, anyway. Of all the things to worry about, getting mad cow disease from a nice juicy filet mignon is not one of them." Nonetheless, some anti-choice nannies continue to try to incite fear in the public. See who they are and what they're up to in our special report, "Mad Cow: A New American Scare Campaign." (GuestChoice.com)

"Wind Power Splits Norway's Green Movement" - "OSLO, Norway, February 13, 2001 - Norway's environmental movement has been split by state owned power utility Statkraft's plans to develop three wind farms with a total production of 800 megawatts along the scenic west coast. The wind facilities have been authorized for Stadtlandet, Smola and Hitra. Most nongovernmental organizations have expressed serious concern about, or outright opposition to, at least one and in some cases all three of the newly licensed projects, on grounds of their likely impact on wildlife and areas of natural beauty and cultural importance. Tourism, it is argued, will also suffer." (ENS)

"Climate change talks to resume" - "International talks to limit the pollution that causes global warming will restart in late June or early July, the Dutch Environment Ministry said on Tuesday. However, no specific date or place for the new negotiations has yet been set, the ministry said in a statement." (Reuters)

"Europe blamed for climate 'stalemate'" - "The Canadian Environment Minister, David Anderson, says Europe must compromise to save the global climate negotiations. Mr Anderson told BBC News Online the European Union had stalemated the talks, and was holding the world to ransom."

Well, that much is true, the EU are one of the major blocks trying to hold the world to ransom. Regrettably, it has absolutely nothing to do with the environment, global climate or the hypothesized enhanced greenhouse effect - they are purely jockeying for advantage against manufacturing and trading competitors. I will give the extreme greens one thing (you'll never know how much that hurt to type), some of them actually seem to believe the world is imperiled by enhanced greenhouse, making their position more honest (Ouch! again) than that of the EU.

"U.N. panel using flawed data on global warming" - "OTTAWA, Ontario - If the United Nations' climate change meeting starting today in Geneva is anything like previous sessions, the developed world can expect to be harshly condemned for its alleged contribution to global warming. ... The U.N. panel's propaganda machine excels in the production of news media sound bites and sensationalist reports that exclude common sense and the views of dissenting scientists. It is unfortunate that its knowledge of climate science, economics and intellectual honesty are not equally well developed." (The Inquirer)

"Bush's Opportunity on Climate" - "The scientific community recently issued its latest pronouncement on global warming, and it is harrowing." (Washington Post)

At least, it's harrowing according to Todd Stern [who directed President Clinton's climate change initiative between 1997 and 1999] and Bill Antholis [who was a senior advisor to Clinton on the issue] anyway. To the science community it's a total embarrassment to have the IPCC claim that there's any science involved.

Let's get one thing straight, the +10°F/+11°F (depending on which paper you read) claim is based on the most extreme, and least realistic, of 40-odd "storylines" (IPCC's term, not mine) thrown into the draft TAR (Third Assessment Report) 2000. It is not based on any new research, no new "science" or observations of any kind - it's just a story thrown in to broaden the bounds to frightening territory for the simple reason that the gravy train has developed a critical sway. The gravy train's about to derail in spectacular fashion because atmospheric mean temperatures are falling and, without increasing atmospheric mean temperature, the whole enhanced greenhouse of cards comes crashing down. Bummer! No more good life jet-setting to exotic locations for all-expenses-paid conferences and meetings every week - no press beating a path to the door, hanging on every word, no more high-priced speaking tours... blast those scientists with integrity for publishing what nonsense it really is!

"Elitist Leaders Out of Step with Scientific Reality" - "In his editorial in the 5 February 2001 issue of U.S. News & World Report, David Gergen says "the world looks to the United States for leadership in preserving the biosphere, and we are conspicuously failing."  Why?  Because, he continues, "with only 5% of the planet's population, we account for roughly one quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions." Gergen's population and emission facts may well be impeccable; but his interpretation of them is a hundred and eighty degrees out of phase with reality.  The United States should be applauded for its emissions of CO 2; for it is the ongoing rise in the air's CO 2 content that will ultimately prove the salvation of the planet." (co2science.org)

"Dimethyl Sulfide: It's Role in Stabilizing Earth's Climate" - "The empirical evidence analyzed by the authors highlights an important negative feedback process that acts in opposition to model-predicted CO 2-induced global warming.  At present, these processes are not fully incorporated or quantified in the best of today's climate models.  When they are, you can be sure that the amount of warming the models predict will be significantly lowered.  And when similar terrestrial processes driven by an increase in atmospheric CO 2 concentration are considered (Idso, 1990), model predictions of global warming may be erased altogether." (co2science.org)

"Rainfall Variability in West Africa: The Models Fail Again" - "This paper vividly demonstrates that, in spite of all their complexity, current general circulation models of the atmosphere are still severely lacking in their ability to accurately simulate earth's hydrologic cycle.  And if the models can't get precipitation right, how can they be expected to correctly model the planet's entire climate, of which rainfall is only one component?  In the case at hand, when the real world rains, it pours in buckets in the climate alarmists' models, falling squarely on their preposterously premature parade of unsubstantiated claims." (co2science.org)

"The Abrupt End of the Little Ice Age in an Alpine Region of Central North America" - "These results demonstrate that a very significant climate warming occurred over a very short time span about a century-and-a-half ago in an alpine region of central North America.  In addition, it is clear - occurring when it did - that this dramatic rise in temperature was a natural event, not forced in any way by human activities.  Were such an event to occur today, however, it would be heralded by CO 2-hating climate alarmists as undisputed proof that humanity had caused it.  And they would have absolutely no trouble convincing almost everyone that such was true, as they have already convinced many that the non-warming of the past seventy years was the most dramatic climate change of the past millennium (see our Editorial of 1 July 2000 There Has Been No Global Warming for the Past 70 Years)!  Of course, the climate alarmists would still be wrong; but what would it matter?  They would have gotten their way with the world." (co2science.org)

Sigh... "Ford UK Chairman to Lead Carbon Cutting Trust" - "LONDON, United Kingdom, February 13, 2001 - The chairman of one of the UK's biggest motor companies is now chairman of a body aimed at cutting carbon emissions. Ian McAllister, chairman and managing director of Ford Motor Company Limited, has accepted the invitation to be the first Chairman of the Carbon Trust." (ENS)

"Forget about labels, just eat what Ottawa puts in front of you" - "The government doesn't want to feed you information about genetically modified food" (says lawyer CLAYTON RUBY in the Globe and Mail)

"More Cluttered Food Labels The Issue" - "Bill would require labels for GM Foods; Our view: Label the food that’s GM Free, for those who care." (Rocky Mountain News)

"A Bumper Crop of Alarmism: Rachel Carson would have loved this corn. Why don't environmentalists?" - "WHEN RACHEL CARSON wrote Silent Spring in 1962, she decried the use of chemical sprays, arguing for more benign and natural "biological" pesticides. One of her favorites was Bacillus thuringiensis, a common soil bacterium that produces a crystalline spore lethal to some insects. "Shortly after eating foliage coated with this toxin the larva suffers paralysis, stops feeding, and soon dies," wrote Carson. "[This is] an enormous advantage, for crop damage stops almost as soon as the pathogen is applied." Under Carson's prodding, BT (as it is affectionately known to organic gardeners) became more widely used in agriculture. Then in 1990, molecular biologists isolated its insecticidal protein, dubbed Cry (for "crystalline"). Through the new techniques of genetic engineering, they were able to implant various strains of the Cry protein in the corn plant." (The Weekly Standard)

"SCIENTISTS REBUKE CRITICS OF GOLDEN RICE" - "TUSKEGEE, AL February 13, 2001 -- The co-developer of a new variety of rice, created to address severe Vitamin A deficiency in developing countries, came forward this week to refute claims by anti-technology activists that the product is useless. Swiss scientist Ingo Potrykus responded to erroneous and misleading claims by environmental organizations -- most recently including Greenpeace -- that have tried to discredit Golden Rice and the motives of its developers." (Press release)

"Working with the enemy to feed the world" - "Workers in union organizing campaigns often have to face the most unprincipled and vicious employer attacks, including personal threats, plant closings and layoffs. As a union organizer, I have been met with the most ruthless opposition from corporate America. You might guess that I don't trust many business leaders. But I am also a pragmatist. I know that in order for us to effect change on a global scale, we often must set aside politics and prejudice. We must work with people and corporations we would otherwise be fighting. Which is why I am so concerned about the raging controversy over the development of genetically modified foods -- foods that may hold the promise to reduce world hunger." (Richard Bensinger, San Francisco Business Times)

"Euro-row ignites over GM crops" - "Europe is grappling with its policy over genetic engineering - with a debate in parliament and a court case looking set to expose divisions over how to tackle the explosive issue. In parliament, members will discuss a deal which would clear the way for new varieties of GM crops to be licensed by the EU - ending a three-year de facto ban. And in court, 14 judges will be asked by the Netherlands to throw out European rules on patenting GM crops and animals." (BBC Online)

"Farmers Favor Altered Seeds" - "CHICAGO, Feb. 12 — Despite growing concerns over the use of biotechnology in agriculture, and the recent controversy over Starlink, an unapproved variety of bioengineered corn that accidentally entered the food supply, American farmers continue to favor planting genetically altered crops, according to surveys conducted by the nation's biggest seed companies." (New York Times)

"Italian scientists protest against restrictions" - "More than a thousand Italian scientists have gathered in Rome to protest against limitations on their right to carry out research. The rally comes in response to Italy`s four-month-old moratorium on research into genetically-modified crops but scientists say they are also protesting against the undue influence of the Catholic church in limiting developments in biotechnology." (BBC World Service)

"Betacarotene-rich golden rice to be launched in India soon" - "AN ORGANISATIONAL framework to introduce Golden Rice — the genetically-modified grain enriched with betacarotene — into the country, will be finalised by March under an Indo-Swiss collaboration in biotechnology. Speaking to ET, the co-inventor of golden rice, Dr Ingo Potrykus, retired professor of Plant Sciences, Swiss Federal Insitute of Technology, Zurich said the technology knowhow would be made available to the department of biotechnology and the Indian Council For Agricultural Research (ICAR) only on a counter-guarantee that it would be used only for `humanitarian’ purposes. Union secretary for biotechnology Manju Sharma confirmed that the technology would be acquired for common good and the details were being worked out." (Economic Times)

"Monsanto upbeat on genetically modified seeds" - "Monsanto, the US agricultural chemicals and biotechnology group, said on Monday that prospects had improved for approval of its genetically modified seeds in key potential markets. The Brazilian government created a national regulatory authority for biotechnology issues in December, company officials said. They see this move as a key step to gaining approval for the company's genetically modified soyabean seeds." (Financial Times)

"EU set to back tougher laws on genetically modified crops" - "The European parliament is set to give its final blessing to a new law on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on Wednesday, raising the possibility of ending the de facto moratorium on approving new GMOs in the European Union." (Financial Times)

February 13, 2001

Washington Post  vs. Washington Times - The difference between Washington, D.C.'s primary daily newspapers, the Washington Post and Washington Times, is that the Post endorses mindless alarmism like today's "Bush's Opportunity on Climate" while the Times values factual, well-reasoned columns like "Dirty New Warming Secret".

"United Nations climate talks to resume in mid-2001" - "International talks on climate change, will resume for two weeks between mid-June and late July, The talks broke up in disarray at The Hague in November. Dutch government officials say the exact dates and venue will be decided shortly. The Dutch Environment Minister, Jan Pronk, says he hopes that the shock of failure to reach agreement in November will spur all governments to find a compromise." (Radio Australia)

Hence the media bombardment of scare stories, each "demonstrating" impending disaster and devastation from global warming - and all extant only in the virtual world of computer gam models and the fevered brows of passengers on the enhanced greenhouse gravy train.

So, what's happened with tropospheric mean temperature since the 1997/98 El Niño-induced heat spike? Been a little chilly actually [graph maintained by John Daly, Still Waiting For Greenhouse, with data from NOAA satellites accurate to one one-hundredths of one degree Centigrade. NASA/GHCC global stratospheric and tropospheric graphs are available here, while their interactive Java tool allows you to plot historical anomalies on a world map from January 1979 to January 2001 for both the stratosphere and troposphere. Usage instructions can be found further down the page.

"Polar bears apparently booming on stretch along Beaufort Sea" - "Polar bears around the Beaufort Sea appear to be thriving, possibly even reaching historic numbers, a leading federal polar bear researcher told an environmental forum in Anchorage. Steven Amstrup, of the U.S. Geological Survey's Biological Science Center, said his best explanation is that the population is benefiting from the near-complete ban on polar bear hunting for the past three decades. But other factors may be involved, he said, such as changes in the weather, ice pack or number of ringed seals, the bears' favorite food. Whatever the reasons, Amstrup said, "the population seems to be in really good shape right now." (Anchorage Daily News)

Uh-huh... remember when Greenpeace panicked the press about 18 months ago with tales of disappearing Arctic ice causing polar bears and other wildlife to starve in the region? Items like this were common, with polar bears purportedly attacking adult walrus "in desperation" due to ice depletion and loss of prey. Somehow, I suspect that USGS reporting is likely to be a little more accurate than that of environmental whacko-group Greenpeace.

"Climate-Change Scientists Confront an Ancient Elephant" - "Sometimes, reality enacts a great folktale with stunning clarity. That’s what happened at a Rice University-James Baker Institute conference on climate change a few months ago, when six reputable scientists brought the story of the blind men and the elephant to life in a spectacular fashion." (Kenneth Green, Tech Central Station)

"Microbial activity key component of global environmental change" - "WASHINGTON, DC-February 12, 2001-Managing microbial activity can play a significant role in slowing adverse effects of greenhouse gases and other global environmental changes, according to a new report from the American Society for Microbiology." (ASM)

"Experts Battle Over Global Warming Climate Change Policy Exposes Different Opinions, Approach" - "WASHINGTON, DC, Feb. 9 -/E-Wire/-- Sharp differences on the direction of climate change policy and the future of a controversial international treaty aimed reducing greenhouse gas emissions were hotly debated yesterday at a National Press Club forum sponsored by Freedom 21. Freedom 21 is a coalition of organizations aimed at advancing the principles of freedom in local communities, Washington, and throughout the world. Rt. Hon John Gummer, MP, former British Environment Minister, climate change negotiator and ardent advocate for the treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol, faced off with former congressional committee aide and conservative think tank head, Marlo Lewis, a strong foe of Kyoto." (Media release)

"UN green programme: An endangered species" - "The United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) sounds like a global answer to a planetary problem. That certainly was the idea of its founders, the people who called for it to be set up at the Stockholm environment conference in 1972. Today, though, beset by funding problems and caught in the cross-fire of UN turf battles, Unep has a struggle to survive." (Alex "G.W." Kirby, BBC Online)

Good! Burn the damn thing down and take a tax loss - the environment and humanity will fare much better without UNEP and their various gravy trains.

"Gas cooking threat to lungs" - "The fumes given off by gas cooking may have harmful effects on human lung cells, according to research. The study found that tiny particles of pollution produced when gas is burned seem to have an inflammatory effect when passed over lung cells in the laboratory. This, in theory, could translate into breathing problems, or worsening problems for those with existing respiratory disease." (BBC Online)

Well, perhaps - but the biggest problem contributing to declining indoor air quality appears to be the "energy efficiency" drive of the past few decades. "Thermally efficient" dwellings are virtually devoid of ventilation and this leads to accumulation of toxic levels of everything from mold spores, through cockroach allergens to cooking effluents. It's also why air next to a freeway is frequently "cleaner" than that inside the home.

"Diesel School Buses Pose Cancer Dangers" - "WASHINGTON, DC, February 12, 2001 - Children who ride on diesel school buses may be exposed to dangerously high levels of toxic diesel fumes inside the vehicles, according to a new report released today by two environmental groups. The report, "No Breathing in the Aisles: Diesel Exhaust inside School Buses," found that children who ride diesel school buses may be exposed to as much as four times more toxic diesel exhaust than people riding in vehicles traveling directly behind, or in front of, such buses. That exposure level on the buses is more than eight times the average ambient air pollution level in California, and as much as 46 times the diesel fumes cancer risk exposure threshold established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the groups conclude in their report." (ENS)

And kids have been doing so for what - 40, 50 years, more maybe? So, this large, albeit inadvertent, study indicates that US EPA exposure threshold levels are complete nonsense because now generations of school children did not suffer the ill-effects allegedly linked to diesel exhaust? Interesting. Bet that's not the kind of coverage it gets though.

Say it with... chemicals? "Valentine’s Day Flowers Often Loaded with Chemicals" - "WASHINGTON — Organic food has increased in popularity as more and more consumers seek ways to avoid pesticides and protect the environment. But most don’t realize that bouquet they receive for Valentine’s Day is loaded with chemicals too." (Environmental Media Services)

Wonder which she'd rather receive, a bug-eaten bunch of stems or a beautiful bouquet of flowers? Perhaps it depends on whether she gets a bouquet of say, sweet corn - or maybe not, who wants bug-munched tucker likely brimming with all-natural, mold-produced, carcinogenic aflatoxin?

"Hollywood 'true' tale doesn't hold water" - "This year's "based on a true story" contender is "Erin Brockovich." The great truth this movie conveys is that evil corporations cause outbreaks of cancer and other diseases by putting minuscule amounts of chemicals in the water supply. That's an intriguing theory, but the people who made the movie might have considered contacting the man who designed the test that makes such predictions of cancer possible. His name is Bruce Ames." (Star Tribune)

Yeah, and look what else they're doing:

"In Hollywood's version, Paul Watson is a hero" - "Ocean Warrior, a big-budget film, begins production in Amsterdam this month. In it, Watson says, 'We save the whales and I get the girl. It's Hollywood.'" (Vancouver Sun)

Worse, some people may even believe it.

"Too little saturated fat may raise risk of rare stroke" - "DALLAS, Texas -- Turning the conventional medical wisdom on its head, a study found that a diet extremely low in saturated fat may raise the risk of a rare type of stroke in some women." (AP) | Media release

"All wet" - "DIFFERENT NATIONS have different, quirky health worries that are as characteristic as their national anthems. Germans are morbidly fearful of drafts, the Japanese obsess over germs, and Americans act as though dehydration were one of the major killers. Go into any office or college lecture hall, and plastic water bottles are as ubiquitous as cigarettes and ash trays were a generation ago. The Age of Aquarius has returned with a vengeance. Americans are chugging water as though they really believe it is a surefire way to preserve their health, improve their skin, and reduce their weight. Little evidence exists for any of these benefits." (Boston Globe)

"Germ Genie: Asia's Antibiotic Abuse" - Misleadingly subtitled: Virulent New Strains of Flu Emerge as the Power of Drugs Slips, this piece from the International Herald Tribune suggests that Asia's antibiotic use somehow contributes to virulent 'flu strains. This is, of course, complete nonsense but it takes some reading to discern that they are actually worried about secondary infections, in a population weakened by virulent 'flu, being treated with significant doses of antibiotics, which are effective against bacterial infection but not against viral ones. This, in turn, increases exposure of the microbial population to anti-microbial agents and selects for resistance.

