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Archives - March 2001

March 31 - April 1, 2001

"Kyoto: Do the Math" - "Kudos to President Bush, the first world leader whose administration has pronounced the Kyoto Protocol stone, cold dead. It’s about time - and it’s about mathematics. Kyoto was probably the dumbest international instrument signed by an American chief executive." (Patrick J Michaels, Cato Institute)

"Canada blames Europe for Bush backtrack on Kyoto pact" - "Europe's rigid stance forced the United States to reject the Kyoto treaty on global warming and talks won't resume until Washington finalizes a new negotiating position, Canada's environment minister said on Friday. David Anderson said U.S. President George W. Bush had had little option but to stop supporting the Kyoto pact, which calls for targeted cuts of greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide to reduce the risk of a disastrous global warming. "It's not only the Americans who created the problem," Anderson told journalists after a meeting with 32 Environment ministers from the Latin and South American countries." (Reuters)

"IPCC to Meet in Nairobi, as Climate Debate Intensifies" - "NAIROBI — An important meeting to chart the future of the official scientific body that advises Governments on climate change will take place next week at the Nairobi headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The scientists, members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), meet as the United States Government is questioning the science of global warming and the Kyoto Protocol, which is the mechanism agreed by nations in 1997 for tackling climate change." (United Nations Environment Programme)

"Ding Dong, Kyoto’s Dead" - "President Bush's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Kyoto Protocol, effectively killing it, is a bold move worthy of the highest praise. President Bush, it seems, has decided to stand up to environmental extremists who have waged a relentless, decades-long war against our way of life with no regard for the truth or its effects on people." (Paul Georgia, environmental policy analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute and managing editor of the Cooler Heads newsletter, National Review)

Kyoto, Kyoto & more Kyoto:

Meanwhile: "Cold snap hits Tokyo" - "Snow has been falling on cherry blossoms in the Japanese capital Tokyo for the first time in twenty five years. Peter Martin reports from the city: "The cherry blossoms came to Tokyo earlier than normal this year, flowering in full on Wednesday. The first few days of full blossom are special, with parties and picnics to herald the coming of spring held under trees in the knowledge that the pink blossoms only last a short time. A cold snap on Saturday pushed the Tokyo temperature down to a chilly two degrees at two pm ending many parties and turned what would have been rain into unusually late snow. The phenomenon is called "hanabie" or cherry blossom chill. It's said to have last hit Tokyo on April 3 1976." (Radio Australia)

In 1976 people were still talking global cooling and the impending ice age scare.

"EU To Pursue Global Warming Treaty" - "KIRUNA, Sweden - The European Union said on Saturday it did not accept a recent U.S. rejection of the Kyoto treaty to cut greenhouse gases but would not retaliate in the form of trade sanctions." (Reuters)

Well, isn't that big of them - they're not going to take on the world's biggest and strongest economy from a position of rank stupidity. Magnanimous aren't they?

"Assessing the assessment" - "The stated purpose of the U.S. National Assessment's Climate Change Impacts on the United States; The Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change (USNA) is to "assess the risks and opportunities for the United States...associated with increased climate change." But the USNA has turned out to be one of the most misleading publicly funded reports on climate change this nation has ever produced. The two climate models on which it is primarily based—one developed by the Canadian Climate Center and the other by the Hadley Center in the United Kingdom—cannot correctly reproduce observed climate. What's more, the two models often produce markedly different forecasts of future climate." | USNA Overheated, Overhyped | VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT Vol. 2, No. 13 | Ice-Breaking News & Another Climate Science Breakthrough! (GES)

"The Hot Rock" - "This week's scare story in the greenhouse saga comes from Australia. Without waiting to publish results, without waiting for peer review, expeditioners of the Australian Antarctic Division returning from 5 months at Heard Island deep in the Southern Ocean (53.10S 73.51 E), were scarcely ashore at Hobart before they were before the media telling tales of climate woe from Heard.

Their story basically was that Heard Island, diameter 25 km, had warmed three-quarters of a degree celsius in 60 years, "coastal glaciers are rapidly retreating, the sea is invading, and vegetation is expanding as ice steadily disappears at this wilderness on the edge of the polar climate zone." One of the expeditioners claimed a glacier tongue had receded 500 metres in 14 years. Scary.

Claims of atmospheric warming at Heard were based entirely on glacier retreat, not on measured temperature. This is because there is no permanent weather station there. Many glaciers in the world (e.g. Iceland) have been observed to retreat with no change in atmospheric temperature. Thus, such retreats can only be caused by increased solar radiation in recent decades or rebound from the earlier Little Ice Age.

The reported `impacts' of this real or imagined warming at Heard were dire too. More vegetation (tut-tut), more sea birds (shaking heads), many more fur seals (gasp!), and 25,000 king penguin pairs compared with only 3 pairs in 1947 (horror!). With all that new wild life bursting out all over, climate change must be `much worse than previously thought' (the now standard cliché to grab attention).

But the expeditioners were not telling the whole story. The island is volcanic. It has two volcanoes, the bigger of the two recently active. There were eruptions in 1881, 1910, 1950-1954, and in 1985 when there was an eruption of lava flow. Satellite images and observations from an Australian base revealed additional eruptive activity in 1992. Earthquakes were felt on the island by a team of biologists in Dec. 1992. A new lava flow was observed in mid-January 1993. On Jan. 5, 1997, a pilot on an Antarctic sightseeing tour near Heard Island saw a volcanic plume. That's six recorded eruptive episodes since 1947 when the first expedition visited Heard. However, the expeditioners coyly described the island's volcanic state as `semi-active'.

So Heard Island is a hot rock, and some ice has melted on it. Time to hit the panic button." (Still Waiting For Greenhouse)

"The Week That Was March 31, 2001 brought to you by SEPP" has been posted.

"Power grid groans from too much electricity" - "North America's creaky power grid needs a major overhaul after failing to keep up with a dramatic increase in the amount of electricity clogging the over-stressed system, industry analysts say. "The North American transmission system is gridlocked," said Larry Makovich, senior director for North American power at Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA), a Mass.-based independent research firm. "Many opportunities are being missed, and we're setting ourselves up for a period of continued grinding inefficiency because things are not moving ahead," he said, adding there are no signs the situation will improve quickly." | U.S. power grid faces grim summer (Reuters)

"Dirty Air, High Blood Pressure Linked" - "NEW YORK - People who are trying to lower their blood pressure might want to consider the amount of pollution in the air they breathe in addition to the amount of salt in their food, German researchers report." (Reuters Health)

Hmm... there's still no compelling evidence salt reduction is a particularly good idea: Salt Shakeup: Study Links Low-salt Diet with Higher Risk of Death; A DASH of Data in the Salt Debate; Beware of Public Health Researchers Bearing Low-salt Gifts; The (Political) Science of Salt; A Grim Fairy Tale. Given the extraordinary improvement in urban air quality in the developed world over the past 5 decades, tales of "air pollution" risk may need to be taken with salt.

"Beneficial effect of dietary change on heart disease can take two years" - "The theory that dietary fat causes heart disease remains central to "healthy eating" strategies. A review in this weeks BMJ shows modest, yet important, reductions in cardiovascular events, but only in those remaining on a diet for over two years. Hooper and colleagues reviewed 27 trials, involving over 30,000 healthy adult participants to assess the effect of altering dietary fat intake on cardiovascular events. They found that cardiovascular deaths were reduced by 9% and cardiovascular events (such as heart attacks and strokes) were reduced by 16%. There was little effect on total mortality. Interestingly, virtually all protection from cardiovascular events occurred in trials of at least two years duration." (media release) BMJ Abstract | Study

"Obesity 'starts in the womb'" - "Obesity could be decided while babies are still in the womb, say researchers. Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the UK with nearly one in five people being classed as obese. Treating obesity related illness costs the NHS between £1.7 to £1.9bn pounds each year - about 5% of all NHS expenditure. But scientists now say that whether we become obese in later life could be decided while we are still in the womb." (BBC Online)

Really? I always thought it had something to do with calories in being greater than calories out - it isn't just bank accounts that swell when there's a surplus.

"Study: overweight more common among early-maturing girls, especially minorities" - "CHAPEL HILL -- American girls who mature earlier than others also are more likely to be overweight, a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study shows. Early-maturing black girls faced the highest risk of obesity with 57.5 percent of them being at or above the 85th percentile of U.S. adolescent female body mass index, a measure of relative weight. Because many health experts believe girls as a group may develop physically sooner than they did in past generations and because of rapidly increasing rates of type 2 diabetes, obesity-prevention efforts should target all U.S. girls, especially blacks, researchers said." (UNC-Chapel Hill)

But are they overweight because they are "developing sooner" or is it the other way around?

"Providing better playgrounds could improve children's physical activity" - "Middle-school students are more likely to be physically active if they are given an attractive place to play and are supervised by adults, according to a new study. Physical improvements to school grounds, such as basketball hoops and tennis courts, along with adult supervision, were associated with four times as many boys and five times as many girls being physically active during free time, say James F. Sallis, Ph.D., of San Diego State University and his associates. “The results raise the possibility that making realistic improvements to school environments could increase the physical activity of students throughout the school day,” he says." (CAH)

Fear of litigation, however, sees more school and public playground facilities removed each day. Such is the price of a society obsessed with litigation and absolute "safety."

Speaking of bizarre litigation: "Billion-Dollar Bluff" - "Courts — Toshiba paid $2 billion to avoid facing superlawyer Wayne Reaud in a Texas court. Compaq stood tough—and exposed the nuttiness of class suits." (Daniel Fisher, Forbes Magazine)

"Minority, Poor Hurt More by Environmental Hazards" - "SAN FRANCISCO - Poor and minority populations are more likely to be exposed to environmental hazards and may suffer disproportionately from certain diseases as a result, researchers asserted Thursday at a session on environmental justice held at the Society of Toxicology's annual meeting. ``It's clear to me that poor people live and work in more hazardous environments,'' said Kenneth Olden, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). ''Communities at risk for environmental exposure must have access to information so they will be empowered to do something.'' (Reuters Health)

Do you suppose poor people live in less-desirable regions because it's the best the can afford? And whether they can access information or not, won't they be more likely to move to nice, "clean" addresses if their affordability increases? Meaning that removing obstructions to wealth generation is of particular health benefit to the impoverished? Think about it.

"Stimulating environment protects brain against damage from lead exposure" - "Use it or lose may be a truism when it comes to protecting the brain against lead exposure. Neuroscientists at Jefferson Medical College have found that a mentally stimulating, enriched environment helped protect rats from the potentially damaging effects of lead poisoning." (TJU release)

"Environmental group apologizes for 'chemical scare'" - "TORONTO - A publicity campaign may be to blame for a chemical scare that shut down a portion of Toronto's financial district on Friday." (CBC) | Pollution Probe smog stunt sparks environmental scare (National Post)

"Greenpeace patriarch slurs dead 'pretender'" - "McTaggart a 'con man': Paul Watson vows to dirty the grave of fellow founder." | Film deal fuels Greenpeace feud (National Post)

"Rural Communities Back Reconsideration of EPA Arsenic Rule; Old Rule Would Have Threatened Rural Communities, Especially Low Income Communities" - "WASHINGTON - On March 20, 2001, the U.S. EPA announced the withdrawal of their January 22, 2001 drinking water rule for arsenic. The National Rural Water Association's over 20,000 rural and small community members support EPA's reconsidering of the arsenic rule and urge Gov. Locke other opponents of EPA's action to consider the reality of the situation in thousands of rural communities." (BUSINESS WIRE)

"Environmental Link to Parkinson's Risk Examined" - "SAN FRANCISCO - Environmental factors including pesticides, herbicides and fungicides may play a key role in the development of Parkinson's disease (news - web sites), researchers suggested Thursday at the annual meeting of the Society of Toxicology. Scientists have debated for decades whether Parkinson's, a neuro-degenerative disease affecting 1 million Americans, is caused mainly by genetic or by environmental factors, said Dr. Bill Langston, president of the Parkinson's Institute in Sunnyvale, California. ... But researchers have recently come to believe that while genetics may play a strong role for those who develop the disease early in life, environmental factors probably trigger the vast majority of cases in people who develop the disease later. Researchers also believe that those who do develop the disease later in life probably have an innate heightened vulnerability to it. ... And studies have found that smoking and coffee--usually assumed to be detrimental to good health--may actually have a protective effect against the disease." (Reuters Health)

"Office noise poses environmental hazard" - "The environment has many forms. Most adults who work know the cubicles and conference rooms of the office as their primary environment, and there the trouble starts. Low-level noise in open-style offices results in higher levels of stress and lower task motivation, according to a new study by a Cornell University environmental psychologist. Surprisingly, experienced workers in these mildly noisy offices make fewer ergonomic adjustments to their work stations than do workers in quiet offices." (ENN)

"World turning to seafood as meat demand drops" - "BOSTON - The scare over foot-and-mouth disease in Europe has fish and seafood producers licking their lips: they believe the demand for anything but meat will boost their market." (CBC)

"Stem cells repair heart attack damage" - "Stem cells taken from adult animals can start rebuilding tissues damaged by heart attacks, say US scientists. Stem cells are the body's master cells, which can develop into a wide variety of different cells types to replace those which die or are damaged. However, controlling this development could potentially provide a source of cell types previously thought irreplaceable once damaged." (BBC Online)

"Whitehall funds hush-hush production of GM fish" - "Three government ministries are financing the development of genetically modified fish for the dinner table, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. They have already spent £2.6m on unpublicised British research to create fast-growing fish for human consumption despite warnings from official advisers that these will inevitably interbreed with wild species, with incalculable consequences. A further £457,000 has been spent by the European Commission in Britain. The research focuses on fish such as carp and tilapia, a staple in Asia which is becoming increasingly popular in Britain. But the techniques will be soon applied to widely eaten species such as salmon and cod. The news comes at a time when consumers are increasingly turning to fish, as they become more anxious about the safety of meat. The research is being partly financed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food ­ already under heavy attack for its bungling of the foot and mouth outbreak." (Independent) | GM fish trials funded in secret (Sunday Times)

"Farmers Have Love-Hate Relationship With Biotech" - "ST. LOUIS--They've been burned by biotech yet are planting it still. And with enthusiasm. American farmers are expected to plant more genetically engineered soybeans this spring than ever before--beans that will show up in processed foods from ice cream to salad dressing to veggie burgers. It should be a banner year for biotech cotton too, according to federal projections released Friday. And genetically modified corn will likely hold steady, accounting for about a quarter of the total U.S. corn crop. This, despite growing public unease over tinkering with the food supply and tough international strictures against genetically engineered products." (LA Times)

Perhaps because all the anti-biotech noise is generated by a tiny minority of professional activists and faithfully echoed by sensation-seeking media while consumers and farmers are actually not fazed in the least.

"Proposal to Bar Altered Wheat Seems Doomed" - "A bill that would prohibit planting genetically modified wheat in North Dakota for two years appears headed toward defeat, legislators in the state said yesterday. The State Senate's Agriculture Committee amended the bill on Thursday to replace the moratorium with a study of the benefits and risks of genetically modified crops. Senator Kenneth Kroeplin, a co- sponsor of the moratorium proposal, said that he would try to revive it on the floor of the Senate but conceded that the chances of success were slim. "The bill as is is pretty much dead," said Mr. Kroeplin, a Democrat." (New York Times)

"Farmers To Plant More Acres Of Genetically Engineered Crops" - "U.S. farmers intend to plant more acres of genetically engineered soybeans, which are altered to resist weeds and pests, while seeding about the same amount of gene-altered corn as they did a year ago, the government said. Farmers expect to sow 63 percent of their soybean acres to gene-altered seeds, up from a revised 54 percent from last year, the U.S. Agriculture Department said in a survey of farmers' planting intentions. Bio-engineered corn may be sown on 24 percent of the acres, down from 25 percent last year. It does not include StarLink corn, produced by Aventis SA of France, which is no longer legal to plant in the U.S. Biotech cotton may account for 64 percent of seedings, up from a revised 61 percent last year, the USDA said." (Bloomberg)

"Canadian exporter pushes GM canola" - "A representative of one of the world's largest canola exporting companies has told Australian canola growers he doesn't believe they'll maintain a market advantage by remaining GM-free." Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Europeans refusing Cdn honey because of GMOs" - "REGINA - Beekeepers are worried about genetically modified crops because their bees are pollenating the crops and so, some European countries are refusing to buy Canadian honey." (CBC)

March 30, 2001

"Anti-chemical Activists And Their New Clothes" - "Anti-chemical activists are using the recent PBS broadcast of Trade Secrets: A Moyers Report to kick off their latest campaign against chemicals and the chemical industry. But if Trade Secrets is the activists' best shot, the public should rest easy." (Steven Milloy, Foxnews.com)

"Pensacola toxic site war rages in and out of court" - "Pensacola, Fla. --- Environmental activists have sued oil giant Conoco over a toxic waste dump in what has become a very public battle, fought with billboards and newspaper advertisements along the streets of Pensacola. A team of lawyers filed the lawsuit late last week, accusing Conoco of failing to properly clean up toxic waste left by a former fertilizer plant owned by Conoco from 1963 until the company sold it in 1972." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

"Pesticide makers body faults GM crops" - "THE move to introduce Genetic Modification Technology for seeds is driven by political and commercial motives, with little or no regard to the possible health & environment hazards," said Pesticides Manufacturers & Formulators Association of India president Pradeep Dave. "The process of genetic engineering can introduce dangerous new allergens and toxins into previously safe foods." This apart, transferring animal genes into plants raises important ethical issues for vegetarians and is against the sentiments of India’s various religious groups, he pointed out." (Economic Times)

Pushing alternate scares to protect pesticide sales?

"Environmentalists, Lawmakers Clash in Oregon Over Pesticide Program Bill" - "Mar. 28--SALEM, Ore.--The cooperation that secured approval of a pesticide-tracking program last legislative session is starting to wilt as environmentalists and lawmakers clash over how much money it will take to develop. At a recent Joint Ways and Means subcommittee meeting, legislators refused to allocate the $2 million the Department of Agriculture requested for start-up computer and software costs. Rep. Jim Hill, R-Hillsboro, said the department had not researched lower-cost alternatives. So the committee gave the program $1 as a placeholder and asked the department to come back with a new plan. The move has environmentalists crying foul. Groups such as the Oregon Environmental Council and the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group say the panel's decision seems like an underhanded tactic to delay implementation." (Knight Ridder/Tribune)

"Bush Vows To Reduce Arsenic in H2O" - "WASHINGTON - President Bush said Thursday he will pursue some reduction in the amount of arsenic allowed in drinking water, but not before more scientific studies on where the level should be set. Bush defended his decision to withdraw new arsenic regulations issued by President Clinton in the final days of his administration. "We pulled back his decision so that we can make a decision based on sound science,'' said Bush. He promised that after the science review "there will be a reduction in arsenic'' in drinking water." | Democrats take issue with arsenic decision (AP)

Gasp! "Canada cooling on Kyoto pact" - "As the United States prepares to seal the coffin of the landmark 1997 Kyoto treaty on global warming, Canada's main negotiators on climate change are talking like the pallbearers. "We cannot have an effective Kyoto accord without the U.S.," Environment Minister David Anderson said yesterday in Montreal." (Montreal Gazette)

"Confused over U.S. stand, environment ministers cancel negotiating talks" - "MONTREAL -- Environment Minister David Anderson and 16 of his Latin American counterparts cancelled a negotiating session Wednesday on climate change. They made the decision after hearing a report that the United States doesn't plan to implement the Kyoto climate treaty." (CP)

Translation: now we don't have to pretend and everyone will blame President George W. Bush.

While secretly thanking their lucky stars that Dubyah is taking the heat for the inevitable, world leaders are posturing frantically, desperate activists are wailing loudly and dredging up every bizarre claim and scare imaginable:

Unlike this AJC editorial: "Making an excellent case against Kyoto Protocol" - "IT'S NOT EASY being green," Kermit the Frog sang 30 years ago. And that holds true today, the beleaguered Bush administration is learning as it works to inject common sense and scientific analysis into environmental policy after extremists spent eight years running roughshod over reason. When President Bush declined to restrict carbon dioxide emissions because the costs far outweigh the benefits, sought more scientific analysis on reducing lower arsenic standards in drinking water and decided to review a ban on logging and road-building in federal forests, environmental groups denounced him as "anti-environment" and "pro-industry." But, to borrow another line, "You ain't seen nothin' yet!" like the reaction of environmental groups to Bush's opposition to their holy grail: the Gore-era Kyoto Protocol." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

And this DT leader: "Not the end of the world" - "GEORGE BUSH'S decision to abandon the international Kyoto protocol, which sought to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases that are believed to cause global warming, has provoked an outbreak of hysteria the world over. To listen to the reaction of some politicians and environmentalists, anyone might think that the President had pressed the nuclear button. Here at home, Michael Meacher, the environment minister, described global warming as "the most dangerous and fearful challenge to humanity over the next 100 years". He said that it was "almost unthinkable" that America should not be part of the agreement." (Telegraph)

"Bush Seeks to Reassure Allies on Global Warming" - "WASHINGTON - President Bush sought to reassure German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and other European allies on Thursday that he would work with them on reducing greenhouse gas emissions linked to global climate change. At a news conference in advance of his White House meeting with Schroeder, Bush defended his rejection of the Kyoto global warming treaty, saying the United States was in the midst of an energy shortage and stressing that his top priority was to keep the U.S. economy on a steady course." (Reuters)

"Bush firm with allies on climate pact" - "WASHINGTON, March 29 — Moments before meeting Germany’s leader for talks where global warming was a highlight, President Bush said Thursday that while he will talk with allies about dealing with the issue “we will not do anything that harms our economy.” Backed by the European Union, Japan and others, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder delivered concerns about Bush’s earlier signal that the United States will walk away from a 1997 U.N. global warming treaty." (MSNBC)

"Shaky science, bad economics killed Kyoto" - "At the Omni Hotel in Montreal yesterday afternoon, Environment Minister David Anderson was scheduled to meet the media. The purpose was to brief journalists on how Mr. Anderson planned to host a session of Environment Ministers of the Americas on a riveting subject -- the inclusion of forest and agricultural "sinks" under the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol. An hour before the media briefing, however, Environment Canada staff were scrambling to cancel. It made little sense to hold an earnest briefing on the absurd constructs of Kyoto's sinks and mechanisms when, to all intents and purposes, Kyoto was dead. After five years of relentless hype, a decade of phony weather scares and disaster scenarios over the prospect of global warming, the Kyoto Protocol to control the world's climate through a United Nations' bureaucracy crashed yesterday. The wailing will be loud and prolonged, with U.S. President George Bush getting the blame. He will be vilified and demonized as the man who pulled the plug on the protocol, the international agreement signed by Canada and other nations in an orgy of secret negotiation in the summer of 1997. But George Bush didn't kill Kyoto. Kyoto is going down for three dominant reasons: shaky science, bad economics, and even worse policy." (Terence Corcoran, Financial Post)

But: "Canada insists Kyoto climate deal is not dead" - "MONTREAL - The Kyoto agreement to fight global warming is not dead and Canada still intends to meet its environmental commitments, despite the withdrawal of White House support for the international accord, a top Canadian official said Thursday. "No, it's not dead," Paul Fauteux, co-head of the Canadian delegation to climate negotiations, told reporters after the White House's declaration on Wednesday that the United States no longer supports the Kyoto treaty. "The U.S. hasn't pulled out. They've obviously expressed some very serious reservations and we're going to discuss with them what those reservations are, and we'll try to overcome them," he said." (Reuters)

"Report: Oceans gobbling up more carbon dioxide" - "The world's plants are devouring carbon dioxide at record rates in recent years, according to data from an advanced satellite gauging carbon as it cycles through the global environment." (CNN) | First chapter of Earth's "biological record" documented from space (NASA/GSFC release) GSFC 'Colors of life' page (NASA/GSFC)

Plants "eat" atmospheric CO2. There's been an increase in available atmospheric CO2. There's been more plant growth. Not perhaps all that surprising.

