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Archives - March 2000

March 31, 2000

VICTORY of the day: Federal appellate courts trashes EPA chlororform drinking water rule - The court ruled the EPA was "arbitrary and capricious" in failing to use sound science.

"US challenges Europe's food safety stance" - "The US is challenging European Union claims that the so-called "precautionary principle" - used to justify sales embargoes on some genetically modified (GM) foods and other products - is enshrined in international agreements. It has also asked the EU to define the principle clearly and to explain how it plans to make use of it in international relations. " (Financial Times)

The U.S. comments appear to be strikingly similar to my commentary in The Finanicial Times (March 10).

"Study: Many U.S. homes with children and guns keep firearms unlocked" - "One-third of U.S. homes with children have at least one firearm and nearly half of them keep the weapons unsecured, a study found... National Rifle Association lobbyist James J. Baker said he was not surprised by the study and he cited National Safety Council data showing gun accidents at an all-time low. 'We think education and training is the key to reducing figures,' Baker said. 'We don't believe new laws will impact what goes on in homes. Ultimately, families will decide what they feel is best for their particular circumstances.'" (CNN)

For more info, check out:

"Tobacco stocks rise amid prospects for favorable Fla. bill" - "Tobacco shares rose on Thursday after industry analysts speculated that legislation could be introduced into Florida's House and Senate that could derail the Miami sick-smokers suit that threatens cigarette makers with potential damages in the billions of dollars." (Reuters)

"Tobacco attorneys make their case in Florida smokers' suit" - "Jurors only know half of the story on a request for $14.4 million in compensatory damages by three smokers suing the nation's biggest cigarette makers, a tobacco attorney says." (AP)

"N.Y. hospitals sue tobacco companies to recoup funds" - " A group of 145 New York hospitals including Manhattan's famous Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center filed a $3.4 billion lawsuit against major tobacco companies on Thursday to recoup funds spent on sick smokers." (Reuters)

"GM super rice unveiled" - "A genetically-engineered strain of rice which could boost yields by up to 35% has been developed by US scientists." (BBC) New Scientist

"Farming 'threatens third of Europe's birds'" - "The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says the expansion of intensive farming threatens more than one third of Europe's most important areas for birds." (BBC)

"Claim rules for benefits of dietary supplements during pregnancy debated" - "In a debate that pitted the specter of thalidomide babies against the comfort of peppermint tea, government regulators took up the question Thursday of what benefits, if any, the makers of dietary supplements should be allowed to claim when selling their products to pregnant women."

"EU ministers call for action on hormone chemicals" - "European Union environment ministers on Thursday called for speedy action to identify and possibly phase out hormone-mimicking chemicals which can damage human and animal health." (Reuters)

"Ukraine bans Danish beef over mad cow fears" - "Ukraine has banned imports of Danish beef after an outbreak in Denmark of mad cow disease, or BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), an official said on Thursday." (Reuters)

"North's lakes under threat as climate warms up" - "A warming climate could shake up thousands of fragile subarctic lakes - and the Arctic Ocean itself - far more severely over the long term than ozone depletion in the short term, warn two Canadian researchers in a report published today." (Toronto Star)

"Australia now a 'GM laboratory'" - "Australia was becoming an international laboratory for the development of genetically modified food crops, a British farming expert warned yesterday." The Age)

"Hill warns industry on greenhouse pact" - "Attempts to derail an international agreement limiting greenhouse gas emissions are foolish and could result in harsher targets being imposed on Australia, a senior Federal Cabinet minister has warned." (Sydney Morning Herald)

"Store awaits GM food guidelines" - " Supermarket chain Wellcome yesterday said it would not set up a labelling system for genetically-modified food until the government had established guidelines for a standardised assessment." (Hong Kong Standard)

March 30, 2000

JUNK of the day: Agent Orange and Diabetes - The most recent U.S. Air Force report on the personnel exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War reports "a significant and potentially meaningful adverse relation between serum dioxin levels and diabetes." CNN | AP | MSNBC

But the alleged "adverse relation" is weak and statistically insignificant. Moreover, cholesterol and triglyceride levels were reported to increase with serum dioxin levels -- meaning the observed diabetes was likely a result of obesity, an established risk factor.

Why did the Air Force draw an unwarranted conclusion? Politics. It wants to show Congress that, indeed, Air Force scientists were sufficiently diligent in finding some harm caused by Agent Orange exposure -- even if that harm had to be fabricated.

TomPaine.com or AmonGoeth.com? - This letter to TomPaine.com about the attack yesterday on Dr. Koop points out that TomPaine.com is hypocritical in disparaging industry while funding its operations with profits from investment in industry.

TomPaine.com claims its industry funding is proof of independence. I doubt it.

Remember Amon Goeth, the Nazi concentration camp commander portaryed by Ralph Fiennes in "Schindler's List"? Goeth -- like many real life Nazis -- enjoyed Jewish mistresses while implementing The Final Solution.

Exploiting a party one despises is evidence of moral depravity -- not lack of bias.

And if you feel that drawing a parallel between the eco-extremists and the Nazis is a little "over the top," keep in mind that the DDT ban advocated by the environmentalists is probably responsible for millions of malaria deaths in the third world.

Genocide by junk science is no different than genocide by the gas chamber.

"Fla. Bill Could Protect Tobacco Industry From Massive Award" - "A campaign is building in the Florida Legislature to save the tobacco industry from a potentially catastrophic punitive- damages award in the landmark Engle class-action case in Miami. Under a bill that may be introduced as early as today, sponsors hope to bar the risk of a lump sum punitive-damages award to an immense class of current and former Florida smokers. The effort appears aimed not so much at protecting tobacco companies as preserving the flow of tobacco industry settlement payments to Florida and other states, which some officials fear could be interrupted by a damage award in the Engle case that could reach into the hundreds of billions of dollars." (Los Angeles Times)

"Agent Orange and Diabetes: Diving Into Murky Depths" - Gina Kolata reports in The New York Times about the new Agent Orange study. Kolata points out, "The study compared the health of 859 veterans of Operation Ranch Hand, in which the defoliant Agent Orange was sprayed on much of the landscape during the Vietnam War, to that of 1,232 who did not spray the chemical. There was no difference in the incidence of diabetes in the two groups -- 16.9 percent of the Ranch Hand group was diabetic and 17 percent of the control group was diabetic." Note the quotes from Mike Gough.

"Trigger locks may not be solution to gun problems" - "But the hard, scientific evidence that trigger locks prevent gun violence is scanty, sometimes misinterpreted and often irrelevant to the public-policy debate." (Detroit Free Press)

"Cell Phones and Brain Tumors: A Bad Connection?" - "The news about cell phones and public health continues to be confusing. Some studies suggest a correlation between cell phone emissions and a slightly higher incidence of human brain tumors. Other studies debunk these findings. Still, some consumer groups suggest radio frequencies from cell phones cause genetic damage." (National Brain Tumor Foundation media release)

For more on the cell phone controversy:

"New evidence links mobiles to cancer" - "The United States Food and Drug Administration is investigating whether mobile phones can cause cancer, after two studies have shown a link between their use and the disease. Neither study has been published, but their preliminary results have been enough to trigger the FDA investigation." (Sydney Morning Herald)

"American Public Health Association Seeks Nominations for Science Writing Award" - "The American Public Health Association (APHA) is seeking entries for the 30th Annual Ray Bruner Science Writing Award." (American Public Health Association media release)

"Gasoline exposure increases risk of male breast cancer" - "Breast cancer strikes men at a rate one-hundredth that of women, but a report suggests that men who work around gasoline and combustion products have a significantly higher risk of developing the disease." (Reuters)

"Filling the bowl: For billions worldwide, a modified grain could end the lean times" - "Rice, which provides more than half the daily food for one third of people across the globe, is a key target for genetic engineers seeking to develop new crops to feed the world's burgeoning population." (New Scientist)

"Greenpeace to launch GM food table" - "Upset by the government's lukewarm response to its call for genetically modified (GM) food labelling, Greenpeace plans to compile a table of GM products for consumers." (Hong Kong Standard)

"Assembly approves GM seed" - "Welsh Agriculture Secretary Christine Gwyther has approved the use of a genetically-modified maize seed in the UK despite her earlier support for a GM-free Wales." (BBC)

"America finds ready market for GM food -- the hungry" - "Embattled American farmers facing rejection of their genetically modified crops still have one unquestioning market -- emergency aid for the world's starving and displaced." (The Independent)

"Climate talks founder as frustration mounts; Quebec delegate walks out in protest at lack of progress in shaping emissions-cutting strategy" - "A key federal-provincial meeting to develop a climate-change strategy ended in failure yesterday." (Globe and Mail)

"Senators Scheme to Gut Clean Air Act, Bogus Plan Aimed to Protect Polluting Industries" - "Two senators with close ties to big polluting industries are scheming to gut the Clean Air Act, the nonprofit Clean Air Trust warned today." (Clean Air Trust media release)

"New Poll Shows Strong Public Support For FDA Regulation Of Tobacco" - "A new poll of 800 likely voters shows overwhelming support for giving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate tobacco products." (Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids media release)

"Hawaii sees biotechnology sweetening papaya trade" - "Hawaii is banking on a genetically modified papaya to provide potent profits to its battered agricultural industry." (Reuters)

"Method removes gas additive MTBE from tainted water" - "A Purdue University chemist has developed an experimental method that could be used to remove the gasoline additive MTBE from polluted ground water." (Purdue University media release)

"Tougher checks on BSE" - "Tougher measures against the cattle disease BSE are on the way, with the European Commission saying it wants compulsory tests on 10% of animals considered most at the disease." (BBC)

March 29, 2000

JUNKSCIENCE.COMMENTARY of the day: TomPaine.com: A Journal of Hypocrisy - Today's New York Times features an advertisement by TomPaine.com attacking Dr. C. Everett Koop, DrKoop.com and the American Council on Science and Health.

The point of TomPaine.com's attack is to "shoot the messenger." Dr. Koop and ACSH have debunked successfully the eco-orthodoxy that any exposure to synthetic chemicals is bad.

TomPaine.com's chief complaint seems to be that the activities of Dr. Koop and ACSH benefit business. This is somewhat ironic considering the source of TomPaine.com's funding.

TomPaine.com was founded in 1999 with a grant from the Florence and John Schumann Foundation -- a left-leaning foundation with a $90 million stock portfolio invested heavily in the very industries TomPaine.com disparages. Here's a sampling of the the Schumann Foundation portfolio as of July 30, 1999 taken from its tax return:

Corporation# Shares OwnedMarket Value ($)
Air Products & Chemicals22,000880,000
Aluminum Co. of America4,000298,252
Exxon6,000438,750
Fort James Corp.17,000680,000
Kerr McGee17,000650,250
Mobil Corp5,000435,625
Pfizer8,5001,062,500
RJR Nabisco35,0001,039,080
Click for "ACSH to Naderite Groups: Got Published?"

* * * *

BEN & JERRY'S MOMENT of the day: "Air Force study further supports Agent Orange, diabetes link" - "A study to be released Wednesday by the U.S. Air Force provides more data supporting a possible link between exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange and adult onset diabetes, according to Pentagon sources." (CNN)

The good news for Ben & Jerry's, whose ice cream is chock-full of dioxin, is that the reported association in the Air Force study is probably artefactual rather than causal. Other studies of human populations heavily exposed to dioxin have not reported statistically significant associations with diabetes.
  • "A cross sectional study of workers employed > 15 years earlier in the manufacture of 2,4,5-trichlorophenol or one of its derivatives at two United States chemical plants was conducted. The referent group consisted of people with no occupational exposure to phenoxy herbicides and were recruited from the neighbourhoods where the workers lived... A total of 281 workers and 260 unexposed referents participated... Overall, the prevalence of diabetes mellitus was not significantly different between the workers and referents. Also, there was not a significant positive trend between prevalence of diabetes and increasing serum TCDD concentration." [Occup Environ Med 1999 Apr;56(4):270-6]
  • "We did cohort mortality analyses involving 5132 chemical workers at 12 U.S. plants by use of life table techniques (U.S. population referent) and Cox regression (internal referent). We conducted exposure-response analyses for 69% of the cohort with adequate work history data and adequate plant data on TCDD contamination... Diabetes (any mention on the death certificate) showed a negative exposure-response trend." [J Natl Cancer Inst 1999 May 5;91(9):779-86]
  • No significant increase in diabetes among males or females in the highest exposure zones of the 1976 Seveso industrial accident. [Occup Environ Med 1998 Feb;55(2):126-31]
  • No statistically significant association between dioxin exposure and diabetes reported in workers and sprayers included in an international study comprising 36 cohorts from 12 countries followed from 1939 to 1992. [Environ Health Perspect 1998 Apr;106 Suppl 2:645-53]
Another recent study of the Air Force veterans reported a nonsignificant association between serum dioxin levels and diabetes that was further attenuated by adjusting for serum triglycerides. [Epidemiology. 2000 Jan;11(1):44-8]

It could be that obesity -- an established risk factor for diabetes -- is the actual causal factor while the dioxin-diabetes association is an artefact of obese personnel having higher dioxin levels because they have more dioxin-harboring fat tissue.

* * * *

COMMENTARY of the day I: "Rezulin Proves the System Works" - Gilbert L. Ross comments in The Wall Street Journal, "Just because a drug is withdrawn does not mean it should not have been approved in the first place."

COMMENTARY of the day II: "Triple bottom line: Environmental sky in the business pie in the pie" - Peter Foster comments in The National Post, "There is evidence that the great 1990s thrust to load environmental and social anxieties onto corporate balance sheets may be grinding to a halt."

COMMENTARY of the day III: "Why high oil prices won't save our planet" - Tom Adams writes in The National Post, "Some environmentalists, focused only on the increased incentive to conserve energy, welcome these high prices. They forget that high prices encourage expansion of our most polluting and environmentally risky oil sources -- tar sands, heavy oil and Hibernia."

COMMENTARY of the day IV: "The dark side of Erin Brockovich" - Here's the full version of Michael Fumento's commentary on "Erin Brockovich."

COMMENTARY of the day V: "Worried food will kill you? Me neither" - From a Boston Herald commentary, "Something's gonna get me... If it's gonna be fruits and vegetables, I think I'll take my chances."

COMMENTARY of the day VI: "Regulatory cost balance sheet" - Wayne Crews comments in The Washington Times, "Many have noted that regulations often are not well-targeted and cost more than they should, and propose that agencies better weigh costs and benefits. But better cost-benefit analysis won't help much. The cure for excessive regulation is to end regulation without representation."

"Sperm counts unchanged over 50 years" - "Sokol said this new study was both large and well designed, so that the results can be trusted to be an accurate reflection of sperm quality among American men. She noted that, coincidentally, the pool of men who provided semen samples primarily worked in blue-collar jobs that could have exposed them to significant environmental toxins - so if a drop was found and if pollutants were the cause, it would have been likely to be represented in the findings. Sokol and her colleagues nevertheless found that values for the average sperm count were identical to the count reported in the 1950s." (University of Southern California media release)

"Well-done red meat is not breast cancer risk-study" - "Eating well-done red meat does not appear to increase the risk of breast cancer and consuming more white meats may offer protection against the disease, according to a study released on Tuesday." (Reuters)

"Researchers warn of drug pollution" - "Medicine eliminated from the body in human waste and flushed down toilets is drugging lakes and streams with possibly bad effects on wildlife, German researchers reported yesterday at the first major scientific session on the topic." (Toledo Blade)

"Lawyer argues that tobacco, not 'phony theories', gave clients cancer" - "Nearly all lung and throat cancer cases seen in smokers are caused by cigarettes, not some 'phony theories' offered by the tobacco industry, said a smokers' attorney Tuesday." (AP)

March 28, 2000

JUNKSCIENCE.COMMENTARY of the day: Clinton advocates for 70-year-old children; Real children pay the price - President Clinton said during his weekly radio address Saturday that smoking "... is a health issue for our nation and a life-or-death issue for children."

The average difference in life expectancy between smokers and nonsmokers was estimated recently to be 6.5 years. The difference has been reported to be as little as 2-3 years for those who are physically active. [Am J Epidemiol 1999 Apr 1;149(7):645-53]

With life expectancy now in the 70s -- and even approaching 80 for U.S. white women -- the average lifetime smoker can expect to live into his/her late-60s/early-70s. So I'm not quite sure what President Clinton means when he says smoking is a "life-or-death" issue for children.

In contrast, approximately 5,000 to 6,000 children under the age of 5 die every month as a result of the U.S.-led international economic sanctions on Iraq, according to recent UNICEF reports and the International Red Cross. Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark calls the sanctions genocide. House Democratic Whip David Bonior calls the economic blockade "infanticide masquerading as policy."

Apparently, President Clinton would rather beat up on tobacco companies about 70-year-old children than resolve his own policy that is killing real kids.

* * * *

BEN & JERRY'S MOMENT of the day: "Japanese Incinerator Burns U.S." - The Associated Press reports,

Dioxin season is just around the corner.

The wind at this U.S. Navy base outside Tokyo will shift with spring and blow from the south bringing with it toxin-laden smoke from a private garbage incinerator just beyond the base fence...

Smoke from the plant has rolled into base housing complexes for years, posing a health threat and becoming a high-profile irritant between the U.S. government and Japan, home to some 52,000 American troops.

On Monday, the U.S. Justice Department announced it had filed a lawsuit in a Japanese court demanding an immediate halt to the incinerator operations.

But they say there's a simpler solution shut down the plant...

Dioxin has been linked to cancer, birth defects and other health problems. Last summer, dioxin levels in the air were on average eight times the Japanese safety limit in areas of the base near the plant.

On the worst day measured, the toxin was 65 times the Japanese safety level, the U.S. military says. The worst soil sample on the base found dioxin at 165 times the Japanese benchmark...