There is no direct correlation between viral infection and antibiotic resistance - only an indirect increase in antibiotic usage to treat secondary (bacterial) infection in a population with a (collectively) compromised immune system. This is distinct from the absurd practice of administering antibiotics for a viral infection, which is not merely useless but increases resistance incidence by selection for natural resistance traits. Over-prescription of antibiotics is largely a disease of Western doctors and is certainly associated with increasing resistance observed in microbial populations. Not a sound piece and very poorly written.

"Head to Head: Access to patented drugs" - "The international aid organisation Oxfam says global drugs companies are restricting access to essential medicines in the world's poorest countries. But the pharmaceutical companies counter that some countries are engaging in piracy by producing cheaper, inferior drugs. Here, Oxfam's policy adviser Sophia Tickell responds to comments made by Sir Richard Sykes, non-executive chairman of GlaxoSmithKline, when he spoke to the BBC on Monday." (BBC Online)

"BT operators claim for acoustic shock" - "Lawyers are preparing dozens of compensation claims on behalf of deafened call centre workers who have complained of "acoustic shock" in what could become an increasingly prevalent industrial injury of the 21st century." (Independent)

"Jordan health officials expand ban on public smoking" - "AMMAN, Jordan - Jordan's Health Ministry has expanded its list of public places where smoking should be banned, an official said Monday." (AP)

"Smoking on the increase" - "The number of adult smokers in the UK is on the rise for the first time in 30 years, official figures suggest. This is thought to be mainly due to the high number of teenagers who took up smoking in the early 1990s." (BBC Online)

"EU ministers approve mad cow plan" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium -- European Union finance ministers on Monday approved a $900 million budget for fighting mad cow disease and warned they would not pitch in any more money if it proved insufficient. The spending plan, presented last month by the EU's executive body, shifts surplus funds from the 2000 budget to cover the cost of destroying cattle and testing for mad cow disease." (AP)

"USA Today Editorials Debate Mad Cow Issue" - "Mad cow disease made news on USA Today’s Feb. 12 editorial page, with headlines reading “Warning signs raise doubts USA is safe from mad cow” and “Keep risk in perspective.” The first editorial, written by USD Today staff, takes a rather grim view of the precautions the United States government and beef industry have put in place to protect consumers, and U.S. livestock, against bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Calling existing precautions a “tattered safety net,” the editorial says “…as recent news suggests, the nation’s safety net is far from perfect. In that light, the confidence of technocrats and scientists in our statistical safety is neither intuitive nor reassuring.” The opposing editorial view, written by George Gray and David Ropeik of Harvard University and its Center for Risk Analysis, noted that, “We have spent two and a half years studying this issue [BSE] for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Although our work is not complete, what we have learned so far suggests that consumers have little to fear.” (AgWeb.com)

"Pushing Mad Cow Fear" - "If you have any doubts that there is an organized activist campaign underway to unnecessarily perpetuate fear of mad cow disease, this should erase them. Guest Choice has discovered copies of the exact same scare letter, each with a different author, printed in at least ten different newspapers across the country (The Bergen County Record - 2/9/01, The Tennessean - 2/3/01, The Des Moines Register - 2/5/01, Chicago Sun-Times - 2/5/01, The Fresno Bee - 2/8/01, The Bloomington Illinois Pantagraph - 2/8/01, The Palm Beach Post - 2/11/01, The Tampa Tribune - 2/5/01, The Champaign Illinois News Gazette - 2/7/01, The Providence Journal - 2/3/01)." (GuestChoice.com)

"How we were 'genetically modified' by bacteria" - "THE claim that it is "unnatural" to create genetically modified creatures by moving genes between different species received a knock yesterday with the discovery that hundreds of our genes probably originated from bacteria. The remarkable revelation that we are all a bit microbial, that dozens of our genes have been created by parasites called transposable elements, or "transposons", underlines how nature is stranger than we can conceive." (Telegraph)

"Human Genome Special Issue" - this issue free to all users (Science Magazine)

"Gene code scientists face fresh challenge" - "THE next great challenge for science after the mapping of the human genome will be to discover the complex ways in which genes combine to create hundreds of thousands of vital proteins, researchers said yesterday. Although the completion of the genetic code counts as one of humanity’s greatest achievements, it is the next frontier of research — how 30,000 genes interact and make more than 250,000 human proteins — that will unlock the greatest benefits for medicine and health." (The Times)

"Experts fear genome findings" - "WASHINGTON -- Mapping the human genome opens a new era for medical science -- and a new frontier for potential discrimination. New genetic research may make it possible to identify an individual's lifetime risk of cancer, heart attack and other diseases. Experts worry that this information could be used to discriminate in hiring, promotions or insurance." (AP)

"Scientists report deciphering of mouse DNA" - "WASHINGTON -- Scientists said Monday they have deciphered the genetic code of the mouse, a step that should shed light on human biology through comparisons to the human code. The mouse genetic code, called the genome, is about the same length as the human one at around 3 billion "letters," said Mark Adams of Celera Genomics of Rockville, Md." (AP)

"A rice dilemma" - "The development of Golden Rice by scientists funded by the Rockefeller Foundation has presented Greenpeace and other anti-GM groups with a moral dilemma. To what extent do these groups wish to be seen as opposing a crop which, through its genetically engineered fortification with Vitamin A, may play a key role in reducing blindness in Africa and Asia which results from a deficiency of that vitamin? Should the moral crusade against imagined 'pollution' by GM crops override specific concerns for the health and welfare of some of the poorest people in the world? ... So why then does Greenpeace continue to deride the value of Golden Rice, even when its own senior 'expert' has accepted that there is a strong moral case for its production and distribution? Could it be that when the global business bogeyman is removed from the equation, its opposition to GM food is exposed as fundamentally groundless?" (Social Issues Research Centre)

"GM crop plants are less weed-like than weedy" - "THE debate about the long-term ecological risks associated with genetically modified (GM) crops took an unusual turn this week. Amid the acrimony, somebody actually published some data. Mick Crawley and his colleagues at Imperial College London have written up in Nature the results of their decade-long investigation into the competitive abilities of a number of strains of GM plant. They found that, far from marching like weeds over the countryside around their planting sites, the crops in question tended to curl up and die in the face of competition from wild species." (The Economist)

"Designer jeans from designer genes" - "Environmentalists are virtually unanimous in their opposition to biotechnology and gene-splicing because of their potential to harm human health and the environment. Henry Miller explains why they may be barking up the wrong tree." (Henry Miller, National Post)

"Aventis Fires Top Managers In Wake of StarLink Episode" - "Aventis SA fired the head of its U.S. crop-science division and two other top managers, according to people close to the company, the first such ousters at the company after traces of its genetically modified StarLink corn, not yet approved for human consumption, were discovered in taco shells and other food products late last year." (WSJ)

"Seeds Of Godlike Power" - "Inspired by one of Emerson's essays, Mathew Arnold, the English poet, wrote in the 19th century about the ``seeds of godlike power''. He was referring to a human being's great potential for progress, but his happy phrase fits the new miracle seeds that will help India create a "second Green Revolution." (Times of India)

Looks like the fear campaigns are working: "Consumers Want Engineered Food Labeled" - "Consumers want mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods and feel "outrage" when they learn how many supermarket products already are produced through biotechnology, according to a Food and Drug Administration report. The internal report, which was commissioned by the agency to gauge sentiment about its proposals for voluntary labeling, said that consumers are concerned about possible long-term environmental and health effects of genetically modified foods." (Washington Post)

"Scientists Examine Bt Cotton’s Long-term Effectiveness" - "Since 1996, cotton varieties engineered with Bt genes for making the protein have offered growers a way to reduce insecticides. In fact, Bt cotton is now grown on more than 2 million U.S. acres. But because of such extensive plantings of cotton and other Bt crops, there is concern that natural selection will favor insects having traits for Bt resistance." (AgWeb.com)

"Protests over modified crops to escalate: CSIS" - "OTTAWA - Canada`s spy agency predicts an increase in protests -- including acts of vandalism and sabotage -- by militant opponents of bio-engineering and the genetic modification of crops. In a newly obtained report, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service cites attacks on an Ottawa corn plot and hundreds of British Columbia trees as examples of the growing anger about modified organisms in Canada." (Southam News)

"Biotechnology Key To Agrarian Economy Problems - "Biotechnology is the solution to the lag faced by Punjab in the agricultural sector, said Rajan Kayshap, principal secretary, science, technology and environment, while delivering the keynote address at the Fourth Punjab Science Congress at PAU here on Friday. He was speaking on, `Science and technology in the economic development of Punjab; vision 2020'." (Times of India)

"Monsanto Reports Sales Growth in 2000" - "Monsanto Company today reported sales and earnings for the fourth quarter and full year of 2000. They report a sales increase of 7% in the fourth quarter and 5% for the full year at $5.5 billion. In addition, the company says globally, sales of Roundup herbicide increased 9% in the fourth quarter and 6% in 2000, as acres planted with Monsanto biotech traits increased 15% for the year." (AgWeb.com)

February 12, 2001

Fred Singer's 'Salad Days' The Washington Post quoted global warming expert Fred Singer in a Jan. 23 article. Global warming activists didn't like Fred's comments and complained the Post should have disclosed that Singer "has served as a consultant to Exxon, Shell, Unocal, Sun Oil, ARCO, Ford and GM."

Singer responds in today's Post:
It is ironic that the attempt by two environmental activists to misrepresent my credentials [letters, Feb. 6] coincides with a sustained cold spell in the United States that set a 100-year record.

As for full disclosure: My résumé clearly states that I consulted for several oil companies on the subject of oil pricing, some 20 years ago, after publishing a monograph on the subject.

My connection to oil during the past decade is as a Wesson Fellow at the Hoover Institution; the Wesson money derives from salad oil.


Still no media coverage - This week's FoxNews.com commentary spotlights the major media's failure to cover the new global warming study in Nature claiming global warming worry-worts have overlooked the second-most potent manmade greenhouse factor, soot. To date, only the Financial Times, Christian Science Monitor, Scotsman, Reuters and United Press International covered the study. The Stanford University press office (the media contact for the study author) echoed my observation. A Stanford press contact said the study author, Mark Jacobson, was "perplexed" about the absence of media coverage. He shouldn't be, though. The global warming mafia doesn't want anyone chilling the scare.

"Dugong bones reveal Sydney's tropical past" - "SYDNEY was once a tropical underwater paradise with its shoreline lapping against the present day gates of Centennial Park, according to new research. As little as 5000 years ago, what is now a sprawling metropolis would have been much like the modern reefs of north Queensland. ... Evidence of a similarly timed rise in sea levels has been discovered in Brazil and Hong Kong. Professor Baker said there was now a strong basis for suggesting climate varied dramatically along the eastern seaboard over relatively short periods of time." (Sydney Daily Telegraph)

However, these seemingly wild gyrations in "normal" climate do not agree with the IPCC's ridiculous "Hockey Stick" graph, which likes to pretend that climate is virtually stable under "normal" conditions and has reacted "violently" to anthropogenic CO2 liberation. So determined are the IPCC to maintain their gravy train that they have written out of the established climate history such inconveniences as the Little Ice Age and even the Medieval Climate Optimum.

Synthetic hysteria, however, remains the order of the day: "The future - Dry winters, more droughts" - "The long-disputed idea of global warming is a reality, and it'll hit Australian farmers hard. That's the view of the CSIRO's Dr Peter Whetten, who's in Geneva this week putting the final touches to a report by the intergovernmental panel on climate change, sponsored by the United Nations. Dr Whetten says global warming is going to mean huge changes for farmers here, namely, drier winters, more extreme rainfall events and more prolonged droughts." | CSIRO studies show River Murray flow will decrease (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

Here's a good one: "Antarctica 'melting before our eyes'" - "Antarctica is melting faster and further than ever before, environment ministers meeting in Nairobi were told last week in a dramatic phone call from the frozen continent. The explorer and yachtsman Sir Peter Blake called the ministers attending the governing council of the United Nations Environment Programme to say that he had just sailed 100 miles through open water that had been frozen for hundreds of thousands of years. The King George VI ice shelf at the base of the Antarctic peninsula was breaking up, he said." (Independent on Sunday) | Ice surprise for UK sailor (BBC Online)

"Hundreds of thousands of years" encompasses previous interglacial periods - which, it is believed, were about +2°C warmer than the Holocene (current interglacial) and is simply a foolish statement. Sir Peter also claims to be calling from between the Alexander Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula, which, according to my Australian Geographic wall chart (Australia centered, of course) is marked as George VI Sound. Perhaps it isn't commonly ice free but that may be due to various factors, the recently discovered circumpolar wave or perhaps currents about which we yet know nothing. However, it is reasonable to assume currents are involved - just look at the sea surface temperature graphic from University of Wisconsin-Madison (look below South America). Now look just a little further east - the Weddell Sea is frozen almost to 60°S in the third month of the southern hemisphere summer! Meanwhile, in East Antarctica, Australia's Antarctic base supply ship, Polar Bird, managed to get stuck in unusually heavy summer ice not once but twice, first for three weeks in November and December 2000 and then for another two weeks in January.

"Antarctic Sea Ice Trends" [Watkins, A.B. and Simmonds, I.  2000.  Current trends in Antarctic sea ice: The 1990s impact on a short climatology.  Journal of Climate 13: 4441-4451] - The authors observed statistically significant (at the 95% confidence level) increases in sea ice area and total sea ice extent between 1987 and 1996; and combining their results with earlier results for the period 1978-1987, both parameters showed increases over the entire 1978-1996 period.  In addition, the authors indicate that the 1990s exhibited increases in the sea ice season length.

"Mass Balance of the Antarctic Ice Sheet: An Assessment of Yearly Ice Accumulation" [Vaughn, D.G., Bamber, J.L., Giovinetto, M., Russell, J. and Cooper, A.P.R.  1999.  Reassessment of net surface mass balance in Antarctica.  Journal of Climate 12: 933-946.] - The authors note that "these values are around 18% and 7% higher than the estimates widely adopted at present," which were derived about 15 years ago.  Hence, they are indicative of the fact that net icefall on Antarctica may well be somewhat greater than what has been believed over the last decade and a half.  Nevertheless, because of uncertainties in these numbers, as well as in those representing the total mass of ice lost from the ice sheet and ice shelves, the authors note that "we are still unable to determine even the sign of the contribution of the Antarctic Ice Sheet to recent sea level change."

"Recent Trends in Antarctic Sea Ice Extent" [Yuan, X. and Martinson, D.G.  2000.  Antarctic sea ice extent variability and its global connectivity.  Journal of Climate 13: 1697-1717.] - Among a host of other things, it was learned that the net trend in the mean Antarctic sea ice edge over the last 18 years has been an equatorward expansion of 0.011 degree of latitude per year.

"Industry Blitz" - "In what has been a clearly orchestrated campaign over the last few weeks, the media has been reporting one scary greenhouse story after another. No less than three international climate conferences at Shanghai, Nairobi, and Hobart, have made the headlines, predicting doom and disaster on the basis of failed `models', failed theories, and a lot of wishful thinking." (John Daly, Still Waiting For Greenhouse)

"The good news about global warming" - "EXPERTS have determined that global warming is not necessarily all bad news for the British Isles. Food poisoning cases will rise and there will be occasional localised outbreaks of malaria, but while summer heatwaves will kill an extra 2,000 people a year by 2050, ten times as many will be spared from premature deaths brought on by winter cold." (The Times)

If only it was really warming...

"When it comes to global warming, just cool it" - "Solicitors and purveyors of insurance love small print, and, when it comes to keeping themselves employed, so do some scientists. Just look at the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, reported in the Herald last week. Such IPCC reports are the backbone of the Greenhouse lobby's argument, and are continually referred to in debate on the issue. But they're a sham." (Larry Mounser, Sydney Morning Herald)

"Diablo Canyon nuke plant vital to California's power grid" - "If California's energy crisis has made one thing clear, it's that Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant is a vital component of the state's electricity grid. Even critics of nuclear power agree that the state needs every electron, and for that reason Diablo Canyon will be in business for the foreseeable future." (The Tribune)

"TEPCO nuclear power projects to continue " - "TOKYO - Tokyo Electric Power Co said on Sunday construction of its nuclear power plants would proceed as planned, after saying last week it would temporarily suspend development of new plants. At the weekend, Japanese media reported TEPCO President Nobuya Minami as saying the company had no plan to halt development of nuclear power plants because these were vital for energy security and environmental protection." (Reuters)

"Unplug the Electric Car Rule" - "As power blackouts rolled across the state, California regulators last month stubbornly refused to free automakers from quotas on electric car production. But this mandate will prove harmful to both the environment and the economy." | Henry Payne comment (Detroit News)

"Heinz cans lined with 'sex chemical'" - "HEINZ has been criticised by environmentalists after admitting lining its food cans with a chemical thought to mimic female hormones, writes Jonathan Leake. In animal experiments researchers have found that the chemical, bisphenol A, can cause early puberty in females and may reduce the growth of reproductive tissues in young males." (Sunday Times)

Presumably they're recycling the nonsense sprouted by HAA-hysteric Freddy vom Saal, perhaps even based on this October 1999 release. Vom Saal claims that very low doses of the chemical bisphenol-A, which leaches in trace amounts from plastic, affected development in mice. But vom Saal's work has never been replicated by any independent laboratory.

Parenthetically, HAAs (Hormonally Active Agents), formerly known as "endocrine disruptors" had a name change for the simple reason that no one can, in fact, demonstrate that they do actually disrupt the human endocrine system.

See also: Endocrine Disruptors and Human Health--Is There a Problem? An Update [Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 108, Number 6, June 2000]; Endocrine Disrupters: A Scientific Perspective [American Council on Science and Health]

"100% pure trade bull" - "We've been wondering how long it was going to take for people -- especially in the media -- to cotton on to the twisted gamesmanship being played by the self-appointed rabble-rousers at Michael McBain's union front, the Canadian Health Coalition. Now that Mr. McBain has succeeded in escalating Canada's trade war with Brazil on a completely fabricated pretext, maybe the time is near for a review of the CHC's notorious disinformation campaigns. Over the years, the CHC has concocted dozens of health scares and mythical regulatory boondoggles: Hormones in cows, GM foods, food safety perils, privatization risks, drug disasters -- every CHC cause is just a phone call away from instant exposure at The Globe and Mail and the CBC. Rarely is the CHC put to any serious test." (Terence Corcoran, National Post)

"Water in a Bottle, Teeth in a Glass" - "You've probably heard warnings that bottled water is sometimes no safer than tap water. In case you haven't, here's a report from the March 2000 Archives of Family Medicine." (HealthScout)

"Gene cures 'will not help Third World'" - "It was a stunning year for medicine; 21 new drugs - an unparalleled number - were marketed by US pharmaceutical companies in 2000. This record number of treatments - for heart disease, multiple sclerosis, hepatitis, Alzheimer's, epilepsy and cancers - poured out of the biotechnology giants of America. There has never been a better time to be ill - if you are American. For the world's richest people, things can only get better. But for the rest of the planet, fears are growing that others may have to pay the price for this meteoric rise in medical knowledge. The concerns of the US biotechnology industry are sweeping aside everything in their path." (Observer)

Hmm... increasing wealth and lifespans in Third World countries, with probably sub-Saharan Africa as the current exception due to AIDS infection rates, mean that treatments for the afflictions of living longer will become more universally applicable. This suggests that the featured article is based on a false premise. The Third world will both desire and need treatments now being developed for the more affluent and aging Western populations as Third World lifespans increase and populations become more wealthy (don't tell anybody but Westerners are being used as the guinea pigs for Third World populations).