"Ozone-Eating Clouds Form in Cold Polar Rings" - "WASHINGTON - Ozone-eating clouds that erode Earth's protection against ultraviolet radiation are born in thin rings of supercold air over the North and South Poles, scientists reported on Thursday. The Sun's ultraviolet rays could cause skin cancer in humans and biological damage to other living things if Earth were not shielded by the ozone layer high in the atmosphere. But polar stratospheric clouds made of nitric acid and water deplete this protective layer." (Reuters)

"Experts say childhood rickets on the rise" - "ATLANTA - Childhood rickets - a bone-softening disease that experts thought had been virtually eliminated - is making a comeback, in part because some youngsters are not getting enough sunlight, health officials say. Rickets, a vitamin D deficiency that causes bones to soften and bend and often results in bowlegs, was once a major health problem. The addition of vitamin D to milk in the 1930s virtually eliminated the disease. But health officials said Thursday that health departments across the country are seeing a resurgence. The government attributes the comeback to the popularity of milk substitutes like soy that lack certain nutrients; the failure to supplement breast milk with vitamin D; and a lack of childhood exposure to sunlight. Sunlight stimulates the body to produce vitamin D." (AP)

"US POWER - crisis seen hitting Calif. gasoline prices" - "HOUSTON - Cruising the palm-lined boulevards of Beverly Hills in a convertible this summer could prove costly, with experts predicting that California's power crisis could cripple oil refineries and jack up gasoline prices. "If we have the sequence of blackouts that people are projecting this summer, we could be looking at something really terrible," said West Coast energy consultant Philip Verleger. In a recent newsletter to clients, Verleger said a series of power disruptions to West Coast refineries could cause wholesale gasoline prices to spike as high as $3 per gallon from current levels of around $1.20." (Reuters)

"World oil demand seen up 56 percent by 2020" - "World demand for petroleum is expected to soar by 56 percent, or 43 million barrels per day (bpd), over the next two decades due mostly to strong demand for transportation fuels, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said Wednesday. World supplies should keep pace with demand, the agency said, and it predicted that the average cost of crude oil would actually fall from about $28 a barrel now to about $22 in 2020. In its annual international energy forecast, the Energy Department's statistical agency said global oil demand would jump to 119.6 million bpd in 2020 from its current level of about 77 million bpd." (Reuters) | World Energy Use Will More Than Double by 2020 (ENS)

"WSJ: Ford Goes with Greens on Hybrids" - "NEW YORK - Ford Motor Co. is siding with some environmentalists in a behind-the-scenes fight on Capitol Hill over a proposal to use tax credits to jump-start demand for hybrid gas-electric vehicles, the Wall Street Journal reported in its online edition Thursday. It is not clear that the proposal to offer tax breaks that could approach $5,000 to buyers of the innovative fuel-efficient vehicles will become law, the paper noted. Ford's decision to back the plan is contrary to the strategies of General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG, the paper noted." (Reuters)

"Soft" science? Fat's health impacts are often oversimplified, Science news feature contends" - "Mainstream nutritional science has demonized dietary fat," a Science news article reports in the 30 March, 2001 issue. "Yet, 50 years and hundreds of millions of dollars of research have failed to prove that eating a low-fat diet will help you live longer." Reporter Gary Taubes spent over a year researching the article and based his conclusions on interviews with over 150 sources. Taubes emphasizes that "no one is recommending that people run out and eat butter and lard instead of vegetables." But, his news report contends, "The data remain ambiguous as to whether low-fat diets will benefit healthy Americans." Moreover, Taubes reports, dire warnings about dietary fat may have encouraged a shift to high-carbohydrate diets, "which may be no better-perhaps even worse-than high-fat diets." (AAAS)

"Low-fat diet 'not key to a long life'" -"CUTTING down on fats has little effect on the chance of dying within a given time — although it may make a heart attack a little less likely. An analysis of 27 diet modification trials shows a benefit, particularly if the diet is sustained for at least two years, in reducing the risk of death by heart attack by 9 per cent. But the effect on overall mortality is essentially zero." (The Times)

"Is women's risk of breast cancer really 1 in 9? Researchers say no" - "One in nine. That chilling statistic is routinely cited as a woman's risk of developing breast cancer. But for a 50-year-old (the age at which it is recommended that routine screening begin), that statistic overstates the risk almost tenfold, according to a new study. Researchers at the California Cancer Registry found that, on average, a 50-year-old woman has a one-in-86 risk of developing breast cancer in the next five years. A 40-year-old woman has a one-in-189 risk in that same time period, and the risk for a 60-year-old is pegged at one in 61." (Globe and Mail) | Breast cancer risk lower than women think; statistics by age, ethnicity give more realistic picture (CAH release)

They're not trying to steal the gold out of your teeth - they want your babies' teeth instead: "Researchers want baby teeth" - "The ``Tooth Fairy Project'' wants your children's baby teeth. Evidence that cancer rates may be rising because of radioactive emissions from nuclear power plants prompted the Radiation and Public Health Project to send letters this week to 5,000 families in Miami-Dade County and 5,000 on the Treasure Coast asking for donations of baby teeth. The researchers want to find out if levels of strontium-90, a radioactive material released by nuclear reactors, are high enough to be harmful in children who live near the Turkey Point nuclear plant in South Miami-Dade or the St. Lucie plant." (Miami Herald)

Of all the proxies they could use to determine emission history, this must be the most bizarre.

"Dressing Down Environmental Fashion" - "Patagonia, maker of “environmentally conscious” sportswear and enemy of conventional agriculture, has issued a “chicken little” alert to its customers over genetically modified crops. Employing the usual bad science and scare tactics, the trendy clothing manufacturer is calling GMOs “a dark threat to all that is wild.” Instead of making use of proven new methods that have fed billions of hungry people, Patagonia is urging its customers to “Go organic! Only certified organic food is guaranteed to be free of genetically engineered ingredients.” (Dean Kleckner, Chairman, Truth About Trade and Technology and Past President, American Farm Bureau Federation, on Tech Central Station)

"Organic food: why?" - "Organic farming is no safer than modern agriculture, and it certainly couldn't feed the world. So why is it so popular - even among European governments?" (Spiked-Online)

Spiked has something of a series going at the moment - here's a few more:

Modern life? It's the best yet
'Attach it to pretty much anything you (don't) like, from scientific research to supermarkets, and the prefix "modern" has become a boo-word, to be pronounced with a sneer.'
Farming: the bigger, the better
Why is there such intense opposition to modern farming techniques?
Supermarkets are - super
They stand accused of everything from killing the high street to fuelling the foot-and-mouth crisis. But what have supermarkets done to deserve it - other than providing a large variety of nice, cheap food?
Urban prejudices, rural myths
Why we should all stop romanticising the countryside.
Animal research: a scientist's defence
Medical research is not concerned with the welfare of animals - and nor should it be.

"Group Agrees Draft Safety Standards for GM Food" - "A 165-nation working group agreed draft safety standards for genetically modified foods at a meeting this week in Japan, officials of Japan`s Health Ministry said on Thursday. However, the CODEX Alimentarius Commission Task Force was stuck on the key issue of traceability of the gene-spliced products. The idea is to set internationally-agreed procedures for a consumer to trace the origin and history of any genetically-engineered product. Consumers International, an umbrella group for consumers, blamed GM-food producers the United States, Canada, Australia and South Africa for blocking accord on traceability." (Reuters) | U.N. Panel On GM Food Progresses On Guidelines (Kyodo)

"Attack of the killer tomatoes" - "Eleven senators from both parties have asked the president to create a "biotechnology coordinator" who would ensure that policy at a veritable alphabet soup of government agencies is consistent and sensible. But dogs bark, cows moo and regulators regulate, and the Bush administration will have a difficult time crafting and implementing needed regulatory reform. A biotech coordinator would have to be part diplomat and part Lord High Executioner. Current federal regulatory policy is relentlessly negative toward biotechnology." (Henry Miller, Washington Times)

"Biotechnology giant wins case against farmer" - "SASKATOON -- A Saskatchewan farmer planted herbicide-resistant canola without the permission of the biotechnology company that developed it, a Federal Court judge has ruled. St.-Louis-based Monsanto sued farmer Percy Schmeiser, claiming he knowingly planted its Roundup Ready brand of canola without permission in 1998 on his farm near Bruno, Sask., 80 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon. Schmeiser claimed the seed for that crop came from his own fields which were contaminated by pollen from neighbouring fields or by seed blowing off trucks passing his fields. But in a written ruling released Thursday, Judge Andrew MacKay said evidence in the case supported Monsanto's claim more than Schmeiser's." (CP) | Farmer Liable For Growing Biotech Crops (Washington Post)

"Italian Leader Accuses Monsanto" - "ROME - Italy's agriculture minister has called for the seizure of more than 300 tons of soybean and corn seeds, which he claims were genetically modified, and for the suspension of the license of the importer and distributer, Monsanto. The chairman of Monsanto's Italian branch, Jean-Michel Duhamel, denied Thursday that the seeds were genetically modified, and called it a ``misinterpretation'' by the agriculture ministry." (AP)

"FACTBOX - Japan's new rules for biotech crop imports" - "TOKYO - New stricter legislation that will set zero tolerance for imports containing unapproved genetically modified products, especially StarLink corn, takes effect in Japan in April. Under the new rules, Japan will also seek mandatory labelling for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food products." (Reuters)

March 29, 2001

Radiation 'hazards' found at U.S. Capitol, Library of Congress buildings - Radiation levels up to 65 times higher than U.S. Environmental Protection Agency safety standards were measured at the U.S. Capitol building and Library of Congress, reports a new study published by JunkScience.com.

"Science can wait" - "Consider again the case of arsenic. At high doses, well above existing standards, arsenic is toxic. But in trace amounts it may not only be harmless, it may be benign. A check of the medical literature turns up dozens of studies in peer-reviewed journals on the use of arsenic in the treatment of leukemia, for example. By diverting scarce tax dollars from real to hypothetical health problems, the fear-mongering over arsenic may wind up being a bigger assault on the environment and public health than arsenic ever was." (Ken Smith, Washington Times)

President Bush finally assuming the U.S. of A's role as world leader in taking the world away from the disastrous Kyoto Protocol has resulted in some congratulations, lots of posturing and no little amount of hand-wringing. On the first hand:


"Environment ministers cancel U.S. negotiating talks" - "MONTREAL -- Environment Minister David Anderson and 16 of his Latin American counterparts cancelled a negotiating session Wednesday on climate change. They made the decision after hearing a report that the United States doesn't plan to implement the Kyoto climate treaty." (CP)

"Bush Looks to Put Kyoto Agreement on Ice" - "In a front page story today, The Washington Post reports today that the White House recently sought advice from the State Department about how the United States can legally withdraw its signature from a landmark 1997 global warming agreement, signaling its intent to pull out despite efforts by European and Japanese leaders to try to keep the agreement alive. The Kyoto treaty marked the first time that the world's industrial nations committed to binding limits on the heat-trapping gases that scientists believe threaten catastrophic changes in the planet's climate. Under its terms, the United States would have to reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and certain other pollutants by 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. However, the Senate has refused to ratify the treaty, and President Bush wrote to four conservative senators March 13 that he opposed the agreement because it exempts developing countries and would harm the U.S. economy. Cato Institute scholars have long opposed the Kyoto treaty and have written about it extensively. In testimony before Congress, Senior Fellow in Environmental Studies Patrick Michaels explained why the Kyoto Protocol is "a useless appendage to an irrelevant treaty." In "Kyoto's Chilling Effects," Michaels writes that the protocol has poor chances of being ratified by the United States as "Both Democrats and Republicans can agree that Kyoto will wreck our economy, according to just about every credible study that uses realistic policy assumptions." Director of Natural Resource Studies Jerry Taylor agrees in "Hot Air in Kyoto," stating that "impoverishing society today to avoid a very uncertain problem tomorrow would harm, not help, future generations." (Cato Institute)

"VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT Vol. 2, No. 12" - "Cut through popular media coverage, take time to read the underlying UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports (or to carefully parse their summaries), and you will discover that the most likely "global warming" for the next 100 years is about 1.5ºC (2.7ºF). Our reward for repeatedly pointing this out is a rash of obscenity-laced flame mail. At least they’re reading our stuff. "Skeptics" we’re branded and are characterized as "outside the mainstream." But, according to a new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, we’re midstream in the Big Muddy." (GES) | Uncertainty Analysis of Global limate Change Projections (PDF) (MIT)

"Ancient tree rings give climate clues" - "Ancient tree stumps uncovered in a South American earthquake have provided the most detailed picture yet of the world's climate before the last ice age. An international team looked at the seasonal growth rings in 28 examples of Fitzroya cupressoides, a conifer from the region. They found what seems to be early evidence of El Niño, the largest single source of modern weather variation, which is caused by a cyclical movement of warm waters in the Pacific. The researchers say the trees, from Pelluco in southern Chile, provide an unprecedented weather record from 50,000 years ago." (BBC Online)

"EU Asks Citizens How to Save the Earth" - "BRUSSELS - The people of the European Union (news - web sites) have one month to say what policies they think can create wealth and jobs without destroying the environment, the European Commission (news - web sites) said Wednesday. In an effort to find out what the public thinks are the biggest threats to the environment and how to solve them, the EU executive has invited concerned citizens to answer questions posed on its Internet site." (Reuters)

"Most people with allergy-like symptoms don't have allergies, study says" - "COLUMBUS, Ohio - A heads-up to people who suffer from allergy-like symptoms: Your sniffles and sneezes may not be due to allergies after all. In a recent study of 246 patients, researchers found that nearly two out of three patients treated for allergies were not allergic. "Millions of people suffer unnecessarily because they really don't have allergies," said Sheryl Szeinbach, a study co-author and a professor of pharmacy at Ohio State University. "They're often prescribed antihistamines that don't help the problem." (Ohio State University)

"Antibiotics may relieve ulcers" - "Researchers discovered that antibiotics can cut down on bleeding ulcers suffered by some heart patients on daily aspirin. The antibiotics kill a common germ that appears to trigger or heighten the damage done by aspirin. Daily aspirin is widely prescribed to prevent blood clots in people with heart disease. But aspirin can cause bleeding ulcers. Many such patients must take daily doses of an acid-cutting drug to treat their ulcers. Taking antibiotics for a week to knock out the germ could be a cheaper and more convenient approach for these people." (AP)

"Report calls for more MMR research" - "Members of the Scottish Parliament have called for the creation of an expert committee to carry out further research into the controversial measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. A report by the parliament's health committee concluded that there was no reason to doubt the safety of the triple injection. It said that on the current evidence, there was no scientific link between autism and the triple vaccine." (BBC Online)

"FoE criticise lack of chemicals control" - "Friends of the Earth has hit out at the failure to control chemical build-ups in the environment. The warning comes as new research shows that a mystery, hormone-disrupting chemical is in the blubber of seals and whales." (Ananova)

Here we go again. FoE have apparently corrupted the now near-archaic term "endocrine disruptor" to "hormone-disrupting," although the term du jour is "Hormonally Active Agent" (HAA) because no one has been able to demonstrate disruption of the human endocrine system from these compounds. HAAs are common in nature and often touted as health aids such as the phyto-compounds pushed by the health/natural food fraternity (supposed to be "good" because they're sourced from plants but so are lots of poisons - go figure).

Estradiol (the primary human estrogen) represents the greatest estrogenic potency and the standard by which estrogen activity is measured. In vitro yeast assay tests show comparative relative potency of compounds and estradiol is set as "1". Coumestrol (a phytoestrogen — an estrogen like compound found in plants) demonstrates a relative potency of 0.01 (1/77.00) meaning coumestrol is 77 times less potent than estradiol; p-nonylphenol (a chemical used in certain plastics) 0.0002 (1/5,000); bisphenol A (also a chemical used in certain plastics) 0.00007 (1/15,000); DDT (a pesticide banned from use in the U.S. in 1970) 0.0000001 (1/8,000,000). There is no demonstrated in vivo activity for these comparison compounds.

What do these figures mean in real world terms? Say you consumed produce at the ridiculously high "contamination" rate of 24ppmw (parts per million by weight) DDT - which you will NOT find at your supermarket. So 1mt (metric ton) of our hypothetical produce would contain 24 grams of DDT. If you can eat 1mt of this produce per day you will receive roughly the equivalent of the estradiol portion of a common micro-dose birth control pill (30 micrograms ethinylestradiol per day), of course, you would still need to make up the 150 micrograms of the less potent levororestrel component somewhere if you wanted natural birth control. Not a particularly big deal really.

Check out the ACSH publication 'Endocrine Disrupters: A Scientific Perspective' for some calm and rational information.

"Mercury fillings toxic -- report" - "New research vividly demonstrating the damage mercury has on brain cells -- in concentrations seen in people with amalgam fillings -- was published by University of Calgary medical school researchers Monday." (Calgary Herald)

See The Toxic Tooth Scare by the Junkman

"Synthetic Chemicals and Bill Moyers" - "American chemical companies certainly did not do everything that they should have done to protect their workers from injuries caused by certain industrial chemicals. That much is clear from the 90-minute Bill Moyers' documentary, Trade Secrets, which aired on PBS earlier this week. But the implications for public policy are not necessarily those that Moyers recommends." (Ronald Bailey, Reason Online)

"Protestors halt burning of carcasses" - "Protestors furious about the disposal of sheep carcasses at Mona on Anglesey brought a temporary halt to the burning. On Thursday night, a group of angry locals successfully turned back a lorry carrying more bodies to the disused airfield chosen for the destruction of 40,000 animals killed in a bid to stop the spread of foot-and-mouth. ... Worried villagers are due to meet at the chapel hall at Bodffordd at 1000GMT. Officials will be hoping to allay fears that the burning poses public health or environmental risks, or that it could help spread foot-and-mouth further across the island." (BBC Online)

"Energy Department Sees Strong Growth in Renewable Energy Consumption" - "A report released by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) cites expectations for a 53% increase in renewable energy use by 2020. The report states much of the growth in renewable energy over the next two decades is attributed to large-scale hydroelectric projects in the developing world, particularly developing Asia, where China, India and other developing nations (Malaysia, Nepal, and Vietnam, among others) are already building or planning to build hydro projects that each exceed 1,000 megawatts. The report also projects worldwide energy consumption to grow by 59% over the next two decades. “One-half of the projected growth is expected to occur in the developing nations of Asia (including China, India, and South Korea) and in Central and South America, where strong economic growth spurs robust demand for energy over the forecast period,” states the report." (AgWeb.com) | Link to EIA report (lengthy document)

"U.S. lawmakers see resurgence in nuclear power" - "WASHINGTON, March 27 - Nuclear power is on its way back and the once-dying industry could play an important role in helping the nation grapple with electricity shortages, the Republican head of the House Energy and Commerce committee said Tuesday. Although no new U.S. nuclear power plants have been built in 25 years, Republican lawmakers are taking a closer look at how the industry could fit into a broad national plan to boost domestic energy supplies and limit oil imports." (Reuters)

"Closing a Brady Loophole" - "The outlook for new gun-control laws, always dim, has grown dimmer. That was pretty clear from the lack of any calls in Congress for new legislation following the recent school shootings in California. This waning of political energy doesn't imply, however, that the need for more-effective laws, and law enforcement, has waned also." (CSM)

"Medical Society Warns PETA to Back Off" - "The State Medical Society of Wisconsin (SMSW) wants People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to know the group is not welcome at Wisconsin schools." (AgWeb.com)

"Biotechnology Benefits Are Discussed at Modesto, Calif.-Area Agriculture Event" - "Mar. 28--Sometimes science sounds a lot like science fiction. Example: Biotech wizards are trying to cultivate cancer-preventing vaccines inside tobacco leaves. Smokers then theoretically could inhale the cure as they puff. That and other pharmaceutical plants could be grown in the not too distant future, predicted Judith Kjelstrom, a microbiologist for the University of California at Davis. Kjelstrom wowed the crowd at Tuesday's annual Ag Aware luncheon as she shared her vision of how biotechnology could create healthier, heartier and tastier strains of food and fiber. "We can identify the DNA that has the trait we want, and then we slip it in there," Kjelstrom said of high-tech gene modification. "It's traditional breeding with a twist." (Knight Ridder/Tribune)

"Revolution - Why Biotech Phobia Will Only Keep Tomorrow's Indians Hungry" - "Speaking at a conference in Delhi recently, Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug voiced the obvious when he warned against ignoring biotechnology in agriculture. Consider India's case. After four decades of food sufficiency Malthus is back in business. In the 1990s, for the first decade since the green revolution, the rate of growth of food production fell behind the rate of population growth. To feed every Indian in the year 2011-12, food production needs to grow at 3.4 per cent a year. The current rate is 1.8 per cent. The gap is clear. How will it be filled? Certainly not by chemical fertilisers, which operate on the law of diminishing returns. Organic fertilisers may be beneficial for the soil but in terms of sheer scale they are useless. The world's entire organic fertiliser resource can meet the food requirements of four billion people. Earthlings already number six billion. Finally, there is a limit to the arable land available. Mankind's only option is biotechnology." (India Today)

"Victorian shires may go GM-free" - "The Victorian State Government will look at giving shires the opportunity to become genetically-modified free zones. Two shires, Strathbogie and West Wimmera, have already expressed a desire to be GM free." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Food Target: Biotechnology Holds The Key" - "Today India produces enough food (a record 206 million tonnes) to feed her population of one billion. The battle is, however, not yet won and it is the right time to ponder on two pertinent issues - accessibility to food and nutritional security. The daunting task is to double our food production in the next decade - a call given recently by the Prime Minister. Most of the world's greatest thinkers, including the father of the green revolution, the Noble Laureate, Norman E Borlaug, now believe that this cannot be achieved simply by conventional breeding. Classical breeding has to be supplemented with some innovative technologies. Biotechnology holds the promise." (Statesman)

"U.S. wheat leaders head to Canada, Japan on GM wheat" - "KANSAS CITY, Mo, March 28 - As the foot-and-mouth disease ravaging European agriculture heightens concerns about food safety around the world, U.S. wheat industry leaders are heading abroad to try to woo acceptance for biotech wheat. U.S. wheat representatives will travel to Canada on Thursday to meet with industry leaders regarding Monsanto Co.'s plan to commercialize the world's first genetically modified (GM) wheat sometime between 2003 and 2005. Canada is a leading U.S. competitor and is also dealing with plans by Monsanto to commercialize GM wheat seed there." (Reuters)

"Island groups oppose plan to produce genetically modified salmon eggs: Transgenic fish attacked" - "CHARLOTTETOWN -- A company hoping to market genetically modified salmon eggs is getting a rough ride from Islanders opposed to the plan. Aqua Bounty Farms, a Massachusetts company with a plant in Fortune Bay, P.E.I., hopes to sell 15 million of its fast-growing salmon eggs to fish farmers around the world. Leo Broderick, a P.E.I. director of the Council of Canadians, said Aqua Bounty Farms should never have been allowed to set up shop on the Island and its plant in Fortune Bay should be shut down." (CP)

"Golden Rice On The Rebound?" - "Despite predictions of doom and gloom from the likes of Greenpeace and other fear-mongers, Golden Rice - a genetically-improved strain with added vitamin A - is gaining mainstream support. Nobody ever claimed that this one crop would solve the world's vitamin deficiency problems, but the effects of its success or failure will be felt for generations. The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch notes: "At risk is not just Golden Rice but the development of crops that deplete less soil, use less pesticide and thrive in poor soils and climates." In Reason magazine, Ronald Bailey adds that the current state of affairs begs this question: "Will anti-biotech activists succeed in breaking the promise that golden rice holds for poor people in the developing world?" (GuestChoice.com)

March 28, 2001

"Sleepless in Seattle" - The Wall Street Journal comments on Starbucks' failed appeasment of the Greens.