What's all the fuss? The Ben & Jerry's ice cream in the base commissary may have 200 times the U.S. EPA benchmark for dioxin -- and it tastes better than the Air Force base dirt.

* * * *

STUDY of the day: "Hypospadias Rate May Not Be Increasing" - The Endocrine/Estrogen Letter reports (March 22),

A new study demonstrates that rates of hypospadias, a birth defect characterized by malplacement of the urinary outlet of the penis, have declined in the United States since 1983, and suggests that the condition may be caused by genetic factors, not exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals.

The new study may lead to a reassessment of views that hypospadias are on the increase. Concerns about the incidence of the birth defect were sparked by a 1997 paper by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that reported sharp increases among male newborns in the United States. The CDC researchers suggested that the increasing incidence of the birth defect may be caused by maternal exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals. The increase of hypospadias has been cited in numerous technical studies and in the popular press as a clear impact of endocrine disrupters on human health.

Harry Fisch, a researcher and clinician at New York Presbytarian Hospital and Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, told E/E Letter that his research demonstrates that "there has not been an increase in hypospadias in the United States and there is no evidence that exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals or plastics causes hypospadias or is responsible for declines in male fertility or male reproducive health problems..."

* * * *

COMMENTARY of the day I: "'Erin Brockovich,' Exposed" - Michael Fumento sets the record straight in The Wall Street Journal about the movie "Erin Brockovich."

COMMENTARY of the day II: "Gas Attack" - The Wall Street Journal editorializes, "Up to now the luxury of a booming economy has allowed Mr. Gore to indulge his greenest thoughts, whether signing onto U.N. environmental protocols or raising gas taxes to subsidize alternative utopias. Clearly he's got the Greenpeace vote -- and just maybe the Gwich'in Indians. But we'll see if he's as popular with ordinary Americans after they've had a long, hot summer of $1.50+/gallon at the gas pump, while Mr. Gore resolutely seals off oceans of oil in the Arctic."

COMMENTARY of the day III: "Friends of corn borers" - Blake Hurst comments in The Washington Times, " Prince Charles will be happy, Jeremy Rifkin ecstatic and the European Union can rest easy. No genetically modified, or GM, corn will be planted on my farm this year. Not because I have any doubt about the safety of what are now called "frankenfoods." No, I won't use these products because fear is triumphing over science and common sense, and I'm afraid it will be hard to find a market for what I produce."

COMMENTARY of the day IV: "How Bill and Al Blew the Anti-tobacco Fight" - Here's Dick Morris' analysis of the tobacco controversy.

'LETTER TO THE EDITOR' of the day: "Government Promotes Organic Food Myth " - Ruth Kava of the American Council on Science and Health writes in The Wall Street Journal,

It is distressing that the Agriculture Department, by attempting to legally define "organic," has granted legitimacy to the concept that so-called "organic" food is any safer or better than conventionally produced foods ("Regulators Nearing Tougher Standard for Organic Food," March 6).

By excluding genetically modified crops and irradiated foods from being classed as organic, the department is supporting the myth that such conventionally produced or treated foods are less safe or nutritious that those that qualify for an organic label. It is thus giving government sanction to an unscientific dichotomy between conventionally produced and other foods.

The USDA should be encouraging the use of any technologies that can improve the efficiency of food production and the safety of the food supply, especially when there is no evidence that these technologies present any risk to food safety or nutritional value. If some consumers believe otherwise and wish to avoid these technologies, they should arrange their own system of certification, rather than co-opting a government agency that is supposed to serve all of us.

* * * *

"Labeling GM foods " - The Boston Globe editorializes for labeling of GM foods. But the FDA already requires labeling of certain biotech foods:

"A bioengineered food would need to be called by a different or modified name if its composition were significantly different from its conventionally grown counterpart, or if its nutritive value has been significantly altered. Special labeling would be required if consumers need to be informed about a safety issue, such as the possible presence of an allergen that would not normally be found in the conventionally-grown product."

"Calif. Jury Awards $20 Million to Ex-Smoker" - "A California jury on Monday ordered two major tobacco companies to pay a dying ex-smoker $20 million in punitive damages -- the first such award to someone who started smoking after government-required health warnings began appearing on cigarette packets in 1969." (AP) RJ Reynolds Tobacco media release

"Penalty phase in Florida sick-smokers trial winding up" - "Closing arguments began on Monday in the penalty phase of Florida's high stakes anti-tobacco lawsuit, with an attorney for hundreds of thousands of sick smokers saying cigarette makers fooled Americans for decades." (AP)

"U.S states seek bankruptcy firm to protect tobacco deals" - "With the U.S. tobacco industry facing mounting jury verdicts, the nation's attorneys general moved to hire bankruptcy counsel on Monday to protect landmark settlements of more than $240 billion with cigarette makers." (Reuters)

"UN invites tobacco firms to smoking debate" - "The World Health Organisation stepped up the pace in its campaign to have tobacco products regulated on Monday by inviting the world's cigarette makers to its first public debate on the risks of smoking." (Reuters)

"Hot Air about a Warm Winter" - Pat Michaels comments on the early arrival of spring.

OSHA's ergonomics rule: Comments of the Employment Policy Foundation - The Employment Policy Foundation says OSHA's ergonomics rule will cost $100 billion annually, but produce only about $4 billion in benefits.

"Study Will Assess ALS Among Gulf War Veterans" - "Federal agencies, led by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD), are launching a nationwide study to determine the rate of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, among military veterans who were on active duty during the Gulf War." (Department of Veterans Affairs media release)

March 27, 2000

COMMENTARY of the day I: "Media lose message" - Steve Milloy comments in The Chicago Sun-Times, "Deerfield-based Baxter Healthcare has been vindicated on a major health scare. But don't expect to read about it in the media. It's more fun to scare readers about vinyl IV bags causing cancer than it is to set the record straight."

COMMENTARY of the day II: "Second-hand science" - Steve Milloy comments in The National Post (March 25) that the headline-grabbing study by Health Canada linking breast cancer and second-hand smoke is more a case of Ottawa blowing smoke.

"Jury in Florida smokers' suit to hear arguments on damages" - "The presumption is that the same six-member panel will award compensatory damages to at least one of the three people acting as representatives of the larger group in the class-action. If so, more testimony will be taken on the issue of punitive damages. Lead tobacco lawyer Daniel Webb has worried about a $300 billion award against an industry valued by outsiders anywhere from $8 billion to more than $100 billion." (AP)

The Engle trial is a travesty of justice:
  • The judge, Robert P. Kaye, is a member of the group of Florida plaintiffs.
  • The lead plaintiff is a physician who smoked.
  • The jury heard testimony from a 44 year-old nurse who smoked for 30 years and who testified she didn't know smoking was harmful.
  • Judge-plaintiff Kaye judge placed a "gag order" on the parties preventing the defendant tobacco companies from discussing the trial with their employees, shareholders, and media. Neither party asked for the gag order.
Click for a preferred "kangaroo court."

"U.S. demonstrators protest genetic engineering" - "In what organizers said was the largest demonstration ever held in the United States to protest genetic engineering of foods, up to 3,500 people marched Sunday in Boston at the opening of Bio2000." (Reuters) New York Times

"Acid Rain Law Found to Fail in Adirondacks" - "A landmark air pollution law enacted a decade ago to reduce acid rain has failed to slow the acidification of lakes and streams in the Adirondacks, many of which are rapidly losing the ability to sustain life, according to a new federal report." (New York Times)

"Mexico offers smokers $11,000 incentive to quit" - "One of Mexico's 14 million smokers could win 100,000 pesos (almost $11,000) if he or she can kick the habit for 28 days, the health ministry said on Sunday." (Reuters)

"Skin cancer fear over antibiotics" - "Prescription drugs which make the skin more sensitive to sunlight could be linked to a rise in skin cancer, a leading health expert has warned." (The Guardian)

March 26, 2000

TODAY'S GORE-ING: "Al Goreís fundamentalist threat to Detroit" - Thomas Bray comments in The Detroit News, " Corporate executives never seem to get it. Appeasement doesnít work. It only invites more of the same. Letís hope voters have a more realistic view of Goreís fundamentalism."

COMMENTARY of the day I: "Biotech's benefits " - The Boston Globe editorializes, "But to stop the genetic altering of food that can make crops insect-resistant, for example, or stronger and more able to survive, would be to deprive mankind of a benefit that may become necessary to save the world in the centuries to come when populations increase. Much of the protest in Boston this weekend is based on the same kind of ignorance that tried to end Edward Jenner's immunizations two centuries ago."

A pretty good editorial except for the comment, "Protesters compare themselves to Rachel Carson, whose landmark book, 'Silent Spring,' blew the whistle on DDT-based pesticides and probably saved many species from extinction."

The DDT ban did not save any species and instead led to the deaths of millions of people from insect-borne disease such as malaria.

COMMENTARY of the day II: "Food Companies Yielding to Anti-Biotech Pressure" - The president of the American Farm Bureau says, "So far, the biotech debate is being waged by people who don't go to bed hungry. It is easy to be philosophical when someone else bears the difficulties. As the global demand for more abundant, more nutritious, more healthful foods grows, enhanced products of biotechnology will prove to be the accepted, obvious and safe solution. Farm Bureau is carrying this message to the food industry and urging them to consider scientific fact, not activist fiction."

March 25, 2000

COMMENTARY of the day: "Second-hand science" - Steve Milloy comments in The National Post that the headline-grabbing study by Health Canada linking breast cancer and second-hand smoke is more a case of Ottawa blowing smoke.

TODAY'S GORE-ING: "The education of Al Gore" - "Few, if any, American politicians are more self-righteous than Vice President Al Gore. And nowhere is Mr. Gore more self-righteous than in his 1992 book, 'Earth in the Balance.' This piece of politically correct propaganda blames the world's environmental problems on capitalism, a consumer culture of a 'dysfunctional civilization' and, of course, male-dominated societies...

As a Harvard sophomore, scholar Al "earned" a D in Natural Sciences 6 -- in a course presciently named "Man's Place in Nature." That was the year he evidently spent more time smoking cannabis than studying its place among other plants within the ecosystem. His senior year, Mr. Gore received a C+ in Natural Sciences 118...

"Ex-smoker seeks $115 million in punitive damages from Big Tobacco" - "Jurors began deliberating Friday whether to award punitive damages against the nation's two largest tobacco companies to a dying former smoker. The lawyer for Leslie Whiteley and her husband asked jurors for $115 million in punitive damages, saying the cigarette makers remain unrepentant for the harm they cause... The verdict in Whiteley's favor Monday was the first for a smoker who started smoking after 1969, when surgeon general's warnings first appeared on cigarette packages." (AP)

I wonder what the punitive damages would be against this plaintiff's parents and the school system she attended for not teaching her to read?

"Canadian company aims to reduce cow flatulence to help environment" - "TransAlta, Canada's largest private power provider, said it has reached the multimillion-dollar agreement with Global Livestock Group, a U.S. company, to produce a feed supplement for cattle in Uganda that would reduce their belching and flatulence." (AP)

"Financial carrot for GM farmers" - "Farmers who sign up to genetically-modified crop trials could make up to three times as much as they would from growing the equivalent conventional produce." (BBC)

"Boston conventions threaten biotech food fight" - "Scientists and activists are set to face off on Sunday in Boston, the site of two major conferences on biotechnology." (AP)

March 24, 2000

COMMENTARY of the day I: "Flatulence at Globe 2000" - Peter Foster writes in The National Post, "Ugandan cows' farts threatened to steal Environment Minister David Anderson's thunder at this week's Globe 2000 conference in Vancouver. Just when you thought that the satirical potential of emissions trading had been all used up by Maurice Strong's Costa Rican Carbon Bonds ("I promise to pay the bearer one untorched rain forest on demand"), along comes a plan by Albertan utility TransAlta to acquire "credits" by helping cut down bovine flatulence in central Africa. This is not funny. Farts kill. At least they do if you subscribe to global warming theory, and non-subscription, it appears, has ceased to be an option."

COMMENTARY of the day II: "Some tough questions for biotech opponents" - C.S. Prakash quizzes biotech opponents in the Telegram and Gazette (Worcester, MA).

'BLINDED BY BROAD DAYLIGHT' JOURNALISM AWARD? "Top Down: Whatever happened to noblesse oblige?" - John B. Judis writes in The New Republic,

In the 1990s, the "counter-establishment" that originated in the '70s grew even more corrupt and irresponsible. If AEI and Heritage represented the typical counter-elite of the late '70s, Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) and the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) are the archetypal organizations of today. AEI funded supply-side economics and exaggerated the damage of government regulation, but it still put out scholarly work. The new institutions, by contrast, merely produce propaganda for their funders. In 1998, CEI, which is backed by oil companies but claims the objectivity of an "institute," ran a radio ad making the patently false claim that "thousands of scientists agree there's no solid evidence of a global-warming problem." Such a statement was not founded on biased or inadequate scientific research; it was purely a statement of business self-interest. [Emphasis added]
Speaking of "patently false" and "inadequate research," Judis should have checked his own facts. During the past 2 years, more than 17,100 basic and applied American scientists, two-thirds with advanced degrees, have signed the Global Warming Petition.

Send your comments to The New Republic.

INTERVIEW of the day: "Billions served" - A Reason interview with agronomist Norman Borlaug.

"Kellogg's Tiger Targeted in Action Condemning use of 'Frankenfood'" - "Today Greenpeace activists went after Kellogg's Tony the Tiger for helping market genetically engineered "FrankenFoods" to U.S. children. Greenpeace activists climbed the towering faÁade of Kellogg's Cereal City to unfurl a huge banner reading, 'Kellogg's: Stop Feeding FrankenFood to America's Kids.' An additional message was hung by Tony the Tiger's mouth, which has him saying, 'They're Gr-ross!'"

"Study finds all oceans are warming: Data could support computer models showing warmer Earth" - "U.S. government scientists on Thursday reported a significant -- and surprising -- warming of the worldís oceans over the past 40 years. The scientists said their findings provide evidence that computer models showing a global warming trend might be on target." (MSNBC) AP | Washington Post | New York Times

"'Distortion' of passive smoking evidence provokes controversy in Israel" - "Israel's respected daily newspaper in the Hebrew language, which markets itself as "the newspaper for thinking people," has published a six page cover story in its magazine supplement dismissing the fact that passive smoking is dangerous to health and praising some of the so-called benefits of active smoking. The article in Ha'aretz, which was largely based on a misrepresentation and misinterpretation of an epidemiological meta-analysis by Copas and Shi in the BMJ (2000;320:417-8), has been roundly denounced by Israeli public health experts and by Israel's health minister, Shlomo Benizri." (British Medical Journal)

"Conference told: many unanswered questions about mobile phones" - "A conference in Brisbane has been told that there are still many unanswered questions about the health effects of using mobile phones. Technology commentator Stewart Fist says research suggests that long-term use of mobile phones can reduce immune systems, promote cancer and affect memory." (ABC)

For more on Stewart Fist's jihad against mobile phones, check out:

"GM genes refuse to budge" - "Researchers in the United Kingdom are cautiously hopeful that at least one of the concerns about genetically-modified (GM) crops may prove unfounded." (BBC) New Scientist

"Trial Court No Longer Blocks Amoco Brain Cancer Deal" - "In an abrupt about face Tuesday, Cook County, Ill., Circuit Court Judge Judith Cohen agreed to the voluntary dismissal of four wrongful death lawsuits against Chicago-based Amoco brought by the families of ex-employees who had died from a mysteriously contracted malignant brain cancer after working at the company's Naperville research facility. " (American Lawyer Media)

"Two farmers pull out of GM trials after six days" - "Two of the 31 farmers the Government announced last week had joined genetically modified crop trials have backed out only six days after the Government unveiled the scheme." (The Indepenent)

"Farmer in map mix-up fears green protest" - "Villagers at Brockford Green in Suffolk were shocked by a Government announcement that a large-scale trial of genetically modified oilseed rape was to be carried out on their doorstep." (Daily Telegraph)

"House Judiciary Committee passes asbestos litigation reform bill to speed compensation to the sick" - "The House Judiciary Committee today passed H.R. 1283, "The Asbestos Compensation Act of 2000" by a vote of 18-15. The committee completed debate and amendments on the bill last night, and voted on the measure this morning. The vote is a huge victory for asbestos victims and judicial reform advocates in the face of an all-out war waged by trial lawyers to defeat the measure. Asbestos lawyers nationwide and The Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) - one of the most powerful lobbying forces in the country - have made the defeat of this legislation their top priority, distorting the bill's implications for victims in the intense effort to halt the process."

"GM foods: The debate rages" - "Whoever coined the phrase "the only constant is change" was onto something. One area of biotechnology that was winning high praise only two years ago is now being scrutinized by a skeptical public that doesn't completely buy into the idea of tinkering with Mother Nature--Genetically Modified crops and foods." (Daily Yomiuri)

March 23, 2000

COMMENTARY of the day I: "Anti-biotech sentiment has its own risks" - Henry Miller writes in The Financial Times, "Excessive regulation of GM foods is misplaced and irrational and will make it impossible for these products to compete in the market Just weeks after the completion of a disastrous "biosafety protocol" under the 1992 United Nations Biodiversity Treaty, biotechnology applied to food and agriculture has just received a blow from another UN agency, this one concerned with international food standards."

COMMENTARY of the day II: "Europe, factory for food scares" - Roger Bate writes in The Wall Street Journal Europe, "Mad cow disease, genetically modified foods, dioxin, and even Coke: Following a rash of health scares in Britain, Belgium and elsewhere, the European Commission is moving to establish a European Food Safety Agency. Scheduled to come into being in 2002, EFSA will oversee the streamlining and strengthening of legislation "from the farm to the table," covering animal feed and medicines, food traceability and product liability. Sounds great. But it probably won't do any good as long as the conventional wisdom remains so misguided."

