July 31, 1999
"Law on Access to Research Data Pleases Business, Alarms Science" The New York Times reports on the data access law.
"Judge considering breast implant settlement expresses concerns about deal" The Associated Press reports, "A federal judge who must decide whether to confirm Dow Corning Corp.'s $4.5 billion settlement offer over silicone breast implants said he wants more information on a proposed ban on punitive damages.... 'If the debtor's product didn't cause these people's diseases...then they shouldn't have to pay anything,' Spector said. 'If they did cause diseases or syndromes, then until they have no more money they should pay.'"
JUNK OF THE DAY I: "EPA to announce ban of fruit pesticide, restriction of another" A literature review of methyl parathion and azinphos-methyl reveals no scientific basis for the EPA action. To the extent a hazard may exist from these insecticides, it is an oocupational risk to farm workers from overexposure or accidental poisoning. There is no basis for alarming the public about residues on food.
COMMENTARY THE DAY: "Flushed with Anger" The Detroit News commnets, "Rep. Knollenberg is championing a cause that resonates with every American every morning. Congress should repeal the ban on the old toilet bowls and allow Americans to decide for themselves what works best for them."
"Internet could damage your health" The BBC reports, "The Internet is the greatest single source of information in the world but it is not always the best if you need accurate medical help, according to researchers in the United States."
JUNK OF THE DAY II: "Depleted uranium 'threatens Balkan cancer epidemic'" The BBC reports, "A British scientist says the Americans' use of depleted uranium weapons in the war with Serbia is likely to cause 10,000 extra deaths from cancer." There have only been about 400 extra cancer cases from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. Somehow I doubt that far lower levels of radiation exposure are going to cause 25 times more cancers.
"Grief and laughter" The Associated Press reports, "In any bookstore, you'll find loads of advice on coping with the death of a loved one, how to 'work through' grief. But psychologist George Bonanno contends there's little science to back up much of the advice."
July 30, 1999
'MUST READ' OF THE DAY: Draft OMB Data Access Rule OMB will provide an additional opportunity for the public to comment on its proposed implementation of the data access rule. This is a draft of the impending Federal Register notice and proposed revision of Circular A-110. Based on a cursory review, the draft revision appears to reflect the intent of the data access law. Stay tuned for the beginning of the public comment period.
JUNK OF THE DAY: "Into the Mouths of Babes" The Environmental Working Group [music link] has produced yet another wacky report about the herbicide atrazine in Midwestern drinking water. Four previous reports issued by the EWG annually during 1994-1997 have made similar claims. But there still is no credible evidence indicating atrazine causes cancer in humans. Consider "A review of epidemiologic studies of triazine herbicides and cancer," [Crit Rev Toxicol 1997 Nov;27(6):599-612] which states, "The relation between triazines and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma has been assessed in four independent population-based case-control studies, reporting odds ratios ranging from 1.2 to 2.5. However, chance and/or confounding by other agricultural exposures may have produced these weak statistical associations. Furthermore, a pooled analysis of three of the case- control studies and the combined analysis of two retrospective follow- up studies did not demonstrate the types of dose-response or induction time patterns that would be expected if triazines were causal factors. The epidemiologic data pertaining to Hodgkin's disease, leukemia, multiple myeloma, soft tissue sarcoma, colon cancer, and ovarian cancer were inadequate for determining whether associations with atrazine or triazines exist in humans. For each of these cancers, only one or two studies evaluating the relationship were available, and the results of the studies typically were imprecise." A recent rodent test of atrazine concluded, "These data indicate that the carcinogenic effect of high doses of atrazine observed in the female Sprague-Dawley is a strain-, sex-, and tissue- specific response that does not have biological relevance to humans." [J Toxicol Environ Health 1999 Jan 22;56(2):69-109.]
'YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST' OF THE DAY: "Researchers fear that breast-cancer drug may in time advance disease" Since April 1998, I've been writing that the National Cancer Institute's touting of tamoxifen has more to do with public relations than good science. In 1997, the NCI came under fire for having made little progress in the "war on cancer," despite spending $30 billion. To combat this critcism, the NCI started to claim breakthroughs, including tamoxifen as a means of preventing breast cancer. But tamoxifen was never a real breakthrough. Click here for my May 1998 op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Eli Lilly's new drug raloxifene may also be in trouble if this new research is correct. Tamoxifen and raloxifene are the same class of drug.
COMMENTARY OF THE DAY: "Bad medicine" The Ottawa Citizen observes, "People listen when Dr. Samuel Epstein speaks -- largely because what he says is so bizarre. Dr. Epstein made news at the World Conference on Breast Cancer in Ottawa this week by accusing the cancer establishment of conspiring with drug companies to keep the true causes of cancer covered up."
COMIC RELIEF OF THE DAY: "Dog Urine Lowers Heart-Attack Risk, Say Snickering Researchers" The Onion reports, "A team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found a link between the consumption of dog urine and the decreased likelihood of heart attacks, team leaders announced Tuesday in cracking, uneven voices."
CONGRESSIONAL TESTIMONY OF THE DAY: "The Plumbing Standards Improvement Act: A Step in the Right Direction" Delivered by the Cato Institute's Jerry Taylor.
"Falling in love drives you mad" The BBC reports, "Falling madly in love may really make you mentally ill, according to Italian scientists." Where do you think this song title came from?
"Sugary food ban raises children's desire for sweets" Reuters reports, "By making sugary or fatty foods 'off-limits' [music link] parents may actually encourage bad eating habits in their children, researchers suggest."
July 29, 1999
RUMOR OF THE DAY: Long-awaited report on endocrine disrupters may be released next week The National Reseach Council may release its report on so-called "endocrine disrupters" as early as next week. Endocrine disrupters are synthetic chemicals alleged to disrupt hormonal processes so as to cause everything from cancer to infertility to attention deficit disorder. Rumor has it that NRC staff will present the report to three EPA assistant administrators on Tuesday, August 3. The report will likely be made available to the public shortly thereafter. Though once much-anticipated, the release of the report is likely to be anti-climactic. Thanks to the wet-noodle Republican Congress, the EPA has already launched a massive regulatory program without the report being complete. The report is likely to conclude that there is no evidence the dreaded endocrine disruption is occurring but that more research is needed -- what do you expect from researchers who want to stay on the taxpayer gravy train? The report has been delayed about 2 years because, in part, the endocrine disrupter advocates on the review committee, notably Frederick vom Saal, Ana Soto and Louis Guillette, have been fighting to have the report say that endocrine disruption is real. They even threatened to release a "minority" report if they didn't get their way. Though the other NRC committee members have apparently allowed some measure of face-saving, watch for the endocrine disrupter cry-babies and their enviro buddies to try upstaging the official release of the report, perhaps by holding a pre-emptive press conference early next week. Developing...
"Warning Signs - August 1999" Monthly commentary from Alan Caruba of the National Anxiety Center.
"Note of discord" The New Scientist reports, "The popular idea that classical music can improve your maths is falling from favour. New experiments have failed to support the widely publicised find-ing that Mozart's music promotes mathematical thinking."
"Media exaggerates girls' low self-esteem" " Reports in the popular press of low self-esteem among adolescent girls are greatly exaggerated, according to an analysis involving over 150,000 individuals," reports Reuters.
"PETA Ad Links Beef to Impotence" "Vegetarians are not only generally slimmer and more sexually attractive than meat-eaters, they are also better lovers," claims Bruce Friedrich, a PETA spokesman in Norfolk, Va.
"Virtual ban on workplace smoking" The BBC reports, "The Health and Safety Executive is considering tough guidance forcing employers to ban smoking in the workplace wherever 'reasonably possible'."
"World's carbon pollution falls" The BBC reports, "Estimated global emissions of carbon dioxide fell in 1998 -- the first sign that the pollution can be reduced while the world economy remains healthy."
