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Archives - July 2000

July 31, 2000

"Report on Organic Foods Is Challenged " - "But the two researchers who were commissioned to do the testing -- Dr. Michael Doyle, a scientist with the University of Georgia, and Dr. Lester Crawford, director of Georgetown University's Center for Food and Nutrition Policy -- said they never tested produce for pesticide residue for ABC. ABC executives are now looking into whether the statement about produce, a key premise on which Mr. Stossel built his case, was made without any basis in fact." (New York Times)

"Waters Near Equator Show 'Alarming' Warming Trend" - "The surface of the ocean in the tropical Northern Hemisphere has become dramatically warmer in recent years, increasing at a rate of about 1 degree Fahrenheit per decade since 1984, according to an analysis announced yesterday." (Washington Post)

"Babies' back-sleeping linked to flat heads " - "Traci Fries never thought preventing her baby's crib death would lead to a separate and growing medical problem. From the nape of his neck to the top of his skull, the back of 10-month-old A.J. Fries' head is perfectly flat." (AP)

"US military use of anthrax vaccine under fire" - "When the US Department of Defense (DoD) mandated vaccination against anthrax for all military personnel two years ago, the decision unleashed a storm of controversy that continues unabated." (Reuters)

"Australia, NZ tighten GMO food labelling rules" - "Australia and New Zealand agreed on Friday to tighten rules on the labelling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which manufacturers said made them the toughest in the world. The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council (ANZSF) set a new draft standard requiring labels where novel DNA and/or protein is present in food. " (Reuters)

"DNA test solving Chesapeake's toxic mysteries" - "As the summer heats up Chesapeake Bay waters, a new kind of test to detect toxic marine microbes is sharpening Maryland efforts to predict fish-killing Pfiesteria. The test also helps medical studies of illness associated with the microbe." (UMBI media release)

"Obesity linked to virus, new experiments suggest" - "A cold-like virus may cause obesity, new experiments suggest. " (CNN)

"Study finds higher cancer rates at school on dump near Marion " - "A nearly yearlong state health department survey has found the overall cancer rate among River Valley High School graduates is about normal." (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

"Greenpeace withers as its members quit" - "Greenepace, the environmental pressure group, is in crisis. The world's best known green campaigner has lost more than 1.6m members and seen its income plummet by £30m." (The Times)

"China Wants Labels on Genetically Modified Crops" - "China's quarantine officials want genetically modified crop imports to be labeled accordingly, and have begun searching for unlabeled crop imports, the China Daily newspaper reported." (Muzi.com)

"Check EPA’s Water Standards" - "The White House colluded with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week to circumvent a bill that Congress crafted expressly to stop the agency from imposing new water quality standards on communities. These standards will force communities to implement sweeping new controls on water use — for very uncertain benefits." (Detroit News editorial)

"GM foods 'banned' from school menus" - "A majority of Scottish local authorities have banned the use of genetically modified ingredients in their school meals, according to a survey." (BBC)

"The Things People Choose to Fear" - "Most people do not sit down with statistical charts and decide on the basis of the evidence what specter of death or calamity should most fill them with dread." (New York Times)

July 28, 2000

"The Pesticide Myth" - "It’s hard to say what scares New Yorkers more: mosquitoes bearing West Nile virus or the pesticides used to control the mosquitoes. You wouldn’t think this would be a close call." (Steve Milloy at FoxNews.com)

"Bring Back DDT, and Save Lives" - "New York City cancelled a concert in Central Park on Monday night for fear of the West Nile virus, a dangerous mosquito-borne disease. New York immediately forgot its fear of pesticides and began spraying to control mosquitoes. But DDT, the most effective mosquito control agent known, will not be used. In fact, if environmental activists have their way, DDT will soon be banned from the planet." (Dennis Avery and Alex Avery in The Wall Street Journal)

"Ford Offers a New Choice" - "Ford’s decision to improve fuel efficiency demonstrates the market’s responsiveness to consumer and environmental concerns." (Detroit News editorial) | Related editorials: New York Times | Boston Herald

"Protracted Cooling Could Camouflage Effects Of Global Warming " - "The human contribution to global warming is clearly present and must be controlled, say researchers at the University of Illinois. But there is also another, as-yet-unexplained, cyclic contribution that has important implications for monitoring future climate change." (Science Daily)

"Fraser Institute Says Tobacco Regulation Inflamed by Taxes, Not by Smoking " - "Tobacco regulation has missed its objective of decreasing smoking says a new paper, The History of Tobacco Regulation: Forward to the Past, released today by The Fraser Institute. 'I suggest that government regulation of tobacco is a mix of good intentions, confusion, and the self-interest of regulators and their supporters,' says the paper's author Filip Palda, economist, and Senior Fellow at The Fraser Institute. " (Fraser Institute)

"New Study Shows Link Between Brady Law, Crime Death Drop" - "A new analysis of FBI crime statistics for the first five years of the Brady Law presents compelling evidence that the lives of more than 9,000 people were saved because guns were less available to criminals. The report, 'Saving Lives by Taking Guns out of Crime,' was released today by the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence. " (Center to Prevent Handgun Violence media release)

"Biotech Industry Organization hails dismissal of Greenpeace lawsuit against EPA" - "Dismissal of the case against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) affirms the EPA's regulatory policies and its past scientific findings that Bt crops are safe for the environment and, in many cases, enhance environmental quality" (BIO media release)

"Trans-pacific air pollution is worse than was suspected,says new study" - "UC Davis researchers will report today that rising industrialization in Asia is discharging millions of tons of previously undetected contaminants annually into the winds that travel across the Ocean. These aerosols make people sick and destroy crops in Asia, may be polluting American waters and could dramatically change global climate." (UC-Davis media release)

"A new potent greenhouse gas of industrial origin has been discovered in the atmosphere" - "An international research team have detected a previously unreported compound in the atmosphere, trifluoromethyl sulphur pentaflouride (SF5CF3). The increase of this peculiar gas in the atmosphere is coupled with the increase of the very inert gas sulfur hexaflouride (SF6), suggesting a common source (Science, 28 July 2000)." (Max Planck Institute media release)

"Anthrax vaccine 'ineffective'" - "The controversial anthrax vaccine the US military wants to inject into millions of servicemen does not offer complete protection, it is reported." (Reuters)

"German study finds GM material often in store food" - "More than a third of Germany's packaged food products including maize or soya contain genetically modified material, according to a consumer study released on Thursday." (Reuters)

"EU moves to gauge noise pollution, may set limits" - "The European Commission said on Thursday it had proposed a scheme to measure noise pollution as a prelude to possible limits for European Union cities." (Reuters)

"Switzerland approves Monsanto GM maize variety" - "Switzerland on Thursday approved a gene-modified (GM) maize variety for use in animal feed, the fourth such approval on the Swiss market." (Reuters)

"Study shows how mad cow agents spread disease" - "Prions, the distorted proteins blamed for causing mad cow disease and related fatal brain illnesses, can cause disease all by themselves, researchers said on Thursday." (Reuters) | Related material: Media release

"Supermarket labels encourage healthy food choices" - "Supermarket programs that draw attention to healthy foods can have a big impact on people's buying habits, a recent study reports, and could be an effective way to reach consumers with information to help improve their diet and prevent chronic disease." (Reuters)

"Ford upping SUVs' fuel economy" - "Ford Motor Co. plans to improve its sport utility vehicles' fuel economy by 25 percent - about 5 miles per gallon - by 2005, a person familiar with the plan said Thursday." (AP)

"Owners ask judge to spare possibly infected sheep" - "The owners of two flocks of sheep ordered to be killed by the federal government because they may have a type of mad cow disease asked a judge Thursday to spare the animals." (AP)

July 27, 2000

"Disinfecting the anti-bacteria debate" - "Are we too clean? Should we make homes safer for germs? That is the message you'll get from today's National Health Council conference, 'Antibiotic Resistance: A Serious Public Health Threat.' But there is more to this message than its messenger will disclose." (Steve Milloy in The Washington Times)

Coffee and Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Rebuttal - The study announced yesterday linking coffee with rheumatoid arthritis should be viewed cautiously. Four significant points made by the authors themselves seriously undermine the study’s validity:

  • The authors admit "None of the risk factors for RA has been firmly ascertained in epidemiological studies. The aetiological research, including this study, with its inevitable problems of causal inference, therefore remains explorative. It cannot be concluded whether the associations between coffee consumption and [rheumatoid factor] and RA were due to coffee exposure itself or to some lifestyle or dietary factor closely linked with it."
  • Except for serum cholesterol, the authors did not adjust in their study for the 5 other RA risk factors they themselves cite: "Other obvious risk factors for RA are not known, though being overweight, high serum cholesterol, low serum anti-oxidant status, low intake of olive oil, low consumption of fish and history of blood transformation have in some studies been found to be associated with the risk of RA."
  • Their own data for coffee appears to be unstable Those who don't use sugar in their coffee have a 9-fold increase in relative risk for RA, while those do use sugar have only a minimal increase (1.56) in relative risk for RA -- a difference in risk of nearly 600%. If the authors had properly adjusted for confounding factors, the coffee "effect" would likely be eliminated entirely.
  • This is the first study to our knowledge that even suggests a link between coffee and RF or RA.

"Schools warned on mobile phones" - "The government has written to all British schools setting out the potential health risks for children using mobile phones." (Financial Times)

"Brockovich Challenges ABC Reporter" - "Erin Brockovich challenged '20/20' TV reporter John Stossel to drink water with the carcinogen chromium 6 after Stossel questioned the research she used to gain a $333 million settlement." (Newsday)

"How evolution became a religion" - " The Creationists are wrong in their Creationism, but they are right in at least one of their criticisms. Evolution, Darwinian evolution, is wonderful science. Let us teach it to our children. And, in the classroom, let us leave it at that. The moral messages, the underlying ideology, may be worthy. But if we feel strongly, there are other times and places to preach that gospel to the world." (Michael Ruse in The National Post)

"Cancer linked to clean living and great vegetables " - "The modern obsession with cleanliness, already blamed for the dramatic rise in asthma cases, may also have left people more vulnerable to cancer, according to medical researchers." (Sydney Morning Herald)

"Warnings needed about contaminated Great Lakes fish, commission says" - "A joint U.S.-Canada commission said Wednesday that mothers who live around the Great Lakes need to be clearly told what kinds of fish are contaminated and what damage invisible, tasteless toxins can do to a developing fetus or a young child." (AP)

"West Nile virus found in Massachusetts bird" - "The first evidence of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus, which killed seven people in New York in 1999, has been discovered in Massachusetts in the body of a dead crow, state public health officials said Wednesday." (CNN)

"Study: Public rarely told of pesticide use in California public schools" - "Children, parents and teachers are rarely notified when toxic pesticides are used at hundreds of California public schools, according to a report released Wednesday by an environmental group." (CNN)

Check out my Washington Times column, Unwarranted Warning."

"CDC Releases New Report on U.S. Health Statistics" - Here's media release for the new CDC report, "Health, United States: 2000."

"Canadians put on alert for deadly West Nile virus" - "Residents of Manitoba province were asked on Wednesday to report unusual bird deaths, as health officials joined forces to learn if the potentially deadly West Nile virus has come to Canada." (Reuters)

"Study says higher income not regulations cut smoking" - "Rising personal income has done more to reduce the number of smokers in North America than high cigarette taxes and anti-smoking regulations, according to a study released on Wednesday." (Reuters)

"EU launches debate on risks posed by PVC" - "The European Commission launched a debate on the future of PVC on Wednesday -- the start of a process that could lead to restrictions on the production, use and disposal of the controversial but widely used plastic." (Reuters)

July 26, 2000

"Coffee linked to arthritis" - "Drinking coffee may increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, according to doctors." (BBC) | Other coverage: Media release | Reuters

"Judge blocks anti-meat cow from NY art exhibit" - "A federal judge upheld on Tuesday a ban against an animal rights group's attempt to force New York City to allow a fiberglass cow bearing anti-meat statements in a Big Apple art exhibit." (Reuters)

"French asbestos ban cleared by WTO" - "A World Trade Organisation (WTO) panel on Tuesday supported a French ban on the import of white asbestos and asbestos products against Canadian charges that it violated global trading rules." (Reuters)

"France's Glavany says GMO laws should be modified" - "French Farm Minister Jean Glavany said on Tuesday that laws governing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) should be changed to prevent inconsistencies in response to accidental planting of gene crops." (Reuters)

"Turkey puts off indefinitely nuke power plant plans" - "Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said on Tuesday that Turkey was postponing plans to build its first nuclear power plant to wait for nuclear technology to improve and uncertainty over the power source's future to clear." (Reuters)

"French BSE screening yields first "mad cow" case" - "A plan to screen thousands of French cattle for mad cow disease has yielded its first confirmed case of the deadly brain-wasting disorder, the Farm Ministry said on Tuesday." (Reuters)

"Worldwide chemical sales rise six percent to nearly $400 billion " - "Sales for the 50 largest chemical producers totaled nearly $400 billion, a six percent increase over the year before, according to the July 24 edition of Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society." (ACS media release)

"New York's Central Park reopens after mosquito spraying" - "Joggers, bikers and strollers were back in New York City's famed Central Park which reopened Tuesday morning after being sprayed with pesticides as part of a citywide precaution." (CNN)

"Antibiotics and colds: Not the right prescription" - "Antibiotics are ineffective against the viruses that cause the runny nose, cough and other symptoms of the common cold. A new study, however, found that nearly half of adults and one-third of parents of children with cold symptoms wanted a prescription for antibiotics to manage the symptoms." (CNN)

"Doctors Denounce Milk Ads Starring Marc Anthony, Britney Spears, Others as Deceptive; Group Petitions FTC to Investigate Health Claims " - "The new Marc Anthony ad implies that milk can help prevent osteoporosis in Hispanic Americans. What fans 'need to know,' the doctors group says, is that there is little or no evidence that Hispanic Americans benefit from milk-drinking. To add insult to injury, the majority of Hispanic Americans-like Asian-, African-, and Native Americans-are lactose intolerant and experience gastrointestinal problems from milk." (PCRM media release)

"Radiation ‘Treatment’ of Eggs Will Deplete Vitamins, Disrupt Proteins, Mask Factory Farm Filth" - "Public Citizen is formally challenging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision to legalize the use of high-level radiation to "treat" eggs. Already, the FDA is allowing flour, spices, vegetables, fruit, poultry, pork and beef to be irradiated -- despite the well-documented, negative side effects of this process. " (Public Citizen media release)

July 25, 2000

"Movement Politics" - "The Sierra Club's endorsement of Al Gore suggests the extent to which the protection of the environment may now be regarded as totally political." (Wall Street Journal editorial)

"Central Park sprayed after virus-carrying mosquitoes found " - "Central Park, the storied city playground and a magnet for tourists, was closed and sprayed with pesticides after authorities found mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus." (AP)

"West Nile virus found in New York City mosquitoes" - "The mosquito-borne West Nile virus that killed seven people in New York in 1999 has been detected in mosquitoes in the heart of the city for the first time this year, prompting the cancellation of a concert in Central Park on Monday night, officials said." (Reuters) | Other coverage: CNN

"American life expectancy reaches record high, annual report says" - "Overall, Americans are putting off death a little bit longer, with life expectancy rising to a record 76.7 years. " (AP)

"Finland No Longer Passive About Secondhand Smoke " - "But Finland, frightened by dismal health statistics and freed up by a booming economy that allowed more investment in health care, has broken with the live-and-let-live attitude toward smoking that prevails on the continent. It recently became the first European country to classify passive smoke as a carcinogen and oblige employers in this heavily unionized society to protect their workers from the inherent risk of cancer. " (Los Angeles Times)

"Benefits of cell phones" - "That new study of the risks of using cell phones in cars is a good example of how to think about new safety problems: Carefully." (Boston Herald editorial)

"Teen gun deaths down in US" - "The latest report on deaths in the United States shows the number of firearm deaths for youths under the age of 20 fell by 10%, from 4,223 in 1997 to 3,792 in 1998. The 1998 figure is down 35% from a high of 5,833 in 1994." (Reuters) | Other coverage and related material: MSNBC | White House media release | CDC media release

The following was released [March 6, 2000] by Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, Inc.:

President Clinton, using Handgun Control Inc. (HCI) figures, recently asserted that "13 kids" are killed by guns each day in America.

"That statement is fraudulent," according to civil rights activist Aaron Zelman. "Americans should demand full disclosure. We're getting half-truths and lies."

Documents obtained from HCI reveal the deception: the "13 kids" figure includes people "ages 19 and under." Using that category, legal adults ages 18 and 19 are misleadingly counted as "kids." Zelman noted "if a salesman sold you a home or car by giving you doctored information, then you could sue him for fraud. HCI is steering Clinton to defraud Americans using trick data."