The argument that malaria, sleeping sickness and other afflictions are maintained by controls being priced beyond the means of impoverished regions is patently false. In the case of the two above-named diseases, both could be suppressed and possibly eliminated by the use of a compound which is literally dirt-cheap and whose use is not impeded by any chemical or pharmaceutical company nor intellectual property or trade dispute. I mean, of course, dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT). The only reason this compound is not more widely utilized is because of the interference of wealthy-world fearmongers and misanthropists fraudulently flying the colors of "environmentalism" - after having benefited from the elimination of malaria and other morbidities from the non-tropical northern hemisphere by courtesy of the very same compound.

It ain't biotechs and pharmaceuticals that's suppressing the Third World - more like it's Gaia freaks and racist fluorescent greens who do so much damage in the name of "protecting" the "Mother Earth" nurture-figure by doing everything possible to inhibit human endeavor and increase human mortality rates, apparently starting with "all those little brown people." And these ratbags claim to be "helping."

"Will children eat GM rice, or risk blindness from vitamin A deficiency?" - "Dear Editor, We were struck by the photograph -- provocatively captioned, "Will these children be eating genetically modified rice in the future?" -- which accompanied Mr. Mudur's article on an Indian proposal to grow bioengineered crops to help reduce vitamin A deficiency. (1) However, it only raises half the issue. The other half of the issue is summed up by a parallel question: "Or will these children go blind from vitamin A deficiency?" We have taken the liberty of putting the two halves together, with accompanying photographs." (Indur M. Goklany, Roger Bate, Kendra Okonski, BMJ Letters)

"Analysis Shows It's Proteins Not Genes That Count" - "WASHINGTON - Our future may not lie in our genes, after all. Two separate teams of researchers will report on Monday that they have taken the first in-depth look at the human genetic code and found about half what they expected to find. Instead of 60,000 to 80,000 genes, we have only 30,000 to 40,000. Both teams agree this means that, in humans anyway, it is proteins that matter -- much more so than genes." | First Look at Human Genome Shows How Little There Is | Scientists Find Human Genome Is Full of Surprises (Reuters) | Life's Blueprint in Less Than an Inch (Washington Post)

"Biotech's emotional debate continues even as study allays fears on GM crops" - "London: A ten-year survey of four types of genetically modified (GM) crop has found that they do not survive well in the wild, and are no more likely to invade other habitats than their unmodified counterparts. The study reported in a Brief Communication last week will help allay fears that GM plants will be super-weeds, either in their own right or by breeding with unmodified plants." (Financial Express)

"EU allows in new flood of GM food" - "European laws to be introduced this week will open Britain to a fresh wave of controversial genetically modified crops and foods. A new directive, which has been backed by the Government, will end a three-year de facto moratorium on granting licences for the commercial development of GM foods." (Observer) | Britain faces new harvest of GM crops (Sunday Times)

February 10-11, 2001

Where's the media coverage? - This week's FoxNews.com commentary spotlights the major media's failure to cover the new global warming study in Nature claiming global warming worry-worts have overlooked the second-most potent manmade greenhouse factor, soot. As of this morning, only the Financial Times, Christian Science Monitor, Scotsman, Reuters and United Press International covered the study. The Stanford University press office (the media contact for the study author) echoed my observation. A Stanford press contact said the study author, Mark Jacobson, was "perplexed" about the absence of media coverage. He shouldn't be, though. The global warming mafia doesn't want anyone chilling the scare.

"New Report Backs Planting More Trees to Fight Warming" - "An influential panel of scientists is preparing to endorse two strategies for curtailing global warming that have been major points of contention between the United States and Europe in efforts to complete a climate treaty." (New York Times)

"Prospects look grim for global warming pact" - "Environment ministers at a U.N. conference this week said prospects look bleak for resolving an international deadlock on global warming." (AP)

"Constitution: U.S. mustn't pull a Nero as world burns around us" - "In A.D. 64, while the city of Rome was burning around him, the emperor Nero calmly played his lyre and composed songs and poetry, giving the world an enduring example of apathy in the face of crisis. In A.D. 2001, while scientists warn that the Earth may heat up by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit in the next century, dramatically altering the climate that all life on the planet has evolved to tolerate, political leaders are doing their own little Nero imitation." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The Constitution is waxing rather lyrical with their hysterical enhanced greenhouse hand-wringing - shame they didn't put similar effort into fact-finding.

Nonsense disaster prognostications still get plenty of media coverage: "Climate change 'could kill thousands'" - "Climate changes could cause thousands of deaths every year - but reduce the number of cold-weather deaths, say experts." (BBC Online) | Return of malaria feared as climate warms (Guardian) | UK climate change may hit health (Financial Times) | Global warming could herald return of malaria to Britain (Telegraph)

"Resorts ready for ski lift-off" - "Scotland's ski resorts have been looking forward to a bumper spell, with some areas reporting the best conditions in 35 years. This boost for trade came as the north struggled to get back to normal after widespread disruption caused by snow." (BBC Online)

Uh-oh! This won't do the greenhouse industry any good in the UK. Remember this piece?

"Tell-tale signs of climate change" - "Birds, butterflies and the Scottish skiing industry are among a range of official climate "pointers" to be used by the UK Government in the battle against global warming." (BBC Online, June 23, 1999)

So, Scotland reports good snow conditions and northern wildlife are observed heading south looking for food away from severe conditions. Does this mean the UK's "official climate pointers" indicate global cooling? Under their "birdies and butterflies" scenario, a hoot owl heard calling twice in the far woods portends an ice age perhaps?

Not a new piece but a good weekend read and quite topical "Is a New Ice Age Under Way?" - “Watch out, Al Gore. The glaciers will get you!” With that appended note, my friend, retired field geologist Jack Sauers, forwarded to me a report that should have been a lead item in every newspaper in the world. It was the news that the best-measured glacier in North America, the Nisqually on Mount Rainier, has been growing since 1931. The significance of the fact, immediately grasped by any competent climatologist, is that glacial advance is an early warning sign of Northern Hemisphere chilling of the sort that can bring on an Ice Age. The last Little Ice Age continued from about 1400 to 1850. It was followed by a period of slight warming. There are a growing number of signs that we may be descending into another Little Ice Age—all the mountains of “global warming” propaganda aside.” (21st Century Science & Technology Magazine)

"UNEP Aims for Stronger Global Role" - "NAIROBI, Kenya, February 9, 2001 - The Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has ended its latest biannual meeting Nairobi with agreement to strengthen the agency with a view to developing it into a global environmental governance body." (ENS)

Kyoto appears as dead as a Monte Python parrot so UNEP is openly looking for other ways to transform itself into a global governance body. Never give up their assault on counties' sovereignty do they. "The enhanced greenhouse myth is falling over, let's find another way of taking over the world!" - charming.

"The Week That Was February 10, 2001 brought to you by SEPP"

  • A DUTCH SAYING (The Science & Environmental Policy Project)

"Twenty percent may outgrow peanut allergy, scientists reveal" - "People who live in fear of their peanut allergy, anxiously avoiding numerous products and worrying that accidental exposure could cause a severe or even fatal reaction, may be cheered to learn that they may outgrow it, according to a study by Johns Hopkins researchers reported in the February issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology." (Media release)

"Risks of LASIK often overlooked: Thousands experience side effects from laser eye surgery" - "About 2.6 million Americans are expected to get LASIK surgery, the most common form of laser eye correction, this year. Ads for it are everywhere. But they seldom mention the side effects that strike tens of thousands of patients a year." (MSNBC)

I had LASIK more than a year ago. My vision went from 20/200 to 20/15. Not everyone with poor vision is a good candidate for the procedure. The key to success is being treated by a reputable opthamologist who is experienced with the procedure. Don't pick an opthamologist based on cost. Your eyesight isn't a commodity.

"Report: Surprise! Organic Farming Shift Increases Pesticide Use; Toxic 'Organic' Chemicals Pose Undisclosed Concerns " - "A new report shows a shift to organic farming methods could increase pesticide use by hundreds of millions of pounds per year. Representing less than 1 percent of total agriculture, this research reveals that even a marginal increase of land placed under organic farming methods could result in significant increases in use of persistent and toxic 'organic' pesticides such as sulfur, copper and other natural chemicals allowed in organic production." (Media release)

"Scientists to focus efforts on economy class syndrome" - "Incidents of deep vein thrombosis among long haul airline passengers, also known as "economy class syndrome", will be the subject of a major study to be conducted by Australian scientists." | Aviation industry investigates blood clots (Australian Broadcasting Corp.) | DVT expert calls for re-education of doctors (AAP)

"Doctors Reject Economy-Class Syndrome" - "SYDNEY - Doctors from Australia and New Zealand dismissed the concept of "economy class syndrome" on Friday, but called for a major study to determine whether there was any link between air travel and blood clots. The Australasian Society of Thrombosis & Haemostasis said the risk of fatal deep vein thrombosis (DVT) during air travel had been vastly overstated, adding that blood clots could just as easily occur on long haul bus trips or drives. "The degree of risk has been overstated, vastly overstated," society president Dr. Ross Baker said after attending a meeting of Australian airline officials, unions and medical specialists. "The medical risk at best estimates is very low," Baker said. Scientists at Griffith University's aviation medicine center, who also attended the Sydney DVT meeting, went further. "Economy class syndrome does not exist," said the center's Paul Bates." (Reuters)

"Your chance of blood clot: 1 in 2 million" - "The risk of healthy long-distance air travellers developing potentially fatal deep vein thrombosis (DVT) was roughly one in two million arrivals, scientists said yesterday. Announcing plans for a wide-ranging study into the links between air travel and DVT, the specialists emphasised that the risk of airline passengers contracting the illness had been vastly overstated." (The Age)

"MMR vaccine not linked to autism, researchers claim" - "The dramatic increase in cases of autism among children over the last decade cannot be accounted for by the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, researchers said yesterday." (Independent) | No Link Between MMR Vaccine And Autism Risk -Study (Reuters)

"Anger at UK grows as disease scare spreads" - "Anger over Britain's role in the BSE crisis has deepened in Spain amid reports that more than 1,500 Spaniards were treated with a drug made from blood from a British patient who later died from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD)." (Sydney Morning Herald)

Wow! Hugely prolific donor? Not exactly, the infected person was one of 52,768 people who donated blood for that batch [of Amascan Pulmonate].

"Officials who ignored BSE escape censure " - "No disciplinary action will be taken against any serving civil servants over the BSE disaster, the Government said yesterday in an interim response to last October's BSE Inquiry report." (The Independent)

"China to test for mad cow disease" - "BEIJING -- China will begin testing cattle for mad cow disease amid public concern that imported animals and feed could have infected domestic herds, the government-run China Daily newspaper said Friday." (AP)

"Vaccine safety to be reviewed after BSE criticism" - "Government advisers will next month begin to review the safety of vaccines dating back to the early 1970s, following criticisms that they had not sufficiently examined all the possible ways that BSE may have spread from cattle to humans." (Guardian)

"BSE 'ruined faith in food safety'" - "PEOPLE'S confidence in food safety had plunged because of the BSE crisis but there were now "no serious gaps" in powers to protect consumers, the Government said yesterday. However, it promised widespread public consultation on measures to sharpen the response of the agriculture and health departments to any future emergencies and asked for suggestions to tighten the powers of the Food Standards Agency. More than 80 people have died of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which has been linked to BSE." (Telegraph)

"Mad cow cause imported by Canada, British figures say" - "OTTAWA -- Canada imported 125,000 kilograms of British meat and bone meal in the 1990s after it had been identified as a likely cause of mad cow disease, British figures indicate." (CP)

Hmm... 125,000kg sounds a lot but is just 125mt. Why would anyone import 125mt of low-value product half way around the world? It's not even enough to include in one short production run for a relatively small feed milling operation. Hmm... again.

"California races to open power plants" - "With a court order requiring power suppliers to keep electricity flowing for at least another week, California turned its attention to boosting its generating capacity. Gov. Gray Davis unveiled a plan Thursday that he said would add enough electricity to power 5 million more homes by summer. "We will demonstrate that California can cut red tape, build more power and protect the environment," Davis said at a news conference in Yuba City, where a new 545-megawatt plant is expected to be operating by July. In the meantime, a judge's ruling Thursday should keep three of the state's biggest power suppliers shipping electricity to California until at least Feb. 16, when the next hearing is held. State air-quality regulators said they would grant exemptions to ease concerns of two of the suppliers who argued they could be fined for violating pollution standards if they continued meeting California's demand." (AP)

"Calif. Asks To Speed Plant Reviews" - "WASHINGTON — The White House examined a request Friday from California to speed environmental reviews involving power plant construction, triggering a sharp disagreement over whether the request amounts to rolling back environmental rules." (AP)

With energy supply in the news so much lately, this piece is a topical weekend read: "How Telling the Truth Defeated Greenpeace in Brazil" - "Brazil is now enjoying a rejuvenation of nuclear energy, with the completion of its second nuclear plant, Angra 2, and the defeat of the anti-nuclear Greenpeace—in the population, in the media, and in the political arena. This dramatic turnaround, from Brazil’s greenie-engineered nuclear retreat of the early 1990s, was the result of a head-on war against Greenpeace waged by the Brazilian Nuclear Energy Association (ABEN). How ABEN reversed course, went on the attack, and won is most instructive for the wimpy nuclear associations in the industrial nations, which kowtow to the greens. Like ABEN, these organizations would have to shed their traditional defensive behavior and fight." (21st Century Science & Technology Magazine)

"WHO WILL SPEAK FOR TRUTH?": The Case of Nuclear Radiation - "When I worked for Admiral Rickover during the Cold War years, we had one thing going for us that is hard to find today. Although many people opposed us, including some in high places, still there were a few serious and important people to whom we could go for guidance, insight and help, confident that their personal and institutional loyalties and biases would not prevent them from speaking openly and honestly about problems we both wanted resolved. Today, in the area I will discuss this evening, most people whose apparent objectives are the same as mine, often work to ignore or obscure or distort scientific facts that seem to endanger their more pressing goals. So, statements that seem to me simple truths, or facts of nature, cannot be acknowledged as such by those whose reputations and incomes are dependent on fear and mystery being associated with those facts." (Theodore Rockwell)

"Prosecutor seeks jail term for activist French farmer" - "- A prosecutor asked a court Friday to hand down a three-month prison sentence for activist Jose Bove, who is on trial in France on charges of raiding a laboratory and destroying more than 1,000 genetically altered plants." (AP)

Letter exchange of the moment: "Greenpeace: `Irresponsible' to Say Biotech Will Feed the World" with Replies from the author and the editor below (Letters column, 21st Century Science & Technology, Winter 2000-2001 via AgBioView)

"Statement from Prof. Ingo Potrykus", creator of the 'Golden Rice' in response to Greenpeace's Internet release "GENETICALLY ENGINEERED 'GOLDEN RICE' IS FOOL'S GOLD" from 9 February 2001 (includes that text). (AgBioView)

"Greenpeace protests marketing of GE rice" - "NEW DELHI: Environment NGO, Greenpeace, today raised serious objections against the proposed sale of genetically engineered "golden rice", saying it will not solve the malnutrition problem, as claimed by its developers." (PTI) | GM rice promoters 'have gone too far' (Guardian)

"Greenpeace promises not to halt trials of GM vitamin rice " - "Greenpeace has promised not to sabotage a forthcoming trial on genetically modified (GM) rice, because of the strong moral arguments in favour of producing a staple crop that could alleviate childhood blindness." (The Independent) | Greenpeace declares Golden Rice ceasefire (Financial Times) | Greenpeace backs down on GM rice protests (Telegraph)

"Rubber trees may yield blood protein" - "Rubber trees in Malaysia may soon flow with albumin, the protein in human blood given in transfusions, with rubber for making aircraft tyres as a useful byproduct. Hoong-Yeet Yeang, of the Rubber Research Institute in Kuala Lumpur, told the Biovision 2001 conference in Lyon in France, that trees "milked" for nearly a pint of latex sap every other day could be genetically engineered to provide commercial enzymes for shampoos, for chemotherapy drugs, as well as safe human blood products for hospitals." (Guardian)

"Bioengineered Skin Heals Diabetic Foot Ulcers" - "NEW YORK - An experimental, bioengineered tissue grown from human skin appears to speed healing of diabetic foot ulcers, according to results of a study." (Reuters Health)

"Genome makes customised therapies a reality " - "THE vision of the future outlined yesterday by Francis Collins, one of the leaders of the world project to sequence the human genome, is by far the most authoritative prediction yet made of what humankind can expect from its knowledge of genetics. Startling advances in medical science will be with us within ten years, with even more remarkable possibilities emerging by 2020 and 2030, he said. “If you’re not dizzy yet about the effects of the genome, you will be in ten years,” he told the Biovision biotechnology conference, which opened in Lyons yesterday." (The Times)

Maybe - and maybe it's time scientists concentrated on what we can do rather that what we hope to do. I seem to recall listening to a lecture more than three decades ago promising that cancer would be just a memory in ten years time. Beginning to understand the human genome does hold great promise and is a great achievement but we are only just taking a peek under the hood. When we fully understand the sequence and the functions of its components, that will be the time for statements on what we can actually do.

"Go-ahead for GM insect release" - "The first release of a genetically modified insect is expected to take place in the United States this summer. A moth has been engineered to contain a gene from a jellyfish in the first stage of a genetic experiment designed to eradicate the cotton-destroying pest from the wild." (BBC Online)

"Grappling with GMOs" - "KANANASKIS, Alta. -- To support or not support is the question many food processors face when dealing with genetically modified products. The trade association that represents 180 food manufacturers hopes a new study will make the question easier to answer. Laurie Curry, vice-president of the Food and Consumer Products Manufacturers of Canada, said it isn't a consumer-driven controversy. "In fact, it is more about leadership positioning and competitiveness than it is in respect to consumers," she told the Western Canadian Wheat Growers annual convention at Kananaskis." (The Western Producer)

"Infrastructure For Biotechnology?" - "We have all heard the arguments about the pros and cons of agricultural technology - pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and biotechnology. The Green Revolution is touted by some as being one of the great accomplishments of modern society and others as one of the great evils. A distinction is often made between the applications of agricultural technology in developing countries and developed ones." (AgBioView)

"Rice genome work creates hope" - "There was a lot of hoopla about the sequencing of the human genome last year. By contrast, the sequencing of the rice genome -- which may turn out to be even more important in some ways -- passed almost unnoticed." (Michael Smith, CNEWS)

Certainly an event of huge significance, although I'm less sure that wheat belongs in Smith's list of grains to which this will be directly applicable. As I recall, durum wheats have 14 chromosomes, the more modern red wheat varieties have 21, while rice has just 7. To me, wheat is a much more complex entity than a (relatively) simple grass like rice and will need significant specialized attention. Nonetheless, rice is a tremendously important grain and access to the rice genome holds potential for enormous benefit for between one-third and one-half of the world's population.

