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Archives - January 2001

January 31, 2001

Charity appeal of the day: "United Nations launches appeal for Mongolia winter disaster" - "The United Nations launched an appeal for $11.8 million in aid for Mongolia on Tuesday to help hundreds of thousands of herders through the country's worst winter in memory. Thick snow over 90 percent of the country and temperatures as low as minus 58 Fahrenheit have killed 600,000 head of livestock since November — robbing herders of their only source of food, transport, shelter, fuel and income, the United Nations said." (Reuters)

"Bad teeth and gums may exacerbate existing lung problems, UB oral biologists find" - "BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Chronic lung-disease sufferers should be especially fastidious about brushing and flossing their teeth. That is the message delivered in a study just published in the Journal of Periodontology conducted by oral biologists from the University at Buffalo. The researchers found an association between chronic respiratory disease and periodontal disease in an analysis of data from a large national database, the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, known as NHANES III. The results add to a growing body of evidence that poor oral health is linked to a number of chronic diseases." (U Buffalo)

"Simple test for clot danger" - "Air passengers who die from blood clots may be suffering from an inherited condition, say researchers. A study suggests that passengers might be able to have a simple test to see if they are vulnerable or not." (BBC Online) | Brazil Plans 'Economy Class Syndrome' Warnings (Reuters)

"Frequent cocaine use linked to early heart attacks" - "NEW YORK: Nearly one in four non-fatal heart attacks suffered by people between the ages of 18 and 45 may be attributed to regular cocaine use. The reason, as stated by lead author Dr Adnan I. Qureshi of a new study, may be because regular cocaine use constricts blood vessels and accelerates hardening of the arteries. More than 30 million people in the US have tried cocaine and five million report regular use, the researchers note in their report published in the January 30 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association." (Times of India)

"Family factor is foremost in foretelling heart disease risk" - "DALLAS, Jan. 30 – As many as half of the children and siblings of individuals with diseased coronary arteries may have signs of atherosclerosis, even though they have no symptoms of heart or vessel disease, according to a study in today’s Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. “We’ve known that family history is a risk factor for heart disease, however that relationship has been associated with secondary risk factors such as high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes,” says K. Lance Gould, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. “It appears that family history alone can carry the same weight as the standard risk factors through mechanisms we do not understand,” he says." (AHA)

Gosh, genetic predisposition is at least as important as environmental factors.

"Stress weakens the skin's ability to fight disease" - "NEW YORK: Are anxiety, dejection and confusion "written all over your face"? Researchers now say that this figure of speech may prove to be true. A new study has found that stress appears to decrease the skin's ability to function properly, heal wounds and fight disease." (Reuters)

So, all the hysterical claims about risk are increasing people's stress and this directly affects the epidermis, the pathway by which fearmongers are making people genuinely ill. If the media immediately stops regurgitating the risk claims of so-called environmentalists and even less aptly named public interest groups, public health will improve forthwith then won't it.

Figures... "Exactly how sick are you?" - "A CD-Rom is now on sale offering malingering employees a few tips on how they can wangle an extra couple of days off work. The sickness simulator recommends how would-be ill employees should behave when they visit their doctor in order to get a sick note and those extra hours away from the workplace." (DPA)

"Uranium shells are deadly, US expert tells MPs" - "THE ailing head of a US military clean-up of depleted uranium munitions after the Gulf War visited Westminster yesterday to warn MPs of the dangers he believes that they pose to the health of troops and civilians." (The Times)

"No Threat Seen After Cattle Eat Banned Food" - "The Food and Drug Administration said yesterday that 1,222 cattle being held in a Texas feedlot had consumed a small amount of animal feed that contained the ground-up remains of other cattle, a violation of rules designed to protect the American food supply from mad cow disease. Because mad cow disease has not been shown to infect any cattle in the United States nor to be present in the ground up remains of cattle, the risks that the feed was actually infected or passed the disease to cattle are negligible, said Dr. Murray Lumpkin, senior medical officer in the office of the Food and Drug Administration commissioner." | On Watch for Any Hint of Mad Cow Disease (New York Times) | U.S. Government Clears Cattle in Mad Cow Scare | US House Agriculture Chief Says "Mad Cow" Rules Work | NY Stores Selling Candy Recalled Over Mad Cow Fears (Reuters) | Tonsil operations halted in CJD scare (Telegraph) | Surgery delayed by CJD fears (The Times)

"Biotech Food: To Be Wary or Not?" - Collection of letters responding to New York Times' article "Biotechnology Food: From the Lab to a Debacle" (New York Times)

"Benefits of biotech" - "THE BIOTECHNOLOGY revolution is strongly gaining momentum all over the globe. India is no exception, and the `biotech bug` has bitten it hard. This has been an undisguised blessing for the country — the benefits of biotechnology are innumerable and clearly visible." (The Economic Times)

"Monsanto Sees U.S. Bio-Crop Growth Despite GM Row" - "According to Reuters, Monsanto Corporation was cited as saying on Tuesday that U.S. farmers would plant more land with its genetically modified seed in 2001, despite global concerns about such crops. Chief Executive Officer Hendrik Verfaillie was quoted as telling Reuters on the fringes of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting that, “We are very confident that in 2001 there are going to be more biotech acres than there were in 2000. The intention surveys indicate we are going to have significant growth in Roundup Ready soybeans, moderate growth in corn and good growth in cotton...our seed sales in December confirm that.” (TKC)

"Monsanto May Sue Activists for Destroying GM Test Plot in Brazil" - "A Monsanto Company rep told AgWeb.com the company “may” sue activists which destroyed genetically modified crops last week at a plant in Rio Grande do Sul. Monsanto spokesman, Gary Barton, said criminal charges are being sought in the case, while there has been some discussion regarding a law suit against the activists." (AgWeb.com) | Brazilian protesters raid GM farm (BBC Online)

"Brazil orders French activist to leave" - "PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil - Jose Bove, a French anti-globalization activist who catapulted to fame for trashing his local McDonald's, was ordered on Monday to leave Brazil or face deportation for his role in a raid on a Monsanto biotech farm." (Reuters)

"Roslin scientists find problem gene" - "THE team of scientists who created Dolly the Sheep have overcome a major hurdle preventing the cloning of unlimited numbers of genetically identical farms animals, it emerged yesterday." (The Scotsman)

"Auto Industry Urged To Cut Emissions" - "DAVOS, Switzerland — Environmental activists urged the automotive industry Monday to reduce vehicle carbon dioxide emissions by 5 percent during the next decade. The heads of Greenpeace International and World Wildlife Fund International pressed the issue in a meeting with about 30 industry representatives on the fringes of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. Although Greenpeace executive director Thilo Bode said ``there are no concrete results,'' he told a news conference he was encouraged that members of the industry at least acknowledged exhaust emissions were a problem. ``Action on climate change is needed, it is urgent, and the automotive industry has a special responsibility — not only because it is perceived by the public as a big part of the problem but also because its carbon dioxide emissions are increasing at an alarming rate,'' he said."  (AP)


"There is no clear evidence, nor unique attribution, of the global effects of anthropogenic CO2 on climate. Meaningful integrated assessments of the environmental impacts of anthropogenic CO2 are not yet possible because model estimates of global and regional climate change on interannual, decadal and centennial time scales remain highly uncertain." [Environmental effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide. Climate Research, 13: 149-164]

"Climate change blamed for Mayans' downfall" - "Abrupt climate change triggered the collapse of the Classic Mayan civilization in the ninth century and the sudden downfall of other ancient civilizations around the world, a paper in the journal Science says." (Globe and Mail)

At least this coverage is a little more honest in that it notes drought and sudden cooling are associated with some societal declines, as indeed, is drought and sudden warming events. Whether these stressors would be as significant in the modern era is moot since advanced technology and global transportation allows greater resilience in the face of abrupt change.

"Southern U.S. Faces New Drought Threat" - "LOS ANGELES - La Nina, the weather pattern blamed from severe droughts in the southern U.S., may be gone but the region faces a new enemy with a look-alike and potentially longer lasting successor, a leading weather expert said on Tuesday. "This present pattern looks much like a La Nina," said Bill Patzert of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The current phenomena is known as a Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) pattern and is a long-term ocean temperatures fluctuation which can last for a decade, far longer than the recent La Nina which ended last year after a two-year reign." (Reuters)

Coral studies and El Niños

Most everyone will have seen one or more media reports recently along the line of "Coral shows climate change making El Niños more powerful" or "Recent El Niños most powerful ever, coral research shows" etc., etc.. Want to know what Sandy Tudhope really said?

"Dr Tudhope cautions that the team’s data do not prove or disprove the theory that ENSO has already become stronger as a consequence of human activity. However the data do indicate that ENSO has been sensitive to global climate change in the more distant past." (Australian Institute of Marine Science [AIMS] media release)

What a pity the media can't tell the difference between demonstrating that the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) has varied in the past and demonstrating that there is any current intensification in cycle frequency or amplitude and, if so, why that may be occurring.

Congratulations, however, are due Nicholas Wade, New York Times This Week In Science, for appropriate caveat:

Talking of ominous news, there were more bad tidings from the global climate front. Samples of coral from Papua-New Guinea suggests that the cycle of warm and cold water in the Pacific, known as El Nino and La Nina, has been more intense this century than at any time in the last 130,000 years. The intense phase started well before the peak of industrial waste gases thought to be triggering the current phase of global warming, so presumably has a separate cause. But the warming could make worse the tendency of the El Nino cycle to cause disruptive weather. [emphasis added]

The allusion to enhanced greenhouse warming is still a huge reach very popular with the media but reporting the caveat a tremendous improvement nonetheless. Perhaps NYT's red face over their ridiculous polar meltdown piece last August did some good after all.