"GM salmon prompts safety pledge" The BBC reports, "The government has given assurances on food safety after renewed controversy over tests on genetically-modified salmon."
"Tobacco critics complain about spending of settlement" Anti-tobacco activists complain about getting "only" $130 million.
"Veterans who received nasal radium could have higher cancer risk" The Associated Press reports, "Navy submariners treated with nasal radium in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s may have a higher cancer risk than veterans who did not get the treatment, a study by the Department of Veterans Affairs has revealed."
"Passenger ferries get critical review: EPA to crack down; activists claim they’re worse than cars, buses" MSNBC reports, "As the EPA works on regulations to make the nation’s passenger ferries friendlier to the environment, activists released a study claiming that ferries are 10 times more polluting per passenger than cars and nearly 13 times worse than diesel buses." Will Gerry need a new pacemaker? [music link]
"Sick spaceship syndrome" The Independent (UK) reports, "The International Space Station [music link] seems to have sick building syndrome. Astronauts who have worked inside the partially constructed station have suffered vomiting, headaches, burning and itching eyes, and nausea."
"Experts challenge health chief over risks of viewing eclipse !" The Independent (UK) reports, "Scientists were dismayed yesterday after the Government advised people to stay indoors and watch next month's solar eclipse on the television. [music link] They accused it of being over-cautious and depriving people of a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see one of nature's amazing spectacles."
"Walking is good for your brain" The Independent (UK) reports, "Scientists examining 124 elderly people found that the oxygen boost resulting from a brisk walk [music link] improved mental agility in the parts of the brain that are more likely to waste away during ageing."
"Alcohol labelled in units" I thought alcohol already came in units -- i.e., cases, six-packs and bottles? I think I need a drink. [music link]
July 28, 1999
JUNK OF THE DAY: "Scientist blames Kennedy crash on air pollution" The Miami Herald reports, "Air pollution may have caused the plane crash that killed John F. Kennedy Jr. and his two passengers on July 16, a University of Miami scientist said Tuesday. Pollutants that drifted from smokestacks and exhaust pipes from as far away as Ohio caused the 'haze' that reportedly obscured Kennedy's visibility a half mile above Martha's Vineyard on the night of the crash, according to Joseph Prospero, director of UM's Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies." So you mean it wasn't poor judgment on behalf of a novice pilot flying a too-complex-for-him airplane into the night over the ocean? I guess the Chappaquidick accident should be blamed on the fact that the bridge the inebriated Teddy drove off wasn't 12 lanes wide and was without steel guardrails? Also, even EPA's Ozone Transport Assessment Group has nixed the idea that Midwest exhaust pipe and smokestack emissions significantly contribute to Northeast smog. Any pollution-related haze over Martha's Vineyard was primarily caused by New England sources.
"A few parting questions; thanks for the memories " Seattle's loss is Washington, D.C.'s gain. Seattle Times' columnist Michelle Malkin is leaving the Times and moving to D.C. for "babies and books." Michelle often wrote about junk science in her columns. You can thank Michelle for her efforts at email@example.com. You should also recommend to the Times' editors that Michelle's replacement be equally astute.
"Latest mistake adds to EPA record of shoddy science" From today's USA Today. While there is no question that junk science rules at EPA, there is no credible evidence that MTBE is a carcinogen.
WHINING OF THE DAY: "A medical journal's integrity" The Boston Globe laments the departure of New England Journal of Medicine editor Jerome Kassirer. But what's the big loss? Kassirer is responsible for the groundless panic over the diet drug fen-phen. Kassirer has feigned ignorance of alleged conflicts of interest and left others holding the bag in recent controversies over this editorial and this book review. Kassirer supported co-editor Marcia Angell's spirited and righteous defense of silicone breast implants -- probably only because the NEJM itself was under attacked by personal injury lawyers. Adios, dude. [music link]
TODAY'S GORE-ING: "Does Al Gore float your boat?" The New York Post comments, "Whether or not the self-proclaimed environmental champion ordered millions of gallons of water wasted during a drought - even at Gore's figure, that's the equivalent of watering your lawn 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for nearly 74 years - just to enhance a campaign event, the affair needn't be anything more than an embarrassment. If the Secret Service was involved in the act, however, then it becomes something far more ominous."
"One City Turns Up Its Nose Against the Use of Perfumes" The Wall Steet Journal reports, "The incidence of environmental illness and chemical sensitivities hasn't been widely studied, but anecdotal evidence suggests some asthma patients and others do suffer respiratory reactions to chemicals in perfume and other scented products. [music link]"
"EU Moves Toward a Total Ban Of Antibiotics in Animal Feed" The Wall Street Journal reports, "EU officials concede that they lack clear scientific evidence to link the use of antibiotics in animal feed to growing antibiotic resistance in humans."
SURPRISE ARTICLE OF THE DAY: Weak association epidemiology called a "social problem" I would never expect the American Journal of Public Health to publish an article that calls weak association epidemiology -- the bread-and-butter of much modern public health advocacy -- a "social problem." The article specifically addresses the "problem" that the probability of causation cannot be computed solely from relative risk -- i.e., a relative risk of 1.5 does not mean risk increases 50 percent. The article, by UCLA's Sander Greenland in the August issue of the AJPH, concludes, "I believe it is the responsibility of health scientists to recognize and acknowldege these limitations of epidemiologic data, rather than continue to offer estimates of causation that teeter on concealed or unsupported assumptions. These limitations should be distinguished from the less subtle (but equally important) inability of epidemiologic data to reliably identify small risks..." Amen, brother.
REBUTTAL OF THE DAY: Frenzy over faked EMF data called 'out of hand' Louis Slesin, famed editor of the 'must read' Microwave News, comments on the hullabaloo over the scientist accused of faking data in an study of EMFs. [music link]
STUDY OF THE DAY: Obesity-related health care costs overstated, study says A study in the American Journal of Public Health ("The Direct Health Care Costs of Obesity in the United States," August 1999) reports that direct health care costs associated with obesity are 25 percent lower than previously reported by Wolf and Colditz [Obes Res 1998;6:97-106 ($52 billion annually)]. The new study says Wolf and Colditz failed to account for the fact that the obese, on average, die earlier than the nonobese, thereby lowering health care costs. I wonder how this study will go over at the ongoing meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Fat Acceptance, where the "... goal is to promote body diversity and size acceptance," says chairwoman Jody Abrams, who recently left a job as a social worker to open a Saugus clothing boutique called "Bodacious Babes" that caters to heavyset women.[music link]
Frequency of policy recommendations in epidemiologic studies A non-trivial percentage of epidemiology studies make policy recommendations, reports a study in the August issue of the American Journal of Public Health. Based on a random sample of articles from the American Journal of Epidemiology, Annals of Epidemiology, and Epidemiology, the study reports that among studies reviewed where the government was the lead funder, about 25 percent resulted in policy recommendations. Among original research articles (as opposed to editorials and meta-analyses), 22 percent contained policy recommendations. The discussion section of the study mentions that the editor of Epidemiology, the journal with the lowest rate of policy recommendations, warns that "being a good epidemiologist does not make one a good public policy analyst, because public health policy decisions are influenced not only by science but also economic, social and politial factors."
"Greenpeace director is refused bail" The Independent (UK) reports, "Lord Melchett, the executive director of Greenpeace, will be held in custody until 5 August after being refused bail following his arrest at the site of a farm-scale trial of genetically modified (GM) crops." Click for Lord Melchett's comments. [music link]
"Study to test benefits of DHEA: Some say controversial supplement slows aging process" Check out the protocol: " Researchers... plan to enroll more than 100 middle-aged and older men and women who will take placebo or DHEA for six months, after which the researchers will evaluate the impact on mood and memory. DHEA and placebo will then be suspended for one month; next, the DHEA group will receive placebo for six months and the placebo group will receive DHEA." The researchers should save time and just burn the money now.