COMMENTARY of the day III: "Drive-by rulers" - Ken Smith comments in The Washington Times, "But, again, this case demonstrates the power of an executive branch that deliberately sidesteps Congress to effect policy through regulators or courts against politically unsavory foes like gun makers, coal-fired generating plants, Bill Gates, states that don't want national monuments in their back yards and, yes, tobacco."

COMMENTARY of the day IV: "Smoke and Regulatory Mirrors" - The Detroit News editorializes, "The real victors in this case are American citizens whose freedom is routinely curtailed by regulation run amok."

COMMENTARY of the day V: "In touting ethanol, EPA puts politics first" - USA Today comments, "After years acting as the biggest cheerleader for the gasoline additive MTBE, the Environmental Protection Agency this week decided it should be banned. That's the good news... The bad news is that this small step forward was followed by a far more troubling leap backward. The EPA's favored alternative to MTBE is the fuel additive ethanol, which is derived from corn. And it appears ethanol is being pushed not for its clean-air credentials, which are mixed at best, but because the move is sure to prove popular with key farm-state voters in an election year."

"Report: EPA misled public about paperwork" - "Despite an order from Congress to shrink paperwork, the amount of time that businesses and governments spend reporting to the Environmental Protection Agency is on the rise, congressional investigators say." (AP)

"Canadian restaurant smoking ban struck down" - "A controversial smoking ban in restaurants and bars in British Columbia was struck down on Wednesday by a judge who ruled the industry was not given an opportunity to fight the proposal." (Reuters)

"N.C. Farm Bureau calls for special legislative session on tobacco" - "The North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation has joined those calling for a special legislative session to protect the tobacco industry from a possible multibillion-dollar verdict in a smoking case in Florida." (AP)

"The U.S. Supreme Court Rejects FDA Tobacco Regulation: A Setback for Public Health?" - Elizabeth Whelan comments on the recent Supreme Court decision denying the FDA authority over tobacco.

"Gore advocates federal regulation of tobacco" - "Vice President Al Gore called on Texas Gov. George W. Bush and the Republican-led Congress on Tuesday to stand up to ``Big Tobacco'' and push to give the government the right to regulate nicotine as an addictive drug." (Reuters)

"Clinton Shoots From Hip With Loaded Claims" - John R. Lott comments in The Los Angeles Times about President Clinton's use of exaggerations and statistical distortions to cloud the issue, firing up the NRA to respond.

"Environmental quality gains require major policy changes" - "U.S. environmental policies have brought dramatic improvements in air and water quality in this country over the past 25 years, but further expansion of "command-and-control regulation" will deliver diminishing returns, say researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise." (University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill media release)

"Earlier Flowering Of Area's Plants A Blooming Trend" - "Washington's fabled cherry trees, along with scores of other flowering plants in the region, are blooming, on average, a week earlier now than they did 30 years ago. The reason, according to a new study from Smithsonian Institution scientists, is 'global warming'--or at least warmer winter and spring nights." (Washington Post)

"It might not necessarily be global warming," said Vernon E. Kousky, a research meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center. "It's a safe bet that it could be the 'urban heat island' effect," whereby the accumulation of heat-holding asphalt and concrete raises the local average temperature, particularly the minimum temperatures.

"New research on long-term ocean cycles reveals rapid global warming in near future" - "Scientists funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and affiliated with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, report evidence of pronounced changes in the earth's climate that can be tracked in cycles of ocean conditions over thousands of years. These cycles reveal that Earth is currently in a period in which a natural rise in global temperatures, combined with warming from the greenhouse effect, will push the planet through an era of rapid global warming." (National Science Foundation media release)

"Gas industry rejects greenhouse saviour role" - "The gas industry says it will not automatically be the 'white knight', which will save Australia from high greenhouse gas emissions." (ABC)

"Electricity industry defends coal source" - "The electricity industry has defended its use of black and brown coal, despite acknowledging its emissions account for about one third of Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions." (ABC)

"Oil company's gas emissions to continue increasing" - "The petroleum-oil company, BP-Amoco, has told a Senate inquiry into global warming that its greenhouse gas emissions will continue to rise in the short term." (ABC)

"GM canola crops released in five states" - "It has been confirmed genetically-modified canola crops have been released in the canola-growing regions of South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales." (ABC)

"Nato reveals Kosovo depleted uranium use" - "Nato has finally given the United Nations some details of the areas in Kosovo where its aircraft fired depleted uranium (DU) ammunition in last year's Balkan conflict... But even now, according to the UN Balkan Task Force (BTF), the information is not detailed enough to allow 'an accurate field assessment of the environmental and human health consequences'. " (BBC)

"Massive iceberg peels off from Antarctic ice shelf" - "A large iceberg was 'born' early this week from the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica near Roosevelt Island. Scientists say the massive iceberg could drift to sea within the next few days... Cracks in the Antarctic ice shelf have been closely observed since the advent of remote sensing by satellite and are of particular interest to scientists studying the potential effects of global warming. The breakoff of this iceberg is believed to be part of a normal process in which the ice sheet maintains a balance between constant growth and periodic losses." (National Science Foundation media release)

"Gas additive may be polluting one-third of wells in 31 states" - "About one-third of drinking water wells in 31 states may be contaminated with the gasoline additive MTBE, says a study released Wednesday. The federal government already is acting to ban use of the chemical." (AP)

"DNA test fails to link Jefferson, descendant of Monticello slave" - "A DNA test has again failed to link a descendant of Monticello slave Tom Woodson to Thomas Jefferson, says a retired pathologist who performed the test." (AP)

"GM feed 'will not give rise to superbugs'" - "Fears that feeding genetically modified crops to animals could give rise to antibiotic resistant bacteria appear to be false, according to research by British scientists." (The Independent)

"Lawsuit may doom tobacco industry" - "Tobacco growers have warned that a Queensland Government plan for the states and territories to claim compensation from tobacco companies could wipe out the industry in Australia." (The Age)

March 22, 2000

CARTOON of the day: Cities sue car makers for auto-related deaths? - By Henry Payne, in The Detroit News.

NIH 'OSCARS'? "Oscar Nominee, "The Insider," Receives Top Honors at PRISM Awards 2000" - From the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse: "The National Institute on Drug Abuse, in partnership with The Entertainment Industries Council, Inc. (EIC) and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, today Awarded the PRISM AwardsTM 2000 for accurate depiction of drug, alcohol, and tobacco use and addiction in television, feature film, and comic book entertainment, as well as community service efforts and individual volunteerism. The ceremony, which was taped for syndicated telecast in late summer by Tribune Entertainment, was held at the Beverly Hills Hotel and was hosted by Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Mackenzie Phillips, and Dave Coulier. 'The Insider,' Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, received the PRISM Award for Theatrical Feature Film."

Click for my review of "The Insider."

Wasn't Mackenzie Phillips a notorious substance abuser? What's next? The Unabomber presents crime prevention awards for the FBI?

BEN & JERRY'S MOMENT of the day: "Greenpeace urges Aust to ban dangerous chemicals" - "Greenpeace today urged Australia to cooperate with other nations and help ban dangerous chemicals as its activists erected a symbolic wall of dioxin barrels outside a meeting in Germany today... 'Dioxins and other POPS pose a global toxic threat to both present and future generations," Greenpeace toxic pollution campaigner Mark Oakwood said in a statement. 'Research shows that dioxins are poisoning our environment, our food and our bodies. It is imperative that a global treaty to eliminate all sources of POPS is reached.'" (ninemsn)

Greenpeace's "wall of dioixn barrels" could have been built out of cartons of Ben & Jerry's ice cream!

TOBACCO ROUNDUP: Supreme Court denies FDA authority over tobacco -

Court decision

FDA v. Brown & Williamson

News coverage
"Rebuffing Clinton, Justices Limit F.D.A. on Tobacco" (NY Times)
"Despite High Court Victory, the Tobacco Industry Must Wait to Exhale" (NY Times)
"Bush and Gore See Ruling as Prod for New Controls" (NY Times)
"FDA Can't Regulate Tobacco, Supreme Court Rules 5-4" (Wash. Post)
"High court rules FDA can't regulate tobacco" (Chicago Tribune)
"Justices Void Tobacco Rules" (San Francisco Chronicle)

Commentary

"Setback on Smoking" (NY Times)
"Congress's Turn on Tobacco" (Wash. Post)
"Congress makes the law" (Boston Herald)
"Antismoking setback" (Boston Globe)
"Smoke Wafts to Congress" (Los Angeles Times)
"Congress should act" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
"For 'Better or Worse' FDA Can't Regulate Tobacco" (Law News Network)
"Hooked on Tobacco" (USA Today)

Media Releases

American College of Cardiology
American Medical Association
Brown & Williamson Tobacco
Philip Morris, Inc.
RJ Reynolds Tobacco
American Cancer Society
American Public Health Association
Al Gore
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
American Heart Association
President Clinton
American Lung Association

"Greenpeace warns of toxins" - "Highly toxic chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants are found across Asia, including in Hong Kong, according to a Greenpeace report." (Hong Kong Standard)

"Modified foods growing in secret" - "Secret trial plots of genetically-modified crops are being grown throughout NSW in locations not even known by the Government, a parliamentary committee was told yesterday."

"GM foods and the luxury of choice" - "I know this is a little unscientific, but look at Monica Lewinsky, think of Marlon Brando's waistline, look at even the slimmed-down Vanessa Feltz: I don't know what these people eat, but just how much scarier could they possibly look if fed on a diet containing genetically-modified ingredients? How much unhealthier could it make them? Supermarkets are stacked with genetically- unmodified food items that are as nutritious as roofing tar. So what is it exactly that we are risking with GM?" (The Times)

"US green groups prod FDA to tighten biofood rules" - "Some 50 U.S. consumer, environmental and farm groups on Tuesday demanded the Food and Drug Administration adopt rigorous safety testing and labels for genetically engineered foods, and vowed to deluge the agency with letters and e-mail to show Americans want action." (Reuters) Los Angeles Times

"Agencies approve animal-free skin safety test" - "Several U.S. regulatory agencies said on Tuesday they would accept results from a synthetic skin test in lieu of animal tests -- the first time they have substituted something for live animal tests." (Reuters) Media release

"France's GM veto ruled wrong" - "France has been told by the European Court of Justice that it has no right to block sales of three genetically modified (GM) crop varieties which have won EU approval." (BBC)

"Concerns Arise Over Aquifer Near Nuclear Test Site" - "When the federal government conducted 828 underground nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site from 1956 to 1992, its scientists knew that ground water beneath the site would become contaminated. They believed that the underground water barely moved, and that radioactive particles would be sealed into cavities by the blasts or else absorbed by underground rock. But studies in recent years have found that radioactive particles like long-lived plutonium 239 can travel with water, and that water is flowing more rapidly beneath the site than was once believed. Scientists now agree that contaminated plumes have the potential to flow beyond the borders of the 1,573 square-mile test site in south-central Nevada, toward populated areas." (New York Times)

"Renewed calls for GM food inquiry " - "There are renewed calls for a Senate inquiry into genetically modified foods after it was revealed secret trials are being carried out in Australia." (ABC)

"Mutations not the only gene defect that leads to cancer" - " New research shows that gene mutations are not the only kinds of defects involved in the transformation of a healthy cell into a malignant one. Scientists say that this may mean the nature of cancer is even more complicated than once thought. Another kind of defect, one that turns off genes without changing their DNA, is also at work, and probably to a much greater degree than ever suspected."

"Lies, damn lies and science fiction: Press scaremongering over GM foods has led to calls to police science journalism. Why should we all suffer?" - "Being a science journalist, or indeed being any journalist who dares to write about science, may about to become a more precarious activity. Concern over the way in which some stories are reported - notably the GM food scares last year - has led to some of the most august institutions in the land calling for special rules for journalists covering science." (The Independent)

"Biotechnology helps save the environment" - "By improving many aspects of modern agriculture, biotechnology can help alleviate many of these pressures on the land, both by preserving natural resources and reducing environmental stresses." (Manila Times)

March 21, 2000

VICTORY of the day: Supreme Court rules against FDA tobacco authority - "Reading the FDCA as a whole, as well as in conjunction with Congressí subsequent tobacco-specific legislation, it is plain that Congress has not given the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products as customarily marketed."

USELESS GOVERNMENT WARNING of the day: "S.F. Jury Awards Smoker $1.4 Million in Tobacco Suit" - "A San Francisco jury delivered a blow to the embattled tobacco industry yesterday, awarding $1.47 million to a woman who developed lung cancer after smoking for 25 years." (San Francisco Chronicle)

The award against Philip Morris Cos. and R.J. Reynolds Corp., which is expected to increase with punitive damages, is the first in favor of a smoker who took up the habit after 1965, when the surgeon general required warning labels on all cigarette packages.

BEN & JERRY'S MOMENT of the day: Greenpeace: "Hong Kong government makes concessions over dioxin testing" - Greenpeace announced yesterday,

The Hong Kong government has given in to Greenpeaceís demands and agreed to undertake an assessments of dioxin in humans after Greenpeace activists today carried out an action at the Chemical Waste Treatment Centre (CWTC) in Hong Kong.

Activists from Hong Kong, the Philippines, Holland, Tunisia, and the United States today occupied one of the tanks at CWTC to protest against a government plan to burn medical waste at the facility. They hung a huge banner from the top of the tank reading "Stop Dioxin" in English and Chinese.

Incinerators for medical and municipal waste have been linked to severe public health threats and pollution as they are believed to be the top sources of dioxin, as well as mercury and other toxic substances. The government has proposed to utilise the spare incineration capacity at CWTC to burn medical waste. Hong Kong produces around 7 tonnes of medical waste per day...

So what if Hong Kong produces 7 tons of dioxin-containing waste per day? Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Inc. produces about 49 tons of dioxin-containing ice cream per day.

* * * *

COMMENTARY of the day I: "Extremists Create Stress for Gain" - Linda Gorman comments in The Colorado Daily, "The leftists haunting the environmentalist ranks also traffic in anxiety. Two such groups sued the Tosco Corporation for polluting San Francisco Bay with wastewater discharges containing 20 times the permitted level of 0.14 trillionths of a gram of dioxin per liter. A single serving of Ben & Jerry's "World's Best Vanilla" ice cream contained 80 trillionths of a gram of dioxin. Like many such extremists, Ben & Jerry's advertises that the only safe level of exposure to dioxin is no exposure at all. Given that they eat their own ice cream, clearly they, and others like them, do not really believe their claims. They make them only to make others fearful enough to support their radical anti-consumer agenda."

COMMENTARY of the day II: "Let Us Spray! Malaria and DDT in Mozambique" - Tom DeGregori comments, "Malaria is the number one cause of death in Mozambique, the number two cause of death in Africa (having just been overtaken by HIV last year) and the number one killer of children in Africa... But now those who have benefited from malaria's eradication by DDT are in the forefront of those who would deny its benefits to others who need it most." (American Council on Science and Health editorial)

"UK food sector sets GM-free food standard" - "British food retailers and manufacturers on Monday published a joint standard for sourcing non-genetically modified food." (Reuters)

"EPA to phase out risky gas additive" - "The Clinton administration has decided to phase out MTBE as a gasoline additive on the grounds that it poses a risk to the environment, government sources said Monday." (AP)

"MTBE threatens thousands of public drinking wells" - "As many as 9,000 community water wells in 31 states may be affected by contamination from the gasoline additive methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) due to their proximity to leaking underground storage tanks, according to a new study. First added to gasoline to enhance octane and later in much larger amounts to reduce air pollution, MTBE has turned up in groundwater throughout the nation. Its foul smell and taste are apparent at very low concentrations (parts per billion)." (American Chemical Society media release)

"Preliminary opinion - Oral exposure of humans to the BSE agent: Infective dose and species barrier" - A draft for public comment from the European Commission.

"£7m global warming campaign 'ineffective'" - "A £7m Government publicity drive to get the public to 'do its bit' to reduce greenhouse gases and prevent global warming was attacked as ineffective yesterday by a Commons select committee of MPs." (The Independent)

March 20, 2000

COMMENTARY of the day: "Bransonís hot air on zero-risk" - Steve Milloy comments in The New Australian: "I flew to the UK last fall on Richard Bransonís Virgin Atlantic Airways. I didnít expect to be handed a parachute or a lead-lined blanket when I boarded the airplane. But now Iím wondering why I wasn't -- thanks to Bransonís peculiar logic concerning risk-taking."

"Gun Locks: Bound to Misfire" - John Lott comments in The New York Post: "Accidental gun deaths among children are fortunately much rarer than most people believe. Consider New York, with more than 2.6 million children under the age of 10. From 1993 to 1997, the Centers for Disease Control report that there were only six accidental gun deaths in that age range an annual rate of 1.2 deaths. Yet, with over 3.3 million adult New Yorkers owning at least one gun in 1996, the overwhelming majority of gun owners must be extremely careful or such gun accidents would be much more frequent."