Using the deceptive HCI figures, the Clinton administration claims that more victim disarmament laws (euphemistically called "gun control") will save young children's lives. Actual data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCSH) prove otherwise. Less than 0.3 percent of all victims of lethal misuse of firearms were children under 5 years of age. Less than .07 percent of the total deaths from firearms misuse were accident victims under age 5.

"Saying that toddlers are shooting one another with guns is an outright lie," Zelman stated. "Americans prevent crimes about 5,500 times per day using firearms. HCI is concealing that fact."

NCSH reported firearms-related deaths in America for 1997 totaling 32,436. There were 9 victims under one year of age, 75 victims between one and four years of age, and 546 victims between five and fourteen years of age. These figures correspond to 0.03 percent, 0.23 percent, and 1.6 percent, respectively. "The true figures show that over 98 percent of people killed by firearms misuse are not young children," Zelman observed.

So-called "gun safety devices" can have little or no effect on firearms misuse. Linda Gorman, a researcher at the Independence Institute, recently concluded that "most of the proposed 'safe storage' measures can be defeated by 15-year-olds." Devices such as mandatory trigger locks would not "have much effect on suicides or homicides in older age groups," Gorman noted...

"Number Watch" - "This site is devoted to the monitoring of the misleading numbers that rain down on us via the media. Whether they are generated by Single Issue Fanatics (SIFs), politicians, bureaucrats, quasi-scientists (junk, pseudo- or just bad), such numbers swamp the media, generating unnecessary alarm and panic. They are seized upon by media, hungry for eye-catching stories. There is a growing band of people whose livelihoods depend on creating and maintaining panic. Their stock in trade is the gratuitous lie. The aim here is to nail just a few of them." (www.numberwatch.co.uk)

"HIV drops from top 15 causes of U.S. deaths" - "The HIV virus has fallen off a federal list of the 15 leading causes of death in the United States for the first time since 1987." (CNN)

"US cannot meet Kyoto emissions target " - "America cannot meet its Kyoto treaty target for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases by domestic measures alone, a senior United States official admitted yesterday." (The Independent)

"Restaurants urged to use GM food labelling " - "State and territory health ministers are being urged to include restaurants and cafes in any labelling system for genetically modified (GM) foods." (ABC)

"Govt warned of trade consequences over GM labelling " - "The Federal Government has been warned of dire consequences for trade if Australia embraces genetically modified crops without strict regulations." (ABC)

"Study: too much sugar, not enough milk may damage U.S. teens' health " - "Between 1965 and 1996, a considerable shift occurred in the diets of U.S. teen-agers that could compromise the future health of the nation's people, a major new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study shows. On the horizon, researchers say, are more strokes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cases of the bone-weakening condition known as osteoporosis." (UNC media release)

"Blair supports Clinton stance" - "Tony Blair BLAIR sided with President Clinton against the European Union yesterday in a dispute over genetically modified foods on the last day of the G8 summit. " (The Times)

"BP goes greener with 'beyond petroleum' rebrand" - "Old economy stalwart BP Amoco unveiled a new "green" global brand image and an online revamp of its gasoline stations on Monday, portraying itself as the supermajor of choice for the environmentally-aware motorist." (Reuters)

"Nader blasts Gore's record on child environmental health" - "The Clinton/Gore Administration has not made good on its promises to protect American children from exposure to harmful toxins in their environment, Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader said Monday at a forum on children's environmental health." (Reuters)

"Australians shun GM food, labelling decision nears" - "An overwhelming number of Australians said they are concerned about genetically modified (GM) food and most would avoid eating it if they could, a national opinion poll showed on Monday." (Reuters)

"Call to start heart disease prevention in childhood" - "Baby's first steps are a big day for parents, and a development milestone marked by pediatricians. A new report suggests that parents and doctors need to recognize another important set of steps during childhood: steps taken to prevent the number one killer, heart disease." (Reuters)

"Gore collects Sierra Club's endorsement" - "Vice President Al Gore collected a key environmental group's endorsement of his presidential bid Monday while casting himself as the last defense against moneyed special interests." (Reuters) | Related material: Gore 2000 media release

"Authorities release Greenpeace members arrested at G-8 summit" - "Four Greenpeace activists were released Monday, three days their arrest on suspicion of entering an off-limits area during a summit of industrialized nations in southwestern Japan." (AP)

"Radioactive water leaked at Japan power plant" - "Officials at a northeastern Japan power plant who shut down a nuclear reactor to checkan oil leak found that a small amount of radioactive water had leaked out, the plant's operator said Monday." (AP)

July 24, 2000

"A-bomb survivors have reduced life expectancies" - "Since the atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, much scientific speculation has centered on what would happen to those survivors who experienced low-dose radiation exposure." (Reuters)

There are several problems with this study, which runs counter to other resesarch reporting increased life expectancy among the atomic bomb survivors:
  • Longevity differences in this study are pretty much negligible -- i.e., 1-2 percent per 100 rems of exposure.
  • These researchers failed to remove from their analysis deaths due to blast effects. Including deaths caused by the blasts reduces the longevity of the survivors.
  • The dosimetry is problematic. Researchers don't know what subjects' exposure levels were and lack information on likely shielding effects.
  • Comparison groups may have been selected so as to exacerbate any differences in longevity.
  • The Radiation Effects Research Foundation has refused to provide the raw data to independent scientists.

"Talks agree to disagree on GM foods" - "World leaders were split yesterday over the safety of genetically modified food and the pace of relieving poor countries' crippling debt levels." (The Australian)

"Expanded treatment areas for West Nile virus include Queens, Brooklyn" - "The discovery of two more dead birds infected with the West Nile virus Sunday prompted New York City to expand its battle against disease-carrying mosquitoes." (AP)

"Diet changes have 'increased cancer risks'" - "Researchers at the University of Newcastle believe that changes to the way food is grown and produced have robbed it off its anti-cancer agents." (BBC)

"Amphibian decline 'has many causes'" - "The decline and even disappearance of frogs, toads, newts and salamanders across the world has no single cause, a US biologist says." (BBC)

"Florida mystery pollution blamed on pigeon feces " - "A pollution scare that has baffled scientists and forced the closing of a popular Florida beach at the height of summer has been tentatively linked to a flock of pigeons, health officials said on Thursday." (Reuters)

"Monsanto wins British legal tussle over GM" - "A group of British environmental activists lost the final round of its legal battle with genetic crop specialists Monsanto Co in a court decision made public on Monday. " (Reuters)

"Malaysia's PM raps foreign media for smog coverage" - "Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad rapped foreign media on Monday, saying some were overplaying a story on smog that he feared could drive away tourists." (Reuters)

"Australians shun GM food, labelling decision nears" - "An overwhelming number of Australians said they are concerned about genetically modified (GM) food and most would avoid eating it if they could, a national opinion poll showed on Monday." (Reuters)

July 22, 2000

"E.P.A. Acknowledges Shelving a Report About Asbestos" - "The Environmental Protection Agency is investigating why its officials ignored evidence for 18 years that W. R. Grace and Company was using ore laden with asbestos in an array of building products." (New York Times)

"Questions About Where, and Whether, to Spray Pesticides" - "Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani sharply criticized state and federal environmental officials for blocking the city from spraying pesticides in wetlands and other marsh areas in its battle against the West Nile virus." (New York Times)

"Many Say They Feel Ill-Informed" - "What is clear is that many people feel ill-informed about both the dangers and specifics of West Nile, and the dangers posed by pesticides." (New York Times)

"Judge delays killing of possibly infected sheep" - "A federal judge on Friday granted a week's reprieve to 355 sheep that are marked for destruction because they may carry a version of mad cow disease." (AP)

July 21, 2000

"Science Can't Help Cell-Phone Makers" - "The cell phone business is booming with 30,000 new users daily. But the industry is struggling quietly with the albatross around its neck -- whether cell phones pose health risks. Though available science is clearly in the industry’s favor, recent events indicate 'winning the science' won’t be enough." (Steve Milloy at FoxNews.com)

"Say Cheese, But Watch Out For the FDA" - "The Food and Drug Administration is considering forbidding Americans to eat the best cheeses in the world because raw, unpasteurized but aged cheeses might be a health hazard. Of course, the FDA doesn't actually call them the best cheeses. Despite having the word "food" in its title, the agency has never shown any interest in food -- at least not in the aspect of it that most people think essential, its taste. Already non-aged unpasteurized cheeses, which would make up perhaps a third of any decent French cheese board, are banned by the state in the land of the free. The FDA is now thinking of forbidding another third of the board. Some of the best Swiss, French, Italian and Spanish cheeses may soon become illegal." (Digby Anderson in The Wall Street Journal)

"NASA confirms Greenland ice cap melting" - "An ice cap covering much of Greenland is shrinking rapidly and releasing enough water to raise sea levels, according to a report released Thursday. " (CNN)

"Clinton's Attempt to Implant Justice " - "Only in early May did Americans stop working for the government, but Washington is not satisfied. It is now attempting to use the discredited silicone breast implant litigation to impose taxes by other means. " (Doug Bandow at Cato.org)

"Labelling rules to lift GM food cost" - "Food production costs could rise by between 6 per cent and 17 per cent under a tough new labelling regime for genetically modified food, according to a European Union study released yesterday" (AFR News)

"Businesses respond to green Internet activism " - "A business and environment conference has been told Internet activism has prompted an increasing number of large companies to embrace the green message." (ABC)

"Are we misinterpreting the scale of post-traumatic stress? " - "The belief that distress, caused by traumatic experiences during violent conflicts, is a precursor for psychological disturbance is called into question in this week's BMJ." (BMJ media release)

"India to test GM cotton" - "India's environment ministry has for the first time cleared the testing of genetically-modified cotton. " (BBC)

"GM crops are pests, Tasmania declares " - "Tasmania has blocked a united national approach to genetically modified crops, declaring them a forbidden pest and imposing a one-year moratorium against their trial." (Sydney Morning Herald)

"Fewer people smoking" - "The number of people who smoke has dropped significantly in the past 20 years, according to government figures." (Reuters)

"Breast cancer stats 'could be misleading'" - "Official breast cancer registries may be severely undercounting the numbers of women with the disease, claims research." (BBC) | BMJ study

"Vitamins 'should carry health warning'" - "The charity's Director General Professor Gordon McVie said the warning is necessary because there is evidence that supplements of beta-carotene, which can be converted into Vitamin A, can raise smokers' risk of developing lung cancer." (BBC)

"Italy probes impact of GMOs on environment" - "Italy, where opposition to gene-spliced foods is growing, has launched a probe into the impact of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on the environment, officials said on Thursday." (Reuter)

"Greenpeace warns on Greek dioxins, urges PVC ban" - "The environmental group Greenpeace urged Greece on Thursday to ban PVC bottles in an effort to reduce the amount of highly toxic dioxins in landfills around the country." (Reuters)

"32 US state coalitions agree on MTBE gasoline phaseout terms" - " In a move aimed at prodding Congress into action, coalitions representing 32 states have agreed on principles for a national phase out of MTBE, a fuel additive that has contaminated ground water supplies around the country, spokesmen for the two groups said on Thursday." (Reuters)

"NY rules out rare West Nile Virus in man's death" - "A man whose death raised concerns he might have been infected with the mosquito-borne virus that killed seven people in the New York area last year did not have the virus after all, officials said on Thursday. " (Reuters) | Other coverage: CNN

"Greenpeace protests for Argentine GM food labels" - "Food companies should label packaged products sold in Argentina with information about their genetically modified content in line with European practices, environmental group Greenpeace said on Thursday." (Reuters)

"British public wants warnings about new technology" - "The UK public supports a precautionary approach to scientific advances according to a Future Foundation opinion poll, with 75% of respondentsbelieving 'the government has a responsibility to warn people of the possible dangers of newtechnology...(even when) there is no scientific evidence that it is harmful.'" (Reuters)

"Sex safe for most with low-risk heart conditions" - "For the most part, men and women with relatively low-risk cardiovascular disease--such as controlled hypertension, mild heart disease-related chest pain or a past, uncomplicated heart attack--can safely engage in sex and be treated for sexual dysfunction with their doctor's approval, according to a panel of experts." (Reuters)

"Radioactive runoff reported near Los Alamos lab" - " Scientists have reported radioactive storm runoff in a fire-ravaged area above the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory." (AP)

"Willamette Industries to pay $11.2 million fine in Clean Air Act settlement" - "Willamette Industries, an Oregon-based wood products company, will pay an $11.2 million fine - the largest of its kind - to the government under a Clean Air Act settlement announced Thursday." (AP) | Other coverage: Reuters

July 20, 2000

"The Speed of Light Is Exceeded in Lab" - "In a landmark experiment, scientists have broken the cosmic speed limit, causing a light pulse to travel at many times the speed of light--so fast that the peak of the pulse exited a specially prepared test chamber before it even finished entering it." (Washington Post)

The new finding does not mean that the old notion about the speed of light is "junk science" -- but it does show how a long-held scientific belief can be wrong.

As as aside, the report takes me back to my senior year in high school when I set up a laboratory experiment in which a beam of particles was passed through a slab of glass. The particles traveled faster than the speed of light through the medium and in doing so formed a cone of light. The phenomenon is called Cerenkov radiation. Using the angle from the cone of light, you can calculate the speed of the particles.

Typically, sophisticated equipment is used to measure the magnitude of the Cerenkov effect. But I was able to photograph the Cerenkov effect and calculate the speed of the particles with home-made equipment. That earned me a place on the Honors List of the Westinghouse Science Talent Search (now called the Intel Science Talent Search).

"Blind Clerk Is Fired for Selling Youth Cigarettes " - "A blind newsstand worker hired under a federal job program for blind people has been fired after selling cigarettes to a minor during a sting operation." (AP)

"Groups Launch Campaign Against Biotech Foods" - "Opponents of biotechnology have begun a national campaign to pressure major food companies to stop using ingredients made through genetic engineering, or at least to label their products that contain genetically modified material. A coalition of activist groups announced yesterday that it has selected Campbell Soup Co. as the first of six targets, and that it would encourage consumers to protest directly to the company about its use of genetically engineered ingredients." (Washington Post) | Other coverage: New York Times | Reuters

"Could Too Much Cleanliness Make People Sick?" - I was on CNN's "Talk Back Live" television show yesterday afternoonon the topic of anti-bacterial soaps. Here's the transcript. I was also interviewed last night on MSNBC News with Brian Williams.

Anti-microbial soap alarmist Stuart Levy, who holds himself out as a Tufts University professor, was reluctant to discuss his affiliation with a company (Paratek) that is developing its own line of anti-microbial soaps. I guess Levy plans to clean up (ha-ha) with Paratek's products after he destroys the competition.

"Colon cancer screening requires exam of entire colon" - "Colonoscopy--examination of the entire colon through a flexible, lighted scope--detects cancers that would be missed by currently recommended screening methods, report researchers." (Reuters) | Other coverage: MSNBC | New York Times

There's no question that colonoscopy is the "gold standard" for early detection of colon cancer. But it is an expensive procedure and there is no evidence that routine screening by colonoscopy is cost-effective on a wide-scale basis. Insurance companies and HMOs will demand evidence of cost-effectiveness before agreeing to pay for routine screenings.