"PETA vows to dog Gore campaign over animal tests" "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the largest animal rights group in the United States, launched a television campaign against Gore on Tuesday, accusing him of sponsoring a program to test the toxicity of some 2,000 chemicals on animals," reports Reuters. "The group also has taken to following Gore around on the campaign trail with an activist dressed up as a six-foot tall "Gorey bunny."
"EU broadens asbestos ban" "The European Union on Tuesday widened its ban on asbestos to cover almost all applications of the cancer-causing material. The prohibition won't take full effect for six years," reports the Associated Press.
July 27, 1999
MILESTONE OF THE DAY: Junk Science Home Page hits 1,000,000 visitors! Thanks to everyone who made this milestone possible.
STUDY OF THE DAY: "Anti-theft devices no shock to heart" MSNBC reports, "[In] a study of 169 people with defibrillators, none experienced a shock when passing through an anti-theft device while walking at a normal pace." Click here for an earlier posting on this issue. This issue also made Mike Fumento the "$200 million man?" [music link] Last January, Forbes published Mike Fumento's article about a junk science attack by Checkpoint Systems on Sensormatic, Inc. -- both manufacturers of electronic anti-shoplifting devices. After Fumento's article, the price of Sensormatic's stock increased roughly $3 per share -- a gain in market value in excess of $200 million. Meanwhile, Checkpoint's stock slid about $2 per share -- roughly a $60 million loss in market value. For Checkpoint Systems, crime didn't pay.
"Government to urge sharp cutback in clean-gas additive" The Associated Press reports, "In a major reversal in environmental policy, a government advisory panel on Tuesday will recommend widespread reduction in the use of a controversial gasoline additive once touted as key to reducing air pollution from automobiles." Click here for Los Angeles Times coverage.
COMMENTARY OF THE DAY I: "Regulatory Power Is The Dangerous Kind" Elizabeth Whelan writes in the Wall Street Journal, "[T]hose of us involved in research and policy making in the private sector are constantly queried about our funding, motivation and agenda, which critics regard as "too pro-industry." If the Liburdy case means anything, it is that government-funded regulatory scientists should be subject to similar levels of scrutiny by Congress, the media and peer-reviewed scientific journals."
COMMENTARY OF THE DAY II: " Shoot Down Anti-Gun Plans" John R. Lott, Jr. writes in Investor's Business Daily (July 22), "Whatever the political benefits of making law-abiding citizens more dependent upon the government for their protection, the most vulnerable - the poor who live in high crime urban areas as well as women and the elderly - will pay the ultimate price."
"New England Journal of Medicine editor leaving over conflict with owners" No one misses former JAMA editor George Lundberg [music link]. No one is going to miss Jerome Kassirer, either. Like Lundberg, maybe Kassirer can get a job on the Internet.
TODAY'S GORE-ING: "Nature Boy" About Al Gore's recent canoe trip, the Washington Times comments, "Evidently water conservation is for other people. Under the circumstances, perhaps the best thing Mr. Gore could do for nature would be to keep his direct experience with it to a minimum." Click here for Tipper, Canoe & Al Gore, Too."
"Smoking in pregnancy up again" Proof that smoking doesn't cause impotence, after all?
"GM tree is more 'green'" The BBC reports, "Genetically-modified trees have been created which require far less energy and toxic chemicals to turn them into paper. They also grow faster than traditional varieties." And what is the knee-jerk enviro response? "You have to ask how much this technology is needed. The answer is not to produce more wood, but make better use of that produced in a natural way," says an FOE-er.
"Which foods ‘good,’ which ‘bad?’" "For many years dietary advice was really based on guesses," says Harvard's Walter Willet [music link]. So what's changed? Willet's campaign against so-called "trans" fats is as flaky as most other dietary advice.
July 26, 1999
'MUST READ' OF THE DAY: "100 Things You Should Know About DDT" After almost 40 years of demagoguery, you probably have been left with the impression the insecticide DDT is the anti-Christ in chemical form. But what do you really know about DDT -- its history, the science and the basis for banning it? Did DDT really cause egg shell thinning among wild birds? Did DDT have anything to do with declines in bald eagles, peregrine falcons and brown pelicans? Is DDT a human cancer risk? After reading "100 Things You Should Know About DDT," you may have new questions, such as: Should former EPA administrator William Ruckelshaus, now chairman of waste hauler Browning Ferris Industries, be made to walk the plank? Should Rachel Carson be re-interred in an unmarked grave? How many third world lives could be saved every year by judicious use of DDT?
TODAY'S GORE-ING: "Al Gore's nicotine fit" The Washington Times comments, " Despite his high-minded, overheated diatribe directed against the tobacco industry at the 1996 Democratic National Convention, Vice President Al Gore [music link] has proven yet again that he is utterly incapable of shaking his own hypocritical tobacco habit."
CHOKING ON JUNK SCIENCE: "Mortality and Air Pollution: Associations Persist with Continued Advances in Research Methodology" When the EPA proposed its new air quality standards in 1996, the agency claimed that hundreds of scientific studies supported its proposal. Given the massive amount of material to review and a relatively brief public comment period, it was impossible for the public to review and comment on the totality of the EPA's proposal. Since 1996, the agency has funded tens of millions of dollars of additional "research" resulting in dozens of new studies -- usually claiming to validate the EPA's regulatory goals. The studies are published with little fanfare, and few pay attention to them. Yet, next time the EPA wants to take regulatory action, the agency will claim that even more studies support its proposals. Once again, the vastness of the material to review combined with limited time and resources available for such review will make it very difficult to challenge the agency. The EPA's strategy is "victory by volume." The solution is for Congress to limit the amount and scope of the EPA's spending. Unfortunately, current congressional leadership cowers at the mere sight of EPA dominatrix Carol Browner [music link].
"One Crusader's Effort to Publicize A Health Risk Finds Little Success" The Wall Street Journal reports about a "crusader" who bets the farm on a study with statistically insignificant results.
"Keeping Junk Science Out of the Courtroom" The Cato Institute's Doug Bandow writes in the Wall Street Journal, "The American Association for the Advancement of Science has unveiled a remedy for the problem of junk science in the courtroom. It is launching a program to make independent experts available to federal judges who want to weed unreliable "evidence" out of their courtrooms." But I must take slight exception with my Cato brother: if the AAAS is so concerned about junk science, why is the organization trying to sabotage the public's right to obtain through the Freedom of Information Act scientific data used to regulate the public? Independent verification of scientific results is the best way to squelch junk science.
Male exposure to pesticides not linked to time to pregnancy A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology (July 15) reports, "no relation between fertility (time to pregnancy) and male exposure to pesticides."
"Should automotive fuel economy standards be raised?" A debate in the Detroit News. Click here for the view that "No: Gas mileage mandate proves to be a flawed fossil in need of a tune-up." Click here for the view that "Yes: Improving gas mileage law prepares Detroit and environment for future."
"The Week That Was July 19-25, 1999" The weekly update from the Science and Environmental Policy Project.
"Comments on 'PM2.5 Mortality in Long-term Prospective Cohort Studies: Cause-Effect or Statistical Association?'" A letter in the August issue of Environmental Health Perspectives. It's difficult to do a detailed critique of epidemiologic studies when the authors won't let see you their raw data -- as in the case of the studies cited here.
July 25, 1999
COMMENTARY OF THE DAY: "The EPA’s Temper Tantrum" The Detroit News comments, "Federal agencies should not be allowed to reinterpret regulations retroactively."
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The Uses and Misuses of Medicine" Robert N. Proctor's book, "The Nazi War on Cancer," points out that one Hitler Youth manual declared, "Nutrition is not a private matter!" So how about that "fat tax" idea?