"Boffin tosses hot potato into the ring" - "A scientist sacked from a Scottish institute has fiercely defended his research indicating that rats fed with modified potatoes suffered organ damage. Dr Arpad Pusztai, aged 71, was fired from the Rowell Research Institute in Aberdeen after his mainly Government-funded research also showed compositional changes in the modified potatoes." (New Zealand Herald)

Pusztai is still trying for another 15 minutes of fame, now appearing for Fiends of the Earth (who go under the apt moniker of "FOE"). So eminent a body as the Royal Society had reviewed the work in question and found it seriously wanting. In fact, so strongly did the Royal Society feel the work was being granted totally unwarranted credibility that they felt compelled to release not one but two rebuttals. The Lancet has published the offending study Effect of diets containing genetically modified potatoes expressing Galanthus nivalis lectin on rat small intestine (if you don't habitually browse the Lancet you'll need to register [free] here in order to see it). Richard Horton carefully qualifies the publication and justifies its inclusion in Genetically modified foods: "absurd" concern or welcome dialogue? and it is criticised in Adequacy of methods for testing the safety of genetically modified foods.

So what conclusions can be drawn from this original research? Well, it provides supportive evidence for a few things:

  • raw potatoes are not very nutritious;
  • a balanced diet is much better than a diet solely consisting of potatoes;
  • rats forced to eat nothing but potato don't fare very well.

Beyond that? Nothing really. Commenting on the decision to publish such dubious work, the Social Issues Research Centre put it like this: [Pusztai published] "Whatever the rights or wrongs about his decision to publish the Pusztai research, albeit only in the 'Research Letters' section of the journal, the real issue of how so many people in our society come to entertain irrational fears about the dangers of GM foods, despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, remains to be addressed."

February 9, 2001

"Global Warming's Dirty New Secret" - "Global warming pushers should be choking on soot this week. Instead, the global warming-friendly media is choking a potentially devastating story..." (Steve Milloy, FoxNews.com)

For more on global warming, read The Satanic Gases, by Pat Michaels and Robert Balling.

"Profits on Cosmetic Save a Cure for Sleeping Sickness" "A cure for sleeping sickness, a disease devastating parts of central Africa, may soon be available cheaply because it has a second, profitable use: it eliminates facial hair in women. The drug, eflornithine, is so effective at reviving even comatose patients that it is known as the resurrection drug... It has been known for more than 10 years that eflornithine is a virtual miracle cure for trypanosomiasis, but stocks have run out because early hopes that it would help fight cancer have been dashed and medical production has stopped. The last 1,000 doses, held by Doctors Without Borders, could be used by June. The shortage is cited by critics of the industry who say multinational drug companies ignore the poor." (New York Times)

About this New York Times' front-page slam of drug companies, Gilbert Ross, MD of the American Council on Science and Health writes,
Considering that it fancies itself "the newspaper of record," today's N.Y.Times story on the recent availabilty of eflornithine to treat "sleeping sickness" in Africa manages to ignore the 800-lb. gorilla: DDT.

African trypanosomiasis is spread by the tsetse fly, an insect highly sensitive to the insecticide and repellant, DDT. But, thanks to activist groups inspired by Rachel Carson's polemic "Silent Spring," use of DDT has been markedly reduced or eliminated in the poorest areas of Africa, as well as in Asia and Latin America. This has led directly to resurgences of this disease, and to renewed devastation from malaria, one of the world's leading killers, with a yearly toll of over 2 million dead.

While pondering the potential benefits of the newer drug, and castigating the drug companies for not supplying it earlier, perhaps a word about the simplest, most effective, and cheapest means to reduce sleeping sickness would have been appropriate. Bit it seems that it doesn't matter that much if poor Africans suffer and die in order that comfortable "environmentalists" remain secure that DDT cannot be used to save lives.

Gilbert Ross M.D.
Medical Director, the American Council on Science and Health
New York

"Bad Science Will Never Yield Good Policy" - "We are beginning to witness in the United States a fundamental change in the decision making process, not unlike that which has already occurred in Europe, where the drama of the forum and the intensity with which opinion is offered substitute for substance, ultimately influencing the direction of the public response. Emotion rather than rationality has been used skillfully by individuals and organizations having various agendas to sway the public, who uneducated in the technical aspects of the argument respond in a manner that seems to them to be reasonable and precautionary. Unfortunately, responses based only on opinion, incorrect information or flawed logic can only hope to produce an output as good as the input; “Garbage in-Garbage Out.” (R. A. Norton, WattNet.com)

See also Where's the Beef on Farm Antibiotics? (Steve Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"The Antibiotic Compromise" - "Prescribing antibiotics for a cold is a bad idea. The drugs don't work on a cold, they're a waste of money and overuse of antibiotics leads to resistant bacteria. But physicians write the prescriptions because patients want the antibiotics, and M.D.s don't want to lose the business. What's a doctor to do?" (HealthScout)

"Nature's Toxic Tools" (PDF) - "Organic pesticides are the most heavily used agricultural pesticides in the U.S., according to the most recent data on U.S. pesticide use." (Alex Avery, Center For Global Food Issues)

"MMR 'cleared' of autism link" - "The apparent soaring rate of autism in recent years is almost certainly not due to the MMR injection, a major study suggests. The research could provide ammunition for ministers trying to stop parents deserting the vaccine in droves over safety fears." (BBC Online)

"Vaccines reformulated over fears of mad cow disease" - "WASHINGTON - Cow-derived ingredients from countries contending with mad cow disease are being replaced in certain vaccines as an extra precaution, even though the government's top mad cow experts call any risk theoretical." (AP)

"12 mad-cow questions that the meat and bone meal theory don't answer" - "One thing we'll agree with FAO about: Their statement that, "More research needs to be conducted into the nature of the agent and its modes of transmission. Much remains unknown about the disease and the infective agent." (AgWeb.com)

Poses lots of questions and provides no answers - not that this is particularly surprising because no one really knows. The most popular hypothesis is prion transfer via the oral route - except I'm unaware that this has ever been demonstrated. It's a possibility - and so is heavy metal toxicosis, which would help explain why stock grazing over certain soils are more susceptible than others, along with pesticide toxicosis - although this should have precipitated similar effects in similar stock in other regions with similar usage regimes but did not, and then there's the hypothesis of extra-terrestrially-sourced contagion drifting onto pastures from passing comets (don't laugh - no one can prove it's not the source when we don't know what is).

"Fear Of Food" - "What happens when you start believing all the nanny hype about the supposed dangers of food? Ask Detroit Free Press columnist Susan Ager, who says, "The adventure of food has turned into the fear of food." (GuestChoice.com)

"Health websites can be unhealthy" - "COLLEGE STATION - What could be coming from the Surgeon General: "Warning -- What You Read on the Web Could be Hazardous to Your Health." There is yet no disclaimer on health web sites that contain a Surgeon General's warning that what you read can be harmful, but perhaps there should be. Health web sites can be downright unhealthy. Health web sites can have information that is inaccurate, misleading, unproven and even false, and many of them aren't worth the eyestrain it takes to read them, according to a study by a Texas A&M University professor." (Texas A&M)

"Secondhand Smoke May Be Bad for Gums" - "NEW YORK - Exposure to secondhand smoke may increase the risk of gum disease, study results suggest. Nonsmokers inhaling environmental tobacco smoke at work or home increased their chances of developing periodontal disease about 1.5 times, according to researchers from the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry in Chapel Hill." (Reuters Health)

"Russia as nuclear garbageman?" - "It's a dirty job, but the country could get rich doing it, say supporters of a draft law that could turn Russia into the world's biggest importer of nuclear waste. It's a catastrophe in the making, counter environmentalists and other critics, who say the idea of taking in other countries' radioactive garbage is just a scheme to turn a quick profit and could lead to nuclear accidents." (CSM)

"Catalytic convertors contribute to pollution-magazine" - "LONDON - Instead of helping to clean up the environment, catalytic converters used on car exhausts are adding to pollution, a science magazine said on Wednesday." (Reuters)

No, not Scientific American, close though - New Scientist.

Today's "ohferkrisake!": "Climate change 'could kill thousands a year'" - "Climate change could result in thousands of extra lives being lost each year, according to a new Government report. It says climate change in Britain over the next 50 years could lead to an extra 5,000 deaths from skin cancer each year and 3,000 extra deaths annually in heatwaves. The report by the Expert Group on Climate Change and Health also says there could be an extra 10,000 cases of food poisoning each year. In half a century malaria could also take hold in some parts of Britain." (Ananova)

Assuming, for the moment, that enhanced greenhouse may actually cause real warming (just pretend), would this be causal in a possible reintroduction of malaria to Britain? Hardly - see From Shakespeare to Defoe: Malaria in England in the Little Ice Age by Paul Reiter, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, San Juan, Puerto Rico. In fact, malaria was endemic to the Arctic Circle and has only been beaten back to the impoverished tropical region through the use of pesticides (notably DDT) and drainage works reducing habitat for malarial vectors. Food poisoning? Only if people are increasingly careless with food handling. What about the "could kill thousands a year" bit? Even assuming people did not adapt to changing conditions, would the hypothetical 5,000 deaths from skin cancers and 3,000 from heatwaves be "additional deaths?" Even this item continues:

"However, the warmer climate could reduce the number of winter deaths among the elderly by an estimated 20,000 each year."

So, while the banner reads "Climate change 'could kill thousands a year'", meaning 8,000 purportedly "additional" skin cancers and heatwave-related mortalities, it should really have stated "Climate change could save thousands a year" since 20,000 fewer cold-related deaths minus 8,000 warming-related deaths implies the saving of 12,000 lives from temperature-related mortality. Leaving us to ponder how they justify their opening gambit of: "Climate change could result in thousands of extra lives being lost each year..." And they managed to lose a fairly significant point of two-and-a-half times more lives saved than lost in a piece that is less than 200 words! Sheeeesh!

"Australian faces harsh climate changes, warns government report" - "More floods and forest fires predicted within 50 years. ... The changes, blamed on global warming, would also hit farming production and make some parts of the country uninsurable, The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper said. A draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says..." (Independent)

Twaddle! The Sydney Morning Herald article on which this is based eventually gets around to admitting that it is reporting on the very same NSW Nature Conservation Council/Climate Action/Greenpeace "report" mentioned here yesterday [AAP]. It's about as "official" as "something we heard from a guy who said his friend heard about it" - and probably composed of less robust science.

IPCC's TAR guesstimations regarding Australia (and all regions) are completely clueless and say so, with ranges of no change to lots of change and everything in between.

Third-hand reporting of classic junk dressed up to sound authoritative.

Biofuels not "saviors" either? "Study: Ocean Atmosphere Is Polluted" - "WASHINGTON — Home heating and cooking fires in India and Southeast Asia, fueled by wood, dung, and farming wastes, pump tons of pollution into air, contributing to the staining of almost 4 million square miles of the atmosphere above the Indian Ocean, a study shows. An international research effort, the Indian Ocean Experiment, found that although Europe and North American still lead the world in per capita release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, Asia is catching up. ``The nature of the pollution (from Asia) deviates from that in Europe and North America,'' the researchers in a study appearing Friday in the journal Science. Instead of fossil fuels as the major source of pollution, as is the case in Europe and North America, much of the pollution from India and Southeast Asia comes from biofuels that can be collected in forest and field." (AP)

"U.S. lawmaker wants Senate vote on climate treaty" - "WASHINGTON - Leading U.S. House energy lawmaker Rep. Joe Barton Thursday said President George W. Bush should send the Kyoto climate change treaty to the Senate for a vote -- where it would likely be rejected and clear the way for bilateral and regional global warming efforts." (Reuters)

"Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences (CFCAS) issues second call for research proposals" - "OTTAWA, Feb. 8 /CNW/ - Professor Gordon McBean, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences (CFCAS), today issued the second call for research proposals. This call is intended for research proposals from individuals or small groups for projects up to $200,000 a year. ... Under federal Budget 2000, the Government of Canada awarded $60 million for the establishment of an independent science foundation supporting innovative research projects in climate and atmosphere." (Canada News Wire)

"U.N. Agency Pleads for More Funding" - "NAIROBI, Kenya - Governments must come up with more money to help the U.N. Environment Program combat global warming and other pressing environmental problems, director Klaus Toepfer told some 80 environment ministers and delegates Thursday." (AP)

"Snows kill herders, threaten wildlife in China" - "More herdsmen died and some 100,000 are stranded or short of food after months of blizzards in the remote Chinese region of Xinjiang, state media reported on Thursday. The reports said the snows and freezing temperatures that have pummeled an arc stretching from Central Asia across Mongolia and China to North Korea were the heaviest in northern Xinjiang's mountainous Altay region in 50 years." (Reuters)

"VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT Vol. 2, No. 5" - "Scary Weather," screams the U.S. News and World Report cover for February 5th. What’s really scary is that the accompanying article is presented as fact rather than fiction. Atlanta’s "monster ice storm that hit [last year] just before the Super Bowl" is linked to global warming. In fact, the January 28th storm was about as garden-variety as any ice storm in the mid-South can be. Its precipitation totaled half an inch, for crying out loud!" (GES)

"SCIENTISTS DISCOVER NEW KEYS TO ARCTIC OZONE LOSS" - "February 8, 2001 — Scientists have discovered a new class of particles present in the Arctic's winter stratosphere that likely play an important role in ozone loss in that region, NOAA announced today. These findings give scientists a better understanding of the processes that set the stage for chlorine-caused ozone depletion in the stratosphere above the Arctic." (NOAA)

February 8, 2001

"Hysteria strain of Ebola fever" - "Clearly, some believe Ebola has tremendous entertainment value. But if you're scared of the virus landing at JFK airport and spreading throughout North America, you're better off worrying about rabid polar bears in Miami." (Michael Fumento, Washington Times)

"Where are the enviros?" - "Amidst the sturm und drang of the California power crisis, one group is conspicuously silent: the environmental lobby. If they had the courage of their convictions, they would rail against electricity price controls, denounce Gov. Gray Davis' plan to ram through new generating capacity and march against the plan to seize private hydroelectric facilities. Instead, they have shown again that, for all their militant rhetoric when posturing against Republicans, they are less interested in advancing environmental causes than in serving Democratic political interests." (Peter Van Doren and Jerry Taylor, Washington Times)

Enhanced greenhouse is flavor of the moment for junk science-fueled scares, so let's use that as our opening theme:

Today's U.N.-sponsored hysteria: "U.N. Warns Global Warming Is Melting Arctic Soil" - "NAIROBI - U.N. scientists said Wednesday that global warming was melting the Arctic's permafrost, causing it to release greenhouse gases that could in turn raise temperatures even higher." (Reuters) | Melting Arctic Permafrost May Accelerate Global Warming (ENS) | Arctic 'now adding to global warming' (BBC Online) | Polluting gases may speed global warming (AP) [This one's a gem - who's the dopey beggar that forgot water freezes at +32°Fahrenheit (0.0°C) and converted the TAR extreme guess of +5.8°C to +42.4°F?]

CO2 Exchange in Arctic Tundra Ecosystems -- After eight years of observations, it was determined that carbon fluxes in arctic tundra ecosystems are much more sensitive to soil nutrient status than they are to rising air temperatures. Nutrient fertilization, for example, increased ecosystem productivity nearly three-fold, while a 6°C increase in temperature had little impact on plant photosynthesis and ecosystem respiration. Therefore, as the CO2 content of the air rises, its aerial fertilization effect will likely exert a positive influence on arctic tundra ecosystems, increasing their carbon sequestering capabilities, even in the face of rising air temperatures.

Editorial Review 20 September 2000, Volume 3 Number 23: No Pain, No Gain -- Repeated experimental investigations of ecosystem carbon balance in the Alaskan Arctic demonstrate that the initial transformation of wet-sedge and moist-tussock tundra communities from net summer sinks of carbon to net sources has slowly but surely been reversed, even in the face of further warming, demonstrating the reality of "a previously undemonstrated capacity for ecosystems to metabolically adjust to long-term changes in climate" in a way that stimulates biospheric productivity and diversity.

Carbon Sequestration (Soils) -- Summary -- As the air's CO2 content rises, a vast body of research suggests we can expect rates of carbon sequestration in the world's soils to rise as well, irrespective of whether the globe's air temperature rises or remains the same.

Arctic -- Summary -- Recent research on climatic and biological phenomena occurring in the Arctic comes up short in terms of detecting impending disasters.

Modeling the High-Latitude Terrestrial Carbon Sink -- A hybrid vegetation model driven by climate change parameters, including atmospheric CO2 concentration, air temperature, and nitrogen deposition, predicted that forests in the Northern Hemisphere would increase their land coverage by about 50% between 1860 and 2100. This expansion was determined to result primarily from the direct effects of rising CO2 concentrations on net primary productivity and biomass production. As a result of this increased forest growth and expansion, a current annual carbon sink of 0.4 Pg of carbon was calculated for the Northern Hemisphere north of 50° N latitude. In addition, this sink may increase to 1.0 Pg of carbon per year depending upon nitrogen deposition rates. Thus, if these results hold true for forests in other regions of the world, it is conceivable that earth's trees may ultimately be able to remove all future anthropogenic emissions of carbon.

"New study reveals a major cause of global warming - ordinary soot" - "In their frantic search for a solution to the global warming crisis, climatologists and policy makers have managed to overlook one of the leading causes of rising world temperatures - soot, the familiar black residue that coats fireplaces and darkens truck exhaust. According to a new study in the journal Nature, soot may be the second biggest contributor to global warming - just behind the infamous greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2)." (Stanford University)

Uh-huh... soot may cause as much as one-third of the global atmospheric warming that no one can find (there's been a slight warming in the north, slight cooling in the south and nothing in between over the last two decades, leaving a net global change of, uh... nothing). The corollary, of course, is that atmospheric carbon dioxide is even less important from an enhanced greenhouse perspective. Ignoring the rather dubious point of anthropogenic global warming, Jacobson makes one very good point about Third World mortality, though I wasn't aware the figures had been down-revised to this extent:

``Besides its impact on global warming, soot is bad for your health,`` adds Jacobson, noting that soot exposure has been linked to respiratory illnesses and cancer. ``The World Health Organization reports that about 2.7 million people die each year from air pollution - 900,000 in cities and 1.8 million in rural areas,`` he observes. ``The largest source of mortality from air pollution is indoor burning of biomass and coal,`` he notes. ``Reduction of such burning, therefore, will not only mitigate global warming but also will save lives and improve people`s health.``

In 1997, WHO reported 5 million infants die every year in the Third World from respiratory diseases caused by breathing indoor smoke and rural smog. Click here to view a multi-output clock tallying Third World deaths due to lack of electricity and clean water. The linked mortality counter was partly inspired by multinational NGO's efforts to obstruct India's construction of the Narmada dam - readers may find the following of interest too:

"This sanctuary is a prison" - "A place of sanctuary is somewhere we all crave, to escape to, to be safe and comfortable. It's a popular idea for the twenty-first century, for a life that seems to go too fast. But in Gujarat, India, a group of 40,000 indigenous people have found themselves imprisoned in a sanctuary designed for animals rather than people. They are the victims of a well-meaning environmental campaign, conducted by groups such as the World Wildlife Fund and its sister organisation The World Conservation Union, to stop the infamous Narmada dam from being built." (Kirk Leech, Spiked)

"500-century record links northern hemisphere cold spells to water in South American salt flat" - "A drill core record from what is now the world's largest salt flat, located at about 12,000 feet above sea level on a Bolivian plateau called the Altiplano, shows that this basin episodically filled with water during periods in the past 50,000 years when ocean temperatures to the north were unusually cold." (Duke University)

Some corroborative evidence of the Lake Titicaca study published a couple of weeks ago. Why are they significant? Because they demonstrate that our modeled concept of global hydrology and global climate is wrong. If we can not yet predict the hydrological effect of major glaciations, why would we believe predictions of drought/flood based on the output of models which rely, in turn, on the output of models predicting atmospheric warming which we cannot find?