"Greenpeace USA Struggles to Raise Funds to Pay Debt Placing Hopes in Anti-GMO Campaign" - "One group of former Greenpeace members has established a parody web site http://www.greenpiece.org to help and encourage disaffected members to resign from the organization. The site features include automated resignation letters sent to the organization and even a take-off on the popular Harry Potter book series allowing the disaffected to send a 'howler' sound file to the organization replete with screams and chastising words of shame." (FSN)

"ASM Issues Statement On Genetically Modified Organisms " - "The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) has issued a statement on genetically modified organisms that deserves attention from all science-minded people." (UniSci) | ASM statement

"Model Calculates Human Contribution To Global Warming" - "The human contribution to global warming is clearly present and must be controlled, say researchers at the University of Illinois. But there is also another, as-yet-unexplained, cyclic contribution that has important implications for monitoring future climate change. " (UniSci)

"Head of Britain`s GM trials concerned by attacks" - "The scientist overseeing trials of GM crops in Britain said on Tuesday that repeated attacks on the sites by eco-warriors risked undermining the entire project. " (AgBios)

"World Climate Experts to Meet In Sydney" - "Scientists from the GLASS, the Global Land/Atmosphere System Study, will meet at ANSTO’s Lucas Heights site this week (July 19-21) to review international climate research." (ANSTO media release)

"Diesel exhaust contributes to lung cancer" - "People whose jobs expose them to high levels of exhaust from diesel fuel face an increased risk of lung cancer, Swedish researchers have found." (Reuters)

"Economics that impact environment also affect health" - "The weather is more than just a topic for postcards home and polite conversation with strangers--it definitely affects our health, experts note. On a global scale, economic policies that cause environmental changes, such as depleting rain forests or burning fossil fuels, can lead to climate changes--with devastating effects on the health of local populations." (Reuters)

"GM food accord hard to swallow at Japan summit" - "At their last gathering, Group of Eight leaders sent away for expert advice after failing to reach a consensus on the vexed issue of genetically modified (GM) food." (Reuters)

"Man being tested for West Nile virus dies; Results of blood tests expected by weekend" - "A 71-year-old man who exhibited symptoms of West Nile virus has died at a Staten Island hospital. Results of blood tests are expected by the end of this week, Mayor Rudy Giuliani said." (CNN) | Other coverage: Washington Post

"Smoke-free policies can increase business" - "Providing smoke-free areas in pubs and restaurants can boost trade, according to research." (BBC)

"Asthma rates 'falling steadily'" - "The finding appears to contradict the widely held theory that asthma rates in the UK have been rising steadily for years." (BBC)

"Tobacco's New Best Friend" - "Last week, after a Florida jury ordered the five leading tobacco companies to pay $145 billion in punitive damages, the industry's lawyers reacted calmly, saying the verdict would have 'no practical impact.' By contrast, Stanley Rosenblatt, who represents the plaintiffs in the case, a suit by Florida smokers, seemed disconcerted by the other side's confidence that it would prevail on appeal." (Jacob Sullum in The New York Times)

"Vermont farms fight to save condemned sheep" - "The owners of two flocks of imported sheep went to court Wednesday to try to keep the government from destroying the animals out of fear they are infected with a form of mad cow disease." (AP)

July 19, 2000

"Allergies linked to mothers' periods" - "The presence of allergies in children might be related to the age at which their mothers started having menstrual periods, a new study suggests." (AP)

"Vermont says not to eat cheese from possibly infected sheep" - "The state Health Department on Tuesday recommended that people not eat cheese made with milk from threeflocks of sheep officials fear may be infected with a version of mad cow disease." (AP)

"New York to spray after mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus found " - "Insecticide spraying in the New York City area is planned this week after health officials found mosquitoes carrying the deadly West Nile virus for the first time this year." (AP) | Other coverage: Reuters | CNN | MSNBC | New York Times

"USDA warns farmers to protect livestock from virus" - "The U.S. Agriculture Department on Tuesday recommended that U.S. livestock producers protect their animals from exposure to mosquitoes that may carry the potentially deadly West Nile virus. " (Reuters)

"More class-action suits may be in the works" - "Encouraged by plaintiffs' US$145-billion victory in the Florida tobacco suit, law firms that specialize in product liability suits are preparing several similar class-actions against other merchants of death. Next on the hit list are:" (Avi Gesser in The National Post)

"Genes That Let Illness In" - "The relative importance of nature versus nurture in illness forms the fabric of heated debate among scientists." (Jerome Groopman in The New York Times)

"Smoke and the Asthma Epidemic: A Reality Check" - "We've all heard that smoking and second-hand smoke cause asthma, but a growing body of evidence is challenging the veracity of this old saw." (Wanda Hamilton at SmokersAlliance.org)

"Clash at Yucca Mountain" - " Postponing underground disposal at a central location, like Yucca Mountain, would not be a bad choice. Almost certainly, with nuclear power growing in Asia and other parts of the world, high-grade deposits of uranium will become depleted and prices will rise. There will come a time, perhaps in 20 years and certainly within 50 years, when spent fuel will constitute available resource.At that point, reprocessing of the stored fuel will make economic sense, because of the recycling of fissionable uranium and plutonium into reactor fuel, and the recovery of other elements whose worth we cannot even estimate at this time. After all, isn't conservation of resources a desirable objective?" (Fred Singer in The Washington Times)

"Greenpeace director resigns after five years" - "Greenpeace's executive director is resigning after leading the international environmental organization for five years, the group announced Tuesday." (AP)

"Ford goes green" - "Ford's announcement that it intends to become the most environmentally responsible automaker has received both cheers and jeers from industry analysts, environmentalists, the media and even from within its own management ranks." (Cathy L. Hartman and Edwin R. Stafford in The Christian Science Monitor)

"New pesticides needed by farmers to fight bugs-report" - "With some nations refusing to buy gene-spliced crops engineered to fight bugs, the U.S. government should step up research into safer and cheaper chemical pesticides for American farmers who depend on export sales, the National Research Council said on Tuesday." (Reuters)

"Are 'functional foods' dangerous?" - "U.S. consumers spend millions of dollars a year on food products that claim to do more than deliver nutrition, but some consumer advocates and public officials are questioning the safety of such 'functional foods."" (CNN) | Other coverage: MSNBC

"Call for quicker action on GM food" - "The world's leading economies are demanding faster progress on the development of international rules governing the use of genetically modified (GM) foods as global friction over the controversial technology mounts." (Sydney Morning Herald)

"Groups to Demonstrate Against Genetically Engineered Food " - "Genetically Engineered Food Alert, a coalition of consumer and health advocates, will launch its nationwide campaign against genetically engineered foods with press events in 22 locations including a Safeway grocery in Washington, D.C." (Friends of the Earth media release)

"Physicians Warn Washington State on Effects of Climate Change " - "According to Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), residents of Washington could experience a wide range of increased health risks as a result of climate change." (PSR media release)

"Study: fertilized lakes less stable than previously thought " - "Unintentional fertilization of lakes by humans might be creating additional challenges for lake managers fighting to control increased algae, according to a new study by researchers at Dartmouth College, York University and the University of Regina. " (Dartmouth media release)

"Europe To Ban Powerful Insecticide on Crops But Not in Homes" - "The controversial insecticide lindane could be subject to a partial ban by the Europe Union's 15 member countries within 18 months. " (ENS)

"Rise in average temperatures " - "Professor at the University of Oslo, Ivar Isaksen, says global temperatures are likely to rise by two degrees over the next 100 years. Isaksen has participated at the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has found that the greenhouse effect is occuring. " (Norway Post)

"Anthrax Shots' Effect Challenged" - "The controversial anthrax vaccine that the Pentagon is trying to inject into 2.4 million troops does not provide complete immunity to an anthrax attack, according to an outside expert who has examined Defense Department records of laboratory tests." (Washington Post)

July 18, 2000

"Anti-science policies from EPA" - "Now Mrs. Browner's own Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) has rejected the EPA's proposal to declare the nation's highest-use herbicide, atrazine, a 'likely carcinogen.' Few papers covered it, and the most prominent, USA Today, got the story backward. It declared: 'The most commonly used herbicide in the USA has been upgraded from a 'possible' to a 'likely' carcinogen in a draft report prepared by scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency.'" (Michael Fumento in The Washington Times)

"Milking the Tobacco Cow" - "The health hazards of smoking have been clearly spelled out on every cigarette pack since 1964; no literate American can be said to be unaware of the dangers of smoking. That's one reason why the number of Americans who smoke has fallen fully 50 percent over the past quarter-century." (New York Post editorial) | Related commentary: "Responsibility Goes Up in Smoke" (New York Post) | "Big Tobacco Must Fight Back" (Financial Post) | "The Wrong Verdict on Tobacco" (Chicago Tribune) | "Please, big government, don't save us from ourselves" (Cal Thomas in The Seattle Times)

"Cell phone makers must disclose radiation info" - "Cellular phone makers will be required to disclose information on radiation levels produced by their phones under a new policy adopted by the wireless industry's most influential trade group." (AP)

"Americans' preoccupation with cleanliness may be unhealthy, experts say" - "Some experts say Americans are obsessively clean, coating everything from toothbrush handles to hospital walls with anti-bacterials and snatching up all sorts of new household cleaning products. And they say this obsession may be harmful." (AP) | Other coverage & material: Reuters | ASM media release

Check out my related commentary, "AMA, Disinfect Thyself."

"Misuse of antibiotics fueled by culture and economics" - "Current patterns of antibiotic use reflect cultural and economic forces as much as clinical need, according to an article in the July 18 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine." (Annals of Internal Medicine media release)

"CJD cluster 'cannot be blamed on baby food'" - "The man leading the investigation into the Leicestershire cluster of deaths from the human form of BSE, variant CJD, last night denied that it was linked to infected baby food or school dinners." (The Times)

"Smokies Are Becoming the Peaks of Pollution" - "On certain days high in the Great Smoky Mountains, Jim Renfro knows better than to work out too strenuously. His home may offer the most scenic vistas of green mountains and blue sky, but it also has some of the worst air pollution in the United States." (Washington Post)

"U.S. Will Seize and Destroy Sheep at Risk of an Infection" - "Agriculture officials plan to destroy nearly 400 Vermont sheep in the coming days because four of the group, imported from Belgium, have tested positive for a disorder that may be similar to Europe's mad-cow disease." (New York Times)

"Separating Research From News" - "The question for journalists and the public is, What makes research news? Is it a paper in a prestigious journal on animal studies? Is it a report on the first few patients to receive a treatment in a Phase 1 study, publicized at a meeting? Is it the result of much larger study asking if the treatment is effective? " (New York Times)

"Tobacco companies making objections as trial wraps up" - "The signing of the final judgment, a routine act that wraps up most trials, is 'a big issue' to Big Tobacco and may dictate the future of a smokers' case that produced a record $145 billion verdict, a tobacco lawyer said Monday." (AP)

"Puerto Ricans have high mercury, aluminum levels" - "Almost one third of 95 Puerto Rican adults studied had high levels of mercury in their bodies, and 35% had high levels of aluminum, researchers report." (Reuters)

"EU outlines shake-up of food safety rules" - "The European Commission on Monday proposed revamping its food hygiene rules to boost food safety in the wake of a series of scandals from mad cow disease to dioxin poisoning." (Reuters)

"EU commission hopes to end GMO curb before 2001" - "EU environment ministers agreed on Saturday to maintain their moratorium on licensing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but a European Commissioner said she was hopeful the ban would be lifted by the end of the year." (Reuters)

"Farm groups assure U.S. consumers meat safe from mad cow" - "U.S. farm groups reassured consumers on Monday that the U.S. food industry was perfectly safe from any contamination of a brain-wasting disease related to 'mad cow' disease found in Vermont sheep." (Reuters)

"UK's human mad cow cases rise 20-30pc - scientists" - "British government scientists said the incidence of the deadly human form of mad cow disease in Britain was increasing by a 'statistically significant' 20 to 30 percent a year." (Reuters) | Other coverage: BBC

"U.S. to kill Vermont sheep over 'mad cow' fears" - "Three Vermont flocks of sheep have been ordered destroyed by U.S. agriculture officials, who say the 376 animals could be carrying mad cow disease." (Reuters)

"EU decides new labelling rules for beef" - "Beef sold in shops throughout the European Union will have to carry a label telling consumers which country the meat came from, under plans agreed by EU farm ministers on Monday." (Reuters)

"USDA biotech panel to discuss Terminator next week" - "The U.S. Agriculture Department's advisory committee on biotechnology will meet next week to discuss the role of the USDA in commercializing so-called Terminator genes and recommend research issues for the National Academy of Sciences to tackle. " (Reuters)

"Consumer groups urge G8 moratorium on GM food" - "Consumer groups urged the Group of Eight nations on Monday to impose a moratorium on genetically modified (GM) seed and food development to help allay public concern over the health and environmental effects of the technology." (Reuters)

"Smokers more likely to be disabled in later life" - "Smokers are not only likely to die earlier than non-smokers, but they are more likely to spend more of their life with a disability than non-smokers, finds research in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health." ()

"Protracted cooling could camouflage effects of global warming" - "The human contribution to global warming is clearly present and must be controlled, say researchers at the University of Illinois. But there is also another, as-yet-unexplained, cyclic contribution that has important implications for monitoring future climate change." (UI media release)

"Debunking health myths " - "Lynne T. Shuster, M.D., a specialist in internal medicine at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., says when it comes to medical myths, the problem lies less with people who tell the tale than with those who pass it along." (CNN)

"New radiation scare on Scottish beach" - "More radioactivity has been found on a public beach near Scotland's Dounreay nuclear plant." (Ananova.com) | Other coverage: The Independent

"Global warming spells health warning" - "As the atmosphere heats up, the risks to human health pop up like a mosquito-borne virus." (CNN)

"Hospital Plastics May Put Sick Infants At Risk " - "A government panel has expressed 'serious concern' that chemicals used in vinyl medical products may harm the reproductive organs of critically ill male infants exposed during medical treatments." (ENS)

Check out my related Chicago Sun-Times commentary, "Media lose message."

"No label plan for low GM" - "Foods with low levels of genetically modified ingredients are likely to be sold without labels showing GM content under a deal to be hammered out by Australian and New Zealand health ministers next week." (Sydney Morning Herald)

July 17, 2000

Junkman's Notes -

  • Thanks to Barry Hearn of EVAG who took over as Substitute Junkman last week while I was vacationing.

  • I am now the "Junk Science" columnist for FoxNews.com. A new "Junk Science" column will be posted at the Science section of FoxNews.com every Friday. My first two columns have already been posted.

  • Looking for a vacation spot with no 'lifestyle police'? Try Aruba.

"AMA, Disinfect Thyself" - "Physicians wash their hands to avoid spreading germs between patients. Lately, physicians have been washing their hands of the American Medical Association; and for good reason. The AMA has turned goofy: now the association is asking the Food and Drug Administration to make homes safer for germs." (Steve Milloy at FoxNews.com)

"Spitzer's Dishwasher Politics" - "The AG gets much media coverage from meritless, political - and anti-consumer - lawsuits. It's time for Eliot Spitzer to be like a good dishwasher - quiet." (Steve Milloy in The New York Post)

"Despite Killer Bees, Biotech Works" - "Biotechnology is a far more exact tool than traditional "cross your fingers and hope for the best" cross-breeding techniques." (Steve Milloy at FoxNews.com)

"Contaminated Story " - "When the movie Erin Brockovich opened last March it was an immediate hit, earning more than $100 million. The tale of the down-and-out legal assistant who uncovers corporate pollution and widespread illness became one of the biggest grossing films ever that was based on a 'true story.' But when writer Michael Fumento saw the movie, he looked at the litany of illnesses -- breast cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, heart failure, brain cancer and others -- and asked, 'Where’s the proof?' Fumento wrote in The Wall Street Journal that chromium, the chemical dumped in the water of Hinkley, Calif., by giant utility company PG&E, has not been proven to cause many of the illnesses in the film." (ABCNews.com)

"That will be $145 billion, please" - "It says something about the class-action lawsuit Florida smokers filed against the industry that two of the lead plaintiffs in the case were medical officials who bragged of their own ignorance. Said one, a 44-year-old nurse, 'I had no idea there was anything wrong with cigarettes at all.' The night before she was to have surgery to remove a cancer-riddled lung, she testified, she stood on the steps of the hospital and smoked 10 cigarettes in quick succession Apparently none of that mattered to a Florida circuit court jury, which on Friday ordered five tobacco companies to pay a combined $145 billion to hundreds of thousands of state smokers said to be suffering from diseases cause by smoking. " (Washington Times editorial)

"Phone radiation data due" - "The cell phone industry has decided to make information about the amount of radiation wireless handsets generate available to the public, CNNfn has learned." (CNNfn)

"School meals link to CJD deaths" - "The scientist in charge of research into the human form of mad cow disease has suggested baby food and school meals may have been a major source of infection." (BBC) | Other coverage: Reuters | The Independent

"Tobacco wars 'will spread to UK'" - "The legal ruling to make US tobacco firms give huge pay-outs to sick smokers will spark similiar cases in Britain, say anti-smoking groups." (BBC)

"New guidelines will change organic foods market" - "Different states have different regulations and some do not have any at all. What's more, certification of organic farmers by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is optional. That means anyone can call their product 'organic,' raise the price, and probably get away with it... That is all set to change later this year when the USDA releases the first national guidelines regulating how organic food is grown, processed and marketed. The guidelines will also require that all organically produced foods be certified by trained government inspectors." (Reuters)

"Brazil's 'Valley of Death' breathes again, barely" - "At the base of tropical mountains as green and dense as broccoli lies Cubatao, a city many Brazilians still know as the place where babies were born without brains 20 years ago." (Reuters)

"Italy could sue U.S. tobacco firms - paper" - "Italy may consider suing U.S. tobacco firms on their own soil for the harm caused to Italian smokers, Corriere della Sera newspaper reported on Sunday." (Reuters)

"Privatization and safer water" - "The water in Walkerton, Ont., is now free of the killer E. coli bacteria that took the lives of as many as 21 people. Where it came from we don't know yet. Nor do we know why the tragedy happened, although we have a pretty good indication of what went wrong: The town's chlorine equipment was shut down for a day or more just before the outbreak. We also know, however, what did not cause Walkerton: privatization. In all likelihood, the tragedy would not have happened if Walkerton's water system had been privatized." (Terry Corcoran in The Financial Post)