TODAY'S GORE-ING: "Gore to unveil revamped air pollution warning system" Wake up, Al. Air pollution has been declining while childhood asthma has been on the rise.
"Welfare, drugs and schizophrenics" The normally astute New York Post editors drop the ball on this one. The study referenced in this editorial was only about the timing of deaths during the month -- i.e, more deaths occur at the beginning of the month than at the end. A slight early-month increase was reported for deaths from substance abuse. But the authors collected no data on spending habits and had no basis for concluding that federal payments to substance abusers were to blame for the mortality increase in the early part of the month. Click here for the study abstract.
July 24, 1999
'YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST' OF THE DAY: "Scientist Faked Data Linking Cancer to Electromagnetic Fields, Probe Finds" It's appropriate that the New York Times made this a front page story this morning -- only Junk Science Home Page visitors read about this story more than a month ago on June 18. This incident is a good example of the need for the new data access law -- the public needs to be able to independently examine scientific data that is used to affect its freedom and pocketbook. In this case, burying powerlines was estimated to cost the public at least $20 billion. And let's not forget about the costs of re-engineering electric appliances or costs associated with personal injury litigation against power companies and applicance manufacturers. Show me the data and I'll show you the fraud!
TODAY'S GORE-ING: Gore lies about flooding for photo-op In a follow-up to yesterday's "TODAY'S GORE-ING," the Washington Times reports "Vice President Al Gore said he did not know that the water level on the Connecticut River was artificially raised [by unleashing nearly 4 billion gallons of water from a nearby dam] to prevent his canoe from getting stuck until he read about it in [Friday's] The Washington Times. But Sharon Francis, executive director of the Connecticut River Joint Commission, said yesterday she told the vice president immediately after the environmental photo opportunity on Thursday that she had arranged for the water level to be raised so his canoe would not run aground."
"No Brain Cancer Tie To Mobile Phones - U.S. Expert" The Los Angeles Times reports, "A U.S. radiation expert said Friday that extensive studies had shown there was no evidence of a link between mobile phone use and brain cancer, but that there were always more studies to be done."
"Maryland Probes Worst Fish Kill in a Decade" The Los Angeles Times reports, "Maryland officials were investigating Friday what caused at least 500,000 fish to die along two Chesapeake Bay tributaries in the second major fish kill to strike the area in less than a month. Water samples from the Pocomoke River and its Eastern Shore Virginia tributary, Bullbegger Creek, have been forwarded to labs as far away as Florida to make sure the huge school of menhaden that died was not killed by chemicals or the dreaded toxic microorganism Pfiesteria piscicida... Pfiesteria is a microscopic organism that emits a toxic enzyme. It has killed billions of fish along the inland waterways of the East Coast in recent years." Click here for more info on Pfiesteria.
July 23, 1999
TODAY'S GORE-ING: "Gore Urges Environmental Protection" This Associated Press report about Al Gore's canoe trip yesterday fails to mention his canoe photo op was made possible only after 4 billion gallons of water were unleashed from a dam yesterday to raise the level of the Connecticut River in Cornish, NH so that Gore' canoe would not run aground. According to a Washington Times report (July 23), Secret Service agents asked the Connecticut River Joint Commission to open the dam for Gore. I wonder how many criiters were washed away so that Gore could have his photo-op?
"U.S. Says Fake Data Tied Cancer, Power Lines Berkeley researcher denies wrongdoing" The San Francisco Chronicle reports, "A Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researcher fabricated data in 1992 studies that were considered tantalizing evidence that electric and magnetic radiation could cause cancer, a federal watchdog agency has found."
"Senate Paves the Way for a Federal Tobacco Lawsuit" Wimpy Republicans cave again.
"Functional foods: health boon or quackery?" I can agree with the food police's Michael Jacobson that many so-called "functional foods" are unproven at best and quackery at the worst. Where we part company is that the food police think government regulation is the answer. Of course, this solution doesn't work. The Food and Drug Administration has just allowed food companies to advertise that high fiber diets reduce the risk of some cancers, such as colon cancer. But the myth that high fiber diets reduce colon cancer risk was just recently debunked. How about a little more "caveat emptor" and a little less mindless regulation?
"Hawking searches for everything" There is no question that physicist Stephen Hawking is a smart guy, but his quest to "understand the origin of the Universe" and "why we are here" is destined to be futile. At best, Hawking could only ever produce a theory that could never be verified -- very much like religion.
"Belgian food fright revives as government closes pig farms" The Associted Press reports, " Belgian media reported Friday that the government has ordered the closing of 200 pig farms, renewing fears that some foods may be contaminated with the cancer-causing chemical dioxin."
"Discredited theory explains ice ages, scientist says" The Associated Press reports, "An old theory about why ice ages occur at the times when they do may actually be right, a North Carolina researcher said on Thursday. He said variations in the Earth's orbit around the Sun could explain why ice ages, which occur about every 100,000 years, have not been more regular."
"Green tea antioxidants may fight arthritis" Reuters reports, " Studies in mice suggest that green tea antioxidants may have a powerful effect in reducing the incidence and severity of rheumatoid arthritis." Who cares about testing green tea on mice? What about people? It's not like green tea is a new and potentially dangerous drug. Lots of things "work" on mice. Humans would have been more relevant test -- especially for the headline.
July 22, 1999
JUNK OF THE DAY I: "Prenatal exposure to cigarette smoking is associated with a decrease in arousal in infants" The Journal of Pediatrics (July 1999) reports, "Newborns and infants born to smoking mothers had higher arousal thresholds to auditory challenges than those born to nonsmoking mothers." But the authors acknowledge, "We cannot explain why intrauterine exposure to cigarette smoke is associated with a decrease in arousability." Still the accompanying editorial suggests that maternal smoking should be criminalized.
JUNK OF THE DAY II: "Gas utilities dump chemicals in your home without your permission" "The Governor warns that contaminated natural Gas contains chemicals that are known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm."
GLOBAL WARMING CAUSES COLD WEATHER, TOO! "Hot and cold theories of global warming" The Associated Press reports, "Sometimes global warming can result in cold weather. In a theory outlined in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, scientists say that as the glaciers melted at the end of the Ice Age, so much cold fresh water gushed into the North Atlantic 8,200 years ago that it cooled the atmosphere for hundreds of years."
"Smokers, cigar industry say warnings not needed" The Associated Press reports, "Federal regulators say they want to right misperceptions that cigars aren't as dangerous cigarettes."
"Dutch court freezes Greenpeace bank account" The Associated Press reports, "A Dutch court has frozen the bank account of environmental group Greenpeace International after a nuclear protest earlier this week, according to British Nuclear Fuels Ltd., which sought the court ruling."
"Phew, we're safe!" The New Scientist reports, we're safe from asteroid 1999 AN10 until sometime after 2076.
"Some like it hot" Alison Motluk reports in New Scientist, "If the summer brings unusually hot spells, look out for a boom in baby boys next spring. According to a scientist in Germany, boys are more likely to be conceived just after a heat wave, while conception after a cold spell favours girls."
"GM crops without foreign genes" The BBC reports, "Scientists may soon be able to produce genetically-modified (GM) crops without transferring genes between species."
"'GM-free' laws to leave loophole" The Independent (UK) reports, "New European laws could mean that food marked "GM free" contained up to 3 per cent genetically modified ingredients, a consumer watchdog warns today."
July 21, 1999
COMMENTARY OF THE DAY: "Who Controls the Idiot Light?" Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. asks in the Wall Street Journal, "What crime against the atmosphere could Toyota have committed worth $60 billion? That's how much the Justice Department was seeking in a lawsuit launched last week on behalf of it sister arm of the federal government, the Environmental Protection Agency."