"Climate change to hit farmers" - "CLIMATE change is threatening the survival of New South Wales farmers, exposing them to higher salinity levels and more drought, a new study has found. In the next 50 years, climate change would result in a decrease in available water resources, higher temperatures and reductions of arable land and crop and livestock quality, the report said." (AAP)

But this is terrible! What can we do - who can we telephone? Uh... just a minute - from whence comes this alarming report? Let's read on: "Released today by the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, Greenpeace and the Climate Action Network, the study warns of a dire future for farmers unless greenhouse gases are dramatically reduced." 'Nough said...

"EU proposes to meet US demand to delay climate talks" - "STOCKHOLM - European Union officials will reluctantly propose postponing climate talks until mid-July at the request of the United States, the EU's chief climate negotiator said on Wednesday." (Reuters)

"Anderson blames European demands for stalled climate negotiations" - "OTTAWA -- Environment Minister David Anderson says the Europeans flubbed a major opportunity in climate talks last fall when they failed to strike a deal with the outgoing Clinton administration. Anderson said there's now little choice but to wait for months -- probably until July -- while the Bush administration works out its position and builds a new negotiating team." (CP)

Poor David - he actually seems to believe the EU is interested in reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide rather than merely trying to disadvantage manufacturing and trading competitors.

"Ford exec sees dawn of pollution-free hydrogen cars" - "BRUSSELS -- Non-polluting hydrogen-powered car technology could replace conventional oil-fuelled vehicles within a generation, Ford of Europe Chairman Nick Scheele said on Tuesday." (Reuters)

Everything is on target for the hydrogen economy and there are only a few minor technical bugs to overcome, like piping sufficient molecular hydrogen from Jupiter...

"Exercise track is fitted on jumbo to cut DVT risk" - "A JUMBO jet specifically adapted to reduce the risks of deep vein thrombosis is being made available to long-haul tour operators. The Boeing 747 has had three quarters of its 400 seats removed, doubling the width of aisles to 31ins to create a circular 120yd exercise track - and still allow room for the food and drinks trolleys. The aircraft has been redesigned by the Gatwick-based charter company, Air Partner, which is expecting high demand from upmarket tour organisers and corporate clients. It said trials had shown that the additional room of the restyled jumbo was greatly appreciated. Marketing manager, Kevin Ducksbury, said: "People were walking or sometimes jogging round the exercise track with enthusiasm. And there's enough space for everyone to have a go at the same time. If you complete 15 circuits, you've covered a mile, which is quite a motivator. Everyone is aware of DVT these days, and for some people the ability to be physically active while flying could prove a life-saver." (Telegraph)

And the first clear-air turbulence they hit they'll be scraping joggers off ceiling - followed soon after landing by queues of lawyers looking for hapless victims of airline irresponsibility (for not having adequately secured passengers in their seats or warned them of the dangers of being unrestrained during flight), in whose name they can sue the operators (for a minor consideration, of course).

"Flying gene" - "Pre-flight genetic testing could help guard against flight-related deep vein thrombosis, says an Australian medical geneticist. This, and other ways of combating flight-related DVT, are expected to be discussed at a closed meeting of airline executives and medical experts in Sydney on 9 February. British Airways, Qantas, and Ansett are among those scheduled to attend." (New Scientist)

"Study: GM crops pose few ecological risks" - "SILWOOD PARK, Britain -- Genetically modified crops are not likely to harm natural habitats or persist in the wild longer than their conventional counterparts, according to a long-term study published in the journal Nature. Scientists at Imperial College in Britain monitored four crops at 12 sites over a period of 10 years to test whether the plants would become "superweeds" of agriculture or invasive of natural habitats. The study also looked at whether weedy or invasive hybrid offspring would result from cross-pollination with wild relatives. "We tested all of the genetically modified crops available in 1990," said Michael J. Crawley, primary author of the study. "In no case was the GM crop more invasive than its conventional counterpart. The risks with these crops and these constructs truly are negligible." (CNN) | GM Crops Unlikely to Turn Into Superweeds - Study (Reuters) | Study Eases Fears of Modified Plants (AP) | GM crops 'unlikely to become super weeds' (Independent) | GM 'super-weed' fears challenged (BBC Online) | Superweeds wilt (New Scientist) | GM super-weed fears 'unfounded' (Telegraph)

"Grains of Hope" - "Golden rice and other genetically engineered crops could revolutionize farming and help solve world hunger. Protesters fear they could also destroy the environment." (Time)

"GM food panel serves up a half-baked report" - "The Royal Society report makes some excellent recommendations to help Canadian society garner the benefits of genetically engineered crops while actively minimizing the risks. But the failure to properly explore many of the issues leaves the expert panel vulnerable to appropriation by a variety of groups, most with an interest in politics rather than in the production of safe, high quality food." (Douglas Powell and Shane Morris, National Post)

"Injuries are leading killer of children: Report" - "UNITED NATIONS: Injuries have now become the leading killer of children between the age of one and 14 in the world's wealthiest countries and are expected to take the lives of 20,000 children during the current year, a United Nations children's agency said." (Times of India)

"The child safety catch" - "Children in the UK are safer than almost anywhere else in the world. So why do parents always fear the worst? And is security necessarily a good thing asks Jonathan Duffy?" (BBC Online)

Today's chemical hysteria: "Home is where the chemical nasties are" - "Food, furniture, TV sets and even toys all expose us to chemicals that could harm our health. So why are consumers being kept in the dark?" (Independent)

If your food doesn't get you, your TV or your sofa might...

and companion piece: "Why are girls growing up so fast?" - "Almost exactly 30 years ago, around 5,000 people in up-state Michigan were exposed to a chemical oestrogen that had been accidentally added to a feed given to cattle. A decade or so later, the girls whose mothers had been exposed to the hormone, were found to be going into puberty 12 months ahead of their classmates who had not consumed contaminated meat or milk." (Independent) | Ever - Younger Puberty Puzzles Researchers (Reuters Health)

Hmm... no study is cited and I didn't turn up anything in a literature search regarding this "incident" - apocryphal? The condition of accelerated puberty in girls is more of a hypothesis than a widely observed phenomenon but the only scientifically documented cause is the increase in childhood obesity, and the demonstrated involvement of fat cell-derived leptin in initiating pubertal events.

The Reuters Health piece cites John Peterson Myers, director of the W. Alton Jones Foundation and co-conspirator author with Theo Colborn and Dianne Dumanoski, of Our Stolen Future. For a different perspective, see Our Swollen Future.

"Anxiety Linked to Blood Vessel Problems" - "NEW YORK - The fact that anger and hostility put people at higher risk of heart disease and heart attack has been known for some time. Now it appears that anxiety may also accelerate the development of atherosclerosis in the carotid arteries, and may cause those vessels to become thicker as well." (Reuters Health)

So, if anxiety directly contributes to ill health then, those who cause anxiety are culpable? Does this mean the mass tort industry will now go after the deep-pocket multinationals creating so much angst and anxiety? No - I mean the NGO empire and self public interest groups, who are both the source and the promulgators of specious scares and ridiculous hysteria.

"The madness spreads" - "MAD COW scandals just don't stop. In a week when Britain recorded six new cases of vCJD, the biggest real monthly increase so far, it has become clear that it has almost certainly inflicted this curse on the rest of the world." (New Scientist editorial)

"Fearing mad-cow type disease, USDA may seize imported sheep" - "MONTPELIER, Vt. - The U.S. Department of Agriculture is empowered to seize two flocks of imported sheep suspected of carrying a form of mad-cow disease, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. U.S. District Judge J. Garvan Murtha said the owners of the sheep imported from Belgium must comply with an order issued last summer by former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman to give up their herd. The USDA moved to seize the 355 sheep in July, after a laboratory test indicated that four animals were infected with a form of "transmissible spongiform encephalopathy," a family of illnesses that includes mad-cow disease." (AP)

"India predicts diabetes explosion" - "The world's largest diabetes epidemic is threatening India, which is ill-equipped to cope, say experts. The amount of type II, or adult-onset diabetes in Indian cities is high, and rising, suggests health data." (BBC Online)

"FDA May Get Tobacco Regulation Authority" - "WASHINGTON - Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have introduced new legislation that would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the legal authority to regulate tobacco products. The bill would grant the FDA the power to regulate nicotine as a drug and to control cigarettes as drug delivery devices." (Reuters Health)

"Food Companies Receive Warning About Herbal Additions" - "WASHINGTON -- Companies that spike foods with herbal medicines claiming to do such things as boost brain power or fight infections are getting a government warning: They may be breaking the law. The Food and Drug Administration wrote more than 80 companies warning them to examine novel ingredients used in food products to make sure they are considered safe food additives by the government. Also, the letter warns companies to cease making illegal -- and scientifically unproven -- health claims, such as falsely claiming that adding certain herbs makes foods act like antibiotics." (AP)

February 7, 2001

"Danish Cellphone Study Shows No Cancer Link" - "COPENHAGEN, Denmark - A pioneering Danish study of more than 400,000 mobile-phone users showed no increased cancer risk but failed to rule out other health hazards such as migraines, Denmark's National Cancer Institute said Tuesday. ``This first-ever nationwide cancer incidence study of cellular phone users does not support any link between the use of these phones and brain tumors and cancers of the brain or salivary gland or leukemia,'' concluded the report, published in the U.S. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. ... Other experts studying potential links between cellphone use and cancer have noted that it takes ionizing radiation -- the kind put out by microwave ovens and radioactive materials -- to make the changes in cells associated with cancer. Cellphones do not produce this type of radiation." (Reuters) | Study: Cell Phones Not Tied to Any Cancer (HealthScout) | Study: Cell phones don't cause cancer (AP)

Fair coverage with the exception of Reuters' allusion that microwave ovens utilize ionizing radiation - microwaves aren't ionizing. For those who don't know the difference, there's a nice little graphic here to show you where things fit in the electromagnetic spectrum.

"Airlines warn against overreaction to 'syndrome'" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Europe's airline industry said people should not jump to the conclusion that potentially fatal blood clots suffered by passengers on long-haul flights were caused by flying." (Reuters) | Blueprint for DVT study (Sydney Daily Telegraph)

"Passengers on run from DVT face fresh risk" - "Airline passengers' eagerness to avoid deep vein thrombosis by moving around the cabin may be putting them in danger of other, potentially serious, injuries. According to anecdotal reports from cabin crew on several major airlines flying in and out of Sydney, more passengers have been getting up from their seats and walking along corridors or stretching in open spaces near the bulkheads since publicity about the dangers of DVT over the past few months. But this places them at risk of being injured if the plane strikes clear air turbulence, which can occur without warning and be so severe that unsecured passengers are flung against the walls or ceiling of the plane. This is why airlines advise passengers to remain in their seats during flight, with their seatbelts loosely secured." (Sydney Morning Herald)

"Indian Cabinet to propose ban on public smoking, tobacco marketing" - "NEW DELHI, India - India's government drew up a bill Tuesday to ban smoking in public places and forbid tobacco advertising in an effort to reduce smoking in a country that suffers a million tobacco-related deaths a year. The bill, approved Tuesday by the Cabinet, would also ban the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to people below the age of 18, Cabinet spokesman Pramod Mahajan said." (AP)

"Jury rejects lawsuit over low-tar cigarettes" - "CHARLESTON, S.C. - A jury on Tuesday rejected claims made by a dead smoker's family that the low-tar, low-nicotine cigarettes he smoked were no safer than the regular variety." (AP)

"Science Matters – Even for the Environment" - "Over the last 20 years, there has been a quiet revolution in the environmental movement. Where those wanting to document and resolve environmental problems once embraced scientific methodologies, the passion for science has cooled. As the large, easily characterized problems have been eliminated, the very institutions of scientific inquiry -- transparency, rigorous standards of evidence, and communication of uncertainty -- have all come under fire as environmental advocates push for policies that often transcend environmental safety or healthfulness and embody a quest for environmental purity." (Tech Central)

"Supplements raise mad cow concerns" - "WASHINGTON: Dr Scott Norton was browsing through herbal supplements when he spotted bottles containing not just plants but some unexpected animal parts: brains, testicles, tracheas and glands from cows and other animals. The Maryland physician sounded an alarm: How can Americans be sure those supplements, some imported from Europe, are made of tissue free from mad cow disease?" (AP)

"Soldiers ran risk of mad cow disease No cases, but military is trying to 'allay alarm'" - "Millions of U.S. military personnel and their families stationed in Europe before 1996 may have eaten British beef on base during the height of the mad cow epidemic, military records show. For 10 years after the emergence of mad cow disease in British cattle in 1986, commissaries on U.S. bases in Europe were supplied beef from the United Kingdom." (USA Today)

"Study: US mad cow outbreak is unlikely" - "Despite a growing uneasiness among Americans about mad cow disease, the often-fatal brain affliction is unlikely to cause significant harm in this country, according to a new report being finalized by a team at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis." (Boston Globe)

"Mad Cow: A New American Scare Campaign" - "What are the chances that a mad cow disease outbreak could happen here? "Almost none," says Paul Brown of the National Institutes of Health in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Find out who's continuing to spread rumors that it could and why their doing it in our exclusive new report: Mad Cow: A New American Scare Campaign." (GuestChoice.com)

"Mother's fishy diet boosts children" - "Women who eat oily fish while pregnant have children with better visual development, a major study suggests. The finding, by researchers at Bristol University, found the benefit among women who ate oily fish as little as once a fortnight." (BBC Online) | Eating Fish In Pregnancy Means Kids With Better Vision (UniSci)

From the same people who brought you this silly scare piece. Note the inclusion of salmon in their list of desirable fish for pregnant women in the current piece.

"UV radiation may be zapping Atlantic cod" - "Stricter quotas on catches of Atlantic cod and other fish may not be enough to curb population declines, a recent study in the Journal of Experimental Biology finds. According to zoologist Michael Lesser and colleagues at the University of New Hampshire, the quotas may not fully consider certain environmental changes that have occurred in the cod's ocean habitat. The research follows an August study that was published in the journal Nature, which found that fish stocks recover far more slowly from large population cuts than previously thought. Several experts have suggested that a thinning ozone layer has resulted in the planet's increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation." (ENN)

Quite aside from the inconvenient fact that no one can demonstrate an increase in UV energy arriving at the Earth's surface - despite measurably increased levels radiating from ol' Sol - these poor little fishies were zapped in a laboratory aquarium and the relationship to the real world is moot. What's the bet that this is a teaser article setting up for "[Record/Catastrophic/whatever] ozone depletion observed over Arctic" with threats of impending ozone "hole" etc., in the Arctic spring. It's guaranteed that measurable ozone destruction will occur when sunlight returns to energize the reaction in the cold Polar air - it happens at both Poles after the long winter night although most dramatically over the Antarctic where colder conditions are more conducive to the formation of PSCs (Polar Stratospheric Clouds).

Meanwhile: "Rickets upsurge among UK Asians" - "An increase in the number of cases of the bone disease rickets may be partly due to strict Muslim dress codes, say doctors. The Asian community appears to be particularly vulnerable to the disease, which is caused by a lack of vitamin D." (BBC Online)

And the correlation? Insufficient skin exposure to UVB for adequate vitamin D synthesis.

"In experiment, mice slim on junk food" - "They're obese and they constantly gorge themselves on fatty, sweet food, a seemingly lethal combination. Yet, lab mice at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge are losing weight thanks to a recently identified protein that helps their bodies burn up junk food." (Boston Globe) | Human Protein Helps Keep Mice From Getting Fat (Reuters)

If only people were mice...

"Government concern could end school bake sales" - "Feb. 6, 2001 | WASHINGTON -- To cut down on the soda, snacks and sweets children are eating, the government wants to require that all food sold in schools meets nutrition standards. That could mean an end to soda machines in the hall and candy and cookie sales to buy band uniforms." (AP)

"Gene-Gene Interaction In Asthma Seen For First Time" - "The Johns Hopkins team that first unearthed two chromosomes as the site of genes for asthma and allergic disease has moved closer to identifying those genes with the help of a unique Barbados island population." (UniSci)

"Cloning the Buddha?" - "The long, fruitful march of scientific progress took a step backward in Ottawa yesterday with the report of The Royal Society of Canada on the future of Canadian food biotechnology. You could tell there was trouble right from the opening pages. The first referenced source in the 265-page report, the first "scientific" footnote in a work packed with scientific pretense and commissioned by the government of Canada, cites Cloning the Buddha: The Moral Impact of Biotechnology. This is no accident or coincidence. Cloning the Buddha is a mystical anti-science track by New Age spiritualist Richard Heinberg." (Terence Corcoran, National Post)

"The Population/Biodiversity Paradox. Agricultural Efficiency to Save Wilderness" - "I know of no time which is lost more thoroughly than that devoted to arguing on matters of fact with a disputant who has no facts but only very strong convictions" (Simon, 1996). The comment aptly summarizes a common experience (including my own) in dealing with technophobes. In one sense, the genetic manipulation (GM) debate can only be conducted on a level in which the participants are prepared to enlarge their knowledge and refine their views accordingly. I consequently have tried in this article to provide plenty of facts that can be used in discussion with reasonable participants. My recommendation is to forget those who are not prepared to modify in any way a prepared (i.e. ideological) position." (Anthony Trewavas, Plant Physiology)

"Government doubles number of GM crop trials" - "The Government was accused last night of giving the biotechnology industry "a licence to pollute" after it was announced that the size of the trial programme for genetically modified crops is to be doubled. A total of 96 new trial sites of genetically modified maize, oilseed rape and beet – up from the current 48 – will be sown throughout Britain this spring, the Ministry of Agriculture said, with buffer distances between the trial fields and conventional crops increased from 50 to 100 metres." (Independent) | GM field trials must use wider buffer zones (Telegraph) | GM tests to double this year (The Times)

"Plants That Detect Landmines, And Other Biosensors" - "The furor over genetically modified (GM) plants has focused on crops with engineered agronomic qualities, such as insect resistance and herbicide tolerance. Critics are primarily concerned with food safety issues and ecological consequences. But GM technologies have much further ranging applications than simply agriculture. While their potential for improving crops plants is important, environmental monitoring is an area where GM plants can perform a crucial role in a low-impact manner, a role that even GM opposition would be hard-pressed to criticize." (Information Systems for Biotechnology News)

"The Vision Of An Edible Vaccine For Hepatitis B Starts To Come Into Focus" - "Over two billion people worldwide are infected with hepatitis B, a serious liver infection that can result in jaundice, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. Although an injectable vaccine now exists, its expense and requirement for refrigeration makes it unavailable to more than one-third of the world's population, especially in poor countries where the vaccine is in urgent need. Dr. Charles Arntzen, of Arizona State University, has put the idea of a stable, plant-based vaccine forward as an attractive alternative. Now Dr. Arntzen and his colleagues report encouraging results in their effort to create a stable, edible form of the vaccine in their November 2000, Nature Biotechnology progress report." (Information Systems for Biotechnology News)

"Biotech acres to climb, Wall Street analysts say" - "Despite controversy, biotech seed acreage for U.S. corn and soybeans will continue to climb in 2001, a farmer survey by UBS Warburg and Top Producer magazine finds. “The market has been concerned about future growth in ag biotech and the implications for companies like Monsanto, DuPont and Dow,” say Andrew Cash and Lara Palevitz, chemicals analysts with UBS Warburg/Paine Webber in New York. “We believe the market will continue to be surprised at good news about ag biotech, regardless of GMO issues.” | Maybe time to change the EU biotech focus | Monsanto CEO: Roundup Ready Crops Expansion Potential ‘Significant’ | StarLink Fiasco Done Little to Shake Farmers’ Support of Biotech (AgWeb.com) | Farmers Face 2001 with Continued Confidence in Biotechnology (PRN)

"Twin Freaks" - "So, will there be human clones walking among us soon? Actually, of course, there are already plenty of human clones -- identical twins. Identical twins have exactly the same genes." (Ronald Bailey, Reason)

"Researcher Sees Chances of Lung Regrowth" - "CHICAGO - It may be possible in the next few decades to fight a variety of lung diseases by regenerating human lung tissue, a researcher said on Tuesday. ``The ultimate goal for replacement of diseased lung tissue is to regrow a new functional lung,'' said Ronald Crystal of Weill Medical College at Cornell University. ``With the technology available to identify the genes that control lung growth, major advances in this area should occur in the next few decades.'' (Reuters)

At some future time perhaps.