"Sound the Alarm Bells!" - "At 9:56 Eastern Standard Time on the morning of 22 January, a Reuters news report entitled "UN Sees Faster Global Warming, Humanity Responsible" flashed across the internet.  Based on its author's reading of a draft summary for policy makers, the report said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was projecting a new-and-improved, i.e., larger, mean global warming of 1.4 to 5.8°C by 2100. And it quoted Klaus Töpfer - head of the United Nations Environment Program - as stating that this most recent climate prediction "should sound alarm bells in every national capital and in every local community." | Our Oscillating Climate: A Natural Phenomenon | Global Warming Non-Effects on a Subalpine Ecosystem | Storm Surges Decline Along New Zealand Coast | The Fluctuating Water Supply of the Colorado River Basin (co2science.org)

"Umbrella Group delays strategy session" - "Secret talks among top environmental negotiators from the so-called Umbrella Group of industrialized countries, originally scheduled for mid-February in New Zealand, have been postponed until some time in the latter half of March, informed sources said Sunday. The sources said that the secret New Zealand meeting of Japan, the United States and eight other non-European Union industrialized countries has been put off to allow the new Republican administration of U.S. President George W. Bush time to review the global warming policy of the administration of former Democratic President Bill Clinton. The Umbrella Group comprises Japan, the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Ukraine and Kazakstan." (Japan Times)

"New Technology, Market Approach Are Answer To Climate Fears" - "There are two, or maybe three, major international environmental issues. One of them is climate change." (Lynn Scarlett, Tech Central Station)

"Bid to stop geese dying in Dutch windmills" - "A Dutch city is taking measures to stop geese being killed by windmills. Between 14,000 and 35,000 geese live in sanctuaries around Zutphen. They often crash into the sails of windmills as they return to their nests each day from feeding places or sanctuaries in Germany. But the noise and movement of the turbines can also chase the geese away. The local authority is considering making the blades more flexible and turning the windmills off when it's misty." (Ananova)

Wonder how all the pretty birdies will fare if greenhouse hysterics manage to cause massive proliferation of bird mincers, sometimes also known as "wind power turbines."

January 30, 2001

"The P.C. Wars: Is political correctness bad for your heath?" - Scroll down this link to read the Washington Post's brief review of Sally Satel's new book, P.C. MD. Click to get P.C. MD through from Amazon.com.

"Societal collapse driven by abrupt climate change, not social, economic and political forces" - "Contrary to common beliefs, societal collapses of the past have been caused by sudden climate change, not only by social, political and economic factors, Yale anthropologist Harvey Weiss reports in a new study published in this week's Science. "Our conclusions are both surprising and challenging because in the past, archaeologists and anthropologists have commonly explained collapsed societies as the result of social, economic and political forces combined," said Weiss, professor of Near Eastern archaeology at Yale. For their study, Weiss and his colleague, Raymond S. Bradley of University of Massachusetts, Amherst, summarized and synthesized recent archaeological and paleoclimatological research. This allowed them to understand that repeated incidents of societal collapse in the archaeological and historical past have been the product of abrupt, natural climate changes." (Yale)

So far, so good - then they blow it with the flat statement that "present and future climate change will involve both natural and anthropogenic forces and will be increasingly dominated by the latter." This strikes me as hubris of the highest order. To date, there's no evidence that humanity is capable of effecting significant influence on global climate and a wealth of data suggesting we simply have to tolerate whatever we get.

Agreed, prevailing climatic condition is possibly the single most influential factor affecting the success or failure of human societies - but where is there any evidence that we are even capable of altering the global climate?

There has been much said about enhanced greenhouse forcing but the atmosphere does not demonstrate the hypothesized warming, leaving us to ponder whether alleged surface warming is not simply us making a hash of the near-surface amalgam record. It will be decades before we have accumulated sufficient data from the recently-begun submersible drifting buoy study to determine what trends, if any, are present in oceanic temperatures and oceans account for more than 7/10ths of the Earths surface. The near-surface land-based amalgam is poorly representative of the remainder of the Earth's surface and highly suspect due to contraction and drift in the recording sites. We know that contraction to urban recording locations induces a significant warming bias in the land-based near-surface record but we don't know how much. Hell - we don't even know if the planet has actually recorded a genuine increase in mean temperature over the last half-century. All that we can surmise suggests a warming of between +0.3°C and +0.6°C since 1880 and that took place prior to 1940 (i.e., before significant change in the amount of atmospheric minor greenhouse gas constituents). Since then, there has been no demonstrable net change in global mean  temperature.

What scientist worthy of their parchment can honestly state the current global mean temperature tend when none can be demonstrated - much less causality for a purely hypothetical change? It will be decades before we can determine what is really happening and probably decades more before we could begin to work out why. This is becoming too ridiculous for words.

I sincerely hope that biotechnology advances such that human lifespans are greatly extended for I really would like the answers to a lot of questions about global climatic change - I also know I'll be well into my second century before any realistic answers are possible. In the meantime, forget enhanced greenhouse, it's irrelevant.

"Global Warming May Cause Tempers to Flare" - "NEW YORK - If predictions of global warming hold true, increases in violent crime and bloodshed may accompany rising temperatures, a US researcher said Monday. Even an increase of 2 degrees Fahrenheit may result in an additional 24,000 murders and assaults in the US alone, Dr. Craig A. Anderson, a psychologist at Iowa State University, told Reuters Health." (Reuters Health)

Well global warming hype and hysteria is certainly making me decidedly grumpy!

"A silver lining for dirty clouds" - "DIRTY and polluted clouds produce less rain than clean ones, but might counteract the effects of global warming, a group of weather experts has claimed." (The Times)

"NEW POWER SOURCE: GOT YOUR WHALE OIL LAMP READY? " - "Have you heard the horrible news? The Alaska oil pipeline has broken, spilling crude oil all over the landscape, wiping out species and leaving an ecological wasteland. Whole herds of caribou have been destroyed. What's that, you haven't heard the news? That's because there is no such news, I made it up. Just like environmental doomsters three decades ago predicted cataclysm if the Alaska oil pipeline was built to ship crude oil from Prudhoe Bay to an energy-thirsty America." (Dennis Byrne, Chicago Tribune)

"Nuclear Power Could Be A Solution" - "To the Editor: Sen. Breaux makes some cogent points concerning America's looming energy crisis (Op-ed, Jan. 18). It is unfortunate, however, that he neglects to mention one energy source which would fulfill his criteria of environmental preservation, high efficiency, and domestic sources to reduce our dependence on foreign cartels: nuclear power. Nuclear power has been used with safety over the past three decades by many European countries, with excellent efficiency and only one significant accident, at Chernobyl in 1986. In contrast, the U.S. has failed to exploit this safe, clean and efficient energy source, with resultant effects of dependence on foreign oil and potentially environmentally-unfriendly plans to increase domestic oil and gas drilling. Meanwhile, the most technologically-advanced state in the most technologically-advanced country lumbers towards darkness for want of available power. The reason: superstitious, unscientific fear of nuclear power by vocal activists. Shouldn't we be adhering to science on this issue, which would redound to everyone's benefit?" (Catherine Maroney, WSJ letter)

"Power troubles snowball in Russia " - "Record cold has collapsed power grids. Next year could be worse." (CSM)

"Doctor's Gulf War Studies Link Cancer to Depleted Uranium" - "PARIS, Jan. 28 — The cancer deaths of 24 European soldiers who served as peacekeepers in the Balkans and the illnesses reported by many others have stirred alarm in Europe about the use of depleted uranium in munitions fired from American warplanes during the conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo. No one has provably linked the use of depleted uranium to the deaths or illnesses of Balkan veterans, and many scientists consider such a link impossible. Nor is it clear that cancers are occurring at a higher rate among former peacekeepers than in the population at large." (New York Times)

"BSE cleanup threatens Europe's ag budget" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The mad cow disease is threatening to break the European Union's farm budget and create a massive beef surplus for which the EU has no room, the EU''s farm chief said Monday." (AP) | NCBA Responds to BSE Concerns in U.S. (AgWeb.com) | No sign of mad cow so far in quarantined Texas herd (Reuters) | Mad Cow Disease Called International Threat (ENS) | Chileans fret over mad cow disease despite government assurances (justfood.com) | EU takes stock of mad cow scare (AFP) | Mad cow committee meets for first time (AAP) | Haemophiliacs checked in vCJD scare | Mad cow costs 'out of control' (Telegraph) | EU faces massive beef surplus | Germany demands tougher action on BSE | Race to find patients at risk of CJD (The Times)

"It's A Mad, Mad World" - "USA Today examines the prospect of mad cow disease showing up in the United States. The story features a good deal of unwarranted scary rhetoric from Consumers Union's Michael Hansen, a leading opponent of agribusiness." (GuestChoice.com)

"Ebola Fever Strikes Home – in Hysteria Form" - "There is a crisis brewing in the world that we ignore at our peril. The Ebola virus is back, and it’s spreading." So declared the opening line of a December Business Week article: "Ebola Could Soon Be the West’s Problem, Too." Soon? Ebola fever is already sweeping the West. But this pathogen is hysteria. And clearly initial infection confers no immunity, because we’ve been through all this before." (Michael Fumento on risk and hysteria)

"French report urges mobile phone prudence" - "PARIS, France -- An official report for France's health authorities recommends that radio emissions used for mobile telephones should be reduced as much as possible to avoid health risks, the daily Le Monde reported Monday. The report, due to be released in the next few days, also urges that children use mobile telephones moderately, it said. But its authors insisted they had no proof for theories that extended use of mobile phones could cause brain cancer or other illnesses. "The general attitude of prudence recommended by no means amounts to proof of the theories about health risks," Le Monde quoted the report as saying." (Reuters) | Half UK children own mobiles (BBC Online)

"Paying for the obvious" - "College students drink for different reasons.   "Players," or men who seek many women sexual partners, are motivated by "sensation propensities" and "sexual narcissism." All that may sound like common sense, but common sense is not so common — or cheap when the government is involved. Every year,the federal government plunks down hundreds of millions of dollars so that pseudo-scientific researchers can laboriously confirm the obvious (see above) or provide a scientific veneer for leftist cliches." (Evan Gahr, Washington Times)

"Cancer conference urged to probe lifestyle, environment links" - "A four-day conference on cancer opened yesterday with a commitment to investigate its causes. The Fourth UAE International Cancer Conference got underway with a determination to promote the exchange of knowledge between the Arab world and foreign experts. In his opening speech, Minister of Health Hamad Abdul Rahman Al Madfa said there was an urgent need to investigate factors suspected of being major causes of cancer. "These include environmental pollution resulting from increased industrial activity, and changing patterns of behaviour and attitudes, such as dietary habits, the lack of exercise and smoking," he said." (Gulf News)

Hmm... a cancer's cause is 'environmental' if it's non-genetic - this includes lifestyle, diet, substance abuse... Everyone stand by for releases to be misinterpreted by the media and translated to something along the lines of "pollution major cancer cause" - actually meaning "environmental factors" like the above-mentioned lifestyle, diet, substance abuse etc.. Sigh...