Send a shame-mail to Starbuck's CEO.

Oh good grief! "GM Crops Fear at School" - "Worried parents are threatening to take their children out of school because genetically-modified crops are to be grown just 500 metres from classrooms. Families are furious that GM oilseed rape trials are to be carried out on land immediately behind a school in Weymouth, Dorset. A nearby technology college could also face disruption and environmentalists fear the trials will spell disaster for the Dorset countryside." (2dayuk.com)

I freely admit my children have tried to avoid certain of the brassicas, notably Brussels sprouts (Brassica oleracea gemmifera), but this is a field of oilseed rape (Brassica napus), a.k.a. canola. It would seem that these people have overdosed on Shelley - 'Frankenfoods' for heaven's sake! 'Mutant veggie' headlines. What are they expecting, something like this perhaps?

Dateline - New York: A shopper was slightly injured today when mugged by a bunch of genetically-modified parsley. Police have issued a description of the assailants as approximately 200cm tall and green - last seen attempting to use a stolen credit card to purchase compost.

Give it a break guys! We're talking about a crop that's grown on huge acreages in the Americas and there's not one recorded case of the crop uprooting itself and launching an assault on any human settlement. If you can't cope with the name "rape," try thinking of it as "canola." Sheeesh!

"Disarming Questions" - "The absurd idea that physicians are authorities on anything that can cause death or injury reflects the arrogance of a cartelized profession whose members flaunt their power as official gatekeepers, restrict competition with the government’s help, and routinely substitute their judgment for that of their customers. Given the seething resentment created by medical high-handedness, doctors would be well-advised to avoid broaching the subject of gun violence with their patients." (Jacob Sullum, Reason Online))

"Meat is still on the menu, but concern grows" - "There's scant evidence that reports of mad-cow disease and foot-and-mouth disease in Britain and Europe have triggered widespread changes in American consumers' behavior. While many say they're paying close attention, they have stopped short of shunning meat. ... Some experts say it's only a matter of time. "No question it's going to happen, because it's foolish to believe some tainted bone meal (linked to the European outbreak) didn't make its way into this country during the '90s," said Michael Osterholm, former Minnesota state epidemiologist. "It won't be a public health crisis because of its rarity, but it will be a huge public confidence crisis over the safety of food." (Scripps Howard)

No question? It's still far from certain that BSE is even related to nvCJD, which is associated only because the end result appears similar. Cattle feeding experiments couldn't even induce BSE via the oral route. At present, everything about BSE and nvCJD is questions without answers.

"The Queniborough CJD cluster" - "The authors of the Queniborough report claim that 'the people with CJD were 15 times more likely to have purchased and consumed beef from a butcher who removed brain from a beast compared with controls who purchased meat from outlets were cross contamination with brain material was not a risk'. They claim that this result is statistically significant and is therefore very unlikely to be a chance finding. They also concede that 'on a national basis', their explanation for the Queniborough cluster 'is unlikely to explain how all of the people who have developed this disease were exposed to the BSE agent'. This is only too true. Indeed, their thesis fails even to account for all five of the Queniborough cases - it holds good only for four. Closer inspection of the report reveals an edifice of speculation built on a flimsy empirical foundation." (Dr Mike Fitzpatrick, Spiked-Online)

"Row erupts over vaccine report" - "The author of a Scottish parliamentary report into the controversial measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) has alleged ministers tried to undermine her findings. Conservative health spokeswoman Mary Scanlon MSP said she was aware that her MMR report, which is due to be published on Wednesday, had caused divisions within the Scottish Parliament. Mrs Scanlon said she had received information from colleagues that ministers had been actively trying to undermine the report. But her allegations received a strong rebuttal from the Scottish Executive, which said any suggestion of political interference was merely "a smokescreen". The report has concentrated on a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism." (BBC Online)

"Shots Fired Over Kids' Vaccinations" - "From Edward Jenner's discovery of the first vaccine -- for smallpox -- in 1796, to Jonas Salk's creation of the polio vaccine in 1952, parents have embraced inoculations as a godsend. And health officials say there's no better way to protect your kids against the potentially deadly dangers of childhood diseases such as measles, diphtheria and pertussis." (HealthScout)

"MITZI PERDUE: Diabetes is an environmental issue" - Chemical scare? Pollution? No, (surprisingly) Mitzi Perdue uses "environmental" quite correctly:

"... In the era of Big Macs, fries, candy bars and sodas, the great ability to store food as fat no longer serves its purpose. Instead, it can mean that damaging amounts of sugar end up circulating for long periods in our blood. In the past, exercise would have reduced the sugar circulating in the blood. But today we're in an era of the couch potato, of TV, Nintendo, Game Boy and the Net, and more of it is stored as fat. On top of that, Kahn has noticed that in the past few years schools have been reducing the amount of time spent on physical education. "When you put it all together," he says, "there are more and more kids who are overweight, sedentary and have poor diets." (Scripps Howard)

"Childhood cancer treatments raise risks for adults, study finds" - "NEW ORLEANS - Survivors of childhood cancer face six times the usual risk of getting entirely new cancers in early adulthood - likely due to the chemotherapy and radiation treatments that cured them, a large study found. Doctors' ability to cure childhood malignancy has been one of the clearest successes of the war on cancer. About 1 in every 1,000 Americans in their 20s is a cancer survivor. Several earlier reports have shown a surprisingly high cancer risk as young patients grow older, but the latest study, involving more than 13,000 survivors, gives the most comprehensive assessment yet of this unexpected downside of a medical victory." (AP)

While it is true that these people demonstrate "an elevated risk," their cancer recurrence is still rare. Whether their treatment for earlier cancers is causal or whether these people are simply genetically susceptible to cancer remains to be seen.

"Researcher develops new theory for SIDS cause" - "An Australian researcher has put forward a new theory for the cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Dr Paul Goldwater, a specialist in infectious diseases at Adelaide's Women's and Children's Hospital, says it is possible that SIDS could be caused by an infection. In an article in the current issue of The Medical Journal of Australia, Dr Goldwater says pathological results prove that many SIDS babies have traces of an infection in their systems. But other doctors reject the hypothesis, saying it is unproven and the best way to prevent SIDS is still to put babies on their backs to sleep." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Study disputes 'crack baby' syndrome" - "CHICAGO - The "crack baby" phenomenon is overblown, according to a study that suggests poverty and the use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs while pregnant are just as likely as cocaine to cause serious developmental problems in children. Blaming such problems on prenatal cocaine use alone has unfairly stigmatized children, creating an unfounded fear in teachers that "crack kids" will be backward and disruptive, according to the study, an analysis of 36 previous studies. "I'm not trying to be Pollyanna-ish and say there are not problems" with cocaine use by pregnant women, said Dr. Deborah A. Frank, an associate professor of pediatrics at Boston University who led the analysis. "I'm saying there are many more serious risks to children's development." (AP)

"Italian official, the Vatican clash over antennas" - "ROME -- An international conflict is brewing on a patch of land just north of here, one that involves no less than one of the most recognizable men in the world, the inventor of the radio and the sometimes frustrating government of Italy. If last-ditch negotiations are not successful, the Italian minister of environment is threatening to literally pull the plug this Friday on the voice of the pope. The minister would cut electricity to Vatican Radio, which for 70 years has carried the message of the Catholic Church. Environment Minister Willer Bordon has told the Vatican to either reduce electromagnetic transmissions by two-thirds or face a blackout. He say ''electrosmog'' from the radio's powerful transmission towers is causing high levels of cancer and other problems among residents who live near them." (USA Today)

"Study Pulls Plug on High-Powered Internet" - "Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham set some heads shaking last week when he said in a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that "some experts calculate that the demands of the Internet already consume some 8 to 13 percent of electricity." Sounds like a lot of juice. Particularly since a study conducted for the Energy Department by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reported last summer that "total power use by office equipment and network equipment . . . is about 2 percent of total electricity use in the United States." (Washington Post)

See: http://www.house.gov/reform/neg/hearings/020200/mills.htm; http://www.greeningearthsociety.org/Articles/2000/testimony.htm; http://www.house.gov/reform/neg/hearings/index.htm; http://www.house.gov/reform/neg/hearings/071599/palmer.htm

"Conservation, Not Commerce, Keys Revival Of Environmental Localism" - "How the Channel Island sanctuary debate plays out may be a bellwether for 21st Century environmentalism. A growing chorus of voices -- on issues ranging from marine sanctuaries to grazing lands to watersheds -- is pressing for a greater local voice in environmental decisions that were relentlessly pushed to Washington, D.C., for the past 30 years. Their message? Local decision-making is critical to maintaining environmental protection and community well-being." (Lynn Scarlett, Reason Online)

"Greens tell EU not to call garbage renewable power" - "BRUSSELS - Greenpeace warned the European Union yesterday that plans to classify some forms of waste incineration as "renewable" energy would lead to a proliferation of unpopular new incineration plants. EU governments want to classify the burning of biodegradable municipal waste alongside more commonly acknowledged "green" power sources such as wind and solar - a move which could give it special status as the 15-nation bloc tries to increase the amount of power it gets from non-fossil fuels. But Greenpeace says such a move would undermine efforts to recycle waste, devalue the notion of environmentally friendly renewable energy and encourage incineration, which some studies show can cause adverse health effects." (Reuters)

Greens' studies allegedly show hazard from incineration, Greens don't want anyone to have or use anything (belongs to Gaia you know), Greens still trying to strangle energy production and the waste stream. Golly, what a surprise.

Greens tell EU not to usefully recycle degradable waste for power generation. EU should tell Greens where to get off.

"Winter deaths rising says MSP" - "The number of people dying during the winter months has risen sharply, according to Scotland's only Green MSP. Robin Harper said cold and damp houses are partly responsible, and he has called on the Scottish Executive to step up its efforts to eradicate fuel poverty." (BBC Online)

Britain has probably the highest energy taxation in the world (ostensibly to "address global warming") and a "fuel poverty" problem of roughly one-third of their population. Meanwhile, cold is killing an increasing number of their vulnerable population.

"U.S. Won't Implement Climate Treaty" - "WASHINGTON - The Bush administration has no plans to implement the climate treaty negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, because it's clear Congress won't ratify it anyway, the chief of the Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday. ``We have no interest in implementing that treaty,'' EPA Administrator Christy Whitman told reporters, although she said the president continues to believe that global warming is an issue of concern." (AP)

"Greens Say Bush Killed Role in Kyoto Climate Pact" - "WASHINGTON - U.S. environmentalists were up in arms Tuesday over Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman's efforts to further distance the United States from an international treaty to limit global warming. In addition, sources told Reuters that the Bush White House has told proponents of the Kyoto treaty -- mostly European Union nations -- to stop pestering Washington about the U.S. climate change position." (Reuters)

"Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment Increases Quantity of Plant Biomass Without Sacrificing Quality" - "It goes without saying (but we'll say it anyway because of its great importance) that the more CO2 there is in the air, the bigger and better plants grow. Most of us learned this simple truth in elementary school; and it is reassuring to know that some things, like this particular fact, never change. Thousands upon thousands of experiments later, it still remains one of the fundamental verities of biology that plants just love CO2. And why shouldn't they?  It's their food! But what about the rest of the biosphere?  What about the herbivorous animals that feed on plants?  The carnivorous animals that devour them? And we humans, who eat about everything imaginable? Is food grown in CO2-enriched air as desirable as food produced in ambient air? We know the quantity of vegetable biomass tends to rise with increases in atmospheric CO2 concentration. But what about quality? Are there any changes in the health-promoting or medicinal properties of plants when they're grown in air that is more highly endowed with CO2 than is currently the case?" | Coastal Flooding on the Decrease in France | Climate Variability in Spain Over the Past Millennium | Evidence for the Little Ice Age Way "Down Under" (co2science.org)

"Global Hysteria: Fear of Food, Part II" - "As you recall, we were discussing a new phenomenon, Fear of Food, yesterday. People are being terrorized by breakfast, lunch and dinner. Food is poison. Food is filth. Food is full of salmonella furiously searching for a place to spawn. Food will hurt you, maim you, kill you, and, worst of all, make you fat." (Joel Achenbach, Washington Post)

"More U.S. Consumers See Potential Benefits to Food Biotechnology" - "IFIC's fifth survey on U.S. consumer attitudes toward food biotechnology suggests consumers may be surprisingly oblivious to the frequent debate over the labeling of foods produced with the aid of biotechnology. The new survey, conducted January 19-21, 2001 by Wirthlin Worldwide, includes a few new questions to determine how consumers consider food biotechnology in context with other food safety issues. Only 2% of the consumers polled named "altered/engineered food" as something they were concerned about when it comes to food safety, despite extensive "StarLink" coverage in fall 2000-with almost daily news reports focusing on the recall of products containing biotech corn not yet approved for food use and the resulting discussions of regulatory decisions. Again, when asked if they could think of any information not currently included on food labels that they would like to see on food labels, only 2% of the people surveyed responded "genetically altered." 74% said they could not think of any additional information they'd like to see on food labels." (International Food Information Council)

"Australians don't know much about GM foods" - "A new survey has revealed how little Australians know about genetically modified foods. A study commissioned by the government agency, Biotechnology Australia, shows almost 60 per cent of people can't name any specific risks or benefits from gm-foods. It's also found more than a third of the one thousand respondents had heard nothing or very little about such products." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Japan likely U.S. corn buyer under new GMO rules" - "WASHINGTON, March 26 - As Japan prepares to impose tougher controls on imports of food containing unapproved genetically modified organisms starting April 1, U.S. government and industry officials believe the new rules will be enforced in a way to minimize the interruption of trade. The ``zero tolerance'' standard has U.S. farm interests worried traces of biotech StarLink corn in future shipments could seriously disrupt the No. 1 export market for the U.S. feed grain." (Reuters)

"Segregating Biotech Crops Could Cost Billions, Report Says" - "WASHINGTON - Labeling requirements in Europe and Japan and growing consumer demand for food that is not genetically engineered could require a sweeping overhaul of agricultural sales and marketing in the United States, a new report by the US Department of Agriculture says. Farm specialists and some environmental advocates worry that, while such an overhaul might be required - the contamination of corn last year by the unapproved StarLink variety being the latest example - the measures to segregate crops could cost billions of dollars and take years to implement. Even then, they say, their success might be in doubt." (NYTS)

March 27, 2001

Inevitably: "Foot-and-mouth pyres 'release dioxins'" - "The mass incineration of livestock to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth disease is leading to increased pollution. Environment Minister Michael Meacher estimates that 10 to 20g of dioxins have been emitted since the first carcasses were burned on pyres in February. He says this is roughly equivalent to the amount annually released into the atmosphere from domestic burning of coal and wood. ... "We will continue to assess the levels of emissions from the pyres, including dioxin levels." (Ananova)

Massive doses of dioxins cause cancer in some animal models but the human epidemiological evidence is ambiguous and contradictory. There are no known cases where people have been exposed solely to dioxins and factory workers exposed to high doses over periods of more than 40 years show no elevated health problems beyond increased incidence of chloracne. It is assumed that dioxin exposure is causal in this respect. The following is extracted from "NATURE'S CHEMICALS AND SYNTHETIC CHEMICALS: COMPARATIVE TOXICOLOGY"

If TCDD [2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin] is compared with alcohol it seems of minor interest as a teratogen or carcinogen. Alcoholic beverages are the most important known human chemical teratogen (43). In contrast, there is no persuasive evidence that TCDD is either carcinogenic or teratogenic in humans, although it is both at near-toxic doses in rodents. If one compares the teratogenic potential of TCDD to that of alcohol for causing birth defects (after adjusting for their respective potency as determined in rodent tests), then a daily consumption of the [US] EPA reference dose of TCDD (6fg) would be equivalent in teratogenic potential to a daily consumption of alcohol from 1/3,000,000 of a beer. That is equivalent to drinking a single beer (15g ethyl alcohol) over a period of 8,000 years.

Given that much of the industrialized world has production and distribution industries for the express purpose of providing consumers with ethyl alcohol, and that said alcohol is consumed in units roughly 3,000,000 times the equivalent of the US EPA's reference dose for dioxin, then we must assume that dioxins are quite irrelevant. With the exception of chloracne, there is no known dioxin-causal association with human ill-effect.

"Roasting Starbucks" - "Regular coffee drinkers are known for a touch of pre-cup grumpiness. But last Tuesday, thousands of caffeine-deprived souls remained out-of-sorts even after a normally nerve-soothing visit to Starbucks. They were piqued because protesters had been telling them what sorts of lattes they could and could not drink. ... American businesses should stop pandering to the fear and ignorance of the political fringe. If OCA members want to grow food the way my great-great-grandfather did, fine. Just let me enjoy my morning coffee in peace. Please." (Aaron Lukas, National Review)

Click here to send a letter to Starbucks letting them know what you think of corporations pandering to the lunatic fringe.

"New alcohol tax eyed to pay for treatment" - "Asserting that alcohol, unlike tobacco, has failed to pay its fair share of the billions of state taxpayer dollars spent on health care related to substance abuse, law enforcement, and social services, the Senate chairwoman of the joint Committee on Taxation and a host of community groups are pushing for a 5 percent retail sales tax on liquor purchases." (Boston Globe)

Spent Big Tobacco's money already and looking for new extortion targets?

"Common genetic differences affect vulnerability to childhood leukemia, new study shows" - "By focusing on molecular differences that define distinct types of childhood leukemia, scientists have discovered that vulnerability to one type of the cancer or another depends on something as simple as which form of a single enzyme a child inherits." (University of California, San Francisco)

"Bush EPA Prescribes A Dose Of Reason For Poison Policy" - "When the subject is toxicological/ One must sometimes become pedagogical/ And examine the rules/ And the common-sense tools/ That produce a perspective that’s logical." (Ken Green, Tech Central Station)

Very sensibly: "A Reversal on Public Access to Chemical Data" - "WASHINGTON, March 26 — Citing national security, the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month rescinded a Clinton administration proposal to increase public access to information about the potential consequences of chemical plant accidents. Advocates of disseminating the so- called worst-case scenarios submitted by chemical plant operators say the data could help communities prepare for disasters like industrial explosions. But members of Congress, industry officials and law enforcement authorities have argued that the information is too sensitive and could be used by terrorists to plot attacks." (New York Times)

"British Dairy Farmer Supports Alternative BSE Theory" - "Have scientists been looking in the wrong place for answers about mad cow disease and its human equivalent? British farmer Mark Purdey says yes. Purdey, who was dismissed for years by the scientific establishment, is now being taken more seriously. A Cambridge University researcher will soon publish research supporting the dairy farmer's theory that the balance of metals in the environment affects the brain and could lead to the disease." (AgWeb.com)

"Not in the public's interest" - "Bad legislation never dies; more typically it just fades away, goes into remission, and patiently awaits revival another day. Take for example H.R. 701, the Conservation and Reinvestment Act, or CARA, which passed the House last year and died in the Senate, but has been picked up, dusted off and thrown back into the congressional sausage-maker by its chief proponent, Rep. Don Young, Alaska Republican. CARA proposes to take $3.1 billion generated annually by offshore oil and gas leases and spend about a third of the money — up to $900 million annually — on a government land-buying binge. The general public will benefit little from the acquisitions, however, at a time when the mismanagement of public lands has never been more obvious or the average citizen's access to those lands more at risk. The bill's big beneficiaries will be pork-peddling politicians, government bureaucrats, land trusts that game the system, and extreme greens who use the courts to make marionettes of federal land managers." (Washington Times)

Ever the opportunists, Environmental Defense are busily using "global warming" as a fund raiser: "URGENT ALERT: Fight President Bush's Disastrous Flip-Flop on Global Warming" - "Fewer than 60 days into his presidency, George W. Bush has abandoned one of the most essential environmental promises of his campaign. Bush had pledged to curb emissions of all key pollutants from electric power plants, including carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming. ... Coupled with the President's opposition to the Kyoto Protocol [comes no less than four exhortations to send $25 or more in just one begging e-mail], his about-face on carbon dioxide effectively leaves the United States with a do-nothing policy on global warming. As the leading U.S. environmental group on climate change, Environmental Defense needs your immediate support to mobilize public opinion urging the President to keep his campaign promise. With your immediate donation of $25 or more, we'll make it clear to the President that people all across America are deeply disappointed in his failure to take global warming seriously." (Environmental Defense begging and recruitment e-mail)

Of course, they fail to mention that North America is a net carbon sink (absorbs more CO2 than it produces), that global warming/cooling is the normal state of affairs, that enhanced greenhouse is a vague, ill-defined and highly dubious hypothesis or even that increases in atmospheric CO2 are responsible for 10-15% of global crop yield increase since the 1950s, thus helping to feed the growing global human population and save forests and wildlands that would otherwise be plowed down for agriculture (as well as the wildlife whose habitat these areas happen to be).

