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Archives - February 2004

February 27, 2004

"Enviros Commence Election-Year Attack" - "Environmentalists have commenced their election-year attack on President Bush." (Steven Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"Eco-myths are a gun to the head" - "The scare tactics used by environmental groups to emphasise their green agenda is like having a gun held to the head.

That was the provocative message delivered in a lecture by Bjorn Lomborg, the author of the controversial book The Skeptical Environmentalist.

Dr Lomborg, whose best-selling writings angered greens around the world, told an invited audience in London that such tactics made people panic about an impending ecological meltdown and lose sight of what really mattered.

He used his lecture at the Adam Smith Institute, a right-wing think tank, to up the ante in a long-running feud with groups such as Greenpeace." (BBC News Online)

"Scientists doubt animal research" - "Many animal experiments may be of little benefit to treating human disease, according to experts. Much of the research is poorly conducted and not thoroughly evaluated, say scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. They are now urging a systematic review of all existing animal research before new experiments are carried out.

The findings, published in the British Medical Journal, have boosted animal rights groups.

However, on the same day that the BMJ paper is published, the Royal Society has produced a guide which says humanity has benefited immensely from scientific research involving animals. The society, which is the UK's national academy of science, says virtually every medical achievement in the past century has been reliant on the use of animals in some way." (BBC News Online)

"Journals plan regulation scheme" - "Medical journals should have a code of conduct, similar to that which governs newspapers, an ethics body has said. A draft code has been set out by the Committee on Publication Ethics. British Medical Journal editor Dr Richard Smith, the code's author, said he hoped it would act as a "badge of trust" for readers. The code says journal editors should do all they can to ensure the research they publish is accurate and not tainted by conflicts of interest." (BBC News Online)

From the Not-this-crock-again? files: "Nalgene plastic may be harmful" - "Studies show that the popular water bottle may pose serious health risks" (Brenna Doheny, The Daily Barometer)

Our Swollen Future

"Mix of chemicals plus stress damages brain, liver in animals and likely in humans" - "Stress is a well known culprit in disease, but now researchers have shown that stress can intensify the effects of relatively safe chemicals, making them very harmful to the brain and liver in animals and likely in humans, as well." (Duke University Medical Center)

Probably of great interest to those poor souls allegedly suffering Gulf War Syndrome (one of the keyword terms in this release). The fact remains, however, that Gulf Vets are healthier than the equivalent non-serving population and indistinguishable from equivalent non-deployed personnel. Whatever their genuine malaise, there is apparently no "Gulf War Syndrome" to have.

"Ending the Agent Orange Myth" - "Agent Orange is every bit as bad as environmentalists, anti-war activists and veterans victim groups have always claimed.

Or so sayeth the media, with headlines like "Study Finds Sharply Increased Risk of Cancer among Dioxin-Exposed Vietnam Veterans" (Agence-Presse France) and "Study: Agent Orange Linked to Cancer Risk" (Associated Press Online)." (Michael Fumento, Scripps Howard News Service)

"French ban pesticides sold in Aust" - "THE French government has banned a group of pesticides which are still on sale in Australia despite concerns over their impact on human and animal safety.

The French Minister for Agriculture Herve Gaymard suspended from sale six pesticides based on the active ingredient Fipronil because of possible risks for wildlife including pets, aquatic organisms, birds and non target insects.

French bee keepers also claim the chemical has decimated commercial bee hives and have taken separate legal action to ban the Fipronil chemicals." (AAP)

"Atkins foes have their own explaining to do" - "Dr. Robert Atkins is dead.

But he isn't resting in peace.

A doctors' group that lobbies for a vegan diet -- and, according to Atkins' widow, illegally obtained the medical examiner's report that showed Atkins obese at his death -- continues to pound the pavement for low-fat eating.

Remorseless about its postmortem attack on the doctor who popularized the high-fat, low-carb diet, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has moved on to ads that hit men where they live: erectile dysfunction." (Carolyn Susman, Palm Beach Post)

"20 Questions for Foodphobes" - "Rather than lecturing people about the technology that has made their food crops possible, and how easily old technologies, too, could be made to sound scary were we not all by now familiar with it, I am trying an alternate strategy: asking people twenty questions — some of which may sound scary — that I hope will make them think more rationally about food safety." (Thomas R. DeGregori, HealthFactsAndFears.com)

"Documenting a paradox: Smoke decreases rainfall but ultimately increases its intensity" - "Air pollution and smoke suppress rainfall, but cause the remaining rain amounts to fall in greater intensities, with lightning and hail, says a researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem." (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Iain Murray with a rational take on this week's silliest story: "The Unthinking in Pursuit of the Unthinkable: Disingenuous global-warming nonsense" - "When a "scandalous" story breaks in the United States, makes no waves, resurfaces a few weeks later in the left-wing British press, and only then do liberal activists start haranguing people about it, it is safe to say that the story should be treated with a little suspicion. That is certainly the case with the environmental cri du jour, that the Pentagon is alarmed by the national-security aspects of global warming and recommends immediate action. Even the Pentagon thinks global warming is worse than terrorism!

It's all nonsense, of course, as you'd expect from any story touted round the media by Greenpeace." (Iain Murray, National Review Online)

Defense and national security reporter for The Washington Times, Bill Gertz, ran with it though: "Change of climate a security factor" (Bill Gertz, The Washington Times)

MSNBC finally figured out something's going on: "Storm over Pentagon climate scenario - Consultants present worst-case view: warming, then sudden cooling" - "A report commissioned by a Pentagon think tank is creating a storm of controversy — not because of any military scenarios but because of what it has to say about climate change.

Environmentalists, and even European media, have jumped on the report as evidence that President Bush is out of touch with even his own experts. Bush withdrew the United States from U.N.-sponsored talks to implement a treaty to curb carbon dioxide and other emissions tied to warmer temperatures.

Climate change skeptics say the report, subtitled "Imagining the Unthinkable," is nothing new and purely speculative.

The Pentagon think tank, for its part, paid $100,000 for the report but said it was not satisfied and would not forward it to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld." (MSNBC)

Sigh... GBN have posted this update on their site, along with their carefully hidden-in-plain-sight links to the original PDF file of the report in question. See also items on this site Feb. 24; 22; 11; Jan. 28 (see how 'secret' it is? JunkScience.com's been sporadically mentioning the silly thing for the best part of a month, beginning with the Fortune fantasy Jan. 28). Presumably, The Observer 'obtained' the report the same way we did, by clicking on the download link, copies were freely e-mailed around too. Pretty darn weird 'suppression' if you ask me.

Mark Hertsgaard, however, has his own take: "Weathering the Crisis" - "George W. Bush may not know it, but one influential part of his government is finally taking global climate change seriously. An extraordinary new report by an elite Pentagon planning unit has declared that climate change is a national security threat of the greatest urgency and demands an immediate response." (Mark Hertsgaard, Nation)

What's going on? Has someone been going around whacking these people with a 'stupid-stick' or something? Come on people! This is weather-machine-at-the-North-Pole, controlling-the-population-with-contrails, spying-on-us-with-black-helicopters stuff! Sheesh!

Gasp! "UK carbon dioxide emissions soared in 2004" - "New Government figures released today indicate a big increase in greenhouse gas emissions in 2003. The increase was caused by a rise in energy consumption and a return to coal burning.

Friends of the Earth has calculated that compared to 2002, emissions of carbon dioxide from energy rose by approximately 3 per cent in 2003. This is huge increase in one year, especially as the Government has promised a 20 per cent cut in carbon dioxide levels by 2010 (based on 1990 levels)." (Fiends of the Earth press release)

"Commission split on Kyoto Protocol" - "EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The European Commission's united front on the Kyoto Protocol on climate change has once again been undermined by transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio.

Ms Palacio, well known for her strong views, told the Financial Times that the EU should look at other ways of achieving its goals of reducing greenhouse emissions.

"Should we maintain our position or not? Maybe there are no alternatives. But I think there are alternatives".

"We should look at other ways of achieving our goal - to reduce emissions - while maintaining the competitiveness of our industry".

Following her comments the Commission released a press statement reaffirming its commitment to the Protocol which says that the EU must reduce its levels of emissions by 8% between 2008 and 2012.

"The European Commission strongly rejects all calls to change its position concerning the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and its full implementation by the European Union", says the statement." (EUObserver)

"EU commissioner asks Russia to clarify stand on climate change treaty" - "MADRID Feb 26, 2004: European Energy Commissioner Loyola de Palacio asked Russia on Thursday to make clear soon whether it intended to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, a decision vital to the future on the United Nations treaty.

The protocol requires developed countries to cut emissions of heat-trapping industrial gases which cause global warming. But it cannot enter force until it has been ratified by a certain percentage of polluting states." (AFP)

"Funds Want Oil Companies to Report on Climate" - "Pension fund managers representing public employees in Connecticut, New York, Maine and New York City said yesterday that they had filed shareholder resolutions calling on 10 North American oil companies to report to investors on their plans to deal with the potential impact of global warming and related climate change on their businesses.

The resolutions added the heft of some of the nation's largest investors to the ranks of shareholder activists who have been using resolutions to confront the petroleum industry on climate change issues. The resolutions also took aim at a broader range of companies, including midsize oil companies like Anadarko Petroleum, Devon Energy and Valero Energy that previously had flown below the radar of the activists." (New York Times)

"Aviation should be included in emissions trading" - "Aviation is increasingly responsible for the greenhouse effect and should be included in the emissions trading scheme, according to a report by the German Environment Ministry." (Edie.net)

"Hot Trash-To-Fuel Technology Gathering Steam" - "NEW YORK - Got garbage? Toxic trash? Zap it with a torch three times hotter than the sun and gather the resulting gas to fuel pollution-free cars and home power units.

It may seem like an idea out of a mad scientist's notebook, but the method - known as plasma torch technology - is gaining acceptance with governments and corporations, especially those with growing waste problems." (Reuters)

"Oil spills 'should go to beaches'" - "Major oil spills should be dealt with by pushing the oil towards beaches, a leading marine ecologist has urged.

Dutch scientist Martin Schulton said that, in contrast to the usual practice of trying to move floundering tankers further out to sea, they should be moved towards the shore.

In the long run, he said, this was much less environmentally damaging." (BBC News Online)

Book Review: "Origins of The Organic Agriculture Debate" - "How in the world did so many people get so fearful of the very science and technology that have lifted humanity out of malaria and mud huts? That's the fundamental question asked and discussed at length in the new book by ACSH's Thomas DeGregori, Origins of The Organic Agriculture Debate.

The book is more than just an organic farming book; it is a far-reaching examination of the social anthropology behind the "natural" movement — from the scientific and technical revolution of the past 200 years to the resulting anti-science backlash that evolved into the current organic worldview and other anti-science beliefs. Importantly, DeGregori returns throughout the book to contemporary debates on agricultural technologies and development policy to discuss why belief in such "rejected knowledge" is harmful to people and needlessly destructive to the environment." (Alex Avery, HealthFactsAndFears.com)

"Mexico's Tortilla Feeds Debate on GM Food Safety" - "KUALA LUMPUR - The question of whether Mexicans should be eating genetically-modified (GM) maize in the millions of tortillas they consume each day surfaced as a litmus-test issue yesterday at an international conference on biotech trade.

Mexico, the birthplace of maize, faces competing pressures of deep trade ties with the United States and Canada, both strong promoters of the use of GM crops, versus the will of a large peasant population whose culture and religious beliefs drive them to protect their dozens of native varieties." (Reuters)

"Mexico bans import of some GM corn" - "KUALA LUMPUR - Mexico announced it will ban the import of some genetically modified (GM) corn in a bid to protect its corn industry and consumer health.

Victor Manuel Arambula, executive secretary of Mexico's biosafety commission, said Thursday the country would prohibit any research or introduction of corn varities engineered for non-agricultural purposes, such as producing chemicals used in pharmaceutical products and plastic.

Arambula said the ban would come into force with immediate effect to prevent any genetic contamination of corn cultivated in Mexico for food." (AFP)

"Disputes Stall Biotech Trade Talks" - "Europe and developing countries clashed with the United States Thursday about the global trade in genetically modified commodities, with the former demanding strict labeling and liability laws and the latter seeking looser guidelines.

As a five-day conference on biotechnology safety neared its conclusion, government officials, scientists and environmentalists from more than 80 nations remained mired in disputes about whether gene-spliced crops might benefit - or befoul - human health and the environment." (Associated Press)

"Environmentalists blast Brazil over biosafety protocol" - "KUALA LUMPUR - Environmental activists criticised Brazil for trying to water down moves towards the tough labelling of genetically-modified (GM) products as demanded by the European Union and developing countries.

"It is outrageous that one country that has inked the protocol -- Brazil -- is blocking the negotiations at this moment," Greenpeace spokesman Eric Gall told reporters at the first Conference of Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

Gall said that while most countries that have signed the protocol wanted GM producers to provide detailed documentation, Brazil was taking the position of the United States and Canada, which have not signed the UN accord.

"We are far from an agreement because of this obstructive attitude of Brazil," Gall said, adding that the South American country's position could undermine the whole negotiation because decisions are made on the basis of consensus." (AFP)

Uh-huh... "Scientists suspect health threat from GM maize" - "Scientists investigating a spate of illnesses among people living close to GM maize fields in the Philippines believe that the crop may have triggered fevers, respiratory illnesses and skin reactions.

If preliminary results are confirmed, it would be one of the first recorded cases of serious health problems associated with GM crops, and could damage the reputation of the biotech agriculture industry, which is rapidly expanding in developing countries.

The scientists' findings were immediately challenged by Monsanto, the world's leading GM company, and by the Philippine government." (John Vidal, The Guardian)

"Gene-altered crops are safe: officials" - "China will make sure the controversial genetically modified (GMO) crops don't cause negative impacts on the country's bio-environment, the Ministry of Agriculture said Wednesday." (People's Daily)

February 26, 2004

"Doubt cast on free radical theory" - "Scientists have questioned a widely accepted theory for a cause of diseases such as cancer and arthritis. Many experts believe that molecules called free radicals, produced when the body fights infection, inflict damage on the body's tissues. Drugs have been developed to mop up these excess amounts of the molecules, and thus prevent damage and disease. But research by University College London, published in Nature, suggests the theory may be incorrect." (BBC News Online)

"UK: Public health warnings 'not working'" - "Public exhortations to stop smoking, lose weight and take more exercise will not work, a major report on the nation's health has concluded.

Individuals, business and Government all had a role to play in taking responsibility for public health, its author said." (Daily Telegraph)

"Top brands threatened with boycott over obesity" - "THE Consumers’ Association is threatening a boycott of top branded foods unless the Government and food industry take action to improve the nation’s diet and tackle obesity.

The watchdog insisted yesterday that the time for talking was over and said that it intended to press hard for change.

It claimed that poor diet was now linked to more deaths than smoking, with 30 per cent of deaths of coronary heart disease due to diet compared with 20 per cent of deaths due to smoking. It said that a third of cancers were down to diet — the same number accounted for by smoking." (The Times)

"Geologists cleared in Bangladeshi poisoning case" - "A British court has ruled that a geological survey team is not to blame for failing to detect arsenic contamination in Bangladesh's well water. Bangladeshi villagers had accused the British Geological Survey (BGS) of negligence, arguing that it should have spotted the danger.

Lawyers representing the villagers plan to appeal against the decision, which is expected to prevent other lawsuits against the BGS in this matter from going ahead.

Arsenic poisoning is a serious issue in Bangladesh, where natural water supplies are contaminated with the poison by natural run-off from the Himalayas." (NSU)

"Natural disaster deaths rise sevenfold" - "FRANKFURT - Natural disasters caused by extreme weather claimed seven times as many victims in 2003 as in the previous year and the trend is set to continue, says the world's biggest reinsurance company.

Munich Re said in its annual review of natural catastrophes that earthquakes, heat waves and tornadoes had killed 75,000 people during the year, including 40,000 who died in December's severe earthquake in Iran.

The figure was higher than the 50,000 estimate the company gave in a preliminary report in December, largely because the full effects of the Iranian earthquake were not yet known then, a Munich Re spokesman said.

"After three years of relative calm, no fewer than five great natural catastrophes occurred in 2003," the report said, saying the five events alone had accounted for about a third of all economic and insured losses.

Apart from the Iranian earthquake, a heat wave that hit central and southern Europe in the summer claimed 20,000 lives, and an earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale killed 2,200 in Algeria in May, the report said." (Reuters)

"Glacier marches on to Nature's explosive finale" - "THE world’s glaciers have been forced into retreat by global warming, but the Moreno Glacier is still on the march and has now, against all predictions, started to prepare for a rare and spectacular explosion of ice and water.

Its relentless forward creep means that Moreno is now acting as a dam across Lake Argentino in Patagonia, into which it empties after its journey down from the Andes.

In recent weeks the glacier’s advance, an estimated 500 metres in the past year, has seen it span the water of the lake and reach the Magallanes Peninsula and so cut off the Rico and Sur inlets from the main body of Lake Argentino.

Experts say that next the water level in the Rico and Sur inlets, fed by mountain streams, will rise by as much as 26 metres (86ft) until the weight of the water will eventually become too much for the glacier to hold back." (The Times)

Hmm... spectacular it undoubtedly is but rare, that's rather subjective. True, it doesn't happen every day, but, according to the tourist blurbs, every 3-5 years and, as this article eventually gets around to mentioning, apparently happened 15 times from 1917-1988 so a 4 year average sounds about right.

"Astonishing discovery over the Amazonian rain forest" - "An international research team has discovered huge amounts of unexpected organic aerosols over the South-American tropical rain forests." (Max-Planck-Gesellschaft)

"Environment prize goes to BBC" - "The world's richest environment prize, the Zayed Prize, has been accepted by the BBC at a ceremony in Dubai. The $0.5m award recognises the BBC for its coverage of issues related to the environment and sustainable development.

The prize was accepted on behalf of the BBC by Sian Kevill, the editorial director of BBC World, the corporation's commercially funded 24-hour international news channel.

Two other prizes worth $300,000 each went to the founders of the UN-led Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and two leading environmental activists." (BBC News Online)

Odd choices, you think? Not really, when you know the jury list includes Klaus Topfer, Robert Watson...

Oh dear! Arianna didn't do her homework: "Bleak Forecast" - "If he's smart enough to use it, the Democratic nominee may have just been handed the perfect cudgel with which to pummel President Bush – and cripple Karl Rove's attempts to position his man as America's go-to guy on national security.

The weapon in question is a new report on the grave and gathering threat posed by global climate change – and the potentially cataclysmic consequences of the Bush administration's obstinately ignorant approach to global warming." (Arianna Huffington, AlterNet)

but Keay did much better: "Pentagon-sponsored climate report sparks hullabaloo in Europe But new ice age unlikely, Bay Area authors of study say" - "A Pentagon-commissioned report by two Bay Area futurologists has sparked an international brouhaha over possible climate change disasters. But both the authors and military officials say the study has been largely misconstrued by the media and environmentalists." (Keay Davidson, San Francisco Chronicle)

as did Seth: "If a climate change shook the world" - "... Randall, the study's coauthor, said the exploration did not reflect a change in the Bush administration's view of climate change.

"It's an unlikely event," Randall said, "and the Pentagon often thinks the unthinkable, and that's all this was." (Seth Borenstein, The Inquirer)

and Robert kicked the tires and checked under the hood (even if it's not clear he recognised much): "Pentagon Study Looks at Global Climate"  - "WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon prides itself on preparing for the worst -- be it war, famine or other calamity.

So it may not seem surprising that the Pentagon last year asked two private consultants to consider the potential global impacts of an abrupt and severe change in the world's climate." (Robert Burns, AP Military Writer)

"Faster carbon turnover in basal food-chain levels in aquatic than terrestrial ecosystems" - "Improved knowledge of how carbon moves through food chains of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems is required to understand capacity of ecosystems to sequester excess atmospheric CO2, improving climate change scenario predictions. In Ecology Letters, March, Cebrian shows aquatic ecosystems transfer carbon through food chain basal levels ten times faster than terrestrial ecosystems. Basal trophic stored carbon is released back to the atmosphere or transferred to higher trophic levels quicker in aquatic than terrestrial ecosystems." (Blackwell Publishing Ltd.)

"Deepest waters of the north Pacific warmed significantly over last 20 years" - "TORONTO - International researchers who conducted a systematic sampling of water from the depths of the north Pacific have discovered a startling warming at the bottom of the ocean.

The increase is small. But given that the waters on the ocean floor are believed to have had no contact for centuries with warmer water from closer to the surface, experts are wondering what exactly is at play.

"It's very important to monitor those changes because they give us clues about what's happening," said Stan Wilson, a senior scientist at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who was not involved in the research.

The scientists, from Japan and Canada, found that between 1985 and 1999 the temperature on the ocean floor across the north Pacific rose by five one-thousandths of a degree Celsius. Water at that depth - about five kilometres down - is typically about 1.1 C." (CP)

"German Industry and Greens at Loggerheads Over Emissions Plan" - "German industry and unions are up in arms over an emissions trading system to cut pollution, even as the clock ticks on a March deadline for Berlin to submit a list of companies and their carbon credits to the EU." (Deutsche Welle)

"America's new coal rush" - "Utilities' dramatic push to build new plants would boost energy security but hurt the environment." (The Christian Science Monitor)

"DOE seeks new round of pollution control technology for coal-based power plants" - "WASHINGTON (02/25/04) -- The Department of Energy (DOE) has released a solicitation for the second round of proposals under President Bush’s Clean Coal Power Initiative (CCPI). The Department plans to provide approximately $280 million in federal funds for demonstrating barrier-breaking technologies that sharply reduce and ultimately eliminate pollution in coal-based power plants.

“Clean coal is a crucial element of our overall energy policy and our goal of a balanced, diverse energy portfolio that will provide Americans with energy and economic security and continued environmental improvement,” Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham said. “The technologies we seek to foster through Round II will help make it possible for coal to remain a cornerstone of our domestic energy portfolio, particularly for power generation, and to continue that role into the long-term future.”

Coal generates more than 50 percent of America’s electric power and constitutes more than 90 percent of proved fossil fuel reserves." (Capitol Reports)

"UK wind power industry says set for rapid growth" - "LONDON - Britain's wind power industry said this week it is poised for rapid growth over the next two years as improved financial incentives encourage companies to pour a billion pounds ($1.87 billion) into new projects.

Europe's windiest country would nearly triple its capacity, giving Britain enough turbines to supply a million households, or 1.3 percent of total electricity demand, said the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA)." (Reuters)

"Environmental Group Depicts Ford's Chief as Pinocchio" - "STUNG by the depiction of its chairman and chief executive as Pinocchio in an advertisement, the Ford Motor Company has sent a cease-and-desist letter to an environmental group responsible for the ad.

Ford is demanding that the group, Bluewater Network, which is based in San Francisco, stop "unlawful conduct" in a print and Internet campaign that attacks Ford's environmental policies.

Bluewater began running an ad in national and college publications earlier this month that said William Clay Ford Jr., the company's chairman and chief executive, had failed to make good on a promise the company made in 2000 to increase the fuel efficiency of its sport utility vehicles 25 percent by 2005.

The ad features a line drawing of Mr. Ford with an extra-long nose and the words: "Bill Ford Jr. or Pinocchio? Don't buy his environmental rhetoric. Don't buy his cars." (New York Times)

"Boost for transgenic foods as China widens imports" - "SHANGHAI — China, once wary of importing gene-spliced farm goods, is widening its doors to billions of dollars worth of transgenic crops, amid increasing pressure to import more agricultural products to feed its huge population.

A green light for imports of bioengineered farm products patented by Monsanto paves the way for more imports from overseas, boding well for key industry players such as Switzerland's Syngenta AG analysts said on Tuesday.

It was a logical step for a country relying increasingly on global markets to replenish dwindling grain stocks after years of harvest declines, they said." (Reuters)

"Contamination of Conventional Seed with Genetically Engineered Material Prompts Call to Protect Organic Seed" - "Greenfield, MA - Findings released by the Union for Concerned Scientists showing widespread contamination of conventional seed by genetically engineered (GE) materials give a clear indication that those wishing to avoid planting GE crops may, in fact, be inadvertently planting GE contaminated crops.

"The evidence is mounting, as this survey by the Union of Concerned Scientists shows, that GE contamination is happening," said Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of the Organic Trade Association. She noted that organic producers take great care to offer customers a quality product with only the limited use of synthetic processing materials or ingredients. "Now, producers are faced with not only the problem of contamination in the field but, more fundamentally, even the inability to be sure they are choosing non-genetically engineered seed," DiMatteo said." (Press release from: Organic Trade Association (OTA))

"US defends GM foods at biotech forum" - "KUALA LUMPUR - The United States vigorously pressed its case for genetically-modified food at an international conference debating the potential risks of biotech products and trade guidelines.

The US, the top producer of GM crops in the world, defended their safety and urged delegates attending the first Conference of Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to allow smooth trade in the products to help ease world hunger.

Deborah Malac, biotech division chief in the US State Department, said bio-technology may not cure world hunger but it is an important tool to boost global food security.

"It is not the silver bullet nor the answer to solve world hunger but we do believe it is a critical element that needs to be applied," she told a news conference." (AFP)

"Rules for gene-altered foods on way" - "Label guidelines could come as early as next week But critics fear Canadian public will be misled.

Four years and several hundred thousand dollars later, Canada is about to publish its first voluntary standards for labelling food free of genetically modified ingredients.

But critics, including consumer groups and some food processors, say the rules are so badly flawed they will be of no use to the majority of Canadians worried about consuming genetically modified food.

"We want labelling but what we got was meaningless," said Nadege Adams, of the Council of Canadians, a consumer group that monitored the process.

A cereal could be advertised as containing GM-free corn even though the canola oil in the ingredient list is genetically modified, said Susan Powell, executive director of the Canadian Food Exporters Association." (Toronto Star)

Excuse me? What DNA is in oil? Didn't think so, so how do we get genetically modified oil?

"Why it's time for GM Britain" - "Leaked papers show the cabinet has given the go-ahead to genetically modified maize. Top government science adviser Chris Pollock puts the economic and ecological case to Ian Sample." (The Guardian)

"GM crops delayed by at least a year after cabinet leak" - "Genetically-modified crops cannot be planted in the UK for at least another year, and maybe not even then, the environment minister, Elliot Morley, said yesterday." (The Guardian)

"GM industry liable" - "The biotechnology industry will be liable for any compensation for damage or contamination caused by genetically modified crops, leaked Cabinet minutes reveal." (Daily Telegraph)

"Brussels backs Berlin crop plan" - "The European Commission on Tuesday came out in favour of Germany’s plans for the co-existence of GM and non-GM crops.

Farm commissioner Franz Fischler at a meeting of agriculture ministers on Tuesday said that he fully supported German proposals to protect conventional and organic farmland from contamination by biotech crops.

His comments came after a presentation by Berlin laying out the current state of play for German GM farmers, who are financially liable if they contaminate other non-GM crops.

“In the commission’s view the German initiative on co-existence is a good one.” (EUpolitix.com)

February 25, 2004

"Earth almost put on impact alert" - "Astronomers have revealed how they came within minutes of alerting the world to a potential asteroid strike last month. Some scientists believed on 13 January that a 30m object, later designated 2004 AS1, had a one-in-four chance of hitting the planet within 36 hours." (BBC News Online)

It eventually passed the Earth at a distance of about 8 million miles (~12 million km), >30 times the distance from Earth to the Moon or almost 1,000 times the diameter of the Earth.

"Study doubts health drive gains" - "A report on improving the nation's health is expected to call for more emphasis on prevention of illness. The report by Treasury adviser Derek Wanless is thought likely to cast doubt on the value of big initiatives to promote healthier lifestyles. The study will make the case for stronger political leadership and urge a 20-year campaign to cut coronary heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Working class lifestyles are likely to be blamed for health inequalities. The report is expected to focus on to poor diet, lack of exercise, and alcohol abuse." (BBC News Online)

"A Report on Childhood Obesity" - "MADISON AVENUE was challenged again yesterday over the way it markets food to children, as a new report was released suggesting that advertising contributes to childhood obesity.

The report, by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, summarized existing studies on obesity and the media like television, video games and movies that capture children's attention. Although it endorsed no solutions, it did discuss possible policy changes, like regulating or reducing food advertising aimed at children.

And it is far from the first examination of ads focusing on children; just on Monday, the American Psychological Association recommended that the government put restrictions on marketing to those younger than 7 or 8 because they are unable "to recognize advertising's persuasive intent." (New York Times)

"Soya 'link' to male infertility" - "The humble soya bean may play a role in the problem of male infertility, a team of researchers in Belfast has found. Soya contains the female hormone oestrogen and too much of it is being linked to poor quality sperm." (BBC News Online)

"Scientists raise caution about effects of HRT on hearing" - "A small pilot study suggests that women who undergo hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) may run the risk of diminished hearing. Depending on the measure, HRT recipients on average did anywhere from 10 to 30 percent worse on hearing tests than women who had not received HRT." (University of Rochester Medical Center)

"Elvis lives, MI5 murdered Diana, MMR is dangerous" - "The rational must unite against this loopy alliance of anti-science crackpots" (Tim Hames, The Times)

"Scientist Says 'Asian Brown Cloud' Threatens Gulf" - "DUBAI - A body of pollution which has been identified in the skies across Asia is now threatening to engulf the Middle East and make the planet a drier place, a leading environmental scientist said on Tuesday." (Reuters)

"Global warming: How far can it go? Worst-case scenario paints a grim picture" - "In a dire look at a hypothetical hothouse world, consultants for the Pentagon see nations warring over water, food and whom to blame for greenhouse warming. (Hint: It's you and your sport utility vehicle.)

"Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life," two Emeryville-based futurists concluded in a report late last year for the Defense Department's Office of Net Assessment.

Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall were drafted for an unclassified, worst-case look at climate change. But the echo chamber of Internet news and opinion transformed their exercise into a top military secret or the ultimate comeuppance for a fossil-fueled executive or a Bush conspiracy to hide the WMDs of the natural world.

As if the report itself wasn't fantastic enough." (Ian Hoffman, Tri-Valley Herald)

"Alarmists Exaggerate Pentagon Climate Report - Global Warming Speculations Misrepresented as Fact" - "Washington, D.C., February 24, 2004—A recent report on the possible future effects of global warming, issued by two researchers working for the U.S. Department of Defense, is being unfortunately misinterpreted as a prediction of imminent climatic disaster. The report, prepared last October, considers a series of far-ranging scenarios based on an array of models and hypotheses of varying degrees of likelihood. The authors repeatedly emphasize the conditional nature of the report, referring to their predictions as “extreme” and “not the most likely.” (CEI)

The Week That Was February 21, 2004 (SEPP)

"Apocalypse Always" - "Last month a group of 19 scientists made an apocalyptic claim: If current warming trends continue, more than a million species will be extinct in less than half a century. This follows a possibly even more alarming statement made in December by the World Health Organization (WHO), which said that global warming killed 150,000 people in 2000.

Both charges are shamefully exaggerated, considering that there's no consensus among scientists that global warming exists and, even if it does, what causes it. Is it induced by mankind? Or is there a natural cycle of warming and cooling that man cannot control? Or some combination of these elements?