"Mr. Gore ducks 'hard choices'" - "As he demonstrated throughout his apocalyptic 1992 book, 'Earth in the Balance,' which was ostentatiously reissued in April in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Earth Day, Al Gore has a ton of convictions. Already, however, he has demonstrated that he has not an ounce of courage to defend them." (Washington Times editorial)

"A look at Nader and his merry Greens" - "There's a fondness for Ralph Nader on the left. He's morally pure and utterly upright; his Ichabody thinness underscores his ascetic devotion to The Cause. He has substantial, tangible accomplishments. Seatbelts. Safety glass. Mandatory child-decapitation systems in cars, also known as airbags. The enshrinement of the trial lawyer as the arbiter of social justice. ... Well, let's back up a bit." (James Lileks in The San Francisco Examiner)

"A Vietnam Myth to be Inscribed in Stone" - "President Clinton has signed legislation authorizing a plaque near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to commemorate veterans who died after the Vietnam War of maladies attributed to Agent Orange and 'post-traumatic stress disorder.' According to The New York Times, 'experts estimate that the number of veterans who died from these conditions is at least equal to the number inscribed on the wall, 58,220.' There is, however, not an ounce of scientific evidence to support this breathtaking assertion." (MacKubin Thomas Owens in The New York Post)

"The five deaths that link a village in middle England to a CJD epidemic" - "The village of Queniborough in Leicestershire was yesterday at the heart of a national investigation into an apparent 'cluster' of five victims of the human form of BSE." (The Guardian) | Other coverage: The Times

"Gorging On SUVs" - "-It's the Saudi conspiracy or the environmentalist conspiracy or the big-oil conspiracy or the election-year conspiracy: All these explanations have been advanced for increases in gasoline prices. Nobody seems to be talking about the real cause of higher pump prices: supply and demand. Americans are increasing their use of gasoline more rapidly than refiners here and abroad can increase production. When demand for a commodity goes up faster than supply, the result is higher prices. What's happening may only be the beginning of what will be a long, entirely free-market-driven upward trend in gasoline prices--unless reforms are enacted." (Gregg Easterbrook in The Los Angeles Times)

"GM protestors invade field" - "Dozens of anti-GM demonstrators invaded a field and began destroying a trial crop of maize before they were stopped by police." (BBC)

"Eco tax omissions" - "The big U.S. environmental groups are fortunate that they have not been successful in their efforts to impose a large eco tax on fossil fuels. It wouldn't take long for American motorists to realize they would prefer to endure the ups and downs of gasoline prices set by markets (even markets distorted by OPEC) rather than face permanent high prices due to federal taxes designed to overrule their transportation preferences." (Ken Chilton in The Washington Times)

"Scopes 'monkey trial' re-enacted on 75th anniversary" - "T.J. Brewer was 4 years old when he sat on a judge's desk and drew jurors' names out of a hat for one of the most important trials in U.S. history. " (AP)

"Facts on GMOs in the EU" - From the European Commission.

"Fatigue and Trucks a Deadly Mix " - "Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), chairman of the transportation bill conference committee, says that the rate of truck-related fatalities in the United States is '15 people dying each day, or the rough equivalent of a major airline crash every two weeks.' Limiting hours behind the wheel on long-haul trips is one way to put a dent in those numbers." (Los Angeles Times editorial)

"Well-Informed Citizens Increasingly Rare in Information Age" - "Last month, the National Science Foundation released its report "Science and Engineering Indicators 2000" (http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/seind00/), which revealed some data about Americans' understanding of the world that are strikingly at odds with the ubiquitous hype about our 'Age of Information.' 'Most Americans,' the report says, 'know a little, but not a lot, about science and technology.' Given some of the findings, even that may be generous. " (Los Angeles Times)

July 15, 2000

"The cancer study bombshell that wasn't" - "Were the New York Times and the Washington Post writing about the same New England Journal of Medicine article? July 14, 2000 | Medical quiz du jour: A study published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that A) genes are more important than we thought in causing cancer, or B) genes are less important than we thought in causing cancer. Correct answer: C) more important if you read The New York Times, less important if you read the Washington Post. ... The reason for this confusion is simple. The New England Journal article, which is based on a large study of twins, essentially tells us what we already knew: that genes and environment both play a role in cancer, just as they play roles in everything else human." (Salon)"

"Journalistic jaywalking" - "The Boston Globe has almost half a million subscribers and only one conservative columnist. That is, it had only one conservative columnist until the newspaper suspended Jeff Jacoby for four months without salary, telling him that when — and if — he returns, his twice-weekly column would have to undergo a "serious rethink. ... Nonetheless, Mr. Jacoby was summarily suspended without pay for four months — just long enough, it must be said, to deprive Globe readers of a conservative voice until after the presidential election. ... In the name of ethics, the Boston Globe has punished what appears to be an unintentional lapse with a penalty so severe as to do immeasurable harm to a man's professional reputation and honor. And there is nothing ethical about that." (Washington Times editorial)

"China Affected by Global Warming: Scientist" - "The temperatures of the world will continue to rise in the next 30 years and China will be no exception, according to a leading Chinese scientist here." (People's Daily)

"Study Faults Humans for Large Share of Global Warming" - "A new analysis of the climate of the last 1,000 years suggests that human activity is the dominant force behind the sharp global warming trend seen in the 20th century." (New York Times) | Abstract (Crowley) | Abstract (Mann)

More attempts to shore up the failing enhanced greenhouse hypothesis. This time by attempting to deny history. See Yes, Virginia, There Really Was a Medieval Warm Period … And a Little Ice Age Too … Even in South America! And then check out the following graphs.

"The Week That Was July 15, 2000 brought to you by SEPP"


"Britain is facing 'long, slow epidemic' of CJD" - "Discovery of cluster of vCJD cases in Leicestershire may suggest a prolonged outbreak of fatal brain disease over 25 years, say scientists" (Independent) | BBC | Telegraph | No need to panic over beef, claims 'rebel' BSE professor

"Memo blames EPA for gas price increases" - "An internal Energy Department memo reveals that the Clinton administration knew its own environmental regulations were a major reason gas prices jumped to record highs in the Midwest last month, even as officials publicly laid blame on "big oil" companies." (Washington Times) Click here and here for commentary and testimony from Jerry Taylor.

"SUV Mileage Debate Shifts to Personal Gear" - "WASHINGTON--As Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) lobbied her Senate colleagues to toughen fuel economy standards for gas-gulping sport-utility vehicles, one of the problems she faced was apparent just outside the U.S. Capitol. The parking lot used by her colleagues was full of SUVs of all models. Feinstein herself owns three." (LA Times)

"Gasoline costs not slowing SUVs" - "Gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles continue to be popular among car shoppers, despite months of high gasoline prices. SUV sales have fallen slightly —half of 1 percent in June — but analysts say it would require sustained higher gas prices to change consumers' buying habits. Car dealers sold 1.69 million of the popular vehicles in the first six months of this year, out of 9.09 million total automobiles sold. That's an increase from the first half of 1999, when consumers bought 1.5 million SUVs out of 8.5 million vehicles sold, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association. (The Washington Times)

"Florida jury orders tobacco industry to pay $145 billion in punitive damages" - "MIAMI (July 14, 2000) - A jury on Friday ordered the tobacco industry to pay $145 billion in punitive damages to sick Florida smokers. It was a record-shattering verdict that the cigarette companies had claimed would amount to a "death warrant." (AP)

"Tobacco investors unfazed by huge Engle damage award" - "NEW YORK, July 14 - The record-breaking punitive damage award handed down in the Engle sick-smokers trial on Friday raised little more than a ripple in the stock market, showing that share prices already reflected expectations of a successful appeal by the industry, analysts said." (Reuters)

"The fur flies as Naomi attacks protest group" - "NAOMI CAMPBELL, the model, has launched an attack on anti-fur protesters, saying that her involvement with them was one of the biggest mistakes of her life. Campbell described the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as "violent" and said she would wear fur, but not from endangered species. The 30-year-old supermodel from Streatham, south London, posed for several publicity shots behind the pressure group's banner which said: "I'd rather go naked than wear fur." She was sacked as a figurehead for the group in 1997 after wearing fur on the catwalk. Breaking her silence on the fallout, she said in an interview with the Big Issue: "I made a mistake with Peta. I found them quite violent and I wanted to dissociate myself from them."" (Telegraph)

"Japan power utilities to launch green energy fund" - "TOKYO, July 14 - Japan's electric power industry unveiled a programme on Friday that will allow customers to contribute to a wind and solar power promotion fund when they pay their electricity bill." (Reuters)

"Row blowing up over windfarm" - "Plans to build a windfarm near the Queen Mother's childhood home of Glamis Castle are blowing up a storm in Angus. Protestors claim the turbines would be the height of a 2O storey block of flats and decimate local wildlife." (BBC)

"Renewable Energy Use to Jump to 2 Percent" - "The State Economic and Trade Commission (SETC) says the nation will increase its use of alternative and renewable energy 10-fold within 15 years, easing the nation's dependence on coal. So by 2015, it's projected that 2 per cent of China's total energy consumption will be from renewable sources. Currently, wind power, solar energy, hydropower and other renewable energy sources account for 0.2 per cent of the total annual commercial energy use in China, SETC officials said." (People's Daily)

"Environmental Drawbacks of Renewable Energy: Real or Exaggerated?" - "Green Energies are Increasingly Under Attack by Those Claiming They Do More Harm than Good" (ElectricNet) | Lessons from Energy Deregulation in Scandinavia and England (Part 2 of 3) | Lessons from Energy Deregulation in Scandinavia and England (Part 3 of 3)

"US radiation safety limits not based on science-GAO" - "WASHINGTON, July 14 - A disagreement between federal agencies over what level of radiation exposure is safe for humans was not based on scientific evidence and could cost taxpayers billions in unnecessary spending, said a congressional study released on Friday." (Reuters)

"Brazil starts up nuclear plant after 17-year delay" - "RIO DE JANEIRO, July 14 - Brazil began starting up its second nuclear reactor on a picturesque bay down the coast from Rio de Janeiro on Friday, 17 years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget." (Reuters)

"Czech CEZ completes loading of nuclear plant" - "PRAGUE, July 14 - Czech power generator CEZ a.s. said on Friday it had completed loading fuel into the first block of its nuclear power plant Temelin. Spokesman Ladislav Kriz added that nuclear reaction in the 1,000 megawatt block may be initiated in August." (Reuters)

"Brighter Consumer Outlook on Food Biotechnology" - "(Washington, DC) Consumer attitudes regarding food biotechnology are on an upward trend after a dip last fall. This is according to the latest International Food Information Council (IFIC) survey of U.S. consumers, conducted May 5-9, 2000, by Wirthlin Worldwide. Since last October, consumers are somewhat more likely to buy foods that have been enhanced to "taste better or fresher" (54% vs. 51%), or that have been modified for insect protection and to require less pesticide spray (69% vs. 67%)." (IFIC)

"The Weight of the Evidence: Assessing the Safety of Biotech Foods" - "Recently, food biotechnology has become a hot topic in the United States, with much interest focused on the safety of these foods. This has attracted major attention from media, from consumers, and from activist groups. But what is food biotechnology? What benefits do these foods bring to us? What foods are produced using biotechnology practices? And most importantly, are these foods safe?" (IFIC)

"BIOENGINEERED CROPS NOT ORGANIC, WASHINGTON SAYS" - "OLYMPIA, Washington, July 14, 2000 (ENS) - The Washington State Department of Agriculture is proposing changes to the state’s organic standards that would affect the list of approved materials for use in organic crop production, roadside vegetation management, genetic engineering, and standards for the use of seeds and transplants in organic farming. Written comments will be accepted until 5 pm July 27. More information on the Organic Food Program is available at: www.wa.gov/agr/fsah/organic/ofp.htm." (ENS)

"Commission prepares to end GM foods moratorium" - "The European Commission is on a collision course with EU governments after outlining plans to end a two-year moratorium on licensing genetically modified products." (Financial Times)

"EU draws sharp criticism over GM crops" - "Moves by the European Commission to abandon an unofficial moratorium on GM crop development in Europe and expedite authorisations in exchange for tighter controls have been condemned by opponents of GM foods and green interests across the EU." (Irish Times)

July 14, 2000

"Malaria tops agenda at Russian pesticide meeting" - "ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, July 13, 2000 - Dealing with the return of malaria to the Caucasus Mountain region and Central Asia without using DDT is of great concern to environmental and public health scientists. The problem is expected to dominate talks at this week's United Nations sponsored meeting in St. Petersburg on harmful pesticides."  (ENS)

But there's no reason not to use DDT as a human health aid. See DDT facts & Malaria Clock

"The EPA Chokes: Atrazine Scare Fails in Face of Real Science" - "Things haven't been going well for Vice-President Al Gore lately, but they've been worse for his hand-picked EPA head Carol Browner. In November, a federal appeals court upheld an earlier decision blocking sweeping air pollution regulations the EPA enacted in 1997. In March, the same court tossed out regulations on chloroform in water, saying the Agency hadn't used the required "best available science." Now Browner's own Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) has rejected the EPA's proposal to declare the nation's highest-use herbicide, atrazine, a "likely carcinogen." Few papers covered it, and the most prominent, USA Today, got the story backward." (Investor's Business Daily)

"Study Ties Most Cancer to Lifestyle, Not Genetics" - "Scientists say the disease usually can be prevented by exercise, good diet and avoiding tobacco." (LA Times) | Study Abstract | NEJM editorial

"Inquiry to look at 'cluster' of CJD cases" - "An official investigation has been launched into a "cluster" of cases of the fatal brain disease CJD in Leicestershire, which experts believe are probably linked." (Independent) | The Times | Telegraph

Perhaps, but "clusters" occur in all statistics.

"Energy fines 'not high enough'" - "Power companies and environment groups yesterday demanded bigger penalties to force the use of renewable energy. NSW's Pacific Power, Queensland's Stanwell Corporation, Greenpeace and the Australian Conservation Foundation all called for the tougher penalties during a hearing into the Federal Government's proposed renewable energy bill. Under the bill, power retailers that do not meet a 2 per cent target on producing power from renewable energy face a charge of $40 a megawatt-hour." (Sydney Morning Herald)

But Australia's own Environment Minister says green taxes don't work.

"ENERGY EFFICIENCY ELIMINATES NEED FOR NEW POWER PLANTS" - "WASHINGTON, DC, July 12, 2000 - States and electric utilities should focus on energy efficiency programs, rather than building new power plants to solve energy reliability problems, say a number of environmental groups. Four steps could save 100,000 megawatts (MW) of electrical demand by the end of this decade, says a report from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP)." (ENS)

Really? Check out: Energy Efficiency: No Silver Bullet for Global Warming. And all this energy efficiency created by use of the internet that we keep hearing about? See Booming computer firms are running out of power - "COMPANIES in Silicon Valley, California, are being forced to build private power stations amid growing evidence that there is not enough electricity in America's grid to drive the booming high tech industry. Demand for electricity across the United States has grown by 35 per cent in 10 years as people have taken to using computers. More than 10 per cent of the country's total power is now used to drive computers and the many other hand-held electronic gizmos that are becoming popular. The growth of the internet and e-commerce has put even greater strain on the power supply."

"Greenhouse gas targets could face challenges" - "Australia's latest inventory of greenhouse gas emissions shows the country faces a challenge in meeting its international commitments. The Federal Environment Minister, Robert Hill, says Australia's 16.9 per cent increase in emissions between 1990 and 1998 was largely due to strong economic growth." (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Letter of the moment: "Chicken Little would love global climate report" - "The politicized goal of sensationalizing unproven theories about global climate change, part of which is seemingly accomplished by the widespread dispensing of fear and uncertainty to the public, continues with the release of the draft report of the National Assessment on Climate Change (NACC). The report uses worst-case and often conflicting scenarios from foreign climate models as a basis for speculating about possible impacts of potential climate change. Most readers will miss the disclaimers and believe it is a prediction of things to come." Harold M. Koenig in The Washington Times.

"Testing the Waters: A Report on Sea Levels" - "... Climate modelers and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predict that one of the consequences of global warming will be rising sea levels due to thermal expansion of the ocean water mass and the melting of non-polar glaciers. They claim the oceans already have risen 18 cm (7 inches) during the 20th century, an annual rate of 1.8 mm per year. They further predict that the oceans will rise approximately a further 50 cm (19½ inches) during the 21st century, an accelerated annual rate of 5 mm per year. Such predictions have taken on hysterical proportions when policy institutions such as the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) readily adopt a "worse than worst case" scenario. EPA claims that a 1 meter sea level rise will inundate 7,000 square miles of dry land, 50–80% of U.S. wetlands, and cost the U.S. between $270- and $475-billion alone. With a final flourish, they claim their estimates "are almost certainly too low.""