"New Study Shows How 'Green' Politics Kills Children in Developing Countries" - "WASHINGTON, D.C. — According to the World Health Organization, malaria affects some 500 million people each year and kills up to 2.7 million annually, amounting to one child every 20 to 30 seconds. “When Politics Kills: Malaria and the DDT Story”, shows that much of this loss of lives could have been prevented if DDT had not been abandoned in most of the developing world. Pressure from environmental groups has driven aid agencies and governments the world over to fear using DDT. The new study was written in conjunction with the Save Children from Malaria Campaign, a coalition which recently launched a worldwide Internet petition drive (http://www.fightingmalaria.org) to help save children and pregnant women from the ravages of malaria through the limited use of DDT." (CEI)

?!! "The danger of 'hidden' salt in food" - "... Researchers say a reduction of three grams a day would cut strokes by 25 per cent and heart attacks by 16." (Telegraph)

Salt's back as "evil chemical du jour?" Really? I was under the impression that the more research was done the less significant salt was seen to be. Come to think of it, Junkman touched on this topic recently.

"Publicity-seeking politicians and contingency-fee lawyers corrupt the law" - "The corps of 50 attorneys general around the nation – those wannabe governors -- is at it again. Often in league with trial lawyers, they have gone after tobacco, guns, Microsoft and other high tech firms. Lately, their target has been oil companies. The pattern for the AGs is the same: Pick an unsympathetic target with deep pockets. Generate lots of publicity. Change the laws, if need be. Enlist other AGs in the battle. Get the target to capitulate or a willing jury (it’s not their money) to render a huge punitive judgment. Distribute a big chunk of the settlement to the lawyers. Make sure a big chunk of that gets recycled back into your campaign for re-election, for governor or for senator. This process has resulted not merely in the redistribution of assets from productive firms to lawyers and politicians, but also in the making of public policy." (James K Glassman, Tech Central Station)

"Feed use of antibiotics for hog production challenged in Germany" - "The EU bars U.S.-raised meat produced with growth stimulant hormones, and also frowns on the U.S. practice of low-level antibiotics in feeds. Meanwhile, Germany has allowed use of four antibiotics in feed for pork production. That could end soon..." | German Minister Calls for Ban on Antibiotics (AgWeb.com, AFP)

"Danes to Greenpeace: Enough is enough" - "The following story is a hint that European authorities are getting bored and frustrated with Greenpeace activists' antics in blocking shipments they don't agree with." (AgWeb.com, AP) | Greenpeace block GE soya (Sapa-AFP)

"Rice Genome Mapping Helps War on Hunger -FAO" - "ROME - The mapping of the rice genome announced by Syngenta AG and Myriad Genetics Inc is a vital tool for boosting yields and relieving world hunger, U.N. world food body officials said on Monday. Experts with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) told Reuters the breakthrough was key to increasing the productivity and nutritional value of rice, a staple for more than half the world's people." (Reuters)

"Genetic Clue to Lupus Found" - "MONDAY, Jan. 29 -- Identification of a gene in mice whose absence causes an autoimmune disease remarkably similar to systemic lupus erythematous (SLE, or lupus) in humans has given valuable new insights about a condition that affects 1 million Americans, researchers say." (HealthScout)

"Organic farming rules to focus on the seed" - "MODESTO, Calif. - Organic farmers will need to return to their roots in 2002 or run the risk of losing their distinction and the pricey premium that comes from producing organic food. Growers already farm under rules that restrict the fertilizers, sprays and nutrients that can be applied, without risking "organic" status. But the origin of organic produce - the seed from which the plant sprouts - is unregulated. That will change in the middle of 2002, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture's organic standards become the law of the land." (Modesto Bee)

"Caffeine 'reduces productivity'" - "Office managers who want to get the best out of their workers should put a limit on how much coffee and tea they drink each day. Researchers have found that caffeine intake may be partly to blame for office workers' poor performance." (BBC Online)

January 27-29, 2001

Online charity of the day: "Earth Quake in India: Plea for Help!" - "As you know thousands of people in India have died and millions affected by the tragic earthquake on Friday. The American Red Cross is seeking your help in providing disaster relief to earthquake victims in India. If you are interested in making a contribution, you now do It is easily with your credit card either directly on their website http://www.redcross.org/donate/donate-now.html or calling a U.S. toll free number 1-800-435-7669. For those of you in the U.S, this contribution is tax deductible!. I thank you for your consideration of help towards this noble effort. -- Prakash"

Predictable Post? - On January 23, 2001, Junkscience.com posted the following:

Washington Post hypes global warming report - Compare the opening paragraphs from today's Washington Post article on the UN global warming report with the Post's April 18,2000 article reporting the release of a draft of the report.

The April article, on page A-2, started out:

An early draft of an intently awaited report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) contains no surprises about the prospect of continued global warming, and comes to approximately the same major conclusions as its celebrated predecessor five years ago.
Today's article, on the front page above the fold, starts out:
In the most forceful warning yet on the threat of global warming, an international panel of hundreds of scientists issued a report today predicting brutal droughts, floods and violent storms across the planet over the next century because air pollution is causing surface temperatures to rise faster than anticipated.
Today's New York Times also reports on the UN report, but on page D8 -- not even on the front page of the Times' Science section. A cynic might think the Post is trying to pressure the Bush administration to take action on global warming. Watch for the Post to publish an editorial calling for the Bush administration to take global warming seriously. [Emphasis added]
Today's Post (Jan 28) carries the predicted editorial cautioning the Bush administration that it doesn't have the luxury of "hanging back" from taking action of global warming.

The new Junkscience.com prediction is the California electricity crisis has pretty much ended any real possibility that serious action on global warming will ever be taken by the U.S.. Americans value on-demand electric power and economic growth more than junk science-powered enviro causes.

"Forecast for Disaster" - "Just below your Jan. 22 front-page story on the United Nations report on climate change ["Scientists Issue Dire Prediction on Warming"] was an article about the harm inflicted on California's economy and lifestyle by the electricity crisis there. If the subject weren't so serious, the irony of the juxtaposed stories would be delicious. Your paper focuses only on the worst-case scenario for climate change during the next century. But the majority of the participants in this U.N. process concluded that computer models project many possible ranges of temperature changes over the long term. That variation went unreported." (Rebuttal letter from GCC executive director, Glenn Kelly, Washington Post)

"Global warming not a plot to win funds: scientists" - "Leading Australian environmental scientists have rejected assertions the impact of global climate change is being exaggerated in order to attract more research dollars. Andrew Thompson, who chairs the Commonwealth Treaties Committee investigating the Kyoto protocol, has called for greenhouse research funding to be halved. Mr Thompson says the debate surrounding global warming is damaging Australia's national interests and has suggested the Federal Government increase spending on fossil fuel research." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

The dissenting opinion cited, that of Ian Lowe, is entirely predictable since all his media statements suggest him to be a UNEP acolyte. Interestingly, Lowe was not quoted on greenhouse but rather salinity, fluvial eutrophication and urban pollution.

I agree with Thompson, it's relatively easy to get funding for warming studies and damn difficult for almost any other purpose. Don't believe that mention of the dreaded warming must be included in any grant application in order to attract funds? Just look at this bizarre piece from Australia's CSIRO: Milk down as cows hot up - "Rising temperatures associated with climate change are likely to lower milk yield from cows, according to a CSIRO study." The upshot? Hot, thirsty cows yield less milk unless given shade and water. That must be close to the "Well DUH!" of the decade. Worse, it's an animal husbandry issue that has absolutely nothing to do with enhanced greenhouse. However, at the very least to attract media attention (which it certainly did last August and again this month: Global warming affects milk; Australian Researchers Examine Global Warming and Dairy Production ), the lead states: "Rising temperatures associated with climate change..." when any Australian dairyman can tell you that rising temperatures associated with summer is a factor in their herd management every year. Go figure!

The enhanced greenhouse hypothesis speculates atmospheric warming induced by increase in the atmospheric content of the minor greenhouse gases, which, in turn, may induce surface warming. Fair enough - but two methods of measuring atmospheric temperature fail to observe a net warming trend in the global mean tropospheric temperature. This suggests that the required research is an intensive examination of the near-surface reading amalgam to determine whether alleged rising surface temperature is factual or rather an artifact of closure of rural and remote recording sites and the increasing reliance on sites affected by local phenomena such as the urban heat island effect. I am not aware of any serious undertaking to do so.

Global warming hysteria pieces are common however: Vital need for climate of change | El Nino gets climate all-clear (The Scotsman) | Climate changes could wreak havoc: expert (Economic Times) | European Commission calls for 20-40% emission cuts by 2020 (Kyodo) | Warming Issue Persists (LA Times) | Ancient Coral May Hold Hint of Worsening Weather Cycle (NY Times) | Overwhelming evidence of global warming (Salon) | UN report warns of global warming (Times of India)

"Europe's satellites track climate changes" - "While everyone wonders about unusual weather and what it may mean for the future, spacecraft are the world's chief eyes on current weather and climate variations. Surface stations are scattered very unevenly around the globe. They are especially scarce in polar, oceanic and sparsely inhabited land regions where, some climate forecasters suggest, the greatest changes may be occurring. Only satellites can observe the weather and associated climatic and environmental changes comprehensively and objectively, day by day and decade by decade. So several ESA programmes converge on the issues of climate change." (European Space Agency release)

"Our record roast: SA's hottest spell in 93 years" - "South Australia has officially sweltered through its hottest spell on record with 17 days [with maximum temperatures] above 35C. Two searing heatwaves blasting out of the state's arid interior broke the previous 15-day record set in January, 1908." (The Advertiser)

No, one event maketh not a trend (nor disproves one) - but isn't it curious that it has taken 9 decades to exceed an event recorded at the beginning of the twentieth century? If the globe is warming as proselytizers would have us believe, why hasn't hot, arid South Australia - most of which is classified as desert - been taking a pasting for decades? At about 35° South latitude and sandwiched between the baking crucible of Australia's arid interior and the Great Southern Ocean, Adelaide should, at least in theory, be highly sensitive to climatic change. Why did it not register record after record through the 1990s, purportedly the "hottest decade of the hottest century of the millennium?"