Despite a legion of legitimate doubts, the hyperbole manages to grow more inflated. The book "Climate Change and Human Health -- Risks and Responses," published by the WHO, claims that the death toll from global warming will be twice as high in the next 30 years. That is unless, of course, something is done about it, which is exactly the WHO's goal: To employ the force of government to establish policies that match to its ideology." (C.C. Kraemer, TCS)

"Defusing the Global Warming Time Bomb" - "Global warming is real, and the consequences are potentially disastrous. Nevertheless, practical actions, which would also yield a cleaner, healthier atmosphere, could slow, and eventually stop, the process." (James Hansen, SciAm.com) [Subscription required]

"Thawing subarctic permafrost increases greenhouse gas emissions" - "The permafrost in the bogs of subarctic Sweden is undergoing dramatic changes. The part of the soil that thaws in the summer, the so-called active layer, has become thicker since 1970, and the permafrost has disappeared altogether in some locations. This has lead to significant changes in the vegetation and to a subsequent increase in emission of the greenhouse gas methane. Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas." (American Geophysical Union)

"Atmospheric water clusters provide evidence of global warming" - "Researchers at Hamilton College have identified several methods for successfully determining the structures and thermodynamic values for the formation of atmospheric water clusters, which scientists have speculated may accelerate global warming. The Hamilton team's findings were published in the March 3 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society." (Hamilton College)

"Tests on greenhouse gas underway" - "Australia was researching technology that could ultimately mean the underground storage of greenhouse gas emissions, a Sydney forum has been told. Dr Peter Cook, from Canberra's Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies, said researchers were working on the next steps in developing zero emission technologies. These could be used to capture and store carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from large-scale operations, he said." (AAP)

From CO2 Science Magazine this week:

"Rising Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations: Will They Destroy Earth's Coral Reefs?" - "A number of climate alarmists are shouting yes!  Real-world data, on the other hand, are whispering no." (co2science.org)

Subject Index Summaries:
"Climate Oscillations (Millennial Variability - Oceans)" - "Buried in the mud and ooze at the bottom of the planet's oceans lie more treasures than gold or silver; for there resides much of the evidence that will someday turn back the tide of radical environmentalism that defines the anti-CO2 movement of the world's climate alarmists." (co2science.org)

"Agriculture (Species -- Wheat: Biomass)" - "Atmospheric CO2 enrichment typically stimulates the biomass production of most plants.  Does it do the same for wheat?" (co2science.org)

Plant Growth Data:
"This week we add new results (blue background) of plant growth responses to atmospheric CO2 enrichment obtained from experiments described in the peer-reviewed scientific literature for: Cabbage, Chaparral Ecosystem, Peanut, Rice and Scrub-Oak Ecosystem." (co2science.org)

Journal Reviews:
"Will CO2-Induced Global Warming Slow the Atlantic Branch of the Ocean's Thermohaline Circulation?" - "Climate models that form the basis for the IPCC's world view of future climate suggest it will.  Newer models, however, suggest otherwise." (co2science.org)

"The Role of the Sun in Holocene Climate Change" - "Evidence continues to accumulate for (1) the solar forcing of climate change during the Holocene, and (2) the global extent of the climatic variability of that period." (co2science.org)

"Australia's Great Barrier Reef: Resurrecting Itself, Again and Again and Again" - "Can a mature coral reef, once totally destroyed, ever regain its close-to-original composition?" (co2science.org)

"Will Less-Than-Adequate Nitrogen Keep Earth's Ecosystems from Positively Responding to Increases in Atmospheric CO2?" - "Some scientists have said that it will.  Real-world data, on the other hand, have yet to support their contentions." (co2science.org)

"Digestibility of Pasture Forage Is Enhanced by Elevated CO2" - "A number of co-occurring phenomena combine to produce the pleasantly-surprising result." (co2science.org)

Major Report:
"Enhanced or Impaired?  Human Health in a CO2-Enriched Warmer World" - "Hardly a heat wave passes but what climate alarmists are quick to blame global warming for any excess deaths that may have been associated with it.  If the whole truth be told, however, global warming would likely reduce the number of lives lost to extreme thermal conditions, considering what happens at the cold end of the temperature spectrum.  In addition, CO2-induced changes in the composition of the plants we use for food and medicine may actually be improving human health and extending human lifespan." (co2science.org)

The Week That Was February 14, 2004 (SEPP)

"Environment groups continue to attack GM foods" - "KUALA LUMPUR - Environmental groups said new studies show genetically-modified (GM) foods pose serious health threats to humans as an international meeting here continued to debate labeling GM products.

Jeffrey Smith, director of the US-based Institute for Responsible Technology, said data from three studies conducted by the Norwegian Institute of Gene Ecology showed that during pollination GM maize may have made people living near maize fields in the Philippines ill.

He also said the cauliflower mosaic virus, used in most GM foods, was found intact in rat tissue up to three days after it was mixed into a single meal and it was unknown what the long-term effects of this were." (AFP)

Gasp! Not the cauliflower mosaic virus! Um... just a minute, what foods have we ever eaten that don't contain viruses, fungi - whole ecosystems of micro fauna and flora? Not being a plant (despite aspersions cast by occasional correspondents), I don't feel too threatened by CMV.

"Manila rejects GM maize health findings" - "MANILA, Feb 24 - The Philippines said on Tuesday it would press ahead in using gene-modified (GM) maize as it doubted findings by a Norwegian scientist that some Filipino farm workers showed signs of exposure to the plant's anti-pest toxin.

"It's absurd. No biology student will believe it," Artemio Salazar, director of the corn programme of the Philippines' Department of Agriculture, told reporters." (Reuters)

"Minister denies pressure on GM" - "Welsh Rural Affairs Minister Carwyn Jones has denied coming under pressure from the Westminster Government to approve the sale of a genetically modified maize seed in Wales. In a statement on Tuesday, he reiterated the Welsh Assembly Government's policy to take "the most restrictive position possible on GM." (BBC News Online)

"EU presidency has yet to rule on GMO maize request" - "BRUSSELS, Feb 24 - EU president Ireland has not yet decided whether to ask the bloc's farm ministers to consider authorising a genetically modified (GMO) type of canned maize, a move that might see the EU lift its five-year ban on new biotech products.

Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Ireland's Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh said the matter was still under consideration and a decision would be made over the next month.

"We're still reflecting on the issue and we'll be in a position before the March council meeting (of ministers) to make a decision on it. But I haven't made up my mind yet," he said, speaking during this month's meeting of farm ministers." (Reuters)

"Coming a cropper" - "The public is against GM crops being grown in Britain but the government will not rule it out. John Vidal rates this and other elements that could ruin the plans" (The Guardian)

"Can we keep the cap on transgene escape?" - "Molecular strategies are being developed to impede escapes of transgenes from transgenic crops into wild relatives, which might become invasive upon acquiring transgenic traits such as resistance to pests or herbicides. In Ecology Letters, March, Haygood et al mathematically analyze how probability of escape within any given period depends on factors including leakage parameter characteristic of the strategy. They find that even fairly long average escape times create substantial probability of escape much sooner." (Blackwell Publishing Ltd.)

February 24, 2004

"Toxic math" - "A New York-based group called the Radiation and Public Health Project recently released seemingly alarming statistics about cancer and infant health in downstate Grundy County. The group implied that an alleged rise in health problems was related to the Dresden 2 and 3 nuclear reactors in Morris, which have license renewals pending before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission." (Chicago Tribune)

"Panel Presents Report on Leukemia Cluster" - "FALLON, Nev. -- A panel studying a childhood leukemia cluster in this rural northern Nevada town reported Monday it knows no more about the cause of the cancer than it did when studies began three years ago.

The panel's final report, presented at a meeting attended by more than 100 people, was a disappointment for families of children afflicted by the cancer. But researchers said the massive amount of data they compiled should help in future efforts to determine the cause of the disease." (AP)

Nevada Cancer Scare Is Tree-Ring Circus

"Traffic fumes may up leukemia risk: study" - "NEW YORK - Exhaust fumes from cars and trucks may increase the risk of childhood cancer, researchers in Italy report.

In a 20-year study of childhood leukemia cases in an Italian province, children living near busy roads had an increased risk of developing the disease, according to an article in the International Journal of Cancer.

The study is not the final word on the possible link between traffic and cancer, but it "provides further evidence of a relationship between exposure to traffic exhausts and childhood leukemia," according to a team led by Dr. Paolo Crosignani at the National Cancer Institute in Milan." (Reuters Health)

"Hormone use linked to asthma in women" - "NEW YORK - Women who use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to curb the symptoms of menopause appear to be at increased risk for developing asthma, new research suggests. However, the risk of asthma is still low." (Reuters Health)

"Fiber from fruit, cereal keeps heart healthy" - "NEW YORK - Not all forms of fiber may offer equal protection from heart disease, new research released Monday suggests.

Specifically, investigators found that only dietary fiber from cereals and fruits - and not vegetables - appeared to reduce the risk of heart disease. "There was nothing at all for vegetable fiber, and we don't really know why," study author Dr. Mark Pereira told Reuters Health.

But even if future studies demonstrate that fiber from vegetables is useless in warding off heart disease, he said, eating vegetables provides people with many other important nutrients that protect against heart disease and other conditions." (Reuters Health)

"Number of children linked to obesity for mom and dad" - "The more children a person has, the greater the risk he or she will become obese, according to a new study from Duke University Medical Center. From an analysis of a large database of middle-aged Americans, researchers found women faced an average 7 percent increased risk of obesity per child and men an average 4 percent increased risk per child. Researchers attribute the weight gain to a busier lifestyle that may include a diet of more fast food and leave less time for exercise." (Duke University Medical Center)

At least, according to Lester, we won't need fat taxes: "Speaker Warns Against Future World Disaster" - "If someday soon, when wars break out over water and the price of cereal skyrockets, don't say Lester Brown didn't warn you.

Brown, founder of the Worldwatch Institute and president of the Earth Policy Institute, gave a lecture titled "Plan B: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble," Saturday to a crowd that filled Campbell Hall past capacity. Brown used his speech to argue that if current environmental trends continue, the global economy will eventually fall apart.

"Right now we are on the edge of one of history's hinge points, after which nothing will be the same," Brown said. "I believe a major global wake-up call will come within a year in the form of rising food prices." (Daily Nexus)

"U.S. Fish & Wildlife testing hatchery-raised fish for pollutants" - "SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- The Northeast region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is testing its hatchery-raised salmon and other fish for dioxin and other pollutants because of fears they could be picking up pollutants from commonly used feeds.

Marvin Moriarty, Northeast regional director for the service, said Monday that the tests were ordered following a study that found farm-raised salmon contains significantly more of the long-lived chemicals, including dioxins, than salmon caught in the wild.

The study, published last month in the journal Science, suggested the pollutants came from PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls in the fish oil and meal fed to farm-raised salmon." (Associated Press)

Oh George... "The corporate stooges who nobble serious science" - "The MMR scandal shows a business riddled with conflicts of interest" (George Monbiot, The Guardian)

"Taming the NGOs: An Epic Fight" (PDF) - "NGOs are strong—so strong that some commentators call them the “second superpower.” Over the last 10 years, the NGO movement has become so influential that many governments and corporations alike now tremble at the thought of offending its members. But this may be about to change. The movement faces mounting pressures to become more accountable and more transparent. In this article, we will look at some of the factors driving this push to set certain ground rules for NGO participation in global political life." (Neil Hrab, EU Reporter)

"Environmental cases hinge on limits of authority" - "As early as Tuesday, the Supreme Court could begin to issue decisions on four environmental cases with implications for improving water quality, cutting air pollution and protecting unscathed federal land in the West.

By the time the court term ends in June, justices will have ruled on eight cases bearing on the environment - the most heard in one term in a decade.

The court will not be ruling on the constitutionality of any environmental laws. Instead, it will decide who has the authority to make decisions or how far law extends in cases that affect water, air and land quality." (USA TODAY)

"Senate to Vote on Shielding Gun Makers" - "Backers of a bipartisan bill that would shield firearms dealers and manufacturers from lawsuits are pushing for a vote this week in the Senate." (New York Times)

"Lawyers, Guns and Mayors" - "Rather than make our streets safer, Congress proposes basically to immunize the gun industry from litigation." (New York Times)

"Group Talks Defending Earth From Asteroid" - "GARDEN GROVE, Calif. -- The asteroid believed to have wiped out dinosaurs 65 million years ago was rare but hardly unique, say scientists gathered to discuss ways of aggressively defending our planet from another such space rock, including by detonating nukes in space.

Asteroids capable of inflicting damage on a global scale hit the Earth roughly every million years, and we shouldn't dawdle in developing a method of deflecting them, say the scientists attending a four-day planetary defense conference in suburban Orange County.

Scientists have proposed a variety of strategies to nudge an asteroid off course. The list is the stuff of science fiction and includes using lasers, mirrors or atomic weapons launched from Earth." (AP)

This has drawn a ridiculous amount of attention: "Pentagon Report Warns on Climate Change" - "A secret report prepared by the Pentagon warns that climate change may lead to global catastrophe costing millions of lives and is a far greater threat than terrorism. The report was ordered by an influential US Pentagon advisor but was covered up by "US defense chiefs" for four months, until it was "obtained" by the British weekly The Observer." (AFP)

What is it about? Basically, a "what-if?" scenario think tanks are paid to dream up, similar to "What would we do if space aliens landed in Queens?". What's it based on? This is from page 6 of the report:

The climate change scenario outlined in this report is modeled on a century-long climate event that records from an ice core in Greenland indicate occurred 8,200 years ago. Immediately following an extended period of warming, much like the phase we appear to be in today, there was a sudden cooling. Average annual temperatures in Greenland dropped by roughly 5 degrees Fahrenheit, and temperature decreases nearly this large are likely to have occurred throughout the North Atlantic region. During the 8,200 event severe winters in Europe and some other areas caused glaciers to advance, rivers to freeze, and agricultural lands to be less productive. Scientific evidence suggests that this event was associated with, and perhaps caused by, a collapse of the ocean’s conveyor following a period of gradual warming.

Longer ice core and oceanic records suggest that there may have been as many as eight rapid cooling episodes in the past 730,000 years, and sharp reductions in the ocean conveyer--a phenomenon that may well be on the horizon – are a likely suspect in causing such shifts in climate.

"During the 8,200 event severe winters in Europe and some other areas caused glaciers to advance, rivers to freeze, and agricultural lands to be less productive." This loss of agricultural productivity, did that have anything to do with predating most agriculture? Never mind... The associated graphic is on page 5 (I suspect that should read: "Medieval War[m] Period" actually. Oh well...). Curiously, it appears to indicate that Greenland is currently ~5°F cooler than the periods before and after the 8,200 event - barely 2°F warmer than the event itself. Are we all frightened yet?

Even more curious is the ferocious promotion of this speculative report by eco-activists and left-leaning publications. The historical warming prior (and subsequent) to the cited event 8,200 years ago seems of far greater significance and amplitude than the apparently incomplete recovery from the Little Ice Age we are currently experiencing. Nor is there any suggestion that this apparently aggressive warming was anything other than a natural event (haven't seen anywhere that current fossil fuel use caused warming 8,200 years ago). The graphic also seems to indicate several subsequent periods as warm as, or warmer than that preceding the 8,200-year event, although none apparently preceded or precipitated such aggressive cooling as the highlighted event. And their point is...?

Anyway, the "secret" report follows:

Exec Summary: "An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security October 2003" (PDF) - "Imagining the Unthinkable - The purpose of this report is to imagine the unthinkable – to push the boundaries of current research on climate change so we may better understand the potential implications on United States national security.

We have interviewed leading climate change scientists, conducted additional research, and reviewed several iterations of the scenario with these experts. The scientists support this project, but caution that the scenario depicted is extreme in two fundamental ways. First, they suggest the occurrences we outline would most likely happen in a few regions, rather than on globally. Second, they say the magnitude of the event may be considerably smaller.

We have created a climate change scenario that although not the most likely, is plausible, and would challenge United States national security in ways that should be considered immediately." (Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall) Click here for the full report (PDF)

"Winter Weather Wonder, Part II" - "January 2004 was unusually cold for most of the Northern Hemisphere (see previous TCS CharTiFact). The cold prompted the UK's Independent to link the weather in a recent op/ed to increased carbon dioxide in the air saying, "Global warming will plunge Britain into new ice age 'within decades'." This is hype." (Willie Soon, Lucy Hancock and Sallie Baliunas, TCS)

"Climate: Hard lessons from climates past" - "BOULDER, Colo., Feb. 23 -- Over the next century, if the current trend continues, Earth is going to see climate conditions that have not existed in hundreds -- and perhaps thousands -- of millennia. The outcome of this trend will shape the future not only of homo sapiens, but many other species with which we share the planet.

Even if all nations undertake aggressive measures -- and even if those measures are successful -- atmospheric carbon dioxide levels will stabilize at somewhere above 400 parts per million. Without any restrictions, CO2 levels in the atmosphere will reach 1,000 ppm.

"This is an experiment that hasn't been done in a long time," said Dan Schrag, professor of geochemistry at Harvard University. "Atmospheric CO2 has never been higher than 300 ppm in the last 400,000 years, and probably not in the last 30 million years," he said." (Dan Whipple, United Press International)

Hmm... current atmospheric CO2 levels are ~375ppm or ~100ppm (roughly one-third) increase from the pre-1750 guesstimate. To reach 1,000ppm this century would require emissions 6-7 times greater than those of the last 250 years combined, is that realistic? The Mauna Loa atmospheric CO2 measurements constitute the longest continuous record of atmospheric CO2 concentrations available in the world.* The Mauna Loa record shows an 18% increase in the mean annual concentration, from 315.98 parts per million by volume (ppmv) of dry air in 1959 to 372.95 ppmv in 2002.* While atmospheric CO2 increase has not been linear, in fact, atmospheric CO2 fell during the mid-1960s**, it has been reasonably consistent. The SIO CO 2 record from the South Pole shows that annual averages of atmospheric CO 2 concentrations rose from 314.8 ppmv in 1958 to 370.3 ppmv in 2002. This represents an annual increase over 1.2 ppmv per year.* Extrapolating the last half-century through the next (not allowing for any technological improvement) suggests an increase of less than 130ppm (to ~500ppm) by century's end. That's a long way from the bald statement above.

* Keeling, C.D. and T.P. Whorf. 2003. Atmospheric CO2 records from sites in the SIO air sampling network. In Trends: A Compendium of Data on Global Change. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tenn., U.S.A.

** Bacastow, R.B. 1979. Dip in the atmospheric CO2 level during the mid-1960's. Journal of Geophysical Research 80:3109-14.

"Cooler Heads Coalition Vol. VIII, No. 4" - "British Government Continues Attacks on U.S. on Climate Change; European Consensus on Kyoto Cracks Further; Junk Science Group Accuses Bush Administration of Suppressing Junk Science; and more!" (CEI)

"US 'does accept climate threat'" - "Most US policymakers do accept that climate change is a significant threat, a leading British scientist believes. Professor John Schellnhuber, of the University of East Anglia, said he thought about 80% of senior politicians recognised the danger "in principle". He said he thought this consensus would eventually lead to a change in policy by President Bush's administration." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online)

"The Emperor’s New Climate, Part IV: Disaster Does Not Loom" Read Part I - Weird Science - Click here; Read Part II - Are We Warm Yet? Click here; Read Part III The Kyoto Depression - Click here. - "A funny thing happened as James Hansen was fielding questions from reporters in Washington, D.C., in 1988, terrifying senators with global warming predictions: The forests of eastern North America—no doubt including the Blue Ridge Mountains 60 miles to the west of the capital—were quietly absorbing CO2.

A study by Princeton University, Columbia University, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) conducted between 1988 and 1992 showed that the eastern forests were so efficient a “sink” or absorber of carbon dioxide that they more than made up for all the emissions from America’s factories, power plants, campfires—even its SUVs.

Published in Science in 1998, it got comparatively little notice, but if the years covered by the study are typical, the implications for the world’s climate could be enormous. It would mean that America, rather than being a force oppressing the rest of the world with its huge economy and its greenhouse emissions, is actually picking up other countries’ greenhouse “trash.” If CO2 is a problem, it’s the rest of the world that’s causing it." (Duncan Maxwell Anderson, NewsMax,com)

"Climate science or science fiction?" - "Proponents of policies to control human-induced global warming cite science as the basis for their claims and proposals. There is only one problem — as much as they claim otherwise, there is no scientific consensus for their theories." (H. Sterling Burnett, The Washington Times)

"Forecast of Rising Oil Demand Challenges Tired Saudi Fields" - "Saudi Arabia's oil fields are in decline, raising questions about whether the kingdom will be able to satisfy the world's thirst for oil in coming years." (New York Times)

"Australia: Jitters over renewable energy push" - "ENVIRONMENT Minister David Kemp is road testing a plan to treble the mandatory renewable energy target to 30,000 gigawatt hours, a move that is alarming some of his ministerial colleagues.

MRET is regarded as the single most significant measure Australia has introduced to encourage the development of the $1 billion renewable energy industry.

Dr Kemp's proposal is significantly more than that suggested by the Tambling MRET review panel, a government-appointed body, in its report published last month.

The new proposal, developed by the Australian Greenhouse Office, appears unlikely to receive the support of federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane." (The Courier-Mail)

"Fuel-cell microbes' double duty: treat water, make energy" - "Something big may be brewing on the sewage treatment circuit thanks to a new design that puts bacteria on double-duty-treating wastewater and generating electricity at the same time." (National Science Foundation)

"GMO Trade Talks Start with Lines Clearly Drawn" - "KUALA LUMPUR - Talks to regulate international trade in genetically modified (GM) crops got going Monday with supporters and critics of the controversial technology well set to battle things out.

Delegates from nearly 90 countries met in the Malaysian capital for the first time since a regime governing cross-border trade in GM organisms became law last year, with details on shipment labeling, liability and compliance still to be worked out." (Reuters)

"Adopt strict rules on GMOs" - "KUALA LUMPUR: The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety meeting has been urged to adopt strict rules against risks from the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and to prevent a US-led coalition from “weakening” biosafety standards. Friends of the Earth International adviser on genetic engineering Juan Lopez Villar said the creation of a legally binding international regime for liability and redress should be negotiated after the meeting. A comprehensive identification and labelling system that clearly identified all GMOs intended for trade should be established, he added. “The US and its allies are again boycotting a multilateral agreement and are trying to impose their own standards on the rest of the world. “These countries are promoting weak standards that will deny consumers the right to know what is in their food,” he said in a press statement yesterday. The group also distributed a statement urging the delegates not to let the coalition dubbed the Miami Plus Group from watering down the protocol again." (The Star, Malaysia) [Complete]

"China eyes GM food crops to cut costs-academic" - "WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Feb 23 - China is set to commercialize genetically modified rice and is testing biotech wheat varieties as it looks for ways to cut farmers' costs, an expert from the University of California, Davis said on Monday.

Starting next year, China plans to spend $500 million per year researching crops modified to withstand insects, diseases and herbicides, Scott Rozelle told a Canadian outlook conference.

"That's going to mean by 2005, China is outspending the U.S. government in plant biotech research," Rozelle said, noting private companies spend much more on crop biotech research in the United States." (Reuters)

"Wheat Is at Forefront of Biotech Battle" - "WICHITA, Kan. - More than 10,000 years after nomadic hunters first harvested stands of wild wheat, researchers are working on genetically engineering mankind's oldest crop in what may become the last stand in the battle over biotech foods.

With a genome five times the size of the human genome, wheat is so complex that it is one of the last major crops to undergo genetic manipulation. The food staple has become the center of the fight over genetically modified organisms." (Associated Press)

"Study probes Canadian farmers' views on GM wheat" - "WINNIPEG, Manitoba - University of Manitoba researchers want to find out what would influence Canadian farmers to grow genetically modified wheat in a 12-page survey of 11,000 rural Prairie households." (Reuters)

"Despite confinement, crop genes can spread fast to wild" - "With the slim chance that farmers will stop planting crops containing genes from other organisms, researchers have started to develop strategies that trap these foreign genes, reducing the risk that they'll spread to wild relatives. But an investigation by scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Minnesota-St. Paul shows that these containment strategies can quickly fail." (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

"Purdue scientists: Genetically modified fish could damage ecology" - "The genetic modifications that improve animals for human consumption also could doom populations if released into the wild. While genetically modified fish will be bigger and have more success at attracting mates, they may also produce offspring that are less likely to survive to adulthood. As generations pass, a population could dwindle in size and, potentially, disappear entirely." (Purdue University)

"Crops 'widely contaminated' by genetically modified DNA" - "US scientists are warning of a potentially "serious risk to human health" after the discovery that traditional varieties of major American food crops are widely contaminated by DNA sequences from GM crops.

Crops engineered to produce industrial chemicals and drugs - so-called "pharm" crops - could already be poisoning ostensibly GM-free crops grown for food, warns the study by the Washington-based Union for Concerned Scientists, released on Monday." (NewScientist.com news service)

Rather less hysterically: "Non-transgenic crop may be rare" - "There may be no corn, soybeans or canola seed in U.S. crops that do not have traces of their genetically engineered counterparts, according to a study released Monday by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The union, an environmental advocacy group, tested non-transgenic seed from major seed suppliers and found low but detectable levels of DNA from two transgenic varieties in 50% to 83% of corn and soybean and between 83% and 100% of canola." (Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY) | Engineered DNA Found in Crop Seeds (Washington Post)

"Syngenta and Monsanto offer farmers broad access to agricultural technologies" - "Syngenta and Monsanto announced today that they reached an agreement that resolves a patent interference proceeding in the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office involving transgenic broad leaf crops. It also dismisses a patent infringement lawsuit brought by Syngenta that had been pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.

Under the agreement, Syngenta and Monsanto will provide each other with royalty-free, non-exclusive licenses related to the development, use and sale of transgenic crops containing agricultural technologies such as insect-protection and herbicide-tolerance produced through the use of the cross-licensed Agrobacterium-mediated transformation technology." (SeedQuest)

"Australia: GM food crops to be planted in weeks" - "Thousands of hectares of genetically modified canola could be planted in NSW as soon as April, after a meeting of the State Government's expert council decided there was no reason it should not go ahead.

Two chemical companies have applied to run joint tests of GM canola in NSW and have asked that the participating farmers be allowed to sell the crops.

An official recommendation is expected to go to the Minister for Agriculture, Ian Macdonald, next month but members of the NSW Agricultural Advisory Council on Gene Technology told the Herald the proposal would be given the all clear." (The Sydney Morning Herald)

"UK 'not yet set for GM go-ahead'" - "The UK environment minister, Elliot Morley, has sought to calm fears the government will shortly give the go-ahead to genetically modified crops. Mr Morley said there were still several issues to be settled, and the UK could not let GM crops be grown commercially. He told journalists the UK would give no blanket approval for GM varieties, but would judge each crop on its own. But it is clear the government is close to making an announcement on GM crops in the UK, probably in early March." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online)

February 23, 2004

"Epidemiology Beyond Its Limits" - "In 1995, science writer Gary Taubes warned that the science of epidemiology (tracing the source and causes of disease) was reaching a crisis point. In "Epidemiology Faces Its Limits" (Science, Jul. 14, 1995), Taubes argued that modern epidemiology was in danger of becoming a "pathological science" because it had devolved into a data dredging exercise, mindlessly searching an ever-expanding pool of danger for marginally significant associations unpredicted by any a priori hypothesis. For instance, researchers might discover by sifting through volumes of data on ovarian cancer that women who eat yoghurt every day suffer the illness marginally more than non-yoghurt eaters and therefore decide that yoghurt is a risk factor for cancer. The future did indeed seem bleak." (Iain Murray, TCS)

"The Perils of Abundance?" - "The infant mortality rate has long been considered a measure of the state of a state's well-being. It is, it has been assumed, directly related to poverty, poor nutrition, and lack of healthcare. And at first glance this appears to be the case. Countries with the worst infant mortality rates are the war torn and impoverished, while those with the lowest are highly developed and politically stable.

No wonder then, that critics of the United States often point to our infant mortality rate -- 7 per 1,000 live born infants according to the latest figures -- as a disgrace. We consistently rank behind most Western European countries, Canada, Japan, and Hong Kong. And just above or below Cuba, depending on the year." (Sydney Smith, TCS)

"Top doctor wades into MMR debate" - "The government's top doctor has criticised the man at the centre of the MMR controversy. Sir Liam Donaldson, England's chief medical officer, accused Dr Andrew Wakefield of peddling "poor science". He said the 1998 study has never been replicated and was criticised by "independent experts around the world". His comments came as the General Medical Council prepared to open an investigation into the way Dr Wakefield carried out his study." (BBC News Online)

"Vegetarians vs. Atkins: Diet Wars Are Almost Religious" - "HE charges that his group is like the Taliban. He claims that her group's dangerous message has "spread like a virus across North America, Europe and elsewhere."

The issue inspiring such invectives? Not religion, but diets." (Gina Kolata, New York Times)

"Neither the IPCC, nor the NAS, confirmed that human-caused climate change is a serious problem, says MIT professor" (PDF) - "In recent issues of The Hill Times there have been some seriously misleading comments made about the current state of climate science and the conclusions of the scientific review bodies assigned to study the situation. These misrepresentations are crucially important to correct if Canadians are to come to sensible decisions regarding climate change policy." (Richard S. Lindzen, The Hill Times [p. 13]) [Subscription required - 2 weeks free trial access available]

"Agriculture emissions findings 'flawed': NFF" - "Australia's farmers have labelled the Kyoto Protocol flawed and have called for more research into the relationship between climate change and agriculture.

In a submission to a Senate inquiry, the National Farmers' Federation acknowledged the importance of climate change and its potential impact on agriculture.

Government figures show agriculture emits about 20 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gases (GHGs) but the NFF said there was much uncertainty about the effect, about how to measure emissions from farming and land use, and about developing the best way to reduce the emissions from agriculture." (The Age, Melbourne)

"Victoria, Australia: Bay wind farm plan derided" - "A PLAN to erect 300 wind turbines across Port Phillip, Western Port and Corio bays was dismissed as a joke yesterday by the Bracks Government.

Energy Minister Theo Theophanous ruled out any move to have offshore wind farms. "There is no proposal before us, but even if there was, we are not interested in having wind farms on our waters," he said.

Mr Theophanous said the notion was against government policy." (Herald Sun)

"Government face GM legal threat" - "LONDON - The government's plans to commercially grow genetically modified (GM) maize could face a legal challenge from environmental lobby group Friends of the Earth (FOE) who said testing had failed to rule out risks to human health and the environment." (Reuters)

"Why opposition to GE crops is based on sound science" - "Confrontational tactics are sometimes needed in the fight for a greener future, writes Steve Sawyer." (The Age, Melbourne)

[Steve Sawyer, a former executive director of Greenpeace USA and Greenpeace International, runs Greenpeace International's political and business unit.]

"Heated debate expected at GM food conference" - "An international conference on regulating genetically-modified food has opened in Kuala Lumpur with heated debate over science that some call monstrous and others promote as an answer to world hunger.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth fired the first shot, releasing a 51-page report charging that 10 years after the first GM food appeared on supermarket shelves, biotech corporations have failed to prove its benefits for farmers or consumers.

The assessment was released to coincide with the opening of the first Conference of Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, a UN accord which came into force last September.

The five-day conference will debate the potential risks of new biotech products and trade guidelines, with a clash likely between European countries and the United States over the labelling of GM foods." (AFP)

"Genetically altered corn worries Mexican farmers" - "CAPULALPAN, Mexico -- The villagers knew that the corn stalk growing in Olga Maldonado's garden was different. It stood taller than a man, and the husks holding the ears dangled in bunches, like bananas.

"The way it grew, it was amazing," said her brother, Javier Toro Maldonado.

Many of the people who stopped to gawk had grown corn in this mountainous community for generations, swapping seeds and fine-tuning the genes so the crop would flourish on the steep slopes.

But they hadn't seen anything like this.

"People were curious," Javier Maldonado recalled. "They would say, `Olga has such big corn, and she doesn't even take care of it.' But Olga never told anybody where she got the seed from." (Houston Chronicle)

February 22, 2004

"The green visionary who has banished famine from the world" - "WHOEVER, wrote Jonathan Swift, “could make two ears of corn or two blades of grass grow where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind than the whole race of politicians put together.” I have just met such a man. Living and working near Mexico City and about to celebrate his ninetieth birthday is someone who in the past century, by personal intervention, saved more lives than anyone else in human history — about a thousand million people.

The green lobby hates his achievements. And you? If you belong to the 99 per cent of our countrymen who have never heard of Dr Norman Borlaug, you are as ignorant as I was about him before I went to Mexico to meet this man and make a television documentary about him for BBC Four." (Matthew Parris, The Times)

Some have reported difficulty accessing this article via the above link - try this alternate for personal, non-commercial use.

"The Worst Pandemic Looks to Get Worse" - "Fake AIDS drugs, unlicensed copies, real bioequivalent generics and even stolen brand name drugs are being sold on street corners in many African cities. The immediate result is that wretched Africans are spending their life-savings in the hope of prolonging their lives a few months, but are actually buying something useless, or at best something that is unlikely to keep them alive for long. The inevitable result is something far more worrying for society -- the build up of fatal drug-resistant HIV." (Roger Bate, TCS)

"Journal regrets running MMR study" - "The medical journal that published a controversial study linking MMR to autism says, with hindsight, it would not have published the paper." (BBC News Online)

"MMR doctor: I stand by my research on autism link" - "The British doctor who claimed to have identified a link between the MMR vaccine and autism last night angrily rejected claims that the research was "flawed" as parents of children involved in the original study accused his critics of a "witch-hunt." (Daily Telegraph)

"Reid inquiry call over MMR claim" - "Health Secretary John Reid has called for an inquiry into claims that controversial research linking the MMR vaccine to autism was "flawed". He urged the General Medical Council to investigate "as a matter of urgency", after the Lancet medical journal said it should not have published the study. Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, told the BBC the researchers had a "fatal conflict of interest". Chief researcher Dr Andrew Wakefield rejected the journal's claims. But the Department of Health said it welcomed the Lancet's regret for publishing material that had caused so much public concern." (BBC News Online)

"We do enjoy a good health scare" - "There will be widespread, if publicly unacknowledged, rejoicing in the British medical profession over the discomfiture of The Lancet for having published flawed and possibly tainted research concerning the alleged connection between the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and the development of childhood autism. The research was funded, at least in part, by the Legal Aid Board, and the parents of some of the subjects of the investigation were pursuing legal action against the manufacturers of the vaccine, facts that the researchers omitted to mention. There was an undeclared conflict of interest." (Daily Telegraph)

"Misled over MMR" - "Treat whistleblowers with caution" (The Observer)

Hopefully, The Guardian stable will take some of their own advice. Given their breathless BS reporting below, as Watson et al try to renew their tickets on the global warming gravy train, this seems highly unlikely.

"Public health campaigns 'are a waste of money'" - "The Department of Health is spending millions of pounds on public health campaigns without any evidence they actually work, an official report will conclude this week. Derek Wanless, whose first study on the NHS paved the way for tax rises to fund the health service, delivers a follow-up report on Britain's gathering health crisis this Wednesday. Mr Wanless singles out for particular criticism the provision of NHS clinics to help smokers quit. He points out that ministers have no evidence they are effective." (Independent on Sunday)

"Fast food firms accused of using sport to attract children" - "Health campaigners fear obesity among the young is being fuelled by multimillion pound sponsorships of celebrities and events." (The Guardian)

Whoops! "Apology for excess obesity figures" - "The government today apologised for a gargantuan error on obesity figures, admitting that contrary to its claim earlier this week that there were 900,000 obese incapacity benefit claimants, in fact there are only 900.