"U.S. kids healthier than ever despite smoking, drinking" - "WASHINGTON (July 13, 2000) - American children are healthier, better fed, less likely to live in poverty and more likely to reach adulthood than ever before, the government reported Thursday." (AP)

"GAO, Rep. Miller tear into inequities of federal land swaps" - "The federal government's land-management ability has come under yet another attack: Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) us urging the Interior Department and U.S. Forest Service to suspend any further swaps of public land for private land until the agencies clean up mismanagement exposed by a recent General Accounting Office Report." (AgWeb.com)

"House Subcommittee Reviews Impact of Methyl Bromide Ban" - "The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture today looked at how a ban of methyl bromide would affect American fruit and vegetable production." (AgWeb.com)

"Drought risk hasn't ebbed away, warns minister" - "Heavy rain affecting the UK does not mean the public should ignore messages about the need to save water, MPs have been told. Environment Minister Michael Meacher said drought conditions could hit Britain within a year, similar to those experienced in the 90s, because of climate change." (Ananova)

Yep, just because they're having floods doesn't mean they're not in a drought...

"Illinois farmers puzzle over the "wettest drought" they've seen" - "CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- A couple of months ago, weather experts forecast an epic drought. Now, rain-drenched farmers in much of the Midwest are hearing that the drought may be over and market experts predict a record-breaking bumper crop." (AgWeb.com)

"Cambodian mass poisoning linked to pesticides" - "PHNOM PENH, July 13 - Cambodia's minister of health said on Thursday pesticide-laced fish were responsible for killing seven people and making 79 sick last month in the northern province of Siem Reap. "According to the result of our laboratory tests, there were high levels of pesticides in the fish," Minister of Health Hong Sun Huot told Reuters. ... High quantities of pesticides used by rice farmers in the area seeped into rivers and lakes and had been absorbed into the flesh of certain fish, Hong Sun Huot said." (Reuters)

Makes a strong argument for bioengineered pest resistance.

"EU moves to break gene crop deadlock" - "BRUSSELS, July 13 (Reuters) - The European Commission said on Thursday its current moratorium on new genetically modified (GM) crops was illegal and proposed kick-starting its stalled approval process." (Reuters)

"Black coffee may not be too bad" - "SYDNEY: Good news for coffee addicts: there is no hard evidence that caffeine is bad for you. It does not contribute to cardiovascular disease or increase blood pressure." (Times of India)

"Road protestors accused of dumping caterpillars" - "Conservationists believe hundreds of rare caterpillars may have been dumped near ancient meadows in Suffolk to try and stop a new road being built." (Ananova)

July 13, 2000

"Health Care Without Harm Commends Ann Arbor's Decision to Ban Sales of Mercury Fever Thermometers" - "ANN ARBOR, Mich., July 11 -/E-Wire/-- The Ann Arbor City Council passed an ordinance Monday banning the retail sale, importation and manufacture of mercury fever thermometers within the city limits. Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) praised the city's decision."

Greenpeace's attack on the periodic table continues. Check out this New England Journal of Medicine editorial for a little perspective on mercury. Note it doesn't even mention mercury thermometers as a threat.

About mercury mania, "Subtle, mostly neurological, effects of low doses are now emerging as the long-term legacy of mercury. Slower reflexes, reduced coordination and poorer vision are evident in people ingesting small amounts of mercury in fish. But the effects are difficult to measure and despite decades of study, experts disagree on the levels of mercury that are safe in air, water and food." [Emphasis added.] In the context of environmental health, a "subtle" health effect is one that has no credible scientific evidence to prove its existence. A synonym would be "make-believe."

"City bans residential pesticides" - "Pesticides will be banned in Halifax but it will take four years for stringent new bylaws to go into full force. ... City hall's own pesticide advisory committee could not reach a consensus on the issue and two factions submitted contradictory reports." (Canoe.com)

Halifax continues its bizarre chemophobia. Nancy Radcliffe said in the Halifax Daily News, April 16, "Junk science has paved the road to mass hysteria and is creating a whole new generation of hypochondriacs... Lily-livered politicians, week-kneed school officials, gullible business operators and an apathetic public have landed Halifax in the grips of mass hypochondria." At the time, she was commenting on their fragrance ban but the same applies here. See also Mike Fumento's comments in Senseless Scent Patrol.

Today's Gore-ing: "A plan for all seasons" - "On June 27, Vice President Al Gore unvealed his plan to fight global warming and to protect, in his words, "the stable seasons God gave us." These gifts include "Hurricane Season," which officially began on June 1, "Tornado Season," which runs from January through December, and winter, which anyone with a few dollars tries desperately to escape. In order to preserve these seasons, Mr. Gore recommends several policy proposals that deserve scrutiny. ... Let's see how much dreaded global warming these proposals will save, since their real purpose is to meet the guidelines of the Kyoto Protocol, an infamous U.N. document for which Mr. Gore is largely responsible. According to the computer model from the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, if the entire world reduced its greenhouse emissions by roughly 5 percent — the integrated goal of the Protocol — the Earth's mean temperature would be 0.07 degrees Celsius lower in 2050 (and 0.14 C by 2100) than if we just continued "business as usual." But the United States currently contributes only about 25 percent of total emissions. So our contribution to the "saved" warming is only 0.02 C by 2050. Of course, by 2050 our actual fraction drops even further as the rest of the world develops, emitting relatively more greenhouse gases. Under the best scenario, all we get from Mr. Gore's program is about 1/100 of a degree. Would this affect the "stable seasons"? Consider: The average temperature variability — from year-to-year — is about 1 C. That's 100 times the temperature "saving" resulting from Mr. Gore's plan." -- Patrick J Michaels in The Washington Times.

Conspiracy theorist of the day: "France's Voynet questions motives of GMO seed firms" - "PARIS, July 12 - French Environment Minister Dominique Voynet questioned on Wednesday whether seed companies might have deliberately broken rules over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to test the European Union's reaction." (Reuters)

"New EPA water pollution rule may be challenged in court" - "WASHINGTON, July 12 - A Clinton administration plan to curb water pollution run-off by farmers and other land-owners in defiance of Congress may be challenged in court, industry groups said on Wednesday. The American Chemistry Council said it would "seek all appropriate remedies" to the controversial regulation announced on Tuesday by the Environmental Protection Agency. A spokesman for the House Committee on Agriculture said the agency's decision to push ahead with the rule had "opened them to a variety of actions from several fronts." Nearly half the members of Congress have already co-sponsored legislation to block the EPA rule." (Reuters)

"Stop Politicizing Efforts to Improve Water Quality" - "WASHINGTON D.C. July 11, -/E-Wire/-- The following is a statement from Fred Webber, President and CEO of the American Chemistry Council: "EPA's decision to finalize the controversial regulation on Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) in defiance of a bipartisan congressional action is contrary to common sense. Moreover, the process used to finalize the rule constitutes a possible violation of the law. EPA should stop politicizing efforts to improve water quality. "By ignoring the states' input on this rule, EPA's decision is actually bad for the environment and will result in a needless waste of taxpayer dollars and private sector resources. Furthermore, by engaging in secret last-minute, behind the scenes dealmaking with environmental lobbying groups, the Agency made substantive changes to the regulation after the close of the public comment period. This constitutes a possible violation of the Administrative Procedures Act." (The American Chemistry Council)

"Federal agencies come under fire for land-swapping" - "Purchases for wildlife and recreation often don't make fiscal sense, GAO report says" (USA Today)

"UK Acts to Rid Homes of Radon" - "LONDON, United Kingdom, July 12, 2000 (ENS) - A colorless, odorless gas thought to be the UK's second biggest cause of lung cancer after smoking, is being tackled in a new initiative announced Tuesday." (ENS)

See The Radon Scare: When Scientists Oppose Science

"Progress on Ozone Protection Only the Beginning" - "GENEVA, Switzerland, July 12, 2000 - Developed countries have made impressive progress over the past decade in phasing out ozone destroying chemicals. Now they must help developing countries do the same, said United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) executive director Klaus Toepfer, on Tuesday." (ENS)

Click here for some sense on ozone.

"First bioengineered cornea studies reported" - "(SACRAMENTO, CALIF.) -- In separate reports this month, two groups of scientists announce they have restored eyesight to patients with previously untreatable corneal damage, using novel tissue bioengineering techniques." (University of California, Davis)

"Lifestyle plays bigger part than genes in cancer" - "The world's biggest study of cancer in twins has shown that the risk of developing the disease depends on how you live rather than who are your parents." (Independent)

"Greenpeace wields ax into G-8" - "Greenpeace on Tuesday slammed the Group of Eight (G-8) nations for failing to fulfill their promises on fighting illegal logging and conserving the world's forests." (Mainichi Daily News)


"New eco-strategy against Russia" - "WASHINGTON, July 12 — Russian and international environment organizations are urging the World Bank to halt all loans to Russia until President Vladimir Putin re-establishes the State Committee for Environmental Protection and the Federal Forest Service." (MSNBC)

Russia is in a state of economic collapse, their health system is in crisis with tuberculosis and STDs - particularly AIDS and syphilis - literally exploding and Russia can't afford to supply its population with food and energy.  In this climate, Fiends of the Earth, Sierra Club et al, want to cut off humanitarian loans until Russia redirects sparse resources to prop up the greenies favored bureaucracies. Any dispute they value trees and animals more than people?

"Greece urges tighter EU controls on gene crops" - "ATHENS, July 12 - Greece said on Wednesday it wanted the European Union to tighten controls on companies involved in seed imports after tests discovered traces of gene-modified (GM) cotton in local crops." (Reuters)

"Tourism growth threatens world" - "Madrid -- World tourism is booming, with Europe's best known monuments groaning at the seams and tropical islands at risk of being spoiled, the head of the World Tourism Organization says." (Globe and Mail)

But enviros told me tourism should replace productive industry to save the world.

"Sharp rise in deaths raises alarm over human BSE" - "A sharp rise in the death toll from the human form of BSE is being investigated by the government's scientific advisers with 67 people in Britain now thought to have been poisoned by infected beef." (Guardian)

"'Fossil air' provides climate clues" - "Scientists have extracted samples of Earth's atmosphere trapped in rocks millions of years old. It is a technique that could provide new data about past climate upheavals and mass extinctions." (BBC)

July 12, 2000

"Wide Ban on Soft Plastic Toys Proposed in Europe" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium, July 10, 2000 - The European Parliament has challenged European Union governments to impose a much wider ban on phthalate softeners in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic toys than proposed by the European Commission." (ENS)

Chemical hysteria from Europe. Here's a few items they should have checked: Clean Bill of Health for Vinyl Toys and Medical Devices; Potshots from the Purveyors of Plasticizer Panic; Safe Plastics, Poisonous Journalism; Ban Luddites, Not Chlorine; Phthalate Scare is Fear-Based, Not Fact-Based, Says Consumer Alert; Phthalates study; DEHP NOT a human carcinogen; Media lose message. As usual, the EU is taking Unreasonable Precautions.

"Carpets blamed for asthma" - "Fitted carpets have been blamed for a rise in asthma and other allergies. Almost every household in the UK has fitted carpets, compared to just 16% in France and 2% in Italy. A report by Dr Jill Warner, from the University of Southampton, says that this could be one reason why the UK has the worst record in the world for asthma and allergies." (BBC)

"Edible Vaccines Carry Flavor of Danger"

"WASHINGTON, DC, July 11, 2000 - For the first time, humans have been able to develop immunity to a virus just by eating a potato. This latest demonstration of edible vaccines has proponents cheering the potential for inexpensive protection of the world’s poorest populations." (ENS)

Sounds excellent doesn't? Cheap, easily distributed and administered vaccines and not one cute, furry animal used in their production. And it's something nobody could object to right? Wrong:

"But critics charge that engineering plants to carry human vaccines could produce dangerous environmental and human health side effects."

Are they worried that potatoes may become immune to diarrhea? Hardly. This particular set of fear mongering fits more in line with "This is as good a way to get rid of them as any." - Charles Wursta, Chief Scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, in response to the banning of DDT (as quoted in Toxic Terror by Elisabeth Whelan) ("Them" refers to "all those little brown people in poor countries.") Like so much of the activist campaign against biotechnology, it is not driven by fear that the technology will harm people but rather that it will do tremendous good - for impoverished peoples in underdeveloped countries. They're not so much technophobic as following the words of Lamont Cole: "To feed a starving child is to exacerbate the world population problem." Denial of useful vaccines and chemicals is simply an extension of their misanthropy. What's more dangerous? Development of edible vaccines or genocidal maniacs trying to prevent it?

"Science panel backs EPA on mercury danger" - "July 11 —  The National Academy of Sciences reported Tuesday that federal guidelines on mercury poisoning are valid for most Americans but might be too weak for some. The report renewed a debate on hold for nearly two years, and opens the door for a crackdown on the largest manmade sources of mercury: coal-fired power plants. Those utilities oppose sharp reductions, arguing the costs to consumers would exceed the benefits." (MSNBC) | AP

"Scientists say inadequate funding hinders spread of biotechnology" - "WASHINGTON (July 11) - Genetically engineered crops have the potential to alleviate hunger and malnutrition in the world, but insufficient research funding and intellectual property rights are hindering the spread of the technology, scientists said Tuesday. Biotech food can be "more nutritious, stable in storage and in principle health promoting," but cooperative efforts between private and public sectors are needed to ensure that crops are developed that will benefit consumers, according to a report issued by the National Academy of Sciences and six international scientific groups, including the Royal Academy of London." (AP) | NAS release | BBC | NY Times | Washington Post

"EU to examine stalled authorisations for GM crops" - "BRUSSELS, July 11 - The European Commission will debate the EU's de facto moratorium on approvals for new genetically-modified crop strains on Wednesday amid pressure to get the stalled process back on track." (Reuters)

"European nations suffer contrasting weather" - "While southern Europe sweats through a heatwave, heavy snow has closed main roads just a few hundred miles north in Switzerland. ... Snow is falling above 5,900 feet with the rest of the country suffering from a cool July temperature of 13C (55F). Meanwhile, Greek firefighters who have put out more than 150 wildfires are on alert in case the dry weather there sparks new blazes. Temperatures are expected to reach 43C (109.4F) and states of emergency have been declared in Greece and Bulgaria. ... The prolonged heatwave raging through south-eastern Europe is also affecting Romania, Croatia, Kosovo and Italy. Temperatures are breaking century-old records and are being blamed for dozens of deaths and hundreds of fires." (Ananova)

Europe's temperature record extends back more than 250 years, why "century-old records" if the 1990s were supposed to be "the hottest decade of the hottest century of the millennium"?

"Research Predicts Summer Doom for Northern Icecap" - "OSLO, July 10 -- The mythic ice scape that stretches south in all directions from the North Pole is melting so fast that Norwegian scientists say it could disappear entirely each summer beginning in just 50 years, radically altering the Earth's environment, the global economy and the human imagination." (NY Times)

I wouldn't be in a rush to buy shares in any northern-route shipping lines. See: 'Skating on thin ice - A critical comment on - Rothrock, D. & Maykut, G., (1999), "Thinning of the Arctic Sea-Ice Cover", Geophysical Research Letters, v.26, no.23, pp.3469-3472, Dec 1 1999'.

In January, the Anchorage Daily News carried "Ice pushing much deeper south than normal has resulted in the postponement of the start of the multimillion-dollar Alaska snow crab fishery because of unusual ice buildup in the Bering Sea. Officials of the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game has speculated that the fishery, scheduled to open on Jan. 15, might have to remain closed until late April or May, if ice extending much farther south than normal makes most of the fishing area inaccessible. Ice conditions are reported to be the most severe since the early 1970s, with the St. Paul Island and harbor iced in and inaccessible." - the season eventually opened April 15, three months late. One season sure doesn't make a trend but it will certainly make a mess of their trend statistics.

The world shows no sign of warming, the poles aren't melting and the sky isn't falling. You should be very wary of those recommending you seek shelter in a fox den.