Here we go again: "Sea levels predicted to rise dramatically" - "An increase in the number of severe coastal storms has been predicted over the next century as sea levels rise dramatically. A Hobart conference of climate scientists has heard that ocean warming and thermal expansion will be the largest contributor to the rise in sea levels during the 21st century. The CSIRO's Dr John Church has told the conference that sea levels are projected to rise between nine and 88 centimetres over the next 100 years. Dr Church says increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will result in higher atmospheric and ocean temperatures. Dr Church says the change in sea levels will increase the frequency of storms, threatening life and property in coastal areas." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.) | Sea level rises to go on for centuries (The Advertiser)

November 23, 2000 - 'No acceleration' in Pacific sea rise - "If the burning of fossil fuels is forcing the Earth to warm up, the rapid rise in sea levels that some expect from the thermal expansion of the oceans has yet to show itself clearly. ..." Dr Wolfgang Scherer, director of the National Tidal Facility (NTF) of Flinders University, South Australia, which undertook the review, told BBC News Online that the much larger increases in global sea level predicted by some climate models were not apparent in their regional data. "There is no acceleration in sea level rise - none that we can discern, at all," he said." (BBC Online)

Dr. Wolfgang Scherer is one of the UN-IPCC's contributing scientists - on sea levels. The period of intensive study on which he reports encompassed purportedly the "hottest decade of the hottest century of the millennium" and, according to dogma, thermal expansion of seawater should have demonstrated an increase in sea level rise. Oops.

"Scientist rewarded for research on climate" - "Hansen made waves again last summer with his assertion that governments should focus less on curbing the use of oil, coal, and natural gas and more on other heat-trapping pollutants. Some environmentalists feared he was giving ammunition to global warming skeptics. But Monday, there were no questions or reprisals, only warm congratulations from colleagues. Hansen, 59, was named one of six recipients of the Heinz Award, the prestigious, $250,000 prize given in recognition of individuals who enhance the lives of others." (Bergen County Record)

"City to warn residents to keep cool" - "More people die from the summer heat each year in Toronto, normally considered a cool-weather city, than in balmy Miami, says a leading U.S. researcher on the health effects of heat waves." (Globe and Mail)

And how many "excess deaths" occur during colder periods?

"The Crux of the Climate Policy Debate" - "In a revealing Insight Feature (1) in the 18 January 2001 issue of Nature, climate guru Stephen H. Schneider says that what he calls "the crux of the climate policy debate" has been reduced to a single question: "how can we create incentives to put a price on carbon?" The first of the odious options Schneider lists for achieving this goal is the enactment of a direct carbon tax (2); the second option is to enforce measures such as the Kyoto Protocol (3); while the third option includes the disbursement of subsidies for the development of carbon management schemes (4), which latter word, we might add, is a most appropriate descriptor of the deception involved in such undertakings.  Or shall we say underhanded takings?" (co2science.org)

"Antarctic Sea Ice Trends" - "To find just the opposite of what the climate alarmists predict should be occurring as a consequence of the ongoing rise in the air's CO 2 concentration must be a real blow to them.  And this is not the first such blow.  We reported the similar results of another Antarctic sea ice study just a few months ago (Recent Trends in Antarctic Sea Ice Extent), as well the finding that Antarctica has cooled slightly over this period (Recent Trends in Antarctic Surface Temperatures). And this is supposed to be the place where global warming is first detected?  We'll buy that, which means, of course, that it just ain't happening!" (co2science.org)

"VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT Vol. 2, No. 4" - "There’s a spate of stories by Reuters, Associated Press, BBC, the London Times and The Washington Post among others that report a recession in the remote Antarctic Pine Island glacier. Despite protests by Andrew Shepard, who is senior author of an article in the February 2nd edition of Science upon which these reports are based, each and every story either link his findings to global warming or indicate a possible relationship. "We don’t have any evidence to suggest change of climate," Shepard tells Reuters. This is guilt by implication – imputing something when there are no facts to support it and despite expert testimony to the contrary." (GES)

"Simulated Climate Change on the East Antarctic Ice Sheet" - "The results of this study deal a severe blow to climate alarmists who predict catastrophic melting of the polar ice sheets as a consequence of CO 2-induced global warming.  Even with computer models - which they generally use as the basis for their claims - such a scenario seems a virtual impossibility.  In addition, this study demonstrates the difficulty of ascribing recent trends in ice sheet volume to anthropogenic activities, in view of the long time period required for the ice sheet to come to equilibrium following the end of the last glacial maximum." (co2science.org)

"IS IT REALLY WARMER NOW THAN WHEN YOU WERE A KID? FIND OUT ON NEW NOAA WEB SITE" - "February 5, 2001 — Easy access to 106 years of climate data is now available at a new Web site just launched by NOAA. Sky-blue buttons can quickly give you access to temperature and precipitation data for the entire USA, including all regions, the 48 contiguous states and 40 cities. With one click, graphs and tables provide data for any month or season from 1895 to the present. The new Web site can tell you whether a bitterly cold winter is really the coldest ever recorded in U.S. history, or whether it's ever been drier in the Southern Plains, or what the data show about U.S. temperature patterns. The interactive site lets you tailor the questions and create your own maps, graphs and tables." (NOAA)

Lately, I've been featuring the odd joke - here's another: "Interactive Map Documents Global Hotspots" - "WASHINGTON, DC, February 5, 2001 (ENS) - Seven of the largest environmental groups in the United States have collaborated to produce an interactive map of the world illustrating the realities of global climate change. ... The Global Warming: Early Warning Signs Map indicates places with direct manifestations of a widespread and long term trend toward warmer global temperatures - called fingerprints. These fingerprints could be heat waves and periods of unusually warm weather, sea level rise and coastal flooding and melting glaciers." (ENS)

Actually, a joke is perhaps not the correct description. Let's call it a fanciful piece as the anti-everything brigade attempt to associate weather events with the enhanced greenhouse hypothesis.

February 6, 2001

Cell phone hearings - Consumer advocates are pushing for congressional hearings on the safety of cell phones, according to Wireless Week (Feb. 5). The trigger for the hearings could be a report from the U.S. General Accounting Office, the congressional watchdog. In October 1999, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) requested the GAO to investigate possible health risks of cell phones. Click for Steve Milloy's commentary on the latest cell phone research. (FoxNews.com, 12/22/00).

"Impacts of Climate Change to Cost World Over $300 Billion Annually" - "NAIROBI — Global warming may cost the world several billion dollars a year unless urgent efforts are made to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and the other gases linked with the "greenhouse effect." (United Nations Environment Programme)

This UNEP release spawned significant media activity, so it's worth featuring again. Why is UNEP making such a song and dance over an extreme hypothetical? An analysis by Goklany [Goklany, I.M. 2000. Potential consequences of increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration compared to other environmental problems. Technology 7S: 189-213. Click here for a brief review] suggests humanity and the environment have much more pressing problems, problems that are both real and tangible, so why chase phantoms? Perhaps UNEP's companion piece offers a clue: UNEP Chief Calls for More Funds, as Council Session Opens. | UN environment champ in cash crisis (BBC Online)

A Heated Debate That Leaves Me Cold (New York Daily News) isn't a bad read either.

"Experts: Mysterious syndromes involve more than environmental exposures" - "PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- People desperate for explanations of mysterious health problems from chronic fatigue syndrome to multiple chemical sensitivity shouldn't blame the nearest toxic dump or exposure to chemicals, experts say. Numerous illnesses for which doctors can find no cause -- or even conclude it's all in the patient's head -- probably are caused by multiple physical, psychological and social factors interacting in complex ways not yet understood, scientists said at a recent conference at Rutgers University. ... The symptoms often seem worst in patients paying the most attention to them, those living unstimulating, somewhat isolated lives, noted Anne Spurgeon of the University of Birmingham in England." (AP)

"States Clean Up Hazardous Waste While Federal Superfund Dithers"- "During his campaign for the presidency, then Gov. George W. Bush’s first environmental speech took place at an industrial site in Pennsylvania. The former hazardous waste site had been cleaned up, but not with leadership from Washington, and not by government officials wielding an enforcement hammer. It was cleaned up as part of a state voluntary effort – Pennsylvania’s Land Recycling Program. That program exemplifies a new environmentalism of incentives and problem solving that stands in stark contrast to the decades-old federal Superfund program." (Lynn Scarlett, Tech Central)

"Oily fish 'can give babies better sight'" - "PREGNANT women who eat oily fish such as sardines and mackerel have children with better eyesight, according to a study. As the richest source of DHA, a fatty acid that is an important structural component of nerve membranes, oily fish has long been associated with brain development. However, the study by Children of the 90s, a Bristol University project, is the first to link diet in pregnancy with a child's visual development." (Telegraph)

So what's the score at the moment? Over the last month or so, we have been told to limit consumption of oily fish like salmon, (due to "contamination" of farmed fish with PCBs - at a rate, according to Number Watch [scroll down to "A Fishy Story"], of about 1 part in 300,000,000,000 - see also "Fish Balls", Error in salmon study undermines toxin claims, BBC 'created health scare to plug programme'), US FDA & EPA issued a bizarre advisory over mercury "contamination", suggesting women of childbearing age limit consumption of oily fish (for the sake of the developmental health of a possible fetus - see FDA's Mercurial Fish Story), but wait - there's more, women should increase consumption of oily fish, (for their own health's sake - limit stroke risk, coronary infarction...) and, increase oily fish consumption, (for the developmental health of a possible fetus).

By golly it's frustrating that people willfully ignore health advice. You can tell 'em what they should do but they just won't help themselves, you know...

"Estrogen–progestin replacement does not increase stroke risk" - "DALLAS, Feb. 6 – Hormone replacement therapy with estrogen and progestin does not alter the risk of stroke in postmenopausal women with heart disease, according to a report in today’s Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association." (AHA)

"Italy: where's the beef?" - "On 16 January 2001, Italy confirmed that the first case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) had been found in a cow on the Malpensata farm of Pontevico, Brescia. By 31 January the prime minister, Giuliano Amato, had approved putting the bovine sector under a nationwide state of emergency, and was awaiting confirmation from the Council of Ministers. How has one case of mad cow disease convinced a beef-loving country to switch to fish and other meats?" (Dominic Standish, Spiked)

"Government Puts Energy Off Limits With No Environmental Purpose" - "Gale Norton's fractious nomination as secretary of the Interior Department is now safely behind her. Her battle, though, may represent just a curtain raiser for struggles to come as she tries to implement Bush administration land use policies – particularly its energy plans. When Bush put Norton's name up for the post, environmentalist groups went on the warpath. She is, the Sierra Club said, an "anti-environmental extremist" who "has long advocated opening America's wildlands to the oil, gas, mining and logging industries." (John Merline, Editorial writer, USA Today)

"Lifestyle changes key to cancer prevention: NSW council" - "The New South Wales Cancer Council says at least half of all cancers could be prevented if people made simple lifestyle changes." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

Unfortunately, most people are disinterested in lifestyle changes, preferring something to blame and, hopefully, a deep-pocketed someone to sue.

"Low-fat diets OK for kids with high cholesterol" - "CHICAGO, Illinois -- Children with high cholesterol can be put on low-fat diets without stunting their growth or intellectual development, researchers say. The findings stem from the last phase of a National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute study of 663 children ages 8 to 10 with high cholesterol. The youngsters were followed for up to about 71/2 years. Children with high cholesterol run a higher risk of developing heart disease in adulthood. But some doctors have worried that cholesterol-lowering diets would stunt children's physical and intellectual growth." (AP)

"Coffee agitation: bean there, drunk that" - "Sydney - There's good news and bad news for people who can't contemplate a day without coffee. While there is no hard evidence that caffeine is bad for health - it doesn't cause heart disease or increase blood pressure - too many doses of caffeine can make you so agitated you can't concentrate on work. Last year, a study commissioned by the Australian and New Zealand Food Authority found that coffee altered behaviour." (Sapa-DPA)

You know you are addicted to coffee if ...

Did it move for you Dear? "Planet Earth on the move" - "Mankind will soon have the ability to move the Earth into a new orbit, say a team of astronomers. The planetary manoeuvre may more than double the time life can survive on our planet, they believe." (BBC Online)

Just think, no need to worry about enhanced greenhouse - we can just park the Earth in an orbit where incoming solar radiation strength suits the desired thermostat level. Bet there'd be a fight over what that level should be though.

"UNEP Blames Environmental Woes On Poverty" - "Alongside poor or bad governance, negligence and greed, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) has cited poverty as one of the major causes of the ecological crises confronting the world." (PANA)

Here's a revelation. People who can't support themselves can't afford the premiums for environmental protection and repair. Amazing insight! How do they do it?

"Saudi Hospital Files Anti - Tobacco Suit in US" - "RIYADH - A leading Saudi hospital said on Monday its lawsuit against international tobacco firms had been filed in US courts. The hospital seeks at least $3 billion in compensation for treating lung disease in smokers." (Reuters)

"Food: the new poison?" - "The UK Food Standards Agency's (FSA's) 'Survey of Consumer Attitudes to Food', released today, claims that '14 percent of UK respondents have had at least one case of food poisoning over the last year but only 20 percent of sufferers reported it'. Noting that 'incidences of food poisoning seem to be much larger than official figures would suggest', the FSA draws the conclusion that 'as many as five million people in the UK may have had some kind of food poisoning in the last year': a statistic unlikely to enhance your appetite as you delve into the contents of your lunchtime sandwich. But should this survey's findings really be enough to put us off our food?" (Tony Gilland, Spiked)

"Canadian consumers threatened by GM foods" - "OTTAWA - The Royal Society of Canada is condemning the way the federal government regulates genetically-modified foods, saying consumers aren't being protected." (CBC) [Royal Society report 265pp] | Experts Want Beefed-Up Rules For Frankenfoods (Global TV)

"Farmers’ Support of Biotechnology Hasn''t Wavered" - "Despite the recent fiasco with StarLink corn, a majority of farmers apparently aren’t concerned about planting biotech seed this year." | Japan and U.S. Still Tackling StarLink Corn Issues (AgWeb.com)

"Panel Makes No Recommendations on Bio-Foods" - "WASHINGTON - A Clinton administration panel said its review of federal environmental laws governing biotech foods showed there have been no ``significant'' adverse effects and did not offer any recommendations for Congress or the new administration to consider. The assessment by the Council of Environmental Quality, quietly published late last month, was part of the Clinton administration's effort to build consumer confidence in U.S. regulations for gene-altered corn, fruit, fish and other foods. ``No significant negative environmental impacts have been associated with the use of any previously approved biotechnology product,'' the report said." (Reuters)

"Study: U.K. to miss emissions reduction target" - "LONDON, England -- Britain is set to miss by a considerable margin its target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent between 1990 and 2010, said an independent study published on Monday." (Reuters)

Uh-huh... "Deep seawater - a functional breakthrough for high blood pressure?" - "Japan's latest hit in the current natural/health food boom is pristine seawater sucked up from the ocean depths. Its adherents claim deep seawater, as it is known, to be pollution- and bacteria-free and rich in minerals, including potassium, phosphorus and magnesium. According to a Tokyo-based company Ako Kasei, which became one of the first to market the water last summer, deep seawater flows as a current at a depth of at least 200 meters and requires 2,000 years to circle the globe. It rarely mixes with water above this level. Ako Kasei also extracts the salt from such saline water and sells it separately as a mineral-rich natural sea salt at ¥450 per 15-gram bag. Its desalinated deep seawater sells for ¥3000 each 10-litre bottle." (justfood.com)

February 5, 2001

"Techno-food panel's idea: human guinea pigs" - "Health experts want to set up a register of human guinea pigs as one of the measures to protect people from the dangers of genetically modified food." (National Post)

Before hysterical rumors fly: "Earth faces 38 close asteroid encounters: Russian scientists" - "Russian scientists warned Sunday that 38 asteroids will hurtle Earthwards in 2001, some passing the planet as near, or as far as, 1.84 million kilometres away. But they scotched fears of planetary debris causing earthquakes, tidal waves and other global catastrophes, saying close encounters of the asteroid kind were not a reason for panic. ... The flight paths of all asteroids expected near Earth's orbit between now and 2176 have been mapped, and none of them foresee a collision with the Earth, though longer-term forecasting is not possible without more powerful computers, Smirnov said. He added that intermittent rumours an asteroid was going to collide with the planet were "fiction or a sign of incompetence." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.) | Earth faces close encounters of the asteroid kind (AFP)

"Computer model unable to predict the weather, yet" - "Nature's a tough customer, admits David Gutzler, a University of New Mexico climatologist. When it comes to simulating nature with even high-powered computers, Gutzler confesses, "nature is a lot more complex, and this just reinforces it." ... "Forget climate effects," shrugged Gutzler. "Can we get the monsoon right? It's a big challenge and a big triumph if we can do it." In presentations at the conference at the Albuquerque Convention Center, Gutzler and collaborator James Stalker, a Los Alamos Lab computer scientist, confessed bluntly that their high-resolution Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (RAMS) exceeds "the bounds of realism." ... "I'm an observation guy," he said, "and it's a lesson for me on how difficult the (computer simulation) problem really is," he said. ... "As usual, when you increase the data set (add more extensive historical measurements) things start to fall apart," he said." (Scripps-McClatchy Western Service)

"UN's early warnings of climate disasters" (BBC Online)

I knew the Beeb's resident climate hysteric, Alex "G.W." Kirby, wouldn't be able to resist this one. Check out the caption under the lead graphic: "Identifying earthquake-prone areas could save many lives." No problem with that - now check out Alex's opening gambit: "Scientists working for the United Nations are developing an early warning system for areas threatened by climate-related natural disasters."