"The Week That Was January 27, 2001 brought to you by SEPP"

"Lake Titicaca study sheds new light on global climate change" - "Tropical South America has endured alternating periods of heavy rainfall and severe drought during the last 25,000 years, according a new study in the journal Science. The report - based on geological evidence from one of South America`s largest lakes - demonstrates how nature can produce sudden, unexpected climate changes that affect the entire planet." (Media release)

"Risks From Uranium Limited, Experts Say" - "A furor in Europe over possible health hazards from depleted uranium ammunition that U.S. warplanes fired in the Balkans has no foundation in medical research, according to numerous studies and radiation specialists." (Washington Post)

"Study Finds No Long-Term Effects of Uranium Arms" - "ALEXANDRIA, Va. - A study of 50 Gulf War veterans who were hit by depleted uranium weapons during "friendly fire" incidents showed they suffered no long-term health effects, a civilian doctor said on Friday. A few subtle effects seen in earlier studies had even worn off -- something that veterans of the Gulf War and the operations in the Balkans should find reassuring, said Dr. Melissa McDiarmid, an expert on toxicology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "They were very subtle before and they have dampened out this time," McDiarmid said in an interview. "This is very good news." (Reuters)

"MMR vaccine: the continuing saga" - "Current concerns are idiosyncratic: most reviews have confirmed the vaccine's safety" (editorial) | UK starts campaign to reassure parents about MMR-vaccine safety (BMJ)

"Babies' diet linked to heart disease" - "Mothers who stop breast feeding their babies too early are increasing the risk that their children will develop heart disease and diabetes later in life, a new study has claimed." (BBC)

"Mad cow scare caused Purina quarantine, government says" - "The government says a quarantine of 1,000 cattle and recall of 22 tons of feed out of fears about mad cow disease may have been caused by a mill that disclosed a possible rule violation." | Purina Mills admits mad cow rule violation (AP) | Purina Mills Halts Use of Ruminant Meat/Bone Meal | Americans wake up to threat of mad cow disease (Reuters) | USA: FDA investigation after feed mix-up prompts potential BSE fears | USA: NCBA statement and information BSE and The U.S. Cattle Industry  (justfood.com) | Industry, Officials on Defensive on Food Safety (Reuters)

"UN food agency urges world action to fight mad cow " - "The United Nations' world food body on Friday urged countries outside the European Union (EU) to act to reduce and prevent risks of mad cow disease, already present in Western Europe." (Reuters Health) | German farmers protest mad cow-related slaughter (Reuters)

"Rats and risk" - "Sir--Research has shown that the so-called natural pesticide, rotenone, might be associated with Parkinson's disease.1,2 As the news began to slowly circulate, the saying by Victor Cohn (a once senior columnist with the Washington Post) that "Scientists are to journalists what rats are to scientists" came to mind. The research in question showed that rotenone can produce Parkinson's disease in rats when it is administered via injection in low doses. Most rats, and human beings, however, do not willingly undertake direct injections of any sort of pesticide, natural or not. So the results and their applicability to human health remain controversial. But, rates are one of the, albeit blurry, windows on long-term human health effects. So the risk question that arises is, are natural pesticides potentially dangerous?" (BMJ Letters)

"Smoking ban halted in D.C. suburb" - "A Maryland judge Friday halted enforcement of what is thought to be the most restrictive anti-smoking statute in the country." (AP) | Tobacco trial blows up after juror’s threat (The Scotsman)

"US should regulate tobacco sales, says panel" - "The US government should regulate the sale and labeling of tobacco products, according to a commission appointed by then-President Clinton, whose administration lost a court battle over cigarette controls." (Reuters Health)

"Economy class" goes up market? "First-class passenger victim of thrombosis" - "THE chief executive of J. Walter Thompson, the advertising agency, has resigned at the age of 45 after almost dying from deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which occurred while flying from New York to Switzerland." (Sunday Telegraph)

"Scientist Searches Yellowstone Park for Carbon Dioxide-Eating Microbe" - "Wanted: Algae of the most adventurous type. Must grow in slime on scratchy plastic discs. A willingness to be periodically purged in favor of new recruits required. Above all, must have a hearty appetite for carbon dioxide and a tolerance for scalding temperatures." (Media release)

"A little chocolate for a healthy heart" - "Chocolate is in the news as a heart-healthy food. According to the February issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter, two recent studies have found that some chocolate products contain high levels of antioxidant flavonoids. These plant-based compounds limit the effects of lipoprotein (LDLs) components in the harmful kind of cholesterol. Good news for chocolate lovers -- these flavonoids may help protect arteries and prevent heart disease. And if you like dark chocolate, the news is even better. The darker the chocolate, the higher it’s likely to be in flavonoids. However, the studies didn’t address how much chocolate you need to eat to achieve heart benefits. Nor did they study any long-term heart benefits or risks. So until more research is done, chocolate should be kept to an occasional treat because it’s still high in calories, fat, sugar and low in fiber." (Media release)

"Plant foodstuffs are an important source of a wide variety of flavonoids with protective properties on low-density lipoprotein oxidation as shown in vitro and in some human and animal experiments. Increasing information is available concerning the absorption and pharmacokinetics of these molecules, but their long-term protective effect on coronary heart disease still needs further investigation." [Lairon D; Amiot MJ. Flavonoids in food and natural antioxidants in wine. Curr Opin Lipidol 1999 Feb;10(1):23-8]

"Hair dyes may raise bladder cancer risk: study" - "Women who regularly use permanent hair dye may be putting themselves at increased risk of bladder cancer, new research findings suggest." (Reuters Health)

"Mothball ingredient causes cancer, government says" - "Naphthalene, which gives mothballs and public restroom deodorizers their distinctive aroma, causes cancer in rats, US government researchers said on Thursday." (Reuters Health)

"UK: Research links low income to poor diet" - "The research, carried out by Mintel International, reveals that poor households pay less attention to the quality of their diet, and families on a tight budget are less aware of the health risks associated with eating a poor diet then those in more affluent households. The survey also indicates that only 18 per cent of all parents questioned attempt to follow the five-a-day fruit and vegetable guidelines issued by the Government." (justfood.com)

Absolutely astounding - you'd have to wonder what tipped them off...

"Rise in diabetes blamed on obesity" - "ATLANTA - In what the government called dramatic evidence of an unfolding epidemic, diabetes in the United States rose by about 6 percent in 1999. Cases rose sharply across almost every demographic category, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The rise is blamed largely on obesity, which was up a startling 57 percent from 1991. "The message is out there - lose weight by increasing your physical activity and changing your diet," CDC epidemiologist Ali Mokdar said. "But nobody is doing it." (AP) | Doctors hail diabetes breakthrough (BBC Online)

"Food industry rapped over fad diets" - "Medical experts are calling on the food industry to stop making what they call a "never ending stream of wild and conflicting health claims that do not stand up to scientific scrutiny." The British Dietetic Association says that January has seen an unprecedented number of celebrity-endorsed diets and foods that are often tied in with a promise of weight loss." (BBC Online)

"Across the world, more and more people out of shape, experts say" - "WASHINGTON - Plentiful food and easy-living technology are rapidly leaving the human race fat and out of shape, experts say." (AP)

Might have been interesting but some of their cited "experts" turn out to be Worrywarts Incorporated (a.k.a. Worldwatch Institute). The big question is whether Lester and his backing band of hand-wringers have ever been right about anything. For three decades Lester's been telling us that "we'll run out of oil within 5-10 years" although proven reserves are higher now that when he began his serial disaster prognostication. Then there was the one about the planet not being able to produce enough calories for 5 billion people - now there's too many for 6 billion (although distribution is far from optimal).

"Kids: Fitter, wiser and more suicidal " - "In 1901, gastroenteritis was a major health concern for Australian children. One hundred years and countless advances in medicine later, they are far more resistant to disease but still face some serious health problems. Today's children are far more likely to be depressed or anxious than those growing up in Australia in the early 1900s. They are also far more likely to commit suicide. Many have eating disorders, a condition not noted 100 years ago. Many more are overweight, in stark contrast to the often underweight and malnourished children of the past. The changes in child health over the past century are outlined in a special report released on Friday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics." (Sun-Herald) | Maybe our children aren't such slobs after all (Sydney Morning Herald)

"Vested interests?" - "The House of Commons Agriculture Committee has, at last, confirmed what many people, including the Chair of the Food Standards Agency, have been saying for some time. There is no evidence to support claims that organic food is any better for you than food produced by other means. In their report they also note:" (Social Issues Research Centre)

"Rice Genome Called a Crop Breakthrough" - "The sequencing of the genetic code of rice, announced yesterday by two companies, was hailed by experts as a major achievement that could pave the way for improvements in a crop that is the staple food for half the world's population. But at the same time, some said the accomplishment raised concerns that corporations were gaining more control over agricultural research and of the world's food supply." (New York Times)

"LABELLING OF GM FOOD IMPOSSIBLE, SAY EXPERTS" - "MELBOURNE, Jan 27 -- Labelling all genetically modified (GM) foods would be practically impossible and hypocritical, according to Australian biotechnology experts. The Canberra-based Centre for the Application of Molecular Biology to International Agriculture executive director Dr Richard Jefferson said there were far more pressing food safety issues than those posed by GM foods." (Bernama)