"What's Cooking In The Laboratory" - "Probably every dish you've craved over summer vacation or indulged in back home has been tampered with somehow by bioengineers." (CBS News Sunday Morning)

"Organic food complaints upheld" - "Advertising watchdogs have upheld complaints against claims that organic food is tastier, healthier and better for the environment and animals. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld four complaints against claims in a Soil Association leaflet entitled Five Reasons To Eat Organic." (Ananova)

"Campaigners threaten to block return of BNFL fuel" - "Anti-nuclear campaigners warned yesterday that they may try to block the shipment back to Britain from Japan of suspect nuclear fuel. Greenpeace said it had "not ruled out" trying to disrupt travel arrangements for the two 100-tonne flasks of mixed-oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel, which will have to sail under armed escort for thousands of miles to return to British Nuclear Fuels' (BNFL) plant at Sellafield in Cumbria." (Independent)

"An Editorial: EPA's Botched Power Grab" - "Al Gore’s environmental brigade must be worried sick that American voters will deny the vice president a promotion this fall. That’s one explanation for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) trampling on federal laws to ram water quality regulations down our throats. Maybe they fear this is their last chance. Another reason may be arrogance that a goal of clean water justifies any means." (AgWeb.com) | MSNBC

"Genetically Modified Food Fear Unfounded" - "Boycotting all GM foods for fear of food poisoning is no more rational than cowering indoors on a cloudless day, for fear of lightning." (London Free Press)

"GM crops safe as ordinary crops, says New Zealand, Australia agency" - "Despite all the yammering and protest about genetically modified foods in the European Union, some the most rigorous actual testing and critique of GM food safety is occurring in New Zealand and Australia, not the EU." (AgWeb.com)

"Launceston forum considers GM crop ban" - "Tasmania's push to ban genetically modified (GM) crops will be considered at a public meeting in Launceston tonight. Guest Speakers, including Lactos managing director Russell Patterson will discuss the benefits for Tasmanian producers if the State pursues GM-free status." (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

"Brazilian government appeals court injunction against RR beans" - "Brazil's internal political and legal battle over genetically modified crops took another twist yesterday as the national Attorney General appealed a district court ruling which had blocked Roundup Ready soybeans from commercial planting, pending an environmental impact review. It's the federal government's first administrative move on this issue since the court blocked legal planting of Roundup Ready soybeans for the crop which Brazil is now selling. The country's top food safety board has also confirmed the safety of genetically modified (GM) corn in livestock feed just a few days ago." (AgWeb.com)

"Brazil may be open to GM corn in northeastern states" - "SAO PAULO, July 11 - Brazil's ban on genetically modified (GM) corn may have softened this week in its northeastern states after a high court suspended an injunction on a ship of Argentine corn, a court spokesman said Tuesday. Judge Jose Maria Lucena of the fifth regional-federal court suspended a lower-court injunction on the entrance of a shipload of 38,000 tonnes of Argentine corn that is suspected to be GM into the Recife port, in Pernambuco state." (Reuters)

"Damage award would bankrupt companies, tobacco attorney says" - "MIAMI (July 11) - A verdict of $154 billion in punitive damages would bankrupt the nation's five largest cigarette makers 10 times over, a tobacco attorney said during closing arguments Tuesday in a case involving up to 700,000 sick Florida smokers." (AP)

"Ban on U.S. forest roads draws record public outcry" - "WASHINGTON, July 11 - A Clinton administration plan to ban roads for mining, logging and other traffic in many U.S. Forests has sparked a record 500,000 comments from the public, with most either backing the proposal or saying it doesn't go far enough to protect the environment." (Reuters)

"EU backs exemptions from green taxes" - "BRUSSELS, July 11 - European companies could win special exemptions from environmental taxes for up to 10 years under plans being prepared by the European Commission, EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti said on Tuesday." (Reuters)

"Japan mulls setting renewable energy minimum-paper" - "TOKYO, July 11 - Japan's government is considering a plan requiring power utilities to produce a certain amount of their energy from renewable sources, a business daily reported on Tuesday. The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) sees the plan as a means of boosting the use of renewable energy, including wind power, amid mounting opposition to nuclear energy, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun said. However, a MITI official said the idea was only one of several possibilities the government is studying." (Reuters)

July 11, 2000

"Cold Facts of Global Warming"  - "Those inclined to tout the potential benefits of global warming would do well to take a look at the news items about the frightening weather in southern Europe last week." So says global warming proselytiser Bob Herbert, in the New York Times (July 10).

Well, as it happens Bob, some of us do pay attention to news items. According to this article in the Independent "We have not had to face such adverse conditions in decades," said the [Greek] government's spokesman, Dimitras Reppas. ... "... as temperatures reach their highest in 10 years." So it appears these conditions are actually a repeat of conditions experienced before, even during the great global cooling scare of the '70s. Meanwhile, also in the Independent: Met Office says that our weather is stuck as it forecasts a wet, gloomy and very dull summer "The Northern Hemisphere's weather pattern has got temporarily stuck, with Britain under one of the awful bits, the UK Meteorological Office said yesterday, seeking to explain why July 2000 has been such a rain-sodden, cloud-covered, grey-misted bonechilling Godforsaken sunless washout." The item contains a Met. Office interview with the statement: "What the present weather is not evidence of is global warming or climate change, he said. "There is no scientific conclusion you can draw about climate change from this one weather episode," he [Met Office spokesman, Andy Yeatman] stressed.

Herbert goes on to cite the USGCRP National Assessment report "Climate Change Impacts on the United States: The Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change", a.k.a. "the national scare". There has been some  warming in the early part of the twentieth century, both the European 250-year and the US 120-year records show warming to the early 1930s, although there has been negligible warming since, leaving us with no net change over the last 70 years.

Finally, Herbert quotes Environmental Defense chief climate hysteric, Michael Oppenheimer, "The same thing can happen as a result of sea-level rise. Bangladesh is having terrible problems in this area. ..." Really? Dr Robert Bradnock, a sub- continent specialist with the Department of Geography, School of Oriental and African Studies, London, recently wrote: "... goes on to repeat the often stated view of environmental lobbyists that Bangladesh is being submerged by sea-level rise, with massive refugee consequences. In fact the Ganges delta, which owes its origin to massive deposition over millennia of silt derived from the still-rising Himalaya, is witnessing a continued net growth in its surface area. In what is an enormously complex region, there is no systematic evidence of net sea level rise in Bangladesh." It would appear that, if sea levels are rising, Bangladesh is rising faster.

It would have been more honest to call the piece "No facts of Global Warming".

"Green carpet bomb" - "Though it's off the radar scope, the so-called Kyoto "Global Warming Treaty" remains a very real and dangerous bogeyman we should all be aware of." (Washington Post editorial - July 9)

"Second attack on GM crops" - "Scotland's only full-scale farm trial of genetically modified crops has been attacked for the second time in two days. About a quarter of an acre of oilseed rape was affected in the Sunday night incident at New Craig Farm, near Daviot, Aberdeenshire. Grampian Police were already investigating an attack on the field on Saturday night when a different quarter-acre was trampled or pulled up. ... A spokesman for the Scottish Executive condemned the attacks and said that if they continued, officials would have to consider withholding information about trial sites. (BBC)

"Italy's biggest farm group urges GM feed labels" - "ROME, July 10 - Italy's biggest farmers' group has urged labelling of genetically modified animal feed and said the best way for farmers to guarantee safety and traceability of feed was to produce it themselves." (Reuters)

"For 500 Million, a Sleeper on Greenland's Ice Sheet" - "..."I suspect that the warming will not mean a lot until it drives the average temperature above freezing for a significant portion of the year so that melting can occur," said Michael T. Ledbetter, director of NSF's Arctic System Science Program. "Until melting outpaces freezing, the ice cap will be stable, even growing, because warmer temperatures can mean more snow until it gets so warm that it rains instead. Stay tuned." Meanwhile, another NSF-backed group has discovered a wholly unexpected phenomenon: Snow reacts with sunlight to give off various nitrogen-oxygen compounds (collectively called NOx) including nitrous oxide, a notorious greenhouse gas typically found over car-clogged urban traffic corridors. "We're seeing a lot of weird stuff being produced in the snow," said Jack Dibb of the University of New Hampshire. Between about four inches and three feet above the surface, NOx levels are 10 to 30 times higher than they are in the air 100 feet off the ground. "In effect, we're transporting L.A. smog chemistry to Summit." Moreover, the researchers found, the snow destroys ozone, apparently by somehow acting as a catalyst." (Washington Post)

"USDA Seeks Comments on Animal Welfare Act Research Regulations" - "The U.S. Department of Agriculture is considering replacing or modifying the system used to classify pain and distress for animals used for research, tests, experiments and teaching. USDA is also considering creating an Animal Welfare Act definition for the word "distress." Consideration will be given to comments received by Sept 8. Please send an original and three copies of comments to Docket No. 00-005-1, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Suite 3CO3, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, Md. 20737-1238." (AgWeb.com)

Seems harmless enough on the face of it. Who could argue with minimising distress to critters? The problems arise when we start worrying more about animals than we do about people. The following is echoed from altgreen.com.au:

Laying claim to animal rights

Feature piece about a very confused young woman who can't tell the difference between human rights and animal rights.

... Critics accuse PETA of indifference to the suffering of people. Leading US ethical analyst Dr Robert Butterworth says: "Who's in front of who in terms of the species? What's more important? An animal dying or a human dying? And I think PETA would say an animal dying." He see things differently. "If you've had anyone who's lost a family member as I have my mother through leukaemia," he adds, "or know people who've died of diseases that could be alleviated through clinical trials, using certain types of animals, you can see the need for some animal experiments."

Vernelli condemns all experiments on animals. Are they not sometimes justified? "No. Because apart from the fact that I believe we don't have the right to abuse other creatures, I also believe we only harm ourselves in doing it. Because we can't learn how a human being reacts to a drug or a chemical by testing it on a rat or a rabbit or a monkey because every species is very different."

Her second point seems questionable - the discovery that penicillin kills bacteria came as a result of tests on mice. ...

... In the name of so-called “animal rights,” terrorists have committed hundreds of violent crimes. They have vandalized or fire bombed meat companies, fur stores, fast-food restaurants, leather shops and medical research laboratories across North America. The animal “rights” movement, however, is not about the humane treatment of animals. Its goal is the animalistic treatment of human beings.

According to these terrorists, it is immoral to eat meat, to wear fur coats or leather shoes, and to use animals in research — even if it would lead to cures for deadly diseases. The terrorists are unmoved by the indisputable fact that animal research saves human lives. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) makes this frighteningly clear: “Even if animal tests produced a cure for AIDS, we’d be against it.” ...

The granting of fictional rights to animals is not an innocent error. We do not have to speculate about the motive, because the animal “rights” advocates have revealed it quite openly. Again from PETA: “Mankind is the biggest blight on the face of the earth”; “I do not believe that a human being has a right to life”; “I would rather have medical experiments done on our children than on animals.” These self-styled lovers of life do not love animals; rather, they hate men. -- Animal “Rights” and the New Man Haters.

To understand the peanut gallery, here they are in their own words:

"I do not believe that a human being has a right to life ... I would rather have medical experiments done on our children than animals." -- Peta (People for the Ethical treatment of Animals).

"Labs don't burn down themselves, they need our help!" -- "Josh," referenced in (Peta president) Ingrid Newkirk's Free The Animals!

[How to build incendiary devices for acts of terrorism:] "One gallon milk jugs are perfect because they can easily be carried using their handles and they also hold a lot of fuel. ... Arson is a big time felony so wear gloves through the entire process and be very careful not to leave a single shred of evidence." -- The Animal Liberation Primer, The Animal Liberation Front.

"Torching the buildings and equipment of the corporate bastards who are raping the Earth and exploiting animals should always be done with a supreme reverence for all living beings." -- "Dear Ned Ludd," Earth First! Journal.

"The world has a cancer, and the cancer is man." -- Alan Gregg, (formerly) official of the Rockefeller Foundation.

"Human beings have no more value than slugs." -- John Davis, Earth First!

"We are not interested in the utility of a particular species, of a free-flowing river, or ecosystem to mankind. they have intrinsic value, more value - to me -than another human being, or a billion of them." -- David Graber, U.S. National Park Service biologist.

"Given the total, absolute, and final disappearance of Homo sapiens, then not only would the Earth's community of Life continue to exist, but in all probability, its well-being would be enhanced. Our presence, in short, is not needed." -- Paul Taylor (Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environmental Ethics).

"Crazy people are everywhere, but seem to be driven toward environmental groups like twisters to a trailer park. Believe me, it's no coincidence that we're called environMENTALists... It reminds me of a book I read recently about Mafia hitman Sammy 'the bull' Gravano. There's a story from his childhood in which Sammy's father says of the wise guys in the neighbourhood, 'They're bad people. But at least they're OUR bad people.' So that's how I think of it. They're crazy people, but at least they're OUR crazy people." -- John Hoskinson, communications director of the Surfrider Foundation.

Several of the above quotes sourced from "The Environmentalists' Little Green Book" 2000, US Chamber of Commerce, ISBN: 0-615-11628-0.

Should we be more concerned by "distress" to laboratory animals or should we recognise the ultimate good, for both people and animals, that comes from development of medicines, vaccines and medical techniques? Would you rather your surgeon hone her/his skills on an animal or a child?

"British farmers defend their land against urban "ramblers"" - "For months, a land rights conflict in England and Ireland has been boiling between city folks and country cousins. It shows how rural landowners have to defend their turf once they're less than about 2% of the population. A green group in Britain attempted to pass a law in Parliament giving "ramblers," or hikers, the right to hike virtually anywhere on rural land, as if the entire nation is one big park. ... Point is, the same worldview is evident in the U.S. as property rights (especially rural property rights) comes under attack." (AgWeb.com)

"Smokers seek up to $196 billion in punitive damages" - "MIAMI (July 10) - Smokers in a landmark case asked for up to $196 billion in punitive damages from the tobacco industry Monday to punish the industry for ruining the lives of millions of sick and addicted customers." (AP) | BBC

"Countless Thousands Flee City Centre!" (Evening rush hour.) Thousands of Hectares of Shoreland Vanish Overnight! (Tide rolls in.) These headlines (and translations) and more in the Globe and Mail's "Challenge" - seems there's plenty of newspaper editors north of the border.

"Greenhouse gas blowout" - "A decade of economic growth has helped Australia's greenhouse gas emissions blow out to more than double the targets set under the Kyoto international agreement. According to the 1998 National Greenhouse Gas Inventory - expected to be released on Friday - Australia's greenhouse gas emissions are running at 16.8 per cent above 1990 levels. At the Kyoto summit in 1997, Australia committed to maintaining its greenhouse emissions at no more than 8 per cent above 1990 levels by 2010."

July 10, 2000

"Return of the Wolf" - "The Clinton administration may soon take the gray wolves — Canis lupus — off the federal endangered species list because of their resurging numbers. But this ecological success story demonstrates not the effectiveness — but the flaws — of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). ... Although the act has been in effect for 30 years, the wolves have made a comeback — along with some other rare species such as the bald eagle and peregrine falcon — only in the last decade or so. This is precisely when environmental groups started offering property owners incentives to preserve wildlife, instead of using the ESA to impose draconian land-use restrictions. ... The story of the wolves suggests that circumscribing property rights does not serve the cause of conservation. The Endangered Species Act should be reformed to afford protections not just to wild life, but property owners, too." (Detroit News Editorial)

"Doctors in pioneering transplant of eye parts grown in laboratory" - "Human eye tissue has been successfully grown in a laboratory and transplanted on to six blind patients in the first operation of its kind. The transplant cornea surfaces, produced in a California laboratory from a tiny number of donor cells, are the first to come complete with the "stem cells" necessary for them to attach to the living tissue of the recipient." (Independent)

"Learning Problems of Low-Weight Infants Are Broader Than Once Thought, Study Finds" - "Babies born weighing less than five and a half pounds are almost four times less likely to graduate from high school by age 19 than their normal-birthweight siblings, according to a study in the June issue of the American Sociological Review." (NY Times)

"Cancer price of success for women" - "SCIENTISTS have uncovered evidence that women may be paying for equality in the workplace with increased rates of cancer. An international study comparing rates of cancer found that in countries where women had made big advances in management jobs, public life and earning power, they were more likely to have similar levels of the disease to men." (The Australian)

"Jury may sting Big Tobacco with massive punishment" - "MIAMI, July 9 - After more than two years at trial, a Miami jury, which has judged Big Tobacco liable for the sicknesses of hundreds of thousands of smokers, this week takes up what could potentially be multibillion-dollar damage awards. Forecasts of the punitive damages in the pioneering Engle class-action case range from the hundreds of millions to hundreds of billions of dollars, a figure that would easily beat a record for U.S. punitive damages award set during 1999." (Reuters)

"AIDS chair optimistic about ending HIV controversy" - "DURBAN, South Africa, July 9 - The chairman of the 13th International AIDS Conference said he believed the controversy over the disease's cause would be resolved when South African President Thabo Mbeki opened the meeting on Sunday." (Reuters)

"Major killer is poverty not AIDS -S.Africa's Mbeki" - "DURBAN, South Africa, July 9 - South African President Thabo Mbeki on Sunday opened Africa's biggest AIDS conference, saying poverty and not AIDS was the most dangerous threat to the continent's peoples." (Reuters) | (Mbeki insists poverty causes Aids | Doctors despair at Mbeki: Guardian) | BBC

"Ethiopia: The More Soil Erosion, The More Power Cuts" - "... Although soil erosion has much wider and much more damaging implications than just the silting up of dams, at this point it must be pointed out again that the fate of present and future dams will depend on how well siltation and soil erosion in general can be controlled. Will passing the buck ever stop?" (The Monitor)

Here's another question: "Will the nonsense romanticism over "traditional" farming methods ever stop?" Reducing soil erosion requires high productivity, minimum tillage agriculture - chemically assisted agriculture, in other words. Subsistence agriculture keeps impoverished farmers impoverished, fails to minimise soil erosion and forces increased slash-and-burn activity chasing limited soil fertility, which increases desertification as well as erosion. Modern agriculture, including biotechnology, is good for people and especially good for the environment.