"Countries Talk About Banning DDT" - "Giving financial and technical assistance to countries so they can be weaned from substances like DDT will take center stage starting Monday, as negotiators from more than 100 countries resume talks in Bonn on a global treaty to ban DDT and other of the world's deadliest environmental poisons." (AP) UNEP POPs

"Food industry rises to the demand for non-GM food " - "The food industry is to advise supermarkets and processing companies how to secure supplies of conventionally grown crops in response to the consumer demand for products without genetically modified ingredients." (The Guardian)

"In a turnabout, Germany now welcomes biotech businesses" - "But as the best and brightest of German scientists fled to the more supportive environment of U.S. labs and contributed to breakthroughs in treating debilitating and fatal diseases, Germans came to the conclusion that gene technology offered great promise in improving the quality and longevity of life." (Los Angeles Times Syndicate)

"California farmers plow opposite sides of biotech debate" - "Meet Mark Ryan and Chuck Atwood, two San Joaquin Valley farmers on opposite strands of the biotech revolution. Ryan's family grows genetically engineered cotton on 2,000 acres in Fresno County, while Atwood grows lemons, olives and oranges on 52 organically tended acres in Tulare County." (AP)

"Experts urge study of chemicals and children's health" - "A group of approximately 200 experts -- including environmentalists, chemical industry representatives, academics and government scientists -- has agreed that US government health agencies should launch a nationwide study to follow at least 100,000 children from before birth until they are 18 to 21 years old." (Reuters)

March 19, 2000

"Ralph Nader's dirty little secret" - "As far back as the early '70s, Nader was earning $250,000 annually. Now he makes up to 100 speeches a year -- for five-figure sums. And his supposedly ragtag volunteer outfit is an empire of 29 organizations with combined annual revenues of more than $80 million." (New York Post editorial)

March 18, 2000

"The Greening of the Army" - "Lest anyone suggest that Bill Clinton has been lax as commander-in-chief, we now take note of his military leadership: All those nasty lead bullets that so pollute the environment are being replaced by more Earth-friendly fire." (Detroit News editorial)

"Govts encouraged to sue tobacco companies " - "Health authorities have welcomed a push for state and territory governments to consider suing tobacco companies." (Australian Broadcasting Co.) Philip Morris to fight litigation | Victoria urges other states to sue tobacco companies

"Govt should legislate on greenhouse gases: Brown" - "A new report highlights the emissions' impact on both the environment and the economy." (Australian Broadcasting Co.)

"Climatic Changes Wreak Havoc On Economy" - "Lusaka - Government has said the floods and drought Zambia has experienced in recent years have brought heavy economic losses to the national economy. And studies have projected that abnormal climate and weather patterns were likely to have a negative impact on agriculture and other sectors of the economy." (The Times of Zambia)

"Environment agency says traffic fouling air" - "Allowing heavy traffic, including large goods vehicles, to plough through congested streets is taking a heavy toll on city air quality, according to an Environmental Protection Agency report." (Irish Times)

"U.S. sperm counts steady, study says" - "Average sperm counts from American men have not declined over the past 50 years, according to a new study disputing the theory that tight underwear, pollution and sedentary jobs are threatening virility." (AP)

"GM trial sites unveiled" - "The UK Government has revealed 30 trial sites for the planting of genetically-modified (GM) crops." (BBC) | Reuters

"GM trials: The long hot summer" - "So the UK's farm-scale trials of genetically-modified (GM) crops are going ahead. It looks like it is going to be an interesting summer down on the experimental farms." (BBC)

"Protests may halt some UK GM crop trials -minister" - "Britain's Environment Minister Michael Meacher said on Friday that some of a fresh round of genetically modified (GM) crop trials could be suspended if there was opposition from local people." (Reuters)

"Redesigning Nature" - "Genetically modified seeds have been biologically altered to release their own insecticide or to immunize themselves against weed killers and other chemicals or against pests. Despite the rancorous debate overseas and a smattering of protests in the United States over the safety of gene-altered foods, Mr. Howe and many other American farmers now expect to plant the crops again this year because they are easier and cheaper to grow, and because there is still a big market for them in the United States." (New York Times)

"The Week That Was March 18, 2000" - The weekly update from the Science and Environmental Policy Project.

"Pig transplants 'could cause a major public health problem'" - "A Sydney trial to transplant pig tissue into humans should not go ahead because of a risk that pig viruses could be spread to the general community, says a leading infectious disease expert." (Sydney Morning Herald)

March 17, 2000

MONUMENT TO JUNK SCIENCE: "Remember 'Bloodless Wounds' at Wall, Lawmakers Told" - "A proposal to add a commemorative plaque at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to honor veterans who died after the war of 'bloodless wounds,' such as the effects of Agent Orange exposure, drew supporters and opponents yesterday at a hearing of the House Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands," reports The Washington Post.

If we build a monument to "victims" of Agent Orange, we should also build a monument to "victims" of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. At least with Ben & Jerry's, we know those "victims" were exposed to dioxin -- at as much as 200 times the level the EPA says is "safe." In contrast, studies have failed to find elevated dioxin levels among ground troops in Agent Orange spray areas. Studies have also failed to report adverse health effects among Air Force personnel who sprayed the herbicide.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial should be reserved for the honorable men who died from Vietnam War-related wounds -- not those who groundlessly blame a villified chemical for whatever ails them.

"Worries Rise Over Effect of Antibiotics in Animal Feed" - "A 66-year-old woman was recovering from a heart bypass in a hospital near Detroit when she suddenly developed respiratory failure and a serious infection. Doctors quickly gave her an antibiotic that usually works. This time, however, it didn't. The bacteria causing the woman's infection were resistant to the drug. The woman's doctors immediately turned to a newly approved antibiotic, a powerful one designed specifically to attack the kind of dangerous antibiotic-resistant microbes that had infected her. But her physicians were dismayed to find that drug didn't work either--the bacteria in her body were resistant to it as well. The woman died soon after. Cases like this around the country have caused rising alarm among infectious disease doctors and public health experts. They are also at the center of an increasingly acrimonious dispute now before the Food and Drug Administration over how antibiotics are used in this country--specifically, how farmers use them to promote the growth of livestock," reports The Washington Post.

"Defenders of animal antibiotics say the scientific evidence linking Virginiamycin resistance in animals to Synercid resistance in humans remains inconclusive, and that animal antibiotics in general pose no immediate danger to people. Studies have found Synercid resistance in 1 percent to 4 percent of humans tested, they point out, and that is far below the rate of Virginiamycin resistance found in animals."

DISAPPOINTMENT of the day: "A Nation of Oil Addicts" - Normally rational columnist Charles Krauthammer writes in The Washington Post, "Oil spews huge amounts of particulates and toxic gases into the atmosphere, including carbon dioxide, a major cause of global warming."

"Study points to U.S. as generator of greenhouse gases" - "New research has found that the massive amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide generated by fossil fuel use in the United States are not completely 'offset' by the storage of carbon in growing forests and other vegetation of North America, as some earlier studies had suggested."

"Winters really are getting wetter" - "British winters are turning wetter, according to UK climate scientists - because we are getting more days of downpours which dump huge quantities of rain in a short time," reports the BBC.

"Climate worries surface in Florida" - "In what is being described as 'a groundbreaking move for local government', politicians in the Florida Keys have recognised that climate change is likely to threaten their reefs and beaches with severe damage," reports the BBC.

"Study Finds No Support for Global Warming Fears" - "Despite previous reports that global warming could unleash epidemics or other harms to health, a blue-ribbon scientific panel mandated by Congress found no conclusive evidence to justify such fears," reports The Los Angeles Times (Mar. 16).

"UK Government 'should sack GM adviser'" - "Environmental campaigners say the United Kingdom Government should fire a scientist doing research for it on the safety of genetically-modified (GM) crops," reports the BBC.

"CDC reports decline in food poisonings" - "Gastrointestinal illnesses caused by food contaminated with bacteria such as E. coli, campylobacter and shigella have declined 19 percent since 1997, federal health experts said Thursday... Dr. Patricia Griffin of the CDC's National Center for Infectious Diseases said the drop suggested that prevention programs were working," reports CNN. AP | MSNBC | Reuters Health

Note how eager the federal governmemt is to take credit though there is absolutely no evidence that its programs are effective. In any event, statistics on foodborne illness are pretty uncertain. "Statistics" isn't even the right term. "Guess-timates" is better.

"Smoking linked to physical injuries" - "Smokers were 1.5 times more likely than nonsmokers to suffer fractures, sprains, and other physical injuries during an eight-week basic training program, a study of Army recruits revealed."

"Lack of physical fitness causes higher sports injury rates among women" - "A new study may help explain why women are more prone to sports injuries than men, as previous research has suggested. Lack of physical fitness, rather than gender differences, may be the cause, according to a study of Army trainees."

"PETA pulls 'Got Beer?' campaign amid MADD protests" - "An animal-rights group pulled its "Got Beer?" ad campaign Thursday after anti-drunken driving activists had criticized the campaign as a misguided promotion of underage drinking," reports the AP. Foundation for Biomedical Research media release

"US teens exposed to toxins on the job " - " Exposure to toxic substances in the workplace are a significant but underreported source of poisoning of teenagers," reports Reuters.

"Germany set to lift British beef ban" - "A narrow majority of federal states in Germany's Bundesrat upper house looks set to back a government bill on Friday to lift a controversial ban on the import of British beef," reports Reuters.

"40m sheep to be tagged to monitor transmission of BSE from cattle" - "The government is to tag all Britain's 40m sheep as scientists demand morescreening to check that BSE has not leapt from cattle," reports The Guardian.

March 16, 2000

CONTROVERSY of the day: EU Commissioner decries Junkman's commentary - European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection David Byrne criticized Steve Milloy's commentary "European caution carries risks," (Financial Times, March 10). Byrne wrote in today's The Financial Times,

Sir, I am pleased that a free market thinker like Steven Milloy believes, as do I, that "protecting the public's health and safety is a legitimate use of the precautionary principle" ("European caution carries risks", Personal View, March 10). I also agree with him that protectionist and anti-technology motivations are not legitimate.

I have made it abundantly clear that I will base my decisions on sound science. That is what I did in introducing a ban on children's toys containing phthalates. If Mr Milloy had taken the trouble to check, he would have discovered that this decision did follow the advice of the European Union's scientific committee, and not the exact opposite as erroneously stated by him. This decision was also endorsed unanimously by the member states. I trade in facts, not cynicism.

One of the very purposes of the Commission's paper on the precautionary principle was to foster a greater understanding of our views on its application among our trading partners and in international umbrella organisations. Our more open approach in this regard has been welcomed, not least by the US administration. Our endeavours to promote more open markets will be ill-served if the world of free marketeers relies on science without sense.

David Byrne, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, Rue de la Loi 200, 1049 Brussels, Belgium

Sadly, Byrne continues to be disingenous. He was criticized by members of the EU Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment who felt he inaccurately suggested to the media the ban was based on the committee's scientific judgment about the health risks posed by phthalates. Committee Chairman James Bridges told the media there is no scientific basis for thinking phthalates in toys pose a serious threat to children's health. Bridges said committee members reached an understanding with Byrne not to oppose the decision to ban phthalates.

This is politics, not "sound science."

* * * *

STUDY of the day: "Study shows breast implants pose little risk" - "An analysis appearing in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine suggests silicone breast implants are safe, despite widespread perception that the controversial devices cause health problems," reports Reuters.Media release (study) | Media release (commentary) | Study | Commentary | Reuters Health

QUESTION of the day: "Monsanto Donates $1 Million of Conventional Maize Seed to the People Of Mozambique" - How much did Greenpeace donate?

COMMENTARY of the day I: "Death to Africans" - Ken Smith comments in The Washington Times, "Fear, not science, ultimately led to the ban on DDT then. How ironic that despite the best efforts of environmentalists, both may bring it back now."

COMMENTARY of the day II: "Biotech Food Fights May Be Over Soon as Facts Frustrate Fearmongers' Case" - Mike Fumento comments in Investor's Business Daily (Mar. 14) about the biotech foods controversy.

BOOK REVIEW of the day: "The Scrooge of science" - Salon.com reviews Robert Park's book, "Voodoo Science."

JUNK of the day: "Second hand smoke doubles breast cancer risk, study" - "Premenopausal women exposed to secondhand smoke are twice as likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, said a Canadian government study on Wednesday," reports Reuters. Health Canada media release | CNN

The jury is still out on whether smoking is associated with breast cancer. Since smokers are exposed to their own secondhand smoke...

"Mozambique vetoes malaria safety plan - magazine" - "Flood-ravaged Mozambique has turned down a plan to distribute blankets sprayed with insecticide to kill mosquitoes carrying malaria," reports Reuters.

"Radiation hits very young the hardest" - "Exposure to radiation, such as that released by the Chernobyl nuclear plant accident, taes a heavier toll on very young children, according to new study findings," reports Reuters.

"Left-handed women at higher breast cancer risk" - "Left-handed women appear to have a higher risk of breast cancer than right-handed women, report US researchers. They suggest that hormone exposure during fetal life may make a woman left-handed -- and more importantly, may also increase her breast cancer risk."

"Air Force Agent Orange study draws flak" - "The U.S. Air Force has been too slow and too secretive in studying whether the herbicide Agent Orange sickened Vietnam veterans, failing to get them timely compensation, critics told a congressional committee Wednesday," reports CNN.

"Public Health Improvements Key to Adapting to Climate Change Risks; Assessment of Potential Health Impacts of Climate Change Released" - "Continued improvements in public health and the vigilant monitoring both of climate conditions and of the nation's health status are key to protecting the health of Americans, according to the executive summary of the Report of the Health Sector, conducted as part of the U.S. National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change."

"Foundation for Biomedical Research Launches the Internet's Most Comprehensive Animal Rights and Research Resource " - "Some web sites are overhauled; others get a simple facelift. The Foundation for Biomedical Research has spent the past six months building the most comprehensive site on the Internet dedicated to animal rights and research issues, http://www.fbresearch.org."

"Threat of mass rally against GM testing" - "A network of 35 farmer groups and non-governmental organisations has threatened to stage a mass rally unless concerned agencies respond positively to their call for a halt to the testing of genetically modified plants," reports The Bangkok Post.

"Norwegian consumers turn down genetically modified foods" - "Three out of four Norwegians are totally opposed to eating foods that have been genetically modified, according to the survey," reports The Norway Post.

"Food code settled with Australia" - "The Government yesterday released a draft food standards code for New Zealand and Australia. If it becomes law this year as expected, it will be the first piece of joint legislation under the Australia-New Zealand closer economic relations trade agreement (CER)," reports The New Zealand Herald.

"'Slow' GM food action slammed" - "Monitoring of genetically modified (GM) food is to be tightened as the public and green groups step up pressure on the government to make food labelling mandatory," reports The Hong Kong Standard.

"Protests on GM labelling delays" - "Consumer groups yesterday accused the Federal Government of bowing to international chemical companies in delaying a decision to label foods containing genetically modified organisms," reports The Age.

March 15, 2000

JUNKSCIENCE.COMMENTARY I: "Link between suicide and exposure to magnetic fields" - "Prolonged exposure to low frequency electromagnetic fields may increase the risk of suicide, suggests research in Occupational and Environmental Medicine."

The statistical associations reported in this study are weak. Most are statistically insignificant. All the comparisons involve small groups. Statistical comparisons were only adjusted for work status, social class, location in the US (east or west), exposure to solvents, and exposure to sunlight. I'm no psychiatrist, but I know there are many more risk factors for suicide than were considered by these researchers.

For example, another study announced today reports, "Divorced and separated men are twice as likely to commit suicide as married or partnered men..." But the EMF study did not consider marital status as a confounding risk factor.

Researcher David Savitz has been trying for years (unsuccessfully) to link electromagnetic fields with some sort of adverse health effect, usually cancer. Savitz's early work even examined the potential for electric clocks to cause cancer. After more than two decades of failure to credibly link EMFs with adverse health effects, I say time should be called on this scare.

* * * *

JUNKSCIENCE.COMMENTARY II: "Big rig exhausts cause 125,000 cancers over a lifetime, study says" - "Toxic chemicals in truck and bus diesel exhausts are responsible for at least 125,000 cancers over a lifetime, according to a study by a coalition of state and local air pollution control agencies," reports the AP.

The diesel exhaust controversy is a good example of how high-dose animal experiments probably aren't relevant to humans.

High levels of diesel exhaust have produced tumors in rats. But the process does not appear to involve adsorption of carcinogens or mutagens. Rather the mechanism is thought to involve particle overload at high concentrations. This mechanism might not be relevant to humans who are exposed to much lower concentrations.

Epidemiologic studies of workers exposed to diesel exhaust report weak statistical associations. But since none of the studies contains reliable data on exposure, they're not very useful. The data even show that, for train workers, the statistical associations become weaker with increasing exposure, as measured by duration of employment.

This is why the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have classified the human evidence of carcinogenicty as "limited."

There are striking similarities between the diesel exhaust and secondhand smoke risk assessments -- weak statistical associations that tend to be nonsignificant, poor exposure data, poor analysis of confounding factors. Another similarity is that these characteristics haven't stopped the junk science crowd from developing body counts.

For secondhand smoke, the body count was 3,000 lung cancer deaths per year. For diesel exhaust, the body count is 125,000 cancers over a lifetime (70 years). The aim of these body counts is to attract media attention. But they are scientifically and statistically invalid, Diesel has not been shown scientifically to be a human carcinogen. Epidemiologic studies can only demonstrate statistical associations between exposure and disease. The magnitude of an epidemiologic association is an indicator of confidence in the association. It is not a measurement of risk.

For more on diesel exhaust, check out the Health Effects Institute report (PDF format).

* * * *

"General Motors breaks with global warming skeptics" - "Environmentalists are claiming victory following General Motors' decision to quit a lobbying group that has opposed a 1997 global warming treaty reached in Kyoto, Japan. Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler Corp. withdrew earlier. GM notified the Washington-based Global Climate Coalition on Monday that it was ending its membership, GM spokesman Bill Noack said Tuesday," reports the AP.

"Amoco settles most brain cancer lawsuits" - "BF Amoco Corp., which last year acknowledged six employees probably got deadly brain cancer from working at a research center, has settled all but one of the lawsuits brought on the employees' behalf. And the oil giant said Tuesday it is confident that the sixth lawsuit will also be settled," reports the AP. Chicago Tribune

"Getting a handle on Pfiesteria" - The Baltimore Sun editorializes, "Farmers continue to chafe at the imposition of mandatory nutrient management plans, but it is the only way to assure effective and equitable implementation of this vital plan to clean up the bay."