"We're viewed as criminals says scientist" - "Environment reporter ANNE BESTON hears of the frustration medical researchers are feeling. A medical researcher has threatened to quit the country because of barriers to importing genetically modified mice. Dr Mark Hampton, of the Christchurch Medical School, said New Zealand risked becoming "one large hippy commune" with scientists replaced by astrologers and conspiracy theorists. He told the royal commission investigating genetic science that researchers were being hamstrung by unnecessary red tape and "minority ideological elements" were portraying scientists as criminals in the debate over genetic engineering." (New Zealand Herald)

"Animal threats end classroom dissections" - "ANIMAL dissections are being abandoned by schools because of a fear of attacks by activists. The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has been told that teachers are dropping dissection from biology classes." (The Times)

"Animal thugs law too weak, say scientists " - "NEW laws to tackle the kind of animal rights extremism that almost forced a drug-testing company to close do not go far enough, scientists and MPs said yesterday.
Measures drawn up by Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, due to be debated in the House of Commons today, will address only four of the main 20 tactics used to intimidate researchers, the Research Defence Society said." (The Times)

"IS ENTERTAINMENT A HEALTH HAZARD?" - "In the wake of the Columbine school shootings some people sought to pin fault not on the real teen-age killers, not on the real weapons they used, not on the real people who helped them obtain those weapons, but on fake violence. Violence in the media, everything from classic 1960s kids cartoons to graphic 1990s video games, was the cause of Columbine. A new report from the U.S. surgeon general puts that in some context." (Chicago Tribune) | Violence Finds a Niche in Children's Cartoons (New York Times)

"Sole children at risk of asthma attacks" - "Children with siblings are less likely than those without to be hospitalised during an asthma attack, a new study has found. And children with siblings aged 10 to 14 are even less likely to be admitted to hospital, the study by NSW Health revealed." (AAP)

"Time to hit the gas" - "With a general election looming, fuel prices and taxes are again on the political agenda. The blockades and panic-buying may have ceased, but two hard truths remain: first, oil reserves are finite; and second, burning them in vast quantities has global consequences. Small wonder, then, that Daimler- Chrysler, Ford, Honda and most of their competitors are racing to put production models of ultraclean, hydrogen-powered electric cars on the road." (Sunday Times)

Uh, yeah, great fellas... but where is all this molecular hydrogen coming from? There's a serious energy loss in electrolysis (takes more energy to achieve than you can recover from hydrogen reactions), so you have to source your energy elsewhere and, hydrocarbon-steam reformation reactions still largely rely on fossil fuels as feedstock and all generate carbon dioxide as the reformation byproduct - where'd it get you?

"BOY SCOUT RINGS MAY CONTAIN DEADLY METAL" - "CLEVELAND, Ohio, January 25, 2001 - Ohio Citizen Action is calling on the Boy Scouts of America to halt the sales of their beryllium Eagle Scout ring and recall all beryllium containing jewelry sold by their organization. "Beryllium is a deadly metal. It should not be used to manufacture jewelry," said Amy Ryder, Cleveland director for Ohio Citizen Action." (ENS)

"Legislating a Childhood Without Risk" - "THE City Council has been busy caring for everyone else's children this week. It voted unanimously to make them wear helmets when riding scooters, and the Council speaker, Peter F. Vallone, defended his proposed new smoking restrictions in restaurants by saying, "My concern here is basically for children and the health effects of smoking." Devotion to children is a wonderful thing, but it can seem a little too wonderful when proclaimed by politicians. Children, after all, are not eligible to vote. When politicians start talking about laws to protect kids, the first question to ask is: which adults are going to benefit?" (John Tierney, New York Times)

"Super-Asprin: Deadly Tests?" - "BOSTON - Super-aspirin is turning out to be a super-failure, perhaps even a deadly one. Five years ago, when large-scale testing began, researchers were optimistic that the drug would improve on the plain 2-cent variety, which is still the most important medicine for heart disease. But study after study has ended badly - even shockingly. Now some believe the pharmaceutical industry should call it quits. Stop the testing, they say, because super-aspirin may actually kill more volunteers than it saves." (AP)

Not to be confused with cox-2 inhibitors, an entirely different drug class also sometimes called "super aspirin."

Commonsense letter of the moment: "Quality is measured by care, not mortality" - "I FAIL to see how hospital mortality rates can be used as a measure of hospital performance without reference to how or where services for the dying are provided (Hospital Guide). West Cumbria Healthcare Trust may well have a much higher mortality index than others. However, over the past seven years the trust has actively developed its own inpatient services for dying patients within West Cumberland hospital to an unusually high degree, and is developing services in its community hospitals in a similar way. The service has been commended in several external reviews, but by its very nature is associated with a high mortality rate. In many other parts of the UK these services are provided outside the NHS by hospice charities. Clearly there is a shortage of senior doctors in the trust, which needs addressing. However, unless there is provision in the way these league tables are derived to exclude planned services for patients with terminal illness, we may find that NHS hospitals come under increasing pressure to transfer this group of patients (to which we may all eventually belong) elsewhere. -- Dr Eileen Palmer, Consultant in Palliative Care." (Sunday Times)

January 26, 2001

"American Heart Association Paradox" - "The American Heart Association urged this week that 'health care professionals downplay the popular but unproven supposition that drinking red wine can help ward off heart attacks.' But 'unproven suppositions' don’t stop the AHA from helping to promote other foods and beverages as 'heart healthy.' Some 'unproven suppositions,' as it turns out, are more lucrative and politically correct than others..." (Steve Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"NTP Completes 500TH Two-Year Rodent Study and Report; Series is the Gold Standard of Animal Toxicology" - "The U.S. National Toxicology Program published its 500th two-year safety test of chemicals in rodents – a landmark in a series that has influenced what is allowed in your drugs, your water, your foods, and your air, for these reports have often formed the foundation for regulatory action by the Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Consumer Product Safety Commission." (Media release)

Researchers recently estimated that 85 percent of the chemicals tested in NTP’s long-term bioassays were either carcinogenic or anti-carcinogenic at some site in some sex-species group. The authors concluded, “This suggests that most chemicals given at high enough doses will cause some sort of perturbation in tumor rates.” [Crump KS; Krewski D;Van Landingham C. Estimates of the Proportion of Chemicals That Were Carcinogenic or Anticarcinogenic in Bioassays Conducted by the National Toxicology Program. Environ Health Perspect 107:8388 (1999). ]

Does this mean perhaps that basing public policy on poisoned animals isn't such a good idea after all? Should NTP be renamed “Not Too Probative”? Hey NTP, is it quantity or quality? Are bioassays bioassinine?

"Health regulators investigating cattle quarantined in Texas" - "Federal health regulators are investigating 1,000 cattle that were quarantined in Texas after a feed mill disclosed it may have violated rules designed to prevent mad-cow disease." (AP)

"Portugal begins slaughter of 50,000 cattle" - "Slaughterhouses across Portugal began killing the first of 50,000 cattle Thursday in an effort to purge herds of mad cow disease. Germany also ordered its first herd killed." (AP)

"NATO: No link between depleted uranium, cancer" - "A special committee has yet to find a link between armor-piercing munitions using depleted uranium and cancer among peacekeeping troops active in the Balkan region, NATO said Wednesday." (AP)

Myth recycling of the day: "Rutgers group to begin information campaign about genetically modified foods" - "NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- The controversy of genetically engineered food will soon enter the dialogue at Rutgers University. The Rutgers chapter of the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group plans to implement a vigorous campaign to raise the students' awareness on the issue. NJPIRG representatives said there are potential risks involved when bioengineers insert DNA from plants or animals into the genetic composition of other plants or animals. Rutgers College first-year student Jess Thomson, chairwoman of the Rutgers College chapter of NJPIRG, said victims have already been claimed by the process. "Some people have had allergic reactions to tomatoes containing peanut genes," she said." (U-WIRE)

Some research group - there's no such thing as a commercially-approved tomato containing peanut genes. This from Professor C S Prakash:

Regarding the news you mention from Rutgers University, I wish to assure you that there is no tomato anywhere which has been approved for commercial release with a peanut allergen gene. Unfortunately, this is another irresponsible scare-mongering about genetically modified food that some critics are spreading (like the fish gene in strawberry story that keeps creeping up now and then; or the pig gene mentioned in that report). As you rightly mention, the scientists have a great knowledge now on what type of proteins cause allergy. ... No one would risk their investment by putting a known allergen gene or even a gene from allergen sources such as peanut into our food. Further, FDA regulations require clear labeling of any products containing an introduction of known allergen or any genes from allergen sources.

"GM food safe, says American Medical Association" - "WASHINGTON: The American Medical Association (AMA) has approved the use of transgenic crops and genetically modified foods (GMFs) saying these foods are substantially equivalent to their conventional counterparts and have no long-term health effects." (Times of India)

"NATO Says No Link Between Depleted Uranium, Cancer" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium, January 25, 2001 - There is no link between the depleted uranium munitions used in the NATO led Balkans wars and the rash of cancers that have been reported by soldiers who fought in the conflicts, according to the chairman of a multinational committee convened to study the matter. Daniel Speckhard, the U.S. Ambassador to Belarus and the chairman of NATO's ad hoc committee on depleted uranium (DU), said Wednesday that "based on the data today, no link has been established between depleted uranium and any forms of cancer." "To date, no nation has found evidence of an increase in incidence of illness among peacekeepers [who served] in the Balkans compared with the incidence of illness among armed forces not serving in the Balkans," Speckhard said at a news conference. "None of the nations reported finding a link between health complaints of personnel employed in the Balkans and depleted uranium munitions." (ENS) | NATO: No link between depleted uranium, cancer (AP) | Troops' DU risks 'trivial' compared with combat (Telegraph)

"Government bows to pressure for DU inquiry" - "The government is to launch a wide-ranging investigation into the health risks of depleted uranium (DU) in the light of increasing public anxiety over its use in armour-piercing munitions." | At last, ministers take depleted uranium seriously (Independent)

"UNEP and IAEA Considering Assessment Missions to Other Affected Countries" - "VIENNA — Mohamed ElBaradei, the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), have agreed to consider ways and means to respond to requests for fact-finding missions to Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Iraq where depleted uranium was used during military conflicts." (UNEP) | UN Health Agency to Probe Depleted Uranium in Iraq (Reuters)

Well, everyone's saved! Klaus-the-whacko's going to send in a team from UNEP, co-sponsors of the IPCC and other bureaucratic nightmares. I can't express just what that's done for my confidence (mostly because I'm not allowed to use expletives). Hopefully, IAEA can introduce sufficient science and fact to counter UNEP's input.