"Relax: outcrossing won't create superweeds" - "Volunteer herbicide-resistant canola plants are just more weeds waiting to meet somebody else's herbicide maker. Even plants with multiple herbicide resistance can be easily controlled, say canola and weed specialists. Concern that outcrossing -- transfer of pollen from one canola variety to another -- will produce rogue volunteers immune to chemical control are unfounded, says Phil Thomas, Alberta Agriculture's oilseed specialist. "It's just another volunteer that you can control with a range of herbicides now on the market," says Thomas. There's no need to panic." (Country Guide)

July 9, 2000

"Expert lashes poor's new enemy" - "WESTERN anti-biotechnology activists represent a "new imperialism" that would condemn developing nations to permanent poverty and despair, a leading authority on Third World agriculture said in Melbourne this week. Professor Channapatna Prakash, director of the Centre for Plant Biotechnology Research at Tuskegee University, Alabama, told guests at a lecture sponsored by the Institute of Public Affairs that biotechnology was essential to solving problems of poor health, inadequate nutrition, food security and poverty in developing nations.

An adviser to the United Nations and the aid agency USAID, Prof. Prakash said anti-gene technology activists were trying to vilify the achievements of the Green Revolution in the 1970s and '80s. "Before the Green Revolution, India grew only 10 million tonnes of wheat. This year it produced 80 million tonnes," he said. "Food production increased from 50 to 205 million tonnes. Without the higher yields of Green Revolution crops, we would have needed four times more land to produce that much with traditional varieties -- where would we find that land, when just about every piece of usable land in India is already being farmed?"

Claims that farmers in developing nations did not want transgenic crops, and should shun the new agricultural revolution in favor of supposedly sustainable organic farming systems, were "absurd", he said." (Herald Sun)

"Genetically Modified Corn Not A Threat To Swallowtail Butterfly Larvae" - "CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- A Bt corn variety grown widely in East Central Illinois in 1999 had no adverse effect on black swallowtail caterpillars that thrive in weeds alongside cornfields, according to both field and laboratory studies at the University of Illinois. (Science Daily) | University of Illinois release

"Crows in New York found to have West Nile virus" - "NEW YORK (July 8, 2000 8:36 a.m. EDT http://www.nandotimes.com) - Two crows in Long Island and another in Westchester have tested positive for the West Nile virus, said health officials. Health Commissioner Clare Bradley said Friday that crows found in West Babylon and Lindenhurst showed signs they had been infected with the deadly virus, Newsday reported Saturday.

Bradley said there would be no mosquito spraying at this point where the crows were found. More mosquito traps are to be set up in the area, and trapped mosquitoes are to be tested for signs of the virus. Sentinel flocks of chickens will also be put out next week for subsequent testing of their blood, Bradley said. Chickens can also be infected with the virus although they do not appear to become sick from it." (AP)

"Asthma doubles in two decades" - "Asthma rates in adults have soared in the last 20 years, according to research carried out in Scotland. And it is not simply better methods of diagnosing asthma that are responsible for the rising numbers, although more public awareness of the symptom may have contributed, they conclude." (BBC) | BMJ release | Cossetted children more prone to allergies (Telegraph)

You mean all the time we have been restricting pesticides and switching to "environmentally friendly" alternatives asthma has been increasing?

"Alarm raised over TB threat" - "A leading scientist has warned that rates of tuberculosis in Britain could lead to a human disaster unless urgent action is taken. The number of cases of TB have risen by 80% in the last ten years, with London being a hot-spot for the disease." (BBC)

"Lack of sleep 'caused nuclear disasters'" - "Lack of sleep among managers of nuclear power stations and hospital doctors leaves them unable to cope with emergencies and prevent them becoming disasters. Sleep deprivation leads people to reach bad decisions and then stick with them even when they are clearly wrong, according to a study to be published shortly by Britain's top sleep researcher." (Observer)

"How to Turn a Chaotic Food Fight Into a Reasoned Discussion" - "At this stage, we need to conduct a careful inquiry into the risks and benefits of genetically modified food. But to succeed in this, we must be willing to conduct a level-headed--and open-minded--exploration. If rational voices can prevail, we may be able to pioneer some exciting advances in agricultural technology. But if we close our eyes to the future, we'll simply be mired in the past." writes Stephen L. Cohen in the LA Times (July 7)

"Environmentalists Calm Down to Reach More" - LOS ANGELES — Marching in the streets dressed like butterflies and sea turtles, clashing with police, even throwing their bodies in the path of progress, America's environmental activists have earned a reputation for radicalism. (Fox News)

"Cancer charity attacked over 'shock' advert" - "The ad, published in several UK newspapers, including The Observer, is intended simply to raise awareness of the dangers of cancer, says the fund. Yet it has provoked widespread academic fury. Researchers, including some of the fund's own scientists, say it is alarmist and irresponsible, and accuse the fund of deliberately misleading the public about cancer. Industry observers also fear it represents an escalation in the use of shock tactics by charities desperate to obtain dwindling public support." (Observer)

"408 kala-azar deaths in Bihar, says minister" - "PATNA: Bihar minister for health Shakuni Choudhry on Friday informed the state Assembly that 408 people had died of kala-azar and 11,999 were afflicted by the disease in 30 districts of north Bihar and blamed the Centre for not making sufficient quantity of DDT to combat the disease." (Times of India)

For the facts on DDT, check out "100 Things You Should Know About DDT."

"AIDS declines levelling off in U.S., warns CDC" - "DURBAN, South Africa, July 8 - Dramatic declines in the rates of HIV infection and AIDS are levelling off in the United States, a clear sign that people are becoming complacent and that prevention measures need to be stepped up, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Saturday." (Reuters)

"World Bank offers $500 Mln to fight AIDS in Africa" - "WASHINGTON, July 8 - The World Bank is preparing a new $500 million program for fighting AIDS in Africa, home to two-thirds of all cases of the disease, the bank announced on Saturday." (Reuters)

"$3 billion a year needed to fight AIDS in Africa" - "DURBAN, July 8 - It will cost at least $3 billion a year to fight the AIDS epidemic in Africa where nearly 25 million people are living with the disease, a leading AIDS expert said on Saturday." (Reuters)

"Africa reacts coolly to German AIDS drug offer" - "DURBAN, South Africa, July 8 - African health ministers on Saturday gave a cool reaction to a German firm's offer to supply AIDS drug Viramune free of charge to help prevent mother-to-child HIV infections in developing countries." (Reuters)

"Report Dims Hope for AIDS Therapy - "DURBAN, South Africa, July 7 -- A United Nations-sponsored study of AIDS infection among infants has dashed the hopes of scientists who thought they had found a simple way to prevent mothers from giving their infants the AIDS virus during breast-feeding." (NY Times)

"British breakthrough brings chance of a pill to treat cancer within three years" - "Scientists begin trials in September on the world's first anti-cancer pill. The gene-based pill could be on the market in three years, offering a revolutionary alternative to "primitive" treatments such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy." (Independent)

"Scientist 'proves' that rapists and murderers are born evil" - "A British academic who went to work in America because of his "politically incorrect" theories believes he has scientific proof that rapists and murderers are born evil. Dr Adrian Raine, a psychologist working in California, says test results prove psychopaths have on average 11 per cent less grey matter in the brain's frontal lobe. And his research suggests that children delivered with forceps are more likely to grow up as criminals because such births can result in a reduction of grey matter." (Independent)

July 8, 2000

"Towers, changing climate blamed for deaths of songbirds" - "HANOVER, New Hampshire (AP) -- Communications towers and a changing global climate are thinning out populations of migratory songbirds, two studies have found. A 13-year study by Dartmouth College and Tulane University, published in the June 16 issue of Science, suggests climate changes can affect songbirds' survival and reproduction rates." (CNN)

Oh, so now it's 40 million birds killed in tower collisions? Last September, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology said 4 million in this release: Communications towers killing birds. Wonder how many are being minced in the "walls of death" as wind farms are proliferated to address the global warming we're not having. Click here for the US temperature chart since 1880 to see just how much climate change we haven't had.

"U.S. EPA unlikely to lift anti-smog rule--official" - NEW YORK, July 7 - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Friday that falling gasoline prices are shutting off any chance that it will lift new anti-smog fuel regulations, widely blamed for this summer's spike at the pumps. "As long as prices are going down, we're more likely to hang tight on the rules," an EPA official, who asked not to be identified, said. (Reuters)

"MUTANT FROG INCREASE SPURS U.S. INVESTIGATION" - "WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday launched a national investigation into pollution sources and other environmental threats that may be contributing to a countrywide population of deformed frogs." (Chicago Tribune, July 7)

Not one but two studies appeared in Science, April 29, 1999, one by Johnson and Sessions and the other by Pieter Johnson and colleagues, finding tiny parasitic flatworms called trematodes - not chemicals or other pollutants - were responsible. Declines can be traced to a number of causes: habitat alteration; feral predators - notably "environmentally friendly" mosquito fish (gambusia - see A taste for tadpole) merrily proliferated around the world to avoid those nasty chemical sprays for disease vector control and; chytridiomycosis (often fatal fungal disease), quite possibly spread by expanding eco tourism and even amphibian researchers themselves. Of course, rebuilding migratory bird populations may also be a contributive factor in the spread of novel or resurgent amphibian disease, as postulated in this release back in February: ASU scientists probe salamander mysteries. See also: Frogs in the balance; With Frog Scare Debunked, It Isn't Easy Being Green

This piece continues the DDT myth. For the facts on DDT, check out "100 Things You Should Know About DDT."

"Scientists urged to join campaign backing genetically modified crops" - "MELBOURNE (July 7) : Scientists researching genetically modified crops needed to be more vocal supporting a technology that could avert thousands of deaths due to hunger, the organiser of a global petition said on Thursday. Tuskegee University Center for Plant Biotechnology Research director Channapatna Prakash said a global petition he instigated had around 2,700 signatures. It was expected to be presented later this year with 3,000 signatures from scientists. "We are planning to present it to a lot of world leaders, opinion makers and agencies responsible for food and agriculture around the world," he told Reuters. "We are trying to create a more positive awareness about what we are doing. We can't just be in isolation and in ivory towers any more. We need to be speaking up."" (Business Recorder)

"Brazil ban on GM foods seen firm as divisions fester" - "BRASILIA, July 7 - Brazil, the hemisphere's last bastion against genetically-modified (GM) foods, is seen holding firm in its lonely stance, amid a flurry of court battles opposing scientific meddling in agriculture, government sources said on Friday. While GM crops take over fields in neighboring Argentina and the United States, raking in hefty savings for farmers, Latin America's biggest agriculture producer has bucked the trend by maintaining a ban on so-called "Frankenstein foods."" (Reuters)

"Brazilian farmers give away chickens, protest GM crop policy" - "Brazilian farmers who are angry about their government’s ban on imports of genetically-modified (GM) food have given away 20,000 chickens in protest. They distributed the chickens in Recife to express their disapproval of Brazil’s ban on growing or importing GM crops, including corn and soybeans. “The farmers who bring their chickens here today are having a hard time getting corn to the feed the chickens,” said Marconides Farias, president of the state poultry farmers’ association." (AgWeb.com)

"Plant molecular biology society endorses ag biotechnology" - "The International Society for Plant Molecular Biology's (ISPMB) board of directors unanimously voted to endorse AgBioWorld.com's "Declaration in Support of Agricultural Biotechnology." At the Society's Sixth International Congress, held last week in Quebec City, Canada, the board officially urged the Society's 1,800 members around the world to sign the AgBioWorld Declaration, drafted by Professor C.S. Prakash of Tuskegee University." (AgWeb.com)

"NCGA responds to drop in biotech corn acreage" - "When USDA released their June Acreage Report last week, they included an updated table on percentages of acreage planted to biotech crops. While biotech soybean and cotton acreage increased from last year, the percentage of corn acreage planted to biotech crops slipped. ... "According to the NASS report, the bulk of growers who have planted biotech corn are in the western Corn Belt," said NCGA Director of Marketing and Production Paul Bertels. "That's where corn borer pressure is the greatest. In areas where there is little or no corn borer pressure, there's no need for growers to plant biotech. We liken it to buying snow tires in Miami." (AgWeb.com)

"Yam Cultivation And Environmental Degradation" - "Accra - Yam cultivation leads to a high degree of environmental degradation, a three-month field study in the Sekyere West and Ejura-Sekyedumase Districts of Ashanti has established. Presenting the findings at a day's workshop at Fumesua, near Kumasi, at the weekend, Mr. Joseph Nketia Berchie, a Research Officer of the Crop Research Institute (CRI) said this was so because yam depletes the soil of nitrogen. The study was part of year 2000 programme of the International Centre for Development Oriented Research in Agriculture (ICRA 2000) based in Holland. He said that since yam would not give a good yield when cultivated on the same field twice, farmers do a lot of shifting cultivation." (Accra Mail)

Failure to use nitrogen-boosting fertilisers increases slash-and-burn agriculture? Imagine that...

"White House considers imposing new waterway pollution controls" - "WASHINGTON (July 7, 2000 5:35 p.m. EDT http://www.nandotimes.com) - In spite of a congressional demand to delay action, the Clinton administration is considering imposing new pollution controls to clean up thousands of lakes and streams -- worrying Democrats about the potential political fallout. The regulation, close to being issued by the Environmental Protection Agency would create new requirements for farmers, businesses, industrial plants and utilities in areas where water quality does not meet federal standards." (AP)

"TEPCO says to reopen radiation-hit nuclear plant" - "TOKYO, July 7 - A 1,100-megawatt nuclear reactor in Japan, closed last week after radiation was found in water that had leaked from cracked pipes, will soon be reopened by Tokyo Electric Power Co Inc (TEPCO) , the firm said on Friday." (Reuters)

"EPA calls Phase I of stormwater program 'successful'" - "The phase I program has been successful in reducing pollutant loadings in stormwater discharges and in protecting and improving water quality on a site-specific basis, according to an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report to Congress on the impact of the phase I stormwater regulations." (Public Works.com)

"Greenpeace says trying to block missile test" - "LOS ANGELES, July 7 - The environmental group Greenpeace said it has sent several protesters into a military base north of Los Angeles in order to prevent the $100 million test of a planned U.S. National Missile Defense system scheduled for Friday night. But officials at Vandenberg Air Force Base said on Friday they had no indication that activists were inside the base or near the launch site, from where the U.S. military plans to shoot down a dummy missile warhead launched into space Friday night." (Reuters)

"Warning: this label is harmless" - "Somewhere in the vast expanses of the Gobi Desert or the sun-scorched wastes of the Kalahari there may be tribes who have yet to appreciate the risks associated with tobacco and alcohol. If so, they will have missed one of the more all-embracing messages of recent times." (New Zealand Herald)

"Italians face tough curbs on smoking" - "ITALY, one of the most nicotine-addicted countries in Europe, is launching its strongest-ever curbs on smoking. The government, which has a lucrative tobacco monopoly, yesterday introduced a Bill banning smoking in all public and private enclosed places where people congregate, including offices, shops, stores, railway stations, airports, restaurants, bars, banks and police stations. It also said it was considering becoming the first European country to sue the multi-national tobacco companies." (Telegraph)

"The Week That Was" from SEPP


"ACC to Gore on proposed TMDL rule: tell the EPA to desist"

 - "The American Chemistry Council on July 6 asked Vice President Al Gore to intercede and prevent the U.S. EPA’s skirting a congressional bill rider that would deprive the agency of the money it needs to implement a proposed pollution-abatement rule. In a letter to the vice president, Fred Webber, the council's president and CEO, noted, "EPA's reported effort to rush the rule through Office of Management and Budget review and finalize it is a dismaying reaction to the recent bipartisan congressional action."" (Pollution Online)

"Peru sends army to stop logging" - "LIMA, Peru, July 7 — Reacting to what the government said was unauthorized logging by a U.S. company, Peru’s president has deployed the military in an Amazon frontier region and declared wide swaths of Peru’s jungle protected zones.Peru’s armed forces were dispatched this week to Inapari, near the borders with Brazil and Bolivia, and President Alberto Fujimori declared an “environmental state of emergency” on Thursday." (MSNBC)

"Flying dolls grounded in Canada after eye injury"-"TORONTO, July 7 - Galoob Toys Inc. , said on Friday it is recalling about 277,000 Sky Dancers dolls sold in Canada, following a report that one of the flying dolls had struck an adult in the eye." (Reuters)

"Gates Foundation seeks "global health equity"" - "LONDON, July 7 - The foundation set up by the billionaire Microsoft Corp founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda is working towards global health fairness, its top executive said on Friday. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the world's largest foundation. It has already donated $1.7 billion to attack diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and AIDS that pose the greatest danger to people in the developing world." (Reuters)

July 7, 2000

"The Danger Point" - "The decade of the 1990's was very likely the hottest of the last millennium. And 1998 -- which had temperatures spiked by a large El Niño phenomenon -- appears to have been the hottest year ever recorded.