This means that the average amount paid out in England every week is £70,965 rather than the £70,965,000 health minister Lord Warner claimed. The Department of Health blamed an "administrative error" for the mistake." (The Guardian) | Gross error fattened obesity figure (The Guardian) | Government slims down figures in 'war on fatties' (Independent)

"Plant estrogens may not affect breast cancer risk" - "NEW YORK - Naturally occurring substances called phytoestrogens, found in soy, flaxseed and other foods, do not seem to prevent breast cancer in Western women, researchers from the Netherlands report.

Phytoestrogens, which are estrogen-like plant substances, come in three main varieties: isoflavones, lignans and coumestans. Because women in Asia, whose diets are high in isoflavone-rich soy foods, are much less likely to get breast cancer than women in Western countries, there has been great interest in finding out whether phytoestrogens play a role in preventing breast cancer.

Some studies have linked soy consumption with a reduced risk of breast cancer in Asian women, but others have not. But a link between soy and a reduced risk of breast cancer has not been found in Western women." (Reuters Health)

"EDITORIAL: A Political Load on Science" - "The self-righteous "sky is falling" tone of a report accusing the Bush administration of tailoring science to narrow political goals may be a tipoff that at least some of its authors have an agenda other than the disinterested pursuit of truth. Some authors of the 46-page study, organized by the liberal Massachusetts-based Union of Concerned Scientists, certainly have strong political views about President Bush." (Los Angeles Times)

"EU agrees to make polluters pay for environmental damage" - "BRUSSELS - European Union governments and lawmakers reached agreement on new legislation that will force industries guilty of polluting the environment to pay for the clean-up.

EU governments and members of the European Parliament hammered out a compromise text on the "polluter pays" directive that is expected to become law next month.

But environmentalists have attacked the draft law as being too soft, as it does not cover nuclear pollution or marine oil pollution and limits liability for biological contamination from genetically modified crops.

EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom, however, said she was delighted that the EU law on environmental liability was finally in sight of the statute books after first being mooted 15 years ago." (AFP)

"Flight of the British sparrow linked to a growth in tidy urban gardens" - "The popularity of the garden make-over - complete with pine decking and brick paving - could be one of the reasons behind the dramatic decline of the British house sparrow, scientists said yesterday.

Studies have shown that richer neighbourhoods where gardens are frequently turned into the botanical equivalent of an outdoor room struggle to support a thriving sparrow population.

A growing body of evidence suggests that the drop in sparrow numbers in recent years is likely to be caused by a lack of food, which is itself linked with how tidy many suburban gardens have become." (Independent)

JunkScience.com welcomes Jerry Brennan as the new host of Still Waiting For Greenhouse and wishes him well in this endeavour. It is no trivial matter to assume responsibility for a popular and respected website so, be patient, normal services will resume as soon as practicable. Also, it couldn't hurt to send a few tips and leads for the "Recent Media Stories" section (at least title, if not the article but remember to include the URL so the item may be linked). Jerry can be contacted by e-mail here.

April 1 already? "Now the Pentagon tells Bush: climate change will destroy us" - "Climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters.

A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.

The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents." (The Observer) | Key findings of the Pentagon (The Observer)

Oh dear, looks like the poor ol' 'bserver (or someone) has confused a rough draft for this with a serious report.

"World Bank, Pentagon: global warming red alert" - "Weather of mass destruction bigger threat than terrorism" (greenpeas release)

Letters of the moment: "The case against Kyoto" (The Guardian)

Hoegh-Guldberg again: "Barrier Reef just 50 years from death" - "Trouble in wonderland . . . a new report warns that coral bleaching will devastate the Great Barrier Reef's tourism industry. Photo courtesy of GBRMPA

The Great Barrier Reef will lose most of its coral cover by 2050, inflicting billions of dollars in damage on Australia's tourism and fishing industries, a study on coral bleaching has warned.

The authors, the head of Queensland University's Centre for Marine Studies, and his father, an economist, predict, at best, reefs will have about 5 per cent living coral cover by the middle of the century, a predicament that would take the reef 50-100 years to recover from." (The Sydney Morning Herald) | Media Release and Report (WWF)

This one was commissioned by the Worldwide Font of Nonsense, last time it was the 'peas, as I recall. Hoegh-Guldberg takes extreme "storylines" from the IPCC little book of horrors, feeds them into a sea surface temp model running on his laptop and comes up with toast reef. Given that he's been doing the same act for years now it seems likely that this got a run due to Australia's east coast having a spell of hot weather - my region had its hottest February day since 1925 on Saturday, although nearly 80 years of paving and construction suggests UHIE probably coloured the result somewhat.

Got plenty of coverage though: "Great Barrier Reef Faces Major Coral Destruction" - "Australia's Great Barrier Reef will lose most of its coral cover by 2050 and, at worst, the world's largest coral system could collapse by 2100 because of global warming, a study released on Saturday said. The study by Queensland University's Center for Marine Studies, commissioned by the Worldwide Fund for Nature, said that the destruction of coral on the Great Barrier Reef was inevitable due to global warming, regardless of what actions were taken now." (Reuters) | The late Barrier Reef (Sydney Morning Herald) | Great Barrier Reef corals mostly dead by 2050 (AFP via Yahoo! News) | Australia reef's days 'numbered' (BBC News Online)

"Reef threat won't sway Australia" - "SYDNEY, Australia -- Australia will not sign the Kyoto pact on global warming, despite a new report that warns rising ocean temperatures will kill most of the coral on the Great Barrier Reef by 2050, an official said Sunday." (AP)

This from someone who allegedly sings in a group called "Midnight Oil" (and so is definitely qualified to comment on the effects of slight elevation in a minor variable in a chaotic, coupled, non-linear system of such incredible complexity as say, global climate): "Heatwave a 'wake-up' call" - "This month's heatwave across Australia was a wake-up call to act on global warming, Australia's peak environmental group says. The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) urged voters to put the heat on politicians over greenhouse issues ahead of a federal election. "Australia's track record on greenhouse issues is woeful and that's something voters should think about as the election approaches," ACF president Peter Garrett said. The National Climate Centre has described the recent run of scorchers across Australia as the "the most significant February heatwave in the past century". And climate change would result in a dramatic increase in the number of over 35-degree days, the CSIRO has predicted." (The Age, Melbourne)

"Snow blanket protects life - Global warming could expose plants, animals to freezing weather" - "One of the most challenging issues facing environmental science, policy and management is climate change. While there is a strong consensus among scientists that the world is getting warmer because of human-caused increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide -- the greenhouse effect -- there is much less consensus about the effects of climate change.

While we might all welcome some warmer temperatures this week, in mid-summer an extra five degrees during a heat wave might cause hardship and illness for vulnerable people like the elderly or poor, as well as for animal and plant populations. And what about precipitation? We know rainfall amounts and patterns are strongly influenced by temperature, but there is great uncertainty about where, when and how much precipitation will change." (Poughkeepsie Journal)

"New studies: Global warming will add to Great Lakes levels - Lake-effect snow not considered in contrary earlier computer models" - "If you think five straight years of low water levels on Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes is a symptom of global warming, new meteorological evidence suggests your thinking is a bit shallow.

While it’s still impossible to state definitively what effect, if any, global warming is having on the Lakes, the most sophisticated attempt yet to model their hydrology in a warmer future shows no long-term dropping of the water levels. In fact, it shows a net increase in the water supply to the Great Lakes basin.

This from some of the same scientists who several years ago were pretty certain the low water levels of recent years would continue as a result of climate change.

“New results are contradicting the earlier results,” said Brent Lofgren, a scientist at the University of Michigan-based Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration." (Business North)

"Two US power companies cave in to shareholder demands on climate change" - "American Electric Power and Cinergy have agreed to the shareholders' proposals that the companies report publicly on greenhouse gas and other emissions.

The firms are described by CERES, a US coalition of environmental, investor, and advocacy groups as, “two of the top emitters of carbon dioxide emissions in the electric power sector”.

Both companies agreed to the shareholders' requests that a committee of independent directors oversee the report.

As a result, the shareholders will withdraw resolutions facing the two companies." (EthicalCorp.com)

"Most UK investors ignorant to impact of emissions trading" - "A majority of UK institutional investors are unaware of the impact the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will have on the value of their portfolios, a MORI poll has found.

The survey, commissioned by the Carbon Trust, found that half of investors claimed to know nothing about the EU ETS, or the risks and opportunities it presents.

Tom Delay, Chief Executive of the Carbon Trust, told edie: "The key message for investors about emissions trading is that this is real, it's happening, and the way business responds to it will determine the winners and losers in the years ahead." (Edie.net)

The real cost of wind turbines... (EnviroSpin Watch)

"New System Begins Rerouting U.S. Aid for Poor Countries" - "WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 — The United States is now plunging into a fundamental overhaul of its assistance to developing nations, demanding that applicants for a rich new source of financing prove their worthiness. Already, countries from Bolivia to Bangladesh are competing to be among the winners.

This month, the board of the new Millennium Challenge Account met for the first time to lay the groundwork for grants that President Bush has promised will total $5 billion annually by 2008. In the first year, perhaps just 15 nations will win awards.

The program is ambitious. If fully financed, the Millennium Challenge Account would reflect close to a doubling of the American aid that goes primarily to promote development in poor countries, analysts say. It would represent an overall increase in foreign aid of nearly 9 percent." (New York Times)

"Mendocino message" - "A county ballot measure to ban genetically engineered crops draws national interest -- and big money -- from both sides." (The Sacramento Bee)

Sigh... "GM seeds may have built-in obsolescence" - "Giant biotech companies are pressing for the revival of a GM technology so damaging to the world's poor that it has been suspended by worldwide agreement.

The drive to rehabilitate the so-called "terminator technology" - designed to deny hundreds of millions of poor farmers the ability to replant seeds from their own crops - is expected to reach a peak at an international conference in Malaysia this week.

Senior managers have been trying to rebrand it as a green technology that will solve the spread of genes from GM plants to other crops and weeds. Delegates to the Malaysia conference say that they are expecting a big push next week by biotech firms and the Bush administration." (Independent on Sunday)

"FEATURE-World awaits more GM crops as safety debate rages" - "BRUSSELS, Feb 22 - The global sowing of genetically modified (GM) crops will continue rising in the next few years, gaining more of a foothold in the world's food supply, but millions still need convincing that the food is safe to eat.

For once, green groups can agree with the biotech industry on one thing: with Brazil and China now part of the growing family of major GM producers, the area of land devoted to gene-spliced crops across the world must inevitably rise." (Reuters)

And more letters of the moment: "Planting a GM future" (The Guardian)

"Farmer welcomes GM crop licence hope" - "A FARMER who allowed his land to be used for GM maize trials has welcomed the prospect of the crop being commercially licensed.

Jim Dutton gave his endorsement after a Government plan to press ahead with licensing genetically-modified (GM) maize for commercial production was leaked yesterday.

Mr Dutton, from Sunnymead Farm, Wivenhoe, near Colchester, grew the modified seed for a three-year period - during which his crops were twice damaged by anti-GM protesters.

“It is nice to see a GM crop being licensed. It is a beginning. During the trials here, it seemed to be better for wildlife. It is good to see the powers-that-be agreed with that,” he said." (East Anglian Daily Times)

"E.U.'s top environment official says differences with U.S. over biotech crops will persist" - "KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The dispute between the United States and the European Union about the safety of genetically modified food is not going away any time soon and will likely widen into a global debate, the E.U.'s top environment official said Thursday.

"I think it will continue to be a very difficult debate," said European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom. "I think it will spread to the rest of the world. We will have a debate also with China, Brazil, and other countries. I hope we will not end up in conflict," Wallstrom told a news conference on the sidelines of a U.N.-backed conference on biodiversity here." (Associated Press)

"Michael Meacher: GM - yet another example of ministers listening to no one but themselves" - "The Government has no moral, scientific or political authority to press ahead with the cultivation of genetically modified maize as Cabinet sub-committee minutes leaked this week indicate they intend to do. When Margaret Beckett says, as the minutes record, that there is no scientific case for a ban, she is raising the telescope to her blind eye." (Independent on Sunday)

"Critics will always make a meal of cautious government welcome to GM foods" - "ALWAYS distrust a leaked report. It is likely to be incomplete, probably biased, and will almost certainly be grinding an axe. Thus, when I read the telltale sentence: "Secret documents show that Tony Blair is planning to give the go-ahead to GM crops despite overwhelming public opposition ..." I took a very large pinch of salt. When, in addition, I saw the give-away phrase "Frankenstein Foods" to describe anything derived from genetically modified plants, I knew that I would have to discount at least 50% of what I was about to read.

GM crops are one of those subjects on which most people have hard and fast views. If you are a Green supporter, or a foodie, buy organic produce, or care passionately about the environment, you are likely to be adamantly against them. If, on the other hand, you believe that progress in science means taking risks, you are likely to be in favour. The truth, as always, is more complex than both but far more interesting.

Mr Blair may well be about to approve a very limited programme of GM planting, but the reports from his scientific advisers are cautious, conservative and immensely circumspect about the case for it. The most they have committed themselves to is judging it on a "case-by-case" basis." (Scotland on Sunday)

"Greenpeace targets supermarket over GM" - "Protesters dressed as cows descended on a branch of supermarket chain Sainsbury's yesterday to demonstrate about genetically modified feed allegedly given to cows supplying its own-label milk. Fifty members of Greenpeace chained themselves to the dairy aisle entrance and scaled the roof of the store in Greenwich, south-east London." (Press Association)

"China OKs Monsanto GMO Food, Cotton Imports - Source" - "BEIJING--China's Ministry of Agriculture has approved permanent import safety certificates for genetically modified, or GMO, varieties of soybeans, corn and cotton produced by U.S. agribusiness giant Monsanto Co., a western diplomatic source told Dow Jones Newswires Friday." (Dow Jones)

February 20, 2004

"Antibiotic Link To Cancer Is Baloney" - "Antibiotic use increases breast cancer risk, according to a new study. But after scrutinizing the study, I’m leaning toward linking grant-hungry researchers and a publicity-hungry medical journal with reprehensible sensationalism." (Steven Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"Study on health effects of masts" - "The effects of mobile phone masts on people's health are being investigated in a major £250,000 study by researchers at the University of Essex. The project, the first of its kind, will look at the impact of masts on our physiological and psychological well-being. It will look at electromagnetic fields (EMF) generated by masts. Researchers will also investigate people who claim they are particularly sensitive to EMF." (BBC News Online)

People who claim they are particularly sensitive to EMF are said to suffer EHS, which I suspect stands for "Electromagnetic Hypochondria Syndrome."

"Study Clears Pesticide Tests With Humans" - "WASHINGTON, Feb. 19 — The Environmental Protection Agency should be allowed to use data from studies in which humans are intentionally doused with pesticides and other toxic substances, as long as strict scientific and ethical standards are met, a National Academy of Sciences report has concluded." (New York Times)

"Government unit 'urges fat tax'" - "Plans for a tax on fatty foods such as cakes and biscuits are being considered by government advisers.

The Prime Minister's Strategy Unit is considering extending VAT on some food and having a national sports drive to fight obesity, according to the Times.

The newspaper claims a document urges a fatty food tax as a "signal to society" because the number of obese British people has risen sharply in 20 years.

A Downing Street spokesman said the government had no plans for such a tax.

He said: "It is no secret that the government is looking at the problem of obesity. But no proposals of this kind have been put to the prime minister."

The spokesman said that there was agreement both in and out of government that it would not be a workable system." (BBC News Online)

"No 10 won't swallow 'fatty food tax' idea" - "Downing Street and the Treasury yesterday joined forces to slap down a proposal by Tony Blair's policy advisers for a tax on fatty foods to tackle the obesity epidemic.

The idea put forward by the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit to vary the rate of VAT depending on nutritional content was dismissed as unworkable.

The Treasury denied any knowledge of the scheme. No 10 said the Prime Minister had not seen the paper - Personal Responsibility and Changing Behaviour.

"This is news to us. It sounds like the speculative musings of Cabinet Office pointy heads," said a Government source." (Daily Telegraph)

"USDA war on weight summons beefy fast-food giants" - "WASHINGTON, Feb 19 - The U.S. Agriculture Department vowed on Thursday to fight American obesity and said it would turn to an unlikely ally for help: The snack and fast food industry.

Top executives of McDonald's Corp and PepsiCo Inc. were keynote speakers at the USDA's annual conference on agricultural policy, which this year focused on nutrition.

"America is clearly losing the battle of the bulge," Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said at the USDA's annual agricultural policy event. "We need to do more to help consumers understand how they can make healthy decisions." (Reuters)

"Low-Carb Boom Isn't Just for Dieters Anymore" - "Low-carb mania has spread beyond the millions of low-carb dieters. Food industry analysts say a far greater number of people are now "carb aware," even carb-phobic, cutting out those foods not as a way to lose weight, but because of a general sense that they are unhealthy. That is prompting changes in the way food is made, packaged and sold like nothing since the early 1990's, when even nondieters began loading their carts with low-fat yogurts and snacks..

"A year ago, if you asked consumers what they watch, 11 percent would have said carbs," said Michael Polk, chief operating officer at Unilever-Best Foods, which recently introduced 18 low-carbohydrate versions of items like Skippy peanut butter and Ragu tomato sauce. "Today if you ask, 40 percent of consumers say they are watching carbs. In our opinion, this has evolved into a major shift in consumer behavior."

The growth has even outpaced the government's ability to regulate the products and their labeling. Since 1999, 728 products that claim to be low in carbohydrates have been introduced, according to the Global New Products Database of Mintel International Group, a market research company.

Last month, representatives of 450 companies, including Kraft, Con- Agra and Wal-Mart, gathered at a two day Low-Carb Summit in Denver to discuss how to take advantage of what some analysts predict will be a $25 billion market for low-carb products and services this year: everything from low-carb pasta to low-carb European barge cruises and hotel "get a-weighs." (New York Times)

Polly Toynbee? "Be robust about risk" - "Compensation claims are starving the NHS of vital funds, and turning us into a society that feasts on blame" (The Guardian)

"NASA's SORCE satellite celebrates one year of operations" - "Having marked its first anniversary on orbit, NASA's Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) satellite has hit its stride. In concert with other satellites, SORCE's observations of the sun's brightness are helping researchers better understand climate change, climate prediction, atmospheric ozone, the sunburn-causing ultraviolet-B radiation and space weather." (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center--EOS Project Science Office)

On the topical topic of climate science manipulation, suppression of, um... inconvenient research and dastardly doings, we have Mann in the sinbin for high sticking: "Climate: When is a trend not a trend?" - "BOULDER, Colo., Jan. 26 -- Gamblers have a maxim: Don't bet against a streak.

In the world of climate science, controversies often center around whether there is a streak at all.

The latest involves a Harvard University astronomer who claims he has been unable to reproduce rising surface temperature trends at the end of the 20th century. That assertion places him in conflict with both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Michael Mann, a leading climate researcher with the University of Virginia's department of environmental sciences. Both have published well-circulated reports concluding that the rising trends are real and proceeding." (United Press International) | Soon, W. W.-H., D. R. Legates, and S. L. Baliunas (2004), Estimation and representation of long-term (>40 year) trends of Northern-Hemisphere-gridded surface temperature: A note of caution, Geophys. Res. Lett., 31, L03209, doi:10.1029/2003GL019141. (American Geophysical Union)

Soon et al was scheduled for publication in Geophysical Research Letters Jan. 27 but was delayed - apparently by Mann attempting to prevent use of his work for comparison by invoking copyright. All too late, as it turns out, since permission had been granted prior to manuscript submission in November 2003.

Sandbagging peer review, Mann old man? Tut, tut! Not done old boy, simply won't do. Besides, bound to come out ya know, and some bounder will spill the beans, tip over the hockey stick, as it were! Simply won't do at all!

"The Emperor’s New Climate: Is Global Warming Real? -- Part Three" Read Part I - click here Read Part II - click here - "The agreement called the Kyoto Treaty, proposed through the UN in 1997 to limit CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, is likewise seen by Michaels and many other critics as a vehicle for economic self-interest rather than for the environment.

Long in the works at previous international meetings, Kyoto would have been a ticket to a second Great Depression. Its provisions assume the truth of the CO2–global warming hypothesis and obligate the wealthy industrial countries to reorder their nations to cut CO2 emissions to their 1990 levels by 2010.

Since that in effect puts commerce under tighter state control, it pleased the anticapitalist environmentalists of the West. “Developing” states favor the treaty because it puts no limitations on their CO2 emissions—even though countries like China burn increasing amounts of high-carbon fuel such as coal." (Duncan Maxwell Anderson, NewsMax.com)

"Canada places carbon dioxide underground to clean air" - "REGINA, Saskatchewan — The Saskatchewan prairie is so featureless and flat that people here say you can watch your dog run away for three days. Fields of canola and wheat fill the vastness before falling off the horizon in a landscape punctuated by oil pump jacks bobbing lazily.

But deep underground, an ambitious experiment is under way to determine whether carbon dioxide can be safely buried. If so, carbon sequestration, as the process is called, could prove to be an effective way to reduce one of the biggest contributors to global warming." (Los Angeles Times)

"Steel Firm Sues to Block EU Greenhouse Emissions Trading" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium, February 19, 2004 - Europe's biggest steelmaker has mounted a legal challenge to the European Union's fledgling carbon dioxide emissions trading scheme. Luxembourg based Arcelor wants the European Court of Justice to partially annul the law underpinning the emissions trading system before it even gets underway. The firm is also seeking compensation for any losses it incurs if the scheme does go ahead." (Environment News Service)

"California's Fruits and Nuts Oppose Agriculture" - "This is a cautionary tale about abuses of the local referendum process and about the risks of getting involved in local political causes. Earlier this month, I authored a letter opposing an anti-biotechnology county ballot referendum item, and the letter was sent to most of the voters of California's Mendocino County.

I don't know how many recipients were enlightened, but it was certainly a learning experience for me." (Henry Miller, TCS)

"Is Golden Rice the crop to prove GM's worth?" - "HONG KONG, Feb 19 - It will still take years, if it ever happens, before genetically modified (GM) Golden Rice reaches the millions of children threatened with blindness or premature death due to vitamin A deficiency.

Yet scientists have not lost hope that transgenic Golden Rice, enriched with vitamin A, may prove one day that the controversial biotechnology can help feed the poor and needy if applied with caution and care." (Reuters)

"Monsanto Cultivates Biotech Bonanza Despite Critics" - "ST. LOUIS - When shareholders at Monsanto Co.'s annual meeting earlier this month requested evidence that the company's growing stable of genetically modified crops is safe, Chairman Hugh Grant was quick to reject their plea.

"We believe all of our products ... can be safely used," Grant told the shareholders gathered at the company's headquarters in St. Louis. He said there was no need to fear the company's gene-modified corn, soybean, canola and other seeds because they were "well tested and well regulated."

Officials at Monsanto, the world's leading producer of genetic modifications in corn and soybean seeds, say the technology can safely fight world hunger, make farmers wealthier and reduce the damage agriculture does to the environment." (Reuters)

"Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, on the potential benefits of GM crops" - "As crude a weapon as a cave man's club, the chemical barrage has been hurled against the fabric of life."

Debates over genetically modified crops are reminiscent of the controversy surrounding the introduction of Pasteurization in the early 20th century. Pasteurization was seen as an unnatural process, which it is. Yet its routine use probably has spared millions of people from serious illness or death." (The Ithaca Journal)

"Anger over GM crop 'go-ahead'" - "Campaigners are furious the government appears ready to give the go-ahead for the use of genetically modified crops.

Qualified approval for GM maize is imminent, Cabinet meeting minutes seen by BBC News show - although ministers say no final decision has been made.

Patrick Holden of the Soil Association said it would be "a great tragedy".

But Dr Julian Little, of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council that represents GM firms, said GM maize was "at least as safe" as non-GM crops." (BBC News Online)

"Furore rages on as GM maize gets go-ahead" - "Scientists and environmentalists divided" (The Guardian)

"'GM-free' rebellion grows as ministers give crops backing" - "Dozens of regions across Britain are preparing to declare themselves "GM free" after leaked cabinet minutes confirmed the Government is poised to give the go-ahead for genetically-modified crops.

At least 20 local authority areas - and the whole of Wales - are preparing to oppose the planting of GM maize. Another 20 regions have voiced opposition and may also refuse to allow them to be grown." (Independent)

"Bad for the poor and bad for science" - "Genetically modified crops will not help the developing world" (Colin Tudge, The Guardian)

"Leader: Moral maize?" - "The name T25/Chardon LL does not conjure up images of bucolic bliss - but it could be coming soon to a field near you. T25/Chardon LL is the genetically modified maize that, according to cabinet minutes published in this newspaper yesterday, the government hopes to approve for commercial planting. It would then become the first new GM food crop legally allowed to grow in this country. The decision comes after the gene-spliced maize was the only crop in the government-sponsored GM field trials that did not harm wildlife and vegetation - although the study also suggested more research was needed." (The Guardian)

February 19, 2004

Don't know whether it's the weather or maybe something they're putting in the water but the effervescent Left is certainly excited. Today we've got The Guardian with its collective knickers in a knot over the dreaded global warming; the UK Government (chief nanny du jour) proposing tasty food tax (not VAT but FAT) - on whole milk and cheese (last I heard dairy was part of a balanced diet); just about everyone who doesn't care for Republicans casting aspersions upon the 'Toxic Texan' (some for the Bush Administration's obtuse insistence on science rather than eco-theistic orthodoxy and some because of alleged manipulation of science - like insisting on verifiable data, general acceptance within discipline, absence of hysterical embellishment...) and; naturally, we have great consternation over the UK Government's insistence on obeying the European Community legislation obliging it to permit the cropping of Bt maize in the absence of evidence of harm. One of those days I guess...

"Exposure to low-level magnetic fields causes DNA damage in rat brain cells, researchers find" - "Prolonged exposure to low-level magnetic fields, similar to those emitted by such common household devices as blow dryers, electric blankets and razors, can damage brain cell DNA, according to researchers in the University of Washington's Department of Bioengineering. The scientists further found that the damage from brief exposures appears to build up over time." (University of Washington)

You've been warned! Don't keep your rat brain cells in a blow dryer!

"Junk food under attack by fat tax" - "DOWNING STREET has declared war on obesity with proposals for a fat tax on junk food. Burgers, crisps, fizzy drinks, butter and whole milk will be hit under plans by the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit.

It has raised the prospect of extra duty or VAT being imposed on some of the nation’s favourite foods after heart disease overtook cancer as Britain’s biggest killer and more young people started developing diabetes.

Plans seen by The Times for the new tax, already being dubbed FAT in Westminster, follow the discovery that the number of obese people had risen from less than 10 per cent of the population in the 1980s to more than 20 per cent, according to the Strategy Unit paper, Personal Responsibility and Changing Behaviour." (

Looks like Nanny intends taking personal responsibility for changing English behaviour (and raising some revenue).

Parenthetically, I have three teenage children, two of whom consume an extraordinary amount of whole milk and always have (middle child prefers her dairy in the form of full-fat ice cream and/or thickened cream on fruit - it's a personal thing), all of whom are on see-food diets (if they see anything edible, it's history - and believe me, they see a lot!) and all of whom are built like your average whippet. Given the mind-boggling quantity and variety of ingested foodstuffs ('voracious' springs to mind), I can only assume their most un-pachyderm-like proportions have something to do with the number of sports in which they are active, their walking/jogging to and from school (it's only a couple of miles) and their near-daily swimming. Now, I can't speak for the English but, if the Australian Government were to artificially inflate the cost of fuelling my three favourite biochemical engines, I would be one very unhappy little vegemite.

FOOTNOTE: My children's diet varies considerably, there are occasions when one or more of them cannot get from one training session/game to another (or home) without an emergency pit stop at Maccas or KFC, others where they seek fruit and nuts, cereals and pastries or meat-laden diets, something which may occur for weeks or even months before their wants shift yet again. This is not something their mom and I obsess over but try to accommodate and something they seem to be surviving quite well. Food is not a formal activity in the busy Hearn household, more a case of eat when you are hungry and eat what you are hungry for. Granted, this is far from the least-cost option (especially the way my locusts can demolish a pantry) but, then again, neither is taxing the value out of high-calorific meals.

"Foes of 'globesity' run afoul of sugar's friends" - "Now considered a worldwide epidemic, "globesity" is spreading faster in developing countries than in the industrialized world, nutritionists say. The Westernization of diets is considered a key factor.

But the World Health Organization (WHO) is having difficulty persuading governments to do anything about it. The UN agency will present a global antifat strategy at a summit in May. But it has run into vocal opposition from developing countries - particularly from the sugar producers - and from Washington questioning proposed guidelines for fat and sugar intake." (The Christian Science Monitor)

The International Obesity Task Force is certainly a noisy bunch - where's the task force and associated noise for the hundreds of millions of food-insecure and downright hungry people on the planet? That issue seems to have fallen below the radar in competition with ridiculous claims of "obesity epidemic" (fear not, you won't catch fat by associating with an obese person - your only real risk is if they fall on you, so don't stand under toppling tubbies). If people consume too many calories for their requirements they're gonna get fat - and that's their problem. WHO needs to put their (our) effort into assisting those with no options and no opportunity to help themselves. Forget fat, it's strictly a personal (or familial) responsibility matter.

"UN ban on toxic pollutants enters into force in May" - "PARIS - A UN ban on the production and use of 12 persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that are hazardous to the environment will enter into force in May, the United Nations announced." (AFP)

"New Report Finds Toxic Flame Retardants Should Be Banned: Latest Science Shows Cause For Concern" - "WASHINGTON, D.C.—A commonly used flame retardant threatens health and illustrates the need to reform U.S. toxic chemical policy, according to a new report released today by U.S. PIRG. In lab tests, scientists have linked decabrominated diphenyl ether (Deca)—a chemical closely related to two flame retardants recently banned in California—to health effects including neurological damage or permanent memory loss, and have detected the chemical in the breast milk of American women at levels higher than anywhere else in the world." (Press Release)

"Sleeping with the Enemy" - "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." -- Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, 1989

The late and legendary community activist must have been giddy in his grave the other day, when the world's largest lending institution, Citigroup, announced a broad reaching agreement with its arch nemesis, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), to apply a "comprehensive environmental policy" in all of its operations." (Fraser P. Seitel, TCS)

UCS (Union of Cranky Socialists?) is at it again: "Bush administration 'distorts science' -report" - "WASHINGTON, Feb 18 - Top scientists and environmentalists on Wednesday accused the Bush administration of suppressing and distorting scientific findings that run counter to its own policies." (Reuters) | Press Release

"Kerry Hailed as Ally of Wider World on Environment" - "OSLO - Environmentalists fete John Kerry as a possible savior in a stalled battle against global warming if the Democratic front-runner topples President Bush in the November election.

"Kerry has probably been the greatest champion of climate change issues with (Joe) Lieberman in the U.S. Senate," said Jennifer Morgan, director of the WWF environmental group's climate change program." (Reuters)

"Careful with that planet, Mr President" - "Diana Liverman spent years as a senior climate adviser in the US. Now back in the UK, she argues for American scientists to be freed from their fear of speaking out on global warming - before it's too late" (The Guardian)

"Bonfire of the promises" - "Over at the Global Climate Coalition, a powerful alliance of carmakers, oil drillers and electricity generators emerged with a consensus about the environment over the years and a quiet confidence that the White House shared their view: global warming is a hoax.

During the past three years, environmentalists have regularly accused the White House of serving big business at the expense of the environment. President Bush received $1.9m (£1m) from the oil and gas industry in 2000, according to the Centre for Responsive Politics.

"The truth is that in the presence of his large financial contributors, he is a moral coward - so weak that he seldom, if ever, says no to them on anything," said Al Gore in a fiery speech last month.

However, some reports suggest Bush is on the verge of a conversion. Amid growing unease in an election year about his handling of the environment, sporadic reports suggest the Bush administration has begun to look more kindly at concerns raised by conservationists. There are also reports that Bush has rolled back elements of the Republican environmental agenda." (The Guardian)

"The White Death" - "They call it bleaching, but the fact is our coral reefs are frying. Tim Radford reports" (The Guardian)

"Panel Urges Bush to Finance Climate-Change Research" - "President Bush's plan for clarifying the causes and effects of climate change has been improved over the past year, but can succeed only if the research is shielded from political pressures and if more money is spent on it, an independent panel of experts said today.

Administration officials, who requested the outside review of the plan, welcomed the findings, but said that no significant budget increases were possible. They said climate research goals would be met mainly through improved organization.

"We can't practically expect short-term massive increases in funding; it's just not in the cards these days," said Dr. James R. Mahoney, an assistant secretary of commerce who directs the administration's Climate Change Science Program.

The federal government currently spends about $1.7 billion a year on climate research, officials said, and there are no significant shifts in spending in the administration's 2005 budget." (New York Times)

"Bush Climate Plan Rated Somewhat Improved" - "President Bush's plan for clarifying the causes and effects of climate change has been improved over the past year but can succeed only if the research is shielded from political pressures and if more money is spent on it, an independent panel of experts said yesterday.