Guess that means people, wildlife habitat and the wildlife therein aren't included in the environment that Environmental Defense claims to defend eh? But then, as long as the scare pays well, who cares?

"EPA Chief Lobbied on Warming Before Bush's Emissions Switch" - "A week before President Bush broke his campaign pledge to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, Environmental Protection Agency chief Christine Todd Whitman warned him that he must demonstrate his commitment to cutting greenhouse gases or risk undermining the United States' standing among allies around the world. In a March 6 memo to Bush after she met with European environmental ministers in Italy, Whitman told the president that global warming was an important "credibility issue" for the United States, and that "we need to appear engaged . . . and build some bona fides first." "I would strongly recommend that you continue to recognize that global warming is a real and serious issue," Whitman said in the memo, a copy of which was obtained yesterday by The Washington Post." (Washington Post)

These pronouncements are truly amazing considering her lack of expertise on the environment. When asked for her thoughts on global warming several months ago, Whitman responded,

"Still somewhat uncertain. Clearly there's a hole in the ozone, that has been identified. But I saw a study the other day that showed that it was closing. It's not as clear, the cause and effect, as we would like it to be."

As if confusing global warming with ozone depletion wasn't bad enough, she also endorsed the precautionary principle:

We must acknowledge that uncertainty is inherent in managing natural resources, recognize it is usually easier to prevent environmental damage than to repair it later, and shift the burden of proof away from those advocating protection toward those proposing an action that may be harmful.

"Bush Needs Political Courage on Climate Change: EU" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium, March 26, 2001 - The European Union has written to United States President George W. Bush, insisting that the U.S. commit to combating climate change. The letter calls on the U.S. to find the "political courage" to finalize the small print of the Kyoto Protocol." (ENS)

Agreed! Certainly the time is long overdue for a real leader to stand up and lead the world away from this farce. Show some courage - flush the Kyoto Protocol.

"Kyoto deal: gasping for air" - "The Saudis were the first to say it, and no doubt there was glee in their voices last week when they pronounced that the Kyoto agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is dead." (Globe and Mail)

"Canada seeks support in climate talks" - "OTTAWA -- Environment Minister David Anderson will lobby his Latin American counterparts Tuesday to support the Canada-U.S. position on climate change, a position the European Union opposes. Federal officials have even prepared a draft "Montreal Statement" supporting the Canada-U.S. position in the Kyoto climate negotiations that they hope the Latin Americans will sign. The closed meeting in Montreal is the first ever of the hemispheric environment ministers. The declaration, which officials describe as an "early draft," would have the ministers strongly endorse a system in which rich countries could "buy" greenhouse gas credits from poor countries." (CP)

"Summer could be best in five years" - "THE long-range forecast is for the best summer in at least five years, after 12 months of record rainfall. Temperatures could reach the nineties in a series of mini-heatwaves. ... Bill Giles, the former BBC presenter who runs the London Weather Index Limited, has used records dating from the 17th century and the Met Office's weather model for his prediction. ... The Met Office said that predictions could be made only up to five days in advance with any accuracy. A spokesman said: "We would love to be able to forecast far ahead, but you cannot. The weather is based on chaos theory and it does not know what it is going to do in three or six months." (Telegraph) [emphasis added]

Climate is the sum of all weather events over a period and we can't predict the weather in a few months' time. The IPCC's political writers, however, make climate "predictions" for 50-100 years hence.

"Cooling Eastern Mediterranean Temperatures" - "Cairo University's Dr. H.M. Hasanean summarizes his analysis of eastern Mediterranean temperature trends in a recent edition of Theoretical and Applied Climatology writing, "During the period under study, a temperature decrease is observed." | VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT Vol. 2, No. 11 | "Early Action" is a Road to Nowhere: Three Problems with the Idea of "Early Action" Credits for Reducing Carbon Emissions (GES)

"'Rocks' could delay ozone recovery" - "A research plane flying high over the North Pole has discovered bizarre little "rocks" floating in the upper atmosphere that could delay the recovery of Earth's protective ozone layer. The particles, found 20 kilometres above the ground, could also make Arctic ozone more vulnerable to global warming, says atmospheric chemist David Fahey of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Colorado. "In the Arctic, things could get worse before they get better," he says. Fahey and his colleagues sent one of NASA's high-flying ER-2 planes from Sweden to the North Pole last January to collect samples in the stratosphere. The plane cruised 16 to 20 kilometres above the ground, where the air is very thin and the temperature was about -83C. To the scientists' surprise, the sensors on the plane started picking up huge particles -- "rocks," as Fahey calls them -- some more than 20 times the size of particles normally found in polar stratospheric clouds. "We think it's a significant discovery," says Fahey, whose team recently described the find in the journal Science. The particles, which appear to be made of solid nitric acid hydrates, are thought to be completely natural. But Fahey says they likely exacerbate ozone destruction, which occurs in the spring. "They're co-conspirators," he says." (National Post)

"Ontario to cut coal burning at generating station" - "TORONTO -- Smog and pollutants spewed from Ontario's six coal-fired electrical plants would be drastically reduced under tough guidelines announced Monday by the province's environment ministry. And the aging Lakeview Generating Station in nearby Mississauga, which accounts for one quarter of the region's emissions of acid-rain-producing sulphur dioxide, will cease to burn coal altogether by April 2005." (CP)

but: "Critics say coal burning will rise across Ontario" - "TORONTO -- Critics say an Ontario government proposal to end coal-burning at an aging generating plant in a city upwind from here will improve the health of people in Canada's most populated metropolitan area. But the Conservative government has said only that it will try to reduce emissions of two major pollutants -- nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide -- at the other four coal-fired plants currently owned by Ontario Power Generation. And those plants could both increase their coal-burning and the pollution spewing from their stacks under the new proposals announced Monday by Environment Minister Elizabeth Witmer, the critics say. That's because the minister is also proposing to allow the plant operators to purchase pollution credits from the United States when plants south of the border are closed or reduce their own emissions." (CP)

Interesting timing: "Acid rain resists '90s fix, study says" - "New England's forests and lakes are not recovering from the toxic effects of acid rain despite significant cuts in the power plant emissions that cause it, a team of 10 leading scientists will announce today. Acid rain, which corrodes car paint and kills trees, has caused far more environmental damage than projected a decade ago, the researchers report in the journal BioScience. To bolster 1990 limits placed on acid rain's main component, sulfur dioxide, the team says, an additional 80 percent reduction is needed to bring sensitive streams back to non-acidic levels within 25 years." (Boston Globe)

"Energy company blames hold-ups on wind farms" - "Renewable Energy Systems, which is to build the world's second largest wind farm amid the oil fields of Texas, blamed planning constraints for forcing it to seek work overseas. Ian Mays, managing director, said the company's biggest project was equivalent to two thirds of the UK's existing wind farm capacity. "We continue to be disappointed at the slow progress of the industry on home soil. Constrained by continuing planning difficulties for land-based projects in the UK, wind developers like ourselves have turned to the international market," said Mr Mays." (Financial Times)

"Amid energy crisis, a coal rush: Pressure is on for comeback of power source" - "Ten years ago, natural gas became the cheaper, cleaner answer to new power generation. In the midst of the current energy crisis, coal could be making a comeback. Since the price of natural gas started to climb last fall, power producers have announced more than 25 new coal-fired power plants under construction or under study around the country, including a 249-megawatt plant in Cherry Point, Whatcom County." (Seattle Times)

"Electric Rate Increase Sought for California" - "LOS ANGELES, March 26 — California's chief power regulator proposed large increases in retail electric rates today in an effort to help finance the state's spiraling energy costs and encourage conservation that might prevent more blackouts in the hot summer months. The official, Loretta Lynch, said she would propose an average increase of 3 cents a kilowatt hour for residential customers, a 40 percent increase from the current rate of 7.5 cents a kilowatt hour for electricity costs alone." (New York Times)

"EU nuclear power production up two pct in 2000 - VDEW" - "FRANKFURT - Electricity suppliers in the European Union increased their nuclear power production by two percent last year to around 828 billion kilowatt hours (kWh), the Association of German Electricity Suppliers VDEW said yesterday. Nuclear power accounts for a third of electricity production in the EU, VDEW said in a statement based on information from electricity industry association Eurelectric. At 395 billion kWh, France again produced the most nuclear power, which accounts for 79 percent of its total electricity production. Belgium, Sweden and Finland followed with 54, 39 and 31 percent respectively. Germany was in the middle of the table with 30 percent, while Spain, the UK and the Netherlands had 28, 25 and four percent shares respectively of electricity production from nuclear energy. Outside the EU, Switzerland produced 25 billion kWh of nuclear power, 25 percent of its total electricity mix." (Reuters)

"Farmers lack capital for move to energy crops" - "OPPORTUNITIES for Scottish farmers to diversify into energy crops, notably biomass, still look limited following the Scottish executive’s consultation process on the future of renewable sources. Only 11 of the 150 respondents were in favour of additional capital support for biomass projects under a Scottish renewables obligation although a further nine sought capital support for projects using forestry wastes. ... There was overwhelming opposition to the inclusion of energy production from waste, particularly from the renewables sector itself and from environmental groups, and only a small minority argue that neither farm nor forestry residues should be classified as waste." (The Scotsman)

"All You Knead is Love: Fear of Food, Part I" - "What should you do? First, avoid hysteria. Don't believe every alarmist statement that you hear or read. Last night one of the local news anchors said, 'Biotech corn is not fit for human consumption because it will cause severe allergic reactions.' Actually there's no unambiguous evidence so far that anyone has gotten sick. The burden of proof is on the industry, not the consumers, but let's leave the full-blown panicking to the Europeans." (Washington Post)

Well, that's one reasonable section I managed to pull out of Joel Achenbach's piece. Joel seems to have paid far too much attention to Eric Schlosser's book, "Fast Food Nation."

"Engineered Ear Cells Could Restore Hearing--Expert" - "LONDON - Within the next five years scientists may be able to engineer and replace damaged cells in the ears of deaf people to help them hear again. The engineered cells will work in tandem with cochlear ear implants to restore hearing to long-term deaf people, Professor Matthew Holley, an expert on sensory physiology at the University of Bristol, told a London medical conference on Monday. Cochlear implants are small devices that are surgically implanted in the ear to stimulate the auditory nerve. They have helped young children and the newly deaf to hear but are not suitable for long-term deaf people with very damaged auditory nerves." (Reuters)

"5% of altered corn gets OK to be labeled GM-free" - "Food products containing less than 5 percent genetically modified corn will be labeled GM-free from April, two government ministries have decided. Additionally, food manufacturers will be required to state on product labels whether any foodstuffs contain genetically modified organisms." (Asahi Shimbun)

"Report: Economic Issues In Agricultural Biotechnology" - "This report analyzes the economic aspects of several key areas--agricultural research policy, industry structure, production and marketing, consumer issues, and future world food demand--where agricultural biotechnology is dramatically affecting the public policy agenda." (Economic Research Service, USDA)

"Greenpeace Decries Biotech Fish" - "BOSTON -- The environmental group Greenpeace plans to protest at a seafood trade show this week over the possibility that genetically engineered fish could be approved for sale as food in the United States. Scientists are experimenting with ways to modify fish genes -- to make fish grow faster, for example -- and the Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to allow, for the first time, sales of such fish. Greenpeace plans demonstrations outside Boston Tuesday as the International Boston Seafood Show, expected to attract thousands of vendors, gets under way." (AP)

"Most Americans Want to Know if Food Is Modified" - "WASHINGTON - Three-fourths of Americans want to know whether their food contains gene-spliced ingredients, according to a public opinion poll released Monday by the Pew Charitable Trust, a non-profit group trying to find common ground among biotech food advocates and critics." (Reuters) | Poll: Consumers Unaware of Biotech (AP)

Hmm... PCT? Hmm... again.

"Suspected GM maize seized from Monsanto in Italy" - "ROME, March 26 - Italian police have seized about 120 tonnes of maize suspected of containing genetically engineered material from U.S. agricultural biotechnology group Monsanto, a spokesman for the company said on Monday." (Reuters)

"FEATURE-Villain or hero, Monsanto moving GM food forward" - "Long a leader in the revolutionary changes taking place in agriculture, St. Louis, Mo.-based Monsanto has become a hero to farmers by providing products that improve production of key crops such as corn, soybeans and cotton. But the company's efforts to give Mother Nature a hand have made it a villain to those who see biotechnology as a threat to the safety of food and the environment. Lawsuits and protests have dogged Monsanto's genetic seed work, and mounting financial pressures led the company last year to form Pharmacia Corp. in a merger with Pharmacia & Upjohn." (Reuters)

March 26, 2001

Energy supply seems to be "issue du jour," at least as far as the media are concerned, so the next dozen or so items provide a sampling of current coverage:

"A New Role for Greens: Public Enemy" - "WASHINGTON — PRESIDENT BUSH has declared that, once again, the nation has an acute shortage of energy. But the enemy his administration has identified is not one of the usual suspects: profligate usage, OPEC or Saddam Hussein. Instead, it is environmentalism." (New York Times)

"Worlds apart: Bush, environmentalists battle over earth, wind and fire" - "A fierce and expensive battle is raging over the safety of the air you breathe, the water you drink and the energy that fuels everything from your car to your home computer. At issue are several new rulings by President George Bush that supporters say will save taxpayers millions of dollars, but critics charge will risk the health of millions of Americans." (Boston Herald) | Bush move buffets EPA chief (Boston Globe)

Hmm... enviros want to do everything possible to damage humans and their endeavors, all with no known benefit to man or environment. President Bush doesn't seem to want to do that to the citizens he leads. Tough call -  now lemme think...

"Bush ignores experts on climate change" - "The rubber has met the road and we now know that U.S. President George W. Bush is driving under the influence, his judgment impaired by fossil fuel lobbyists." says Stephen Hesse in the Japan Times.

Common misconception (or misrepresentation) because climate experts have yet to agree that CO2 constitutes a significant climate forcing, freely admitting that we do not know whether anthropogenic emissions will ever exert a measurable influence on global climate.

"Arctic refuge could provide 25 pct US energy needs - expert" - "WASHINGTON - The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a key element of the Republican energy plan, may contain enough oil to meet up to 25 percent of the nation's energy needs for nearly two decades, a geologist told Congress last week." (Reuters)

"Critics see dark side in Bush's energy plan" - "WASHINGTON -- To President Bush and his Cabinet, the blackouts that rolled across California again last week were the latest symptoms of a full-blown energy crisis that threatens to cripple the nation and its unsettled economy. But the administration's rhetoric is triggering complaints that Bush is blowing the power shortage out of proportion, using fear of higher rates and blackouts as political cover to roll back environmental regulations. The criticism, mostly from Democrats and environmental groups, comes as the administration is drafting an energy policy that stresses boosting supplies, from production of coal and oil to construction of high-voltage transmission lines." (The Oregonian)

"Build More Power Plants" - "At the heart of the nation’s energy crisis are the blue and white placards proclaiming “Stop the Stacks” that decorate dozens of scraggly lawns in Niles, Mich. This grass-roots activism is targeted against the proposed construction of a gas-fired power plant within Niles’ sparse industrial park. Intended to produce up to 1,100 megawatts of electricity, the plant would also generate jobs and tax revenue for the beleaguered town. ... But critics vow to stop the stacks in a frustrating replay of the siting hurtles that have left Michigan and other states short of power." (Detroit News) | In the Race to Produce More Power, States Are Faced With Environmental Tradeoffs (New York Times)

"An Environmentalist's Choice" - "THE QUIET energy crisis is getting quieter as the oil companies convince the nation that more drilling for oil and natural gas is the only way to solve the problems of higher energy costs and potential blackouts. ... We need to wake up and use clean and efficient nuclear power to generate electricity. In so doing, we will keep our air clean and prevent the depletion of the ozone layer." So says "an environmentalist for nuclear energy," Donald A. Blackburn, in the San Francisco Chronicle.

"The Answer Is Not Blowing in the Wind" - "It is hard to fault with a business that is growing at the rate of over 25% per year. The handful of Danish companies that dominate the wind-energy business in Europe and North America seem to be poised for growth. Both Vestas Wind Systems and NEG Micon have a backlog of orders that would be the envy of any major manufacturer. Still, anyone thinking about getting into the wind-energy business -- or buying stock in one -- should talk to Diana Hutchinson. They would learn that one of the greatest risks to a wind-energy enterprise is supposed to be its greatest benefit: public acceptance." (WSJE)

"WRAPUP - Calif power strategy floats in limbo" - "SAN FRANCISCO - California lawmakers, jolted by this week's unexpected round of rolling blackouts, haggled over their state's power crisis on Friday as efforts to craft a solution appeared stranded in limbo." (Reuters)

"FACTBOX - Democrat, Republican energy plans detailed" - "WASHINGTON - Democratic lawmakers offered a broad energy plan on Thursday to encourage conservation and alternative energy sources. ... The following outlines key points in the Democrats' and Republicans' energy bills:" (Reuters)

"Britain poised to switch on new electricity market" - "LONDON - Britain will next week flick the switch on a new wholesale electricity market, drastically changing the way power is bought and sold in a move designed to foster competition and cut energy bills." (Reuters)

"UK opens the door to 100 more green energy projects" - "LONDON - Britain last week said about 100 green energy projects, currently on hold after failing to get local planning permission, could go ahead because of changes to a government scheme to promote power generation from non-fossil fuels. "Relocation of those green energy projects which have been proposed under the Non Fossil Fuel Obligation (NFFO) but have failed to obtain planning permission will be possible without the developer losing the benefit of their NFFO contract," said Energy Minister Peter Hain in a statement. Under NFFO contracts, green energy projects are guaranteed a market for their output under a mechanism which obliges public electricity suppliers to buy a specified amount of their energy needs from renewable technologies. Most green energy is more expensive to produce than energy from fossil fuels. Suppliers buying power under NFFO contracts pass the added cost onto consumers." (Reuters)

"UPM backs nuclear plant, defies green activists" - "HELSINKI - Finnish papermaker UPM-Kymmene has reiterated support for a plan by Finnish industry to build a new nuclear power plant against the objections of environmental activists. ... Chief Executive Juha Niemela told the company's annual general meeting of shareholders that Finland needed nuclear power to ensure a steady supply of affordable energy and to meet its emissions reduction obligations under the Kyoto accord." (Reuters)

"The Week That Was March 24, 2001" is now available on the Science and Environmental Policy Project website

"On the Brink Of a New Water War" - "Delft, The Netherlands -- The Dutch are world famous for their wars against water, a centuries-long struggle to keep their feet dry even as the marshy land beneath them sinks. But the nation that once turned an inland sea into farmland has unveiled a new strategy -- surrendering hard-won land to the waters in the hopes of appeasing its two greatest rivers. The new plan, carrying the feel-good name "Making Room for Water," is the most unusual aspect of the Netherlands' response to the predicted effects of global warming." (San Francisco Chronicle)

Great, except there's no evidence of accelerating sea level rise and strong indication that such rise would slow in the event of genuine global warming due to increased evaporation/precipitation transport of water to land-borne ice shields in the Antarctic and Greenland. Yet another example of decisions being taken under the mistaken impression that the enhanced greenhouse hypothesis has been scientifically validated - very bad idea.

"Gene Tied to Early Puberty in Girls" - "NEW ORLEANS -Scientists attempting to figure out why some girls go through puberty at unusually young ages have found a surprising culprit - a gene that speeds up the body's breakdown of the male sex hormone. Many believe that the age of puberty - the time when girls develop breasts and other sexual characteristics - is creeping downward. The most widely held explanation for this is growing childhood obesity, along with rich diets and lack of physical activity."  (AP)

It is far from certain whether girls are, in fact, exhibiting promiscuous puberty, as Gina Kolata noted in a recent article in the New York Times.

"Estrogen, Ovarian Cancer Link Expanded" - "Taking estrogen without progestin for four or more years after menopause increases women's chances of developing ovarian cancer, but women who take both hormones do not appear to be at greater risk than nonusers, according to results of a study reported yesterday." (Washington Post)

"Study Finds Little Sign Breast Implants Unsafe" - "CHICAGO - There is little evidence that silicone breast implants trigger production of an antibody that has been linked to cancer and other diseases, according to a study published on Sunday. In a study of 288 women who had had or still had breast implants, researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that five had an excessive production of an antibody protein in blood plasma cells that in some cases precedes development of other diseases, such as multiple myeloma. And a look at 288 women who had never had an implant, four had the condition, which is technically called "monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance." "We find little evidence to support a substantial increased risk of (the condition) in women exposed to breast implants," said the report in this week Archives of Internal Medicine, published by the American Medical Association." (Reuters)

"Popular chemical a killer, researchers warn" - "ST. PAUL, Minn. - A popular chemical used by bodybuilders and partygoers and easily available over the Internet is extremely deadly, researchers warn. Called 1,4-Butanediol, the drug is a common chemical compound found in some over-the-counter nutritional supplements and in industrial solvents. When ingested, it converts into gamma hydroxybutyrate, or GHB, the so-called date-rape drug. "The thing not talked about is that these products are lethal on their own," said Dr. Stephen Smith, an emergency physician at Hennepin County Medical Center. "Second, they are highly addictive and have fairly severe withdrawal symptoms. Third, people driving while intoxicated with GHB have caused many collisions and deaths." (Knight Ridder Newspapers)

"Overstating the risks" - "A study released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the presence of trace amounts of 27 chemicals in people's blood and urine. Sounds frightening. But what does it mean? By itself, very little. The simple fact that we have certain chemicals in our bodies does not mean we're all in trouble. We all have minute amounts of various substances in our bodies. Only if concentrations are high enough to cause ill effects is there a problem. Unfortunately, some uninformed activists have misinterpreted this report — scaring people unnecessarily. They claim this report is sounding alarm bells and that we should all be afraid. This is simply not the case. In fact, scientists agree that minute amounts of substances — even those dubbed "hazardous" — can be absorbed into the body without causing harm. The adage "the dose makes the poison" is a popular expression in science." (Scott Phillips, M.D., Washington Times)

"'Trade Secrets': Rendering a Guilty Verdict on Corporate America" - "Bill Moyers is no doubt hoping to generate righteous indignation with "Trade Secrets," his exposé of the chemical industry on PBS tonight, but he probably won't. ... His program takes the tried-and-true exposé path: the industry is the easy- target bad guy, and everyone else is the victim. How shameless is he? He wraps up the report by invoking that guaranteed tear-jerker, "the children," even though practically none of the preceding 90 minutes has involved children." (New York Times)

'Trade Secrets' runs on PBS at 9:00 tonight.