"The uranium minefield" - "Scientists doubt that depleted uranium is behind the mystery illnesses of veterans of the Gulf War and Balkans conflict, but proving it is much harder." (Independent)

"Americans going overboard on consumer safety" - "Jan. 22, 2001 - We've buckled up and slimmed down. We've shunned smoking, red meat, sunbathing and skiing in the trees. We sure as shootin' don't run with scissors any more. We pay full attention when the Consumer Product Safety Commission or the Food and Drug Administration or Richard Gere warns us to never, ever, ever operate heavy machinery after eating undercooked ham burgers. In a word, we fret." (Denver Post)

"IBM Toxic Tort Plaintiffs Face Strict Causation Test" - "Plaintiffs seeking damages for alleged toxic chemical poisoning at an East Fishkill, N.Y., semiconductor factory will have to show they were exposed to a harmful level of the substances, a Westchester County, N.Y., Supreme Court judge ruled last week. The decision is expected to set the ground rules for nearly 200 claims against International Business Machines and chemical manufacturers. The ruling was handed down in a case where two workers said that on-the-job exposure to chemicals resulted in birth defects to their son in the mid-1980s." (Law.com)

This is likely to upset chemophobes and the toxic tort industry - imagine having to show dosage and causation!

"Hands-free callers still risking crashes, study says" - "VANCOUVER (CP) -- Drivers who use hands-free cellular phones may be no better off avoiding accidents than other cellphone users, a study released Thursday by the Insurance Corp. of British Columbia suggests. The Crown-owned auto insurer's study said using a cellphone while driving, including the hands-free version -- is a form of impairment. The "driver distraction study" said it's not just drivers taking their eyes off the road, but their minds, that causes the problem." (CP)

So... they admit it's not the phones that influences driving but rather that drivers are talking - like, to other parties to a phone conversation or... passengers?

Transport's under further attack for everything from chemical pollution to motion sickness:

"Cabin fever" - "Is your car making you ill? Andrew Baxter reports on the drive to remove potentially harmful substances from car interiors" (Telegraph)

"Alaska Airlines settles cabin air quality lawsuit for $725,000" - "SEATTLE - Alaska Airlines is paying $725,000 to settle a lawsuit by 26 flight attendants who said they had been sickened by toxic leaks that fouled the air in passenger jets." (AP)

"Pilots are fed up of feeling sick" - "AFTER five years in service, Boeing’s 777 jetliner is coming under scrutiny after reports of motion sickness by some pilots during certain manoeuvres, and wooziness by passengers and crew that may be linked to its sophisticated climate-control system." (The Scotsman)

of course, [to tune of Smoke gets in your eyes] /You could always take a horse/ but you might get something worse/ ... in your eyes!/ [Allan Sherman Live (hoping you're the same)]

Some rubbery figures here: "UN Reports Global Deforestation Slowing Down" - "ROME, Italy, January 24, 2001 - The global rate of forest loss has slowed to nine million hectares per year, according to the latest global forest assessment by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). ... Forests are disappearing most rapidly in Africa and Latin America while in Asia, the reduction of natural forests is largely compensated by new plantation forests. In Europe and North America the forest area is increasing, the survey shows. Overall, the world contains around 6,000 square meters of forest per person. The figure is falling by 12 square meters every year. The survey's findings show some countries still have high levels of deforestation, mainly because of conversion of forests to other land uses. But other countries show significant increases in forest cover through plantations or natural regrowth." (ENS)

Assuming 6 billion people on the planet and 6,000 square metres per person, that's 36 million square kilometres of global forest cover. Global human population is growing at about 1.2% (about 74 million) per annum, although this rate is declining. One year earlier then, there would have been 5.926 billion people with 6012 square metres per person or 35.627 million square kilometres of global forest cover. This suggests a net increase of around 373,000 square kilometres of global forest cover in just one year. Rather than per capita forest area falling at a rate of more than 70 square metres per year, as would be anticipated simply from population increase and static forest area, global forest area must be expanding at a rate just short of population increase to keep the equation as close as it is. With no change in trends then, per capita forest area should begin increasing sometime in the next few decades. The other possibility is that they have made a complete hash of the report and have no idea whether global forest cover is increasing, decreasing or static.

"Food facts: There is no evidence that organic food has health benefits, says report" - "Despite the explosive growth in demand for organic food, there is no proof that it is any better for you, says a select committee of British MPs. "It's time to move from faith to science," said David Curry, chairman of the House of Commons Agriculture Committee that produced the report." (New Scientist)

"'Science in crisis' warns Labour peer" - "The Labour peer and pioneering fertility expert Lord Winston has warned of what he perceives as an "international crisis in science," brought about by irresponsible protesters, the media, and even fellow scientists." (BBC Online)

"Oh! So that's what's wrong with them" of the day: "Schizophrenia linked to cat feces" - "Researchers in the United States have found evidence that cats really do drive people mad." (National Post)

"Lake Titicaca study sheds new light on global climate change" - "Tropical South America has endured alternating periods of heavy rainfall and severe drought during the last 25,000 years, according a new study in the journal Science. The report - based on geological evidence from one of South America`s largest lakes - demonstrates how nature can produce sudden, unexpected climate changes that affect the entire planet." (Stanford University) | Core samples reveal evidence for a wet Ice-Age South America (Duke University)

"Coral Reef Exposes Worst El Ninos Ever Are Now" - "WASHINGTON - An ancient coral reef in Papua New Guinea has let scientists check up on the history of El Nino and suggest the weather pattern, blamed for droughts, floods and storms, has never been stronger than it is now. Other experts said their findings show that El Nino, which can disrupt weather around the world, is probably unpredictable and affected by subtle changes in climate -- bad news for people trying to forecast El Nino influences." (Reuters) | Ancient coral reef record gives history of El Niño (UC Santa Barbara) | Coral shows El Nino's rise (Alex "Gee Dubya" Kirby, BBC Online)

A very definite could possibly be a vague maybe. Unfortunately for the "we're all gonna die!" brigade, statistical analysis also shows that current ENSO frequency, while greater than the beginning of the twentieth century, is declining from a high of 20-50 years ago when Earth was in a cooling phase (not good news when trying to correlate purported enhanced greenhouse warming and increased El Niño frequency). Another little problem for this study is that it disagrees directly with a number of other proxy studies claiming to demonstrate that there is, in fact, nothing unusual about recent ENSO events. For some perspective, see Recent Strong El Niños Nothing New; In Search of Past El Niños; A 1400-Year Record of ENSO Variability; A 300-Year Examination of "Persistent" ENSO Events.

"Britain to suffer from 'El Nino' storms" - "Global warming could give Britain more storms in winter, caused by increased activity of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), a northern equivalent of the El Niño phenomenon that affects American weather." (Independent)

More bizarre hand-wringing and hysteria from The Independent. They even ring in ancient societal collapse theories about climate change (over the last 10,000 years), presumably based on this release: Climate change played a role in collapse of ancient societies, suggests UMass researcher [Civilisations 'destroyed by climate change' (Telegraph)] - obviously applicable to today's global hunter-gatherer society... Given that we have only deduced the existence of the NAO in the last decade or so, allusions to enhanced greenhouse-induced change in the cycle may be, uh... premature.

January 25, 2001

"Biotechnology Food: From the Lab to a Debacle" - "In late 1986, four executives of the Monsanto Company, the leader in agricultural biotechnology, paid a visit to Vice President George Bush at the White House to make an unusual pitch." (New York Times)

"Where's the science?" - "Each new pronunciamento issuing forth from the heavily politicized offices of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is more apocalyptic than the last." (Washington Times editorial)

"Environmentalist on the inside" - "Gale Norton, President George W. Bush's nominee for the position of secretary of interior, has faced aggressive opposition from national environmental lobbies. She deserves the grassroots support of environmental stewards from throughout the country for her distinguished career of public service to the land, the people of her state, and of the nation as a whole." (George Radanovich in the Washington Times)

"Consumer Groups Shouldn't Reject Biotech" - "My organization, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, has waged many campaigns over the last three decades to improve the nutritional quality and safety of our food. From advocating nutrition labeling to attacking olestra and sulfites, we know how to publicize problems. Predictably, we've been vilified more than once on this page. But the campaign we have not joined is the one aimed at halting agricultural biotechnology and genetically engineered foods. While biotechnology is not a panacea for every nutritional and agricultural problem, it is a powerful tool to increase food production, protect the environment, improve the healthfulness of foods, and produce valuable pharmaceuticals. It should not be rejected cavalierly." (Michael F. Jacobson in the Wall Street Journal)

"The Gang of Green" - "Running out the clock is always a risky strategy -- especially tricky when you're up against U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth. At almost the same moment Bill was releasing his list of Presidential pardonees and Hillary was taping up the last of the boxes to be shipped to Chappaqua, Judge Lamberth zapped the Environmental Protection Agency with a preliminary injunction aimed at preventing it from chucking down the memory hole crucial information about how the agency went about its business in the final days of the Clinton-Gore Administration." (Wall Street Journal editorial)

"Comment: Saturday night at the science lecture. Wow!" - "Here's a shot at using three separate problems to develop a bright idea. Problem one is the public distrust of scientists. Even though science might be more accessible, via increased television coverage and obliging publishers, the problem is one of interaction. Scientists are, for the most part, perceived as about as trustworthy as politicians and, inevitably, remote and unfeeling nerds. While some people might be experiencing the "wow" factor over certain aspects of science, they are still scared rigid by GM foods and mobile phones, and the fact that no one will actually talk things through clearly with them, and steer them through the minefield of scientific method." (Susan Greenfield, Independent)


  1. Why is it the responsibility of scientists to provide monosyllabic science to an ignorant population?
  2. Is it scientists' fault that the bulk of society is too lazy to learn?
  3. Isn't it the responsibility of the education system and the media to disseminate factual information?
  4. What is so complicated that people need someone to "steer them through the minefield of scientific method"?
  5. Why are people "scared rigid"?