So now we know, earthquakes are "climate-related" natural disasters. Some elements of the press seem to get more foolish by the day.

Of course, Alex "G.W." is not the only one at the BBC to spew climate-related nonsense: West of Scotland to 'get wetter', because winters are "getting warmer", followed promptly by: Winter chill returns. Well, I s'pose you don't have to be right for very long with electronic media do you and, hey, no one remembers what you said yesterday - do they? See also Bitter reminder that it's winter (The Times) | Cold snap claims more lives in Russia (AFP)

"CJD link to blood Britain sold abroad" - "Blood products donated by three people who were later struck down with the human form of BSE have been sold to 11 countries, amid mounting concern that Britain could soon be blamed for exporting the fatal human condition as well as the cattle disease. Thousands of patients worldwide, and an unknown number of haemophiliacs in Britain, might have received treatments with the products between 1996 and last year. The risk of infection - which health department officials insist is only theoretical - has now been closed off by restricting blood sources to the US." (Guardian) | Scientists strive to keep mad cow disease away from U.S. (Kansas City Star)

"Low public trust in food safety" - "Five million people in Britain could have suffered food poisoning last year, but few reported it to a doctor or a food outlet that may have been responsible, the food standards agency reveals today. Its survey of attitudes to food safety has found confidence to be "unacceptably low", with less than half the population happy with the present regime, a finding that is sure to prompt a blitz on industry standards." (Guardian) | Fears over food poisoning (BBC Online)

"Critic of mobile phones joins health risk panel"- "A SCIENTIST who has accused ministers of covering up the risks of mobile phones is to sit on a government panel that will distribute more than £7 million to fund research into the safety of the technology. Roger Coghill, whose work has suggested that mobile phone radiation can damage the human immune system, has also been invited to apply for funding under the scheme to pursue his own research." (The Times)

Coghill believes magnets have healing powers. He sells them from his web site.

In any event, the Times article is incorrect. The Department of Health invited Coghill only to attend the meeting -- not to "join" the panel. Apparently, the journalist did not clarify/confirm Coghill's claims with the Department of Health.

"If flying doesn't kill me, the Scotch beef might" - Mordecai Richler writes on European fears in the National Post - well OK, maybe not just European fears:

"Summit called over flight clot deaths" - "A SUMMIT on fatal blood clots related to long-haul flights will be held this week amid revelations 18 people have died in Australia from so-called economy-class syndrome." (Sydney Daily Telegraph)

"Girls 'eating less but more getting fat'" - "Teenage girls eat half as much as boys but increasing numbers are becoming overweight because they do too little exercise, say researchers. Girls eat 55% fewer calories than boys, and modern teenagers have been shown to consume the lowest number of calories for 40 years. Girls also eat 45% more fruit and vegetables than boys, who tend to choose fast food, such as sandwiches and pizza. But increasing numbers are becoming overweight because they spend too much time on non-physical activities such as watching TV and playing computer games." (BBC Online) | Teenage girls eat less but still get fatter (The Times)

Well blimey! You mean you still need to do something with the calories you consume to avoid obesity? Including more fruit and veg. in the diet won't do it without some personal effort? Imagine that...

"Court directs US food panel to allow folic acid claim" - "NEW YORK: A group of dietary supplement makers has won a victory in its efforts to force the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow a labeling claim stating that synthetic folic acid is more effective than the folate found in foods when it comes to preventing neural tube birth defects." (Reuters)

"Tobacco windfall use in question" - "It was supposed to be the death of Joe Camel, and a chance for states to launch a massive, well-funded assault against teen smoking. But now, two years after winning a $206 billion settlement from Big Tobacco, state officials across the country are eyeing the huge windfall to pay for everything from a roof on a football dome in South Dakota to tax cuts in Virginia." (Boston Globe)

"Bullying of smokers" - "CUSTOMS and Excise officers are mounting a systematic campaign of persecution against smokers who choose to buy their cigarettes in other EU countries. Since December, hundreds of smokers who have bought cheap cigarettes abroad for their own consumption, as they are perfectly entitled to do, have had their purchases seized by customs on their return to the United Kingdom." | Cigarettes seized by the coachload (Telegraph)

"Overlawyered & Overgoverned" - "An annual helping of tales from a litigious society." (Reason)

"Pressure's on to improve fuel economy"- "WASHINGTON -- It is an issue that the auto industry would like to go away. But the debate over fuel economy begins anew this week as the National Academy of Sciences undertakes a congressionally mandated study that could eventually lead Congress and federal regulators to move forward, in some way, on requiring more fuel-efficient vehicles." (Detroit News)

"Our genes are doomed" - "According to yesterday's Mail on Sunday, the Queen has "sparked a furious row" by investing in a bio-pharmaceutical firm, ReNeuron. One of the firm's alleged crimes is that it has supported legislation allowing the cloning of human embryos. Whatever the merits of this particular case, the fact remains that, if mankind is to escape an enfeebled future, we must embrace this scary technology. Detractors are quick to remind us of the dangers of designer babies once we remove our parents from their role as exclusive providers of our genes. But, like it or not, if humanity is not to become an endangered species, we must face up to the challenges of genetic engineering." (Johnjoe McFadden, Guardian)

"Monsanto GM wheat hot topic at industry gathering" - "New Orleans Plans for introducing genetically modified wheat were being debated by top wheat industry experts on Thursday, as continuing concerns about GM corn contamination had many wheat players skittish of what biotech tinkering might do to wheat exports. From farmers to millers, fear and skepticism over GM wheat was widespread at the 2001 Wheat Industry Conference and Exposition, attended by hundreds of industry representatives." (Financial Express)

February 3-4, 2001

U.N.-sponsored hysteria of the day: "UN says act now over global warming" - "The UN says global warming will cost the world more than £200 billion a year. The agency's Environment Programme says a cost of £208 billion will be incurred unless urgent steps are taken to cut pollution." (Ananova) | UN Report: Global Warming Costly (AP) | Global warming may cost world billions, says report (Earth Times) | Fears of insurance no-go zones as global warming claims rise (Guardian) | "Climate change could reach $300bn" (Irish Times) | Climate change to cost $300 billion by 2050: UNEP (Kyodo) | 2050 warming toll predicted | Global Warming to Cost $300 Billion a Year (Reuters) | Cost of global warming to soar (Sapa) | Global warming will cost billions (The Scotsman) | Climate change 'will cost the Earth' (The Times)| Global warming could cost world $300 bn a year: UN (Times of India)  | Climate change will cost world $300 billion (UPI)

New science from the U.N.? Well, not exactly. Actually, it's a report from insurance company Munich Re. What is their criteria for this impending disaster? The increasing dollar value of assets in traditionally vulnerable regions. Wouldn't re-insurers just love to offload liability onto the public purse for any reason they can find? Of course they would and enhanced greenhouse hysteria is a dream come true for the insurance industry. Their problem, however, is that empirical evidence does not support the contention that alleged warming causes increase in frequency and severity of extreme weather events. For example, if the warming deduced from near-surface reading amalgams is real then it is negatively correlated with Gulf landfalling hurricanes [Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society , 79, 1327-1328]. Certainly atmospheric CO2 increased over the second half of the twentieth century and yet this was a relatively quiet period where extreme weather events are concerned.

"The Top of the World: Is the North Pole Turning to Water?" - John L Daly examines the northern high-latitude situation, sea ice variation and the various forcings involved." (Still Waiting For Greenhouse)

Today's reading of chicken entrails: "Global Warming Portends Water, Power Shortages in American West" - "BERKELEY, California, February 2, 2001 - California's current energy and water shortages may be a sign of things to come. Within the next 50 years, California and other western states will face serious water problems because of an increase in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, say scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. ... "Caution should be exercised in reporting any climate projection as the degree of uncertainty remains significant," Miller said." (ENS)

"The Week That Was February 3, 2001 brought to you by SEPP"


"My Kingdom for A Building Permit" - "Rise above all the finger-pointing, the shouting, the machinations in the dark—and many Californians agree: The state desperately needs to build new power plants. Over the last decade the population has climbed 14% to 34 million. The peak demand for electricity (on a hot day in July) has climbed 19% to 53,000 megawatts. The number of big power plants built in the state since 1990: zero." | The Kilowatt Casino (Forbes Magazine)

"Heat is turned up as new energy tax looms" - "SCOTTISH companies were today warned to cut their energy levels or face being hit by crippling costs from the Government’s new Climate Change Levy." (The Scotsman) | Renewables the Collateral Damage of California's Energy Crunch (ENS)

"Home Fires Targeted in Danish Dioxin Warning" - "COPENHAGEN, Denmark, February 1, 2001 (ENS) - The Danish environmental protection agency (EPA) today launched an information campaign aimed at householders, warning of the environmental hazards of burning waste in domestic heating boilers and wood stoves. ... The campaign was prompted by a mass flow analysis of all sources of dioxins in Denmark carried out last December. This showed that, with dioxin emissions from municipal incinerators set to fall due to stricter controls, non-industrial biomass burning was set to become the largest single emission source in future." (ENS)

I assume they mean polychlorinated dioxins and furans since I'm not aware that it is possible to burn wood at less than about 2500 degrees without dioxins and/or furans as a byproduct.

"Implosions Are Razing Hell in Lungs" - "FRIDAY, Feb. 2 -- When an implosion reduces a building to a pile of dust and rubble in just seconds, the cheering crowds are treated to more than a thrill. They also catch a good dose of pollution, says a new study." (HealthScout)

"Country air is more polluted than in cities" - "Camden and Haringey in London and the centres of Newcastle and Nottingham have some of the cleanest air in the country, a new government report concludes. It found that they suffer only a fraction of the number of days of severe pollution experienced by some places in the heart of the British countryside." (Independent)

"Saying no to good advice" - "... But I do believe that these statistics are interesting in that they demonstrate the absolutely shameful waste of resources that is government propaganda, which is, of course, funded by the taxpayer. ... How much has been spent on stating the bleeding obvious by various health departments over the past 30 years? Billions? Trillions? It's obviously not working." (Julie Burchill, The Guardian)

"Second Thoughts on Soy " - "SATURDAY, Feb. 3 -- Despite widespread claims about the benefits of soy, using it as an alternative to estrogen for hormone replacement in women may not be among them, contends a new report from the Mayo Clinic." (HealthScout)

"When Health Food is Unhealthy" - "Orthorexia isn't an officially recognized psychological disorder yet. But it draws attention to a very real -- and potentially dangerous -- type of obsession. "Orthorexia is a concern for one's body and fear of certain contaminations," says Suzanne Saunders, a registered dietician. Some health food fanatics can become malnourished, often from a lack of sufficient protein. In rare cases it has proven deadly. ... A news service feature appearing in the Lexington Herald-Leader notes that one of the champions of health food cooking has no regrets for abandoning a strict vegetarian diet. Mollie Katzen, who authored the Moosewood Cookbook, doesn't hide her fondness for meat these days. After years as a vegetarian, Katzen says, "I was run down. I needed protein in my diet." (HealthScout)

"STUDY PROCLAIMS FARM RAISED FISH SAFE" - "WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana, February 2, 2001 ­ While concerns continue about high levels of metals such as mercury found in some fish, a study completed at Purdue University shows that fish bought in grocery stores or restaurants are safe to eat. The study examined heavy metals in catfish, trout and crawfish grown in aquaculture facilities across the southern United States. Researchers tested for nine metals including mercury, lead, cadmium, chromium and arsenic over a three year period. Levels of mercury, the only metal to have an action limit set by the Food and Drug Administration, were on average 40 to 100 times lower than the one part per million limit. "These findings are supportive of aquaculture products given the current debate over the safe levels of mercury in offshore fish like swordfish, shark, mackerel and large tuna," said Charles Santerre, associate professor in Purdue's Department of Foods and Nutrition. Santerre directed a team of researchers from nine universities who participated in the study. "Since virtually all catfish and trout purchased from grocery stores and at restaurants are farm raised, consumers should continue to enjoy these products and benefit from their nutritional value," Santerre said. "Fish is about 10 percent protein and can be high in omega-3 fatty acids." Santerre's study, published in the February issue of the "Journal of Food Science," follows another report published in the same journal last March in which the same group of investigators reported very low levels of 34 pesticides in the same fish species." (ENS)

"AgWeb Special Report: Mad Cow Disease ... Can It Happen Here? (Part One)" - "This is the first installment of a special three-part series AgWeb.com has developed to address mad cow disease -- formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)-- and examine how it could impact beef producers and consumers in the United States. To read part two of the series, click here. For part three of the series, click here." (AgWeb.com) | U.S. beef producers welcome media blitz on mad cow (Reuters)

"Canada bans imports of Brazilian beef" - "OTTAWA -- Canada is banning imports of Brazilian corned beef and beef extract because of concern over mad cow disease, the health minister said Friday." (AP) | U.S. Bans Brazil Beef Imports on Mad Cow Fears | Mexico Bans Imports of Brazilian Beef Products (Reuters) | Ban on all beef imports tipped to stop BSE spread (Sydney Morning Herald)

"Monsanto beanfeast as BSE crisis bites" - "It is an ill wind, as they say. For the BSE crisis sweeping through Europe is transforming the hitherto gloomy prospects for Monsanto, the controversial GM giant. The Europe-wide ban on feeding meat-and-bone meal to animals is leading to a huge increase in imported GM soya to take its place. The beleaguered company's share price is soaring, and analysts who once shunned its stock are advising investors to buy." (Independent)

"Rice Scientists Excited By Technology Transfer Trend " - "Scientists at the Philippine-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) have expressed excitement about the recent mapping of the rice genome, predicting that this could have a significant impact on a range of previously intractable problems in the developing world." (IRRI)

"A Food Fight for High Stakes" - "Last year, with five million people in Kenya facing starvation because of a severe drought, opponents of agricultural biotechnology urged the Kenyan government to reject corn donated by the United States and Canada because some of it was genetically modified. And when the United States sent corn and soy meal to India after a 1999 cyclone that killed 10,000 people, a prominent biotech critic in that country accused Washington of using the cyclone victims as "guinea pigs" for bio-engineered food. Such actions raise a troubling question about the critics of biotechnology. Are they so against it that they are willing to let people die? Indeed, the critics, most of whom live in wealthy countries, are increasingly being called imperialists for opposing a technology that could be used to develop improved crops for poor nations." (Andrew Pollack, New York Times)

"Cannery Roe" - "ELLIOT ENTIS HAS A PLAN TO FEED the world's growing population-and to make himself very rich. A political scientist by training, the cofounder and president of Aqua Bounty Farms in Waltham, Mass. has developed a genetically modified Atlantic salmon which, he claims, looks and tastes like the kind you pick up at the supermarket deli. The only difference is that it grows to market size twice as fast as normal farmed Atlantic salmon. The fish, he hopes, will become the cornerstone of what Entis calls a "blue revolution" of bioengineered seafood that could produce an abundant supply at lower costs, with minimal environmental impact. "It's a necessary technology for the future," he says." (Forbes Magazine)

"Charlotte's Goat" - "In a concrete bunker on a mothballed Air Force base in Plattsburgh, N.Y. two Nigerian dwarf goats named Mille and Muscade joyfully munch grass and slurp water. Oddly, they are protected from intruders by security guards and razor wire." (Forbes Magazine)

"Ontario Farm touts GM food on the net" - "Farmer Jeff, as the slightly sunburned farmer calls himself, sits under blue skies in a genetically modified potato field. He chats about the leaves on his plants and answers questions from viewers. The video, taken last summer, is shaky and grainy. But it has been watched on the internet by people around the world as part of a research project examining consumer reaction to GM food." (The Western Producer)

"EU–US experts urge stiffer rules for biotech foods" - "The twenty members of a special European Union (EU)–United States (US) ``Biotechnology Consultative Forum`` ended 2000 by urging a more forceful regulatory approach to using biotechnology in agriculture for food production. The group`s consensus report calls for a ``comprehensive and rigorous system for ensuring the safety of biotechnology,`` essentially endorses the precautionary principle, recommends premarket approvals and mandatory content-based labeling of genetically modified (GM) foods, and also advises increasing investment in research to explore biotechnology safety issues." (Nature Biotechnology)

"From seed to table" - "Last year, scientists from the Royal Society of Canada were asked to consider the industrial potential of food biotech, and to address consumers' concerns over how genetically modified fare is produced and regulated. On Monday, those experts will make public their long-awaited report to federal ministers of agriculture, health and the environment." (National Post)

"Scare Tactics Cloud Biotech Crops’ Benefits" - "Just imagine: Using biotechnology, scientists can produce crops that will grow in drought conditions and therefore help alleviate the world's food shortages. Labs are developing plants that contain essential vitamins to prevent childhood blindness in underdeveloped countries. Yet a minority is trying to scare consumers into boycotting these fruits of our technology." (Daily Tarheel)

"Indian regulatory system stifles industry growth" - "A damming report by industry umbrella group, the All India Biotechnology Association (AIBA), blames the failure of India`s biotechnology industry to deliver competitive biotech products to market on competition between the country`s public and private sector bought about by conflicts of interest in a ``draconian`` regulatory approval system. It says that ``red tape and lack of transparency`` have stifled private sector investment and that the system requires total revamping, if India is to become competitive in Asia. AIBA calls for a fundamental re-structuring of the regulatory system, as well as more resources for the private sector." (Nature Biotechnology)

"The Forest Service's Tinderbox" - "Forest fires in the United States devastated more than seven million acres in 2000, the worst fire season in the past 50 years. By the end of last year, the federal government had spent more than $1 billion in efforts to fight the blazes. Government officials blamed a number of natural causes — dry weather, high temperatures and strong winds — for the severity of the fires. But forest fires are not wholly unavoidable natural disasters." (Cato Institute) | NASA tests infrared cameras to monitor greenhouse gases from forest fires (The Virginian-Pilot)

"Cato Institute's thinking tanks" - Peter Foster on "Give Alaska to the environmentalists", a piece by Jerry Taylor that ran in the Post last week. (National Post)

February 2, 2001

"Fear-Mongering Where It Hurts the Most" - "Each year, about 1.6 million children in the USA get CT [computed tomography] scans to the head and abdomen -- and about 1,500 of those will die later in life of radiation-induced cancer," reported USA Today recently. Today show news anchor Ann Curry’s teased viewers, "We're going to talk to one of the authors of the study. It's very -- very important information and very scary for parents." The scary media reports worked. Physicians were overwhelmed with questions from anxious parents. The alarming news was based on a new study published in the American Journal of Roentgenology. But the study and accompanying news reports distorted the science and sensationalized the risk..." (Steve Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"Global warming rewarmed " - "With Al Gore's election defeat, global warming has lost its most dedicated governmental sponsor. Mr. Gore may not have invented climate change but he certainly has been its most zealous advocate. He repeatedly proclaimed a non-existent scientific consensus, labeling skeptical scientists as naysayers who view global warming (in his words) as the equivalent of the Easter Bunny." (Fred Singer, Washington Times)

Today's media meltdown: "Antarctic ice cap is getting thinner" - "Scientists' worries that the south polar ice sheet is melting may be confirmed by the dramatic retreat of the region's biggest glacier." (Guardian) | Huge Antarctic glacier melting (MSNBC) | Polar Ice Sheet Shows Shrinkage | Satellite shots show Antarctic ice loss (AP) | Antarctic ice sheet shrinks (BBC Online) | Melting Antarctic Glacier Raising Sea Level -Study (Reuters) | Melting of huge glacier 'is likely to raise seas' (Telegraph) | Antarctic glacier is losing 4ft of ice each year (The Times)

If you wade deeply enough into the Guardian article you find that quotes from scientists involved do not associate observations with the dreaded global warming. One reason is in the Indy's closing paragraph below:

"Antarctica's biggest glacier melting into the sea" - "... If the present rate of melting continues, scientists predict the glacier may be lost to the ocean within a few hundred years, compared with the 18,000 years or more it has existed. David Vaughan, a glaciologist at the British Antarctic Survey, said the melting was unlikely to be the result of global warming because it would take about 1,000 years for a surface temperature rise of 1C or 2C to penetrate to the base of the glacier where it was melting." (Independent)

Here's another reference for you: Stenoien, M.D. and Bentley, C.R.  2000.  Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica: A study of the catchment using interferometric synthetic aperture radar measurements and radar altimetry. [Journal of Geophysical Research 105: 21,761-21,779] Basically, within an uncertainty of approximately 30%, it was determined that the mass balance of the catchment region is not significantly different from zero.