Administration officials, who requested the outside review of the plan, welcomed the findings, but said no significant budget increases were possible. They said climate research goals would be met mainly through improved organization.

"We can't practically expect short-term massive increases in funding; it's just not in the cards these days," said James R. Mahoney, an assistant secretary of commerce who directs the Climate Change Science Program." (New York Times)

"Argentina Assesses Vulnerability to Climate Change" - "BUENOS AIRES, Feb 18 - One hundred Argentine scientists and technicians will work on a project over the next two years to measure the country's greenhouse gas emissions and to determine where its vulnerabilities lie with respect to the impacts of climate change." (Tierramérica)

"Project sets sail to verify Europe's future climate" - "A project to determine the likelihood of an impending ice age in Europe got underway this week, as UK scientists prepare to join a research ship bound for Tenerife. From there a four year assessment of the Atlantic Ocean will start which will look at the temperature, salinity and current speeds at various points, in order to get a clearer picture on how global warming is affecting the ocean, and in turn the European climate.

"Europe is at risk of being plunged into a mini ice age. We're looking at a drop in temperatures of up to 10 degrees," Dr Stuart Cunningham, chief scientist on the Rapid Climate Change Programme Monitoring Atlantic Circulation project at the Southampton Oceanography Centre, told edie. "In a worst case scenario this could lead to radical shifts in farming and habitats, as well as altered precipitation patterns and more extreme weather generally - it is difficult to say how long this would last, but the climate could be altered for thousands of years as we have seen in the past." (Edie.net)

"Swiss Study Predicts Scorching Euro Summers" - "WASHINGTON - The heat wave that killed more than 10,000 people across Europe last summer is only a taste of things to come as the planet becomes steadily warmer, a Swiss expert predicted this week.

Climate models predict that temperatures above 30 degrees C (86 degrees F) will become a regular feature of summer in southern and eastern Europe by the end of this century, the researcher said.

Writing in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, Martin Beniston of the University of Fribourg said not only will summers be as hot as in 2003, but the accompanying drought, crop failure and deaths can be expected as well." (Reuters)

"Doom, gloom and grapes" - "A little Egret flies over the Campsie Hills vineyard. As the sun dawns on another balmy November day, a flutter of midges clouds the air. A lone mosquito buzzes past. Further north, walkers head up Glenshee, stepping over rusted ski lifts and round clumps of Chinese witch hazel, to dine in the year-round tearoom at the top. Over in Edinburgh, there is chaos in Leith, as the third flood in six months hits the shoreline. But this is not science fiction. This could be Scotland, in less than 50 years. Global warming, once a seemingly distant threat, has become a frightening reality. This month has brought some of the warmest winter days on record, as well as a vicious cold snap honed by gale force winds of up to 70mph, not to mention thunderstorms and flood warnings." (The Scotsman)

"Clean energy a distant dream" - "FOSSIL fuels will be the world's primary energy source for at least the next 75 years, according to one of the world's leading experts on zero-emissions technology.

Barbara McKee told an international conference on the Gold Coast yesterday the world's dependence on fuels such as coal and gas was likely to grow to about 87 per cent by 2020 rather than decline from the current 85 per cent as suggested by supporters of the Kyoto climate change protocol." (The Australian)

"China to boost nuclear power as demand soars" - "SINGAPORE - Heady economic growth and a worsening power shortage is prodding China to hasten the building of nuclear power plants to fill an energy supply gap in the world's fastest-growing major economy, Beijing-based experts say.

Beijing has drafted a preliminary plan to quadruple nuclear power capacity to more than 32,000 megawatts (MW) between 2005 and 2020, or roughly two plants a year. China has built only eight reactors over the past two decades." (Reuters)

"Power Plant Cooling Water Intake Rule Called Illegal" - "WASHINGTON, DC, February 18, 2004 - To cool their turbines, power plants withdraw billions of gallons daily from reservoirs, rivers and lakes, often drawing fish and other aquatic animals in with the water. A final rule designed to protect aquatic life from dying in the water intakes was signed Monday by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Mike Leavitt, but environmentalists say the rule is too lenient and violates the Clean Water Act." (Environment News Service)

"Bolger attacks GM sheep killing" - "New Zealand scientists are on the verge of losing a significant scientific resource through the slaughter and incineration of the nation's biggest flock of genetically engineered sheep, says former Prime Minister Jim Bolger." (New Zealand Herald)

"World Treaty May Become New Focus for GMO Debate" - "BRUSSELS - Bitter transatlantic divisions over the safety of genetically modified foods may soon be smoothed over, but the gradual enforcement of a global treaty on importing GM products may throw up new barriers to future trade.

In the United States, at least 70 percent of supermarket foods contain GM organisms (GMOs) and most consumers shrug off claims from green groups that these products may be harmful.

But in Europe, they are widely regarded as "Frankenstein Foods" and are shunned by an overwhelming number of consumers.

Diplomats say developing nations, mostly those in Asia and Africa that need food aid, are caught between the two powers. Washington says it is helping feed the Third World with its GM grain, but Brussels says the Americans are dumping surpluses." (Reuters)

"Pressure Builds Against Genetically Engineered Wheat" - "Twenty-seven organizations formally endorsed a legal petition today asking the Bush Administration for a thorough analysis and public review of the social, economic and environmental impacts genetically engineered wheat. The groups represented diverse constituencies, from the Minnesota Farmers Union, to the Center for Food Safety, to the Organic Trade Association, to the National Catholic Rural Live Conference, to the Intertribal Agriculture Council." (Press Release)

"Government 'to back GM crops'" - "The government appears to be on the verge of allowing limited use of genetically modified crops, according to a cabinet committee report leaked to BBC Two's Newsnight." (BBC News Online) | GM crops to get go-ahead (The Guardian) | Balancing the benefits with the public's scepticism (The Guardian) | Why GM-free UK is popular but unfeasible (The Guardian)

"Divided EU Fails to Lift Biotech Crop Ban" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Union deadlocked again Wednesday on lifting its 6-year-old moratorium on new biotech foods, failing to agree on a proposal to approve U.S.-based Monsanto Co.'s Roundup Ready corn for import and processing.

The EU's executive commission said the proposal failed to win enough support from a committee of experts from the 15 EU countries, although it came closer than on the first such application in December." (Associated Press)

"Monsanto optimistic despite EU blow to GM corn" - "KANSAS CITY, Mo., Feb 18 - Monsanto Co. said on Wednesday it remained optimistic the European Union would lower its barriers to genetically modified crops, despite another setback in efforts to lift the bloc's five-year ban on new biotech products, officials said." (Reuters)

"GM nation? Public debate: a valuable experiment" - "As the UK Government moves towards a decision about whether GM crops should be grown commercially in Britain, a major report today (19 February 2004) argues that last summer's Government-sponsored GM Nation? public debate, whilst being both innovative and an important experiment in public engagement, failed to fully meet its potential, and conveyed an overestimate of the strength of anti-GM feeling in the UK." (Cardiff University)

February 18, 2004

"Stop disaster before it strikes" - "The West could save thousands of lives every year in natural disasters in the developing world, British experts say. Tearfund, a Christian development and relief agency, says western governments should work to prevent disaster, rather than simply help people afterwards. The agency says people can be enabled to save their own lives, and to prepare for disasters that cannot be averted. Tearfund says its approach can often be simple and cheap, and makes good sense for all, both economically and morally." (BBC News Online)

Yeah... it's called development and infrastructure by all but the antis, who call it environmental devastation.

Strange bedfellows: "More Jobs to the Gallon" - "WASHINGTON — The Bush administration has issued a proposal that would weaken one of the nation's most successful environmental laws. The administration's plan would change current automotive fuel economy standards and allow a loophole that would hurt the environment, auto workers and the economy.

While many details of the plan remain vague, and any changes would not take effect for several years, the administration has begun soliciting public comment on its proposal.

Under current law, automakers are required to meet an average fuel economy standard for their fleets of cars and light trucks.

The Bush administration is proposing to scrap these standards for a new system that would establish a series of vehicle weight categories, with a separate standard for each category. Basically, heavier vehicles would have lower fuel standards. Since they would no longer need to meet a fleetwide average, automakers would be free to add weight to all of their vehicles to make them qualify for heavier weight categories." (Carl Pope and Ron Gettelfinger, The New York Times)

[Carl Pope is executive director of the Sierra Club. Ron Gettelfinger is president of the U.A.W.]

What a peculiar stance from a bizarre partnership. If Carl Pope actually believes small, lightweight cars are more environmentally friendly (regardless of lightweight vehicles being demonstrably less safe for occupants) you would expect him to welcome manufacture being moved offshore so that consumer prices fall, thus encouraging consumer uptake of allegedly less environmentally damaging buzz-boxes. Ron Gettelfinger, on the other hand, should probably rest secure that risk-averse consumers will likely buy heavier, more robust, American-built vehicles, thus creating more American jobs. In any case, crawling into bed with the antis is a very strange way of supporting American industry.

"Hungry for horsepower" - "DETROIT - American drivers are renewing their love affair with horsepower. At auto dealers across the country, a growing number of buyers are trading up to SUVs and trucks powered by big engines such as the V-8 and the "hemi," machines once shunned as gas-guzzling polluters but now increasingly embraced for their might." (Associated Press)

"Makers of flame retardants lay out case against a ban" - "AUGUSTA — Manufacturers of flame retardants fought back Tuesday against a proposed law that would ban the chemicals from furniture, electronics, textiles and other consumer products. Maine lawmakers are considering banning some forms of brominated flame retardants because they are showing up in increasing levels in wildlife, the environment, and human breast milk, raising concerns that they could become the next PCBs or DDT.

The chemicals have been linked in animal studies to neurodevelopmental problems and effects on the thyroid. Although there is not yet any scientific evidence that they can harm human health, some scientists worry that exposure to the chemicals could be having potentially serious effects on people, especially fetuses and nursing newborns.

Manufacturers who testified at a public hearing Tuesday before the Legislature's Natural Resources Committee talked about fire safety, recounted personal stories of escaping fires, and even invoked their own grandchildren to try to convince lawmakers that banning the chemicals could do more harm than good." (Portland Press Herald)

"Anti-PETA ads are abused on Metro" - "Ads taking PETA to task for opposing animal testing have been getting a lot of attention on Metro.

They have been ripped down and defaced since earlier this month, when they began appearing in about 700 Metrorail cars.

The Center for Consumer Freedom, a Washington-based coalition of food companies, restaurants and tavern operators, and a longtime opponent of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, paid $60,000 for the ads to run until the middle of next month.

Metro officials have been replacing some of the damaged posters every night." (The Washington Times)

"[New Zealand] Sick of all this weather? Don't blame El Nino" - "Niwa weather scientist Jim Renwick says 2004 has not been an El Nino year, though it could hit later this year.

The world's leading climate scientists struggle to forecast the El Nino weather pattern, even with the best computers and technology to predict the weather." (The Dominion Post)

"Oil giant in environmental gun" - "Environmental groups are gathering evidence for an unprecedented legal battle to pin part of the blame for global warming on a single company, Exxon Mobil.

A report by New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa), released by Friends of the Earth in London last month, says Exxon Mobil's oil products have caused between 4.8 per cent and 5.5 per cent of the global increase in carbon dioxide in the past 120 years.

The director of the London-based Climate Initiatives Fund, Simon Retallack, says research is under way to prove direct economic costs of the resulting rise in global temperature.

Mr Retallack visited New Zealand last week to work on a new edition of the 1972 environmental classic Blueprint for Survival with an author of the original Blueprint and founder of the London Ecologist, Teddy Goldsmith.

His Climate Initiatives Fund is financed by the Goldsmith family and funds several legal battles as well as the one against Mobil, including threatened action against Australian companies over the recent drought and bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef." (New Zealand Herald)

'Big burp' not hot hazard? "Ocean methane stocks 'overstated'" - "Stocks of a potential new source of natural gas in the sea-floor are much smaller than previous estimates have suggested, an expert claims.

The scientist reviewed previous data on the area of hydrate-bearing sediments and the gas yield of sediments to arrive at his conclusions. Many researchers believe gas hydrates play an important role in the carbon cycle - one of the most important ecological processes on our planet. For example, bursts of methane from these hydrate reservoirs have been implicated in several rapid warmings in the Earth's climate record. Professor Gerald Dickens of Rice University, US, argues that a sharp rise in global temperatures about 55 million years ago was caused by just such a burst. Based on his own findings, Dr Milkov proposes the amount of methane released must have been an order of magnitude lower than was needed to cause this warming event." (BBC News Online)

"Are greenhouse gases drying Africa's dust bowl?" - "US citizens choking on African dust may have themselves to blame." (NSU)

"Increased temperature may prevent winter flounder from rebounding in east coast estuaries" - "In a recent issue of the Marine Ecology Progress Series, an article by URI Graduate School of Oceanography fisheries biologists David L. Taylor and Jeremy S. Collie describes the effect of temperature on the feeding behavior of sand shrimp preying on juvenile winter flounder." (University of Rhode Island)

"Climate change could boost cash crops" - "Carbon dioxide makes for bumper yields of soy." (NSU)

A little more on what we don't know: "Arctic research makes greenhouse-gas find" - "Scientist shocked at rate northern ice draws down carbon dioxide from atmosphere" (CanWest News Service)

"New British invasion -- but this one sings of global warming" - "SEATTLE - Forty years to the week that the Beatles invaded America with their music, another British band flew over the pond with the hopes of shaking things up here. Only this time, it was a band of scientists intent on changing the way the Bush administration deals with what British Prime Minister Tony Blair calls the biggest long-term threat to the planet: climate change.

The new lads -- Blair's chief science adviser, Sir David King, and three top climate scientists -- were part of a two-dozen strong British delegation to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science." (MSNBC)

"Warming Warning off Message in America" (PDF) - "The Chief Scientific Adviser to the British Government, Sir David King, was in Washington, D.C. this week trying to persuade America to act on global warming. A laudable aim, most Europeans might think, but the manner of Sir David’s approach, which will prove fruitless, was an object lesson for Europeans in how not to handle America. He is fighting in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong tactics. One has to ask why." (Iain Murray, EU Reporter)

"EU commissioner under attack on Kyoto" - "A dispute is raging in the European Commission over Europe's approach to the Kyoto climate change protocol and whether companies in the European Union should be forced to cut emissions if other countries do not apply the same rules.

Loyola de Palacio, EU energy commissioner, has infuriated colleagues by repeatedly speculating on the need for an alternative plan if Russia fails to ratify the protocol. Her comments contradict the Commission's agreed position that Europe is unwavering in its commitment to Kyoto, which is supposed to come into force in 2008.

Margot Wallstrom, EU environment commissioner, told colleagues that Ms de Palacio had acted "disloyally" and that her comments were a "disgrace." (Financial Times)

"The Emperor’s New Climate: Is Global Warming Real? Part Two" (Read Part I - click here) - "Michael Mann must have been furious. In public, scientists are at least tepidly respectful of each other’s reputations and character—which are essential to making a scientist employable. To breach that wall is to invite mutually assured destruction.

Yet in July of this year, Mann sat before James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and testified that the professional work of the Harvard professor sitting at the table next to him was “pure nonsense” and “fundamentally unsound.” He added, “There is little that is valid in that paper. They got just about everything wrong.”

The object of Mann’s ire, Willie Soon, a mild-mannered Malaysian native teaching at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, had done something unthinkable. He and his colleague at the center, Sallie Baliunas, with other researchers, had published a paper in Energy and Environment arguing that the 20th century had not been the warmest in the last 1,000 years. It did not seem to mollify global warming’s true believers that the basics of Soon’s claim had been well established in the peer-reviewed literature for decades." (Duncan Maxwell Anderson, NewsMax.com)

Ouch! "Letter re: Cold truths about global warming" - "The following letter is in response to the Feb 16 article headlined Cold truths about global warming." (Globe and Mail)

From CO2 Science Magazine this week:

"North Atlantic Record of Cyclic Climate Change Replicated Near Cuzco, Peru" - "The millennial-scale oscillation of climate that is known from North Atlantic sediment cores and a host of palaeoclimatic indicators in surrounding lands now stands revealed in a sediment core extracted from a recently in-filled lake in the Central Peruvian Andes of South America." (co2science.org)

Subject Index Summaries:
"Climate Oscillations (Millennial Variability - North America)" - "A number of studies of a wealth of proxy climate evidence from throughout North America makes it difficult for one to long remain a CO2-fearing climate alarmist … unless, of course, a respect for truth and logic is not a confounding factor." (co2science.org)

"Agriculture (Species -- Wheat: Photosynthesis)" - "Atmospheric CO2 enrichment typically enhances photosynthetic rates in most plants.  Does it do so in wheat?" (co2science.org)

Plant Growth Data:
"This week we add new results (blue background) of plant growth responses to atmospheric CO2 enrichment obtained from experiments described in the peer-reviewed scientific literature for: English Holly, European Hornbeam, Lambsquarters, Rice and South American Tobacco." (co2science.org)

Journal Reviews:
"Will Freshening of the North Atlantic Ocean Slow the Gulf Stream and Cool Europe?" - "Climate alarmists, claiming that it will, have created a new doomsday scenario that has frightened the citizens and governments of many countries.  But is there any truth to it?" (co2science.org)

"Ferreting Out the Basis for Holocene Climate Change" - "Much has been accomplished in this worthy endeavor; but more important work remains to be done." (co2science.org)

"The Seasonal Cycle of Atmospheric CO2 in Salt Lake City" - "What are its sources?  And how do they vary over the year?" (co2science.org)

"More Evidence that Nitrogen Availability Is Not the Primary Factor Controlling Soil Carbon Sequestration in a CO2-Enriched Environment" - "Evidence refuting one of last year's highly-hyped papers claiming a reduced capacity for the biospheric sequestration of carbon continues to accumulate … like carbon itself." (co2science.org)

"Net Ecosystem CO2 Exchange in a Post-Fire Regenerating Scrub-Oak Ecosystem In a CO2-Enriched Atmosphere" - "How is it different from what occurs in current ambient air?" (co2science.org)

"UK C02 emission cuts hit power, offshore sector" - "LONDON - Britain said yesterday it wanted steep cuts in carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector and offshore oil and gas industry to help meet its target of curbing greenhouse gas pollution.

Britain has to set CO2 emission limits on around 1,500 installations responsible for half Britain's CO2 pollution under new European Union rules on reducing greenhouse gas emissions." (Reuters)

"FEATURE - US petroleum engineers become rare commodity" - "NEW YORK - Striking oil isn't easy, but companies searching for black gold are finding it even tougher to recruit new petroleum engineers." (Reuters)

"Largest waste coal plant in world sprouts from Pennsylvania coal region" - "SEWARD, Pennsylvania — When it began operating in 1921 at the height of Pennsylvania's coal production, the coal-fired power plant at the mouth of the Conemaugh No. 1 Mine was a symbol of the area's industrial might.

Now, more than 82 years later, that plant is being replaced by a state-of-the-art plant set to come online this spring and that's the biggest in the world to burn mountains of discarded low-grade coal left by the coal industry." (Associated Press)

"Breaking with tradition" - "Using waves to generate electricity has long been dismissed as uneconomical. But Paul Brown and John Vidal report on a plethora of new plans to harness the power of seas, rivers and tides." (The Guardian)

"Efforts to bring drinking water to 600 million behind schedule: UN" - "OSLO - Several countries are running behind schedule in the international community's goal of providing fresh drinking water to 600 million people by 2015, a senior United Nations official said.

Countries attending the Johannesburg summit on sustainable development in 2002 agreed to reduce by half the number of people deprived of fresh drinking water, estimated at the time at around 1.2 billion people, by 2015.

In order to do so, each country was to adopt by 2005 a national plan aimed at identifying weaknesses in their system and improving water distribution.

"These national water plans will not be set up in all countries by 2005," Boerge Brende, head of the UN's sustainable development commission, told reporters in Oslo." (AFP)

"Tailor-made fruit on research menu" - "State-owned HortResearch is genetically modifying a standard plant to work out which genes produce better flavours, shapes or colours in fruit.

HortResearch scientist Dr Robin MacDiarmid told the NZ Bioethics Conference in Dunedin that genetic research offered the promise of foods specifically tailored to each person's genetic makeup.

Eventually, fruit and other foods could be developed to express the proteins that each person needed to stay healthy." (New Zealand Herald)

"Britain fires early salvo in GM foods row" - "KUALA LUMPUR - Britain fired a shot across the bows of the United States over genetically-modified food as environment ministers from around 70 countries prepared to meet on preserving the diversity of life on earth.

Although the touchy issue of GM food and crops is not on the agenda for the two-day ministerial meeting, it will be a focus of follow-up talks next week and Environment Minister Elliot Morley made it clear that London plans to take a firm stand.

"The US has to understand there is enormous sensitivity about genetically-modified food. The US has also to understand we would not give blanket approval (to GM food products). There is no chance of that whatsoever," he told AFP Wednesday." (AFP)

February 17, 2004

"Antibiotic use linked with breast cancer risk" - "NEW YORK - The use of antibiotics appears to be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer and fatal breast cancer, according to the results of a new study reported in this week's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. However, the investigators add that although a relationship has been found, their findings do not prove that antibiotic use is the cause of breast cancer in these women and they note that other factors may be involved." (Reuters Health)

FREE ACCESS:  "Antibiotics and Breast Cancer Risk" (PDF) - "Antibiotic-mediated alterations in immune function and estrogen metabolism have been hypothesized to contribute to breast cancer risk. Velicer and colleagues examined the association between antibiotic use and risk of breast cancer in a case-control study of women enrolled in a large health plan. See the article by Velicer and colleagues and editorial by Ness and Cauley (PDF)." (JAMA)

Long reach of the day: "Research in Italy Turns Up a New Form of Mad Cow Disease" - "A new form of mad cow disease has been found in Italy, according to a study released yesterday, and scientists believe that it may be the cause of some cases of human brain-wasting disease.

While the strain has been found in only two Italian cows, both apparently healthy, scientists in Europe and the United States said it should provide new impetus in Washington for the Department of Agriculture to adopt the more sensitive rapid tests used in Europe because it may not show up in those used in the United States.

Along with the Italian study, there have been recent reports of unusual types of mad cow disease in France and Japan, and scientists say the discovery of new forms suggests that many cases of "sporadic" human disease — by far the most common kind, responsible for about 300 deaths a year in the United States — are not spontaneous at all, but come from eating animals." (New York Times)

"More evidence vegetarian diet may cut cancer risk" - "NEW YORK - Eating a meat-free, vegetarian diet may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, new research suggests.

After following more than 10,000 people for 17 years, investigators found that vegetarians were 15 percent less likely to develop colorectal cancer than meat-eaters.

This study adds to the "increasing scientific evidence" that a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and fiber and low in meat--especially red and processed meat--can prevent colorectal cancer, study author Dr. Miguel Sanjoaquin of the University of Oxford, UK, told Reuters Health." (Reuters Health)

Well, at least this caveat was included: However, Sanjoaquin cautioned that only a small number of study participants -95--developed colorectal cancer, making it impossible to determine if fewer vegetarians developed cancer simply due to chance.

Later, we come to this little gem: Along with a decreased risk of cancer from eating vegetarian, the investigators found that frequent fruit eaters - consuming more than 5 servings of fruit per week--were over 40 percent less likely to develop colorectal cancer.

Smoking, drinking alcohol and eating more than 15 slices of white bread per week appeared to increase the risk of colorectal cancer, according to the British Journal of Cancer report.

So, vegetarians have a "15% reduced risk" but those [vegetarians/omnivores?] including 5 servings of fruit per week were "40% less likely to develop colorectal cancer."

What to conclude?

  1. vegetarians are at greater risk of colorectal cancer than people with well-balanced diets;
  2. vegetarians don't like fruit very much;
  3. vegetarians and fruit-eating omnivores are less likely to smoke and consume large quantities of alcoholic white bread sandwiches;
  4. reporter Alison McCook was wise to place quotation marks around "increasing scientific evidence";
  5. asking 10,000 people to self-report diet doesn't tell us very much about colorectal cancer risk.

"HRT cancer fears eased for thousands" - "HUNDREDS of thousands of women are needlessly abandoning hormone replacement therapy because they misunderstand the risks of the treatment.

One of the leading researchers behind a study that raised widespread fears over the links between HRT and cancer, said that the benefits for women suffering severe menopausal symptoms far outweighed the risks." (The Times)

"UK centre of global asthma crisis" - "More people in the UK have severe asthma than anywhere else in the world, experts have found." (BBC News Online)

Well duh! "Sun exposure behaviors matched to dose of UV radiation received" - "CHICAGO – Danish researchers found that sun exposure behaviors and personal characteristics are correlated with the dose of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) a person receives, according to a report in the February issue of The Archives of Dermatology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals." (JAMA and Archives Journals Website)

Startlingly: The researchers found that indoor workers were exposed to the least UVR and gardeners the most.

Also: Sunbathing and going to the beach increased UVR exposure, and children and adolescents received more than half their total UVR exposure at the beach.

With the astonishing conclusion: "High UVR doses are connected with risk behavior [going to the beach, exposing shoulders], except for outdoor workers," the authors write.

People with more sun exposure have, um... more sun exposure. Good work Sherlock! What tipped you off? Denizens of the European Community must be thrilled to see their taxes at work!

"The fat of the land" - "In all the scares about health, rational analysis still loses out to sensational headlines" (Will Hutton, The Observer)

"Swedish Meatballs?" - "Today 50 percent of Swedish men and 33 percent of Swedish women are overweight. Some 10 percent are obese, almost double the amount compared to the 1980s. The situation of Swedish children is regarded as particularly serious; 18 percent of all children between 6 and 17 are overweight.

These are dire figures for Sweden, a country that has long prided itself on its public health records. Despite paternalistic efforts by the Swedish government to promote healthy lifestyles and to ban or tax unhealthy ones, Sweden seems to be a quite normal European country when it comes to obesity and very much part of what the World Health Organization calls an "epidemic" of obesity." (Waldemar Ingdahl, TCS)

"Let Them Eat Cake -- If They Want To" - "How do you change the eating habits of several hundred million people? That's the daunting problem the World Health Organization (WHO) is trying to solve with a proposal for fighting obesity worldwide. It's a bold and necessary effort, but unfortunately, it may be undermined by the world's fattest nation: the U.S. The U.N. estimates that 300 million people worldwide are obese and a further 750 million are overweight, including 22 million children under 5. Health experts around the world are unanimous in saying that something must be done. And that's where the unanimity ends." (BusinessWeek)

"Risk and food are on the same plate: World food safety experts offer new methods to assess risk" - "New methods are in the pipeline to improve the safety of the world's food supply, and the need is imminent, said the director of the National Food Safety and Toxicology Center at Michigan State University." (Michigan State University)

"Police Chiefs Campaign to Fight Senate Bill That Would Protect Gun Dealers" - "A large number of police chiefs and other law enforcement officials have joined gun control advocates in a campaign to defeat a Senate bill that would grant gun makers and dealers almost total immunity from lawsuits.

The bill, which is strongly supported by the National Rifle Association, is scheduled for a Senate vote in early March but could come up for a vote even sooner. As many as 59 senators have signed on as sponsors, only one vote shy of the number needed to defeat any attempt at a filibuster. A similar bill passed easily in the House last fall." (New York Times)

"Quiggin again" - "Sticks and stones/May break my bones/But names will never hurt me -- Children’s proverb" (Number Watch)

"This parched earth" - "Juliette Jowit, environment editor, reports on the race to stop man from bleeding the Earth dry. Huge projects pit campaigners fearful of a catastrophic impact on the environment against the thirsty needs of an ever-growing population" (The Observer)

"Invoking a Real Precautionary Principle" - "We live in a world increasingly dominated by an article of faith that human beings have undue, even nefarious, influence over the dynamic systems of the Earth like climate. Climate science, however, is finally catching up with climate theology and asking some questions that might upset the faithful.

Increasing numbers of scientists, politicians, and journalists have become aware of the huge impact that natural climate drivers, like the amount of solar energy reaching the earth, have on our global climate over time. Moreover, we now understand that the numerical computer models used by many academics too often replicate the biases of their programmers. Current climate models that assume greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide, drive climate change, fail to reproduce observed climate change over even geologically short time spans.

As scientific data has finally begun to overwhelm rhetorical conjecture, those holding to the article of faith of anthropogenic climate change have shifted gears and found a mantra to mumble: "The Precautionary Principle." Their Precautionary Principle requires current action to mitigate speculative future impacts regardless of the present consequences -- intended or unintended." (Lee C. Gerhard and Victor John Yannacone Jr., TCS)

"Cooler Heads Project" - Vol. VIII, No. 3 (Myron Ebell, CEI)

Back in the virtual realm: "Europe's weather could flip annually between extremes" - "Europe's weather could flip from droughts to floods every year as climate change kicks in, according to scientists who have modelled the mechanisms behind the continent's most recent bouts of extreme weather." (NewScientist.com news service)

II: "Global warming to squeeze western mountains dry by 2050" - "A 70 percent reduction in West Coast mountain snow cover will lead to increased fall and winter flooding, severe spring and summer drought that will play havoc with the West's agriculture, fisheries and hydropower industry. "And this is a best case scenario," says the forecast's chief modeler, L. Ruby Leung, a staff scientist at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington." (DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

"Scientists focus on global warming at Seattle conclave" - "A rare spell of clear skies -- and forecasts of potentially catastrophic climate change -- helped open the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Seattle, a five-day affair that ends today. About 5,000 researchers from around the globe are attending the gathering, generally regarded as the world's premier showcase of scientific progress.

Most researchers save their important experimental results for journal publication and more specialized gatherings of their peers. Still, the AAAS meeting has presented an array of cutting-edge findings.

Global warming has been a major theme as scientists, led by Sir David King, chief scientific adviser for the British government, urged an international effort to reduce harmful emissions of greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels." (San Francisco Chronicle)

Uh-huh... "Cold truths about global warming" - "Had enough of winter yet?

By February, Canadians' love of fresh snow and winter sports has given way to annoyance, as we shovel our driveways for the umpteenth time. This winter, we've had some particularly nasty weather. But far colder and much nastier winters could be in store for us, especially for eastern Canadians and perhaps very soon.

The culprit, weirdly enough, could be global warming." (Globe and Mail)

but: "Global warming forces sale of Scottish winter sports resorts" - "The future of skiing and snowboarding in Scotland appeared bleak last night after two of the country's five ski resorts were put up for sale after large financial losses.

The owners of Glencoe and Glenshee put the resorts on the market yesterday morning after deciding they could no longer afford to keep them open.

Mild winters and lack of snow in recent years have left the winter sports industry north of the border reeling. Scotland's other three ski areas are also struggling to keep afloat." (The Guardian)

Not to be outdone in creative hand-wringing stakes: "NZ could cash in as Aussie climate change snowballs" - "New Zealand's alpine industry is in line to benefit from an Australian climate meltdown that threatens to cut snowfall by up to 20 per cent. Thousands of Australian skiers could be forced abroad as resorts are hit by severe snow shortages caused by rising temperatures. Some in New South Wales may be forced to close." (NZPA)

Much improved reporting: "Pacific nation of Tuvalu preparing to disappear beneath tides this week" - "AUCKLAND Feb 16, 2004 -- Weather authorities in Tuvalu warned Monday their small South Pacific nation is likely to be inundated by unusual tides later this week.

Tuvalu, home to 11,500 people living on nine scattered atolls all less than 4.5 metres (15 feet) above sea level, will be hit Thursday and Friday by "king tides" associated with the new moon, Hilia Vavae of the Tuvalu Meteorological Office told AFP.

"We are not quite sure what will happen but we expect most of the areas will be flooded by the sea for an hour or so," she said.

On Thursday at 4.40pm (0440 GMT) the tide will peak at 3.07 metres (10.1 feet) and on Friday at 5.19pm (0519 GMT) will reach 3.1 metres (10.2 feet)." (AFP)

"Britain talks tough to Bush on Kyoto" - "Britain has attacked President George Bush's administration for failing to take action on global warming, as part of an intensifying drive to get the United States to treat the issue seriously.

Professor Sir David King, Tony Blair's chief scientific adviser, took the opportunity of a speech on Friday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science to brand the President's position as indefensible.

Arriving straight from talks with senior officials in Washington, he pointedly reminded the US that it has signed up for the Kyoto protocol on combating global warming, which the President has been trying to kill." (The Independent on Sunday)

"United Kingdom targets CO2 reduction" - "SEATTLE, Feb. 13 -- The United Kingdom unilaterally will reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 60 percent by 2050, Britain's chief science adviser, Sir David King, said Friday.

King told the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting that while there are differences between the United States and the United Kingdom on the issue, "We'd like recognition that there is a global problem."

"A difference between us and America is that we signed up to Kyoto," King said. "But if it's not going to be Kyoto, we would be very happy to discuss alternatives." (United Press International)

"U.S. likely to limit carbon emissions - AEP" - "LONDON, Feb 16 - The United States will eventually impose caps on carbon dioxide emissions, despite pulling out three years ago from Kyoto Protocol on climate change which seeks to curb greenhouse gas pollution, an official from U.S. utility American Electric Power said on Monday.