This editorial advocates ready-fire-aim regulation. Maryland fish kills are a phenomenon of the last two summers -- periods of unusual drought. But Maryland farmers have contributed agricultural run-off to regional waterways for 300 years. While some sort of management plan for agricultural run-off may make sense, there's no need to be stampeded into plans developed without knowledge of the facts.

"Bishop supports GM crops" - "The new Bishop of Ely, the Right Rev Anthony Russell, spoke out in support of genetically modified crop trials yesterday, arguing that opposition to them was unscientific and based on nothing more than 'media excitement'," reports The Times.

"Baby Steps" - "The first global pact regulating trade in genetically modified foods is more dramatic in principle than in practice," reports Corporate Counsel.

"GM crops will not worsen problems of poverty" - "Genetically modified crops will not exacerbate problems of poverty and malnutrition in poor countries. On the contrary, developing countries "have only to gain" from GM crops, according to the director of a UNbacked institute," reports The Irish Times.

"MMDA to sue Greenpeace on toxic waste" - "The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) may sue Greenpeace International, a pro-environment group, for dumping a container van full of toxic waste they had earlier retrieved from the former Clark air base, in front of the US Embassy in Manila," reports The Philipine Star.

"Hospital warns staff: avoid mobile phones" - "In a landmark health policy directive, Royal North Shore Hospital has advised its staff to avoid using mobile phones to minimise any potential risk from microwaves," reports The Sydney Morning Herald.

"Household chemicals health warning" - "Chemicals in household products can expose vulnerable people to symptoms including allergies and fatigue, doctors have warned," reports the BBC.

"Congress debates efforts to streamline asbestos lawsuits" - "On one side are business groups and Republicans; on the other, trial lawyers and Democrats. And the first battleground is the House Judiciary Committee, where Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., is pushing a bill this week to channel all asbestos claims through a new Justice Department office that would establish medical eligibility and encourage quick settlements," reports the AP.

March 14, 2000

"PETA's strange brew" - The Boston Herald asks, "Could People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) get any wackier?"

"Polluters 'should pay climate victims'" - "The World Wide Fund for Nature says Western industrialised countries should compensate developing nations struck by climate-related disasters," reports the BBC.

"Tobacco company class action thrown out" - "The [Australian] Federal Court has thrown out a class action launched against three tobacco companies," reports the ABC.

"Low sperm quality yields more girls" - "Australian researchers have found fewer boys are being born because of a drop in the quality of sperm," reports the ABC.

"New Genes and Seeds: Protesters in Europe Grow More Passionate" - "In Europe, the debate over genetically modified food is as much about passion as it is about science. British newspapers routinely call ingredients from genetically altered plants 'Frankenfood,' and pollsters say just 1 percent of Britons think that genetically modifying plants has any value at all. Environmental advocates in Europe have destroyed fields of test plants. By contrast, in the United States such ingredients are in nearly two-thirds of the products on supermarket shelves, and few Americans seem to have noticed," reports The New York Times.

"Hostility to GM food may cause new brain drain" - "Public hostility to genetically modified food and other areas of scientific endeavour may drive industrial investment overseas and cause a new brain drain, according to a report by a House of Lords committee," reports The Independent.

"Wales set to throw GM policy into chaos" - "The Government's policy on genetically modified crops is likely to be thrown into chaos this week when Wales is expected to move towards declaring itself a GM-free zone," reports The Independent.

"Scientists 'must talk to public'" - "Scientists need to open a dialogue with the public that is "direct, open and timely", according to a report from the Lords select committee on science and technology yesterday," reports The Guardian.

"When liberals lie about guns" - Cathy Young writes at Salon.com, "There is little doubt that the much-maligned gun lobby has engaged in some extreme rhetoric and has opposed sensible restrictions backed by most Americans (including gun owners), such as waiting periods and mandatory background checks for handgun purchases. But it is equally true that many members of the chattering classes feel such a visceral aversion toward guns that they are inclined to accept shaky anti-gun arguments and to disregard any evidence that, perish the thought, Charlton Heston may sometimes have a point."

"Business groups weigh in on new workplace ergonomics rules" - "Up against vehement opposition from business groups and a ticking election-year clock, the Clinton administration is pushing a proposal for broad new worker protections against repetitive motion injuries," reports the AP.

March 13, 2000

Today's JUNKSCIENCE.COMMENTARY: Celebrity Disease Du Jour: Couric, Colon Cancer and Colonoscopy - Amid last week's colon cancer "aware-athon", Katie Couric testified in Congress, "I also have a dream that sometime in the near future everyone could have their colonoscopies, considered the gold standard for screening, covered by insurance."

Couric is correct that colonoscopy is the "gold standard" for colon cancer screening for an individual. But should insurance companies pick up the tab for routine screening by colonoscopy for the entire U.S. population?

According to the National Cancer Institute, "there is no information available on the use of colonoscopy as a screening tool" -- i.e., no one knows whether mass routine colonoscopy would reduce overall colon cancer mortality or if it would do so in a cost-effective manner.

Current statistics indicate about 1 in 17 Americans will be diagnosed with colon cancer over a lifetime and about 1 in 42 will not survive it. Mass screening would be very expensive -- $1,000 or more per test -- and may not produce commensurate benefits on a population basis.

Without evidence that mass colonoscopy will be beneficial, it is premature to require insurance companies and policy holders to incur such costs.

People should be made aware of the risk of colon cancer. For that Couric is to be commended. But the line should be drawn when it is the force of celebrity, not the force of facts, that is marshalled to drive public policy and health care practices.

* * * *

"Clinton Fires Back at NRA Attack" - "President Clinton and the National Rifle Association yesterday exchanged acrimonious charges over truth and consequences in gun control. The first rounds were actually fired last week when the NRA aired tough television advertisements in which its president, Charlton Heston, all but called Clinton a liar for blaming the gun lobby for blocking gun control legislation in Congress. The 30-second spots also targeted what the gun organization characterized as the administration's unimpressive record of prosecuting violations of existing firearms laws. 'Mr. Clinton, when what you say is wrong, it's a mistake. When you know it's wrong, that's a lie,' Heston says at the end of each spot, " reports The Washington Post.

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

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 630 kids 14 years of age and under were killed by firearms. This is fewer than 2 per day. While this is still too many, it is a more accurate and appropriate perspective for this debate.

Don't miss William Raspberry's "Glad He Had A Gun" column in today's The Washington Post.

COMMENTARY of the day I: "Clean-air fallout: Shoddy rule-making keeps lawsuits alive" - The Columbus Dispatch editorializes, "The main reason for high levels of smog in cities of the East and Northeast, however, isn't that pollutants are floating in from points far to the west and south. Instead, studies show automobiles and other sources of pollution within and near those cities are the cause of all but a tiny percentage of the smog there... Congress should take a closer look at the Clean Air Act and rein in an agency that is supposed to be enforcing the laws written by the people's representatives in Washington and not making up rules so out of line that they mainly serve to keep lawyers fully employed."

COMMENTARY of the day II: "Dirty secrets on auto emissions testsí failings" - USA Today comments, "These and other costly headaches might be worth it if the nation's ubiquitous auto emissions testing programs lived up to the Environmental Protection Agency's promise of big pollution cuts. But mounting evidence shows they don't even come close. And neither the EPA, which has pushed the tests as the best way to clean the air, nor the states, which get federal pollution credits for setting them up, is willing to admit it."

TODAY'S GORE-ING: "Gore campaign stumbles over threat to tribe" - "Al Gore's links to a controversial oil firm and a South American tribe's threat of mass suicide have put the Vice-President's campaign for the presidency on the defensive," reports The Times.

"Indian farmers give wary nod to GM trials" - "In the first attempt to give a hearing to the farmers of the developing world who are claimed to be the ultimate beneficiaries of GM technology, a "citizens' jury" of Indian farmers, including a man with 60 acres and a landless and illiterate peasant woman, decided on Friday by a majority of nine to four that it would "consider" the option of planting GM crops," reports The Independent.

"GM group hits out over chemicals" - "Environmental campaigners fighting genetically-modified crops are being accused of making Britain dependent on chemicals and pesticides," reports the BBC.

"Malaria epidemic expected in Mozambique " - "Health experts fear epidemics of several infectious deseases in Mozambique as the flood waters recede and mosquitoes begin breeding... Before the floods, South Africa had seen an explosion in malaria. The Department of Health in KwaZulu-Natal and the national health department had begun using dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) for the first time since 1995 to control mosquitoes. Dr Cameron said that the number of cases of malaria in South Africa had increased from 12000 in 1995 to 50000 in 1999. The increase could be attributed partly to climatic changes and resistance to certain drugs. Reporting methods have also become more accurate, so the number of cases might previously have been underreported, but there has been a real increase in the incidence of the disease, Dr Cameron said. Some 380 people died last year. It is possible that DDT will be used again in Mozambique. Its use there was stopped several decades ago, because 80%of the country's health budget came from donor funds, and donors refused to allow the use of DDT...," reports The British Medical Journal (Mar. 11)

"Inventor cleans up on safer dry-cleaning process" - "For 50 years, the dry-cleaning industry has mostly relied on perchloroethylene or perc, a groundwater contaminant and probable human carcinogen," reports the AP.

"Animal-Rights Group's Ad Draws Fire" - "Anti-drunken driving activists aren't amused by a new ad campaign urging college students to replace their milk mustaches with beer foam. Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals this week plans to unveil its "Got Beer?" campaign on college campuses nationwide, in time for all those green-beer St. Patrick's Day celebrations. PETA argues that drinking beer is healthier than milk and that the dairy industry is cruel to cows and calves." reports the AP.

March 12, 2000

COMMENTARY of the day I: "Make the EPA accountable" - The Deseret News editorializes, "The Sharon Steel cleanup project shows, if nothing else, that the Environmental Protection Agency isn't serious enough about its responsibility to taxpayers. Not only did the project cost 15 percent more than was budgeted, no one seems to be able to document how much of the money went toward cleanup and how much went toward administrative costs -- a polite way of saying some money may have been appropriated by profiteers."

COMMENTARY of the day II: "Pumping the Green Agenda" - The Detroit News editorializes, "BP Amoco is lowering the sulfur content of its premium grade gasoline by some 70 percent, from an average of 100 parts per million to 30 parts per million... If company sales projections hold true, use of the low-sulfur fuel could eliminate area NOx emissions by 89 tons per year. That sounds like a lot. But total NOx emissions in Metro Detroit average 444,205 tons per year. So the actual environmental impact -- a reduction of 0.02 percent -- is, frankly, insignificant, and particularly unimpressive when factoring for cost...$100 million"

"Toronto votes to boycott power from U.S. firms in pollution case" - "The City of Toronto has voted to boycott electricity from U.S. utilities alleged to be violating their country's air-pollution laws," reports The Globe and Mail.

"Multimedia green warriors go after Regis" - The San Francisco Examiner reports the Greens' unhappiness with Regus Philbin.

"Full quota of GM crop test sites are found" - "Farm-scale trials of genetically modified crops look likely to go ahead after enough sites were found to carry out the experiments," reports The Independent. The Times

"Town wins battle over toxic waste incinerator" - "A controversial plan for the country's first toxic waste incinerator at Kilcock, Co Kildare was shot down yesterday by An Bord Pleanala," reports The Irish Independent.

"Greenpeace accuses Greece over GM foods" - "The environmental group, Greenpeace, has accused Greece of violating European Union legislation by allowing imports of genetically modified cotton seed," reports the BBC.

"Engineering the harvest: Biotech could help fight hunger in the world's poorest nations≠but will it?" - "Saffron-colored rice that saves millions of lives by banishing anemia and vitamin A deficiency from Asia. Sweet potatoes that resist a harvest-destroying virus in Africa. Maize that survives the devastating droughts and floods that routinely hit rural regions throughout the tropics. Such miracle crops may not be growing in farmers' fields, but genetic engineers around the world are working feverishly to develop them in the laboratory. And the crops' poten- tial to alleviate human suffering has some scientists from poor nations asking whether today's heated debate over the safety of "Frankenfood" ignores the more serious hazard of not developing these seeds. Says Calestous Juma, a Kenyan who is special adviser to Harvard University's Center for International Development: 'For the world's developing countries, one of the greatest risks of genetic engineering is not being able to use this technology at all,' " reports US News & World Report.

March 11, 2000

"Top Legal Experts Oppose Rule Change on Old Lead Paint Claims" - "A panel of lawyers whose former titles include US Attorney General, US Solicitor General and Attorney General of Virginia yesterday afternoon urged a Maryland House Committee to reject a bill that would remove the burden of proof of causation from lawyers suing lead pigment makers and paint manufacturers for the health hazards of poorly maintained lead paint in old housing. American companies effectively stopped making interior lead paint in 1955."

"Jury decides secondhand smoke not primary cause of woman's illnesses" - "Exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke wasnít a primary cause of Rebecca Leonardís health problems, a Rolette County District Court jury decided this week. This was the first case settled in North Dakota over secondhand smoke, " reports the The Forum.

"BP Amoco Reacts to Greenpeace Arctic Protest Camp; Three Arrested " - "The confrontation between Greenpeace and multinational oil giant BP Amoco escalated today near the site of the company's controversial Northstar offshore oil site on the frozen Arctic Ocean. Three Greenpeace activists holding a banner reading "Global Warming Starts Here" were arrested by Alaska State troopers and according to police, will be charged with criminal trespass."

"Why you can't tell GM foods by the label" - The Financial Post comments, "Although European food retailers, especially those in the U.K., proclaim their foods 'GM-free,' they really mean their foods are free of detectable GM ingredients. It is virtually impossible to measure genetically modified DNA or protein molecules in most foods made from present GM crops. For example, there is no detectable GM DNA or protein in starches, sugars or vegetable oils extracted from GM corn, soybeans and canola, or in animal products produced with GM feeds."

"The politics of fear" - The St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorializes, "In the 1950s, opponents of fluoridation of public water supplies saw good dental health as part of a communist plot to eliminate cavities and capitalism in one fell swoop. Half a century later, the world has changed. Communism has all but disappeared, but ignorance and fear persist among the anti-fluoridation crowd."

"Turnaround on Clean Air" - The new York Times editorializes, "After nearly a year of steady bad news, including adverse court rulings and the usual indifference in Congress, clean air advocates have now won two important legal victories in quick succession. The rulings are a tribute to the persistence of Carol Browner, who has made cleaner air the signature issue in her seven-year tenure as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency."

No matter how wishful The New York Times and how persistent EPA Administrator Browner are, there is no evidence that emissions from Midwest power plants contribute to air quality problems in the Northeast.

"'La Nina' sets warming record, raises drought and fire concerns" - "The warm, dry weather associated with the 'La Nina' weather phenomenon brought the warmest winter in U.S. history, and could bring a rough fire season to the Southeast United States, according to two separate U.S. government reports released Friday," reports CNN. New York Times

"Researcher 'faked breast cancer results'" - "A scientist who claimed to have evidence of a treatment for high-risk breast cancer patients faked the results," reports the BBC. AP coverage

"Zimbabwe Joins Genetically Modified Foods Fray" - "Next week Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating World Consumer Rights Day, whose theme this year is 'Our Food: Whose Choice? Consumers Take Action on Genetically Modified Foods'," reports Africa News.

"Environmental group identifies loophole in Kyoto protocol" - "The Climate Action Network says the Kyoto protocol may enable Australia to increase greenhouse gas emissions by well above the level agreed to," reports the ABC.

March 10, 2000

COMMENTARY of the day: "European caution carries risks" - My op-ed on the precautionary principle in today's Financial Times.

"Better safe than sorry sounds like an unassailable policy for protecting public health. But the European Union's so-called 'precautionary principle', used to ban or restrict the use of potentially dangerous substances, looks more like a pretext for blocking new technologies and restricting trade."

"CDC says winter flu season was not out of the ordinary" - "As bad as the outbreak looked a couple of months ago, this winter's flu season was no more ferocious than any of the past five years, said the government Thursday," reports the AP. Reuters

But in early January, the media came down with a bad case of influenza exaggeritis:
  • " I think this is the worst flu season that I've seen in my career." Dr. Stephan Lynn on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, January 11, 2000
  • "Well, if you haven't got it, you probably know somebody who does: the flu. This is one of the worst flu seasons in years. Hospital emergency rooms nationwide are overflowing, and officials say things will get worse before they get better." The Early Show, CBS News, January 10, 2000
  • "Health officials are closely watching an outbreak of the real Y2K bug--the flu... One doctor says this could be one of the worst flu seasons we've seen in years." Today, NBC News, January 7, 2000
  • "We are suffering through one of the worst flu seasons in years." Cavuto Business Report, Fox News January 7, 2000
  • "'This is probably the worst flu season in the last 10 years,' said Dr. Richard Zane, director of emergency care at Brigham and Women's Hospital." The Boston Globe January 6, 2000
  • "Well, the flu has hit the nation hard. Doctors say it's widespread in 19 states, possibly the worst flu season and ye--in years." Business Center, CNBC, January 6, 2000
  • "Some doctors say this is the worst flu season in years, despite flu shots and despite some new flu drugs." Good Morning America, ABC News, January 5, 2000

CARTOON of the day: The Nanny State - By Henry Payne, in today's Detroit News.

"Organic? Think Again" - A terrific letter in The Washington Post about the USDA's proposal for defining organic food.

"Watching the EPA" - Bill Kovacs comments in Scripps Howard, "Congress has passed numerous laws that protect against the release of business confidential information and specific laws that require EPA to tell citizens why they are being regulated. The irony of the situation is that EPA actively protects against the release of public data and information that supports their costly regulations, but callously refuses to protect the confidential information it possesses on American business, even when such information could be used for a terrorist attack on a company or harm a company's competitive position."

"NFPA calls Kucinich bill 'a back door effort to undermine biotechnology'" - "The Genetically Engineered Food Safety Act" introduced today by Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), which would require products of food biotechnology to go through the Food and Drug Administration's food additive review process, is "nothing more than a back door effort to undermine the use of biotechnology in this country," according to the National Food Processors Association (NFPA).