COOKED GRAPH OF THE DAY: "Atmospheric Oxygen Levels Falling" Check out the graph and the differing scales for carbon dioxide and oxygen. It's amazing how the reported 0.03 percent decline in atmospheric oxygen level is so much more dramatic than the reported 9 percent increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide level.
'YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST' OF THE DAY: "Genetic Testing’s Human Toll" Although this Washington Post article addresses a case of pure error, the practice of choosing mutilation based on genetic testing was questioned here long ago. In October 1998, a Lancet study reported that the odds of getting breast cancer based on the presence of certain genetic mutations was overstated by more than 100 percent. Click here for Mike Fumento's excellent op-ed titled "Preventative mastectomy: Happy acceptance of a horrific procedure."
FALSE HOPE OF THE DAY: "Vitamin E, C may combat prostate cancer" Reuters reports, "Vitamins C and E appear to counteract some of the negative effects of male hormones on prostate cells linked to the development of prostate cancer, results of a study in laboratory-cultured prostate cancer cells suggest." Click here for the study abstract. It's naive to think that popping vitamins will prevent cancer. Certainly many studies report that populations with diets high in fruits and vegetables have lower cancer rates. At best, these studies only reflect population -- not individual -- effects. So even if the studies are sound, popping vitamins is no guarantee of immunity from cancer. But the studies are not necessarily as definitive as touted. People who eat more fruits and vegetables also tend to exercise more, smoke less, drink less, have higher socio-economic status, have better medical care etc.
ANTI-SCIENCE COMMENTARY OF THE DAY: "Science vs. religion" Trevor Corson writes, "Misuse of science and religion can cause death and destruction, and the best use of both can cause health and healing. Only science, if we're not careful with the technology of nuclear weapons, is capable of causing human extinction." But nuclear weapons prevented further needless slaughter in 1945. The doctrine of "mutally assured destruction" prevented the Cold War from becoming a "hot" one. Recently, MAD limited the fighting between Pakistan and India over Kashmir. Over the centuries, more have died because of religion than because of science. Indeed, science and technology have allowed humanity unimagined good health and prosperity. In contrast, religion helped keep people in the Dark Ages.
"Yes, this drug is missed." Walter Olson writes at overlawyered.com, "In discussions of Bendectin, the pregnancy-sickness drug driven from the market by scientifically speculative lawsuits though the FDA and other health authorities found it safe and effective, defenders of the litigation system sometimes advance the view that the drug was of at most marginal medical benefit anyway. But Atul Gawande's feature article in the July 5 New Yorker ("A Queasy Feeling: Why Can't We Cure Nausea?") suggests they're off base."
"Workplace Environment Can Improve Eating Habits" Now your employer can be responsible for your eating habits.
"Blinded by blizzard of dollars, states lose sight of suit's goal" USA Today seems to actually think that the state AGs sued the tobacco industry because of health concerns. In the end, the states just wanted the cash -- oh, and the lawsuits were very good politics. [Note: This link is only good for today.]
"Tongue piercing 'can be fatal'" Despite this ominous headline, the BBC reports, "... little research has been done into the cases where tongue piercing has gone wrong."
"Deadly cattle bacteria study starts" The BBC reports, "The trust says it will also look at new and emerging "zoonotic diseases", those that can cross between animals and humans, like [mad cow]."
"Crime and statistics" The San Francisco Examiner worries about an increase in crime rates because the population of teens is about to grow?
"Ay, Carumba! Sisters in chocolate" Eileen Mitchell writes in the San Francisco Examiner, "The jig is up, ladies. We've been caught. Scientists have hypothesized for years that women crave chocolate for physiological reasons."
July 20, 1999
COMMENTARY OF THE DAY: "Dressing up the butterflies" My op-ed in today's Washington Times.
SCARE OF THE DAY: Napping by seniors kills, study says A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine (July 26) reports that napping by seniors doubles mortality risk. The study is based on 455 70-year old residents of Jerusalem, Israel, self-reported naps and 6.5 years of follow-up mortality data. The authors conclude "The siesta seems to be an independent predictor of mortality. It is still unknown whether this association is causal." The association was reported to be present even after adjusting for sex, blood pressure, smoking status, cholesterol level, diabetes mellitus, exercise, night sleep duration, cerebrovascular disease, history of heart attack and "subjective financial hardship." Noted limitations include a small study group, self-reported napping data, unknown frequency of napping and no biological explanation for why napping is lethal.
RE-TREAD SCARE OF THE DAY: Magnetic fields reported to increase childhood leukemia risk A new study in Cancer Causes and Control (June 1999) reports that exposures to residential magnetic fields, as measured by personal monitoring, were associated with a 270 percent increase in leukemia among children under age 6 at diagnosis. No significant association was reported among children older than 6 at diagnosis. A protective effect was reported between electric fields and childhood leukemia. According to the authors, the study shows that importance of making exposure data more precise -- no significant associations with childhood leukemia were reported when exposures were estimated according to the usual wire configuration method. But a major problem with the study -- in addition to the very small study group (the key result is based on only 18 cases) -- is the researchers have no idea whether the measured exposures to magnetic fields are associated with the etiologically relevant time periods -- i.e., what were the magnetic field exposures in the periods before the leukemias developed? The study was funded by Ontario Hydro -- I guess their scientists missed this editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine.
'YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST' OF THE DAY: "Judge Orders Eli Lilly to Stop Promoting Evista for Prevention of Breast Cancer" The Wall Street Journal reports, "A federal judge ruled Eli Lilly & Co. unlawfully promoted its osteoporosis drug, Evista, for use in preventing breast cancer, and issued a preliminary injunction ordering the company to begin a training program to ensure that its sales representatives no longer make such claims. The injunction came in a lawsuit brought by AstraZeneca PLC of the United Kingdom against Eli Lilly, alleging the Indianapolis pharmaceuticals concern had engaged in unfair competition by promoting Evista as a potential alternative to AstraZeneca's Nolvadex. Nolvadex, which has for years been approved for use in treating breast cancer and is generically called tamoxifen, last year became the first drug approved for reducing the risk of breast cancer in healthy women after a large study showed that it reduced cancer risk by nearly 50%. Evista, whose generic name is raloxifene, is government-approved for preventing osteoporosis, but Lilly hopes the drug will also be proven to prevent breast cancer. One big study last year, called the MORE trial, showed that Evista may be able to reduce the risk of breast cancer as much as Nolvadex. But the drug isn't yet approved for this use, pending even larger, more definitive studies. In the meantime, Eli Lilly isn't allowed to promote the drug for this use, although doctors are free to prescribe the drug as they see fit." Junk Science readers first learned about Lilly's activities in July 1998 -- seven months before this lawsuit was filed.
"Chasing Our Customers Away" This letter in the Washington Post says, "Contrary to the blatherings of anti-smoking zealots such as Stanton Glantz, banning smoking in adult bars is not popular -- not with the employees, not with the customers especially the tourists from other states) and most certainly not with the bar owners."
TODAY'S GORE-ING: "Why Gore would censor 'South Park'" David Horowitz writes in Salon, "A few years ago I found myself in Nashville at a two-day gathering of liberal "media experts" sponsored by Vice President Al Gore. The purpose of the meeting was to provide a "scientific" rationale for the censorship that Gore and the president (who also attended) were preparing to launch against the nation's entertainment industry. "
"Oxygen Measurements Yield Greenhouse Clues" Science Daily reports, "As levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide rise, concentrations of oxygen in our air have fallen."
"What Is the True Cost of Living?" Fanning the flames of chemophobia, Jackie Alan Giuliano writes, "Environmental protection laws in the U.S., and most of the world, attempt to control only the release of potentially toxic chemicals into the earth, air and water. Virtually no efforts are made to control the daily contact that people have with pollutants. As a result, most environmental toxicity standards have created a false sense of security in the population."