"We don't expect Kyoto timeframes to be enforced in the United States but we do expect international consensus on this issue (CO2 emissions) will prevail in the United States," Susan Tomasky, chief financial officer at AEP told a conference." (Reuters)

Recommended: "NOAA's thermometer" - "In this town where omniscience is not required — but it helps — it is rare to meet a person who knows the discipline of honest ignorance. One of them is retired Vice Adm. Conrad Lautenbacher Jr., the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)." (The Washington Times)

"Symposium examines the growing influence of aerosols on climate" - "In a few decades, it's likely that scientists will look back at the early part of the 21st century and regard it as a fundamental stage in understanding the importance of the effects of aerosols on Earth's climate. In fact, it was in this time period, they may say, that aerosols were first found to be as climatologically significant as greenhouse gases." (University of California - San Diego)

"Role of gas hydrates in carbon cycling and environmental change noted" - "Between 2 trillion and 20 trillion tons of methane in gas hydrates lie on the outer edges of the continents, just beneath the ocean floor. This enormous pool of methane might contain more carbon than all the world's oil, coal and natural gas reserves combined. The carbon that goes there leaves these hydrate reservoirs via several processes, each of which is poorly quantified." (Rice University)

"Goal of ocean 'iron fertilization' said still unproved" - "After a decade of small-scale testing, researchers are still uncertain whether seeding ocean waters with tanker loads of iron particles could alleviate global warming, said a Duke University scientist involved in the studies" (Duke University)

"Duke open-air experiment results could deflate hopes that forests can alleviate global warming" - "A futuristic Duke University simulation of forest growth under the carbon dioxide-enriched atmosphere expected by 2050 does not reinforce the optimism of those who believe trees can absorb that extra CO2 by growing faster, said a spokesman for the experiment." (Duke University)

"A shrinking sink? Carbon fertilization may be flimsy weapon against warming" - "A growing body of evidence questions calculations by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the land will automatically provide a significant, long-term carbon "sink" to offset some of the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists reported these findings today at the 2004 AAAS (Triple-A-S) Annual Meeting." (American Association for the Advancement of Science)

"Carbon dioxide fertilization is neither boon nor bust" - "Trees absorb more carbon dioxide (CO2) when the amount in the atmosphere is higher, but the increase is unlikely to offset the higher levels of CO2, according to results from large-scale experiments conducted at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and elsewhere." (DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

"Climate: Arctic faces a warmer tomorrow" - "SEATTLE, Feb. 16 -- The Arctic region has experienced a decrease in its ice extent of 3 percent per decade and a 42 percent decrease in ice thickness over the past several decades, according to scientists who study climate-related changes in the region.

These are only two of the dramatic, apparently climate-induced changes to the Arctic that also figure to affect the entire northern hemisphere. There also have been changes in surface temperatures, wind speeds and biology in the Arctic over a relatively short period -- changes that researchers said are unprecedented over at least the past 100 years." (United Press International)

"The Emperor’s New Climate: Is Global Warming Real?" - "Everyone knows that the planet Earth is heating up disastrously. Everyone. If you listen to the news at all, you know that the 1990s was the hottest decade in 1,000 years. That Delaware-sized chunks of Antarctica are melting. That the sea will rise and swallow cities like Amsterdam and New Orleans, and that there has been a record number of storms and killer heat waves worldwide. That tropical diseases like malaria, dengue fever, and Ebola are spreading to northern countries because their climates have become so warm.

Scientists know this: The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) just published a petition with 1,000 signatures saying that computer simulations show that mankind is causing a dangerous warming of the planet." (Duncan Maxwell Anderson, NewsMax.com)

"Climate Change 'Wiping Out World's Coral Reefs'" - "Half the world’s coral reefs could be wiped out or badly damaged by the end of the century, a leading ocean scientist has predicted." (PA News)

As reported by the Beeb: "Action needed to save coral reefs" - "More than half of the world's coral reefs will be damaged beyond repair by the year 2100 unless action is taken to halt the many threats they now face. Scientists have issued a report saying that reefs are being assaulted by high temperatures, pollution, overfishing, disease, and soil run-off from land. The report has been written for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change." (BBC News Online)

Actually, PCGCC said: Global Warming expected to further degrade coral reef systems (Press Release)

while NCAR says: Report details growing climate change threat to coral reefs (NCAR/UCAR Release)

"Carbon storage: When a pollutant can make a profit" - "PARIS - Carbon dioxide tops the list of environmental villains published by the world's green movement. The byproduct of burning oil, gas and coal, CO2 is the main force behind global warming, the potentially catastrophic process of climate change. Tackling CO2, though, has been a political nightmare." (AFP)

"Nuclear energy a must if Europe to fulfil Kyoto criteria: Spain" - "MADRID - EU transport and energy commissioner Loyola de Palacio said Europe needed to use nuclear energy in order to fulfil its Kyoto treaty obligations, but stressed that recyclable energy sources should also be further developed. "Spain and Europe cannot dispense with nuclear energy if we wish to fulfil the Kyoto protocol," De Palacio said at the release of a Spanish "dictionary" of energy terms aimed at boosting awareness about climate change." (AFP)

"Static consumers slow drive to green power" - "Environmental drives to convince consumers to buy "green" power are being undermined because most of us are more interested in saving money on our electricity bills. With all the negative publicity over rising fuel bills, some consumers are switching to a cheaper deal, but they are not even considering green energy." (Independent on Sunday)

"An ill wind blowing?" - "Wind farms are a wonderful source of renewable energy. But have you tried living near one? As Ross Clark reports, they can seriously damage the value of your house." (Daily Telegraph)

"Pollution: now cars set to be cleaner than rail" - "Battered by criticism of high fares and poor services, Britain's railways could at least claim to be more environmentally-friendly than cars, producing lower levels of pollution. But not any more." (The Observer)

"Automakers must change their ways" - "You'll be hard-pressed to find an automaker willing to discuss how they're helping Canada meet Kyoto at the Canadian International Auto Show.

This, in large part, is the fault of the federal government, which has foolishly chosen to exempt the auto industry from the same types of rules and regulations it expects other Canadian industries to follow.

So aside from a few well-hyped hybrid vehicles, automakers will dazzle us with monster trucks and shiny SUVs and avoid any discussion of how these souped-up gas-guzzlers will ever get us on the road to Kyoto." (Shawn-Patrick Stensil, Toronto Star)

"Highway to hydrogen: A long and winding road" - "Following the National Academy of Sciences criticism of the Bush administration's plans for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles last week, taxpayers are left wondering how realistic is the vision for a hydrogen economy, what kinds of approaches are scientists and engineers taking and just what are the technical hurdles involved. While the goals outlined and funded by the Department of Energy are aggressive, they're not unrealistically so, say researchers at DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory." (DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Uh-huh... "Malnutrition and misery will be 'unimaginable' by 2054" - "Nearly half the world's population of 6.3 billion people are malnourished -- more than at any time in human history -- but malnutrition, disease and human misery will worsen in the next 50 years, Cornell ecologist David Pimentel tells fellow scientists." (Cornell University News Service)

"Soil erosion as big a problem as global warming, say scientists" - "Erosion of topsoil - already a serious problem in Australia, China and parts of the US - threatens modern civilisation as surely as it menaced societies long since vanished, researchers warned yesterday." (The Guardian)

Go Aussie! "Australia wins first environmental booby prize" - "KUALA LUMPUR - Australia was awarded the first booby prize for environmental protection by the conservation group Greenpeace. The "Champion Assassin of Life on Earth Award" was given to Canberra for its contribution to debate at the Seventh Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity here. Greenpeace said Australia was trying to "water down and undermine the whole programme" to protect the diversity of life on earth from the ravages of human development. The trophy, which features a model of planet earth with a large axe buried in it, will be awarded daily to the country deemed to be most dishonourable. A final "grand prize" will be awarded at a special ceremony on the last day of the UN conference on February 20." (AFP)

If Greenpeace are miffed, you just know we gotta be doin' somethin' right!

Mickey frightens Goo George: "Of mice and money men" - "The sinister grip that Disney exerts on children's imaginations may finally loosen." (George Monbiot, The Guardian)

"The blindness of the greens" - "The campaign of fear waged against genetic modification is based largely on fantasy and a complete lack of respect for science and logic." (Patrick Moore, The Age)

"Brazil farmers fight for GMOs" - "Brazil's powerful farmers are fighting to reduce what they see as red tape and too much influence by environmentalists in a draft bill to regulate genetically modified foods.

The bill, under discussion by Senate committees after approval by the lower house of Congress earlier this month, is seen by farmers as leaning in favor of environmentalists who fear that genetically modified crops could harm humans, animals and plants.

Farmers in Brazil, a leading world exporter of soybeans, sugar, coffee, meat and orange juice, want to take advantage of what they see as the genetic and economic benefits of biotechnology, to remain competitive in world markets." (Reuters)

"An Optimistic Forecast?" - "Sometimes I’m not sure whether Europe’s seemingly deliberate ignorance of biotechnology calls for optimism or pessimism. Will the Europeans eventually come to their senses? Or will their consumers continue to prefer primitive superstition to modern science - living in fear of a bogeyman that doesn’t exist?" (Dean Kleckner, Truth About Trade & Technology)

"GMOs back on table" - "Europe could on Wednesday come one step closer to selling a new genetically modified maize marketed by US company Monsanto. The European Commission’s expert committee will be debating the approval of a genetically modified organism (GMO) known as NK603. Europe has not started selling any new gene-altered products for the past five years, leading to a legal challenge from the USA over this de facto moratorium. With fresh EU laws in place on biotech crops and products, there has been growing hope that the GM freeze is over." (EUpolitix.com)

"EU races to thwart influx of GM food from east" - "The EU is racing against time to stop genetically modified foodstuffs entering western Europe from the east after the community's enlargement on May 1, the Guardian has learned. Some of the 10 new member states have been growing GM crops for some time, but recent checks have shown that the testing facilities to monitor their spread to neighbouring crops are either flawed or non-existent.

The biggest agricultural country in eastern Europe, Poland, which has been growing GM crops for several years, has had no testing facilities at all." (The Guardian)

"PM: Only hi-tech agriculture can ensure food self-sufficiency" - "The agriculture sector needs to undergo a revolution if the nation is to become self-sufficient in food production and exports, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said." (New Straits Times)

"British MP 'alarmed' at GM crop trial in NSW" - "The former environment minister in the British Blair Government has expressed concerns about the moratorium on genetically modified (GM) food crops in New South Wales.

Under the moratorium, companies are allowed to grow GM crops for research purposes.

Michael Meacher, who is now a British backbencher, has met New South Wales Premier Bob Carr and says he told him the moratorium brought in last year appears to be "commercialisation by stealth".

Mr Meacher says not enough is known about the possibility of contamination of non-GM crops and the effects on human health." (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

"[New Zealand] Nationwide discussion on GE launched" - "Decisions about biotechnology are too important to be left solely to government, business or science, Bioethics Council chairman Sir Paul Reeves said today.

Sir Paul was launching the council's first nationwide public dialogue -- on the use of human genes in other organisms.

In the keynote speech in Dunedin to the New Zealand Bioethics Conference, former Governor-General Sir Paul said New Zealand needed a better way than the genetic engineering (GE) debate to discuss the cultural, ethical and spiritual issues that arise from the rapid development of biotechnologies." (New Zealand Herald)

"POLAND: Poles will lift ban on GM after EU accession" - "Poland has confirmed that it will overturn its ban on the sale of genetically modified food and the cultivation of GM crops once it accedes to the European Union.

Poland’s accession date has been set for 1 May 2004 and the country is working hard to prepare for the practical implications of membership. Rzeczpospolita reported that the Polish government had already submitted a draft bill to the country’s lower chamber, the Sejm, in which it proposes that the country’s regulations be brought into line with those of the EU without a transitional period." (just-food.com) [Complete]

"EU to study Monsanto request to import GM maize" - "BRUSSELS - European Union scientists are due on Wednesday to consider a request by US biotech giant Monsanto to be allowed to import a genetically modified (GM) strain of maize into the 15-nation bloc.

There is little chance of the request being approved at the moment, since it would effectively end the EU's four-year ban on genetically engineered crops." (AFP)

"French farmers remain opposed to GMOs - poll" - "PARIS, Feb 16 - Two thirds of French farmers questioned in a recent poll said they were unlikely to grow genetically-modified (GM) crops, even if authorised to do so, the national farming press association SNPAR said on Monday.

In a joint poll of 400 farmers with the BVA polling agency, SNPAR said 66 percent were opposed to GMOs (genetically-modified organisms), with most citing concerns over unknown risks as well as a lack of information on the subject.

Asked if they would grow GM crops tomorrow if authorised, some 50 percent of farmers gave a categorical "no" and a further 16 percent replied "probably not", SNPAR said." (Reuters)

February 13, 2004

"Feds Press Salt Assault" - "A new government report says Americans should slash their salt consumption by half, but the recommendation has no basis in science and may even be harmful to your health." (Steven Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"The BIG liars" - "The BMA, long separated from anything approaching real science, has come up with a "report" on, wait for it, smoking and fertility. Not only is it a long winded PC rant, full of the most egregious excesses of the debased statistics that characterise modern epidemiology, but they manage to sully the name of one of the few great names of that branch of science, Sir Austin Bradford Hill. Having taken his name in vain at the very outset, they publish an appendix containing his seven principles by which epidemiology should be conducted, but they add a cavillation to almost every one that completely reverses its intent. Such arrogance! How dare they? One tries to maintain an air of detached amusement at the activities of these politically correct pseudo-scientists, but producing such a travesty of the work of a great man is way beyond the pale. It induces a feeling of impotent anger that they have the ear of the media and the politicians." (Number Watch)

"WHO's Inconsistent and Anti-Patent?" - "In a recent letter to the Wall Street Journal, representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Fund for AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria (the Fund) claimed that "The Global Fund, based on WHO guidance, is financing one of the fastest shifts to new and better [malaria] treatment regimens ever implemented in the developing world." (Roger Bate, TCS)

Gasp! "Rich nations refuse to do more" - "DESPITE having to undergo only a “minute shift” in government spending, the world’s richest coun-tries have refused to increase their contributions to fund the Programme of Work on Protected Areas (PWPA), necessary for the preservation of life.

Greenpeace International's Forest Campaign Policy & Strategy co-ordinator Dr Christoph Thies said even prior to the Seventh Conference of Parties (COP7) to the Convention on Biological Diversity, member states of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) had declined to provide additional financial assistance.

"About US$25 billion (RM95 billion) annually is required to establish and manage a comprehensive network of Protected Areas (PAs) under the PWPA. At present, only US$7 billion is available. The conference has made no new commitments since COP7 began," he said at a Press conference." (New Straits Times)

"From cigarettes to guns" - "New York City Mayor Michael "Nanny" Bloomberg, he of the smooth hands and Nurse Ratched smirk, made international headlines with his selective war on smokers. Now, Mr. Bloomberg and the city's ruling class are preparing to "cure" the Big Apple of another politically incorrect constituency: ordinary gun owners.

Last week, Democrat City Council Member Gale Brewer introduced a resolution calling on the Republican National Committee "to repudiate the irresponsible and dangerous policies of the National Rifle Association," i.e., supporting the constitutional right of individuals to bear arms and defend their lives, family and property." (Michelle Malkin, The Washington Times)

"Consensus builds on global warming" - "EDMONTON - A senior climatologist with Environment Canada has predicted normal precipitation across the Prairies this summer. The equivalent American department has predicted a wetter than normal season for the Prairies.

While scientists don't agree on what the weather will be this summer, there is consensus the earth's climate is changing." (The Western Producer)

Here's a newsflash for you guys - Earth's climate always changes, has always changed and is always changing, that's the nature of the beast (no lack of consensus there). What is absolutely wrong is that some particular state is "normal" and that said "normal state" can be maintained. Some sincere people learned in appropriate disciplines believe enhanced-greenhouse forcing could be a problem and some do not. Sadly, our understanding of the system remains so rudimentary that it is likely to be several generations before we might present a reasonably informed answer.

"EPA official urges new effort to curb global warming" - "PROVIDENCE -- One of the highest ranking officials working on climate-change issues at the Environmental Protection Agency is convinced that global warming is happening and is certain to intensify.

And the only way to stem the rise in temperatures is to bridge the gap between scientists and the policymakers who use their data, said Joel Scheraga, national program director for global change research at the EPA.

Scheraga spoke fervently about the existence of global warming, and its impact, during his acceptance of the inaugural Horace Mann medal at Brown University earlier this week. His fervor comes at a time when the Bush administration and members of Congress have played down the intensity of global warming, including Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who has called global warming "a hoax." Inhofe is chairman of the Senate's Committee on Environment and Public Works.

"Climate change is real, it's been happening for millions of years, and is happening today," said Scheraga." (Providence Island Journal)

"Bring back the weathermen" - "How should we respond to the challenge of global warming? One suggestion is cut back on the energy use responsible for production of greenhouse gases. Another is to adapt to a warming world by offsetting problems with solutions such as flood control, as well as taking advantage of any positive opportunities that present themselves.

Among environmentalists, adaptation is less popular than cutting back. But even less popular is the idea that we should find ways to intervene positively in order to create a better climate.

You might think that the only problem with the idea of climate control is that we don't know how to make it work. But today, ethical objections are raised against research that attempts to change this." (Joe Kaplinsky, sp!ked)

"EU Cars Spew Out Less Carbon Dioxide - Report" - "BRUSSELS - European Union plans to reduce amounts of carbon dioxide belching out from new passenger cars received a boost yesterday with latest figures showing a fall of nearly 11 percent since 1995, the European Commission said.

Road transport generates more than a fifth of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the EU, with passenger cars responsible for more than half of the pollution." (Reuters)

The subliminal propaganda continues, CO2 is an essential trace gas, without which Earth's biosphere would collapse - this is not a property associated with "a pollutant."

"Industry boycotts emissions trading talks" - "Industry representatives boycotted negotiations on upcoming emissions trading legislation on Thursday, saying they would join the discussions when the economics and environment ministers had presented a unified draft on how to divvy up emissions certificates, each of which will allow a certain amount of carbon dioxide, or CO2, to be expelled into the atmosphere.

The dispute revolves around a plan, spearheaded by German Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin, to use emissions certificates to force companies to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions years ahead of the European Union's 2012 deadline, BDI industry association said.
But later on Thursday, Trittin said that industry had failed to reduce emissions according to schedule between 2000 and 2002 and had probably exited the negotiations because they wanted to “avoid answering uncomfortable questions.“ The BDI denied Trittin's claim." (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)

"New reactor puts hydrogen from renewable fuels within reach" - "The first reactor capable of producing hydrogen from a renewable fuel source--ethanol--efficiently enough to hold economic potential is poised to remove the major stumbling block to the "hydrogen economy." (University of Minnesota)

"Consumers Would Pay More to Avoid Blackouts, Study Shows" - "HOUSTON - Most consumers hit by the massive blackout that swept across the United States and Canada last year said they would be willing to pay higher utility bills to safeguard their electricity supplies, a study released on Thursday showed." (Reuters)

"Anthropologist proposes link between per capita energy use and fertility rate" - "As world reserves of oil and natural gas dwindle over the coming decades – a prospect predicted by many energy experts – the rate at which the people in most societies around the world have babies is likely to drop precipitously as well. That is the prediction of anthropologist Virginia Abernethy, professor emerita of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University." (Vanderbilt University)

"First Human Clone" - "Science writer Ron Bailey says: "We'd be less than human not to seize these opportunities." (TCS)

"Activists urge action on "biopiracy" patent laws" - "LONDON - New laws are needed to control Western companies patenting plants grown by indigenous communities and thereby preventing their use, a European patenting official said yesterday.

Such patents on medicinal plants and traditional food crops, dubbed "biopiracy" by pressure groups, are at the centre of a U.N. biodiversity convention in Malaysia this week." (Reuters)

"Regulating Genetically Modified Foods: Is Mandatory Labeling the Right Answer?" - "Conko Presentation as Published in the Richmond Journal of Law and Technology" (CEI)

February 12, 2004

"'Natural' food labels misleading" - "Some manufacturers are breaking guidelines by describing their products as "natural", "pure" and "fresh" when they do not match that description. The Food Standards Agency says it is considering a crackdown on suppliers who continue to misuse these terms." (BBC News Online)

A little advertising puffery has been the accepted norm since "sizzling steak" replaced the "hot dead cow" description, so what? Strictly speaking, the only "natural" foods, organic or not, are wild fowl, fish, bugs and game, all with a side order of weeds (no cropped or husbanded species are "natural," having been shaped and altered by humans via selective breeding and hybridisation over millennia). Get a life!

Dubious recommendations du jour: "Salt and Water Intake: Press Release" - "The Food and Nutrition Board released the sixth in a series of reports presenting dietary reference values for the intake of nutrients by Americans and Canadians. This new report establishes nutrient recommendations on water, salt and potassium to maintain health and reduce chronic disease risk. (Institute of Medicine)

"Supersized appetites" - "THE CENTERS for Disease Control and Prevention released a study last week that confirms what almost everyone -- except some people in the food industry -- accepts as fact: Many Americans are overweight because they are eating more.

The study was based on an analysis of previous surveys of US eating habits. It found that between 1971 and 2000, American men increased calorie intake from 2,450 to 2,618 a day on average. The increase among women was from 1,542 to 1,877 calories a day.

Carbohydrates in men's diets increased from 42.4 percent in 1980 to 49 percent in 2000. For women the increase was 45.4 percent to 51.6 percent. The percentage of fat went down significantly." (Boston Globe editorial)

"Out-of-balance ecosystems play role in demise of amphibian populations" - "After almost 10 years of research on the decline of amphibian populations, University of Illinois scientists say the problems facing the habitats of struggling frogs really pose a poignant example of ecosystems out of balance because of human activity." (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

"Stopping the Real Pests" - "It's great news that most Americans now identify themselves as environmentalists. Unfortunately, a small number have embraced environmentalism with religious fervor, basing their beliefs more on faith and dogma than on science and data.

Not unlike fundamentalists engaged in a jihad against unbelievers, these radical environmentalists pursue an agenda that has less to do with protection of the environment than with antipathy toward business, profits, and certain products and technologies. Ironically, their efforts to achieve their own narrow vision of what constitutes a "good society" often are inimical to protection of the environment -- a variation on the admission by Peanuts cartoon character Linus van Pelt, "I love humanity; it's people I can't stand." (Henry I. Miller, TCS)

"Cities built on fertile lands" - "While cities provide vital habitat for human beings to thrive, it appears U.S. cities have been built on the most fertile soils, lessening contributions of these lands to Earth's food web and human agriculture, according to a study by NASA researchers and others. Though cities account for just 3 percent of continental U.S. land area, the food and fiber that could be grown there rivals current production on all U.S. agricultural lands, which cover 29 percent of the country." (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center--EOS Project Science Office)

How do they do it? They've discovered that settlements prospered and grew in (dah-dah!) fertile areas.

"Osama Bin Greenhouse" - "Last month, Sir David King, the UK's chief scientific advisor, had an article in Science magazine in which he said "…climate change is the most severe problem that we are facing today - more serious than the threat of terrorism." He claims that, even though the United States has taken the lead in the war on terrorism, we are dragging our heels on the ratification of the global warming treaty." (Roy W. Spencer, TCS)

"So much for global warming" - "What is it about the weather lately? More precisely, what is it about the weather that has gotten people so riled up about it?

It's winter. We live in southeastern Massachusetts. You'd think those of us who have lived here all these years would know that winter in New England often includes snow, wind and cold.

Sure, we've had our share of mild winters here on the South Shore, but those winters seem to be fewer and farther between. So much for the theory of Global Warming.

This year, in particular though, seems to be off the charts in terms of the panic factor. Why is this winter being talked about as if it's the winter to end all winters?" (Hanover Mariner editorial)

More on GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out): "IBM Supercomputer Powers 'Virtual Climate Time Machine' at UC Irvine" - "ARMONK, NY -- Feb 10, 2004 -- IBM today announced that the University of California at Irvine (UCI) has selected a powerful IBM supercomputer that will enable researchers to model and predict changes to the Earth's surface, atmosphere and oceans up to 300 years into the future." (Press Release)

Amazingly, this: "20-year alert over failing rainforests" - "The special ability of rainforests to hold back global warming is failing and could end in 20 years scientists warn today.

That would raise temperatures by up to eight degrees in the next century, causing huge climate change and threatening humans, the report from the Royal Society reveals." (Evening Standard)

comes from this Royal Society press release.

Just trying to get this straight in my own mind: enviros have howled for decades that tropical rainforests are being wiped out (will all be gone by 1975, '80, '90...); at least partial recovery from the Little Ice Age, coupled with the return (liberation) of a small portion of previously sequestered (made unavailable to biosphere) atmospheric carbon (via greenhouse gas emission from fossil fuel use) is likely highly contributive to a near-doubling of tropical rainforest biomass; we should take warning from this to decimate human society by slashing energy use and standards of living in order to decrease biosphere-enhancing liberation of said previously sequestered carbon.

Parsing the above: a natural phenomenon, assisted by human activity, apparently causes tropical rainforests to flourish. This should be seen as some kind of problem requiring drastic and painful remediation.

Nope, I still don't get it.

"Voyage to ocean's 'Twilight Zone'" - "The middle depths get a closer look, in a new effort to probe how ocean's carbon cycle affects climate." (The Christian Science Monitor)

"NASA predicts more tropical rain in a warmer world" - "As the tropical oceans continue to heat up, following a 20-year trend, warm rains in the tropics are likely to become more frequent, according to NASA scientists. In a study by William Lau and Huey-Tzu Jenny Wu, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., the authors offer early proof of a long-held theory that patterns of evaporation and precipitation, known as the water cycle, may accelerate in some areas due to warming temperatures." (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center--EOS Project Science Office)

Obligatory Greenpeace piece: "Patagonia's big melt 'sign of global warming'" - "GREENPEACE International claims new pictures it has taken of the Patagonian glaciers show the extent to which the vast tracts of ice in South America have receded because of climate change.

The glaciers and icefields, which cover more than 17,000 square kilometres across Chile and Argentina, are disappearing at a rate of 42 cubic kilometres a year - the fastest glacial recession in the world.

The most recent pictures of the Upsala glacier, in Argentina, were taken last month by a Greenpeace research team that toured the region gathering evidence on the accelerating disappearance of some of the world's most famous icefields.

The team found that compared with photos taken from the same outlook in 1928, the glaciers had significantly thinned and retreated several kilometres.

Scientists believe climate change - caused by greenhouse gases trapped in the Earth's atmosphere, leading to higher sea and land temperatures, - is behind the Patagonian glacial melt." (The Australian) | Sourced from here

"Forget Kyoto and move on, says World Energy Council" - "CANBERRA, Feb 12 - The Kyoto climate treaty is irrelevant and it is time to move on and boost investment in reliable, clean energy for the future, although prices will rise, a leading international energy official said on Thursday.

World Energy Council Secretary General Gerald Doucet said he doubted the Kyoto pact would ever come into effect, with Russia and Australia unlikely to ratify the treaty that aims to cut the emission of gases causing global warming by 5.2 percent by 2012.

"Kyoto has served a political purpose but, in reality, will make no difference to actual levels of greenhouse gas emissions," Doucet said in an interview with Reuters." (Reuters)

"Technology That Will Save Billions From Starvation" - "Today, most people around the world have access to a greater variety of nutritious and affordable foods than ever before, thanks mainly to developments in agricultural science and technology. The average human life span--arguably the most important indicator of quality of life--has increased steadily in the past century in almost every country. Even in many less developed countries, life spans have doubled over the past few decades. Despite massive population growth, from 3 billion to more than 6 billion people since 1950, the global malnutrition rate decreased in that period from 38 percent to 18 percent. India and China, two of the world's most populous and rapidly industrializing countries, have quadrupled their grain production." (C.S. Prakash and Gregory Conko, The American Enterprise)

"Africa: Time to Focus on Invisible Wealth" - "Albert Einstein once stated: "Imagination is more important than knowledge." Intellectual Property Rights are often considered as serious obstacles to trade and the transfer of technologies related to the conservation of biological diversity. African countries are rich in biodiversity and indigenous knowledge which has flowed freely to the developed countries. However global market trends are such that Africa must urgently address issues pertaining property rights if they have to fit into the global economy and also stimulate inventions and innovations. The challenge facing Africa is how to produce high quality goods and services while at the same time tackling aspects of poverty and unemployment. Africa is seen to participate in IPR as late comers already faced with other priority issues and lacking capacity to enforce IPR regimes.

In the book "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa", Walter Rodney argues that the Western World engaged in atrocities and looting of the African continent making people desperately poor. 50 years after most African countries gained independence from Europe, the Africans are still queuing for donor funding investing less in homegrown solutions and African talent. The biggest question is why this is happening in Africa, where people are endowed with the human mind that is creative and innovative?" (James Shikwati, Inter Region Economic Network)

"Farmers may be allowed to sell GM crops" - "Genetically modified canola grown in NSW for research could end up being sold despite a state moratorium on the commercial growth of GM food crops.

Two chemical companies have applied to run joint tests on GM canola over 5000 hectares in the state but have asked that the participating farmers be allowed to sell the crops.

The NSW Agricultural Advisory Council on Gene Technology will decide on the Monsanto/Bayer application next week, but two of the council's nine members claim they have been "bullied" by several colleagues pushing for "commercialisation by stealth." (The Sydney Morning Herald)

"European Commission will push for gene-modified corn" - "BRUSSELS - The European Commission on Wednesday will ask national governments to approve the sale of a gene-modified corn made by Monsanto Co., pressing ahead with efforts to lift the region's six-year ban on new biotech farm products.

Approval of the corn for use in animal feed and industrial processing would be the 15-nation European Union's first endorsement of a genetically modified food since 1998.

The move also might help unblock decisions on 28 additional requests, including others by Monsanto, of Creve Coeur, Mo., and some that involve cultivation.

At stake is a chunk of the global biotechnology market that may reach $2 trillion by 2010, an EU study shows." (St Louis Post-Dispatch)

"Spain: The Promised Land for GM Corn" - "Spain is home to the greatest amount of genetically modified food production in Europe. The experience gained there could prove valuable for Germany and the rest Europe." (Deutsche Welle)

"Schröder's Reluctant Cabinet To Allow GMO Foods" - "German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's cabinet on Wednesday approved a bill regulating the cultivation of genetically modified organisms. The bill would make it legal for German farmers and supermarkets to sell GMO goods." (Deutsche Welle)

Counterpoint: "How Much Should We Worry about Biotech?" - "Tony Gilland vs. Carol Foreman
--- Tony Gilland is science and society director at the Institute of Ideas in London
--- Carol Tucker Foreman is director of The Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America" (The American Enterprise)

February 11, 2004

"Caution call on 'maverick' claims" - "Scientists should think twice before courting publicity for their "minority views", says an ethics expert." (BBC News Online)

"California bill seeks to bar fat food lawsuits" - "SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 10 - Fed up with fast food lawsuits, a California lawmaker thinks people who eat too much have only themselves to blame for getting fat and has introduced a bill to deny them a chance to make money from what they eat.

"We're responsible for our own eating habits," California Assemblyman John Dutra said in an interview on Tuesday. "The manufacturer that provides us with ice cream or cake or pies or cookies shouldn't be responsible for us eating their products in excess."

Dutra's bill, introduced on Monday, would bar lawsuits on grounds that a food contributed to obesity, provided the food complies with other national regulations." (Reuters)

"Americans Point Finger at Themselves for Obesity Problem" - "SAUSALITO, Calif.--Feb. 10, 2004--Americans are remarkably clear about who is responsible for their expanding waistlines, and it isn't the food and beverage industry, reports a new national survey. What to do about it, however, is another matter.

When asked about the cause of obesity, an overwhelming 90 percent of those surveyed say that they, and not food and beverage companies, are responsible for what they eat and drink and how it affects their health, according to the survey conducted in January 2004 by Context Marketing, Sausalito, California." (BUSINESS WIRE)

Oh good grief! "‘Safe’ amalgam fillings classed as toxic waste" - "AMALGAM fillings are to be officially classed as poisonous to the environment, even though they are deemed safe to put in people's mouths." (The Herald)

Number Watch with the line on salt and evidence.