"Air pollution can prevent rainfall, reported in the 10 March 2000 issue of Science" - "Urban and industrial air pollution can stifle rain and snowfall, a new study shows, because the pollution particles prevent cloud water from condensing into raindrops and snowflakes. These findings are reported in the 10 March issue of Science." Reuters | BBC

"Aerosol pollutants in atmosphere likely masking global warming " - "New observations with space-borne instruments by Daniel Rosenfeld of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem showing aerosols over land can modify clouds, suppress precipitation and reflect light is a "huge leap forward" in understanding the interplay between pollutants, clouds and greenhouse warming, said University of Colorado Professor Owen B. Toon." Space Daily

"USDA Rule Puts Kids at Risk for Nutritional Deficiency, Says NCBA; Ketchup Isn't a Vegetable and Soy Isn't Beef " - "The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today released an irresponsible rule that puts the most at-risk children in further nutritional danger, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) said today. 'This rule is as misguided as calling ketchup a vegetable,' said Mary K. Young, MS, RD, NCBA executive director of Nutrition. 'Soy is no nutritional substitute for beef.' The rule determines the kinds of food served in school and other government-based nutrition programs. It allows school lunch and other feeding programs to serve 100 percent 'vegetable protein' products in place of meat, fish and poultry. This rule moves away from the goal of a well-balanced diet, Young said."

"OSHA pushing for new regulations aimed at preventing repetitive motion injuries" - CNN reports on OSHA's ergonomics proposal.

Here are some memorable thoughts on the OSHA proposal:

"EPA Issues New Pollution Standards" - " The Environmental Protection Agency issued new pollution control standards Thursday for hand-held garden tools such as chain saws and trimmers, saying the rules eventually will keep 350,000 tons of chemicals out of the air." reports the AP.

In a related comentary, Mike Fumento writes, "Wrapping itself in the mantle of environmentalism, Deere & Co. is making a power play in the garden tools market."

"The Nazi War on Cancer" - The British Medical Journal reviews Robert N. Proctor's book, "The Nazi War on Cancer."

"The medical fraternity of the notorious Third Reich emerge here in unconventional guise, not only as the champions of wholegrain bread, soya beans (popularly denominated "Nazi beans"), and extensive medico-botanical gardens at Dachau and Auschwitz, but also as the guys who launched a powerful antismoking campaign, waged war on cancer (in pursuit of its "final solution"), identified many workplace causes of cancer, and imposed bans on asbestos and carcinogenic pesticides. Nazi researchers were the first to prove conclusively that smoking was the major cause of lung cancer."

"Toxins and genetically modified food " - Anthony Trewavas' writes The Lancet (Mar. 11)

Sir--John Godfrey (Jan 29, p 414) argues that despite there being firm evidence that genetically modified (GM) crops do not damage human health, crops containing the Bacillus thurigiensis (Bt) toxin might. However, Bt crops are subject to the same battery of safety tests as all other GM crops. Of thousands of initial transformants, suitable plants are selected on morphological and growth criteria, as in conventional plant breeding. These plants are then subject to field tests for several years so that their behaviour under different environmental conditions can be analysed, and to establish that it is identical to the untransformed parent in all respects. These plants are then subjected to thousands of compositional analyses under different growth conditions of all the major nutrients, anti-nutrients, toxic and benign alkaloids, and phyto-oestrogens to establish precise similarities to the parent. The new trait, in this case the Bt toxin, is then examined separately for possible allergic properties by tests in six different mammalian species and attempts are made to establish pharmacological properties by estimating a toxicity concentration from which safe consumption data can be estimated. To date, no toxicity concentration has been achieved, no doubt because like most proteins, Bt toxin is simply digested in the gut. It should be added that the only known toxic proteins are those from cholera, diphtheria, and tetanus--ie, all disease related, whose effects are acute and immediate. These rules have been established by the FDA (www.fda.gov/fdac/features/2000/100 bio ). It is in the interest of all companies involved in GM crop development to ensure as detailed a list of safety tests as is feasible.

Godfrey is incorrect in stating that Bt sprays are benign, they cause fatal lung infections in mice2 and probably the nearest relative of B thurigiensis is B anthracis (anthrax) with whom it shares genes. Whilst fragments of DNA (not genes) may be found in leucocytes and other cells after digestion, it is difficult to see why the inclusion of Bt DNA should cause concern, given the million or so qualitatively different genes that we ingest each day. Furthermore, we also ingest hundreds of thousands of new genes from the thousand new crop cultivars introduced by plant breeders into UK farming each year.3 Many of these conventional crosses involve different plant species and or wild type plants that we do not normally consume and thus the genes are new to us. The question of resuscitation of supposedly silent genes is equally true for conventional plant breeding, since the plant genome is fluid in character with up to 50% transposable elements able to rearrange and recombine genes with the thousands of strong promoters known to exist in the plant genome.4 As in conventional crop breeding, selection and testing of transformants enables aberrants to be discarded.

"List of organisations having received Community funding for environmental purposes" - Check some of the groups the European Commission supports.

March 9, 2000

"Smoking raises risk of pneumococcal disease, study says" - "The research found that people exposed to second-hand smoke for as little as an hour a day are two-and-a-half times more likely than people not exposed to develop one of the illnesses, known collectively as invasive pneumococcal disease," reports CNN. Study | Editorial | MSNBC | Reuters Health | Reuters News

This is a pretty small study -- only 31 secondhand smokers. The results for secondhand smokers are statistically insignificant when the analysis is restricted to better quality data.(Table 3 in the study).

"Carpets, curtains and carcinogens" - "The creature comforts that keep you cosy could be a magnet for benzene pollution from car exhausts. Benzene levels are higher in houses than outdoors, especially in colder northern countries where carpets, wooden floors and linoleum are common, say researchers in Europe," reports New Scientist.

"Genetic engineering does not yield pesticide reduction" - From the World Wildlife Fund: "Genetically-engineered (GE) crops cannot be depended on to reduce pesticide use, according to a report released today by World Wildlife Fund Canada titled Do Genetically Engineered Crops Reduce Pesticide Use? The Evidence Says Not Likely. Working to reduce reliance on pesticides in Canada, WWF is concerned that false hopes about biotechnologyís ability to reduce pesticide use will impede progress towards sustainable agriculture."

"Put fluoridation issue to a vote" - The Deseret News editorializes, "Unfortunately, the first casualty in the debate over fluoride has been the truth. Fluoride is neither a panacea nor a hideous poison. Repeated studies have consistently proven the benefits of regulated water fluoridation in preventing dental decay. As a result, most water systems nationwide are fluoridated."

"Cleaner SUV's!!" - The World Wildlife Fund says SUVs are harming polar bears.

"Is cervical cancer really a big threat to women? Or just a big scare?" - "The Institute of Directors has launched a savage attack on cervical screening in a new report which attempts to define what the core services of a reformed, streamlined NHS ought to be, and concludes that mass smear testing is economically unsound and a misallocation of hard-pressed resources. The report's author, Ruth Lea, the IoD's head of policy and a former government statistician, says that the Government's own statistics show cervical screening costs £120m a year and saves 800 lives. And that, she concludes, is terrible value for money. Lea suggests cervical cancer is so rare that it would be better to redirect the schemes' funds to treatment for cervical cancer once it had developed," reports The Independent.

"The 'innocent' polluters" - "Colonies of seabirds are adding to environmental pollution - simply by doing what comes naturally. The birds are releasing large amounts of ammonia into the atmosphere through their droppings. Researchers say some species, such as gannets and guillemots, are guiltier than others," reports the BBC.

Will Greenpeace picket the polluters at this site??

"Food firms 'turn back on GM produce'" - "Food firms are turning their backs on genetically modified ingredients and derivatives, according to a survey by a leading environmental group," reports the BBC.

"Genes with Your Salsa? " - "Since genetically modified (GM) foods came on the market in 1992, the Food and Drug Administration has deemed most of these products no different in safety or quality than conventional food and, therefore, requiring no distinction in labeling. But the public now seems to want to know if they are eating genetically engineered foods.Two bills are before Congress, one in the House of Representatives introduced in November by Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and another introduced Feb. 22 in the Senate by Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., are calling for the labeling of genetically engineered foods," reports ABCNews.com.

Labeling of GM foods is a bogus issue. The FDA already requires labeling if a GM food is substantially different from its non-GM counterpart.

"Tobacco Companies Score Big Win" - "A State Supreme Court justice last week handed the tobacco industry a sweeping victory in ruling that union health plans cannot bring common law claims in their own right to recover the costs of treating their members for tobacco-related illnesses," reports The New York Law Journal.

"Smokers' rights in B.C." - The Seattle Times comments about "A labor arbitrator in Canada [who] ruled that nicotine addiction is a disability, and people suffering this addiction are entitled to protection under the British Columbia code of human rights."

"Ministers say Britain will achieve targets to reduce greenhouse gases" - "Britain will today announce that it can guarantee meeting its Kyoto treaty target for cutting emissions of greenhouse gasses, which are blamed for global warming," reports The Independent.

"Climate threat to North Sea cod" - "Fisheries scientists say the health of one of the UK's main marine resources, the North Sea cod, is at risk because of rising water temperatures," reports the BBC. Reuters coverage

"Is your floor a health hazard?" - "Research published in the journal Nature shows that indoor pollution is considerably higher in Northern than in Southern Europe. Scientists believe the different styles of home furnishing favoured across the continent may be to blame," reports the BBC.

"Chewing 'wards off dementia'" - "Chewing may prevent memory loss as we grow old, scientists have discovered," reports the BBC. CNN

"Night lights 'no risk to children's eyes'" - "Parents have been advised to ignore warnings that children become short-sighted by sleeping with a light on. Research published last year suggested that night lights caused near-sightedness in children. But this conclusion has been questioned by two new studies," reports the BBC. Media release | | CNN | Reuters Health | The Independent

March 8, 2000

"Labor Tobacco Suits Dismissed in New York" - "A New York state court justice has dismissed 10 labor union health care reimbursement cases against tobacco companies, saying the health plans had no legal standing to bring direct claims against the industry. Tobacco analysts called the decision another 'data point' marking the industry's progress toward its goal of getting such lawsuits thrown out, even before they go to trial." reports the AP.

"Hot Air" - Michael Fumento writes, "John Deere would like to use EPA regulations to massacre other chainsaw manufacturers."

"Recall the Mandate" - The Detroit News comments, "Requiring the sale of electric vehicles forced inferior products to market without yielding environmental benefits."

"Organic food labelling rules "should be based on science, not public opinion polls," says NFPA" - "NFPA strongly believes that both biotechnology and food irradiation should be permitted in the 'organic' standard, for the simple fact that there is no scientifically supportable reason to exclude them. For example, modern biotechnology can introduce traits into products that would minimize the use of chemicals, such as pest-resistant crops. Why should organic farmers not be permitted to use a technology that can lead to reduced use of pesticides? And irradiation -- or 'cold pasteurization,' as it is often referred to -- can eliminate or greatly reduce dangerous pathogens on foods, while causing no material change to the food's taste or nutritional content. Irradiation is a powerful tool to help assure food safety -- something that should be of particular concern to the organic industry, which uses a great deal of manure as fertilizer."

"Cohen plans historic visit to Vietnam" - "Vietnam has been pushing for the United States to help resolve the legacy of Agent Orange, the herbicide sprayed by U.S. Air Force planes in a defoliation operation from 1962 to 1970. Vice President Nguyen Thi Binh said last week an estimated 1 million Vietnamese suffer effects of Agent Orange's highly toxic component dioxin. During his talks in Vietnam, Cohen is expected to say the Clinton administration is prepared to conduct joint research on Agent Orange, the U.S. official said," reports the AP.

Hold on to your wallets. Look for President Clinton to agree to compensate Vietnam for Agent Orange before he leaves office.

"Earth enters the big thaw" - "Around the world, ice sheets and glaciers are melting at a rate unprecedented since record-keeping began. The Worldwatch Institute, based in Washington DC, has compiled reports from across the globe, which show that the melting accelerated during the 1990s - the warmest decade on record," reports the BBC. Sydney Morning Herald coverage

"Iraq blames cancer rate increase on radioactive ammunition used in Gulf War" - "The number of cancer cases in Iraq has soared since the 1990-1991 Gulf war because of radioactivity from munitions used by British and U.S. forces, health officials said Tuesday," reports CNN.

The Iraqi claim is doubtful. The total number of "extra" cancer cases among the Japanese atomic bomb survivors over the last 50+ years is around 400. The Iraqi government claims 2,000 cancer cases per year from depleted uranium weapons. And the Japanese survivors received much higher doses of radiation than any Iraqi.

"EU explores ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions" - "The European Commission will propose on Wednesday allowing companies with problems meeting reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions to purchase pollution credits from other companies more successful in protecting the environment," reports CNN.

"Is your urban environment giving you cancer?" - "There are suggestions Toronto might be able to cut its cancer rate by making sure that no dry-cleaning outlets are allowed in apartment or office buildings. It could also try to limit cancers by banning the use of pesticides for lawn care. Another idea is that Toronto should try to purchase organic food wherever possible to provide healthy food at city functions and to create a market for local farmers who minimize pollution by swearing off pesticides and synthetic fertilizers," reports The Globe and Mail (Mar. 7).

"Test case a setback for workers at hospital: N.S. tribunal deems illness psychological" - "About 200 workers seeking compensation for environmental illness they say they contacted from conditions at a Halifax hospital a decade ago have lost a major test case. In a recent decision, the Nova Scotia Workers Compensation Appeals Tribunal waded into the ongoing controversy over the origins of environmental illness by saying that it is partly the result of psychological disorders," reports The Globe and Mail (Mar. 7).

"Genetic debate to cost millions" - "The royal commission into genetic engineering will probably be carried out by three people at a cost of $4 million," reports The New Zealand Herald.

"Demand for 'rational' GM debate" - "A cross-party group of MPs has called on the government to clear up 'confusion' over genetically modified food technology and replace it with 'rational debate and education'. The All-party Agriculture Committee has said it would help both those who back growing GM crops and those who do not," reports the BBC.

"Give consumers proper labelling on GM food: MPs" - "Consumers must be given the choice of properly labelled genetically modified (GM), non-GM and GM-free products, the Agriculture Committee said in a statement on its report about the controversial food technology," reports The Financial Times.

March 7, 2000

ELECTION YEAR JUNK of the day: Senate passes bill requiring notification before using pesticides in schools - The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill on March 2 requiring schools to notify parents 48 hours prior to using pesticides. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) issued the following press release on March 3:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 3, 2000 Senate Passes Measure Requiring 48-Hour Notification Before Spraying Pesticides In Schools Lieberman calls bill an important health protection for kids WASHINGTON - The Senate late last night unanimously passed legislation requiring public schools and day care centers to provide advanced notification to parents before spraying potentially toxic pesticides on school grounds. The notification measure, co-sponsored by Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT), passed as an amendment to the Affordable Education Act of 1999. It also directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to send a manual on pesticide use to every school receiving federal funding. The manual lists the most carcinogenic and toxic pesticides and instructs schools on the safest known pest management techniques. Lieberman, who commissioned a government study highlighting how little is known about pesticide use in schools, called the legislation an important step in protecting children from a serious health risk. Parents deserve to know when toxic chemicals are being sprayed on the desks and in the hallways of their kids schools, Lieberman said. Pesticides can cause brain damage and a variety of cancers, and children are especially at risk due to their lower body weights and developing systems. This is a crucial step toward insulating our kids from this threat. The legislation, authored by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), is still pending in the House. The bill addresses concerns generated by a January report from the General Accounting Office, Congress official investigatory arm, that underscored the lack of comprehensive data about pesticide exposure in schools and attendant health risks. After releasing the report, Lieberman called on EPA Administrator Carole Browner to instruct pesticide applicators and school officials on the safest ways to use pesticides. He also asked the EPA to consider a full-scale survey on the risks of cumulative exposure to pesticides. As important as this legislation is, it only begins to tackle this issue, Lieberman said. Schools have a understandable need to keep out bugs and insects, but they have an even greater responsibility not to harm our children in the process. We must explore alternatives to the indiscriminate spraying of pesticides, and at the least, minimize the toxicity of pesticides that are used.
Here's my commentary from last fall when a similar bill was introduced by Sens. Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) and Patty Murray (D-WA).

* * * *

BLAST FROM THE PAST & BEN & JERRY'S MOMENT of the day: Circa 1989: Greenpeace petitions USDA about dioxin from milk cartons - The Associated Press reported (Feb.13, 1989),

The environmental group Greenpeace petitioned the Agriculture Department on Monday to require that milk cartons used in the nation's school-lunch programs be made of material that won't put dioxin in the milk.

No studies of dioxin in U.S. milk have been reported by any government agency. Greenpeace relied on a Canadian government study in its petition to the Agriculture Department...

The Canadian study and Greenpeace calculations said that a 110-pound child drinking a single half-pint from a bleached paper carton would ingest 0.6 picograms of the equivalent of the most toxic dioxin per kilogram of body weight.

This is 100 times the daily amount that the Environmental Protection Agency has estimated is likely to raise the risk of cancer by one in a million if continued for a lifetime... "

We measured 1.14 picograms TEQ dioxin per kilogram of bodyweight in Ben & Jerry's ice cream. This is about 200 times what the EPA deems to be "safe."

Did I miss Greenpeace's protest of Ben & Jerry's? Or is the hoopla reserved only for cartons that don't carry Greenpeace's fundraising pitch?