"Too late to worry about honey and GM crops?" The Daily Telegraph (UK) reports,"Frank Eggleton, a 67-year-old retired design engineer, is terrified by the threat of genetically modified crops. He cares deeply about bees. There are about 150,000 in the garden of his 17th-century cottage in Wiltshire."
"MPs' concerns clouds future of climate tax" The Independent (UK) reports, "A climate change tax at the centre of the Government's green policies looked doomed in its present form last night after a Labour-dominated Commons select committee of MPs called for c hanges to allay fears that it could cost Britain thousands of jobs and millions of pounds in lost orders."
"Melting glaciers mean millions facing drought" The Independent (UK) reports, "The alarming shrinkage of the 15,000 glaciers in the Himalayas threatens to bring water shortages that could affect up to 500 million people in surrounding countries, say scientists. And if the largest body of ice outside the polar caps continues to retreat at the current rate, they predict the glaciers will be gone within 40 years."
"World population may number 6 billion" The Associated Press reports, "The widely anticipated moment when the Earth's population crosses 6 billion may already have occurred - or not."
July 19, 1999
BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN: Junkman returns to triumphs against the junk science mob While I was away on vactaion, there were two important victories in the struggle against junk science. On July 13, a House appropriations committee rejected by a vote of 25-33 an effort by Rep. James Walsh (R-NY) and David Price (D-NC) to introduce an amendment to an appropriations bill that would delay implementation of the data access law for one year. Later in the week, Rep. Walsh was persuaded to not even try to introduce the Walsh-Price amendment in the full house. Thanks to all who have helped kill the Walsh-Price effort to block public access to taxpayer-funded scientific data used to justify regulation.
COMMENTARY OF THE DAY I: "The Hudson River: Roiling the Water" Mike Fumento writes in the July 26 issue of Forbes, "Environmentalists want GE to pay for its sins. The Hudson River may suffer as a result."
OBITUARY: "Rep. George E. Brown Jr. dead at 79" In addition to introducing a bill to deny the public access to taxpayer-funded data used to regulate the public, Rep. George Brown once held a congressional inquisition to denounce those who fight aganst junk science, especially the global warming, ozone depletion and dioxin skeptics. Rep. Brown also included Science Without Sense in his witch hunt.
JUNK OF THE DAY: "My antidepressant made me do it!" Salon reports, "The [Phil] Hartman estate says Zoloft was to blame for a murder-suicide."
COMMENTARY OF THE DAY II: "Virtual Propaganda" An excellent Detroit News editorial about the Union of Concerned Scientists and SUVs.
COMMENTARY OF THE DAY III: "Lawyers make a wreck of GM, safety rules" About the recent multi-billion dollar verdict against Genreal Motors, John Schnapp comments in the Detroit News, "In a fair world, the litigation should have been Anderson vs. U.S. Department of Transportation, and the case should have been based on whether there were failings in the federal government’s fuel system safety standard, not on a fuel system fully complying with it. GM shouldn’t have been on the hook."
COMMENTARY OF THE DAY IV: "It's time for an asbestos bill" The Chicago Tribune comments, "Memo to Congress: The time has come to deal with what U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter correctly labeled the "elephantine mass of asbestos cases." This gargantuan granddaddy of massive torts has been growing for 30 years--defying judicial solutions, enriching lawyers and often delaying any remedy to the very people at the heart of the mass: the people made sick by asbestos."
Climatologist says Earth has cooled Steve Wilson writes in the Arizona Republic, "You may not want to break out the sweaters and longjohns, but Robert Balling has some comforting news as we sweat through the middle of summer: The planet is cooler than last year."
"Environmental Endocrine Modulators Do Not Threaten Human Health" "Discrediting claims made by environmentalists, scientists at the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) have found no convincing evidence that certain synthetic chemicals in the environment endanger human health by disrupting the human endocrine system."
"Supermarket goes GM-free" The BBC reports, "Sainsbury's says it is the first major UK supermarket chain to have eliminated genetically-modified ingredients from its own-brand products."
"GM crop is destroyed by 500 protesters" The Daily Telegraph reports, "Up to 500 protesters attacked one of Britain's largest genetically modified crop trial sites yesterday."
"Food at risk as water drips away" The BBC reports, "A US conservation group says the world's impending water shortage could reduce global food supplies by more than 10%."
"UN to assess Balkans environment damage" The BBC reports, "Three teams of international experts invited by the United Nations are due in Belgrade and Pristina on 18 July to investigate the effects of the Balkans conflict."
"Uneasy Partnerships Form Over Environmental Issues" The Los Angeles Times reports, "Greenpeace activists are coming in from the cold, occasionally trading wetsuits for pinstripes to lunch with oil company magnates as well as storm their tankers."
"Programmed at birth" The New Scientist reports, "It's still any one's guess what adult lifestyle and fetal programming each contribute to the chronic diseases of middle age."
"European and U.S. attitude differences towards GM foods explained in the 16 July 1999 issue of Science" Science reports, "Differences in media coverage, science literacy, and the public's trust in regulatory authorities can help explain why genetically modified foods have met rancorous public resistance in Europe but hardly a raised eyebrow in the U.S., according to a survey by a team of U.K. researchers."
"Breast feeding and obesity: cross sectional study" A study in the BMJ reports, " In industrialised countries promoting prolonged breast feeding may help decrease the prevalence of obesity in childhood." Does this mean I can eat as many french fries as I want?
"Diet and the prevention of cancer" A letter in the British Medical Journal notes, "... there is no evidence in the prospective literature [that] an upper limit of 140 g of red meat a day [reduces cancer risk], nor for a general protective effect of fibre or vegetables. Public interest in cancer prevention is high, and scientists should be careful with statements or recommendations."
July 9, 1999
GONE FISHIN': Junkman takes a holiday I'll be back on July 18. In the meantime, consider yourselves encouraged to post links to news items at the Trash Talk "News Links" Forum.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS: Upcoming Conference: "EPA: Scientific Credibility, Public Accounatbility" If you're in Washington, DC on July 20, don't miss this Capitol Hill conference sponsored by the Lexington Institute.
MODESTY OF THE DAY: "Junkman takes on junk science" Lorne Gunter, business editor at the Edmonton Journal (Canada) profiles li'l 'ol me. This column also appears in today's Calgary Herald.
PREMATURE ELATION OF THE DAY: "Alzheimer's vaccine hope" This report would be something to celebrate -- if preventing Alzheimer's in mice were a real priority. Wake me when the human trials succeed. If I had a nickel for every drug that worked in mice, but not in humans...
FISHY GOVERNMENT REPORT OF THE DAY: "Federal agencies report on nation's children" The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reports that teen smoking is down. But recent CDC reports (like this one) report teen smoking is on the rise. So which is it? Probably neither. I'd bet teen smoking is pretty constant -- the worst possible thing for the anti-tobacco industry. If teen smoking goes down, the anti-smoking industry says it needs more money to continue its "successful" campaign -- as is the current situation in Florida. If teen smoking goes up, the anti-smoking industry says it needs more money to fight the "Evil Empire." No change means anti-tobacco propaganda is as relevant to teens as Bob Dole and his "ED" commercials.
INQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW... Who knew what, and when about the new lung cancer diagnostic technique? Here are Los Angeles Times and New York Times articles on the new study in The Lancet about the use of CT scans for early detection of lung cancer. The New York Times reports the technology has been available in some hospitals since 1990. Also, someone must have had some idea that this diagnostic technique would work pretty early in the 1990's as the study in question commenced in 1993. Given that lung cancer kills about 160,000 annually and may be cured in many cases if caught early enough, why has this been kept secret? Compare this situation with breast cancer -- the breast cancer lobby hounded Congress and the National Institutes of Health into recommending mammograms for women between the ages of 40-49 even though there is no evidence such screening will reduce breast cancer mortality. What about AIDS? Experimental AIDS treatments are rushed to into clinical trials so fast it would make your head spin. Many more die of lung cancer every year than AIDS and breast cancer combined. Are smokers -- 80 to 90 percent of all lung cancers -- so politically unpopular that they can expect only second-class medical attention? An interesting aside to this story is that of the 1,000 heavy smokers participating in this study, only 27 -- 2.7 percent -- were diagnosed with lung cancer. While the vast majority of lung cancers occur in smokers, the vast majority of even heavy smokers don't get lung cancer.
COMMENTARY OF THE DAY: "Conserving death" Ken Smith notes in the Washington Times, "Giving society cheap, abundant energy, said famed environmentalist Paul Ehrlich in 1975, 'would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.' Or the equivalent of turning on an air-conditioner that saves his life."
"Chasing Smoke" The Detroit News comments, "Michigan should lower the taxes on cigarettes to eliminate smuggling and black-market sales of tobacco products."
"The dark side of Flipper" A man-hating editorial from the Boston Globe. Research debunking the dolphin myth is turned into this: "Shocking, perhaps, but so are man's acts of destruction. Perhaps human and dolphin have more in common than we'd like to acknowledge."
"Toronto smoking debate fogged by junk science" John Luik writes in the National Post, "At the end of the day, the most important issue at stake today is not whether people can smoke in Toronto restaurants, but whether the city is prepared to base public policy on junk science."
"Global Warming's Dirty Secret" Pat MIchaels writes, "The lead story on the June 29 MSNBC News was that there were terrible floods in the United States and--interspersed in the middle of the story--that global warming is going to be even worse than we thought. This was one-sided, emotional science reporting even worse than I thought possible."
"Flight attendants' suit claims bad cabin air endangers their health" Not that I put a lot of stock in the claims of these flight attendants, but one of the reasons airlines were eager to ban smoking is that it allowed them to save money on fuel costs. With smoking on flights, airlines turned on their ventilation systems in full force. More fresh air had to be drawn in from outside [which is minus 40 degrees at least], compressed and then cooled before it reached passengers. That meant using more fuel and higher costs. Now that smoking is banned, airline ventilation systems don't function at full capacity, resulting in relatively poorer air quality in the aircraft.
"Controversy over sun health claim" The BBC reports, "Experts have hit out at a study which says the health advantages of exposure to the sun outweigh the risk of skin cancer." Click here for the original British Medical Journal article.
"Pill and promiscuity 'not linked'" The BBC reports, "Teenagers who have easy access to emergency contraceptives do not indulge in more sex, according to a Finnish study."
"Coastal defences 'harming wildlife'" Why don't the enviros just come out and admit they simply oppose any and all development, regardless of its location?
July 8, 1999
JUNK OF THE DAY I: "Study Links Welfare Paydays to Rise in Drug Deaths" I was interviewed by Fox News yesteday about this study. The researchers only had data on when deaths occurred and the cause of death -- they had no data on income or spending habits. The link that welfare paydays is connected with drug deaths is mere speculation. Click here for the study abstract. Reuters' report is more accurate.
JUNK OF THE DAY II: "U.S. Food and Drug Administration Includes Whole Grains in Fight Against Heart Disease And Cancer" The FDA will now allow food companies to claim health benefits from consumption of whole-grain foods, including some cereals. This General Mills media release claims that "research has shown that eating whole grain foods is associated with a reduced risk for the following cancers: ...colon, ..." Did General Mills forget (ignore?) this recent New England Journal of Medicine study debunking the myth that high dietary fiber reduces colon cancer risk? Click here for the Detroit News commentary "Scientific Irregularity."
COMMENTARY THE DAY: "Absurd R-egg-ulation" Investor's Business Daily comments, "Last week the federal government proposed rules regulating the storage and preparation of eggs. What arrogance. Are we so thick that we need a national nanny wagging her finger at us at every turn?"
"Cell Phone Studies' Double Fault" The Statistical Assessment Service notes, "If it feels like your brain has been scrambled from reading all the reports on cell phone safety over the past couple of months, you are not alone."
"The power of one" The New Scientist reports, "Everyday numbers obey a law so unexpected it is hard to believe it's true. Armed with this knowledge, says Robert Matthews, it's easy to catch those who have been faking research results or cooking the books."
"Experts predict bad air days ahead" MSNBC's resident airhead, Francesca Lyman, strikes again.
"Tea prevents heart attacks" The BBC reports, "People consuming at least one cup of tea a day reduced their risk of heart attack by almost 50%, a study found."
"'Green Guilt' Only Makes Things Worse" Lynn Scarlett writes in the Los Angeles Times, "It is easy to blame the business sector for environmental problems. And the unsung environmental triumphs of business cannot be mentioned without first admitting there have been plenty of woes. But there is a lot of progress that doesn't reach the public eye."
"EU launches legal action against France over genetically altered food" The Associated Press reports, "The European Union's executive body launched legal action against France on Wednesday for allegedly stalling the approval of genetically modified seeds. The EU commission charged France with violating EU rules by failing to act in the approval process of a form of modified seed."
"Sweet tooth 'cure' for smoking" The BBC reports, "Sugar could be the ultimate cure for smoking. Doctors are testing whether giving people glucose tablets can reduce the urge to smoke."
"Smoke tests on animals said negative" About a Louisiana trial pitting two tobacco companies against the survivors of a Baton Rouge smoker who got cancer, The Advocate reports, "The type of lung cancer Gilboy had is not normally associated with smoking, [a scientist testified]."
"Doctors target cigarettes and alcohol" The BBC reports, "Smoking should be banned in public places and under-18s should not be exposed to alcohol advertising at the cinema, doctors have said."
July 7, 1999
'MUST READ' OF THE DAY: Nail 'Em!: Confronting High-Profile Attacks on Celebrities & Businesses' Go straight to amazon.com and buy this great new book by public relations whiz Eric Dezenhall!
"Coming to grips with nation’s phony fears" A Detroit News book review of "Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things."
"A Civil Action II?" Wally Olson reports at Overlawyered.com that Julia Roberts is getting $20 million for the next industry-kills-kids movie.
THEFT OF THE DAY: "U.S. Postal Service thinks green" The U.S. Postal Service takes credit rightfully due to the Internet.
SCARE OF THE DAY: "Chlorine not enough to prevent swimming pool illness" Reuters reports, "Standard chlorination and filtering does not kill the parasite blamed for recent swimming-pool-based outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness, say experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in Atlanta, Georgia."
"'The only thing that food experts have done consistently is create epidemics of anxiety. That way, if the food doesn't kill you, the worry will'" That's what Richard Morrison wrote in yesterday's Times (UK).
"The Right To Know What We Eat" Daniel Greenberg writes in the Washington Post, "Scientists are probably right when they insist there's nothing to worry about n genetically modified foods. But in this matter, as well as others, the people have a right to be informed and to arrive at the wrong conclusion. Science can serve as a guide, but it shouldn't perform as a bully."
"Premature birth linked to anorexia" The BBC reports, "Babies born prematurely can lead to eating disorders such as anorexia, according to a Swedish study."
July 6, 1999
"The nasty debate over cell phone safety" Fortune feeds cell phone hysteria.
"Butterflies Expand Because of Global Warming" The World Climate Report notes, "it’s difficult to see how this European butterfly spread is anything but good news."
"Capitol Hill Smoke-Out? Move by Senate Republicans threatens Reno's tobacco suit" The Law News Network reports, "When Attorney General Janet Reno vowed to sue the tobacco industry for damages, she knew she would face a bruising courtroom battle on the law. The Justice Department never thought it would also have to fight a bloody political war on Capitol Hill. But that's exactly what's happening."