From CO2 Science Magazine this week:

"The Ice Fields of Kilimanjaro: Why Did They Recede So Steadily for So Many Years?" - "Climate alarmists are strident in their claim that it was a response to what they call the unprecedented global warming of the 20th century; but like so many other things about which they sound so sure, they are wrong on this point too." (co2science.org)

Subject Index Summaries:
"Forcing Factors (Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases: Ozone)" - "How do changes in atmospheric ozone concentration impact earth's climate?  It would appear that the answer to this question is considerably more complex than what anyone ever imagined only a few short years ago." (co2science.org)

"Agriculture (Species: Rice)" - "As the air's CO2 content continues to rise, it is important to determine its likely effects on the growth and yield of rice, since during the next 30 years, according to Cassman et al. (Field Crops Research 56: 7-39), rice production will have to be increased by at least 60% to meet the needs of earth's expanding human population." (co2science.org)

Plant Growth Data:
"This week we add new results (blue background) of plant growth responses to atmospheric CO2 enrichment obtained from experiments described in the peer-reviewed scientific literature for: English Ivy, English Laurel, European Ash and Redroot Amaranth." (co2science.org)

Journal Reviews:
"North Atlantic Tropical Cyclones: Are Any of Their Properties Affected by Regional, Hemispheric or Global Warming?" - "In a word, no." (co2science.org)

"Climatic Oscillations of the Mediterranean Region" - "The case for global, solar-induced, millennial-scale, climatic oscillations grows ever stronger." (co2science.org)

"Fine-Root Responses to Elevated CO2 in Loblolly Pine and Sweetgum Forests" - "They continue to suggest that earth's trees will be able to vigorously respond to the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 content." (co2science.org)

"Atmospheric CO2 Affects the Organelles of Photosynthesis and Respiration" - "And it may also positively affect the long-term response of net photosynthesis to elevated levels of atmospheric CO2." (co2science.org)

"VOC Emissions from Cabbage Plants Under Herbivore Attack: Effects of CO2" - "What are they?  And what do they portend?" (co2science.org)

"Edinburgh scientist offers hope on climate change" - "AN EDINBURGH academic has been involved in scientific reports which reveal climate change may have been slowed by an increase in the growth rate of trees in the Amazon rainforests.

But although the growth rate of trees in pristine rainforests has nearly doubled in recent decades, the death rate of those forests has also accelerated, according to reports in a British scientific journal.

In an issue devoted to tropical rainforests, the Proceedings of the Royal Society carries 17 reports from scientists in many countries, from Britain, Italy and Germany to Brazil, Peru and the United States.

In three of the papers, scientists report that in areas of unspoiled Amazon forest, both the growth rate and the death rate are increasing.

Yadvinder Malhi, of the University of Edinburgh, is a contributing scientist and one of the publication’s editors. He said the change in these pristine areas - making up more than half of the Amazon rainforests - may have acted as a brake on global warming." (The Scotsman)

Isn't it fun? There are always reasons being offered as to why the threatened warming hasn't yet manifested itself in the lower atmosphere (where it must first occur in order for enhanced greenhouse to heat the planet's surface) - but the mitigating influences probably won't last and then we're gonna be sorry!

We've had aerosols (but clean air laws will soon get rid of [a small portion] of these!). We've had (previously unrecognised [and still dubious]) oceanic thermal absorption. We've had increased cloud albedo (probably only transient and then increased water vapour from increased evaporation will be a serious warming feedback [curious roll reversal, reason unexplained]). And now, we're back to larger than anticipated [but definitely near-capacity, with accelerated decay sure to follow!] terrestrial carbon sinks.

So, if not for these (and myriad other, unknown and model-omitted) parameters, the scary model-predicted warming would definitely be evident by now.

Apparently, it never occurs to the virtual-worlders that, since their favourite computer games models cannot "predict" the real world as it currently exists, they cannot be relied upon to "predict" the state of the world decades and centuries into the future. In fairness, it never seems to occur to reporters that GCCMs ("climate models") are hard-coded to produce warming in response to data representing elevated atmospheric levels of GHGs either. Consequently, riders of the greenhouse gravy train continue to produce reports from the virtual world as though they apply to the real world and gullible reporters dutifully proliferate them as though they were fact.

Meanwhile, the real world continues to ignore model "predictions," unperturbed by human angst.

Oh well! Toss a few more billions into the enhanced greenhouse sink - that gravy train gotta be fueled!

"Satellite Temperatures — The Long Run" - "For some, twenty-five years of data doesn’t sound like much for use in establishing long-term trends in global temperature. But, the temperature data collected by NASA satellites corresponds with the time when the potential human impact on climate should have been greatest. It has been collected consistently from samples of the atmosphere over the entire globe. This makes it of great importance. Because the data nearly “cover the earth,” these measurements are unique among existing climate datasets. This also makes them an invaluable tool in assessing the impact of human activity on the global atmosphere. The satellite data now spans a quarter century. Happy anniversary!" (CO2 & Climate)

"Bighorn sheep threatened by climate change, finds new study" - "BERKELEY – A study led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, has linked population declines of California's desert bighorn sheep with the effects of climate change. What's more, many of the state's remaining bighorn populations could face extinction if certain global warming forecasts for the next 60 years come true." (UC Berkeley)

"Flash! Global Warming May Bring Ice Age By The Next Election" - "Well, perhaps not that soon; but readers of Fortune magazine, normally a reserved, fairly objective periodical concerned with business and economic stories may be forgiven for a little worry if not complete confusion." (CNSNews.com)

"Greenpeace says Putin playing with planet" - "AMSTERDAM, Feb 10 - Environmental pressure group Greenpeace is increasingly doubtful that Russia, the world's second largest oil exporter, will ratify the Kyoto Protocol aimed at slowing climate change, its chief said." (Reuters)

"Refiners Want US Government Out Of Gasoline Formula Business" - "HOUSTON -- The U.S. government should tell refiners what it wants coming out of automobile tailpipes, not what to put into gasoline, a panel of North American refining executives said Tuesday.

Refiners have no problems producing clean-burning fuels, Thomas O'Malley, chairman and chief executive officer of Premcor Inc. said at the annual Cambridge Energy Research Associates energy conference. They don't need the government telling them to include oxygenates, additives that are supposed to produce cleaner tailpipe emissions.

"The whole oxygenates thing is a boondoggle," O'Malley said, speaking as part of a panel on the downstream oil sector. "We absolutely don't need it in gasoline." (Dow Jones)

"U.S. push for diesel poses risk to public health, scientists say" - "Some lawmakers and car manufacturers advocate widespread diesel use in passenger vehicles as a strategy for reducing the production of so-called ''greenhouse gases'' thought to cause global warming. But according to a new study, replacing gasoline vehicles in the United States with diesel vehicles - equipped even with the most modern pollution controls - may increase smog production over most of the country." (Stanford University)

"Windmills off Swedish coast are providing unexpected benefit for marine life, scientists say" - "STOCKHOLM, Sweden — The windmills off Sweden's southeastern coast may not be postcard perfect, but fish and mollusks love them, making them their home and creating thriving new ecosystems, scientists said Tuesday.

In a study of the effects of marine-based wind power plants on marine life, Swedish biologists found that the structures, jutting from concrete platforms in the ocean, promote marine diversity.

"It's almost like an artificial reef," said Marcus Oehberg, a marine biologist at Stockholm University. "We've seen that it encourages more species and that it creates a living environment that wasn't there before." (Associated Press)

Rather like oilrigs do, eh? So, enviros campaigning to have every scrap of every old oil platform removed from the sea are actually destroyers of entire ecosystems... hardly environmentally friendly, are they?

"Green Myth vs. the Green Revolution" - "Gail Omvedt speaks of a "a distorted image of farmers held by a section of the urban elite" in India as well as in developed countries. This mythic image:

depicts them romantically but demeaningly as backward, tradition-loving, innocent and helpless creatures carrying on their occupation for love of the land and the soil, and as practitioners of a "way of life" rather than a toilsome income-earning occupation. These imagined farmers have to be protected from market forces and the attacks of multinationals, from the seductions of commercialization and the enslavement of technologies (Omvedt 1998).

Modern agriculture and the food supply it provides, along with modern medicine and the pharmaceuticals and technological devices it uses and the science on which it is based, have become a villains of choice for many who find the trends of the last half of the 20th and beginnings of the 21st century to be a danger to human health and well being, as well as ecologically destructive. Given that the 20th century witnessed the greatest increase in human life expectancy the world has ever experienced, while accommodating a roughly 350% increase in population, there is a strange and almost perverse irony to this anti-modern mania, since it is generally accepted that improved nutrition and such medical interventions as immunization and anti-biotics are major factors for human health and longevity. Other important factors contributing to the expansion of human life such as chlorination of water, use of pesticides to reduce or eliminate disease vectors, refrigeration, pasteurization and other forms of sterilization and preservation are all products of modern science and technology. Most of these have also had their critics, and still do." (Thomas R. DeGregori, Butterflies and Wheels)

"Focus on real threats rather than climate control to conserve biodiversity, says NGO coalition" - "11 February 2004 - A report to be released today at the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Kuala Lumpur urges the global community to take urgent action to mitigate climate change in order to save biodiversity in the future.

However, the Sustainable Development Network (SDN) disputes the premise of the report. This NGO coalition believes that the most urgent threats to intact habitats result not from human-induced global warming, but from subsistence agriculture, food losses from inefficient transport and storage, and the burning of wood and dung.

"Rather than trying to control climate change, policymakers should focus on eliminating today's urgent threats to intact ecosystems which result from poverty, including subsistence agriculture, food losses, and inefficient biomass fuels," said Kendra Okonski, editor of Adapt or Die: The science, politics and economics of climate change, and SDN coordinator." (Sustainable Development Network)

"Science losing the agitprop battle" - "Word use in science often seem like mud's own mud.

The "palladium-catalyzed, enantioselective synthesis of (2R)-3-butene-1,2-diol" was the topic of one recent science paper, while another title rhapsodized "Functional bacteriorhodopsin is efficiently solubilized and delivered to membranes by the chaperonin GroEL."

It's not just that these words are specialized or difficult to understand, but they are excommunicatory. They effectively say to a reader: "If you don't know what I am talking about, scram."

This disdain for the commonly evocative and the understandable generally doesn't matter when scientists are mumbling at one another. But when a controversy arises in science, skilled verbal polemicists often arrive on the scene and effectively sweep the table.

Which is the background to my reflections on Frankenfood." (Stephen Strauss, Globe and Mail)

"GM-link may spell 'end of organic'" - "PLAID Cymru politicians have accused the Government of complacency over the issue of genetically-modified food.

Ceredigion MP Simon Thomas, the party's Parliamentary spokesman on the environment, food and rural affairs, said research showing GM contamination of supermarket and health store food could spell the end of organic farming." (The Western Mail)

February 10, 2004

Right... "A shocking surprise: High voltage + rats = ozone, reopens power-line debate" - "Rats subjected to extreme electromagnetic fields produce dangerous levels of the toxic gas ozone, according to a new study out of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. It is the first experiment to conclusively link an electromagnetic field with a health-adverse chemical effect in the presence of an animal, said Steven Goheen, a scientist at the Department of Energy lab and lead author of a paper published in the current issue of the journal Bioelectromagnetics." (DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

So, the moral of this story is not to place yourself, in a restricted-airflow container where O3 might accumulate, within 2 inches (~50mm) of an ioniser - especially if you have whiskers, fur and a tail. Have PNNL nothing better to do?

"Studies Find No Evidence That Vaccines Inflate Risk of Autism" - "Scientists cast new doubt yesterday on suspicions that vaccines increase the risk for autism, saying large studies conducted in Denmark, Britain and the United States have failed to find a link between the childhood shots and the brain disorder." (Washington Post)

"The allergy epidemic: by 2015 half of us may be carrying one of these" - "Half of all Europeans may be suffering from some sort of allergy by 2015 if the escalating epidemic, which is responsible for millions of children missing school and being hospitalised and for adults staying off work, remains unchecked, scientists believe.

The dire prediction comes as the biggest-ever research project into the causes of allergy and asthma is about to be launched in Europe. Scientists from many countries will coordinate their efforts in an attempt to find out why rates are soaring and why children in the UK have the third highest rate of asthma in the world." (The Guardian)

"A Supersized Distortion" - "Morgan Spurlock wanted to be in a movie. And he was in a movie -- one he made himself -- which he then presented to the world at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. The subject of the movie was the fattening of Morgan himself -- he managed to gain 25 pounds in a month by overeating at McDonald's restaurants. The name of his documentary, "Supersize Me," should serve as a warning to the rest of us that eating too much will make us fat (which we might have heard before)

Actually, Mr. Spurlock is simply following an old Hollywood tradition -- gaining weight to suit a movie role." (Ruth Kava, TCS)

"Developing Countries Reject Obesity Plan" - "ROME -- A group of developing countries rejected the science driving the United Nations' effort to fight obesity worldwide, saying Monday the dietary recommendations are based on flawed research and ``not worthy of serious consideration.''

The scientific report underpinning the global obesity strategy recommends that governments strive to limit their people's intake of sugar and fat while encouraging increased consumption of fruits and vegetables.

The developing countries said the report was shoddy and urged better nutrition education, not arbitrary limits of specific types of food. Their argument mirrors what sugar and other food industry representatives contend.

The report ``labels various food items as good and bad. It concludes, without any scientific evidence, that bad food is the main cause of chronic diseases. This arbitrary conclusion, apart from its shaky scientific foundation, is indeed prejudicial,'' a Colombian delegation told the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, speaking on behalf of the G77 group of developing nations and China.

The U.N. food agency was reviewing the report on Monday." (The Associated Press)

"Rich 'appalling' on conservation" - "The world's wealthy countries will need to pay more to save threatened species from extinction, conservationists say. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, a UK group, says international cooperation on a large scale will be essential to conserve many vital areas. The RSPB says $25bn a year more will be needed to establish a proper working system of protected areas for wildlife. It says the developed countries' record is "appalling", and believes they are just dragging their feet on the issue." (Alex Kirby, BBC News Online)

Really? So, all people, everywhere, now have adequate food, clean water, shelter, healthcare... No? Well perhaps the RSPB needs a priority adjustment and a new mission. Maybe they could change their name to something a little less elitist, like the Common Society for the Assistance of People or similar? They could try a catchy slogan along the lines of "Critters Don't Count!" and perhaps then we might, just might, stop squandering finite finance, effort and resources on ridiculous projects attempting to maintain niche habitats for remnant populations of niche-exploiting species whose time has passed. Who knows? We might even try to help the hapless human populations trapped in wealthy elitists' nature-museum playgrounds.

"India's new loos save lives" - "An Indian group has fought against poor sanitation by building more than one million household toilets since its founding in 1970." (The Christian Science Monitor)

"How deep is your ecology?" — "The New Age versus the New Militants in hardline environmentalism" (Elanor Taylor, SIRC)

"Moore Wisdom Needed" - "Ah, global warming. Well, we're going through one of the cooler periods for the planet…It would be wonderful if Canada was a little warmer," said Patrick Moore, with a wry smile. This was one of the more playful quips told me by one of Greenpeace's co-founders. He was with me as a speaker in New York for the Congress of Racial Equality's recent event on "eco-imperialism." (Roger Bate, TCS)

"NGOs: Dependent 'Independents'" (PDF) - "Curious exhortations last week by crusading Commissioner David Byrne elevated questions over the deceptive role played by the Commission funded, yet purportedly “independent” lobby of NGOs (“non-governmental organizations”). NGOs claim to represent “civil society” albeit completely free of any requirement to disclose financial backing and, if any, their constituency. Still, evidence is increasingly available that the NGO lobby may be little more than a collection of front groups seeking to advance Commission and, often, big business agendas." (Christopher C. Horner, EU Reporter)

"The Self-Appointed Altruists" - "Their arrival portends rising local prices and a culture shock. Many of them live in plush apartments, or five star hotels, drive SUV's, sport $3000 laptops and PDA's. They earn a two figure multiple of the local average wage. They are busybodies, preachers, critics, do-gooders, and professional altruists.

Always self-appointed, they answer to no constituency. Though unelected and ignorant of local realities, they confront the democratically chosen and those who voted them into office. A few of them are enmeshed in crime and corruption. They are the non-governmental organizations, or NGO's." (Sam Vaknin, opinioneditorials.com)

"Poor Nations Must Catch Up on Science, UN Told" - "UNITED NATIONS - Poor nations must develop their own science and technology capabilities or risk falling farther and farther behind the industrialized world, a group of 90 national science academies reported last week.

The inability of most poor countries to keep up with rapid technological change shows that current models of technology transfer and international aid are not working well, the InterAcademy Council said in a report to the United Nations.

"Enhancing science and technology capacity in developing countries is truly a necessity and not a luxury," the report concluded, citing a growing gap between the world's "have" and "have not" countries." (Reuters)

Gwynne Dyer with a "Somebody do something! is gonna get us!": "Dyer: Earth to humans: Pay attention to world's known dangers" - "Now we have to worry about gamma rays, too. University of Kansas astrophysicist Adrian Melott told the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society last month that the Ordovician extinction, which wiped out most of the species on Earth 440 million years ago, was probably caused by a huge burst of gamma rays from outer space. A giant star around 10,000 light years from here exploded, and when the resulting gamma rays struck our planet they destroyed the ozone layer and created a toxic brown smog that cut the sunlight reaching the surface in half. Over two-thirds of the species that then existed became extinct. Oh, and you can expect another such event every few hundred million years." (St Louis Tribune)

"New evidence points to pollution as main cause of much coral reef destruction" - "In the current issue of the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, Harbor Branch scientists present new experimental evidence in the contentious debate over the main causes of coral reef destruction around the world. Their study suggests pollution from such sources as sewage and agricultural runoff, rather than overfishing, is the main cause of the coral-smothering spread of seaweed on many reefs." (Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution)

"For Salmon, the Ocean is Complicated - Has the PDO shifted to favor Columbia Basin salmon?" - "It's complicated.

That's the word from researchers at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held last week in Portland.

Of course we already knew it was complicated. Over the past 100 years -- based on catch records and other data -- Pacific salmon have gone through a boom and bust cycle. Decades of good years followed by decades of bad years. Salmon return in great numbers in Alaska when the nets are empty down on the Columbia and vice versa.

The reason for this shifting abundance is called the PDO -- Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Shifting currents in the Pacific ocean bring changes in winds and water temperatures which in turn bring different food sources for salmon and different precipitation patterns inland -- which can mean more or less water at the right time for salmon spawning streams.

Sometimes the weather and ocean favored Columbia Basin salmon -- set them up with lots of nice fatty good stuff to eat and cool water to enjoy -- other times the water was warmer and the food more scarce, or less nutritious. The bottom line is when things are good in the ocean -- more salmon survive and return to spawn.

Things change every 20 to 30 years -- from "positive to negative" or from cooler to wetter. While a cool or warm pattern lasts over decades, it seemed to flip from one to the other rather quickly in relative terms. When it does, the marine critters readily respond.

"We see fundamental changes in ecosystem structure occurring almost instantaneously," NOAA researcher Franklin Schwing told the Oregonian.

About a year or two after researchers at the University of Washington and Oregon State University identified the PDO as a major player in salmon abundance, however, something was happened out in the ocean itself. Something changed. Was it a shift in the PDO?" (Ed Hunt, Tidepool)

"Curbing coal generation key to CO2 target" - "LONDON - Britain will easily meet its target under the Kyoto climate change protocol to cut greenhouse gas emissions but meeting the government's more ambitious goal to curb pollution depends on reducing coal burnt in electricity generation, a report says." (Reuters)

"Pollution Is Blamed for Thinner Air at Edge of Atmosphere" - "Scientists say they have found strong new evidence that carbon dioxide, the main smokestack and tailpipe emission linked to global warming, is cooling and shrinking the atmosphere's outermost layers in ways that could aid as well as endanger space activities.

The average density of the air in the region more than 60 miles up — just a trillionth of that near the surface — has dropped 10 percent over the last 36 years, and it could decline by a total of 50 percent by the end of the century, scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington report.

The effect had long been predicted, but observations showing that it is occurring have been scant.

Satellites, less affected by friction with the outer atmosphere, should be able to stay aloft longer but may be in more danger from collisions with orbiting debris, which would also last longer, the scientists said.

The only logical cause for the contraction and cooling is the rising level of carbon dioxide, the researchers said. The other possible influences, including variations in the sun, have been accounted for, said Dr. John T. Emmert, a George Mason University researcher working at the Navy lab, who is the lead author of a paper in the current Journal of Geophysical Research — Space Physics.

The link to carbon dioxide is very likely, Dr. Emmert said, adding, "There are not that many other options left." (Andrew C. Revkin, New York Times)

February 9, 2004

"Canadian Guidelines Reject Universal Salt Restriction" - "Recommendations issued on behalf of The Canadian Hypertension Society, The Canadian Coalition for High Blood Pressure Prevention and Control, The College of Family Physicians of Canada, The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, and the Chronic Disease Prevention Division, Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Control, Health Canada, do not include restricting salt intake for a majority of Canadians." (Media Release) | Referenced study (PDF)

"White House reviews how agencies get their facts - Standardized peer review proposed" - "WASHINGTON -- Federal agencies can spend years, sometimes a decade or longer, writing rules and regulations designed to protect the public against threats to health, safety and the environment. Air pollution limits, wetlands protection rules and the design of child safety seats all depend on science experiments and studies.

But the place where science, regulation, the government and private interests intersect -- the real world of market competition, permits, fines and lawsuits -- has become a bitter conflict zone in recent years. Government rules are supposed to be based on science, but many a scientific study can become the target of a turkey shoot from opponents armed with their own scientific studies and information and playing to the court of public opinion.

So it's no surprise that a proposed overhaul of the way the government handles the scientific information used to support its vast net of regulations has raised a storm of controversy and sharp divisions among scientists, professors, bureaucrats, environmental and public health groups and industry organizations." (The Times-Picayune)

Does the "precautionary principle" hinder progress? - Betterhumans.com Poll, Feb. 09, 2004

"Housing hurdles" - "A lot of people who can't afford it are paying for the ego trips of environmental zealots." (Thomas Sowell, The Washington Times)

"Rise of suburban terrorist has British scientists on the run" - "The success of animal rights activists in halting a new Cambridge laboratory has led to increasing threats of violence, write Jack Grimston and Gareth Walsh" (The Sunday Times)

"Noxious undersea eruptions killing billions of fish" - "Undersea eruptions of noxious hydrogen sulphide are having a major impact on one of the world's richest fisheries. Satellite images show that toxic eruptions off the coast of Namibia are more frequent and widespread than anyone realised." (New Scientist)

The Week That Was February 7, 2004 (SEPP)

"Is the Dogma Unravelling?" - "This smallish volume, "Man-Made Global Warming: Unravelling a Dogma" by Hans Labohm, Simon Rozendahl and Dick Thoenes is dedicated to "debunking the man-made global warming scare" (p.vii). It is published in the UK but written by three Dutch authors (two chemists and one International Relations scholar with training in economics) in the context of the Netherlands and its ambitious climate protection policy.

The book is as accessible as it is biased against Dutch conventional wisdom. It deliberately gives (with many references) climate sceptics a voice and while by no means unkind to the IPCC's bench scientists, the authors reject the global "authority" of that august if nebulous institution." (Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen, TCS)

"Putin to Europe's Rescue" - "I try to picture myself as Vladimir Putin, listening intently in my Kremlin office while a slightly pudgy, decidedly bookish economics expert briefs me on carbon-dioxide emissions.

Clearly and methodically, he lays out the case for why the Russian Federation should not ratify the Kyoto Protocol mandating drastic cuts in CO2 emissions over the next several years. He has a PowerPoint presentation, with charts and graphs and statistical models, showing why the climate-change treaty is a bad idea, why it won't have any real effect on global warming, why it is far from certain to what extent humans are responsible for said warming, and why assuming so based on shaky science will cause devastating damage to the country's economy (as well as the rest of the world's). After about five minutes of this, I (as Putin) find myself thinking, "How much longer do I have to sit here and listen to this? It's winter. It's cold. Why am I not skiing?"

Putin may be famously inscrutable (to all except President Bush, who has looked within his soul), and his record on human rights and democracy may be a tad questionable, but he's certainly no fool. It wouldn't take him very long to see that ratifying Kyoto would be an economic disaster for Russia -- not to mention the rest of the developed and developing world. So why does Illarionov need his PowerPoint schtick and why is he taking it on the road? Because not everybody else is so quick to see reason." (Craig Winneker, TCS)

"Global warming is real terror war says top adviser" - "THE government’s chief scientific adviser is to criticise the American government for what he claims is inaction over global climate change when he makes a keynote speech in Seattle this week.

Sir David King has decided to use an invitation to a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science — the country’s most prestigious science event — to warn President George W Bush publicly that his inaction on the issue is unscientific and unacceptable.

He will say that climate change is a bigger long-term threat to Europe and America than global terrorism and will call for the United States to make a decision on joining the international effort to combat it." (Jonathan ['thousands to die'] Leake, The Sunday Times)

"April 28, 1975 Newsweek: 'The Cooling World'" - "A big topic on the program this week has been the absolute phony fraud of global warming. I happened to mention, "I remember everybody going on and on about the coming ice age and global cooling in the 70s." Lo and behold, we dug up an April 28, 1975 Newsweek (.pdf || text) column headlined, 'The Cooling World.'" (The Rush Limbaugh Show)

"Editorial: Global warming/Dire warnings from Pentagon" - "Discussions of global warming's probable impacts tend to have a good news/bad news tenor, and often a tone of plucky optimism -- sure, we may be growing cotton instead of corn in Minnesota someday, but we can adapt to that.

Part of this complacency derives from large uncertainties about what those impacts will be, and how gradually they may be felt. Though the warming trend is clear, and the role of human contributions well understood, forecasting the effects remains an exercise in conjecture." (Star Tribune)

"Global warming will land us all in deep hot water" - "THE first few weeks of 2004 – with temperatures lurching from sub-zero to near-summer balm within days, all unpredictably laced with snow and rain, gales and floods – is as good a time as any to reflect on the state of play in our efforts to use energy more efficiently and combat disruptive climate change." (Sunday Herald)

"City faces flooding nightmare" - "A MASSIVE flood warning was today issued to the Lothians in a top-level report into future climate change. Serious coastal floods will be up to five times more likely in the region by 2050, the alarming study reveals. Devastating floods which generally strike once every 100 years will become twice as common. And coastal floods which currently strike parts of the Lothians once every 50 years will become far more common, hitting the region every ten to 15 years, according to the climate change review by environmental consultants Babtie. Similar floods caused by river banks bursting will be around twice as likely by 2080. The Scottish Executive-commissioned report gives the first regional breakdown of the likelihood of flooding this century. Rising sea levels, caused by global warming and heavier rainfall in the winter months, have been blamed for the increased flood risk. But council leaders in the Lothians today attempted to allay fears of flooding chaos - insisting it had plans in place to cope with the growing risk." (Evening News)

"IRELAND: Cullen's Kyoto Treaty targets attacked" - "There is a real danger that the burden of meeting Kyoto commitments will now fall on households, car-owners and farms," Labour's environment spokesman has said. Mr Éamon Gilmore was commenting on a decision to allow large industries maintain their existing levels of carbon dioxide emissions." (The Irish Times)

"IRELAND: Fuel poverty could be factor in 2,000 deaths, says new report" - "Almost one-in-ten Irish households suffer from persistent "fuel poverty", making the State's record one of the worst in northern Europe, according to a new report." (The Irish Times)

"Emissions plan 'could cripple car industry'" - "TREASURY officials have privately conceded to car manufacturers that plans to cut carbon dioxide emissions by up to 20 per cent could cripple the automotive industry.

The admission, made in a meeting last week between civil servants and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, has raised hopes that ministers may retreat from the ambitious carbon reduction targets they set last month.

It also revealed deep divisions across the Government on how to introduce the carbon emissions trading scheme required under EU law." (The Times)

"'Out of Gas': They're Not Making More" - "If all you knew about David Goodstein was the title of his book, you might imagine him to be one of those insufferably enthusiastic prophets of doom, the flannel-shirted, off-the-grid types who take too much pleasure in letting us know that the environment is crumbling all around us. But Goodstein, a physicist, vice provost of the California Institute of Technology and an advocate of nuclear power, is no muddled idealist. And his argument is based on the immutable laws of physics.

The age of oil is ending, he says. The supply will soon begin to decline, precipitating a global crisis. Even if we substitute coal and natural gas for some of the oil, we will start to run out of fossil fuels by the end of the century. ''And by the time we have burned up all that fuel,'' he writes, ''we may well have rendered the planet unfit for human life. Even if human life does go on, civilization as we know it will not survive.'' (New York Times)

"Tilting at Windmills" - "What's all wrong with 'energy independence.'" (Steve Chapman, Slate)

"Protected wheat varieties" - "The music scene isn't the only industry concerned about pirated copies. It's a concern in farming as well. Possession isn't necessarily nine-tenths of the law, especially if the purchase is a wheat variety protected by the Plant Variety Protection Act. This misunderstood and often-ignored law may soon become more stringently enforced, largely due to the stepped-up use of DNA plant testing." (Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications)

"Schmeiser win could hurt seed research" - "A farmer's ability to save seed for next year's planting, at the heart of the fight between Monsanto Inc. and Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser, is incompatible with patent rights required by seed companies to develop new products, says the companies' representative.

"Within the current Patent Act, we're saying there is no so-called farmer privilege to save seed," Bill Leask, executive vice-president of the Canadian Seed Trade Association, said in a Jan. 29 interview. "We don't think there should be."

He said Canadian patent laws must offer at least the same intellectual property protections as laws in competitor countries or Canada will lose access to seed research investment and even the use of genetically modified seeds developed elsewhere." (The Western Producer)

"US-European row on gene crops set to trouble UN biodiversity talks" - "PARIS - A three-week gathering on the United Nations' biodiversity accord is to get underway here on Monday to likely friction between the United States and Europe over genetically modified organisms (GMOs)." (AFP)

"Wales blocks go-ahead for Britain's first GM crop" - "The government has been forced to postpone plans to announce today the go-ahead for GM crops in Britain after Wales and Scotland refused to cooperate.

The announcement was supposed to allow, in principle, the first GM crop in Britain, a strain of GM maize called Chardon LL or T25 and patented by Bayer. The crop came out well in the three-year crop trials.

The Welsh executive, which is keen to foster organic farming, was eager to safeguard farmers and declined to give permission for the crop.

Scottish opposition to Chardon LL was more muted because maize is a warm weather crop, so none would be grown north of the border. But the Scottish executive has also refused permission." (The Guardian)

"Brazil's Lower House Approves GMO Soy For 2004-2005 Season" - "Brazil's lower house approved a new biosecurity bill that would allow farmers to plant and sell genetically modified soybeans in the 2004-05 season. The extension of the law allowing GMO use and sale till early 2006 was an eleventh hour addition to the bill, which will lay out the approval process for new agricultural technology.

The bill will now be sent to the Senate for a vote. However, final government approval of GMO seeds, such as Monsanto's Roundup Ready, could be far off following modifications to the bill.

Under pressure from Environment Minister Marina Silva, Renildo Calheiros, the bill's sponsor in the lower house, changed the wording to give environment and health authorities the right to request impact studies before GMOs can be commercially used." (OsterDowJones Commodity News)

"Open Wide for Genetically Modified Bite" - "LIKE it or not, genetically modified food is already in the South African food chain quite possibly in the next snack you bite into.

Maize and soya, the two genetically modified food crops approved by government, are used in a wide variety of processed foods. Chocolate, for example, contains lecithin, an emulsifier derived from soya.

Since SA does not have segregation facilities to separate genetically modified from conventionally bred crops, there is always a chance that the soya or maize eaten in SA contains a genetically modified component.

Last month the health department passed new regulations to the Food, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, which require producers to label genetically modified food only if it has a different nutritional content to conventional food, has a different composition, or requires different handling and preparation." (Business Day (Johannesburg))

February 6, 2004

"Has Kerry Helped Vietnam Sue Over Agent Orange?" - "When Howard Dean challenged Sen. John Kerry’s effectiveness as a senator last week, Sen. Kerry defended himself in part by noting that he helped pass Agent Orange benefits for Vietnam veterans.

That’s true, but it was a good deed done for the wrong reason ― one that has opened the door for Vietnam to bilk billions of dollars from U.S taxpayers." (Steven Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"Scientific Inquiry and Freedom" Editor's note: What follows is a statement made recently before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. (Sallie Baliunas, TCS)

"Sweden takes EU Commission to court over herbicide" - "STOCKHOLM, Feb 5 - Sweden will sue the European Commission in the European Court of Justice for its decision to allow the use of the herbicide paraquat, the environment ministry said on Thursday." (Reuters)

"A link between thimerosal and the brain: Can vaccines affect central nervous system function?" - "Scientists have found that exposure to ethanol and heavy metals (including lead, aluminum and the ethylmercury-containing preservative thimerosal) interrupt growth factor signaling, causing adverse effects on methylation reactions, which play a significant role in regulating normal DNA function and gene expression, and are critical to proper neurological development in infants and children. This work helps to explain how exposure to metals and thimerosal may lead to serious disorders of childhood, including autism and ADHD." (Molecular Psychiatry)

"Mercury Threat To Fetus Raised - EPA Revises Risk Estimates" - "A new government analysis nearly doubled the estimate of the number of newborn children at risk for health problems because of unsafe mercury levels in their blood. Environmental Protection Agency scientists said yesterday that new research had shown that 630,000 U.S. newborns had unsafe levels of mercury in their blood in 1999-2000.

The key factor in the revised estimates is research showing differences in mercury levels in the blood of pregnant women and their unborn children. In a Jan. 26 presentation at EPA's National Forum on Contaminants in Fish, in San Diego, EPA biochemist Kathryn R. Mahaffey said researchers in the last few years had shown that mercury levels in a fetus's umbilical cord blood are 70 percent higher than those in the mother's blood." (Washington Post)

"15 blood donors developed vCJD" - "Researchers reveal problems disease causes blood services" (The Guardian)

"CDC says carbs to blame for rising calorie intake" - "ATLANTA - Americans, especially women, are consuming far more calories than they did three decades ago, and the carbohydrate food group is largely to blame, according to a federal study released on Thursday." (Reuters)

"Household chores kick up a dust storm" - "Simply walking around your home can increase your exposure to particulate pollution, research reveals. The study measured the amount of dust kicked up by household activities such as walking, dancing, making a bed and vacuum cleaning.