December 27, 2000, NASA featured: Retreat of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet - "Our previous best estimates that the ice sheet was adding 1 millimeter per year to global sea level are almost certainly too high," says Robert Bindschadler, a glaciologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland." | West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be a smaller source of current sea-level rise

December 15, 2000: Scientists Suggest New Threat to Antarctic Ice  - "SAN FRANCISCO - The West Antarctic ice sheet, closely watched as an indicator of the impact of global warming, may be imperiled by a different threat -- a slowing of the "ice streams" which nourish the massive shelf. ... Slawek Tulaczyk, an assistant professor of Earth Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said the new model proposed that the ice streams -- fast, river-like flows which move ice out into ice shelves floating on the sea -- were slowing and in some cases stopping altogether. ... One ice stream, known as Ice Stream C, is known to have stopped moving about 150 to 200 years ago, while a second, Ice Stream B, has slowed by 50 percent over the past 40 years." (Reuters)

December 15, 2000: Antarctic Ice Tongue Disintegrating - "The Ninnis Ice Tongue, 350 square miles (900 square kilometers) of floating ice extending into the Indian Ocean, has broken off the edge of the continent and is slowly disintegrating. ... An ice tongue occurs when a glacier flows out into the sea, forming a mass of permanent ice that is essentially floating while at the same time attached to the land. There is no evidence linking the demise of the Ninnis Glacier Tongue to warming in the region. "The disintegration is likely to be the consequence of a natural progression of events that periodically occur in floating glacier tongues around the margin of the Antarctic Ice Sheet," says Rob Massom, in a NASA report. "What remains a mystery is why these breakouts occur." (National Geographic)

In a significant improvement over recent reporting, National Geographic notes that the Ninnis was severely overextended and has simply broken back to a more 'normal' profile, while the adjacent Mertz is still growing.

"Leaders failing to deal with climate threat" - "DAVOS, SWITZERLAND - THERE'S A GOOD chance the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change is dead and that its target won't be met. All that remains is the funeral." (Toronto Star)

Star columnist, David Crane, apparently still believes politicians and scientists are interchangeable - he thinks the IPCC is a scientific body.

"11°F Warming? How U.N.-Scientific!" - "Here's the newest old story we know: The United Nations announces that global warming will be even worse than they thought. It's as old as the IPCC Director, Robert T. Watson, who knows this ploy well. In 1992, he announced that stratospheric ozone depletion was "worse than we thought" and that an ozone hole over the Northern Hemisphere was imminent. Then-Senator Al Gore called it an "ozone hole over Kennebunkport," referring to the summer home of the father of our new President. Watson's purpose was to stampede the U.S. Senate into legislation on chlorofluorocarbon refrigerants; within days he got his wish, 99–1. The ozone hole never appeared. But the law remains." (GES)

Anyone recall the proposal to actually study whether penguins wouldn't turn their heads but rather overbalance backwards and topple like dominos if overflown by aircraft? I seem to remember EVAG made a few acid comments along the lines of "stupidest research proposal of the day" because someone wanted to turn a tired pilot's joke from the Falklands war into a research grant. Guess what? They went ahead and did it. Guess what else? It wasn't true [Study: Penguins Do Not Topple Watching Aircraft]. Nonetheless, wire services and major publications around the world are carrying results of this Earth-shattering research. Ingo Potrykus struggles to get moderately sympathetic coverage for humanitarian efforts to alleviate vitamin A deficiency in the impoverished rice belt and a dumb joke gets the whiz-bang full treatment? Perhaps it is true, reporters may very well be the lowest form of life on the planet - maybe I can get a study grant to test that hypothesis.

"The days of wine and chocolate" - "Earlier this month, it finally happened. Two authoritative sources - the Food and Drug Administration and the Journal of the American Medical Association - issued diametrically opposed recommendations on food and health. On Jan. 12, the FDA warned that pregnant women, and women who might become pregnant, should avoid eating four types of fish because they might contain enough mercury to harm an unborn baby's brain. Just a few days later, the JAMA published a study suggesting that ''women should head to the fish market'' if they wanted to reduce risk of stroke. Holy mackerel! (For indeed it was dark, oily, Omega-3 fatty acid-rich fish that was specifically enjoined by the FDA, and endorsed by the JAMA ...) What's a mother to do?" (Boston Globe)

See also FDA's Mercurial Fish Story by the Junkman.

"Who's afraid of mad cows?" - "A global health scare is something awesome to behold. Until a few years ago, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was an obscure cattle disease known only to farmers and veterinarians. Today it is the object of a panic that has crippled the European beef industry, led to the destruction of millions of cattle and shaken the governments of Western Europe." (Marcus Gee, Globe and Mail)

"Could the Scientists Be Wrong on Madcow Disease?" - "SOMERSET, England - Mark Purdey still eats beef, even ``junk'' in pies and hamburgers, and he has no fear that he or his wife or six children will be struck down by the deadly human form of mad cow disease. ``It's an absolute myth,'' the 48-year-old organic farmer says, banging his fist on a large wooden table to underline his argument that much of the accepted logic on bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, is wrong." (Reuters) | Mad cow ban threatens Peruvian fish meal sales (justfood.com)

"No recommendations from BSE committee" - "The expert committee set up to prevent a BSE outbreak in Australia is yet to make any recommendations on whether animal products should be fed to livestock." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Is environmental justice tyranny?"- "Residents cheered Select Steel’s 1998 announcement that it was going to build a new plant in Michigan’s Genesee County. They applauded Detroit’s efforts to replace abandoned and polluted “brownfield” sites with new industrial facilities. They welcomed the $15- to $20-per-hour jobs, health insurance, better schools, community pride and other benefits these developments would have brought. But a small band of critics said emissions from the new facilities might have a “disparate impact” on minorities. Waving this new red flag of “environmental justice,” they were able to delay so many permits that the companies took their plans elsewhere." (Rev. Lloyd Brasure, Rev. Dr. R. Thomas Coleman and, Fr. Robert A. Sirico, Detroit News)

"Bio-terror scare hits Ottawa" - "Federal building sealed: 'We are not ruling out the possibility that this is a terrorist act,' Mounties say." | A hazardous history (National Post)

"No link found between depleted uranium and illnesses, U.N. team says" - "PRISTINA, Yugoslavia - Scientific studies have not proven a link between exposure to depleted uranium used in NATO weapons and illnesses such as cancer and leukemia, a team of U.N. experts said Thursday." (AP)

"Addicted" to eating? "Link found between obesity and brain receptors" - "UPTON, New York -- Brain scans show that obese people, just like drug addicts, have fewer receptors for dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps produce feelings of satisfaction and pleasure." (CNN) | Media release

"Sustainable development still trying to find its way" - "DAVOS--Saying "global environmental policy will be the new peace policy," Klaus Topfer, executive director of the United Nations Development Programme, called for a renewed commitment to sustainable development Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Yet all is not well with the concept of sustainable development." (Earth Times)

"Best cure for a bad back is to ignore it" - "The best treatment for a bad back is to ignore it, a wide-ranging review of the evidence has concluded. Staying in bed can make it worse. Back pain causes widespread suffering and disability, affecting four out of ten adults each year, imposes an immense burden on the NHS and is a drain on the economy through days taken off work. But most of the £1.6bn spent annually on treating it is wasted, according to a study." (Independent)

"National Dairy Council: PETA’s Latest Scare Tactic Misleading" - "The National Dairy Council says a recent ad campaign from the People for the Ethnical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is “inaccurate and misleading.” PETA’s latest ad uses cartoon characters to discourage milk drinking among young children and teenagers. Voicing their frustration once again, the council says, “These inaccurate and misleading statements about milk are prompted by the group's attempt to further its animal rights agenda and promote a strict vegan diet. The real tragedy is that this time PETA is targeting children and teenagers who critically need the calcium and other essential nutrients in milk for proper growth and development.” (AgWeb.com)

The price of fearmongering: "U.S. Withdraws Genetically Engineered Animal Feed Donation After Bosnia's Hesitation" - "SARAJEVO, Jan 30, 2001 -- The United States has withdrawn a four million dollar donation of genetically engineered (GE) corn for animal feed after Bosnian officials hesitated to approve it over fears of health risks for humans, the embassy said here Tuesday." (Agence France Presse)

40,000mt of feed corn donated to help them recover from last year's drought and they're frightened of it - despite GM grain being consumed happily by similar livestock around the world. Livestock miss out on 88,000,000lbs of feed grain, farmers miss out on needed relief to assist them back into production, the Bosnian economy misses the needed boost from a recovering farm sector and Bosnians have to try to meet high costs for short supplies. Anti-biotech fearmongers must be proud.

"Japan Govt Checking Report Of More Modified Corn In Food"- "Tokyo--The Japanese government said Thursday it was investigating whether taco shells made and sold in Japan contained genetically modified StarLink corn imported from the United States. The Ministry of Agriculture will ask the distributor to take the tacos off the market if they are found to contain StarLink, ministry official Tomio Suzuki said." (AP)

"Bringing Practicality To The Biotech Debate" - "The debate over biotech issues has, until recently, been framed by groups and individuals opposed to the technology. And often little has been heard from the scientific community, but an India-born molecular biologist from Tuskegee University is working to get scientists to speak up and help tell the benefits of biotechnology." (Farm Progress)

"BIO Urges Bush to Continue Moratorium on Cloning Human Beings" - "WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Following recent announcements by certain groups of plans to clone human beings, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) today sent a letter to President George W. Bush urging him to support continuation of the current voluntary moratorium on these experiments." (Biotechnology Industry Organization) | Working out the kinks in cloning (Diane Francis, Financial Post)

February 1, 2001

Think "natural" or "herbal" must mean "safe?" Be careful: "Some Chinese herb remedies called toxic" - "When a small Wellesley company specializing in Chinese herbal remedies abruptly pulled its Aller Relief pills off the shelves of local health food stores two weeks ago, there was scant notice. But the company, BMK International, was acting on orders from the US Food and Drug Administration, which found that the allergy-fighting compound was contaminated with a toxin shown to damage kidneys severely and possibly cause cancer. ... Dozens of Chinese herbal remedies on sale in the United States, they say, contain the toxin, aristolochic acid, which naturally occurs in many of the herbs used in these centuries-old healing compounds. The toxin has already been fingered in a mass outbreak of kidney trauma in Belgium, possibly causing cancers in more than 30 people there, and is suspected of the same in several other countries." (Boston Globe)

Plants produce and/or store defensive compounds and some of these are quite effective against people. The terms "natural" and "safe" are not interchangeable and their association is a myth promulgated by the "nature good - people bad" brigade. You suit yourself but, if I take something, I want it of known content, in known strength and in measured dose - things don't naturally come that way.

"Stronger cannabis is major health risk" - "Claims that cannabis is harmless have been undermined by a new report which warns that the drug is becoming more powerful and can lead to severe long-term health damage. The study, which will give weight to the Government's refusal to legalise the drug, says cannabis can provoke severe anxiety and mental illness, seriously impairs driving skills, is five times more damaging to the lungs than cigarettes, weakens the immune system and may lead to rare throat cancers or fatal heart attacks." (Independent) | Cannabis: The pros and cons (BBC Online)

"Suspected case of mad cow disease found in S. Korea" - "SEOUL: South Korean health authorities said on Wednesday that a 30-year-old male patient was suspected of suffering from a type of illness similar to the fatal mad cow disease. The man was the first suspected case of the brain-wasting disease in South Korea. If confirmed by a full lab test, it would likely be the first reported outside Europe." (AP)

"Regulators See No Mad Cow Panic in U.S. Yet" - "WASHINGTON - Officials and top scientists said on Wednesday they see no reason for panic in the United States over mad cow disease despite reports of contaminated animal feed and imported candy. Instead of dismissing such reports, however, they said they welcome them because they help regulators figure out where the potential for "human error" lies." (Reuters)

"Germany to slaughter cattle in effort to curb mad-cow disease" - "BERLIN - Germany said Wednesday it will join France and Ireland in killing thousands of older cattle in an effort to solve Europe's mad-cow crisis and relieve the pressure on farmers as consumers shun beef for fear of infection. Germany expects to destroy about 400,000 cattle under a "purchase for destruction" program launched by the European Union last month, government spokeswoman Charima Reinhardt said. The EU foresees buying and incinerating up to 2 million cattle by the end of June, at an estimated cost of $1 billion. Agriculture Minister Renate Kuenast had hesitated to approve the slaughter after farmers and animal-rights groups protested against mass slaughter in the fight against the disease, which was first detected in Germany last November. The tally has since risen to 25 cases." (AP)

"Study shows no link between hepatitis shot, multiple sclerosis" - "Can a hepatitis B shot cause multiple sclerosis? Fears of such a link have worried some doctors, parents and patients for years, despite a lack of scientific evidence. Now researchers say there is nothing to worry about. The vaccine that protects against liver disease doesn't cause multiple sclerosis in healthy people, and doesn't trigger flare-ups in MS patients, according to two studies in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine." (AP) | Vaccinations Do Not Raise Risk of MS-Studies (Reuters)

"Gum Disease May Not Boost Heart Disease Risk" - "NEW YORK - Although some research has pointed to gum disease as a possible risk factor for heart problems or stroke, a large study of middle-aged and older men suggests there is no such link. Among 22,000 male doctors followed for 12 years, gum disease showed no association with heart disease or stroke risk, researchers report in the February issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology." (Reuters Health)

"Doubts over cancer survival increase" - "A rise in the percentage of people surviving prostate cancer could be a statistical quirk, say experts. The latest figures examining how many patients are alive five years after diagnosis suggested 5% more of those diagnosed in 1992-1994 reached this mark compared to those diagnosed in 1991-1993. However, this could simply be a reflection on the increasing number of men diagnosed earlier with the condition." (BBC Online)

"Mouthwash could tackle malaria" - "A chemical ingredient of mouthwash is being hailed as a new weapon against the malaria parasite. Triclosan, also found in acne medications and some deodorants, seems to be able to prevent the growth of Plasmodium falciparum. This is the parasite carried in the saliva of mosquitoes which causes as many as 2.7m deaths worldwide every year." (BBC Online)

No, they don't intend to have mosquitoes use the mouthwash. They might as well though, for all the benefit likely to be derived in impoverished regions where malaria is endemic.

"Genetics to put the bite on the mozzie" - "Vulnerability to mosquito bites and the body's reaction were genetically programmed, according to new research released yesterday. Epidemiologist Professor Nick Martin, of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, found in a study of more than 500 pairs of twins that genes determined up to 85 per cent of susceptibility to mosquito bites. Genes influence not only the likelihood of being bitten, but also the severity of the body's reaction to the bite, Professor Martin said." (The Age)

"Vitamin A rich golden rice being developed" - "KOLKATA -- THE PHILLIPINES-based International Rice Research Institute is all set to accelerate the invention of vitamin-A-enriched golden rice from local varieties in Asian countries." (Economic Times)

"Horn Of Plenty Or 'Frankenfoods'? " - "GM crops debate pits promise of science vs. fear of unknown Depending on who's doing the talking, genetic engineering is either: A. The wave of the future, yielding bountiful harvests and health benefits to an ever-demanding world, or B. The curse of "Frankenfoods" bearing unknown threats to humankind and nature in general." (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

"Great Bio-Treasure Hunt in Australia's Barrier Reef" - "BRISBANE, Australia - Scientists, hunting cures for cancer and AIDS or ways of harnessing nature to make sunscreen or pesticide, have turned their attention to one of Australia's national treasures -- the Great Barrier Reef. The scientists from Australia's fledgling marine biotechnology industry are trawling through the world's largest living structure in the hope of unlocking a treasure chest of micro-organisms, venoms and naturally produced chemicals." (Reuters)

Here's a different take: "Give Alaska to the environmentalists" - "The Bush administration wants to open up public lands to the oil and gas industry for exploration. Jerry Taylor says both economic and conservation interests might be better served another way." (Jerry Taylor, National Post)

"Senate energy bill seeks nuclear, electric incentives" - "WASHINGTON - A draft Senate bill aimed at improving the nation's supply of energy seeks incentives for nuclear power providers to produce more electricity, and would scrap decades-old rules in order to ensure grid reliability and give utilities flexibility in the fast-changing marketplace." | FACTBOX - Senate energy bill oil, natgas provisions  (Reuters)

New Scientist revving up their hysteria: "Ozone smog could blanket northern hemisphere: UN experts " - "United Nations scientists say traffic pollution, especially in Asia, is becoming so bad that most of the northern hemisphere will eventually be blanketed by ozone smog. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that by 2100, ozone smog will no longer be limited to traffic-choked conurbations -- it will be a hazard "on a hemispheric scale." The British weekly New Scientist reports in next Saturday's issue that the warning is buried in a 1,000-page report issued by the IPCC in Shanghai last week, focussing on the threat of global warming. The panel says the pollution could trigger asthma epidemics, and damage crops and vegetation." (Radio Australia)

"'Missing link' reaction explains destruction of Arctic ozone" - "Sun, snow, sea salt: Implications for ground-level ozone pollution in cities ... The Arctic ozone-destroying phenomenon raises the tantalizing notion of using bromine and chlorine to get rid of excess ground-level ozone in polluted cities. Vehicle and industrial emissions generate abnormally high levels of ozone in Toronto and Vancouver during the hot summer weather. In Mexico City ozone is a health threat with levels climbing up to 100 times normal." (Margaret Munro, National Post)

Ooh! Not sure an assertion like that will ever get a favorable hearing. Chlorine, the element enviros love to hate, is "evil substance of the era" and bromine isn't far behind. Cleanse city atmospheres by flushing them with ozone-eaters... contentious.