"After 'Silent Spring,' Chemical Industry Put Spin on All It Brewed" - "WASHINGTON, March 25 — The year was 1963, the publication of Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" had just opened the modern environmental movement, and the chemical industry reckoned it had a public relations emergency on its hands." (New York Times)

Want to know more about Rachel's legacy? Click here, here and here.

"How work can make you sick" - "Offices can make you sick, according to the British Allergy Foundation. A survey by NOP found at least 40% of office workers have symptoms which have been linked to sick building syndrome, such as sore eyes and throats, headaches and tiredness. Many workers would put those symptoms down to the stress of pouring over a complex report. But the British Allergy Foundation (BAF) is warning that ozone, given off by office equipment such as photocopiers and computers, fax machines and printers, can make office workers ill." (BBC Online)

And the answer is... fresh air ventilation. Oops - that's not PC in these times of "energy efficiency" and "greenhouse abatement" to address pretend fears is it. Oh well...

"Next Steps on Ergonomics" - "EVEN AS Congress killed the contentious ergonomics regulation, Republican leaders and business groups were claiming that they did not oppose protecting workers from repetitive stress injuries on the job. They would support a better and differently crafted rule, they said. That won't be easy now, because the Congressional Review Act used to nullify the regulation bars the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from issuing any rule in "substantially the same form." (Washington Post)

"Environment only part of health mysteries" - "PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- People desperate for explanations of mysterious health problems from chronic fatigue syndrome to multiple chemical sensitivity shouldn't blame the nearest toxic dump, experts say. Numerous illnesses for which doctors can find no cause probably are caused by multiple physical, psychological and social factors interacting in complex ways not yet understood, scientists said at a recent conference at Rutgers University." (AP)

"Health brings wealth" - "Improved health in the world's poorest countries can benefit both companies and global economic growth, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, told BBC News Online's Jorn Madslien in an exclusive interview." (BBC Online)

True, making it particularly surprising that the World Hysteria Organisation is so timid in support of DDT use in the Third World. DDT is one of the 5 greatest human health-aids of all time.

"Mosquito repellents are harmful: ICMR scientist" - "HYDERABAD: The chemical "allethrin" used in various mosquito repellents in the market such as mats, coils and vaporisers are hazardous to health warns Ved Prakash Sharma, a top malariologist with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)." (Times of India)

Groan! "Eco-Rambo becomes film hero" - "Paul Watson has sunk nine ships and been pursued by the Soviet air force and navy. He has been fired on by the Norwegian Coast Guard, attacked with rifles and tear gas by Faroese police, and been thrown in a Dutch jail. But Watson is not a mercenary, a drug baron or a mafia boss. He's probably the world's most extreme eco-activist, the self-styled 'Rambo of the environmental movement'." (Observer)

He's also a complete nutcase and a criminal one a that. Pity they missed him.

"Polito pushes new food labeling rules" - "She`s been on Beacon Hill less than two months, but already Republican state Representative Karyn E. Polito of Shrewsbury has shown a willingness to stray from GOP doctrine - at least on one point. Republicans have long championed the cause of less government regulation. But Polito, who represents Shrewsbury and Westborough, has waded into a legislative debate on the side of regulation. A bill filed by Polito would require manufacturers to include on the label of any food product sold in Massachusetts information about whether there are genetically engineered organisms in the product. The bill is set for a hearing before the Commerce and Labor Committee on May 23." (Boston Globe)

"U.N. group eyes GM food standards" - "A U.N. task force aiming to establish standards for genetically modified foods kicked off a five-day meeting in Chiba on Sunday amid ongoing discord between the United States, which says GM foods are safe, and the European Union, which is more cautious about potential risks in such foods. On Sunday, EU officials requested that participants first discuss a tracking system for GM foods that would cover production and distribution. U.S. and Japanese officials favored a proposed agenda for discussing ``general principles`` on safety evaluations of GM foods and a guideline on produce." (Japan Times) | U.N. panel begins meeting on genetically modified food (Kyodo)

March 24-25, 2001

British Medical Journal launches bizarre attack on American President: "Death through selfishness and failure of imagination" - "In a world afflicted by murder, mayhem, and malnutrition it may seem bizarre to suggest that the worst thing to happen this year is for some words to come out of a man's mouth - but that may turn out to be so. Last week President Bush reneged on a campaign promise to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide from power stations. This is a serious setback in a world that is already failing to respond responsibly to global warming. The short term effects of Bush's decision may be merely political but the long term effects are likely to be catastrophic. As usual, the worst affected will be the world's poorest, those who have contributed the least to global warming." (BMJ editorial)

BMJ editor, Richard Smith, should stick to a field within his competence, for he displays appalling ignorance regarding the enhanced greenhouse hypothesis. His statement "There are few scientists left who doubt, firstly, that global warming is occurring... " is technically true - but that has nothing to do with the enhanced greenhouse hypothesis. The world is definitely warmer than when it was cooler (Duh!). However, Smith continues "... and, secondly, that the warming is caused mostly by emissions of greenhouse gases resulting from human activity" - he couldn't be more wrong!

Climate scientists freely admit we have much to learn about climate and do not really understand precisely what drives what in climate cycles. Moreover, the enhanced greenhouse hypothesis speculates that increase in the atmospheric content of the minor greenhouse gases (GHGs - water vapor is the major GHG accounting for about 90% of the effect) will lead to increase in atmospheric temperature, which could then lead to surface warming. Clearly, this is not happening in accord with the theoretical models (there has been a minor warming in the atmosphere over the northern one-third of the globe and cooling elsewhere). In short, the enhanced greenhouse hypothesis is a bust.

Smith supports his contention with reference to Harries et al (Nature 410, 355), suggesting this paper proves global warming and yet Harries specifically stated (repeatedly) that their research provides no evidence of surface temperature increase (those without access to Nature can get the gist of the paper [and possible major flaw therein] by viewing the publicly available review of media misconceptions of the paper by John L Daly here).

Worse, Smith reiterates such unfounded garbage as "the geographical extension of diseases like malaria" - he should know better! Malaria is not temperature-dependent and was endemic all the way to the Arctic Circle - affluence, notably the ability to undertake drainage works and use pesticides (principally DDT) is the reason it is not endemic in the developed world today (see also an excellent essay by Paul Reiter, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, San Juan, Puerto Rico: From Shakespeare to Defoe: Malaria in England in the Little Ice Age).

Repeating activist spin, Smith states that "the worst offenders are the Americans, who make up 4% of the world's population but produce nearly a quarter of its greenhouse gases." Utter twaddle! What he refers to is a 90s estimate of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emission, which translates to a fraction of a percent of that emitted by old growth forests and oceans. Even so, it is totally irrelevant since measures of CO2 content of air blowing onto the North American continent and that blowing off show North America to be a net carbon sink, i.e., more is absorbed by North America than is liberated. Even if CO2 emission is some form of problem (extremely doubtful), America has no case to answer.

Frankly Dick, this must be about the most asinine piece you've ever produced.

"Piety at Kyoto Didn't Cool the Planet" - "President Bush met a barrage of criticism last week when he backed away from regulating carbon dioxide emissions, but he was only hastening the inevitable. A major shift in American policy on global warming had to come — not chiefly because of the new administration's debts to campaign donors, but because of the sheer impracticality of the policy in place when George Bush took office. In the long run, Mr. Bush may actually have improved chances for slowing manmade changes in the world's climate. Until last week, global warming policy was synonymous with the Kyoto Protocol, which requires industrialized countries to control emissions of greenhouse gases according to strict targets and timetables. Environment ministers dominated the negotiations that led to the 1997 protocol, and they sought targets that were symbolically tough but hopelessly unrealistic." (David G. Victor, New York Times)

While this piece still promotes the illusion that "enhanced greenhouse" and "global warming" are synonymous (common for NYT), and in need of some form of human action to "address the problem," it does admit that the Kyoto Protocol is hopelessly unrealistic and could never be implemented (most unusual for a piece receiving column-inches in the NYT). That, at least, is an advance.

Doing much to demonstrate why the EU pretends to believe enhanced greenhouse is a "problem:" "Bush Urged To Reconsider Climate" - "STOCKHOLM, Sweden - European leaders wrapped up a summit Saturday exuding optimism that steps they were taking to modernize old industries and support new technologies would promote economic growth over the next decade. But translating lofty talk about making Europe ``the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world'' into agreement on sensitive issues such as opening up national monopolies proved difficult." (AP) | EU Tells Bush Climate Is Key to Europe/U.S. Ties (Reuters)

"Spring brings mercury showers to Arctic" - "Atmospheric researchers in Canada say they are finally learning why mercury levels in the Arctic soar each year with the arrival of spring — most recently to the highest levels ever found on Earth. The phenomenon, known as the "mercury sunrise," occurs when levels of certain forms of mercury in the lower atmosphere rise dramatically with the arrival of the first sustained sunlight. ... According to Bill Schroeder, a Canadian atmospheric scientist, the implications of these polar mercury events are broader than for the high Arctic environment. "Wherever the ground-level ozone depletion has been observed and under cold region conditions there will also be mercury vapor oxidization and efficient removal from the atmosphere," he said." (UPI)

So... they're saying cold is bad and warm is good? And we need more "global warming" to avoid these pollution problems?

The Globe, confuses rationality with conspiracy: "A murky trail led to emission reversal" - "WASHINGTON - The month before President Bush reversed his campaign pledge to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska sent the White House a terse warning about several ''problems'' with the administration's environmental policy." (Boston Globe)

Crossfire co-host, Bill Press, says: "Bush declares war on environment" - "WASHINGTON -- How many ways did George Bush find to destroy the environment today? Chainsaw in hand, Bush has rolled back virtually every environmental regulation issued by Bill Clinton in his final months in office -- and turned environmental decision-making over to the major polluters. Whatever the logging and mining companies want, the logging and mining companies get. In barely 60 days, Bush has attacked clean air, clean water, national forests and federally protected lands. And he hasn't even started on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge yet. This guy makes Ronald Reagan look like John Muir. How far is Bush willing to go? Consider this. He'll even leave more arsenic -- yes, arsenic! -- in your drinking water, if that's what the mining companies want. They do. He just did." (Tribune Media Services) | Tougher arsenic standard promised (Denver Post) | Democrats seek answers on Bush environmental moves | Greens brace for more clean-air, clean-water Bush-whacking  (Reuters) | Green lobby feels cheated by Bush (Financial Times)

Pity he didn't first check whether there were any real health benefits to be had from the bizarre arsenic rules or give some thought to whether wasting public funds on phantom risks might just mean there are insufficient funds left with which to deal with real and pressing problems - never mind.

"Democrats See Environment as a Bush Liability; Party Using Issue To Energize Base " - "Democrats say that a series of environmental decisions by President Bush has provided the rallying point that has eluded them since the inauguration, sparking optimism that it will energize the Democratic base and create a new platform for party fundraising." (Washington Post)

"Regulations Czar Prefers New Path" - "BOSTON — For more than a decade, a Harvard professor named John D. Graham has raised money, eyebrows and hackles by arguing that in many cases the cost of environmental rules vastly exceeds the benefits. Dr. Graham, the founder and director of a Harvard center that receives most of its money from industry, has become a pivotal figure in the battles over environmental regulation by arguing a theme that is pleasing to his donors' ears. He asserts that Americans would be far better off if, for example, the money devoted to pesticide control were spent on very different priorities, like hospital emergency rooms, even if in considerably smaller sums. And now Dr. Graham is preparing to bring that view to the new administration." (New York Times)

See also: Public Citizen’s Hit And Hide Attack On Bush’s Regulatory Czar

"Environmental Analyst to Speak at House Republican Conference on Federal Barriers to Brownfields Redevelopment" - "WASHINGTON, D.C. — In comments before the House Republican Conference today, Competitive Enterprise Institute adjunct scholar Dana Joel Gattuso will discuss the importance of the federal government to delegating responsibility for cleaning up blighted urban industrial areas known as brownfields, leaving the task to state and local officials. The innovative, decentralized approach taken by many states has resulted in tens of thousands of areas being cleaned up and returned to active use – a track record that contrasts strongly with the poor performance of the federal Superfund program." (Competitive Enterprise Institute)

Brewing chemical scare du jour: "'Mutant' chemicals used in fish farms" - "Strict controls are to be imposed on trout and salmon farmers who use an unlicensed chemical linked to mutations in rats and mice. The Food Standards Agency admits it has concerns about the potential health risks posed by the chemical malachite green, a cheap dye routinely used as a fungicide and disinfectant on trout and salmon eggs." (Independent)

Reminder - On Monday, March 26, PBS will air "Trade Secrets," a report on the chemical industry produced by the Peabody Award-winning duo of Bill Moyers and Sherry Jones. A newly formed environmental campaign hopes to use the broadcast to spark national awareness and action on the issue.

This pending terror campaign brought to you by Coming Clean, which is a joint project of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, the Environmental Health Fund, the Environmental Working Group and Women's Voices for the Earth.

"Research reveals mobile phone can affect cell repair" - "An international conference in Sydney has been told of new research into possible side effects of mobiles phones. A technology expert from Denmark believes radiation from phones can interfere with the body's ability to repair cells. ... A spokesman for the Australian Mobile Telecommunication Association says the weight of scientific evidence shows no harm from using mobile phones." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.) | Something in the air (The Age, Melbourne)

"Lead poisoning is no child's play" - "Lead poisoning continues to pose the most serious environmental health hazard to children in the United States, scientists say. The warning comes a month before the release of a study to be published in the journal Public Health Reports, which found that health problems associated with lead can occur at much lower levels of exposure than previously thought. The warning also precedes the release of a report from the Center of Disease Control that indicates average lead levels in American children have declined since the late 1970s." (ENN)

See Getting the Lead Hysteria Out by the Junkman, Foxnews.com

Smoking ban proponent pleads guilty to sexually abusing teen - "Alfred Muller, the longtime mayor of Friendship Heights and an usher at Washington National Cathedral for more than three decades, pleaded guilty in D.C. Superior Court yesterday to sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy in the restroom of the landmark cathedral on a Sunday afternoon... A quiet community figure for years, Muller briefly made international headlines in December when he led tiny Friendship Heights into imposing the nation's strictest smoking ban. The law, forbidding smoking on village streets and sidewalks and all other public property, has since been repealed." (Washington Post)

"Smokers win class-action status in West Virginia case" - "Healthy smokers suing the tobacco industry for free annual medical tests are entitled to class-action status and can argue that addiction increases their risk of disease, a West Virginia judge ruled Friday." (AP)

"New York City smokers protest Smoke Free Air Act" - "NEW YORK - Smokers marched to City Hall on Saturday, waving 10-foot-long cigarettes above their heads, to protest a proposed law that would ban smoking in the city's 21,000 restaurants. "We smoke!" the crowd yelled. "Butt out!" The smokers were joined by restaurant owners, waiters and bartenders in protesting the bill - the Smoke Free Air Act - which is expected to be sent to the City Council in May or June." (AP)

Who says tobacco taxes are about health? "Illegal cigarette scam costs $600m in tax" - "ILLEGAL cigarettes costing half the price of legitimate tobacco products have flooded into Sydney over the past 18 months, a special investigation has found. The illegal trade in cigarettes is costing the Federal Government an estimated $600 million a year in unpaid excise, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal. By next year, the Australian Tax Office and the tobacco industry estimate taxpayers will lose $1.1 billion to the criminal trade. Treasury raises $6 billion each year in tax levied on the sale of 26 billion cigarettes. ... The Government misses out on $7.56 in tax every time a pack of counterfeit Peter Jackson 30s changes hands." (Sydney Sunday Telegraph)

Letter of the moment: "It is time to dismiss calls to ban DDT" - "EDITOR - In his commentary in the ethical debate on banning DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloromethane) Liroff hides behind a veneer of reason in arguing to reduce its use carefully, but the final sentence exposes the essence of his priorities. He writes that we need "protection from both malaria and DDT," which effectively equates a plague that has ravaged human populations throughout history with the theoretical risks touted by environmental organisations.

DDT is the king of chemical benefactors, with its stunning success against typhus in the second world war, its association with a Nobel prize, and the increase in food production when it is used as an agricultural pesticide. Reputations are made by killing heroes, and environmentalist groups made their reputations by lobbying to have DDT banned in the United States; they have a large stake in suppressing the good news about DDT and magnifying theoretical risks. Through the years, when one accusation was disproved they unabashedly moved on to other accusations: from animal populations to cancer to the latest theory that DDT is an endocrine disrupter.

The first clarion came from Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, telling of declining bird populations and rivers filled with dead fish. No one ever questioned her implied comparison of DDT's benefit to humans against her charges of its harm to avian and piscine populations, but they needn't bother. Her lyrical paean to nature, wrong on so many points, was wrong on those as well.

There were charges of a link with breast cancer, refuted several times. In 1997 the New England Journal of Medicine published an editorial that railed against sensationalism and called for "scientists, the media, legislators, and regulators to distinguish between scientific evidence and hypothesis, and not allow a `paparazzi science' approach to [resolving] these problems."

Affluent nations can afford the folly of overspending in order to prevent imagined risks; demanding that poorer nations engage in such quixotic adventures is arrogance. It is time to dismiss these calls to ban DDT." (BMJ letters [March 17], Fredric M Steinberg, chairman of board of directors, American Council on Science and Health)

"Vaccination link to asthma ruled out" - "Fears childhood immunisation could trigger a range of allergic reactions, including asthma, have been quashed by new research. ... The news should reassure thousands of parents keen to protect their children from scourges such as polio, diphtheria, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, measles, mumps, hepatitis B and tuberculosis. It comes as the Federal Government launches a campaign aimed at people aged 18-30 who may have missed the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine as children. The study was prompted by overseas studies suggesting a possible link between asthma and immunisation." (Sunday Mail, Australia)

Here we go again: "Cancer fears over power plants" - "A leading scientist has reportedly called for an investigation into waste gases from two power plants, claiming they could be responsible for cancer, heart attacks and strokes among local people. Dr Dick van Steenis wants an official inquiry into the BP plant at Grangemouth in Falkirk and the Kilroot power station in Northern Ireland, according to the Scottish News of the World." (BBC Online)

"Texas parks loaded with toxins" - "The parks in President George W. Bush's hometown of Midland, Texas, bear the greatest burden of toxic pesticides of all public parks in the state. A study released this month by the Texas Pesticide Information Network surveyed the 27 largest metropolitan areas in Texas to determine the magnitude, frequency and potential health risks of toxic chemical use in parks." (ENN)

Meaning... Texans are safer from disease vectors than other US citizens? Lucky Texas park users and how responsible of park administrators in that state. Other state park users should complain to their park administrations immediately.

"Agents seize second flock of Vermont sheep" - "- Federal agents seized a second flock of Vermont sheep early Friday. The sheep were suspected of having been exposed to a form of mad-cow disease." (AP)

"Mad-cow worries growing among Americans, poll says" - "Almost two-thirds of Americans say they worry mad cow disease may become a problem in the United States - a number that appears to be growing, a poll released Friday said." (AP)

"Quarantined Cattle in Texas Face Death Over Mad Cow Disease" - "COLLEGE STATION, Texas, March 24 — At least 21 cattle quarantined in Texas will soon be killed as part of a plan to ease concerns that some may have mad cow disease, agricultural officials say." (AP)

"Mad cow precautions helped spread foot-and-mouth" - "Precautions taken in the wake of Britain's epidemic of mad cow disease may have contributed to the rapid spread of foot-and-mouth disease, a food policy expert claimed Friday.

Tim Lang, professor of food policy at Thames Valley University, in London, said many small local slaughterhouses were shut down during the mad cow disease crisis because of public health concerns.

As a result, animals were transported, sometimes hundreds of miles, to be killed in larger slaughterhouses--one reason why the current foot-and-mouth outbreak was so quickly distributed all over the UK, he told the Foreign Press Association in London." (Reuters Health)

"UK: Sainsbury's first to test meat for BSE" - "In a bid to allay consumer fears about food safety, Sainsbury’s has become the first UK supermarket chain to test all its beef products for evidence of BSE contamination. The retailer revealed that the EU validated test analyses samples of recently slaughtered cattle for the presence of the abnormal prion protein that indicates BSE. The test was developed by Swiss scientists and will be introduced in suppliers’ slaughterhouses, with a long term view of testing every piece of beef on Sainsbury’s shelves." (justfood.com)

"Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease kills two in Colorado" - "DENVER - Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, an illness similar to mad cow disease, claimed the lives of two people at a Colorado hospital this year, and there is concern other patients may have been exposed to the disease, a hospital spokeswoman said Friday." (AP)

"German Greens torn by revolt over nuclear phase-out plans" - "THOUSANDS of anti-nuclear protesters are planning a demonstration tomorrow to disrupt the first shipment of reprocessed atomic waste to Germany for four years. ... The action is a particular embarrassment to the Greens in the coalition, who have hailed the resumption of shipments of German waste from a French reprocessing plant as an important step in the nuclear phase-out plan. Jurgen Trittin, the Green Party Environment Minister, maintains that the return of spent fuel heralds "the beginning of the end of nuclear power" in Germany. "No other industrial country is abandoning nuclear power more quickly," he said last week. Mr Trittin's appeals, however, have failed to convince protesters, who oppose such shipments. Wolfgang Ehmke, a veteran protester from the Gorleben area, said: "The Greens in government no longer consider themselves part of the anti-nuclear movement. We will not allow ourselves to be gagged." (Sunday Telegraph, UK)

Whackos elect representatives to government; elected representatives faced with realities of practical government agree semi-rational position; whackos despise elected representatives. So what's new?