"The more vigorous the activity, the more dust you get," says Andrea Ferro of Stanford University in California, who led the work. Surprisingly, that includes vacuum cleaning, which creates a flurry of dust, not all of which ends up in the machine.

Our homes are filled with dust particles, created by smoking, cooking and heating appliances. The particles - which are just a few micrometres in diameter - are implicated in asthma and diseases of the heart and lungs." (NSU)

"Space agency says aerosol particles, gases obscuring Indian skies" - "BANGALORE, India — India's space agency said Wednesday it's launching a major study of tiny airborne particles called aerosols, which are increasingly polluting the country's skies and hampering satellite observation of the Earth.

Vehicles fitted with special equipment will ply southern India's roads this month to check the composition and spread of the particles, especially those produced by industry and coal burning, the Indian Space Research Organization said in a statement." (Associated Press)

"Ecosystem consequences of a single, genetically based plant trait" - "Climate is often touted as the most important regulator of decomposition and nutrient cycling processes in forest ecosystems, however, in the forthcoming issue of Ecology Letters, Schweitzer and her research team from Northern Arizona University and the University of Wisconsin, USA, demonstrate that plant genes can have strong effects on the availability of nitrogen for tree growth, via a tight coupling between chemicals produced by plants to deter herbivory and rates of soil nitrogen turnover. They found that the concentration of condensed tannins in leaf litter produced by cottonwood trees is genetically based, and explains the majority of the variation in the production of plant-available nitrogen in soil.

In contrast, climatic factors and other litter chemical traits were poor predictors of nitrogen cycling rates. Their research suggests that genetic variation within plant species should be considered when developing habitat conservation plans or models of ecosystem responses to global climate change." (Blackwell Publishing Ltd.)

Definitely: "Orbital tracking reveals thinning upper atmosphere" - "The orbits of 27 free-floating objects in Earth's uppermost atmosphere have not dropped as much as expected over the last 30 years, according to a study published on Thursday.

The finding suggests that the thermosphere, the part of the atmosphere rising from 90 to 1000 kilometres above Earth, is cooling and decreasing in density by two to five per cent per decade.

The researchers attribute the change to the same greenhouse gases thought to cause global warming near the Earth's surface. If the trend continues, the thermosphere may lose half its density by 2100, prolonging the orbital lifetimes of both satellites and space junk.

... [except:]

Theoretical simulations and previous measurements of atmospheric temperatures and the orbits of a handful of space objects have supported the idea that the upper atmosphere is cooling.

But radar measurements of the height of electrons in the ionosphere, which lies above the thermosphere, have produced conflicting results. "It's a controversial topic right now," says Woods.

The 11-year solar cycle actually changes the thermosphere's density by a factor of five - a much larger effect than that of greenhouse-gas-induced cooling." (NewScientist.com news service)

Just wondering, how certain are we of the accuracy of 70s-technology measurements here used as a baseline? It appears we have a very definite vague possibility with a strong supportive maybe (unless it's not). Right...

"Let Them Confess Their Faith" - "It wasn't long after I became a research scientist that I learned that scientists aren't the unbiased, impartial seekers of truth I always thought they were. Scientists have their own agendas, philosophies, pre-conceived notions, and pet theories. These views end up influencing their science. Nowhere does this have a greater impact on the science than in global warming theory.

When confronted with a new, policy-relevant science problem, there are always scientists that will immediately rush to judgment about a "possible" environmental catastrophe. In the 1970's it was an impending ice age. In the late 1980's it was inflated global warming predictions. Most recently both extremes have morphed into the possibility that global warming will actually cause an ice age for Europe. In an age when popular culture helps to blur the line between science fiction and reality, our imaginations are fired by the thought of an ice sheet advancing on a city, or unexplained increases in severe weather.

On February 4 I testified in a congressional hearing that was held to explore the role that science plays in public policy formulation. I tried to explain that science always involves assumptions, and so scientific conclusions are only valid if the assumptions hold up. And there are always additional, unstated assumptions that the scientist isn't even aware of!" (Dr. Roy Spencer, TCS)

"Cloud Forest Plants May Not Survive Climate Change" - "Many species of plants in the Amazon cloud forest may not survive the dramatic climate changes forecast to occur within the next 100 years, according to a study that tracks 48,000 years of climate change in the region. " (Wake Forest University)

"Century may bring unprecedented climate change to southern hemisphere" - "The new century may bring hundreds or even thousands of plant and animal extinctions to the Andes Mountains of Peru according to new research by Florida Institute of Technology Paleo-Ecologist Mark Bush. Bush's findings, chronicled in the Feb. 6 issue of the prestigious journal Science, result from the study of the first continuous record of Andean climate change during the past 48,000 years." (Florida Institute of Technology)

All this angst and fretting on the strength of warming actually programmed into computer models (a.k.a. video games).

"The scoop on poop: Insect feces, dead leaves may provide clues to health of world" - "Insect feces and leaf litter in the rainforest may provide important clues to better understanding global climate change, according to a group of scientists conducting research in the Panamanian rainforest on a JASON Project expedition." (Smithsonian Institution)

Oh Krupp! "Global Warming: Connecticut's Already Feeling The Heat" - "Mainstream scientists around the world agree that climate change is real and that human activity is the primary culprit. Global warming is already impacting Connecticut and, if ignored, the problem will begin to fundamentally change the state's public health, coastlines, commercial fisheries and economy. And not for the better.

A new study by Environmental Defense shows temperatures around Connecticut increased noticeably during the 20th century. If the warming continues unchecked, by 2050 the state is projected to have an additional 10 more high-heat-stress days a year than it did in the 1990s. In fact, high-end temperature projections show that Hartford's average temperatures by the end of the century could be similar to those of Raleigh, N.C., today. Elderly and low-income groups are most vulnerable to heat stress. Living in urban centers increases the risk for these communities, many of which have limited access to air conditioning, adequate medical care and other resources." (Fred Krupp, Hartford Courant)

"Shanghai may slide under waves in 600 years -paper" - "SHANGHAI, Feb 6 - Rising sea levels due to global warming mean the gleaming skyscrapers of China's financial hub Shanghai could be entirely submerged in 600 years, a state newspaper said on Friday.

Academics worry that Shanghai, which state media report sank as much as 2.63 metres (8 ft 7 ins) between 1921 and 1965 due to the overpumping of underground water, may descend further under the weight of a construction frenzy of the past decade.

The sea had risen 20 mm (0.8 ins) since 2000 and should keep climbing over the next decade, the Shanghai Daily said, citing a report from the State Ocean Administration." (Reuters)

"Don't say global warming" - "We don't call it global warming anymore. That wouldn't register with most folks in Canada who've endured a bone-chilling, teeth-chattering winter.

Now, it's called climate change. And no less an authority than Environment Minister David Anderson tells us it represents a greater threat to the international community than terrorism.

Anderson made that astonishing claim this week as the federal government sought to explain why the Kyoto accord is back on Ottawa's agenda, towed out of the snowbank in which it had been lodged for months." (Peter Hadekel, The Montreal Gazette)

"Big part of USA has been on ice for a month" - "If it seems colder and snowier than usual, it's no winter mirage.

In much of the Great Plains, Midwest and Northeast, temperatures are down — sometimes to historic lows — and snowfall is up. Nearly 54% of the contiguous 48 states is snow-covered." (USA TODAY)

"No link between Russia-EU relations and signing of Kyoto protocol: Russia" - "Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on Wednesday rejected any attempt to link Russia's relations with the European Union to the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.

"The Kyoto Protocol is not an issue of discussion that determines relations between Russia and the European Union," Ivanov said, reacting to an appeal by European countries that Moscow adhere to the protocol, a move that would allow the United Nations' agreement to curb climate change to enter into force.

"This issue is a global one that must be considered taking into account our economic interests," he said, speaking at a joint press conference with his visiting Italian counterpart Franco Frattini.

His comments came after an appeal Tuesday by the French and German environment ministers for Russia to sign the protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol requires industrialised signatory countries to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, the carbon-based pollution that is a by-product of burning fossil fuels and which is blamed for driving climate change.

The United States walked away from the deal in 2001.

That means Russia holds the protocol's future in its hands under the accord's ratification arithmetic." (Agence France-Presse) [Complete]

"Country Life opposes onshore windfarms..." - "The latest edition of the magazine, Country Life (February 5), carries an excellent Editorial against the development of onshore wind farms in the UK. Under the heading, 'Jolly Awful Green Giants' (p. 35), it argues that a whole suite of current applications for wind farms are "about to assault the countryside" and that these "should be opposed vehemently." I entirely agree." (Philip Stott, EnviroSpin Watch)

"Seeing how plants split water could provide key to our future energy needs" - "The possibility of using the Earth's abundant supply of water as a cheap source of hydrogen is a step closer thanks to researchers from Imperial College London. By mimicking the method plants use to split water, researchers say that a highly energy efficient way to form cheap supplies of hydrogen fuel may be possible in the future." (Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine)

"Environmentalists Target Ford for Broken Pledge to Improve SUV Efficiency - Ads Depicting Bill Ford Jr. as "Pinocchio" Unveiled Today in NY Times" - "San Francisco, CA – This week, nearly three dozen environmental organizations targeted Bill Ford Jr, the CEO of Ford Motors, as part of a national ad campaign that accuses him of breaking his pledge of four years ago to dramatically increase the fuel mileage of Ford's popular lineup of sport utility vehicles by 2005. Led by the national environmental group Bluewater Network, based in San Francisco, the illustrated ad depicts Mr. Ford with an elongated nose, with the headline, "Bill Ford Jr. or Pinocchio? Don't Buy His Environmental Rhetoric. Don't Buy His Cars." (Press Release)

Well, can't say you weren't warned about pandering to antis Bill - wotcha gonna do now? Your bosses, the shareholders (be they multi-billion dollar pension funds or mom and pop savers trying to put together a nest-egg for retirement), must make a profit and consumers (you remember them, the people who actually pay the money) will not buy vehicles that do not meet their needs or suit their wants, without regard to the wishes of the anti brigade.

"Diesel makes for more smog" - "Widespread use of diesel engines, often thought of as 'greener' than the petrol alternatives, would make the air smoggier, according to new research." (NSU)

"Organic food contaminated with GM" - "A wide range of 'organic' food products on sale in the United Kingdom contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients, according to a study due to be published in April. The revelation has prompted organisations that certify food as organic and GM-free, such as the Soil Association, to hurriedly review their procedures." (NSU)

"Technology for Life: How Biotech Will Save Billions from Starvation" (PDF) - "Today, most people around the world have access to a greater variety of nutritious and affordable foods than ever before, thanks mainly to developments in agricultural science and technology. The average human lifespan—arguably the most important indicator of quality of life—has increased steadily in the past century in almost every country. Even in many less developed countries, life spans have doubled over the past few decades. Despite massive population growth, from 3 billion to more than 6 billion people since 1950, the global malnutrition rate decreased in that period from 38 percent to 18 percent. India and China, two of the world’s most populous and rapidly industrializing countries, have quadrupled their grain production." (Gregory Conko and C.S. Prakash, The American Enterprise)

"[New Zealand] Greens to host author attacked by liberals" - "Green MP Sue Kedgley has agreed to host a public meeting for a visiting American author who is under attack for not disclosing his links with the transcendental meditation movement.

Jeffrey M. Smith, whose book Seeds of Deception has been republished in New Zealand by Green Party candidate Craig Potton, is described in the book as having worked on genetically modified foods for "nonprofit and political groups".

The Auckland-based Institute for Liberal Values has produced a 5000-word report showing that those nonprofit groups were associated with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's transcendental meditation (TM) movement based in Fairfield, Iowa, where Mr Smith lives.

He confirmed in Auckland yesterday that he worked for the movement and stood as a candidate for the US Congress for its Natural Law Party in 1998." (New Zealand Herald)

"'Bioconfinement' Baloney" - "Call it revenge for The Battle of Trenton. It's believed those nasty rats that ravage inner cities and cost us more than $1 billion annually in damage arrived on Hessian mercenary ships. Indeed, throughout North American history humans have been bringing (accidentally and intentionally) all manner of destructive microbes, plants, fish and animals. But that's just fine it seems – unless the new organisms are biotechnology.

At least so it would seem from the reaction of both the media and anti-biotech groups to a new report from the National Academy of Science's National Research Council concerning "bioconfinement" of genetically engineered organisms. "Genes Run Wild" read one headline.

But to actually read the study is to find, "It is likely that most of the vast array of proposed genetically engineered organisms will pose little threat to public health or the environment, and they will require minimal confinement if any." The ones already commercialized (since 1985) have done nothing but good." (Michael Fumento, Scripps Howard News Service)

February 5, 2004

"Vietnamese file Agent Orange suit" - "Vietnamese victims have filed their first lawsuit against US companies that produced the toxic defoliant used by American forces during the Vietnam War.

A newly-formed victims' group submitted the suit on behalf of two women and a man to a US federal court.

American veterans exposed to the herbicide, known as Agent Orange, have complained for years about health problems and sued some of the makers." (BBC News Online)

"Gulf war syndrome: the legal case collapses" - "An eight-year, multimillion pound legal battle by more than 2,000 veterans for compensation for Gulf war syndrome has collapsed because there is not enough scientific evidence to prove their case in court.

The Legal Services Commission (LSC), which is estimated to have spent around £4m on the case, is expected to withdraw legal aid this month after being told by the veterans' lawyers that the action has no real chance of success. Taking the case to trial in the high court could cost a further £4m in legal aid.

But a trawl by scientists through 10 years of research worldwide, overseen by the veterans' lawyers and funded by the LSC, has found no evidence which establishes any specific cause for the range of health problems they suffer." (The Guardian)

"Indian lawmakers uphold pesticide report on colas" - "NEW DELHI, Feb 4 - An Indian parliamentary panel on Wednesday upheld a report by an environmental group that said beverages made by Coca-Cola Co and PepsiCo Inc contained pesticides and called for tougher safety standards.

The panel was set up last August after a public outcry over the report by the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, which said drinks from the two firms contained dangerously high pesticide residue levels." (Reuters)

"Paint pellets are firing up safety debate" - "After a rise in injuries, towns question if paintball is appropriate for kids." (The Christian Science Monitor)

"Food labelling 'must be clearer'" - "Pressure is growing for clearer labelling and greater honesty about the ingredients in food and drink. The head of the new European Food Safety Authority has called for a ban on claims that foods high in salt, sugar and fat are healthy. Geoffrey Podger says enriching them with vitamins is not enough to justify the claims. And the consumer magazine Which? has called for clearer labelling of additives. In an interview for the BBC, Mr Podger said he wanted to put a stop to the practice of adding supplements such as vitamins to foods high in fat or sugar, so they can be marketed as healthy." (BBC News Online)

"Fighting fat the Finnish way" - "MPs from the health select committee are to visit Finland to investigate what lessons can be learnt about tackling obesity. Their long awaited report into what should be done about our widening waistlines, is due to be published around Easter. But as consumer groups call for tighter controls on the food industry, MPs are considering whether Finland's softly softly approach could work here. Finland's problem in the 70's was coronary heart disease rather than obesity. It had the highest rate of deaths from heart problems in the world, largely due to a flourishing dairy sector which played a big part in the Finnish diet. But as a result of an assertive public education campaign - to promote exercise and healthy diet - it has escaped the escalating obesity rates now emerging in Britain." (BBC News Online)

"U.S. exports bad diets" - "The World Health Organization's (WHO) global strategy on diet, physical activity and health is not just about preventing people from getting fat." (Neville Rigby, USA Today)

"Don't punish food companies for world's growing girth" - "America's obesity problems are getting weightier -- at home and abroad. A report last month showed that obesity, which is linked to diabetes, heart disease and cancer, cost the U.S. $75 billion in health care in 2003. If that weren't depressing enough, international health experts are accusing the U.S. of exporting its obesity problem in the form of junk food.

The report by RTI International, a U.S. research firm, bolsters a global consensus that the issue needs to be tackled. That's true. But in a case of mixing apples and oranges -- or, in this case, Twinkies and cigarettes -- some members of the World Health Organization (WHO) are pushing for global regulation of Big Food manufacturers modeled after the efforts that have worked so well against Big Tobacco. Among them: taxes on junk food and advertising limits.

The effort overlooks a critical difference. Unlike food companies, tobacco producers sell a product that has proved deadly and addictive even when used as intended. Not only do people have to eat to live, but nutritionists long have taught that there are no ''bad'' foods, only ''bad'' ways of using food." (USA Today)

"Science and Public Policy" - "I am testifying at an oversight hearing before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources on "The Impact of Science on Public Policy" today, Feb. 4, 2004. I was asked to submit testimony about how and why environmental predictions have gone wrong. What follows is the written version of my testimony. (I get a whole five minutes to speak.)" (Ronald Bailey, Reason Online)

"Killing People and Dreams - Beware the Eco-Imperialists" - "International environmentalists finally are being held accountable for the havoc they are wreaking around the world. On January 20, the Congress of Racial Equality — a 62-year-old, New York-based civil rights group — and the Women's National Republican Club convened a Manhattan teach-in to begin educating the public on a problem they call "eco-imperialism." The House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will explore this issue at a Wednesday-afternoon hearing on Capitol Hill.

Countless third worlders still plunge into darkness every dusk. After they fall asleep, they dream about such things as lights, running water, and the defeat of diseases that Westerners cannot even remember. Then these third worlders awaken...to none of the above.

American and European environmentalists help maintain this grim status quo, even as they claim to pursue the best interests of black, yellow, and brown people the world over. Meanwhile, these first-world citizens enjoy refrigerators, indoor plumbing, Internet access, and CAT scans. This toxic hypocrisy is the core of eco-imperialism." (Deroy Murdock, NRO)

"World Bank chiefs reject oil and coal proposals" - "The World Bank's management has rejected the key proposals of an independent review it commissioned that recommended the bank pull out of financing all oil and coal projects in the developing world.

A draft copy, seen by the FT, of the bank's response to the Extractive Industries Review (EIR) - a two-year review of the bank's role in financing oil, gas and mining - shows the management declining to propose several of its key recommendations to the bank's executive board for adoption.

Environmental campaigners reacted angrily to the management response, saying it showed the bank was not serious enough about protecting the environment.

The management response, prepared on behalf of James Wolfensohn, the bank's president, flatly rejects the ambitious proposal that the bank and its private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, should phase out its involvement in oil projects within five years and shift its financing to renewable energy.

"Adopting this policy would not be consistent with the World Bank Group mission of helping to fight poverty and improve the living standards of people in the developing world," the management report said." (Financial Times)

"Common Sense Environmentalism" - "Over the past 30 years, the Endangered Species Act has helped more than a few species to survive. Unfortunately, it has taken a toll on common sense.

Lawsuits alleging violation of the act delayed completion of the Tellico Dam in Tennessee because it would harm an endangered fish called the snail darter, and logging in the Northwest has been hampered by spurious claims of damage to the habitat of the Northern spotted owl.

Since the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, most Americans have come to identify themselves as environmentalists. Unfortunately, over the years a small faction of the movement has drifted farther and farther away from the original goals of environmentalism. These pseudo-environmentalists now pursue an agenda that has less to do with conserving resources, reducing pollution, and protecting wildlife than with attacking business and opposing certain products and technologies. Ironically, their efforts are often inimical to the protection of the environment—and to common sense, as well." (Henry I. Miller, Naples Daily News)

"Russia's desert set to bloom again" - "SCIENTISTS in Russia have resurrected Soviet plans to redirect two mighty Siberian rivers hundreds of miles to the south in a bid to undo one of the world’s worst economic disasters.

The £22 billion project would involve constructing a canal 200 metres wide and 16 metres deep for 2,500 kilometres from Siberia to the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.

Supporters believe it would solve a burgeoning water crisis in the area, which has undergone catastrophic desertification in recent decades.

They also claim the project could refill the Aral Sea - once the world’s fourth largest inland sea, which has shrunk to a quarter of its former size since 1960.

The Aral’s rapid shrinkage has left fishing boats that once plied the fertile waters as rusted hulks in a near-desert, miles from the shifting coastline.

The catastrophe began in the early 1960s, when Soviet officials began to use the waters of the two main rivers flowing into it, the Syrdarya and Amudarya, to irrigate the plains of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to grow cotton, a highly water-hungry crop.

Apart from refilling the Aral sea, scientists believe diverting Siberian rivers will ameliorate a new environmental threat: the increasing amount of fresh water flowing into the Arctic Ocean in the past ten years, probably due to global warming." (The Scotsman)

"A parking lot effect?" - "Spewing from factory stacks and car tail pipes, carbon dioxide is the poster child of "greenhouse gases." Most scientists long ago concluded that CO2 is the single biggest cause of climate change and that cutting its output is the best way to slow global warming.

So why are a tiny but growing number of atmospheric scientists taking a hard look at parking lots? Because, they say, land-use changes have at least as much, and perhaps even greater, impact on climate change than CO2. It's a radical idea that has heated up the scientific community and is prompting a wider look at the forces behind climate change. The effect on public policy could be enormous." (The Christian Science Monitor)

"Exxonmobil Releases Study on Energy Trends, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Alternative Energy" - "IRVING, Texas –– Feb. 4, 2004 – Exxon Mobil Corporation said in a report released today that the world will require about 40 percent more energy in 2020 than today and consumption levels will reach almost 300 million oil-equivalent barrels per day.

“Developing reliable, affordable supplies to meet this energy demand will be an enormous challenge. Meeting future demand and developing more efficient uses of energy while taking actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will make this challenge even greater,“ said Frank Sprow, the company’s vice president for Safety, Health and the Environment.

These sizeable increases in energy demand are projected despite continued improvements in energy efficiency. In total, ExxonMobil expects these efficiencies to be about 1 percent per year, because of improved vehicles, power plants, construction standards and other actions. If efficiency gains were achieved at only half this rate, the world would consume about 30 million additional barrels of oil-equivalent energy per day. To put this amount of energy in perspective, Western Europe currently consumes close to 30 million barrels per day." (BUSINESS WIRE)

"US Panel Says Hydrogen Car Is 25 Years Down the Road" - "WASHINGTON - Though the Bush administration has pegged pollution-free, hydrogen-powered cars as the way to curb the nation's addiction to crude oil, the government's top science advisors on Wednesday said the vehicles won't be readily available for another 25 years.

In 2003, President Bush launched a $1.2 billion initiative to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil by developing hydrogen-powered fuel cells to run cars and trucks as well as homes and businesses.

The administration wants to have the hydrogen cars on the market and available to consumers at an affordable price by 2020.

However, the report by a panel at the National Academy of Sciences shows that Americans should not hold their breath waiting for the cars to arrive in showrooms." (Reuters) | Press Release | Full Report

"Smog-busting paint soaks up noxious gases" - "A paint that soaks up some of the most noxious gases from vehicle exhausts will goes on sale in Europe in March. Its makers hope it will give architects and town planners a new weapon in the fight against pollution.

Called Ecopaint, the substance is designed to reduce levels of the nitrogen oxides, collectively known as the NOx gases, which cause respiratory problems and trigger smog production.

Patents filed last week show how the novel coating works. The paint's base is polysiloxane, a silicon-based polymer. Embedded in it are spherical nanoparticles of titanium dioxide and calcium carbonate 30 nanometres wide. Because the particles are so small, the paint is clear, but pigment can be added. The first paint to go on sale will be white." (New Scientist)

"Battle for Biotech Progress" - "I was raised in the tiny fishing and logging village of Winter Harbour on the northwest tip of Vancouver Island, where salmon spawned in the streams of the adjoining Pacific rainforest. In school I discovered ecology, and realized that through science I could gain insight into the natural beauties I had known as a child. In the late 1960s I was transformed into a radical environmental activist. A rag-tag group of activists and I sailed a leaky old halibut boat across the North Pacific to block the last hydrogen bomb tests under President Nixon. In the process I co-founded Greenpeace.

By the mid 1980s my interest was in "sustainable development" that would take environmental ideas and incorporate them into the traditional social and economic values that govern public policy and our daily behavior. Every morning, 6 billion people wake up with real needs for food, energy, and materials. The challenge is to provide for those needs in ways that reduce negative impact on the environment while also being socially acceptable and technically and economically feasible. Compromise and cooperation among environmentalists, the government, industry, and academia are essential for sustainability.

Not all my former colleagues saw things that way, however. Many environmentalists rejected consensus politics and sustainable development in favor of continued confrontation, ever-increasing extremism, and left-wing politics. At the beginning of the modern environmental movement, Ayn Rand published Return of the Primitive, which contained an essay by Peter Schwartz titled "The Anti- Industrial Revolution." In it, he warned that the new movement's agenda was anti-science, anti-technology, and anti-human. At the time, he didn't get a lot of attention from the mainstream media or the public. Environmentalists were often able to produce arguments that sounded reasonable, while doing good deeds like saving whales and making the air and water cleaner.

But now the chickens have come home to roost." (Patrick Moore, Biotech Bounty)

"Let Them Eat Precaution" - "On cue, at last fall's World Trade Organization meeting in Cancun, self anointed "Green" activists showed up to protest the use of gene modification (G.M.) technology in agriculture. A bevy of teenagers outfitted as monarch butterflies flitted through what resembled a Halloween riot. Dotted amongst the chanting demonstrators was an assortment of human side dishes including walking "killer" tomatoes, a man dressed as a cluster of drippy purple grapes, and a woman in a strawberry costume topped with a fish head peddling T-shirts that warned of the weird and horrid mutants that will be created if "Corporate America" and the "multinationals" get their way." (Jon Entine, Biotech Bounty)

"Gene transfer allows mammals to produce heart-healthy fats" - "Massachusetts General Hospital researchers have found that tissues from mice transgenic for a gene usually found in the c.elegans roundworm contain omega-3 fatty acids, consumption of which has been shown to protect against heart disease. Mammalian tissue usually does not contain omega-3s, and these findings could lead to development of omega-3-rich meat, milk and eggs." (Massachusetts General Hospital)

February 4, 2004

"The Health and Wealth Puzzle" - "Early last December, I traveled to Kenya and Uganda with a delegation of health experts to look at efforts to fight AIDS in Africa. What I saw was both depressing and inspirational: overwhelming numbers of the dying and orphaned, but impressive attempts to save them by drug companies, faith-based charities, and U.S. government agencies.

When I returned home, however, I realized that I had missed a big part of the story.

President George W. Bush has committed $15 billion over the next five years to combat HIV and AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean, and well-meaning people are searching, through trial and error, to find the best programs to get the job done. But even if AIDS were eradicated tomorrow, Africa would still suffer terribly from disease, environmental degradation, and natural disasters.

Why do nearly half of all Africans contract malaria every year and 2 million get tuberculosis -- diseases practically non-existent in the developed world? It's not the climate. Malaria and TB were horrors in the United States a few decades ago. Why these disparities?" (James K. Glassman, TCS)

"Naming and Praising Awards - February 2004" - "Yet another SIRC ‘Naming and Praising’ Award goes to Jeremy Laurance, the Independent’s Health Editor, for two of his recent articles." (SIRC)

Sadly, not a universal state at The Indy:

This crock - again: "The facts of (modern) life" - "Male fertility isn't what it used to be: sperm counts have halved in 50 years and disorders of the reproductive system are on the increase. What's causing the 'feminisation' of men? Steve Connor reports" (Independent)

"The scientific method" - "It's hard to imagine how thoughts could be transferred from one person to another. That doesn't mean that it cannot occur" (Lewis Wolpert, Independent)

"Are There Good Foods and Bad Foods?" - "The belief that some foods are better than others -- indeed that some foods are inherently good while others are inherently bad -- has become a well-accepted underpinning of current nutrition lore. What does it mean to speak of a food as being good or bad? How can you tell if the food you are eating is good or bad? Is it helpful or even possible to think about foods as being good or bad?" (Jon Robison, TCS)

"So that's why we can't fight our way into a paper bag" - "ONCE upon a time it was only champagne bottles that were difficult or sometimes dangerous to open.

Now increasing numbers of the population are finding it almost impossible to gain access to such everyday household requirements as bleach, jam, fruit juice, cat food or bottled sauces and there is the emergence of a phenomenon called “wrapping rage.” (The Times)

"Clouds shield pollutants going out to sea" - "NASA scientists have the first evidence more regional pollution lurks in clouds than in clear skies off the Asian coastline. This finding has implications for space-based attempts to monitor global pollution and for other populated regions around the world." (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center--EOS Project Science Office)

"Astronomers unravel a mystery of the Dark Ages" - "Scientists at Cardiff University, UK, believe they have discovered the cause of crop failures and summer frosts some 1,500 years ago – a comet colliding with Earth. The team has been studying evidence from tree rings, which suggests that the earth underwent a series of very cold summers around 536-540 AD, indicating an effect rather like a nuclear winter." (Cardiff University)

"Scientists find ozone-destroying molecule" - "For years, scientists theorized that a molecule called ClOOCl (the "chlorine dimer") in the stratosphere played a key role in destroying ozone. Now, scientists have observed the molecule for the first time. The rare dimer exists only in the particularly cold stratosphere over polar regions. ClOOCl triggers ozone destruction in three basic steps. The results were acquired during a joint US-European science mission, SOLVE/THESEO-2000, based in Kiruna, Sweden." (American Geophysical Union)

"Gas Guzzlers" - "New research shows how microscopic diatoms remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and may help keep the planet from overheating." (Smithsonian Magazine)

"Mount Kilimanjaro Is Visited with Snow" - "The recent appearance of new glaciers on top of Mount Kilimanjaro has kept away fears among the mountain lovers that snow on this roof-top of Africa will totally disappear and leave the mountain naked without its most attractive, eye-catching whitish cap . Slowly, the snow is building up again to cover the peak, said Dr. James Wakibara, the Chief Ecologist with Mount Kilimanjaro. Piling up of glaciers was a result of weather changes in East Africa after two consecutive years of dry weather.

"There has been rain on the mountain's eco-system while slight changes on weather in East African highlands have all made a very significant development on snow build up," Dr. Wakibara said early this week.

Sad stories about Mount Kilimanjaro's disappearing snow had inspired sympathies from mountain lovers all over the world after geologists and other scientists from America and Europe predicted the rapid melting of the mountain's snow, which makes it the most beautiful geographical feature in the whole of Africa." (TravelVideo.TV)

Psychosis must be a prerequisite for environment ministers: "Environment Minister says climate change bigger than fighting terrorism" - "VICTORIA - Climate change is a greater international enemy than terrorism, Environment Minister David Anderson said Tuesday." (CP)

but, since David's raised the topic... "Over-Humanizing the Enemy" - "Violence breeds violence -- but so can nonviolence. This is often forgotten in the debate over terrorism, as illustrated in some reviews of the new book by David Frum and Richard Perle, An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror. Perle and Frum lay out a bold plan to defend America. But more important than their specific proposals, they provide insight into how our leaders are confronting -- or not confronting -- the war on terrorism.

As a forensic psychologist, what I found most worthwhile about the book was this unapologetic attitude toward terrorists and terrorism. I believe the authors are correct when they promote strong tactics in dealing with terrorists. In fact, I believe that the liberal stance of trying too hard to "humanize" our enemies is a mistake that will make the problem worse, and produce more violence rather than less." (Dr. Helen Smit, TCS)

"Kyoto Protocol: France, Germany appeal for Russian ratification" - "LA BAULE, France : The environment ministers of France and Germany issued a joint appeal for Russia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, a move that would allow the United Nations' agreement to curb climate change to enter into force.

"Our joint action (in the fight against global warming) comes within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol and we renew our appeal to Russia to ratify the protocol," Germany's Juergen Trittin and France's Roselyne Bachelot said in a joint statement." (AFP)

"Emissions Trading Plan Riles Industry" - "As the EU goes ahead with a complex emissions allocation system that seeks to put a lid on greenhouse gases, Germany has begun contentious negotiations with industry on how the pollution credits will be doled out." (Deutsche Welle)

"Global Warming Makeover" - "Twenty years ago, it seemed that virtually everyone smoked. You couldn't sit in a restaurant for five minutes without stinking of cigarettes for hours. Now, in state after state, even biker bars are going smoke-free.

Clearly, there's been a dramatic shift in the public's attitude toward smoking – but it hasn't been an intellectual shift. Since the 1964 Surgeon General's report on the dangers of smoking, anyone tapping a cigarette out of a pack knew the possible health consequences. Still, through the combined magic of advertising and denial, for years the strongest image in many people's minds as they puffed away was Faye Dunaway romantically chain-smoking.

Over the past two decades, that image has changed. When a person fingers a cigarette today, she's more likely to envision a dying Yul Brynner denouncing smoking, or lying tobacco execs, or the Marlboro Man gasping for breath through a chest tube.

What's changed are the emotional images associated with smoking, the ones anti-tobacco activists worked so hard to publicize.

Could we apply tobacco-war lessons to the fight against global warming?" (Audrey Schulman, Grist Magazine)

Number Watch Number of the Month, February 2004, is online, even if not linked from the Number of the Month menu page.