I have my own opinions on these questions (of course).

  1. It is the responsibility of scientists to distill useful information from the plethora of data that surrounds us, to apply extreme skepticism in that interpretation in order to exclude the extraneous and the false conclusion. It is not the responsibility of the scientist to spoon feed that information to a public for whom it largely has no relevance.
  2. It is societies' responsibility to be appraised of relevant information, not scientists' to ensure that they are so.
  3. It is the responsibility of the education system and a responsible media to disseminate factual information, while refusing to disseminate nonsense.
  4. There are four, well-defined steps in basic scientific method and anyone not knowing what they are should follow this link.
  5. People are "scared rigid" simply because they do not apply their critical faculties and discern between the mind-numbingly boring, simply-stated fact that is the usual result of careful and tedious research and the titillating thrill of personal risk found in the sensational (and fallacious) utterances of charlatans, misanthropes, Gaia-freaks and a promiscuous media chasing circulation or ratings for profit. Even (especially?) public broadcasting entities are guilty of dogma dissemination because they are largely influenced by NGOs (Non-Government Organisations) of the natur über alles misanthropy persuasion. Consequently, we have societies whose members do not recognize how good things really are in this day and age, who do not realize they live longer, healthier and safer lives than at any other point in human history. Our societies are regressing to a state of using bows and arrows against the lightening, of shouting to frighten away the darkness of night simply because they do not learn to be discerning about the "information" spoon fed to them by irresponsible media and malicious zealots. This is not the fault of scientists.

"50 nations see no depleted uranium illness" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium -- A committee of 50 nations hastily set up by NATO two weeks ago has found no evidence so far to support claims that depleted uranium (DU) munitions can cause cancer, NATO said Wednesday. Soldiers who served as peacekeepers in the NATO-led missions in Bosnia and Kosovo -- where U.S. aircraft fired some 40,000 DU shells -- were no sicker than those who had not, committee chairman Daniel Speckhard told a news conference." | Science Murky on Health Risk From Depleted Uranium | Depleted Uranium Rounds Can Cause Cancers in Animals (Reuters) | Nato ready to use DU again in Kosovo (Telegraph) | Europe call to ban depleted uranium munitions (AFP)

"U.S. prepared for mad cow crisis as Europe scrambles" - "WASHINGTON -- As European nations scramble in fear of "mad cow" disease, U.S. business and government have calmly assured consumers that for the last decade they have taken the necessary steps to protect the nation's meat supply." (Reuters) | ON MAD COWS AND BIO-FEARS (Chicago Tribune) | Faster Test for Mad Cow Disease (HealthScout) | BSE Screening Test Is Accurate, Study Says (Reuters) | Mad-cow crisis affecting diets, jobs in Europe | McDonald's blames profit drop on mad cow disease (AP)

"Toxic mold conference - Stachybotrys Chartarum - New York City expert to speak at mold and environmental conference in Markham, Ontario, February 22, 2001" - "TORONTO, Jan. 23 /PRNewswire/ - The New York City Mold (Mould)-Fungi Assessment and Remediation in Indoor Environments Protocol is adopted by more than thirty U.S. Cities and States and has been adopted by Environmental Abatement Professionals across Canada. The special guest speaker is Mr. Chris D'Andrea M.S. of The New York City Department of Health, Environmental and Occupational Disease Epidemiology Unit. This conference will focus on Toxic Mold, a specific Fungi, Stachybotrys Chartarum, has been identified as a potential source of health problems, especially in children. Toxic Mold has been found in commercial buildings, houses, HVAC systems, hospitals and schools, identified in, but not limited to, portable classroom buildings. Stachybotrys chartarum is a potent mycotoxin, which renders indoor environments unacceptable for human occupancy." (PRN)

See comments under yesterday's piece "Is it safe in here?"

"Air travel prices should rise to meet pollution costs, study warns" - "Air tickets should cost up to 25 per cent more to pay for pollution emitted by the airline industry that may cause cancer, research published yesterday suggested. Passengers on transatlantic flights would be charged £56.60 extra for a one-way journey if carriers were made to meet the full cost of the damage for which they were responsible, said the study commissioned by the pressure group Transport 2000." (Independent)

Now you know why they released that rubbish correlation about cancer and airports the other day - another "Stop it! You mustn't!" group wants to add to your tax burden to reduce consumption because, well... you might be having a nice life but you are using some of Gaia's resources doing so.

All wet study of the day: "Water 'can reduce brain power'" - "Water may be essential for life - but research suggests drinking it at the wrong time can impair mental performance." (BBC Online)

People who weren't thirsty but were made to drink one-third of a liter of water performed worse than people who didn't drink prior to the mental acuity test and much worse than those who were thirsty and drank. Maybe those who didn't need a drink were distracted, thinking "Gee, I hope this doesn't take long - I really need to go for a whiz!" Sheeeesh!

"Two countries file lawsuits against Big Tobacco" - "MIAMI - Two Central Asian nations have become the latest countries to sue the U.S. tobacco industry over smoking-related health-care costs." (AP)

"Organic Farming vs. The Environment" - "Germany has a new minister of agriculture, Green Party stalwart Renate Kuenast. A former prison social worker and lawyer, Ms. Kuenast is reportedly "a strident environmentalist with no time for traditional forms of intensive agriculture." She says she wants to see "farming return to nature." Italy, too, has a Green heading its agriculture department, while the British minister of agriculture is listening intently at organic farming meetings. And with mad-cow disease raising questions about the merits of "industrialized" farming techniques, the organic moment seems finally to have arrived. All of which raises a question. Contrary to widespread belief, organic farming is not cost free. Organic foods cost more, they are more difficult to cultivate, they are usually of lower quality and they come with their own set of environmental problems. So what sort of price are Europeans willing to pay to "return to nature?" (Dennis Avery, Center for Global Food Issues)

See also Avery's article The importance of high farm yields to wildlife conservation

"MPs find claims for organic food are misleading" - "Many claims made about the benefits of organic food may not be backed up by fact and should be verified by independent tests, an influential committee of MPs warned yesterday. The Agriculture Select Committee said there are fears that consumer demand for organic food could be leading to the loss of control by the organic industry over its "traditional values." (Independent) | Organic food industry is 'running out of control' (Ananova) | Organic food industry 'out of control' (BBC Online) | Organic benefits a myth, say MPs (Telegraph) | Row could divide group (The Scotsman) | Keep eyes open if you go organic (USA Today)

"A revolutionary war over stem cells" - "Jan. 22 —  For the first time in a very long time, America is losing a revolutionary war with England. It is hard to believe. These people call their cookies “biscuits” and don’t watch the Super Bowl. But get ready to have your behind politely swatted by the Brits. To put it in the terms of our famous space race with the Russians, the Brits launched Sputnik on Monday." (MSNBC)

"Oxygenated Fuels Assoc. Files Lawsuit Challenging California RFG Phase-out" - "The Oxygenated Fuels Association (OFA) today filed a suit in a Sacramento, California, federal court, challenging the state’s 2-year phase-out of MTBE. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) says the claim is based on the “groundless notion” that by moving to protect its drinking water from further MTBE pollution, California violated the federal Clean Air Act." (AgWeb.com)

"Conservationists try to prevent Norway wind farm" - "OSLO - Norwegian conservationists issued on Tuesday a formal complaint to the Oil and Energy Ministry in a bid to prevent the planned development of a wind farm in western parts of the country." (Reuters)

"Sweden sets tougher goal for CO2 emissions" - "STOCKHOLM - Sweden said on Tuesday it had set a tougher goal for reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and was considering tax hikes to set an example for global efforts to curb harmful climate change." (Reuters)

Hmm... the Norwegian government crashed and burned March 9, 2000, because they were stupid about CO2 - looks like the Swede's will be the next Nordic government eliminated by Kyoto.

"Global SuperScare XXXV" - "Anyone reading the screaming headlines about the world getting warmer, faster, according to the United Nations, should ask "Didn't we read that in November? What's new?" Simply put, the UN is at it again, trying to scare the world into its arms. There's no new science, just a new meeting on the agenda. This tired old news from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, was leaked in November. That was just in time for the Hague meeting of the Kyoto climate treaty negotiations, which collapsed anyway, and for good reason. This time the release of the IPCC Summary for Policymakers coincides with the Second Global Ministerial Environment Forum of the United Nations Environment Program. The meeting will take place at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, from Feb. 5 to Feb. 9. Calling this meeting a "global forum" is more than hype, because its focus is global governance. In fact UNEP is getting bolder, for it now makes this global agenda clear, except it calls it "international environmental governance." The message is clear -- environmentalists, and the UN, should run the world." (David Wojick, National Post)

Oh dear! "Drying Bogs Pose Pollution Threat - Magazine" - "LONDON - Toxic pollution trapped in bogs in Britain, mainland Europe, Russia and North America could be released into the environment by global warming, New Scientist magazine said on Wednesday." (Reuters)

That figures. I don't often pay any attention to pop-science mags, a la UK climate hysterics New Scientist, but I suppose I'll have to browse the damn thing again this week. The so-called enhanced greenhouse-threat of northern temperate peat bog dehydration is a virtual world artifact of a virtual world "problem," where computers generate "predictions" of a warming world as a result of faulty programs processing faulty data sets with faulty assumptions. Based on these "predictions," others figure that said warming would result in reduced precipitation because, well... deserts are warmer aren't they and they get less rain. This despite the fact that said "warming prediction" relies absolutely on the presumed positive feedback of increased evaporation and more water vapor in the atmosphere (doubling or even trebling atmospheric CO2 can not physically account for more than a few tenths of one degree global warming without the artifice of feedback mechanisms [read "pretend parameters"] so beloved by the modeling fraternity, hence the inclusion of the only major greenhouse gas, water vapor) - you're not supposed to notice that a wetter atmosphere is a lousy way to induce drought. Presumably, you are not supposed to notice either that increased atmospheric moisture results inevitably in increased cloud formation and associated increased albedo (reflection of solar energy) and is, at best, a self-canceling feedback mechanism, if not a negative feedback. Sigh...