"The end of agriculture" - "NEWCASTLE, Eng. - By the end of last week, the number of cattle, sheep and pigs slaughtered in the current foot-and-mouth outbreak in Britain had already exceeded, in just a month, the total number over 10 years of cattle that caught bovine spongiform encephalitis, the previous scourge to affect British livestock. The two diseases are very different. Foot-and-mouth is a highly contagious but short-lived disease that is only sometimes fatal. Human beings very rarely catch the virus and quickly recover if they do. BSE is difficult to contract, very slow acting and fatal to both cattle and to the 90 or so people who have so far caught it by eating infected tissue. Yet although BSE caused terror, scandal and anguish for many years in Britain, it never had the effect that the foot-and-mouth epidemic has already had on the economy. This is because its effects remained confined to agriculture and the food industry. Foot-and-mouth, by closing down the entire countryside, threatens to devastate businesses that have little or nothing to do with farming." (Mat Ridley, National Post)

"Hoof-and-Mouth Crisis Shows We've Come A Long Way" - "Modern agriculture and husbandry, as any human endeavor, merits constructive criticism and can be further improved but using any crisis as a basis for attacking it, is wrong. I invite all such critics to join me in my next foray into regions where people are struggling to survive and where they would be happy to reach a level of development to deal with the problems of modern food production as we are privileged to know them." (Thomas R. DeGregori, Ph.D., American Council on Science and Health) | Modern farms didn't cause crisis (National Post)

"Csiro Undertaking 40 PCT of Australia`s GM Food Trials: Gmac" - "Australia`s chief scientific research organisation, the CSIRO, is leading multinational companies in the trialling of GM crops. Multinational organisations such as Monsanto and Aventis are portrayed as the main drivers of GM trials in Australia. But a breakdown of trials approved by or before the Genetic Manipulation Advisory Committee [GMAC] shows the CSIRO and public institutions have undertaken 60 per cent of the nation`s trials. The CSIRO is conducting 40 per cent of all trials, while other public institutions involved include Murdoch University, University of Queensland and the University of Adelaide." (Asia Pulse)

"Farmers Joining State Efforts Against Bioengineered Crops" - "North Dakota is weighing a bill that would make it the first state to ban planting of a genetically modified crop, reflecting a surge of concern about such crops in legislatures around the country." (New York Times)

"Storm in the Rice Bowl: IRRI & Greenpeace" - See an interesting example of how Greenpeace spins the media in this AgBioView list posting. Also included is Tom DeGregori's letter exchange with IRRI (his apology to IRRI for believing a Greenpeace release is available in a subsequent posting).

"Vandals destroy 900 trees in OSU biotech experiment" - "CORVALLIS -- Saboteurs vandalized three plots of Oregon State University's genetically engineered trees this week in nighttime raids designed to cripple research of what they called "Frankentrees." In an anonymous communiqué released Friday, the vandals claimed they destroyed 1,200 poplar and cottonwood trees at test plots near Corvallis, Albany and Klamath Falls. Oregon State Police are investigating. Steve Strauss, an OSU forestry professor and director of the Tree Genetic Engineering Research Cooperative, said fewer than 900 trees were damaged or destroyed. Some of the trees were genetically engineered, while others were produced with conventional hybrid breeding techniques, Strauss said. Damage to the university's research program was modest, he said. Strauss' research team is analyzing methods of controlling flowering, fertility and cross-pollination. "Most of the older trees had already provided the data we needed and were ready to be removed," he said. "The research was coming along quite well and the results were promising." (The Oregonian)

Footnote: Straus is expected to release more information via the AgBioView list this week - we'll keep you informed. At this stage it appears these eco-morons did little more damage than when similar dills attacked "biotech trees" (actually traditionally-bred raspberry canes) a year or so ago.

March 23, 2001

"Organized Organic Crime" - "Starbucks surrendered this week to extortion by some of the very same anti-technology extremists who supported the multi-million dollar vandalism of the gourmet coffee retailer's hometown and several of its storefronts during the 1999 Seattle WTO riots.

You might call it 'Battered Socially Responsible Company Syndrome.' Starbucks brags about its record of 'environmental leadership,' yet is now a punching bag for the groups it tries to appease.

But something more sinister is occurring... " (Steven Milloy, Foxnews.com)

Send a "Shame on Starbucks" letter to CEO Orin Smith.

Check out Patrick Williams' column Java Jive in the Dallas Observer.

Moron-stein of the Day - "Study: EPA's new levels of arsenic cause cancer in rats," blares a Knight-Ridder headline this morning. "Two days after the Bush administration junked a Clinton administration effort to reduce the amount of arsenic in drinking water, a study released Thursday reported that the permissible levels of the toxic chemical are enough to cause cancer," reports the article.

The study does no such thing. The researchers only reported, "These data indicate that nontoxic doses of arsenite can interact directly with glucocorticoid receptor (GR) complexes and selectively inhibit GR-mediated transcription, which is associated with altered nuclear function..." The study involved cells not rats and cellular changes not cancer.

"Federal government makes final call for data, public comment before writing new report on cancer-causing substances" - "Do estrogens, wood dust, a common solvent called trichloroethylene, the flavoring methyleugenol and the antibiotic chloramphenicol cause human cancer under some circumstances? The National Toxicology Program, headquartered at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, today sought final public comments and data on these and several other substances and exposures before recommending whether to list them as human carcinogens in the federal government's tenth and newest Report on Carcinogens. Comments will be accepted for 60 days." (NIH/NIEHS release)

"Public Citizen’s Hit And Hide Attack On Bush’s Regulatory Czar" - "Barely moments after the Bush White House announced their decision to appoint a respected Harvard researcher to be the administration's regulatory czar at the Office of Management and Budget, the left-wing advocacy group Public Citizen produced a 130-page hit piece on the professor. Sadly, it was not a new low in Washington's hack and slash political culture, rather a particularly transparent example of business as usual. Public Citizen's report is grandly entitled: "Safeguards at Risk: John Graham and Corporate America's Back Door to the Bush White House." The document is a virtual tour of the left's fevered opposition to new technology, dubious use of facts and do-anything attitude towards smearing those they disagree with." (David Mastio, Tech Central Station)

Thank Heavens for genuine global warming: "Project Plots Recovery From Ice Age" - "WASHINGTON - Scandinavia has risen more than a half-mile in the past 20,000 years, rebounding from the weight of mountains of ice that depressed the land's surface. Satellite measurements show the land is moving upward at almost half an inch a year. During the last ice age, ice sheets almost two miles thick covered Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and the Gulf of Bothnia, pressing down with a weight of about 6.6 million pounds per square yard, researchers say. "There is not one place in Scandinavia that was not covered with ice," said Jerry X. Mitrovica of the University of Toronto. "The land was pressed down about a kilometer (five-eighths of a mile), and when the ice melted, the land started going up in a process that continues even today." (AP)

"Kyoto deal seen possible despite Bush position" - "AMSTERDAM - The Kyoto climate change treaty has a good chance of being adopted despite recent discouraging statements from U.S. President George W. Bush, a leading energy and climate expert said." (Reuters)

"BUSH'S OPPOSITION TO CLEAN-AIR ACCORD RISKY, ACTIVISTS SAY" - "LONDON -- President Bush's opposition to a treaty aimed at combating world climate change has alarmed environmentalists, who warn that it could isolate the United States from its allies when treaty talks resume in July. An international conference aimed at finding ways to implement the 1997 Kyoto treaty will be held July 16-27 in Bonn. Several sources said that if the U.S. tries to block agreement there, Europe and other parts of the world would press ahead with ratification of the treaty without the U.S." (Chicago Tribune)

So? Let them commit economic suicide if they are really that silly. They won't though, because everyone knows that even if enhanced greenhouse is really a problem, (and that hypothesis is thrown into increasing doubt with each new study), complete implementation the Kyoto Protocol would make no measurable difference to global climate.

President Bush should do the whole world a favor and take the global lead as advocates claim they want him to do - by telling the UN that the US won't play this stupid game any more and they can blow their silly gabfest out their ear. Carbon dioxide is not an atmospheric "pollutant."

"UN backs India on Kyoto protocol" - "BERLIN: United Nations has come to the defence of India and China in countering Bush administration's criticism against the Kyoto protocol for not assigning greenhouse gas emission target for these "populous industrialising countries." (Times of India)

Surprised the UN should take this position when China and India will soon be producing more than half the global anthropogenic CO2 emissions? You shouldn't be:

"Isn't the only hope for the planet that the industrialised civilizations collapse? Isn't it our responsibility to bring that about?" -- Maurice Strong, head of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and Executive Officer for Reform in the Office of the Secretary General of the United Nations.

The UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on climate Change) has nothing to do with climate and everything to do with redistribution according to the misguided worldview of a bunch of zealots.

"Electric Power Capacity Crisis" - "WASHINGTON, DC — Greening Earth Society (GES) decides to re-release a study prepared by science advisor David E. Wojick (originally released in September 1998) concerning the looming crisis in electric power capacity. The report, "Electric Power Capacity Crisis," is only available as an online document at http://www.fossilfuels.org/Electric/crisis.htm." (Greening Earth Society)

"UPDATE - Looser green rules won't stop US gasoline spike" - "NEW YORK - The Bush Administration's attempt to keep a lid on summer gasoline prices by easing environmental rules may turn out to be a flop, according to government and industry officials." (Reuters)

That's the problem with boutique fuels isn't it, it fragments the national supply into piecemeal regional markets.

"Pair urges study of nuclear plant revival" - "YAKIMA -- Eastern Washington's two congressmen want a public power consortium to take a serious look at the practicality of completing a mothballed nuclear plant at Hanford nuclear reservation. U.S. Reps. Doc Hastings and George Nethercutt, both Republicans, have written to Vic Parrish, chief executive officer of Energy Northwest, asking for a "thorough review" of the possibility of finishing Washington Nuclear Project 1." (The Oregonian)

"'Nimby' mentality is holding up plans for greener energy" - "The government condemned "nimbys" yesterday for halting green energy projects by refusing to allow them to be built near their homes. Peter Hain, the Energy minister, attacked people with a "not in my back yard" attitude to wind farms and other sources of renewable energy. He called on residents not to slow progress towards renewable energy and announced moves to relocate generating plants that have failed to win planning permission." (Independent)

"Statement - Environment Canada" - "OTTAWA, March 22 - On Friday, 16 March 2001, Canada's Minister of the Environment, David Anderson, sent a letter on global climate change to his counterparts in the European Union and to his partners in the Umbrella Group." (Canada News Wire)

David Anderson hopes the EU will soften their position over carbon sinks and trading mechanisms to find agreement for implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. Some hope! The EU couldn't really care less about carbon dioxide emission reduction, they're simply using this farce to jockey for a better trading position because they can't compete in the open market. Wise up David - scrap the whole damn thing.

"Global thirst 'will turn millions into water refugees'" - "Global water shortages will become so catastrophic over the next 25 years that two in three people on the planet will face regular depletion of water supplies, a study published yesterday predicts. Rising population, increased pollution and climate change will result in millions of "water refugees" leaving their homes in search of clean water, says Tearfund, a Christian relief and development agency." (Independent) | World warned on water refugees (BBC Online)

But isn't purported climate change supposed to warm the surface of the oceans, leading to increased evaporation (the much-touted major positive feedback mechanism, without which GCMs don't predict any notable warming)? Increased evaporation implies increased cloud formation (a major negative feedback mechanism that climate hysterics and the modeling fraternity don't like to mention because it kills the whole damn scare). Increased cloudiness, in turn, implies greater likelihood of rainfall and increases in the global freshwater supply.

What is really missing is infrastructure to harness and treat water supplies and community sanitation to reduce the catastrophic disease toll in underdeveloped regions. The great crime involved here is that every time one of these self-interested organisations hitches their wagon to the "climate change" star, thus increasing pressure on politicians to decimate the global economy and wealth generation chasing the chimera of "climate stability," they harm the very people they claim to be speaking for by killing the mechanism that generates the donor funds for relief and development in the first place. Sheeesh!

"NASA image reveals giant crack in Antarctic ice" - "There appears to be a new crack in the Antarctic's icy armor. The massive iceberg-to-be was captured by a NASA satellite that's also tracing hidden continental features that shape the future of the world's largest ice sheets." (NASA/GSFC release)

Despite the breathless response of various media houses, this really means that the Pine Island Glacier may calve a large berg in a couple of years' time - or not. Ice sheets are not some immutable entity and actually ebb and flow quite a bit. This from an associated CSA media release:

Early analyses show that in just three years the Amery Ice Shelf has advanced five kilometres, while the Shirase Glacier, located in the Indian Ocean sector of the continent, has retreated twelve kilometres.

Sometimes, one glacier is in retreat while an adjacent glacier is in advance - something that demonstrates the absurdity of pointing to any one or any group of glaciers and claiming their current trend is indicative of current global climate trend.

"Proposed U.S. research budget "out of balance," Science Editor-in-Chief says" - "The U.S. Administration's proposed research budget is "out of balance," calling for increased support of biomedicine, but deep cuts or stagnant funding for many other fields, according to an editorial in the 23 March, 2001 issue of the journal, Science." (AAAS)

Hmm... one of the complaints appears to be that global warming won't be quite the same gravy train any more - pity.

"Arkansas considers banning evolution from textbooks" - "LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas -- A committee of the Arkansas legislature has recommended banning the theory of evolution from textbooks in the latest challenge by state officials to the scientific view of how life develops. A committee of the state House approved the legislation and forwarded it to the full House, 20 years after the state legislature passed a similar bill later struck down in federal courts as unconstitutional. The measure advanced despite a warning from the American Civil Liberties Union that it could violate the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state." (Reuters)

"Lacey says report failed to establish cause of disease" - "Two scientists with notable track records on BSE questioned the Queniborough report yesterday and insisted it was still too early to say how many people would die from the human form, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease." (Independent)

"Shops breaking irradiation food laws" - "A BBC investigation has found evidence that irradiated food is on sale in leading British supermarkets and health food stores, breaking UK and European laws. Supporters of food irradiation say it is a safe way of killing harmful bugs, such as E.coli. But critics say that - like genetic modification - its effects are unproven and the technique could be used to mask poor quality food." (BBC Online) | Stores withdraw 'irradiated' food

"Europe is freaking out" - "Mad cow disease is a real threat and has helped stoke the fear gripping the continent. But Europeans are now so timorous, they cannot contemplate any risk without panicking." (Carl Honoré, National Post)

"This vaccine won't hurt at all" - "We often find it difficult to balance abstract risks to our health, but if a reliable vaccine for a deadly disease is readily available, shouldn't immunizing our children be an easy choice? Unfortunately, many parents are more frightened of vaccines than the diseases themselves. The sudden measles alert on the campus of McMaster University demonstrates the effects of such misguided fears -- needless cases of potentially deadly diseases." (Howard Fienberg, National Post)

"Russian deputies to vote on nuclear waste imports" - "MOSCOW - Liberal deputies on Wednesday branded moves to import foreign nuclear waste to Russia for treatment as the "crime of the century," on the eve of a key parliamentary vote. Storing and reprocessing nuclear waste from other states could earn Russia some $20 billion over 20 years say supporters of the plan, who nevertheless expect the measure to win fewer than the 320 votes won during an initial vote last December." (Reuters) | Nuclear Waste Bill Goes for Key Vote (Moscow Times)

"Agricultural business may face overhaul" - "Labeling requirements in Europe and Japan and growing consumer demand for food that is not genetically engineered could require a sweeping overhaul of agricultural sales and marketing in the United States, a new report by the US Department of Agriculture says." (Boston Globe)

"Americans don`t mind bio-engineered food" - "Despite intense media coverage of the StarLink corn debacle, Americans are showing few signs of alarm over genetically modified food. A sociologist who monitors consumer reaction to biotechnology issues said he was surprised at the non-reaction to the hubbub over StarLink. The GM variety has been approved for feed use in the United States, but its modified genes have turned up in taco shells and other non-GM corn products. Tom Hoban, from North Carolina State University, said polls showed consumers didn`t stop buying corn chips or taco shells after the news broke. Compared to other food safety concerns, GM food worries play only a minor role in the minds of consumers, said Hoban. ``On the U.S. radar screen, it`s not really there,`` he told the recent annual meeting of the Canola Council of Canada." (Western Producer)

"Human trials of new vaccine technique prove promising for allergy sufferers" - "For years, efforts to develop improved vaccines for asthma and allergies have been thwarted because the vaccines themselves often cause the very symptoms a person is trying to avoid. Now, at the 57th Annual American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology's meeting this week, researchers at Johns Hopkins announce that a novel method of modifying an allergen, such as ragweed, by attaching a synthetic piece of DNA to it, is showing promise in initial clinical trials. The finding may lead to a more effective vaccine for treating allergic diseases such as hay-fever or asthma." (JHMI release)

"Panic expected over food safety" - "Canadian consumers are increasingly cynical and worried about the safety of their food supply and are susceptible to the same mass panic that has made Europeans spurn genetically modified foods, says a panel of Quebec food specialists." (Western Producer)

"No hurdles seen to golden rice tech transfer. Licence for non-commercial use soon" - "The ownership of 'golden rice' technology in the private sector will not hinder its transfer to farmers and consumers of developing countries, according to Dr Peter Beyer, co-inventor of the vitamin A-rich genetically modified rice. Speaking to Business Line, Dr Beyer noted that the golden rice technology originally involved deployment of genetic tools and techniques covering 70 patents held by over 30 companies and institutions. "But after a detailed intellectual property rights (IPR) audit, we found that out of the 70 patents, only 10-12 were really relevant for Asia. We successfully negotiated with the concerned patent holders to agree to the non-commercial usage of these tools free-of-charge," he said." (Business Line)

"With its key role in plant maturation, a newfound gene could yield a novel class of genetically modified crops" - "PHILADELPHIA – Biologists at the University of Pennsylvania have identified the first gene known to mediate the maturation of plants from a juvenile stage to adulthood. The discovery could lay the foundation for crops that repel pests by taking advantage of natural differences between younger and older plants, reducing farmers’ reliance on pesticides while sidestepping the controversy surrounding produce engineered with the addition of genes from other species." (University of Pennsylvania)

March 22, 2001

"Urban Myths of Organic Farming" - "... Nor do organic farming practices necessarily conserve the environment. Competitive organic farmers keep their fields clear of weeds through frequent mechanical weeding -- a method that damages nesting birds, worms and invertebrates -- and high use of fossil fuels, which greatly increases pollution from nitrogen oxides. A single treatment with innocuous herbicide, coupled with no-till conventional farming, avoids this damage and retains organic material in the soil surface. Organic agriculture was originally formulated as an ideology, but today's global problems -- such as climate change and population growth -- need agricultural pragmatism and flexibility, not ideology." (Anthony Trewavas, Nature)

"Unexpectedly high chemical levels found in Americans" - "WASHINGTON -- While lead levels are down, surprisingly high amounts of a chemical used in soap, cosmetics and plastics were detected in Americans' blood and urine, federal health officials reported Wednesday in the first nationwide study of environmental toxins in people." (CNN) | CDC Exposure Data Need Further Refinement, Evaluation Says American Crop Protection Association (US Newswire) | Washington Post

One of myriad reports on the "discovery" that [gasp] there are chemicals in people - none seem to notice that the presence of any given compound has nothing to do with its toxicity. Dose maketh the poison and half of tested "natural" substances are carcinogenic - in sufficient quantity. That's the same ratio as synthetic compounds.

"Doctors See Uncertainty In Report On Estrogen; Cancer Concerns Don't End Therapy " - "The latest study, too, leaves questions hanging. For one thing, it is not known in what doses the women took estrogen, and whether it was combined with progestin, as is common today. Also, some doctors said, the number of women in the study who took estrogen for any period and later died of ovarian cancer -- 255 -- is a relatively small group." (Washington Post)

"Sound scientific advice required" - "We are now deep into the finger-pointing stage concerning the Bush administration's revised position on carbon dioxide (CO2) and global warming. Last week, the president wrote that CO2 is not a pollutant and that there is an incomplete state of scientific knowledge of the causes of, and solutions to, global climate change...

What happened is simple. Mr. Bush's campaign committee made the mistake of relying on a green lobbying group -- Environmental Defense -- for advice on global warming. The group's policy director, Fred Krupp, initially tried to sell both the Gore and Bush campaigns the idea that a basket of pollutants -- sulfur dioxide, mercury and CO2 -- could be regulated by allowing utilities to chose their way to reduce some combination of these and other emissions. The DNC passed and the RNC bit." (Pat Michaels, Washington Times)

"US EPA signs pesticide settlement with green group" - "WASHINGTON - The Bush administration said it has agreed to a court settlement with an environmental group that spells out how the Environmental Protection Agency must review the impact of crop pesticides on children's health. The agreement came after EPA attorneys reviewed a consent decree that was negotiated with the Natural Resources Defense Council in the final days of the Clinton administration." (Reuters)

"U.S. says lack of funding hampers supplement law" - "WASHINGTON -- Scarce funding has slowed enforcement of a 1994 law that spelled out government authority over vitamins, herbs and other increasingly popular dietary supplements, a top U.S. regulator told Congress Tuesday." (Reuters)

See also Ruth Kava's comment: Supplement Hazards?

"City to sue in lead-paint poisoning" - "Attorneys for the City of Chicago plan to sue companies that put lead in paint decades ago, seeking cash to help fix a problem that continues to harm children and costs taxpayers millions of dollars a year, a Law Department spokeswoman said." (Chicago Tribune)

See also U.S. Sees Drop in 2nd-Hand Smoke, Child Lead Levels (Reuters) and Getting the Lead Hysteria Out, Steve Milloy, Foxnews.com

"Erin Go Away! The Myth Behind the Movie Lives On" - "What coincidental timing! On March 8, three weeks before the Academy Awards, Universal Pictures announced a $100,000 donation to UCLA "establishing a program to help students pursue studies in environmental and social justice." The purpose, said the corporation's press release, is to recognize "The crusading efforts of [Erin] Brockovich and [attorney Ed] Masry on behalf of the citizens of a small Southern California town plagued by illnesses caused by contaminated groundwater [that] served as the basis for Universal Pictures' acclaimed motion picture, Erin Brockovich." The $100,000 was certainly small change compared to the amounts studios often spend to promote a movie that's contending for Oscars, and the stakes here are tremendous with Erin Brockovich up for five awards. But by promoting in this manner a truly entertaining movie, Universal is lionizing two truly villainous people." (Michael Fumento, National Review) | Clueless corporations from Quebec to L.A. (Peter Foster, National Post)

"Venting on Global Warming" - "Last week, President Bush stepped back from the global warming precipice over which his Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christine Todd Whitman and Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill were trying to push him. These two Bush administration officials wanted EPA to be given the authority to regulate carbon dioxide, the gas released by oil, coal, and natural gas as a pollutant. With this authority, the EPA would have been able implement regulations aimed at reducing the emissions of carbon dioxide along the lines proposed in the unratified Kyoto Protocol." (Ronald Bailey, Reason Online)

"CTA petition requests that EPA regulate emissions of CO2"

President Bush stated in his March 13th letter to Senators Hagel, Helms, Craig and Roberts that he will not regulate CO2 emissions from power plants because it is not a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. So this petition asking for the regulation of CO2 under section 202(a)(1) of the Clean Air Act from in-use and new motor vehicles should go no where as well.

This is a list of actions GES and WFA have already taken on this issue. The new filing of the petition is here (PDF).