* * * *

QUESTION of the day: "Has air pollution ever been a public health problem in ther U.S.?" - Last Friday, a federal court upheld the EPA's new rules targeting emissions from Midwest power plants that allegedly contribute to Northeast air pollution problems. In listing my reasons for being disappointed with the ruling, I wrote "As aesthetically unpleasing as it may be, air pollution never has been a public health problem in the U.S." A visitor from the New Jersey Department of Health Protection cited the 1948 air pollution episode in Donora, PA and asked whether whether I stood by statement that air pollution has never been a public health problem. Of course, I do.

  • The Donora tragedy was not solely due to industrial emissions. An unusually severe (one-time?) temperature inversion prevented smokestack emissions from dispersing into the atmosphere. The October 1948 episode was the only such incident in Donora.

  • The Donora tragedy is not representative of typical air quality conditions in the U.S., either past or present. What happened in Donora is perhaps best discussed in the same breath as other extreme -- but isolated -- air pollution events, including 1952 "killer fog" in London or the 1997 Indonesian forest fires. These are unfortunate, but thankfully rare episodes that are hardly generalizable.

  • There is scant credible evidence that typical levels of ambient air pollution have caused, or are causing significant health problems. The EPA's claim that current air pollution levels cause 15,000 premature deaths in the U.S. annually is without factual basis. It is also doubtful that ambient air quality has anything to do with childhood asthma -- asthma rates have increased despite a precipitous drop in air pollution levels.

* * * *

MEDIA RELEASE of the day: "HCI Conceals Data to Mislead President, Press and Public on Child Deaths, Says Gun Advocacy Group" - The following was released today 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..."

* * * *

COMMENTARY of the day: "Spring offensive, summer campaign" - Pat Michaels writes in The Washington Times, "On Jan. 10, CBS News began a series of six, count 'em, separate global-warming scare stories... Is there a pattern here? After avoiding the issue like the political plague that it is, Al Gore's campaign has decided to go into high dudgeon over climate change."

FOURTH REICH LEGISLATION of the day: "Toxic-Tobacco Law Described in Public Health Journal" - The Toxic-Tobacco Law Coalition announced today that the current issue of the Journal of Public Health Policy (Winter 1999;20(4):394-407) contains an article entitled "The Toxic-Tobacco Law: 'Appropriate Remedial Action.'" The article describes for the first time the Toxic-Tobacco Law (the Law), proposed federal legislation, that would ban corporations in the U.S. from making, marketing, and importing all toxic-tobacco products such as cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. The Law would go into effect 20 years after passage, giving all stakeholders, for instance, farmers, consumers and excise tax recipients (e.g., state governments) time to adjust. Adult consumers would be "free" to obtain toxic-tobacco from their usual sources during the 20-year adjustment period. After that, adults would be "free" to use products they import or have stored.

"Study finds hay-fever medication worse than alcohol in impairing driver skills" - "Motorists using over-the-counter remedies to fight colds and hay fever may be a greater risk for causing traffic collisions than drunken drivers, according to a study at the University of Iowa," reports CNN. Media release | BBC | Reuters

"Greenpeace Urges EU to Reject New GM Crop Strains" - "Environmentalist group Greenpeace urged the European Commission Monday to scrap a proposal to approve commercial use of three genetically modified crops (GMOs), saying they could not be controlled safely," reports Reuters.

"Conference hears of GM food's global benefits" - "A conference in Brisbane has been told that genetically modified (GM) food could help to feed millions of people around the world," reports the ABC.

"High credit card debt may be bad for your health, study suggests" - "High levels of credit card debt and debt stress may be bad for a person's health, a new study suggests. Researchers at Ohio State University found that people who reported higher levels of stress about their debt showed higher levels of physical impairment and also reported worse health than those with lower levels of debt. In addition, people with a higher proportion of their income tied up in credit card debt also showed higher levels of physical impairment."

Credit card debt is less harmful that owing money to Tony Soprano!

"Formula additives boost small children's intelligence in study" - "Adding two substances found in breast milk to infant formula boosted the average intelligence scores in a group of 18-month-old children significantly, according to a study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)... The substances, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA), are fatty acids present in human breast milk and, prior to birth, are supplied through the placenta to the developing fetus. Both DHA and AA are believed to play a role in the development of the nervous system. Although not used in infant formulas in the U.S., both substances are routinely added to infant formula throughout Europe and Asia."

More on the DHA controversy.

"California Environmental Leaders Endorse Al Gore" - "Tipper Gore accepted the endorsement of prominent Golden State environmentalists on behalf of her husband's campaign for President today at a news conference in San Diego."

At the Greenpeace press conference I attended last week (see March 3 update), the Greenpeacers thought Gore's record on the environment was a joke. It was even suggested that George W. Bush could use the WTI incinerator -- which Clinton-Gore promised to shut down in 1992, but still operates today -- to do to Gore what the elder Bush did to Michael Dukakis in 1988 with regard to Boston Harbor.

March 6, 2000

BEN & JERRY'S of the day: "Hanoi Cites 1M Agent Orange Victims" - From the Associated Press (Mar. 3):

"Vietnam has an estimated 1 million victims of Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant widely used by U.S. forces during the Vietnam War, according to the Vietnamese vice president.

Vice President Nguyen Thi Binh said the United States should take responsibility for resolving the issue, the official English-language Vietnam News reported Thursday. Washington and Hanoi have been talking about an agreement to allow the two countries to share research on effects of the defoliants.

The victims include war veterans, their offspring and civilians living in affected areas. Vietnam has a population of about 76 million...

But there are probably many more victims of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. According to Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Inc., it makes about 13 million gallons of ice cream per year. We measured a serving to contain 200 times the amount of dioxin the EPA says is "safe" -- 500 times the amount that is "safe" for a child.

CARTOON of the day: "The Far Field" - From Microwave News, a cartoon about Henry Lai's experiments reporting memory loss in rats exposed to microwave radiation. For more on Lai's experiment, check out this video clip from a recent WNBC news broadcast.

You need a RealPlayer to view the clip. Click to download it for free

COMMENTARY of the day I: "JAMming an Rx for gun grabs" - Steve Milloy writes in The Washington Times, "There is no doubt that gun-control advocates will exploit the tragic shooting death of 6-year old Kayla Rolland by a 6-year old classmate and the shooting of five persons in Pittsburgh restaurants. Adding fuel to this fire may be a study published in the current Journal of the American Medical Association. A ban on the carrying of firearms in Cali and Bogota, Colombia, was statistically associated with a reduction in homicides, according to a study by University of Washington and Emory University researchers. But the study is just more junk science-fueled, anti-gun propaganda."

COMMENTARY of the day II: "After the Floods: Malaria Will Now Take Its Toll in Mozambique" - Richard Tren writes in The Wall Street Journal - Europe, "Flood waters in Mozambique are starting to recede, but some of the worst suffering is still to come. Already, reports of increased incidences of diseases such as cholera, dysentery and malaria are emerging. Unfortunately, many of the lives that will be lost could have been saved. While some water-borne diseases may be an unavoidable consequence of the flooding, much could have been done to reduce the incidence of malaria, which is Africa's biggest killer after AIDS. However, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) policy is making things worse... From the 20th to 25th of March, UNEP will be meeting in Bonn to discuss the Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Convention that seeks to restrict the use, or even to ban by international agreement, 12 such pollutants, among them DDT. DDT is one of the most powerful insecticides man has ever invented, but its use has been severely restricted because of fears that it causes ecological damage. What has only recently been recognized by the delegates to UNEP, even those from countries most affected by malaria, is that DDT is the most cost-effective weapon in malaria control, where it is used to kill the Anopheles mosquito (the malaria vector)."

Check out "100 Things You Should Know About DDT."

COMMENTARY of the day III: "EPA is playing dirty with rules about clean air" - Roger A. Wiliams writes in The Columbus Dispatch, "Before the EPA bureaucrats impose more standards and enforcement rules, Americans have the right to know what the relative health and environmental risks are that such regulations are meant to reduce and what scientific evidence was used to estimate those risks. And, most important, the total cost to consumers and taxpayers should be spelled out and shown to be commensurate with the manifest benefits of cleaner air."

COMMENTARY of the day IV: "Conflict Rules at Journals Introduce Bias " - Elizabeth Whelan comments on the New England Journal of Medicine's conflict of interest rules. Washington Times version

JUNK COMMENTARY of the day: "Pollution fighter? Not really" - Not surprisigly, Molly Ivins jumps on the enviro-bandwagon beating up George W. Bush for his record on air pollution in Texas.

Click and scroll down to the Oct. 20, 1999 update for the facts about air pollution in Texas under George W. Bush.

EXCERPT of the day: "The Law of Increasing Returns" - The National Interest re-prints part of Ron Bailey's chapter from Earth Report 2000 on Malthus and population. Earth Report 2000 can be purchased from the Junkscience.com store.

CONTROVERSY of the day: "Loyola Physician Responds to Metastatic Breast Cancer Study Released Early by New England Journal of Medicine" - "A majority of the breast cancer patients who participated in the study comparing the therapeutic value of standard-dose chemotherapy with high-dose chemotherapy plus autologous stem-cell transplantation were not ideal candidates for transplantation, says Dr. Patrick Stiff, director of bone marrow transplantation at the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola University Medical Center, Chicago." NEJM study and editorial

"Bioengineered Crops on Shaky Ground " - "Already, executives at Frito-Lay Inc., Seagram Co., Gerber Products Co. and H.J. Heinz Co. have announced they will not use genetically modified crops in their products. Vandals protesting the technology, meanwhile, have trashed research labs from California to Maine. On Friday, it was learned that the Clinton administration plans to seek a ban on genetically engineered grains in any food labeled organic. Toss in noisy overseas protests against Frankenstein foods"--rejected not only by the European Union but also by Japanese breweries and a Mexican tortilla maker--and it's clear the market is far from settled," reports The Los Angeles Times (Mar. 5).

"Flatulent Irish cows are anything but great gas" - "The extent of flatulence among Irish cows, not to mention their belching, will soon force farmers to change the way they do business, it has been predicted. This factor is a major contributor to Ireland's growing greenhouse gas emissions problem," reports The Irish Times (Mar. 1)

"B&W Meets With Scientists at National Academy of Sciences " - "Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation met this week with leading scientists gathered by a committee of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C. to discuss the issue of safer cigarettes."

"Loyola Physician Responds to Metastatic Breast Cancer Study Released Early by New England Journal of Medicine" - "A majority of the breast cancer patients who participated in the study comparing the therapeutic value of standard-dose chemotherapy with high-dose chemotherapy plus autologous stem-cell transplantation were not ideal candidates for transplantation, says Dr. Patrick Stiff, director of bone marrow transplantation at the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola University Medical Center, Chicago." NEJM study and editorial

"Clean Air Trust Names 'Republicans for Clean Air' Villain of the Month" - "The nonprofit Clean Air Trust today awarded its clean air "Villain of the Month" award for March to a secretive and deceptive group that calls itself 'Republicans for Clean Air.' The Trust also challenged the group to reveal its sources of funding, and to debate the Sierra Club on the clean-air credentials of the various candidates for President." League of Conservation Voters media release

"BP Amoco Ignores Message from 'Polar Bears' Activists" - "Six Greenpeace activists (and four "polar bears") were arrested today at the BP Amoco headquarters after they constructed a renewable energy camp to spotlight the company's complicity in the global warming crisis that is destroying polar bear habitat."

"'Blair was blind to social effects of GM technology'" - "Tony Blair lost the public relations battle over genetically modified foods because the Government understood the issue in scientific terms and was blind to the social consequences, according to a senior environmental advisor who has just left Whitehall to work for Greenpeace," reports The Independent.

"World obese catch up with the underfed" - "For the first time in history, the world's total of overweight people equals the total of those who are underfed. Up to 1.2bn people eat more than they need, and as many go hungry each day," reports The Guardian. BBC coverage

March 4, 2000

DISAPPOINTMENT of the day: "Court Upholds EPA In Fighting Dirty Air Crossing Boundaries" - "A federal appeals court yesterday confirmed the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to compel states to clamp down on power-plant emissions that contribute to dirty air drifting state to state. Many states, especially those in the Northeast, have long argued they cannot meet federal air quality standards unless pollution originating beyond their borders is sharply reduced," reports The Washington Post. Reuters coverage

This is a disappointing ruling:

ELECTORAL PANDERING of the day: "Bush and McCain Battle for Support on Tuesday in High-Stakes Territory" - "Mr. Bush flew to Long Island, the state's traditional center of Republican power, where he made a bid for support from women voters in a primary where polls show him in a tight battle with Mr. McCain. He appeared at a staged panel discussion of breast cancer, at the State University of New York at Stony Brook,... Mr. Bush's aides billed the event as a policy discussion on breast cancer, an issue that has been of particular concern on Long Island, where activists have suggested that environmental contaminants have caused high rates of the disease. Mr. Bush's campaign appearance was intended to underline a radio advertisement Mr. Bush has been broadcasting in the metropolitan area this week, portraying Mr. McCain as hostile to breast cancer research. As it turned out, Mr. Bush's forum was devoted less to policy and more to the campaign at hand. Mr. Bush did not offer any new proposals to deal with the issue. He wore a pink ribbon, a symbol of concern for the disease, and frequently had at his side the breast cancer research advocate Geri Barish, who narrates the advertisement attacking Mr. McCain," reports The New York Times.

It's not clear that there is anything special about Long Island in terms of breast cancer. The New York Times (Sep. 29, 1995) reported:
"...investigators are focusing on nongenetic factors to explain the high breast cancer rates on Long Island. One reason for this emphasis was offered by Dr. Marilie Gammon, a Columbia University statistician who is a principal investigator for a study, mandated by Congress and administered by the National Cancer Institute, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, to look into the Long Island cancer rates.

The breast cancer incidence among women in Nassau and Suffolk counties, Dr. Gammon said, is no higher than it is in other places where there are similar populations of affluent, educated white women. For unknown reasons, there is more breast cancer among such women than among black or Hispanic women, those who are poor or those who live in rural areas.

The Long Island rates look high because they are compared with the rates in New York State, which has many rural areas, and New York City, which has a high proportion of minority and poor women, Dr. Gammon said, adding, 'The fact is that Long Island women were savvy enough to figure out that they had high rates of breast cancer.' She said she and her colleagues hope to understand what it is about affluent, educated white women that makes them so susceptible to the disease. Long Island, for that reason, 'is a great place to go and study breast cancer,' she added."

I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out that the reason affluent white women appear to have more breast cancer is they have more frequent breast exams -- so they have more breast cancer detected and diagnosed.

RULES FOR FOOLS: "Tighter Rules for 'Organic' Food Eyed" - "As part of an effort to create the nation's first official definition of 'organic,' the Clinton administration has decided to propose a ban on genetically engineered grains in any food labeled organic, according to people who have been briefed on the rules. The guidelines would also ban pesticides on crops labeled organic, bar the use of sewage sludge as fertilizer, prohibit irradiation and tightly restrict the use of antibiotics in farm animals, according to advocates of tough standards who are familiar with the proposal," reports The Washington Post.

'Organic' foods are a huge scam -- over-priced goods sold to ignorant consumers.

"Turning the Tide on Cancer" - The Chcicago Tribune editorializes, "As with the War on Poverty, so many false hopes have been raised in the War on Cancer that there's a temptation to greet with cynicism announcements about new drugs and encouraging test results. Some skepticism is warranted. Nearly 30 years and 30 billion research dollars after Congress and President Richard Nixon launched this "war," half a million Americans still die each year from one or another of The Big C's insidious varieties. That's more deaths per capita than when the war was declared..."

After this brilliant beginning, The Chicago Tribune lapses into the same "The cure for cancer is within sight. We just need more research," stupor that has spent $30 billion with little to show for it. So far the main beneficiaries of the war on cancer have been the scientists who, by the way, are completely unaccountable for how they spend our money.

For more on this topic, check out John Bailar's New England Journal of Medicine commentary, "Cancer Undefeated."

March 3, 2000

PRESS CONFERENCE of the day: Greenpeace ducks Ben & Jerry's questions: Junkman shouted down at press conference - A senior Greenpeace staffer evaded questions from Steve Milloy about dioxin and Ben & Jerry's ice cream at a Greenpeace-sponsored press conference yesterday.

The presenters at the conference ranted and raved about how chemicals like dioxin were wreaking havoc with the public's health, particularly that of children and minorities.

During the Q&A at the end of the press conference, I placed a container of Ben & Jerry's ice cream on the table and asked Rick Hind, Greenpeace's Toxics Campaign Legislative Director, "If dioxin is so dangerous, why doesn't Greenpeace protest Ben & Jerry's ice cream?" After all, we measured the dioxin in Ben & Jerry's ice cream to be about 200 times greater than what the EPA says is 'safe.'"

Moreover, the amount of dioxin in a one pint container of Ben & Jerry's (320 picograms TEQ, according to our test) is eight times greater than the amount of dioxin in a cubic meter of smokestack emissions from the Waste Technologies Industries incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio -- the subject of the press conference's first presentation, made by activist Terry Swearingen.

But Hind wasn't interested in answering the merits of my question -- and he didn't. Instead, Hind said our Ben & Jerry's test had been discredited and I had no credibility. When I tried to respond by saying that we had two independent laboratories produce nearly identical results, I was shouted down and cut-off.

Swearingen -- East Liverpool, Ohio's would-be Joan of Arc (speaking of incineration) -- came up to me after the conference and said something to the effect that "Asking Ben & Jerry's to stop selling ice cream because it contains dioxin is like asking a woman to cut-off her breasts because they contain dioxin." Swearingen suffered a meltdown when I informed her that scientific studies have failed to link dioxins, and PCBs with breast cancer.

As I was leaving the press conference, Hind suggested that we should debate the dioxin controversy some time. [Rick: If you read this, you can reach me at milloy@cais.com to schedule a debate.]