From CO2 Science Magazine this week:

"Low-Frequency Signals in Long Tree-Ring Chronologies Reveal the Existence of Multi-Centennial-Scale Temperature Trends of the Past Millennium" * - "What do the newest findings suggest about the hockeystick temperature history of Mann et al., which serves as the centerpiece of the political movement that seeks to subvert the world community of nations' carbon-based economy?" (co2science.org)

*This editorial is dedicated to the memory of John Daly, who fought long and hard to demonstrate the non-uniqueness of late 20th century temperatures.  He will yet be recognized by all as having been correct on this important point.

Subject Index Summaries:
"Climate Oscillations (Millennial Variability: Europe)" - "From continent to continent, the story of earth's late-Holocene climatic history continues to repeat itself, oscillating from Little Ice Age to Modern Warm Period conditions on a solar-pegged schedule that repeats itself with considerable fidelity." (co2science.org)

"Agriculture (Species: Potato)" - "A summary of some of the recently published literature suggests that the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 content will significantly enhance the production of potatoes wherever they are grown throughout the world." (co2science.org)

Plant Growth Data:
"This week we add new results (blue background) of plant growth responses to atmospheric CO2 enrichment obtained from experiments described in the peer-reviewed scientific literature for: Maize, Rice, Sunflower, Tropical Tree and Velvet Leaf." (co2science.org)

Journal Reviews:
"Questions About Purported Late 20th Century Warmth Raised by Tree-Ring Data" - "More bad news for Mann et al., as analyses of maximum latewood density chronologies from trees sampled at close to 400 Northern Hemispheric locations fail to support their principal contentions, as well as those of the IPCC." (co2science.org)

"A 500-Year Temperature History of a Site on the North Coast of Sicily" - "Another study casts multiple doubts on the hockeystick temperature history of Mann et al. while providing support for the analysis of McIntyre and McKitrick." (co2science.org)

"A History and Projection of Global Sea Level" - "All we have to fear about the future, it would appear, is fear itself." (co2science.org)

"Effects of Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment on the Physiological and Biochemical Responses of Maize to Chilling Temperatures" - "Just as enriching the air with CO2 typically helps plants to tolerate warmer temperatures, it often helps them tolerate colder temperatures as well." (co2science.org)

"CO2-Induced Increases in Grassland Productivity: Do They Disappear Over Time?" - "Some would have you believe they do … but they are wrong." (co2science.org)

"Spill Spin" - "They did it again: U.S. District Judge H. Russell Holland in the U.S. District Court in Anchorage, Alaska, has just levied a fine totaling nearly $7 billion against Exxon Mobil Corp. for its part in the 1989 oil spill near Valdez, Alaska. As the headlines flash around the world, leading newspapers are regurgitating material from 15 years ago. For example, on Thursday the Washington Post reported that "The grounding of the Exxon Valdez on March 24, 1989, set off the largest oil spill in history, devastating area ecosystems and the local fishing industry."

Let's correct the record right up front: Far from being one of the largest oil spills in history, as reported by the Washington Post, the Prince William Sound spill was only 10.8 million gallons, and ranked a distant 54th. The Amoco Cadiz spilled nearly 70 million gallons of oil off the coast of Brittany, France, on March 16, 1978, over six times the oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez, and yet even this spill ranks only sixth. On June 3, 1979, the exploratory well IXTOC I blew in the Bay of Campeche off Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico, spewing 140 million gallons of oil into that beautiful bay. And even this ranks only number two. The all time "winner" is former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who caused the deliberate release of over 40.5 billion gallons of oil into the Persian Gulf, over 3,750 times the size of the Prince William Sound spill." (Robert G. Williscroft, TCS)

"Wind power puffery" - "Wind power's environmental benefits are usually overstated, while its significant environmental harms are often ignored." (H. Sterling Burnett, The Washington Times)

"Scientists develop plant that produces potential anti-carcinogen" - "A Purdue University researcher has successfully engineered plants that may not only lead to the production of anti-carcinogenic nutritional supplements, but also may be used to remove excess selenium from agricultural fields." (Purdue University)

"Monsanto: Ready to Blossom?" - "Shifting the focus from farm chemicals to the more lucrative gene-altered seeds hasn't been easy, but the effort could pay off big." (BusinessWeek)

"EC challenges biotech-free zones" - "03/02/2004 - The European Commission has warned that it might challenge member-state bans on biotech crops in the European Court of Justice. Bans have been imposed by Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg and the UK.

While farmers can group together voluntarily into biotech-free zones, the commission said in a seven-page document on food biotechnology that it would act against any national or regional laws preventing coexistence of biotech and conventional crops.
The EC says that coexistence deals only with GMOs that have been authorised in the EU, and are therefore considered to be safe from the environmental and human health point of view. A blanket ban of all GMOs cannot be justified in terms of protection of human health and the environment, and therefore cannot conform with EU law." (FoodNavigator.com)

"Brazil Paranagua port to allow 0.9 pct GMO soy" - "SAO PAULO, Brazil, Feb 3 - The port authority in Brazil's Parana state, which recently said its Paranagua port would be GMO-free, has agreed to allow up to 0.9 percent of the soy moving through it to be genetically modified, farm representatives and port officials said on Tuesday.

"Up to 0.9 percent (GMO soy) will be accepted in a cargo and still be shipped" at Paranagua, Nilson Hanke Camargo from the economic department of the Parana's Agriculture Federation (Faep) said after a meeting between officials from the farming sector and the port.

"This is established by the international market. It would not make sense for the port not to accept it," he added.

Parana grain cooperatives said they would not send soybeans to the port with GMO content above this threshold and would ship cargo with transgenic soy above this level through ports in other states." (Reuters)

February 3, 2004

"The Risky Business of Understanding Risk" - "Americans are more and more risk-conscious. We buy muscular SUV's, spend billions on dietary supplements annually, and try to cut down on saturated fats. Often, we learn about risks by relying on the media to interpret medical research and other information that purports to disclose what is bad (or good) for us. Some people even make decisions about risk on the basis of what they learn from the likes of Jay Leno and David Letterman: That's risky business, if you ask me." (Henry I. Miller, TCS)

"Is work giving you cancer?" - "Something seemed terribly wrong on the 27th floor of the Vinson & Elkins law firm. Employees kept getting diagnosed with cancer.

In three years, at least nine employees on the floor developed cancer — about one of 10 workers there — and many feared something in the workplace, perhaps the air or water, was to blame.

About two years ago, the law firm brought in a slew of specialists to evaluate the building, but what they discovered surprised many staffers: The office was safe. And despite perceptions, employees' cancer rates weren't abnormally high.

"We were just at that age when people start getting breast cancer," says Marilyn Roberts, 56, a legal assistant in the Houston office who was diagnosed with the disease. "It was very comforting to know the company took all the steps to investigate."

From small law offices to corporate giants such as IBM, companies are facing employee concerns that their workplace is causing cancer. But despite the anxiety and headline-grabbing cases, medical researchers rarely find the workplace to blame. Instead, years of costly research often yield inconclusive findings or winds up proving that the number of cancers were not unusually high at all." (USA TODAY)

"Mad cow has confidence stirred, but not shaken" - "According to a recent study conducted by Rutgers University's Food Policy Institute, most Americans know about the recent discovery of mad cow disease in Washington State, but retain their confidence in the beef supply. Most said their confidence in the beef supply has not changed, and some said the USDA's prompt and efficient treatment of the case has actually led to an increase in confidence." (Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey)

"Children's Health Panel Red Flags Bush Mercury Plan" - "WASHINGTON, DC, February 2, 2004 - Infants, children, and women of childbearing age are not adequately protected by the Bush administration's proposal to reduce mercury emissions from coal fired power plants warns a federal advisory committee on children's health protection. In a letter released last week, the panel urged the White House to reconsider its proposal, which environmentalists and public health organizations say is far too lax." (ENS)

"The Fat of the Land" - "One of the hit films at Sundance this year was a documentary called "Super Size Me," about a healthy man — the film's director — who decided to see what would happen if he ate nothing but super-sized McDonald's food for 30 days. His weight ballooned, his cholesterol rose, and his liver functions began to erode — warning signs of a number of chronic diseases that, like obesity itself, have reached epidemic proportions in this country." (New York Times)

"White paper to tackle obesity" - "John Reid, the health secretary, will respond today to the outcry about obesity and declining public health by announcing that a white paper in the summer will deal with issues such as advertising bans and tighter food labelling.

The government sees the issues as central to reducing Britain's health inequalities, but fears that stricter regulation will lead to accusations of social engineering or nanny state intrusion.

Making the announcement to NHS chief executives, Mr Reid will stress that the government cannot force people to be healthy. He will insist that most options are on the table, but rule out some, including barring the obese from access to health services." (The Guardian)

"New report shows stomach cancer rates declining fast in Europe" - "Stomach cancer rates fell by half in the European Union between 1980 and 1999 and by 45% in Eastern Europe and 40% in Russia, according to research published (3 February) in Annals of Oncology. Downward trend likely to continue according to international research team. (European Society for Medical Oncology)

Wonder if this, too, is the result of 'hazardous' Western lifestyles and all those 'nasty' synthetic chemicals?

"Report Calls Recycling Costlier Than Dumping" - "Recycling metal, plastic, paper and glass in New York is more expensive than simply sending all the refuse to landfills and incinerators, even if city residents resume the habit of separating a sizable share of those kinds of waste, according to an analysis by the New York City Independent Budget Office that is set to be released today.

The assertion by the budget office, a nonpartisan agency, is based on a detailed review of spending by the Department of Sanitation that evaluated both how much it costs per ton to get rid of trash versus recycling it, and, perhaps even more importantly, how much the overall trash disposal price tag would go up if the city eliminated its recycling program." (New York Times)

"Increasing greenhouse gases lead to dramatic thinning of the upper atmosphere" - "The highest layers of the Earth's atmosphere are cooling and contracting, most likely in response to increasing levels of greenhouse gases, according to a new study by scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). This contraction could result in longer orbital lifetimes for both satellites and hazardous space debris." (Naval Research Laboratory)

"Summer heatwave matches predictions" - "The heatwave last summer that killed thousands across Europe and saw temperatures in Britain soar past 100F (38C) is a sign of things to come, a climate scientist has warned.

Martin Beniston of the University of Fribourg in Switzerland analysed the characteristics of the 2003 heatwave, and says it is unlike anything seen in the past 100 years. He says the conditions more closely match what researchers think will happen later this century, with global warming increasing average temperatures by several degrees and severe heatwaves becoming more frequent.

"The average and the extremes of temperature we had in 2003 are definitely what the models are telling us for the future. They're completely different from what we've had in the 20th century," Prof Beniston said. "2003 looks very much like what we can expect in the future." (The Guardian)

"Earth 'shook off' ancient warming" - "UK scientists claim they now know how Earth recovered on its own from a sudden episode of severe global warming at the time of the dinosaurs." (BBC News Online)

"Study Shows Global Warming Already Impacting Connecticut" - "(2 February 2004 -- Hartford) A new study released today by Environmental Defense details the impacts that uncontrolled global warming is already having on Connecticut and its citizens, and calls for responsible, affordable action now. The study, Bracing for Climate Change in the Constitution State (www.environmentaldefense.org/go/CTclimate) shows temperatures around the state increased noticeably during the 20th century. In addition, the study finds that continued unchecked greenhouse gas pollution would lead to warmer temperatures, worsening Connecticut's air quality and threatening public health and to rising seas that will significantly impact Connecticut's coastal populations, threatening the state's natural environment, commercial fisheries and broader economy." (Environmental Defense release)

"War, terror hunt puts environment on hold" - "LONDON, Feb 2 - The Iraq war and the anti-terror offensive have put environment issues on hold globally, but crucial decisions are coming up that for the sake of the planet must not be avoided, a leading environmentalist said.

Foremost among these is ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on limiting greenhouse gas emissions -- a contentious document that some say is too weak but which the United States has rejected outright and over which Russia is dithering.

"Ratification or rejection by Russia of Kyoto would be a defining moment for humanity this year," Tony Juniper, head of the British branch of international pressure group Friends of the Earth told Reuters." (Reuters)

The Week That Was January 31, 2004 (SEPP)

"European Commission Splits Over Kyoto Protocol" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium, February 2, 2004 - EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom has fiercely criticized Energy and Transport Commissioner Vice President Loyola de Palacio and the Spanish government for "undermining" Europe's commitment to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

Briefing journalists on Friday, Wallstrom defended the Kyoto Protocol and said she remains convinced that Russia would ratify the agreement to limit greenhouse gases, enabling the protocol to enter into force.

"I find it astonishing at a time when we are getting industry on board and have an active policy ... politicians start to dither. Now is not the time to undermine our policy," said Wallstrom.

The EU's environmental policy chief called the briefing to respond to increasingly robust questioning of the Kyoto Protocol by the Spanish government and Palacio - herself Spanish and a political ally of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

Both Spanish officials have expressed concerns over the economic costs of limiting greenhouse gases in line with the treaty. Palacio has questioned the wisdom of implementing Kyoto at all if Russia does not ratify." (ENS)

"The Cartagena Protocol and public goods research" - "February 2004 is an important month for the future of agricultural biotechnology. This month, the first meeting of the parties to the Cartagena Protocol will set the scene for the evolving international regulatory framework on GMOs. Four years after the finalisation of the negotiation of the Protocol, and 5 months after its entry into force, it is time to take stock." (Willy De Greef, BioScience News)

"GM Crops, beyond Human Control?" - "It is increasingly evident that the challenge that the UK faces with genetically modified crops relates not to their control, but to the control of political decision making." (David Walker, Open I)

"EU rejects request to grow GM oilseed rape" - "The European Union rejected the first application to grow a genetically modified crop in Europe since it imposed a moratorium on new approvals six years ago, dealing a blow to the biotechnology industry.

An application by Bayer CropScience, a German firm, to grow GM oilseed rape throughout the EU was refused by the Belgian government, the licensing authority responsible for the crop in Europe.

It decided there was too high a risk of the GM rapeseed cross-pollinating with conventional crops, creating problems for farmers wishing to avoid GM organisms." (Daily Telegraph)

"EU on line to prohibit GM oilseed rape crops" - "Greens hail an environmental victory for biodiversity as Belgium rejects Bayer application and urges all member states to follow suit." (The Guardian)

"Tobacco Gene Gives Transgenic Corn Greater Frost Tolerance" - "Researchers discovered a way to increase corn’s frost resistance by incorporating a tobacco gene that activates corn’s natural defense systems against cold temperatures. Their research showed an improvement of 2 degrees Celsius in the freezing tolerance of the transgenic corn compared to traditional corn lines." (Iowa State University)

February 2, 2004

"Reporter takes aim at alleged media bias" - "John Stossel remembers when he used to be a media darling. That was a couple of decades ago, when the ABC-TV reporter was busy racking up 19 Emmy Awards for his exposés of corporate thieves, snake-oil salesmen and various consumer scams.

"Then I did a terrible thing," says Stossel, 56, now a co-anchor on ABC-TV's newsmagazine "20/20." "Instead of just applying my skepticism to business, I applied it to government and public interest groups."

Suddenly, his peers in the media who had described him as a "hard-hitting" journalist began attacking his reporting as "sloppy and misleading."

"I think it's because now I say that capitalism is OK, and they hate market capitalism and big business," declares Stossel, who traces his journey from the media's golden boy to its nemesis in a new book, "Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media" (HarperCollins, $29.95). He'll be in Atlanta on Tuesday, speaking at a luncheon sponsored by the Cato Institute, a libertarian-oriented, nonprofit think tank." (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

"Cellphones safe - at least in short term" - "The first in a series of eagerly anticipated nationwide studies has concluded that the use of mobile phones poses no increased risk of brain cancer - at least not for the first 10 years.

Despite this caveat, the Danish study is likely to carry more weight with health authorities and scientists than many previous studies because of its large sample size and careful design. Earlier studies that claimed to find evidence of a health risk have been criticised for weaknesses in these areas." (NewScientist.com news service)

Book: "Cellular Phones, Public Fears, and a Culture of Precaution" - "Earlier this month UK government scientists released a report dripping with equivocation over the issue of mobile phone safety. The Advisory Group on Non-Ionising Radiation provided no evidence that mobile phones or transmission masts harmed health but called, anyway, for more research and a cautionary approach meanwhile (www.nrpb.org/advisory_groups/agnir/). While the report stated that the published research "does not give cause for concern," it nevertheless endorsed a previous recommendation of limiting children's exposure to mobile phones. In the absence of any evidence that mobile phones pose a risk, such cautionary advice boils down to a fear of the unknown. On this basis we may as well lock our children in a bomb shelter, and get in with them.

There is a significant literature addressing the safety of mobile phones—considerably more than that addressing the safety of most other household objects such as lightbulbs, bagless vacuum cleaners, and potting soil—and there is nothing that suggests any adverse health effects. Moreover, not only is there a lack of evidence for harm, but there is also no plausible mechanism whereby harm might occur. As Adam Burgess comments, ominous implications are suggested by the slight warming that can occur in the presence of a radio frequency field, but the far greater increase in temperature provided by a hot bath is one well tolerated by the human race." (BMJ)

"Run for your life" - "As both No. 10 and the popular press remind us on a daily basis, we are becoming fatter at an alarming rate. According to current projections by next Christmas most of us will show up in aerial photographs. An Australian newspaper warned that obesity was increasing so fast that today's parents will outlive their children. This suggests a lifespan reduction of more than 25 years in a single generation. We are told that the key to avoiding this grizzly fate is to become more active.

Although health authorities are loath to admit it, the sky may not be falling. Their recalcitrance on this essential point may stem from the fact that stable skies are bad for business. There's nothing like a riveting health scare to keep the cash registers jingling. During the great leap forward of corpulence longevity has increased greatly. It is absurd to expect this salutary trend to stop in its tracks and suddenly drag us into an abyss.

As usual, gluttony is said to be a major factor in the doom bearing down upon us. In spite of the chorus of calls for the head of Ronald McDonald, the clamouring is unjustified. Overeating is not the root of our current woes. As we've been getting fatter, caloric intake and fat intake have been declining. Far from sliding into gluttony most foul, we are becoming more abstemious." (Dale M. Atrens, SIRC)

"High - Calorie Foods a Bargain for the Poor" - "WASHINGTON -- For the poor, lettuce may be a luxury. Analysts have concluded that people who have to worry about missing meals choose calorie-packed foods such as pasta because they provide more energy for the buck than fruits and vegetables.

``Energy-dense foods composed of refined grains, added sugars or fats may represent the lowest-cost option,'' said Adam Drewnowski, director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington. For people in poverty, choosing these kinds of products ``may represent a deliberate attempt to save money,'' he said.

Drewnowski led a study that compared foods based on the cost of calories in each ounce. Findings were published in the January issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition." (AP)

"Health Check: 'There was something strange about the study. The data appeared to contain much that was good news for drinkers'" - "How much is it safe to drink? For anyone who likes a couple of pints after work, a large G&T when they get home or a few bottles of Burgundy at the weekend, this is a question for our times. Research published last week, which received widespread press coverage, purported to give some answers. It was a study of more than 10,000 civil servants followed for 11 years in the famous Whitehall II study, led by one of Britain's foremost epidemiologists, Professor Sir Michael Marmot of University College, London.

But there was something strange about the study, published in the journal Addiction. The data appeared to contain much that was good news for drinkers yet the paper was couched in negative terms with warnings about the high risk of heart disease to women who drank heavily." (Independent)

NRDC defends junk science, CRE rebuts: "The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness Invokes the Data Quality Act to Reject Published Studies on Atrazine Toxicity" (PDF) - "Should chemical toxicity data from the peerreviewed, published scientific literature be considered reliable enough for government risk assessors to use? The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness (CRE) says no, arguing that studies subject to rigorous peer review and published in prominent scientific journals may not be sufficiently “reliable” to be used by the government. The CRE, selfdescribed as a regulatory watchdog group supported by business and trade associations, relies on the so-called Data Quality Act (2001), an obscure provision of a spending bill, which requires governmental agencies to develop guidelines for “ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information” they disseminate." (EPH)

"Bush Would Shut Wildlife Agencies Out of Pesticide Reviews" - "WASHINGTON, DC, January 30, 2004 - A new proposal by the Bush administration would allow the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine whether pesticides will jeopardize threatened and endangered species without consulting the federal government's two key wildlife agencies. The administration says its proposal revamps a broken regulatory process while maintaining protection for wildlife, but environmentalists are outraged by a move they believe rolls back existing law." (ENS)

"Animal activists face jail as tough new law backs labs" - "Home Secretary announces legislation to protect scientists after primates research centre is abandoned." (The Observer)

"Outcast scientist vindicated on environment book" - "There has been a series of major setbacks for environmental radicals in recent months.

First, the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty designed to control the world's climate, slipped into a deep coma caused by the refusal of Russia, the US and Australia to ratify it.

Second, the "Hockeystick" theory of unprecedented recent climate change so vigorously promoted by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and global warming advocates has been shot down in flames. More than one study has now convincingly shown that the 20th century was not particularly warm in comparison with other, pre-industrial periods.

Third, latest research on the effect of the sun on climate is so convincing that even greenhouse enthusiasts admit that there is a strong case for solar activity, not human intervention, as the main factor in global warming.

Fourth, Bjorn Lomborg, best selling Danish author of the The Skeptical Environmentalist has been formally vindicated.

These are important milestones because they expose glitches in the scientific process. But the Lomborg incident stands out as the most glaring and shameful example." (Chris de Freitas, National Business Review)

"Glimpsing the new world orders" - "What do Indian street-children, Japanese railway workers, Brazilian farmers, Nepali Dalits and European political activists have in common? All were among the 100,000 people at the fourth World Social Forum in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) last week discussing the theme "Another world is possible".

The values at the heart of the WSF are close to those of most faith communities - equality, fraternity, justice, freedom (as a collective, rather than an individual, term) and, as one speaker pronounced at the closing event, love. It began three years ago as an alternative to the World Economic Forum, which last weekend held its annual meeting in Switzerland with world political, business and financial leaders." (The Guardian)

"Sweatshops: Part II" - "Those who vent their moral indignation over low pay for Third World workers of multinational companies ignore the fact that these workers' employers usually supply them with better opportunities than they had before, while those who are morally indignant on their behalf provide them nothing.

Some of the more rational among the indignant crusaders for "social justice" may concede the employers usually offer better pay than Third World workers would have otherwise. But they see no reason wealthy corporations should not pay wages more like the wages paid in affluent countries.

There are at least two reason why not — one economic and one moral." (Thomas Sowell, The Washington Times)

"Is the World Social Forum relevant? WSF activists are selling dreams as reality" - "It was quite appropriate that the WSF was held in Bombay: Bollywood dream merchants are mostly honest about the nature of their products — to create an illusion, as far removed from reality as possible. WSF activists seek to sell their illusion as reality.

In this the WSF is either dishonest about the true nature of their products or have become completely blind to the real world." (Economic Times)

"Whistle blown on illegal CFC trade" - "The border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, already a key route for the heroin trade, is being used for a new type of smuggling - chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

CFCs - chemicals found in aerosols and refrigeration equipment and considered to be responsible for depleting the ozone layer - are mostly banned under the Montreal Protocol.

Production is still allowed for "basic needs production" for developing countries to use in air conditioning equipment and refrigeration equipment. But now, a black market for Europe-produced CFCs has sprung up in some Asian countries." (BBC News Online)

"Advice to avoid sun should be lifted, say cancer experts" - "A reversal of official advice on the dangers of the sun was called for yesterday in what could lead to one of the biggest revisions of a health warning in decades.

The head of Britain's drive to cut soaring skin cancer rates said the advice to restrict sunbathing is "draconian and unnecessary" and should be lifted." (Independent)

"Editorial: Environmental Dogma Has Led to the Sacrifice of Fourteen Astronauts" - "Now that a dramatic new test has confirmed that a piece of thermal insulation flaking off of space shuttle Columbia's external tank during launch was the most likely cause of its destruction during reentry, the typical second-guessing in the press has focused on NASA engineers, asking: "What did Mission Control know, and when did they know it?"

Somehow, NASA engineers should have guessed about the damage done to Columbia's thermal tiles and pulled an Apollo 13-style rabbit out of their hat. The implication is that they should have been omniscient and omnipotent.

Having heroes like NASA's mission controllers around to quietly brave the world's criticism certainly serves to divert attention from those who have done the most to contribute to this disaster – and who regard themselves as omniscient and omnipotent enough to command the entire American economy and the lives of its citizens: the environmentalists." (Hannes Hacker, The Empire Page)

"Sea level along Chinese coasts continues to rise" - "Sea levels around China in 2003 were 60 millimeters above the average world sea level between 1975 and 1986, according to the 2003 Bulletin on Sea Levels released by the Chinese State Oceanic Administration on Saturday." (People's Daily Online)

"Hawaiians blue as beach ebbs on the tide" - "IT IS a world famous destination that has graced tourist brochures for decades, attracting millions of sun-seekers and surfers to the dream destination of Hawaii.

But now Waikiki Beach, the Pacific island’s best-known and most valuable tourism gem, has become a victim of its own phenomenal success and is literally disappearing into the ocean.

At the alarming rate of a foot a year, the golden sands are being trodden into the sea, prompting the island’s government to put in place an emergency recovery plan which will blight the stunning coastline throughout this year’s summer season but which they hope will halt the damage.

And the authorities are also warning more needs to be done to regulate the huge numbers of visitors to the American outpost or its other stunning attractions, such as the Diamond Head mountain which towers above Honolulu, will suffer irreparable damage." (Scotland on Sunday)

"Transcript: Wild storms may be result of global warming: experts" - "ELIZABETH JACKSON: Wild storms that have lashed the east coast of Australia this week could be just a taste of what's to come.

Victoria, Tasmania and south-east Queensland have all born the brunt of ferocious weather this week, which has stranded bushwalkers, cut power to tens of thousands of homes and ripped trees out of the ground.

Climate change experts say the storms may well be the result of latest effects of global warming.

Rachel Carbonell reports from Melbourne ." (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

"How Global Warming May Cause the Next Ice Age..." - "While global warming is being officially ignored by the political arm of the Bush administration, and Al Gore's recent conference on the topic during one of the coldest days of recent years provided joke fodder for conservative talk show hosts, the citizens of Europe and the Pentagon are taking a new look at the greatest danger such climate change could produce for the northern hemisphere - a sudden shift into a new ice age. What they're finding is not at all comforting." (CommonDreams.org)

"Facing The Cold Truth" - "Temperatures fell below average but January weather records held" (The Star-Ledger)

"U.S.-European Technology Panel Examines Climate Change Research" - "European and U.S. scientists, meeting in Bologna, reviewed research activities in six key areas of climate change science and technology: carbon-cycle research, aerosol-climate interactions, water vapor and air circulation, data gathering and observation systems, carbon capture and storage, and hydrogen technology.

Following is the text of a joint statement released by the U.S. and European Commission following the second meeting of the EC-U.S. Joint Climate Change Science and Technology Workshop in Bologna on January 29-30, 2004" (U.S. Embassy in Tokyo)

"No need for Russia so far to ratify Kyoto Protocol-statesman" - "WASHINGTON, January 31 - The Kyoto Protocol on efforts against global warming of climate is “of discriminatory nature with respect to Russia” and makes virtually impossible the doubling of the Russian GDP within the next ten years.

Besides, it “is a priori ineffective from the viewpoint of achieving aims, stated in the document” and is based on “very doubtful” prerequisites from the scientific point of view. This opinion was expressed by the Russian president’s economic adviser Andrei Illarionov, speaking at the National Press Club in Washington on Friday.

“Information, available now, data of scientific investigations, economic development studies and the legal examination of the text of the Kyoto Protocol are insufficient to draw a conclusion that the Russian Federation should ratify this document,” he stated." (Itar-Tass)

"Ukraine Confronts Kyoto" - "KIEV -- Since the collapse of the Soviet Union emissions of greenhouse gases in the former USSR have dropped significantly below 1990 levels. Back then Russia was responsible for 17 percent of greenhouse emissions. For Ukraine, which in 1990 occupied sixth place on the list of general outliers of greenhouse gases (mainly because our country was one of original producers of metals, coals, weapons and agricultural products) there was a significant decrease in emissions conditioned by the process of economic restructuring in the period of transition.

But Ukraine's environment minister, Andrej Kurykin, in his 2002 speech at the COP-8 conference in New Delhi, pointed out that such improvements with greenhouse gases were reached at grave financial and economical cost, business recession, decline in living standards and increased unemployment. Applying the Kyoto protocol now would continue to retard growth in countries like Ukraine with transition economies." (Anastasija Demchenko, TCS)

"EU commissioner attacks colleague over Kyoto comments" - "Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstroem sharply upbraided a colleague Friday for "astonishing" comments that the EU might have to review its commitment to the Kyoto protocol on climate change.

Loyola de Palacio, the Spanish commissioner responsible for energy issues, said last week that the European Union might have to review its stance if Russia refuses to ratify Kyoto.

The comment came as a surprise given that the EU is the strongest backer of the agreement designed to tackle global warming, in the face of bitter US opposition and Russian foot-dragging.

"Loyola should make a distinction between her personal view and the EU view," Wallstroem told reporters.

"We lead from the very front. We have to stand firm," the Swedish commissioner said." (EUBusiness)

"EPA rule on mercury gives coal-burners flexibility" - "BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - A new federal rule aimed at lowering toxic mercury pollution gives industry the flexibility on planning it sought, but critics say it's vulnerable to legal challenges and doesn't call for any urgent solution.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule published Friday would require coal-burning power plants such as those in Alabama to lower toxic mercury emissions. EPA would reduce mercury emissions nationally by 69 percent in 14 years." (Associated Press)

"Ford halts pollution label plan for cars" - "A plan to give every new car in Britain a colour-coded "energy label" indicating its pollution levels has been killed off by the car giant Ford.

The US car maker, which has claimed it is a champion of "green" motoring, objected to the proposal on behalf of the British motor industry last week, forcing ministers to abandon the scheme.

Environmentalists are furious at the industry's veto, because they fear it will now take at least four years before a similar scheme is likely to be introduced by the European Commission. In that time, more than 10 million new cars will have been sold, including hundreds of thousands of fuel-hungry 4x4s and luxury cars.

The car label was modelled on the colour-coded A to G energy label on every new fridge, freezer and washing machine sold in Britain. The scheme has reduced sales of electricity-hungry appliances." (Independent on Sunday)

"Energy Department Backs Away From Alternative Fuel Fleets" - "WASHINGTON, DC, January 30, 2004 - The Department of Energy (DOE) Thursday declined to adopt a regulation requiring that owners and operators of certain private and local government fleets acquire alternative fueled vehicles.

The DOE said its decision is based on its findings that such a requirement "would not appreciably increase the percentage of alternative fuel and replacement fuel used by motor vehicles in the United States" and would make "no more than a negligible contribution" to the achievement of the replacement fuel goals set forth in a 1992 Clinton era law known as EPAct." (ENS)

"Bush Wants More Research Money for Hydrogen Cars" - "WASHINGTON - The Bush administration will seek a 43 percent increase in federal funds to develop cars that run on hydrogen fuel and eventually have in place the service station infrastructure that will support the vehicles." (Reuters)

"Group says mammoth wind farm could make N.D. a world leader" - "On a high prairie bluff in eastern North Dakota, Blair Henry envisions a metallic forest of wind turbines that would rank among the world's largest.

It is a notion that has drawn plenty of skepticism and so far, there is no money to get the project rolling.

"It's unbelievable. It's just a gold mine sitting right there, and nobody wants to do anything," Henry said.

The 50-year-old Washington state attorney came to North Dakota last year to conduct a wind energy study with the help of former University of North Dakota President Tom Clifford.

Henry's group, including student researchers and former UND officials, has proposed marketing North Dakota's powerful wind to investors and planting more than 1,300 wind turbines in the state. The development would have a capacity of at least 2,000 megawatts." (Associated Press)

"No-Till Farming Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions" - "One of the world's worst pollution problems is carbon dioxide, belched from factory smokestacks and other industrial emissions. It's one of the so-called greenhouse gases that most scientists now say are causing un-natural changes in the earth's climate. But there's a way to prevent the build-up of carbon dioxide before it contributes to global warming. Part of that solution is found on the American Prairie." (VOA News)

"GM rice to be grown for medicine" - "GM crops specially engineered to produce drugs are to be grown commercially for the first time, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

An American biotech company plans to start growing medicines to treat diarrhoea in modified rice this spring. Its proposals were examined last week by regulatory authorities in California, but they have no power to stop the planting.

The rice will usher in a second generation of GM crops, which are bound to polarise opinion even more than those that have already caused controversy around the world. Unlike current crops they could offer real benefits to millions of people - but they also pose far greater health risks." (Independent on Sunday)

"Monsanto's chapati patent raises Indian ire" - "Monsanto, the world's largest genetically modified seed company, has been awarded patents on the wheat used for making chapati - the flat bread staple of northern India.

The patents give the US multinational exclusive ownership over Nap Hal, a strain of wheat whose gene sequence makes it particularly suited to producing crisp breads.

Another patent, filed in Europe, gives Monsanto rights over the use of Nap Hal wheat to make chapatis, which consist of flour, water and salt.

Environmentalists say Nap Hal's qualities are the result of generations of farmers in India who spent years crossbreeding crops and collective, not corporate, efforts should be recognised." (The Guardian)