COMMENTARY OF THE DAY I: "The Church of Malthus" The Wall Street Journal editorializes, "Given the general unaccountability of the U.N. apparatus and its current penchant for concocting ambitious spending programs in tandem with equally unaccountable interest groups, it is probably too much ever to expect those who assembled in New York last week to embrace a new vision of wealth, one that looks to set a bigger banquet rather than reduce the number of seats at the table. But we might at least insist that they not peddle their gospel of gloom on America's dime."
COMMENTARY OF THE DAY II: "Light on highway deaths" The Boston Herald reminds us "Nanny government may kill you - no kidding."
"Yugoslav City Battling Toxic Enemies" So reports the Los Angeles Times. But on May 19, the Times reported a story titled ""No Environment Damage in Yugoslavia."
"Hopping on the tobacco suit bandwagon" Amy Ridenour writes, "Historically, the United States has often been criticized for involving itself in the internal affairs of Latin American nations. It would be ironic if the same nations that have complained about U.S. interference now persist in attempting to prove in court that Americans are more responsible for what goes on in their countries than they themselves are."
"Just a Cigar" Jacob Sullum writes, "Two years ago, The New York Times claimed that cigars pose "higher risks" than cigarettes. Last year it reported that "smoking cigars can be just as deadly as smoking cigarettes." This month it said "the disease risks are not as high as they are for cigarette smokers because cigar smokers usually do not inhale the smoke." Are cigars getting safer? No, but reporters may be getting smarter."
"Trying to ignore global warning" The Boston Globe actually suggests that Al Gore could "help decide the fate of the earth."
"Grim future for reefs" The BBC reports, "Climate change will destroy the world's great coral reefs within a century, according to a report by German and Australian marine scientists."
"Report: EEOC Data Flawed" The Washington Post reports, "The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission fails to monitor basic job discrimination trends among federal workers, and what data it collects are often flawed, according to a recent General Accounting Office report."
July 5, 1999
SCARE OF THE DAY: "Fireworks shower toxic chemicals " The BBC reports, "Americans and Canadians could finish their Fourth of July and Canada Day festivities in a fog of toxic chemicals after their traditional fireworks displays."
"The chain-smoking gang" The Boston Globe reports, "Researchers in Finland, England, and Canada have found that mothers who smoke during pregnancy might not only be creating unhealthy babies but jailbirds as well."
"Caruba's Insiders Newsletter" Commentary from the National Anxiety Center.
"Idiosyncratic Independence" Commentary by Anne Fennell.
"Los Angeles: Nothing Like a Breath of Fresh Air" Hand-wringing over air pollution courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.
"Dental scanner could cut X-ray threat" Another solution for a problem that doesn't exist.
"Dutch lab says bacteria in Coke-bottled water not hazardous" The Associated Press reports, "A Dutch laboratory on Monday said bacteria found in samples of a mineral water bottled by Coca-Cola in Poland was not hazardous."
"Coke scare blamed on mass hysteria" The BBC reports, "The recent illnesses associated with Coca-Cola in Belgium may have been caused by fears over contamination rather than any impurities in the soft drink, members of the Belgian health council have said."
July 3, 1999
TODAY'S GORE-ING: Hypocrite at twelve o'clock! The Washington Post reports that Al Gore has hired Carter Eskew, "...the architect of Big Tobacco's $40 million advertising campaign last year that demolished hopes for tobacco control legislation favored by the Clinton administration."
July 2, 1999
COMMENTARY OF THE DAY I: "Anti-tobacco Gestapo: Past and present; Modern campaign echoes rhetoric of Nazi health-fascists" Alexander Rose writes in the National Post, "smoking is rightly not permitted in many areas, and yes, it is bad for you, but does the end really justify what appear to be rather extreme and authoritarian means?"
THOUGHTS FOR INDEPENDENCE DAY: "Whatever happened to the signers of the Declaration of Independence?" This article is from an anonymous author who works at the EPA. Compare the signers of the Declaration of Independence to our modern day "leaders" -- Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Trent Lott, Newt Gingrich. On second thought, don't bother.
PRODUCT IDEA FOR DRKOOP.COM? "Coalition opposes stem cell research" Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop probably wouldn't opposes stem cell research if he could sell embryos to researchers from drkoop.com.
COMMENTARY OF THE DAY II: "Asbestos of All Possible Worlds?" The Wall Street Journal laments that when big companies get sued for fraudlent health claims, "The only alternative is to cut the best deal you can with the plaintiff-bar mafia."
"Dioxins, Coca-Cola, and mass sociogenic illness in Belgium" Correspondence in The Lancet (July 3) blames "mass sociogenic illness" for European hysteria over Coke.
"Aspartame and the internet" Correspondence in The Lancet (July 3) debunks Internet rumors about aspartame.
"Chernobyl cancer might have been prevented" The BBC reports, "The toll of thyroid cancer carried by the fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster could have been prevented, new evidence suggests."
"Report raises sheep dip health fears" The BBC reports, "Exposure to certain types of sheep dip is linked to an increased risk of ill health, a report presented to the government says."
"New egg-safety regulations proposed" How did things get so out of control that eggs don't have warning labels?
"Scientific foundation of mammographic screening is based on inconclusive research in Sweden" A letter in this week's British Medical Journal.
"Arguments in editorial were not 'biologically implausible'" A letter in the British Medical Journal says, "Biological plausibility -- an elusive concept, which keeps epidemiologists in business -- of course is never well served by unjustified assertions. "
July 1, 1999
DRKOOP.CON OF THE DAY: "Special interests: Rash of Protest" The Washington Post reports that Schering-Plough gave $1 million to former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop for plugging Schering-Plough products. No wonder the Weekly Standard titled its article "Dr. Koop Sells Himself."
"Days just drag" Robert Mathews reports in the New Scientist, "Global warming is slowing the Earth down. A study of changes in wind patterns linked to global warming over the past 50 years suggests they are slowing the planet's daily spin by around half a millisecond every century. These effects open up a new way of tracking the progress of global warming without the uncertainties in simple temperature measurements."
"Praise the Lord, Pass the Ammo" Steve Chapman writes at slate.com, "If there is any apparent correlation between the prevalence of Christian devotion and law-abiding conduct, it's the opposite of the one claimed by Republicans: Religion and violence seem to go hand in hand. That doesn't mean faith actually causes murder. But it does suggest that when Republicans contemplate the Ten Commandments, they should pay more attention to the ninth, which prohibits false witness."
"Heavenly scent" Alison Motluck reports in the New Scientist, "The smell from an old lady's armpits can raise your spirits, a scientist in Pennsylvania claims. Her work also suggests that in contrast, the scent of a young child does nothing to improve your mood."
"Environmentalists attack cancer apathy" The BBC reports, "Chemicals in the environment are contributing to an "epidemic of cancer" but cancer charities are ignoring the issue, a specialist on health and the environment has said."
"The environmental cancer threat" The BBC reports, "A meeting at the Commons on Thursday will discuss the relationship between chemicals in the environment and cancer - BBC News Online talked to two of the speakers."
"Cholesterol linked to dangerous behaviour " The BBC reports, "Blood cholesterol levels are significantly lower in people who have been admitted to hospital having deliberately harmed themselves, researchers have found."
"La Nina says 'Adios' to Pacific Ocean" Look for severe weather events once again to be blamed on global warming.
"Thyroid Cancer Rate Rose Tenfold After Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster" The Los Angeles Times reports, "After the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster, the thyroid cancer rate among Ukrainian youths in the surrounding area shot up tenfold, according to a new study that refines earlier estimates."
"Latino Parents Accuse State of Not Curbing Pesticide Use Near Schools " The Los Angeles Times reports, "The bias complaint filed with the EPA targets methyl bromide applications on nearby strawberry fields."
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