"US requests two-month delay on next UN climate conference" - "The new United States administration headed by President George W. Bush has asked for a two-month postponement of the next UN climate conference, due to be held in May in the German city of Bonn. A spokeswoman says the US administration requested the postponement "to better prepare" for the conference, and says the request will be submitted to all participating countries. She says Australia and Canada have already agreed to a postponement." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT Vol. 2, No. 3" - "As chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), former Clinton science advisor Robert Watson steps up his campaign of fear and loathing in an effort to coerce some regulatory action from the United States on the issue of greenhouse gas emission reductions with this week’s release of the Summary for Policymakers from the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report. Word from the IPCC meeting in Shanghai this week is that the upper range of temperature rise during the next 100 years is nearly 11°F. "This adds impetus for governments of the world to find ways to live up to their commitments … to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases," Watson is quoted as saying. Mind you, Watson is the same scientist who, in 1992, predicted an imminent ozone hole in the Northern Hemisphere." | U.N. IPCC THIRD ASSESSMENT IN ERROR (GES)

and the hysteria wanders around the world press: Clean up your act, South Africa | You mess, I pay (Daily Mail & Guardian) | Climate problems predicted for Africa (BBC Online) | Calls for action on global warming (Sapa-AP) | Sandbags on horizon for coastal residents (NZ Herald) | The battle to stay afloat warms up (The Age) | Global warming update: real, man-made, worse (San Jose Mercury News)

January 24, 2001

"Class-action MTBE lawsuit filed" - The 'Erin Brockovich' law firm will help represent a group that's suing ExxonMobil over MTBE in the water supply.

For more on MTBE get the National Research Council report, "Toxicological and Performance Aspects of Oxygenated Motor Vehicle Fuels."

"Is It Safe in Here?" - "WASHINGTON, DC, January 23, 2001 - Dirty air makes headlines - if it is outside where you can see it. You cannot see the air inside your house, office or school, but its quality may be an invisible health hazard, causing symptoms you are blaming on some other factor." (ENS)

Much of this is a little hysterical but it is correct in as much as indoor air quality is usually much worse than outdoor. This problem could even be getting progressively worse but that has nothing to do with industry or 'lax environmental standards' - in fact, it has more to do with imposed standards, namely the mantra of 'energy efficiency.' What defines an 'energy efficient' dwelling is quite simple - it has poor to non-existent ventilation. In turn, this means that it is 'more efficient' (requires less energy input) when it comes to maintaining temperature - it also makes it more efficient at accumulating toxicants. If you can afford the heating bill, ventilate your home more - you'll be healthier for it.

Wonder why the toxic tort litigation machine has not gone after EPA and the conservation fraternity for knowingly poisoning almost the entire developed world population? After all, urban populations in the developed world spend roughly 90% of their time indoors and the increase in illness, loss of quality of life and loss of person life-years from all those premature deaths must be astronomical. Pretty easy case to make too, so where are the mass-tort lawyers? Come to think of it, where are the protesters demanding redress from the misanthropists who have visited this health disaster upon the masses? It's a funny world...

"Cancer rate higher for non-Gulf veterans" - "SERVICE personnel who were not sent to the Gulf in 1991 have suffered more cancers, mental disease and immune disorders than veterans of the conflict, the Ministry of Defence said yesterday." (The Times)

"ACPA Says EPA Report on Pesticides ‘Misleading’" - "A report released earlier this month from the Environmental Protection Agency makes misleading statements regarding potential exposure levels of pesticide residues in food. The American Crop Protection Association (ACPA) says the report is “inaccurate to suppose that exposures could be great enough to cause harmful health effects” in children. In the report, the EPA lists health consequences observed in some lab animals fed high doses. The ACPA says “those are not relevant to the infinitesimal exposures children might experience.” (AgWeb.com)

"Amazon report is 'flawed futurology'" - "A scientific report predicting the loss of huge amounts of the Amazon forest by 2020 is based on unreliable facts and "ecological futurology", Brazil's science and technology ministry says. "There is nothing to give scientific grounds for a deforestation projection of 42% in 20 years," the ministry said in a response to research published in the journal Science last week." (BBC Online)

See comments under " Disgusting, arrogant, neo-colonialist nonsense of the day", lead item Jan 20-21.

"Small Steps, Big Questions" - "Jan. 22 — Mad cow disease is so terrifying and perplexing that some researchers have begun to believe it could have alien origins. Two astronomy and mathematics professors in England announced last month that cows in England and Wales may have picked up the disease after eating grass laced with a sprinkling of interstellar dust. The dust, the scientists proposed, fell as the Earth was bombarded by comets which hosted infectious, extraterrestrial matter. The notion may seem outlandish (and many scientists think it is), but research shows the disease, itself, is outlandish. And its bizarre nature has stumped many efforts to find effective screening tools and treatment." (ABC News) | Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy and Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease: Background, Evolution, and Current Concerns (Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases)

Hmm... even the nvCJD 'link' to consumption of meat from BSE-infected beasts remains hypothetical and one case was even a reportedly strict vegetarian. At present, mutated prions remain a prime suspect but there is no certainty

"Enhanced Coordination of Food Safety Policy Is Proper Emphasis of President’s Council on Food Safety Report" - "(Washington, D.C.) – In response to the final report by the President’s Council on Food Safety, released on January 19, 2001, NFPA Executive Vice President of Government Affairs Kelly Johnston said “American consumers enjoy a food supply that is among the world’s safest.  But Mother Nature doesn’t stand still, and neither should we.  We share the Council’s concerns about the need to continually improve food safety regulation.  This report places proper emphasis on enhanced coordination of scientifically sound food safety policy among the responsible agencies at the federal, state and local levels.” (NFPA media release)

Here's some fighting words: "Labour peer warns of 'crisis' in science" - "The Labour peer Lord Winston warned last night of an international crisis in science, levelling the blame at protesters such as the fuel lobby, arts graduates, the press, and even fellow scientists. Addressing the annual dinner of the Bioindustry Association, an umbrella group representing the biotechnology industry, Lord Winston also hinted that the Government might consider putting a label on drugs saying they had been possible only thanks to animal testing. "Maybe that's something that Parliament might be considering," he said." (Independent)

Granted I'm not particularly enamoured with hereditary peerage but... take a gold star out of petty cash, that man!

"Food and Drug Administration urges curb on antibiotics in feeds" - "ROCKVILLE, Md. - Escalating rates of antibiotic-resistant human diseases demand a sweeping re-examination of the ways that such drugs are now used on the nation's farms, the Food and Drug Administration warned Monday. In proposing new regulations that could, for the first time, suspend farmers' use of any antibiotics found to promote the spread of resistant human pathogens, the agency said the link between farm use of such drugs and some human diseases is now indisputable." (AgWeb.com) | Antibiotic resistance dips in communities (Globe and Mail)

Really? See Where's the Beef on Farm Antibiotics?

"Why Not Nuclear Power?" - "To the Editor: Re: "California Initiates Blackouts to Save Power" (news story, Jan. 18): Isn't it ironic that, as the most technologically advanced state in the most technologically advanced nation slouches towards darkness, no one dares speak of the clear solution to our looming energy crisis: nuclear power? Efficient, environmentally-friendly, and domestically-produced, nuclear power as an energy source has been used for three decades in Europe, with only the Chernobyl accident in 1986 as a blemish on its safety record. Why isn't this source being considered, in addition to new drilling for gas and oil, in view of California's plight? The alarmist fears of a few anti-nuclear activists have prevented this issue from becoming part of our country's solution to dependence on foreign oil. It's time for science to speak out against superstition." (Letter to NY Times, Ruth Kava, ACSH)

"I Know Why the Caged Genome Sings: The Hyped Genome Project" - "For all the attention it drew, you’d think the June 26, 2000, announcement of progress in human genome research was the biggest science news story of the year, with rapturous headlines such as "A Genome Milestone" (Newsweek), "Genetic Code of Human Life Is Cracked by Scientists" (The New York Times), and "Scientists Joyously Announce Gene Sequencing Completion" (Boston Herald). At press conferences in both the United Kingdom and the United States, attended by both President Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Maryland-based Celera Genomics Corporation announced that it had achieved a "first assembly" of the human genome. And it was all hype." (Michael Fumento, American Outlook)

"GM corneas could boost transplants" - "A subtle genetic modification to corneas could increase the chances of a graft operation being successful, scientists hope. The research project, based jointly between Moorfields Eye Hospital and Hammersmith Hospital in London, is looking at ways of reducing the hundreds of corneal grafts which fail each year in UK." (BBC Online)

"Sticker Shock: Why Label Food?" - "Americans have consistently demanded the right to know what's in their food," Senator Barbara Boxer righteously informed participants in a hearing on the labeling of genetically modified (GM) food last September. "Why not tell Americans whether the ingredients in their food are natural or genetically engineered?" It's a popular plea. During the presidential campaign, both Al Gore and Ralph Nader promised mandatory labels on GM food. According to a recent Harris poll, 86 percent of Americans support the idea. "It's the very least that food producers can do," explains Craig Culp of Greenpeace. "People should be able to make informed decisions about what they eat." The argument is simple, commonsensical--and wrong. What consumers have "the right to know" is that mandatory labels for GM food would, in all likelihood, add to shoppers' confusion, as well as to their grocery bills." (New Republic)

"Predicting the Past: It's Really Not That Difficult" - "A few weeks back we received an e-mail message alerting us to a news story about the publication of a climate modeling study in Science magazine.  The popular article briefly described the gist of the study a