Other Greenpeace staffers were not at all happy that I attended -- and they let me know it with verbal assaults. The person in charge of attendance-taking warned me that, next time, I should identify myself on the sign-up sheet. I guess signing "Steve Milloy" on the sheet wasn't good enough. They should be happy I came, though. My presence alone boosted the non-Greenpeace audience by 10-20 percent.

Greenpeacers are very proud when they interfere -- illegally -- with shipping, oil drilling and other industrial activities. But they don't like it when the tables are turned on them -- legally.

JUNK of the day: "Joint Effect of Diet and Environmental Tobacco Smoke on Risk of Lung Cancer Among Nonsmokers" - A brief study about diet, secondhand smoke and lung cancer risk in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (March 1) reports "These results add weight to the causal interpretation of the association between ETS and lung cancer..."

This study is a partial re-hash of last year's infamous IARC study on secondhand smoke. That study failed to report statistically significant associations between secondhand smoke and lung cancer. But the accompanying editorial claimed the study supported "the inescapable scientific conlusion that ETS is a low-level carcinogen."

This new study is more of the same. Only 3 of the 24 reported associations are significant. I can only imagine how many associations the researchers actually attempted, but didn't report. Nonsignificant associations -- particularly those that are weak and probably cherry-picked -- are meaningless.

COMMENTARY of the day I: "Scientists Embrace Food Biotechnology, But Some Food Companies Run for Cover" - Elizabeth Whelan writes, "American consumers are better served by corporate leaders who stick with science, instead of running for the tall grass the moment strident, ill-informed critics of food technology try to foment unfounded fears."

COMMENTARY of the day II: "Warning Signs" - Global warming, Ralph Nader and Earth Day are featured in Alan Caruba's weekly column.

BOOB JOB of the day: "Caution on breast implants" - The Boston Globe editorializes, "Through all the controversy about the safety of silicone-gel breast implants, little attention was paid to the alternative, saline implants. Lest anyone think this is because they have a clean bill of health, the Food and Drug Administration is hearing evidence this week of problems with these devices."

LETTER-TO-THE-EDITOR of the day: Stott on Greenpeace ambush - Philip Stott writes in The Times, "The ambushing by Greenpeace UK of a ship (report, February 28) carrying a cargo which looks to the future represents a self-indulgence that can no longer be tolerated."

"U.S. should eliminate gasoline additive MTBE - EPA" - "The Environmental Protection Agency said on Thursday that gasoline additive MTBE poses a significant risk to the nation's drinking water supply and should be reduced or eliminated as quickly as possible," reports Reuters.

"Study links vitamin C pills with faster clogging of the arteries" - "A new study raises the disturbing possibility that taking vitamin C pills may speed up hardening of the arteries. Researchers called their discovery a surprise and cautioned that more experiments are needed to know for sure whether megadoses of the vitamin actually are harmful," reports CNN.

"Compound might prevent or delay 'mad cow' disease" - "A new class of compounds might be used to treat and even prevent "mad cow" disease and related diseases, U.S. government researchers said on Thursday," reports Reuters.

"Case of mad cow disease prompts firing of 110 at Danish slaughterhouse" - "Danish Crown, Denmark's largest slaughterhouse, said Thursday it has fired 110 employees because of the drop in demand for its meat following a mad cow disease scare. One Danish-born cow was destroyed in late January because it had the disease, authorities said Monday. They protectively recalled some meat products. Neighboring Norway, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have barred imports of Danish meat, and some Swedish supermarket chains voluntarily pulled the meat from their shelves," reports the AP.

March 2, 2000

MEDIA OMISSION of the day: IARC: IV-bag plasticizer should not be regulated as a carcinogen - A major component of polyvinyl IV-bags, di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), was declared "not classifiable" as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) on February 22. The "not classifiable" rating is bureaucrat-ese for, "There's no evidence that DEHP causes cancer in humans." But don't bother looking for more information in other news media. Despite earlier fearmongering about DEHP, there is not a single news report of this significant down-grading -- anywhere.

Remember these headlines from last year?
  • "Vinyl is too dangerous," Toronto Star, 3/12/99
  • "Vinyl IV Bags to Give Way to Safer Alternatives," Medical Industry Today, 4/8/99
  • "Groups assert IV bags pose danger to multiple organs," Chicago Tribune, 6/21/99
  • "Bad Medicine: The Dangers of Vinyl Hospital Supplies," E, 7/1/99
  • "'Health danger' from hospital PVC drip bags," South China Morning Post, 10/21/99

Junkscience.com readers were warned a year ago that this Greenpeace/Health Care Without Harm scare had no scientific basis.

CONSUMERDISTORTS.COM of the day: "Science, Precaution and Food Safety: How Can We Do Better?" - Consumers Union's Ed Groth blathers on about use of the precautionary principle in making food safety decisions.

STUDY of the day: "No picnic for the birds: Examining the effects of human activity on bald eagles " - "Researchers Robert Steidl of the University of Arizona and Robert Anthony of Oregon State University wanted to assess the effects that increased recreation in wilderness areas would have on the populations of eagles living along the Gulkana National Wild River in south central Alaska. The results of their work provide staggering numbers; humans camped near nests caused a pronounced change in the way adult eagles spent their time. Adult eagles decreased some activities by as much as 59% per day when humans were nearby. In addition, the percentage of time that they left their nesting area unattended increased by 24 percent."

Human encroachment probably played a large part in the great bird declines that are usually attributed to DDT. As pointed out in "100 Things You Should Know About DDT," stress from noise, fear or excitement and disease is associated with egg shell thinning. [Scott, HM et al.. 1944. (Physiological stress thins shells) Poultry Science 23:446-453; Draper, MH & PE Lake. 1967. Effects of stress and defensive responses. In Environmental Control in Poultry Production, Oliver and Boyd, London; Reid, BL. 1971. (Effects of stress on laying birds) Farm Technology, Fall 1971; Sykes, AH. 1955 (Adrenaline excess inhibits shell formation) Poultry Science 34: 622-628]

UNABOMBER COMMENTARY of the day: "Just say no to biotech business" - The Guardian's George Monbiot writes another anti-biotechnology column, concluding that "Genetic engineering has become one of the great tests of Tony Blair's premiership. If he flunks it, he will validate his reputation as the corporate prime minister, who treats the electorate with contempt."

BIOTECH ROUND-UP:

    "GM Conference Ends Divided" - "Scientists at an international conference in Scotland have said no significant effects have yet been detected on human health from eating GM foods," reports NewsRoom.

    "No evidence of harmful effects of GM food-OECD" - "Scientists at the first international conference on GM food said on Wednesday there is no medical evidence to date that genetically modified foods are not safe to eat -- but they called for more tests into their long-term effects," reports Reuters.

    "Euro Grain-GM feed labels needed to ease fears" - "Guidelines for the labelling of genetically modified animal feed in the European Union are needed to reassure nervous consumers as the debate over the safety of GM crops heats up, industry officials said," reports Reuters.

    "Superior crops or 'Frankenfood'?" - "Americans begin to reconsider blasť attitude toward genetically modified food," reports The Christian Science Monitor.

    "£25m biotechnology centres to study GMOs" - "Three biotechnology centres are to be built in Ireland at a cost of £25 million. They will carry out research in agriculture, including GM foods, under an investment programme to be implemented by Teagasc, the State's agricultural research body," reports The Irish Times.

    "Adviser Calls for International GM Foods Panel" - "Britain's chief scientific adviser called Tuesday for an international panel to keep the public informed about issues concerning genetically modified food and biotechnology. Sir Robert May told a meeting on the safety of GM food that the forum could be similar to the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that was set up to tackle the challenge of global warming," reports Reuters.

"Advisory board says some saline breast implants are safe enough to sell " - "Though saline-filled breast implants break open at 'alarmingly high' rates and require women to undergo repeated surgeries, at least one brand is safe enough to continue selling as long as women are properly warned of the risks, a government advisory board decided late Wednesday," reports the AP.

"US panel reviews safety of saline breast implants" - "Jennifer Gardner said on Wednesday her saline-filled breast implants gave her confidence after cancer surgery, while Patricia Faussett called them a nightmare that caused her a raft of health problems. The contrasting stories illustrated the testimony before a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel that is reviewing new data on the safety of saline-filled implants," reports Reuters.

"US adds charges to clean air lawsuits vs utilities" - "The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday announced new charges against 12 electric power plants owned by companies already being sued by the government for breaking the Clean Air Act law," reports Reuters.

One utility settled one of these lawsuits yesterday for $1 billion. I guess Attorney General Janet Reno-Corleone and Carol 'Luca Brasi' Browner are in the process of making the others an offer they can't refuse.

"Salt may hold clue to falling sperm counts-study" - "Iodised salt may be responsible for a decline in men's sperm counts in the western world since the 1950s, the journal New Scientist said on Wednesday," reports Reuters. Media release

What falling sperm counts?

"German sausage lovers risk BSE exposure - study" - "German boasts that their sausages are 'brain-free' may be wrong and expose consumers to mad cow disease, the journal New Scientist said on Wednesday," reports Reuters. New Scientist coverage

"Norway bans some Danish meat imports over mad cow" - "The Norwegian state food safety authority SNT said in a statement that the ban covered beef, mutton and goat meat. It did not say how long the measures would last," reports Reuters.

"Little ice age holds big climate clues" - "Chemical signals from two of the largest volcanic eruptions in human history have allowed scientists to refine the chronology of an ice core taken from a Wyoming glacier. The refined chronology indicates an abrupt end to the little ice age. 'Now that we have documented a quick climate change in the past, there is no reason not to believe it can occur in the future," said Paul Schuster, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Boulder, Colorado,' reports CNN.

March 1, 2000

DEBUNKING of the day: Getting Away With Murder - I take aim on a new study on guns in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Study | Editorial

TODAY'S GORE-ING/VIDEO of the day: Al Gore's solution to urban sprawl - Al Gore and the enviros envision higher density urban living as the solution to urban sprawl. What would the future be like in this scenario? Check out this 3-minute clip from the movie Dr. Zhivago. The setting is post-World War I Moscow. Dr. Yuri Zhivago (Omar Shariff) arrives home after serving in the Russian Army. When he enters his spacious home, he discovers it has been annexed by the Bolsheviks -- the ideological ancestors of today's enviros -- and subdivided "more justly." Later, upon returning home from a search for firewood, Zhivago discovers that even his new meager quarters can be further subdivided.

You need a RealPlayer to view the clip. Click to download it for free

QUITTER of the day: "Texaco quits global warming group" - "Texaco has quit the Global Climate Coalition (GCC). The oil giant is the third Fortune 500 to quit the group in recent months, joining Ford and Daimler/Chrysler," reports CNN.

So much for trusting the "Man who wears the Star, the big bright Texaco star."

STUDY of the day: "Quality of sperm unchanged over 50 years" - " Although one half of American men have at least one type of abnormality in their sperm, researchers have found that the overall quality of semen in the US male population is the same today as it was 50 years ago," reports Reuters.

FINGER-POINTING of the day: "New study links high-traffic streets to childhood leukemia, other cancers" - "The results of a new study conducted in the rapidly expanding Denver metropolitan area indicates children living near heavily traveled streets or highways are at significantly greater risk of developing cancer, including childhood leukemia. The researchers found a correlation between high volumes of traffic on streets or highways near homes where incidences of childhood cancer previously had been documented. The study was authored by Robert Pearson of Denver's Radian International, University of Colorado at Boulder electrical engineering Professor Howard Wachtel and Kristie Ebi of the Electric Power Research Institute [EPRI] in Palo Alto."

For years the electric power industry was the victim of junk science concerning an alleged link between residential proximity to power lines and childhood leukemia. Desperate to find some other cause of childhood leukemia, EPRI funded a study reporting that children who ate 12 or more hot dogs had 9.5 times more leukemia than children who ate no hot dogs [Cancer Causes and Control 1994, 195-202]. As discussed in Science Without Sense, the study was easily debunked as consumption of other processed meats -- N-nitroso compounds were the alleged culprits -- was not associated with childhood leukemia.

Fortunately for the electric power industry, a 1997 National Research Council report drove a stake through the heart of the EMF scare. Apparently, getting off the hook was not enough vindication. EPRI is still up to its old tricks.

JUNK COMMENTARY of the day: "Saving falcons: Great hunters are once again on the wing" - The Columbus Dispatch editorializes (Feb. 29), "The falcon began to disappear mainly because the insecticide DDT, absorbed during feeding by the birds, rendered their eggshells too thin to carry a chick to its birth date. DDT breaks down into a compound that stays in the fat of animals. It interferes with the calcium needed in eggshells... If DDT had not been banned in 1972, partly because of the stir caused by Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring, there would have been little point in trying to reintroduce the birds into the wild."

DDT and its ban had nothing to do with the demise and resurgence of the peregrine falcon. For more on DDT, check out "100 Things You Should Know About DDT."

COMMENTARY of the day: "Organic food: Is such produce more healthful, safer?" - The Columbus Dispatch editorializes, "If one thinks something is good for him, the psychological well-being that derives from that belief may be positive. But when consumers consider the purchase of any food, organic or not, knowing what is fact and what is ungrounded fancy can be useful."

"Global Warming: The Contrarian View" - "Over the years, skeptics have tried to cast doubt on the idea of global warming by noting that measurements taken by earth satellites since 1979 have found little or no temperature rise in large parts of the upper atmosphere." reports The New York Times.

"Safety of U.S. breast implants back in spotlight" - "The first public scrutiny of saline implants will come this week, when a panel of federal advisers reviews the data at a three-day meeting starting Wednesday. The panel is expected to vote on whether implants made by three firms meet safety and effectiveness standards and should win formal FDA approval," reports CNN. Reuters coverage

"Environmental health institute to use gene chips to evaluate chemicals for potential harm to humans" - "The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences announced today that it has created a half-million-dollar center at its laboratories in North Carolina to help evaluate the toxicity of chemicals by observing how they turn "on" or "off" thousands of different cloned genes clustered on a laboratory slide."

"'Linkage Analysis' of Crime Profile Called Junk Science by N.J. Court" - "The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that 'linkage analysis' evidence -- expert testimony that crimes are so similar that they form a pattern pointing to a single offender -- lacks sufficient scientific reliability and is inadmissible at trial." reports The Law News Network.

"E.coli in up to half of U.S. cattle: Study seeks pre-processing testing of beef" - "Up to half the cattle in the nationís feedlots, far more than previously thought, are infected with deadly bacteria, the government said Tuesday," reports MSNBC. Other coverage: AP | Reuters

Check my write-up from November 1999 when this topic last was in the news.

"Britain probes CJD link between mother, daughter" - "British health officials have ordered urgent tests over fears that a baby may have contracted the human form of mad cow disease from her mother, the Health Department said on Tuesday," reports Reuters.

BIOTECH ROUND-UP:

  • "UK adviser calls for international GM foods panel" - "Britain's chief scientific adviser called on Tuesday for an international panel to keep the public informed about issues concerning genetically modified food and biotechnology," reports Reuters.

  • "Consumer groups want labels on all GM products" - "Consumer groups called for mandatory labelling of all genetically modified products on Tuesday and greater humility from scientists about the technology. At an international conference in Scotland, the campaigners also criticised the scientific concept -- known as substantial equivalence -- used to assess the safety of GM food," reports Reuters.

  • "Activists Say Rich Nations Promoting GM Foods" - "Environmentalists and activists accused the world's rich nations Monday of stage-managing a global conference on genetically modified foods to calm public fears," reports Reuters.

  • "China sows seeds of GM crop expansion" - "China has begun a huge push to commercialise genetically modified crops, with around half of its fields expected to be planted with GM rice, tomatoes, sweet peppers and potatoes in five to ten years," reports The Times.

  • "New Type of Gene Engineering Is Aimed at Sidestepping Critics" - "... differences between... plants might come in large part not from the genes themselves, but from the point at which they are switched on and off, how strongly and in which part of the plant they are active. And now some wonder if this insight can be used for a new kind of genetic engineering," reports The New York Times.

"Post-Chernobyl genetic disaster in Belarus-doctors" - "Post-Soviet Belarus has been plunged into a demographic disaster, with soaring levels of infertility and genetic changes 14 years after the Chernobyl disaster in neighbouring Ukraine, doctors said on Tuesday," reports Reuters.

"EPA Reaches $1 Billion Pollution Settlement" - "The Environmental Protection Agency reached a $1 billion agreement Tuesday with a Florida utility to reduce pollution at two power plants by tens of thousands of tons annually. The settlement could prompt similar agreements to resolve a government lawsuit seeking pollution reductions at 32 aging coal-fired plants in 10 states," reports The Washington Post.

"Anti-smoking ads affect youth behavior-US study" - "Younger adolescents who are regularly exposed to anti-smoking messages on television are half as likely to start smoking as those not exposed, a study released on Tuesday found," reports Reuters.

"Anti-Smoking Campaign Shows Dramatic Results" - "While teenage smoking has been on the rise nationwide, Florida's aggressive anti-smoking campaign has produced an unprecedented 54 percent decline in middle school tobacco use over the past two years, and a 24 percent drop among high school students. The statistics, which will officially be released today by the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey, outstrip even the most optimistic estimates of what a forceful anti-smoking campaign can do. They also show the decrease in smoking was significantly larger in the program's second year than in its first, despite a controversial drop in the campaign's funding," reports The Washington Post.

There were other, perhaps more important, factors involved in this decrease, including: a significant price increase in the cost of cigarettes; and aggressive and well publicized "sting" campaign against retailers who sold to kids; and employing off-duty police to catch and ticket kids smoking in public. Perhaps the decline in underage smoking resulted from increased cost and hassles?

"'Safari 2000' field campaign to probe African ecosystems, global change" - "A caravan of scientists and students begins a 600-mile trek across southern Africa this week as part of a major international experiment to better understand the region's diverse ecosystems and improve NASA's ability to monitor global change around the world. The research caravan is part of a three-year study of southern Africa's ecology, air quality and land use from the ground, air and space."

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