The oceans are rising, mountain glaciers are shrinking, low-lying coastal areas are eroding, and the very timing of the seasons is changing, with spring coming as much as a week earlier in parts of the Northern Hemisphere. And all indications are that the warming of the earth in the 21st century will be significantly greater than it was in the 20th." So says Bob Herbert. (New York Times.)

What global warming? Over the last 70 years Earth has undergone a statistically significant cooling and recovery - no warming though. Remember these?

"Certain signs, some of them visible to the layman as well as the scientist, indicate that we have been watching an ice age approach for some time without realizing what we are seeing... Scientists predict that it will cause great snows which the world has not seen since the last ice age thousands of years ago." - Betty Friedan, "The coming Ice Age", Harper's Magazine, Sept, 1958.

"The rapid cooling of the earth since World War II is also in accord with the increased air pollution associated with industrialization, and an exploding population." - Reid Bryson, "Environmental Roulette", 1971; "Global Ecology; Readings towards a rational strategy for Man", 1971.

"An increase by only a factor of 4 in the global aerosol background concentration may be sufficient to reduce the surface temperature by as much as 3.5 deg. K. If sustained over a period of several years, such a temperature decrease over the whole globe is believed to be sufficient to trigger an ice age." - S.I. Rasool and S.H. Schneider, Science, v173, p138, 9/7/1971.

"There are ominous signs that the earth's weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production - with serious political implications for just about every nation on earth. The drop in food production could begin quite soon... The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it." - "The Cooling World", Newsweek, April 28, 1975.

"The threat of a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery for mankind." - Nigel Calder, International Wildlife, June 1975.

"This [cooling] trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century" - Peter Gwynne, Newsweek 1976

"This cooling has already killed hundreds of thousands of people. If it continues and no strong action is taken, it will cause world famine, world chaos and world war, and this could all come about before the year 2000." - Lowell Ponte "The Cooling", 1976

Of course, the "catastrophic cooling" lasted only from about 1945-1975, after which the Earth slowly recovered to current temperatures, which are roughly the same as those of the 1930s. There have been plenty of warmer and cooler periods in the last 3000 years and current temperatures are about as average as it's possible to be for the Holocene (current interglacial period). So, again, what warming?

"The Effect of Federal Regulations on Gasoline Prices in the Milwaukee/Chicago Area" - "There is no mystery as to why gasoline prices have spiked here but nowhere else: the Milwaukee/Chicago market is suffering from a shortage of gasoline and this shortage is entirely responsible for the surge in prices. My testimony today will examine the factors that have contributed to this shortfall as well as the economic laws that govern gasoline markets. In short, the June spike in Milwaukee/Chicago gasoline prices was largely caused by federal and state regulations mandating the use of ethanol blended reformulated gasoline in this market." Says Jerry Taylor, Director, Natural Resource Studies, Cato Institute.

"EU assembly toughens draft plastic baby toy ban" - "BRUSSELS, July 6 - The European Parliament voted on Thursday to toughen a draft law which will ban toys suspected of leaking potentially harmful chemicals into babies mouths when sucked.

The legislation, which must still be endorsed by EU governments, would ban the sale of certain babies' toys which contain phthalates -- a range of chemicals which are used to soften otherwise rigid polyvinyl chloride (PVC)."  (Reuters)

But there is no reason to ban phthalates - the most hazardous thing about which is pronouncing the word (thal-eights). See Phthalate Scare is Fear-Based, Not Fact-Based, Says Consumer Alert; DEHP NOT a human carcinogen; CPSC releases study on phthalates; Clean Bill of Health for Vinyl Toys and Medical Devices and; from the Junkman, Save plastic IV-bags so they can save you.

"U.S. EPA says to fund pilot MTBE cleanup projects" - "WASHINGTON, July 6 - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner on Thursday announced the federal government would fund two $1 million pilot projects in California and New York to aid the cleanup of gasoline additive MTBE in water supplies." (Reuters)

"French BSE cases to rise as tests unfold -official" - "PARIS, July 6 - The number of French cases of mad cow disease (BSE) will certainly rise as a new testing programme for the fatal brain-wasting illness unfolds, a senior Farm Ministry official said on Thursday." (Reuters)

"Immunity To Virus Triggered By Vaccine In Potato" - "Human immunity to a virus has been triggered for the first time by a vaccine genetically engineered into a potato. The specific virus involved is the pervasive Norwalk virus -- the leading cause of food-borne illness in the United States and much of the developed world.

Scientists from the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) for Plant Research at Cornell University and the University of Maryland School of Medicine at Baltimore report on the success of the first human clinical trials of the plant-based vaccine in the latest issue (July 2000) of the Journal of Infectious Diseases." (Biotechnology Knowledge Centre)

"Some straight talk about GMOs (part 1 of 2)" - @g Worldwide's Johann Bakker interviews Junkscience.com friend Professor Philip Stott about biotechnology. Part 2 of 2

"Hill dismisses value of environment tax" - "An exasperated Environment Minister, Senator Robert Hill, declared yesterday that the Howard Government was "taxed out" after the introduction of the GST, claiming carbon taxes and even the Government's Reef Tax were ineffective policies for the environment." (Australian Financial Revue)

"Greenhouse Pact Seen As Threat to Minorities" - "Hispanic and black Americans will suffer disproportionately if the United States adopts a U.N. treaty to reduce greenhouse gases, says a report commissioned by six minority groups and paid for by the coal industry." (Washington Post)

"Air pollution kills 1,340 Greeks yearly-Greenpeace" - "ATHENS, July 6 - Air pollution kills an average 1,342 Greeks a year, about half of them in Athens which is notorious for its smog, Greenpeace Greece said on Thursday." (Reuters)

Really? Can you name them? More to the point, how does current Greek air quality compare with that that prevailed when everyone relied on coal, peat or wood fires for energy? Isn't it true that air quality has improved markedly since the provision of reliable baseload electricity generation and distribution?

"Fish farms not destroying life in the oceans" - "An Australian marine researcher has disputed claims that fish farming is destroying the ocean's ecology." (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

"Scientist in GM foods petition first" - "Adelaide University professor Edwina Cornish today became the first Australian scientist to sign a petition calling for public acceptance of genetically modified foods. About 3,000 scientists have already signed the petition." (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

"With help from university teams, automakers give gas-guzzling SUVs a makeover" - "Americans LUV big SUVs. So before environmentalists and other critics run them off the road, politicians and automakers are racing to clean up SUVs' reputation as oversized, gas-guzzling polluters." (Christian Science Monitor)

"Cigarette makers challenge Canada's labeling law" - "MONTREAL, July 6 (Reuters) - Canada's Imperial Tobacco said on Thursday it and two other big Canadian cigarette manufacturers have launched a legal challenge of new federal rules requiring graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging." (Reuters)

"Strengthen WHO, not WTO: India" - "NEW DELHI: India on Wednesday called for a global treaty for sui generis (unique, one of its kind) protection of traditional system of medicines and the strengthening the WHO, instead of the WTO, to remove the inequities created by the Trade-Related Intellectual Properties (TRIPs) agreement." (Times of India)

"Pot of gold in the green revolution" - "The world is about to enter the next industrial revolution, where looking after the environment becomes a profit-making exercise, one of the world's top energy reform gurus said yesterday. Speaking at an international environmental conference in Canberra, American energy reform expert Amory Lovins said most businesses were still operating in a way that had not changed since the last industrial revolution, when natural resources were abundant and labor was the limiting factor in production." (The Age)

"Rain god rocket in flight path" - "A rocket launched during a traditional Thai festival designed to appease the rain gods nearly brought down a passenger plane, according to reports in Bangkok yesterday. "A homemade rocket fired by farmers in the north-east to bring down rain nearly brought down an aircraft instead," the Nation daily said." (The Age)

July 6, 2000

"Americans respect science but do not understand it" - "According to the biennial survey by the National Science Foundation (NSF), many Americans cannot explain scientific ideas such as DNA, molecules and even the Internet. These findings suggest that Americans may be ill-equipped to make decisions concerning issues such as genetically engineered crops or genetic testing." (Reuters)

"Minorities would suffer under global warming treaty" - "American blacks and Hispanics would suffer economically if an international global warming treaty is ratified by the Senate, a new study supported by minority business groups contended Wednesday." (Reuters)

"Ally of Mexico's Fox favors nuclear shutdown" - "A key ally of Mexican President-elect Vicente Fox said on Wednesday he supported the shutdown of the nation's only nuclear power plant -- which has been compared by experts to Ukraine's Chernobyl." (Reuters)

"Beware the birds" - "THE bird virus that killed seven New Yorkers last year has now spread all over the Americas, say US researchers. They warn that the Gulf coast of the US will probably see the next outbreak of West Nile virus. Despite the threat, authorities in the US have so far failed to provide the research funding to keep tabs on the virus in wild birds. The scientists say that scrupulous monitoring of bird populations is needed, otherwise it won't be possible to identify and spray high-risk areas with insecticide to kill the mosquitoes that transmit the virus to people." (New Scientist media release)

Check out my New York Post op-ed "A Win for West Nile -- By Two Rats."

"Meetings highlight hot developments in cooling research " - "About 800 engineers will converge on Purdue University in July for three international conferences to discuss the latest findings in air-conditioning and refrigeration research, including work to develop systems that use environmentally friendly refrigerants that don't cause global warming." (Purdue University media release)

"Carbon dioxide could replace global-warming refrigerant" - "Researchers are making progress in perfecting automotive and portable air-conditioning systems that use environmentally friendly carbon dioxide as a refrigerant instead of conventional, synthetic global-warming and ozone-depleting chemicals." (Purdue University media release)

"Supermarket bans junk food ads" - "A leading supermarket chain has banned advertising of unhealthy foods and drinks targeted specifically at children." (BBC)

"Nutritionist sparks red meat row" - "A leading nutritionist has provoked controversy by suggesting people who do not eat red meat are risking their health." (BBC)

"'No extra cancer' for nuclear workers" - "Nuclear workers should not worry that their jobs may increase cancer risk, says an expert who has examined 50 years of records." (BBC)

"Study of 84,000 women confirms hearty rewards for healthy lifestyle" - "A 14-year study of heart disease among more than 84,000 women is reaffirming the health benefits of sensible diet, no smoking, exercise and moderate use of alcohol." (CNN)

"The Case for DDT; What do you do when a dreaded environmental pollutant saves lives?" - "The pesticide DDT has a long and checkered history. Today, it evokes particularly contentious argument. Though environmentalists have come to demand this poison's elimination from the face of the Earth, some tropical-disease specialists laud DDT as an irreplaceable weapon in their fight against malaria. Which view prevails may be a life-and-death matter for nearly a half-billion people." (Science News)

For the facts on DDT, check out "100 Things You Should Know About DDT."

"EU Food Standards Are A Global Health Hazard" - "The EU is using specious health concerns to protect farmers from foreign competition, especially since the GATT and now the World Trade Organization have made it more difficult for Europe to do so through an old-fashioned tariff regime." (Dennis Avery in The Wall Street Journal Europe)

"Top Scientist Blasts Biotech Critics" - " Opponents of genetically modified (GM) plants have overblown theoretical risks and understated the benefits to farmers and mankind, says Dr. James Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA and former head of the nation’s Human Genome Project. Although Greenpeace has launched a global campaign to block or impede the sale of biotech crops, "it has no science on its side," says Watson." (AgWeb.com)

"Warming Up to CO2" - "A recent cascade of government reports portends biospheric doom and gloom once increased temperatures and higher carbon dioxide (CO2) levels establish themselves. Though federal scientists acknowledge increased CO2 could benefit the biosphere, they maintain higher temperatures will overtake these gains and lead to an overall decline in plant productivity." (World Climate Report)

"Climate Corn-ography" - "Readers who tuned in to Virtual Climate Alert No. 21 (www.greeningearthsociety.org) know that the much vaunted drought -- called an 'ultra-drought' by CBS icon Dan Rather -- isn't one. Whereas Rather called this a 'summer to survive' in the Midwest, it actually looks more like a summer to grow." (World Climate Report)

"Bad eggs" - "People in the north of Norway have been warned by the country's food safety agency to cut back on eating seagull eggs because they are contaminated with high levels of toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)." (New Scientist)

"Dangerous work" - "Workers exposed to radiation in uranium processing plants may run an increased risk of developing lung cancer two decades later, according to a study commissioned by British Nuclear Fuels." (New Scientist)

July 5, 2000

"Report on Medical Errors Called Erroneous" - "An alarming and highly influential 1999 report which concluded that as many as 98,000 Americans die every year from preventable medical errors is itself being criticized as erroneous by some experts." (Washington Post) | "Deaths Due to Medical Errors Are Exaggerated in Institute of Medicine Report" (JAMA) | "Institute of Medicine Medical Error Figures Are Not Exaggerated" (JAMA)

"Apocalypse soon" - "'Many statements in the Overview Document have a rather extreme/alarmist tone and do not appear to fairly reflect the scientific literature, the historical record, or the output of extant models.' So said a reviewer of the draft National Assessment on Climate Change, scheduled for October publication. Some greedy corporate naysayer? Not exactly. It was in fact a party more accustomed to hearing such things about its own typically apocalyptic pronouncements. The commenting party was the Environmental Protection Agency." (Christopher Horner in The Washington Times)

"$30,000 an Hour" - "That's the amount that Baltimore trial lawyer Peter Angelos is demanding from the state of Maryland for handling its lawsuit against Big Tobacco." (Wall Street Journal editorial)

"New Category of Victims at the Vietnam Memorial" - "Under legislation signed by President Clinton last month, a plaque will soon go up near the memorial to honor the veterans who died after the war from exposure to Agent Orange, post-traumatic stress disorder and other causes not directly related to combat wounds. " (New York Times)

Will a memorial to Chunky Monkey consumers be next?

"Mobile Telephones and Their Base Stations" - "Given the immense numbers of users of mobile phones, even small adverse effects on health could have major public health implications. This fact sheet addresses these concerns." (WHO Fact Sheet)

"Suicide 'linked to' the moon" - "Suicide rates are affected by the moon and changes in seasons, according to researchers." (BBC)

"Wayne and Tracey find little sympathy on the couch" - "Psychiatrists make unconscious judgments based on the Christian names of patients to the advantage of young men with middle-class names, researchers said yesterday." (Daily Telegraph)

July 3, 2000

"Researchers say they've deciphered red wine's role in 'French paradox'" - "A substance in red wine may explain the "French paradox," or relatively low rates of heart disease and certain cancers in among the French despite diets high in fat, according to a study appearing Saturday." (AP) | MSNBC

But is the "French paradox" more myth than paradox?

"Scientists aim for more effective teaching of evolution" - "In the 140 years since it was first proposed by naturalist Charles Darwin, scientists have made enormous progress building upon the theory of evolution. But some are particularly puzzled by one unsolved mystery: Why do so many people continue to have their doubts?" (AP)

"Public 'underestimates cancer risk'" - "A major advertising campaign is launched to combat the public's lack of knowledge of cancer." (BBC)

"Farm-to-fork food safety" - "Canadians took to their backyards and barbecues this Canada Day with apprehension: Is the drinking water safe? Are the hamburgers safe? What are these mysterious bugs with the long names that can wreak havoc on humans? The mere mention of Walkerton, Ont., will conjure up different images for different people. Same with E. coli O157:H7 and the massive recall of ground beef in the news recently. But admonishments by government to simply cook beef are insufficient." (National Post editorial)

"Surgeons may have falsified data" - "In an examination of long-suppressed medical records, MSNBC has learned that leading Stanford University surgeons failed to acknowledge complications and inaccurately reported other pertinent patient data in a journal article that described a surgery that the doctors invented and touted for use by physicians worldwide." (MSNBC)