"Cheney: Nuclear Plants a Way to Cut Greenhouse Gas" - "WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney said on Wednesday new nuclear power plants are an answer for those ''really serious'' about reducing greenhouse gases, rather than a ''seriously flawed'' Kyoto treaty to fight global warming. ``If you want to do something carbon dioxide emissions then you ought to build nuclear power plants. They don't emit any carbon dioxide. They don't emit greenhouse gases,'' Cheney said on MSNBC television's Hardball program." (Reuters)

"Clean Air Fuels Emissions Debate" - "For the fourth straight year, the state's efforts to regulate power plant emissions churned up contentious debate at the Capitol, with environmentalists slamming new state rules as inadequate, and the commissioner of environmental protection warning that tougher restrictions could lead to a power crisis." (The Hartford Courant)

"Ontario announces first review of environmental air standards in 20 years" - "TORONTO -- The Ontario government announced Tuesday it is reviewing air standards for the first time in more than 20 years. The province will examine 145 air standards -- or levels of specific pollutants found in the air -- including 18 "high priority" chemicals, Health Minister Elizabeth Witmer said Tuesday." (CP)

"Green rules threaten US refinery capacity - NPRA" - "NEW ORLEANS - New environmental sulfur requirements for both gasoline and diesel have already knocked out one small U.S. refinery and may force other firms to close or sell plants, participants at the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) annual meeting said this week." (Reuters)

"Fight California’s Mandate" - "General Motors Corp. is suing to overturn California’s misguided requirement that automakers sell electric cars to consumers who don’t want them. The state is demanding that zero-emission vehicles — meaning some form of electric car — make up at least 10 percent of California’s new car fleet by 2003. That figure jumps to 16 percent by 2018. GM is suing in state court to block enforcement and instead require California to explore lower cost alternatives for improving air quality. It doesn’t seem too much to ask." (Detroit News Editorial)

"Statement of Myron Ebell, Director of Global Warming Policy, On Oil Exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge" - "WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Competitive Enterprise Institute supports policies that will bring affordable and abundant energy to American consumers. Therefore, we are pleased to join many other organizations in the Energy Stewardship Alliance and to show our support for opening the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration." (Competitive Enterprise Institute)

"Are YOU missing out on Global Warming? Are YOU letting down your organisation?" - "Extensive research by the Number Watch Social Statistics Research Unit reveals that the inclusion of this simple combination of adjective and gerund can virtually guarantee blanket media coverage of the most  banal of copy. The BBC , in particular, will fall over itself to broadcast your message to the world. Don't believe it? Here is a story that actually appeared throughout the British media (this is the Independent's version)" (Number Watch - scroll down to the "Stop" graphic)

"CJD cluster deaths linked to butchery" - "Traditional butchery practices are the most likely cause of Britain's first variant CJD cluster, say experts. The Department of Health has pledged to examine the findings of the report into the deaths of five young people in the village of Queniborough from vCJD, unveiled at a public meeting on Wednesday. vCJD (Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease) is the human form of BSE, or mad cow disease. It is thought it can be contracted by eating meat contaminated with BSE, but the link has not been categorically proved. ... The inquiry found that although all the victims did not use the same butcher, they all ate beef or beef products. The experts believe out-dated techniques used by some small abattoirs and butchers probably spread the disease from cows to humans." (BBC Online) | News Extra - The Queniborough report (The Times)

What? Between 1980 and 1991, these "old fashioned" slaughter techniques were common. Why should this cause a cluster in one particular village? Why hasn't there been a country-wide "cluster" if this is the transmission route?

"Feds seize sheep in Vermont suspected of disease" - "GREENSBORO, Vermont -- Federal agents went to a farm in Vermont early Wednesday to seize sheep feared infected with a version of the mad cow disease." (AP)

Uh! Not exactly, they may be infected with the ovine disease "scrapie" - and there is no suggestion of human ill-effect from that.

"'Mad Cow' Scare Campaign Heats Up" - "Judging by CBS' coverage on 60 Minutes II, the American mad cow scare campaign shows no signs of letting up. The report featured Michael Hansen of Consumers Union, and relied greatly on his unfounded and reckless claims that the federal government isn't doing enough to protect us from this European problem. CBS did mention that no case of mad cow disease has been diagnosed in America, but it would seem that no major media report on mad cow disease is complete without the nanny point of view. If you've read our groundbreaking report, Mad Cow: A New American Scare Campaign, you already know about Mr. Hansen, his agenda, and his bogus claims of American "mad deer." (GuestChoice.com)

"Naomi Klein and the crusade against industrial farming" - "She's everywhere. From the cover of Maclean's to the weekly column in the Globe and Mail to the latest protest against multinational corporations, to the inevitable university speaking tour, Naomi "Don't-brand-me" Klein -- Maclean's calls her the wunderkind of the new New Left -- is the crusader du jour in the big-is-bad fight. And increasingly, in the affluent West, those battle lines are drawn on the most basic of human needs: a safe and secure food supply. Yet Ms. Klein's proclamations reveal a selective use of scientific observations that build a politically motivated thesis at odds with basic biology." (Professor Douglas Powell, National Post)

"Greenpeace, U2 to spotlight Canada's rainforests" - "VANCOUVER -- Two world famous groups -- one musical the other environmental -- are teaming up again for a world tour that will put some of the spotlight on British Columbia's coastal rainforests." (CP)

Yeah, hurray... I suppose they're going to "save" the "Great Bear Rainforest." What a shame there's actually no such place - the name is simply spin created for revenue-raising purposes. If you haven't already, see Amazon Rainforest - Clear Cutting the Myths (VHS) for a reality check over forests and activist spin.

"First toilets, now washing machines" - "It will take a “powerful grassroots reaction” to get the regulators to back down, says Knollenberg. But by continuing to focus on the smaller things, he may one day succeed in making his case about the larger thing — the tendency of government to intrude into the most remote areas of private life. If low-flow and low-energy washing machines are such a good deal for consumers, after all, what is the need for such regulations in the first place?" (Thomas J Bray, Detroit News)

Video violence is at fault again today: "Survey connects graphic TV fare, child behavior" - "Just as MTV said it would censor the new music video by Madonna, a sweeping new survey of research on media violence, sex, and risky behavior over the last 10 years concludes that what children watch can directly influence their behavior. The survey by a Johns Hopkins University psychiatrist, published yesterday, reflects the growing concern of mental health specialists about the impact on youngsters of the sexually suggestive, violent, and aggressive content that frequently permeates television today." (Boston Globe) | British Columbia mulls video game restrictions (CNN)

"Popular Alternative Medical Therapy Useless -Study" - "WASHINGTON March 21 - Debunking a popular type of alternative medicine, Canadian researchers said on Wednesday they found no evidence that so-called chelation therapy benefited patients with coronary heart disease." (Reuters)

"What "60 Minutes" Didn’t Tell You about Biotech Food" - "Granted, 60 Minutes and 60 Minutes II have done far worse hatchet jobs than its "What You Don’t Know about Biotech Food," which aired on the latter show. The problem is, it didn’t give us what we should know. Instead, it took a wonderful opportunity to explore the biotech bounty that awaits us, then threw it away by highlighting a few doomsayers who did their best to shiver our timbers – even if it meant fabricating crucial facts." (Michael Fumento)

"Monsanto`s Genetically Modified Potatoes" - "Monsanto Co. is quietly mothballing its six-year-old genetically modified potato, the first bioengineered crop it launched. Monsanto, a St. Louis agricultural biotechnology and herbicide company 85%-owned by Pharmacia Corp., of Peapack, N.J., confirmed Tuesday that it will stop selling genetically modified seed to U.S. and Canadian potato farmers after this spring." (WSJ)

"Genetic-corn ruling set to add fuel to consumer groups` fire" - "Farmers will be exempt from a legal requirement to label corn less than 5 percent genetically modified, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Consumer groups are likely to be livid by the ministry`s allowance for farmers as they had been seeking a legal obligation that producers label all foods whose genes had been even minutely modified." (Mainichi Daily News)

"Anti-allergy Biotechnology" - "In September, the media reported ad nauseam about the dangers of Taco Bell taco shells and other products that had accidentally been made with tiny amounts of StarLink corn. This led to a major recall, involving Kraft Foods, Safeway, Kroger, Albertson's, and Food Lion. Frito-Lay greatly slowed operations to check its products for errant corn meal, thereby threatening an interruption of the nation's vital supply line of Cheetos. The brouhaha was essentially based on the misconception that StarLink was allergenic, when actually it merely hadn't been tested for allergenicity and thus its maker had never sought to have it approved for human consumption. Yet, the hysteria remains that there's some link, if not StarLink, between biotech food and allergenicity. This is actually backwards; not only is only biotech food screened for allergenicity but biotechnology can be used to make an allergenic food non-allergenic. Michael Fumento, a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute, who is a completing a book on advances in biotechnology, interviewed Roy Fuchs on these issues. Fuchs is a regulatory science specialist at Monsanto Co., in Chesterfield, Missouri. His job is to ensure no allergens are present in the transgenic foods the company seeks to market." (Michael Fumento, American Outlook)

March 21, 2001

Science-based groups rise to meet the the anti-science charge: "Consumer Groups Protest Starbucks Decision Not to Serve Milk From Growth-Hormone Supplemented Cows" - "WASHINGTON, March 20 -- The American Council on Science and Health, Center for Global Food Issues, Citizens for the Integrity of Science, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Consumer Alert, and National Center for Public Policy Research sent the following letter to Orin Smith, President and CEO of Starbucks Corporation today" (U.S. Newswire)

[Reference to: Starbucks To Change Milk Product. Starbucks have caved in to the Organic Consumer's Association and its allies, Friends of Earth, Pesticide Action Network, Sustain and the Canadian group Center for Food Safety and Rights Action's Frankenbuck$ campaign]

Some consumers have apparently already taken to the streets to defend their lattes. Here is a link to some photos.

You too, can voice your disappointment that the Starbucks Corporation caved in to anti-technology extremists! Click here and send the included letter or create and send your own.

Here's another item in the organic terror-marketing campaign: "Top chefs join Greenpeace to fight genetic tinkering" - "Mr. Tamaru, along with Didier Leroy, of the Fifth (225 Richmond St. W.), Michael Stadtlander of Eigensinn Farm (Singhampton, Ont.), and Jamie Kennedy of JKROM, all fine chefs who use as much organic product as they can, have signed up with Greenpeace to help raise local awareness -- and revulsion -- at genetic tinkering." (National Post)

Et tu SciAm? Et tu? "The Risks on the Table" - "More than half the foods in U.S. supermarkets contain genetically modified ingredients. Have they been proved safe for human consumption?" (Scientific American)

"EPA to Kill New Arsenic Standards; Whitman Cites Debate On Drinking Water Risk " - "The Environmental Protection Agency announced yesterday it will revoke a Clinton administration rule that would have reduced the acceptable level of arsenic in drinking water, arguing the evidence was not conclusive enough to justify the high cost to states, municipalities and industry of complying with the proposal." (Washington Post)

CBS 60 Minutes II takes up the Mad cow drumbeat - here's the transcript of last night's segment

"American Chemistry Council Statement on Biomonitoring Data Developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention" - "ARLINGTON, Va., March 20 -- The following is a statement by Sandra Tirey, assistant vice president and co-leader of the American Chemistry Council's Public Health Team, on biomonitoring data developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "While we support the use of biomonitoring to learn more about human exposure to chemical substances -- natural and man-made -- we believe it is essential that people understand the practical limitations of biomonitoring data. For example, biomonitoring data alone is not an indication that anybody's health is being harmed. ..." (U.S. Newswire)

"No recommendation for the good life" - "Longevity experts have no excuse for dying so early, reports John Macgregor." (Sydney Morning Herald)

"Doctor highlights asthma female hormones link" - "A Brisbane thoracic specialist says the link between asthma symptoms and female hormones needs to be taken into account by the medical profession and women patients. ... "Doctors need to be aware that to the many known triggers of asthma, such as upper respiratory tract infection and allergy and some drugs, we now need to add sex hormones as yet another trigger for asthma in women." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.) | Research pinpoints menstruation as asthma trigger (AAP)

"Study: Estrogen increases ovarian cancer risk" - "ATLANTA, Georgia -- Women who use supplemental estrogen after menopause for 10 years or more double their risk of dying from ovarian cancer, according to a study released Tuesday. This increased risk persists up to 29 years after a woman stops using the hormone therapy." (CNN)

Doubling a slight risk still only means slight risk. Note also that this study is about estrogen (ERT) and not estrogen combined with progesterone (HRT), which is the current normal regime. Unfortunately, BBC Online gets is wrong by stating Long term HRT use 'doubles cancer risk'.

"UK Study Links Infection with Childhood Leukemia" - "NEW YORK - Researchers from the University of Oxford, England say that 30 years' worth of population and leukemia statistics lends support to a link between infection and childhood leukemia. According to Professor Leo. J. Kinlen and A. Balkwill, population mixing (such as increased contacts between country and city dwellers) is associated with increased rates of leukemia in children. This, they suggest, is what would be expected if an infection caused the leukemia." (Reuters Health)

"Heart Association to warn against low-carb diets" - "ORLANDO, Florida -- The American Heart Association has drafted an advisory paper warning the public about what it says are the dangers of high-protein diets." (CNN)

"Nation to fight super germs" - "THE Federal Government has stepped up moves to curb the overuse of antibiotics to try to reduce the spread of drug-resistant "superbugs". Health Minister Michael Wooldridge has called an emergency summit of medical, agricultural and consumer experts to develop a strategy to fight the spread of deadly diseases and drug-resistant bacteria." (Courier-Mail, Queensland)

"New law would set time limits for environmental assessments of major projects" - "OTTAWA -- The federal government is moving to limit the time allowed for environmental assessment of major projects such as dams and mines, saying it wants to make the system more efficient. "We are looking at some of the more lengthy processes and saying, how can we make that realistic," Environment Minister David Anderson said outside the Commons on Monday." (CP)

"Selling Science to the Public" - "Many journalists would like you to think that they are seekers of the truth, but I suspect most are like me: curious gossips who like to show off by sharing hot news with a big audience. That audience distrusts hacks as much as boffins. But scientists could still learn from journalists. Journalists think carefully about their audience and communicate accordingly." (Roger Highfield, Science Magazine)

"Scientists work on international project to use ocean floats for weather data" - "VICTORIA -- A three-day planning meeting involving 40 participants begins here Tuesday on the Argo Program, an international weather project that will use 3,000 information-gathering floats in oceans worldwide. The program aims to reduce vulnerability to dramatic climate changes by providing more precise and up-to-date data that will be given free to anyone who wants it, such as weather-dependent farmers." (CP)

The most interesting thing about Argo is that we will get some clue on ocean temperatures and currents. This will only establish a baseline of course and will provide little trend information for decades yet.

"A Tale of Two Atmospheres" - "In the days following President Bush's statement that his administration would not seek to regulate CO2 emissions from U.S. power plants, climate alarmists did their darndest to convince the world there was irrefutable evidence of CO2-induced global warming." | The Greenhouse Effect is Real. So What's New? | The Greenhouse Effect Can Be Thwarted. That's What's New. (co2science.org)

"Oh Good Grief!" of the day: "Global Warming Could Put Palm Trees in Swiss Alps" - "BERNE - Global warming could give the Swiss Alps a Mediterranean climate within decades and boost the number of severe storms, experts said Monday." (Reuters)

and "Woodland life at risk from climate change" - "Many of the best-loved sights and sounds of Britain's woodlands could disappear in this century because of climate change, a report by a woodland conservation charity says." (Independent)

"Schroeder Calls on Bush to Stick to Kyoto Protocol" - "BERLIN - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has written to President Bush to urge him to stick to the 1997 Kyoto accord to cut emissions of gases blamed for global warming, German government sources said Tuesday. ``We are still of the opinion that the reduction is unavoidable. It is necessary to reach decisions to fill the Kyoto protocol with life,'' a senior source said. ``The federal chancellor has sent a letter on this to President Bush.'' (Reuters)

"Bush stand on clean air still worries carmakers" - "Administration isn't abandoning plans to lower emission limits." (Detroit News)

"Canada disappointed by Bush move on pollution" - "OTTAWA - Canada, a key ally of Washington in the battle over how best to cut greenhouse gases, said Monday it was disappointed by U.S. President George W. Bush's decision not to impose mandatory carbon dioxide emission reductions at electrical power plants." (Reuters)

"Scientists Launch Asian Dust Study" - "WASHINGTON - More than 100 scientists are taking to the air and sea to measure the smoke, dust and other particles spewed into the atmosphere in Asia. They are seeking answers to one of the fundamental unknowns of global change: How do these materials affect our climate? Scientists know the effect of aerosols on climate is large, ``but the uncertainties are huge,'' researcher Barry Huebert of the University of Hawaii said Tuesday at a briefing on the experiment." (AP) [emphasis added]

"Monsanto denies public blacklash on GM wheat" - "The multinational Monsanto has denied its research into genetically modified wheat is under threat, despite a consumer backlash in Europe and Japan. And Monsanto says it has no plans to start GM wheat trials in Australia, but expects to have bread made with GM wheat on sale in the United States in three years." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Biotech Firm Executive Says Genetically Engineered Corn Is Here to Stay" - "Mar. 19--A top Aventis CropScience executive said Sunday that the food supply will never be rid of the new strain of corn that the company genetically engineered at Research Triangle Park. The executive, John Wichtrich, called for a change in federal regulations to allow some level of the engineered corn, known as StarLink, in human food. The product is now approved only for animal feed and industrial products such as ethanol." (Knight Ridder/Tribune)

"JAPAN: Japan to allow foods to contain 5% biotech corn" - "Japan will allow food products to contain genetically modified corn in levels up to 5%, the nationwide Mainichi Shimbun newspaper reported today. The newspaper reports that the rule will form part of new safety guidelines to take effect April 1. The government decided to set a threshold for high-tech corn after new technology made it possible to detect it in processed foods." (justfood.com)

March 20, 2001

SNEAK PREVIEW! CDC to release report on chemical exposures - The Endocrine/Estrogen Letter provides an exclusive report (PDF format) on tomorrow's CDC report on chemical exposures.

"Doctors warn guns are a health risk" - "America's doctors are preparing to add an unexpected new element to their traditional bedside manner by delivering discreet lectures to their patients on the risk of gun ownership. ... A pro-gun group of 1300 medical practitioners, Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, has accused the new gun-control doctors' lobby of being motivated by political activism. "Handgun ownership is not a medical issue and never has been," the head of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, Tim Wheeler, told the Observer. "When doctors talk about guns for political purposes, they are are committing an unethical act and their patients who are responsible gun owners feel violated. Most of these doctors don't know squat about guns." (The Age, Melbourne)

"Conference told genes increase risk of lung disease" - "Australian researchers have told a conference in Brisbane that there are genes which increase the risk of lung disease. The annual meeting of the Thoracic Society has heard findings from the Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane showing certain genes seem to increase the risk of developing chronic lung diseases like bronchitis and emphysema. Professor Michael Abramson from Melbourne's Monash University says knowing about the genetic link is a big step forward in working out what causes emphysema. He says it shows that smoking is not the only cause of the disease and that some are more susceptible to it than others. "I think we've had our picture of the disease distorted by the predominant role of cigarette smoking and I think we need to recognise that as in the case of most human diseases, there's an interaction between genes and the environment," he said." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.) | Gene link to smoker ills (The Age, Melbourne) | Smokers' lung risks linked to genes find (The Courier-Mail, Brisbane)

"Carpets in schools don't compromise indoor air quality" - "ITHACA, N.Y. -- Carpets in schools can help the quality of indoor air by trapping contaminants and allergens, says a Cornell University indoor environmental expert. The findings run counter to growing concerns of some doctors, parents and schools that carpeting might be affecting some children's health by compromising schools' indoor air quality (IAQ)." (Cornell University News Service)

"Bad habits, non-cholesterol risk factors in youth linked to fatty plaques" - "Dallas, March 20 – A new study links "non-lipid" risk factors – obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes – to the development of early atherosclerosis in youth with recommended cholesterol levels, according to a report in today’s Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association." (AHA release)

"Doctors' group issues guidelines on antibiotics" - "WASHINGTON -- Antibiotics are not needed for treatment of most upper respiratory infections, such as sore throats, bronchitis, and most sinus infections, according to guidelines published Monday by a doctors' group. They were released by the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine. The internists' group said such infections are usually caused not by bacteria but by viruses, against which antibiotics are ineffective." (CNN)

"Space Radiation Called No Major Threat to Flyers" - "FORT WORTH, Texas - Airline travelers should not be worried about high-altitude exposure to radiation from space and the sun, U.S. experts said on Monday. Researchers at an American Airlines and pilots union seminar on cosmic radiation said the issue was worth monitoring, especially for flight crew members who spend more time in the air than the average traveler. American is a unit of Fort Worth-based AMR Corp. But government and airline scientists said existing evidence does not point to cosmic radiation as a major health issue." (Reuters)

"Studies See No Increased Heart Risk with Viagra" - "ORLANDO, Fla. - Men using the drug Viagra to treat impotence do not experience an increased risk of heart attack or death from heart disease and may in fact boost their heart performance and exercise capacity, researchers said on Monday." (Reuters)

"Bush's Interior secretary unintentionally boosts environmental groups" - "WASHINGTON - Interior Secretary Gale Norton has energized environmentalist groups, some of whom report surges in fund-raising, new memberships and online activism. It has become a sore point for Norton, who complains that fund-raising, not facts, caused the groups to portray her as an extremist." (Scripps Howard News Service)

"Taking Precaution Vs. Proving A Negative" - "When tending the garden of environmental policy, one would always prefer to be planting pretty flowers, and finding better ways to protect safety, health, and environmental quality. Sometimes, however, one is forced to stoop to pluck a weed. One such weed that has escaped its proper place in the garden is called the “precautionary principle.” (Ken Green, Tech Central Station)

Letter of the moment: "Global warming a hotly debated issue" - "... It is surely time in the UK for a more adult scientific openness about the limitations of our current knowledge. Emissions may be politically important, but their precise scientific role has been seriously questioned." (Professor Philip Stott's letter to The Guardian)

"IPCC's Crumbling Foundation" - "On January 20, 2001, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the Policymaker's Summary of its new Third Assessment Report. In the six short weeks since then, IPCC's most basic and most inflammatory forecast—a major temperature rise by the year 2100—has been KO'd." (GES)

"A Smoking Pea-Shooter" -  "The latest scare story from the industry is that human influence on the  greenhouse effect has now been measured in a British study of two sets of satellite data 27 years apart. This report examines the details of the study and reveals some surprising facts not reported in the media, including what may be a significant flaw in the study itself." John Daly, Still Waiting For Greenhouse)

"Study of trees in Mongolia, evidence of climate change" - "A new study, which examined tree growth rings to chronicle growth patterns as well as temperature swings, details trends from the 3rd Century to today. "The results suggest that the temperatures in Mongolia rose to their highest in the past millennium, reaching their peak in the 20th Century,” said head researcher Rosanne D'Arrigo of the Tree Ring Lab at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York. “The 1999 ring, the widest, indicates the highest temperature reached in this region in the past thousand years." (Earth Times)

Um... trees are plants aren't they? And plant growth accelerates with increased aerial carbon availability (which is why many commercial growers artificially enrich their greenhouse atmosphere to about 700ppm [parts per million] carbon dioxide). We know that atmospheric CO2 has been increasing so we would anticipate broadening of the growth rings in trees. This isn't the only thing that affects growth of course, water availability is another major determinant. Meanwhile, Mongolia has suffered successive Zuds winter 1999-2000 and 2000-2001. See this FAO release.

"VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT Vol. 2, No. 10" - "Touted as "the first direct observational evidence that the greenhouse effect is producing long-term changes in the earth’s atmosphere," there has been a flurry of press coverage about research at the Blackett Laboratory of the Imperial College in London, as reported in the March 15th edition of Nature. The researchers said they detected an atmospheric signal that reflects the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases since 1970. It’s time for a tutorial." (GES)

"EU sends strong warning to Bush over greenhouse gas emisssions" - "Europe's top environment official has made a blunt attack on President George Bush's stance on climate change, claiming it has "sent a wave of shock and resentment across the world", and could lead to a crisis in transatlantic relations. In an attack on the United States President, Margot Wallström, the European commissioner for the environment, told The Independent that Mr Bush's comments last week were "totally unacceptable." (Independent) | Nation Faces Widespread Energy Crisis (Washington Post)

Unacceptable? Not in the real world they're not Maggie.

"Nuclear power bounces back" - "Once scorned, plants now bought by energy companies scrambling for cheaper power" (NBC News)

"Nasa plans study on `sun-earth' system which affects life, society" - "Mumbai, March 18: The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) has initiated a new programme, `Living With a Star' (LWS), to study those aspects of sun-earth system that affects life and society. ... This was for the first time that Nasa has taken such a project to study how the sun affects/acts on the day to day life on earth in a 11-year solar cycle, she said. Delivering a talk on `LWS' at the `International Chapman Conference on Storm-Substorm Relationship' which concluded at Lonavala near here on Friday, she said, in the past, all Nasa missions were driven by fundamental science questions. But this mission would be different in finding the aspects that affect life of living things on earth in real time like human radiation exposure, climate change (past and future), surface warming, ozone depletion and recovery, Guhathakurta said adding that ``we want generous participation from India and other countries.'' (Financial Express)

"Bt Cotton Plantings Expected to Increase in Arkansas" - "Growers planted genetically enhanced cotton on approximately three-fourths of the state's total cotton acreage last year, and a University of Arkansas scientist says the use of Bt cotton likely will increase this year. "We have a number of stacked gene, Bollgard/Roundup Ready, varieties. That technology will probably be used on 40-45 percent of the state's cotton acreage, more than double last year's acreage,” confirmed Bill Robertson, a University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service cotton agronomist." (AgWeb.com)

"Developing Nations' GM Crop Production Rising" - "Developing nations are increasingly moving into the commercial production of genetically modified (GM) crops, an organization of scientists promoting the adoption of farm biotechnology noted in a recent report. Farm biotechnology involves the production of agricultural commodities with superior traits via the alteration of their genetic makeup. In its report, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) said developing countries last year expanded their commercial plantings of GM crops to 10.7 million hectares (has.), 51% up from 7.1 million has. in 1999. Industrial nations, on the other hand, expanded their plantings by a slower 2% to 33.5 million has. from 32.8 million has. in 1999. Worldwide, commercial plantings of GM crops reached 44.2 million has. last year, up 11% from 39.9 million has. in 1999." (Business World)

"Monsanto Sees Irish Research Potential" - "Ireland has the potential to become one of the leading centres for biotechnology research and development in the world, Mr Hugh Grant, chief operating officer and business manager for US biotech company, Monsanto, said yesterday. Initiatives taken by the Government, including the setting up of the (pounds) 560 million (E711 million) Technology Foresight Fund, had given Ireland a head start, he said." (Irish Times)

"Two Companies Hold The Key To Feeding Asia's Poor" - "Will They Share The Harvest? - It Didn't Take Long for genetic technology to infiltrate the centre of Asian life and culture. In January, scientists mapped the entire genome of rice -- the first major cereal crop to have its genetic code unravelled. Excited, food scientists say the discovery could have a major impact in Asia, where 91% of the world's rice is grown and eaten. It follows the development of "golden rice," which is genetically engineered to produce high levels of beta-carotene. Such advances in agronomy -- far away from the controversy over genetically modified foods in the West -- hold the promise of transforming the lives of Asia's rural poor." (Far Eastern Economic Review)

"Indian Government: Vitamin-a Rich Indian Rice Varieties in Six Years" - "These varieties would go a long way in helping poor farmers. The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) are jointly working towards finalising a Swiss proposal in this regard. The proposal for joint research on Golden Rice figures in the second phase of Indo-Swiss collaboration in biotechnology." (M2 Communications)

March 19, 2001

"Biotech Corn Is Test Case For Industry; Engineered Food's Future Hinges on Allergy Study " - "... If researchers determine the unsuspecting diners did have allergic reactions to a protein in the corn, then the already troubled world of agricultural biotechnology will suffer another damaging blow. Despite widespread concern over the possibility that genetically engineered crops could damage the environment or cause human health problems, there has been little evidence that either has occurred. Allergic responses to StarLink would mark the first documented instances of people suffering health problems because of engineered food.

But if the results come back negative, the industry will regain some credibility. Company scientists have argued that StarLink could not cause severe, or even minor, allergic reactions, and that the corn is safe..." (Washington Post)

"No about-face on CO2 " - "What is portrayed by environmentalists and Democrats as President Bush bowing to corporate pressure on global warming in fact was something very different. He found himself in a difficult posture because his team proved sloppy on two occasions, once during the campaign and again in the early weeks of the new administration...

Bush's final decision generated front-page and nationally televised accounts depicting a reversal of policy that had been ignored when it was quietly announced five months earlier. The environmental wars are just beginning, but Bush has not joined the enemy." (Bob Novak, Chicago Sun-Times)

"Study Cites Illness in Alumni of Schools on Industrial Sites" - "While being treated for leukemia seven years ago, Kim Tolnar, a 1983 graduate of River Valley High School near Marion, Ohio, was contacted by another woman who had attended the same school in the late 1980's and was battling the same disease.

The two young women soon discovered nine other cases of leukemia among the more than 5,500 students who had attended the school since it opened in 1963. The number of cases in a population that size over that period would ordinarily be expected to be three, statisticians said...

Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, the director of the Center for Children's Health and the Environment at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, who was not involved in the study, suggested that districts should err on the side of children when chemicals were involved...

'You could look at what happened at Love Canal and say, `We didn't know there was a risk,' ' said Lois Gibbs, whose family was among hundreds of people who fled that upstate New York community two decades ago after learning that it had been built on a toxic dump...

Ms. Gibbs, the executive director of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, a nonprofit organization in Washington, helped organize the study to be released today..." (New York Times)

Cancer cluster claim + Philip Landrigan + Lois Gibbs = Junk Science.

"US climate policy alarms Europe" - "Dismayed by President Bush's about-face on greenhouse-gas emissions, European leaders are questioning the new US administration's commitment to curbing climate change, and warning that the issue could undermine transatlantic relations." (Christian Science Monitor)

"Germany Expresses Concern To EPA" - "BERLIN - Germany's environment minister expressed concerns over U.S. policy on reducing carbon dioxide emissions in a letter to Environmental Protection Agency chief Christie Whitman released Sunday. Juergen Trittin pleaded to the United States to follow the agreements originally reached 1997 in Kyoto, Japan on regulating so-called greenhouse gases to curb global warming. Another round of discussions is planned in Bonn in July." | Whitman Defends Bush on Emissions (AP)

"Bush and global warming: letting cooler heads prevail" - "George W. Bush clearly is different from his father. The former president was pushed into signing the climate treaty in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 by William Reilly, his administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. George W., on other hand, did not permit his EPA administrator, Christine Todd Whitman, to dictate White House policy. His action this week may spell the end of the treaty." (S Fred Singer, National Post)

"Bush Economist Says C02 Caps Could Cause Blackouts" - "WASHINGTON - President Bush's chief economist said Sunday that the United States cannot afford to curb carbon dioxide emissions because it is in the midst of a ``major'' energy crisis. Speaking on NBC's ``Meet the Press,'' White House chief economic advisor Lawrence Lindsey said carbon dioxide caps could cause more energy blackouts like the ones that have plagued California." (Reuters)

"Environmentalists rally support to stop NYC power plants" - "NEW YORK - Environmental and community groups held protests in New York on Thursday to garner support for their law suits to stop construction of the only power plants to be built in the City this year, despite warnings that its electricity supplies would be tight this summer." (Reuters)

"N.Y. power agency warns against energy shortages" - "The agency that runs New York's power grid is warning that the state needs to increase its electric generating capacity by 24 percent during the next four years to avoid serious electricity shortages and sharply higher prices. A new report by the New York Independent System Operator is the latest in a series of recent warnings that the state could face a painful power crunch and electricity prices that could be as much as 14 percent higher unless a string of new power plants are built." (The Buffalo News, N.Y.)

Quick quip from the NY Post: "SHE COULD HOLD HER BREATH FOR SIX YEARS" - "We in New York have a particular stake in global warming because Long Island could become Short Island." - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, on the atmospheric release of greenhouse gasses - including CO2 (New York Post)

"The Week That Was March 17, 2001--- brought to you by SEPP"

"Many Driver Distractions Are Low-Tech" - "FRIDAY, March 16 -- Many local lawmakers concerned about road safety are pressing to outlaw using cell phones while driving. But a new study suggests that mobile phones might not be quite the hazard their detractors talk them up to be." (HealthScout)

How much "not quite the hazard?" Here's the percentages of accidents where driver distraction was cited as causal or contributive:

  • Outside distractions, such as a eye-catching advertisement or eyeing another accident, 19.7%
  • Eating and drinking were next, at 18.8 percent
  • These were followed by fiddling with the car audio system, at 11.4 percent.
  • Chatting with other passengers came next, at 9.4%.
  • Trying to retrieve loose objects rolling about the car caused 3.2%.
  • Cell phone usage ranked next, accounting for a mere 1.5%.

"Curb child mobile usage: experts" - "PARENTS have been warned they should restrict children's use of mobile phones to only "essential" purposes because of serious health risks. Leading scientists have cautioned parents to be extremely careful about how often they allow their children to use mobile phones." (Sunday Telegraph, Sydney)

Well, having kids on cellphones a lot is certainly a wealth hazard but whether they are a health hazard is moot.

"Medical quackery is back - and booming" - "Often perceived as a phenomenon of the distant past, quackery is now as large an industry as it ever was, despite government efforts to the contrary. Americans spend about $20 billion a year on fraudulent medical devices and drugs. And many more people are being swindled than you might think. "We're really in quackery's golden age," says Dr. Stephen Barrett, a retired psychiatrist and author of "The Health Robbers: A Close Look at Quackery in America." (Knight Ridder Newspapers)

"UPDATE - GM threatened with NY lawsuit over PCB site" - "DETROIT - The New York state attorney general has threatened to sue General Motors Corp. over chemicals linked to cancer found at dump sites at a GM plant, saying the company was not doing enough to clean up the area." (Reuters)

Who Says PCBs Cause Cancer?

"New definition may make number of heart attack cases soar" - "U-M researchers explore far-reaching impacts from new definition of "myocardial infarction" (University of Michigan Health System)

"Of Mice and Mischief" - "The only time investment bank Stephens Inc. deals with mice is when they have to be chased out of the office. So why are animal rights protesters staging demonstrations outside its Little Rock, Ark. headquarters? Seems the bank has agreed to lend $30 million to Huntingdon Life Sciences Group of the U.K., a big contract-research organization. The lab, which counts Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Merck among its clients, uses mice, rats and guinea pigs to test compounds before beginning human trials. No one is safe these days from the mouse protectors. They're stepping up their protests, employing terrorist tactics not seen since the 1970s." (Forbes Magazine)

"New Hampshire governor targets dioxin emissions" - "New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen unveiled a first-in-the-nation strategy to reduce dioxin emissions by 50 percent in the next two years, anchored by a proposed ban on backyard trash burning and a regulatory move to close most hospital-based, medical waste incinerators. Shaheen said the 63-page strategy is modeled after the state's effort that has reduced mercury emissions by 37 percent since 1998." (The Telegraph, Nashua, N.H.)

Interesting isn't it, New Hampshire's going after backyard burning (and it's a fair bet wood fires will be next) to limit dioxin emissions. Meanwhile, in the UK, the Government's busy creating monstrous pyres all across the country, this piece mentions 700 railway sleepers (heavy timber beams) and 200 tons of coal for just one of the 300-plus pyres around the country. Add in the mass of carcasses and the emissions from the diesel and straw included in the conflagration and you can reckon on dioxin and particulate emissions in quantities that would have factory owners looking at striped sunlight and huge fines. And they're talking about toasting a half-million sheep as well. Show what a target of convenience largely irrelevant dioxin emissions are do you suppose?

"Army cancer threat confirmed" - "DEFENCE Minister Peter Reith has officially confirmed that thousands of army personnel may have been subject to cancer-causing diesel fumes. Mr Reith's official acknowledgment follows a recent Sunday Herald Sun report that revealed that soldiers working in armoured personnel carriers, known as M113s, had been exposed to cancer risk from diesel fumes, as far back as the Vietnam War." (Sunday Herald Sun, Melbourne)

"Free trade is the best hope for the world's poor" - "Slowly, the governments of rich countries are learning. Not so much how to tackle world poverty, but how to tackle well-meaning, counter-productive demonstrators who try to block the very measures most likely to lift the world's poor out of their oppression. That is the significance of today's meeting at the Foreign Office, which aims to restart international talks on liberalising trade. It is being chaired by Clare Short, International Development Secretary and one of this Government's success stories, in order to underline the point that "free trade" is not a capitalist conspiracy to grind the faces of the poor. On the contrary, it is their best hope of sustainable development." (Independent)

March 17 - 18, 2001

"Plaintiffs Rev Up New PPA Drug Lawsuits; PPA, used to combat fat and sniffles, may also cause strokes" - "Plaintiffs' lawyers, many with experience battling big pharmaceutical companies over diet drugs, are getting ready to file lawsuits on behalf of hundreds, maybe thousands, of clients who claim that PPA triggered strokes and caused other damage." (National Law Journal)

Check out "Is the FDA's PPA scare BS?"

"Contaminated Food Makes Millions Ill Despite Advances" - "Tapeworm and botulism have been all but eradicated in this country, and new technologies from freeze-drying to irradiation have been developed to make food safer. But because of changing eating habits and more choices of foods, Americans may be more likely to get sick from what they eat today than they were half a century ago.

The frequency of serious gastrointestinal illness, a common gauge of food poisoning, is 34 percent above what it was in 1948, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Not all scientists agree with that conclusion — some say that food poisoning is as common as in the immediate postwar years, but not necessarily more so — yet there is no doubt about the scale of the problem.

Every year, the agency says, 5,000 deaths, 325,000 hospitalizations and 76 million illnesses are caused by food poisoning." (New York Times)

Federal government officials have claimed since the 1980s that food poisoning kills about 9,000 and sickens another 81 million annually. The 81 million figure is from a 1985 study by researchers D.L. Archer and J.E. Kvenberg. Three years later, Archer and Kvenberg increased their estimate by 22 percent to 99 million. The CDC estimated in 1999 that food poisoning caused 76 million illnesses, and 5,000 deaths each year.

So which estimates, if any, are correct?

As pointed out in a 1998 report from the National Academy of Sciences, estimates of deaths and illness from food poisoning are just guess-timates -- not hard statistics from actual counting.

The estimates serve dual purposes. CDC either can take credit for reducing food poisoning or the agency can cause alarm over an increase in food poisoning (and call for a larger budget) just through new guess-timates.

"Biotech Grain Is in 430 Million Bushels of Corn, Firm Says " - "More than 430 million bushels of corn in storage nationwide contain some of the genetically engineered variety that prompted a massive recall of corn products last fall, the company that developed it will report today... Corn is considered unfit for human use if one kernel out of 2,400 contains the Cry9C protein." (Washington Post)

No harm, no foul.

"A New Prescription For Medical Errors; Hospital Touts Computer System That Alerts Doctors to Potential Mistakes Over Medication " - "A campaign against medical errors began two years ago with a National Academy of Sciences report estimating that at least 44,000 Americans, and perhaps as many as 98,000, die each year from preventable mistakes in hospitals. About one-fifth of mistakes are believed to occur because of drug complications: overdoses, underdoses, drug interactions, allergic reactions." (Washington Post)

Click for "Deaths Due to Medical Errors Are Exaggerated in Institute of Medicine Report".

"Medicines could carry vCJD" - "More than 800 medicines, some of which are on sale in the UK, could carry a risk of vCJD. Drug companies were given until 1 March to prove that their products were free from the human form of mad cow disease." (BBC)

"Longer breast-feeding linked to heart disease risk" - "Although breast-feeding provides the best nutrition to infants, new research is raising the question of whether breast-feeding for more than a few months may increase a child's risk for heart disease later in life." (Reuters Health)

"Study finds Viagra safe for healthy hearts" - "Although the impotence drug Viagra may be risky for men with heart disease, there is growing evidence that the little blue pill does not raise the odds of heart attack among men with healthy hearts. A new UK study shows that men taking Viagra did not experience a higher-than-average rate of heart attacks." (Reuters Health)

"UK study links infection with childhood leukemia" - "Researchers from the University of Oxford, England say that 30 years' worth of population and leukemia statistics lends support to a link between infection and childhood leukemia." (Reuters Health)

"Sore throat link to CJD" - "The victims of vCJD may have succumbed to the disease because they ate contaminated beef when they were suffering from a bout of tonsillitis or a simple sore throat... British researchers studying vCJD said the theory was plausible but stressed there was no experimental data to support it." (BBC)

"Meat-Eaters Should All Go Cold Turkey " - "Britain's ongoing mad cow and hoof-and-mouth debacles should give pause to those who remain committed to a meat-centered diet. Certainly both hoof-and-mouth and mad cow disease are not part of a program of divine retribution meant to even the score between humans and the billions of animals we abuse in the process of rearing them for slaughter. These maladies are just the most recent, and certainly not even the most compelling, reasons to eliminate meat from one's diet... Meanwhile, millions suffer and die every year from heart disease, cancer and complications arising from obesity and hypertension--all conditions aggravated by eating meat and other high-fat foods." (Peter A. Brandt & Samuel L. Jacobs, Los Angeles Times)

Speaking of turkeys, claims that meat consumption causes health effects are junk science. Check out these examples, addressing breast cancer and colon cancer.

National Cancer Institute spends millions on anti-tobacco political advocacy - Martha Perske writes,

One year ago I sent a Freedom of Information request to the National Cancer Institute, asking for info on NCI’s funding of Stanton Glantz’s research.

I received a response today.

The NCI says its ongoing grant for Glantz’s "research" (payable to the University of California) is in its seventh year, and that "Total funding for years 3-7 is $2,074,576.00. Years 8 through 12 are future years. Total funding in future years has been requested at $1,512,654.00."

I should think cancer victims would be outraged that NCI is giving millions to Glantz and his university for political research as opposed to legitimate cancer research. The American Cancer Society supports Glantz, too.

How do NCI and ACS explain that they’re spending precious research dollars on a guy who’s so driven by his own anti-smoking agenda that he wants to "bloody" any politician who dares go against him?

Glantz said, "In each state one or two politicians seem to be taking the lead in pushing the industry’s position (at least publicly) . . . If they can be bloodied, it could well scare the others off."

What kind of a legitimate researcher wants to "bloody" anyone who doesn’t agree with him? How do NCI and ACS justify funding such a person?

Also, how do NCI and ACS justify funding Glantz who apparently only does tobacco-related research if he knows in ADVANCE how it will come out?

In Glantz’s own words: "and that’s the question that I have applied to my research relating to tobacco. If this comes out the way I think, will it make a difference? And if the answer is yes, then we do it, and if the answer is I don’t know then we don’t bother. Okay:? And that’s the criteria." (Anti-smoking convention, Los Angeles, CA, October 2, 1992, "Revolt Against Tobacco." Transcript p. 14).

March 16, 2001

"Getting the Lead Hysteria Out" - "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last December that levels of lead in children continue to decline. That's a scary thought to the lead-heads, who this week launched an effort to "head off" any further good news about lead." (Steven Milloy, FoxNews.com)

Washington Juxta-Post-ition? - Page A3 of today's Washington Post features an article titled Bush's Reversal Could Affect Global Warming Agreement next to an article titled New Orders for Army Engineers. The former article laments the fate of the Kyoto protocol in the wake of the Bush administration's announcement that it's not interested in curtailing power plant emissions of carbon dioxide. The latter article carries a notable quote from the new military commander of the Army Corps of Engineers about the feasibility of doing a navigation study involving projections of economic and barge activity for 50 years. Lt. Gen. Robert B. Flowers said,

It is very, very difficult to try to model this far ahead, and I'm not convinced anyone has the tools to do this.
The Post should be more careful about its article placement. A reader of the juxtaposed articles might wonder why the Post doesn't question the wisdom behind 100-year predictions of global warming?

"Unbecomingly green" - "Everybody in Washington frets about Vice President Dick Cheney's health, but what about his boss? President Bush is beginning to look a little too green for his own good. He may be in need of ideological defibrillation." (Michelle Malkin, Washington Times)

"FDA Issues Lead Warning to Dentists" - "WASHINGTON -- Dentists who use certain old-fashioned dental boxes to store X-ray film may be unwittingly exposing themselves and patients to dangerous levels of lead, the government warned Wednesday. Dental inspectors in Washington and Wisconsin stumbled onto the bizarre risk after noticing that X-ray film stored in certain boxes had a dusting of white powder." (AP)

Incoming! "PBS airs trade secrets of chemical industry" - "On March 26 PBS will air "Trade Secrets," a report on the chemical industry produced by the Peabody Award-winning duo of Bill Moyers and Sherry Jones. A newly formed environmental campaign hopes to use the broadcast to spark national awareness and action on the issue." (ENN)

This pending terror campaign brought to you by Coming Clean, which is a joint project of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, the Environmental Health Fund, the Environmental Working Group and Women's Voices for the Earth.

"Surprise return of big smelt run nets excited dippers on the "Sandy" - "TROUTDALE -- Thick schools of smelt have returned to the Sandy River after a mysterious disappearance for more than a decade, renewing the circus that once was smelt season. Biologists aren't sure why the fish vanished from the Sandy or why they suddenly reappeared this week. They suspect better ocean conditions produced a bumper run in the Columbia River." (The Oregonian)

"Journal: A climate of reason" - "It's wise to call for documentation of the potential effects of carbon dioxide or global warming before developing an environmental policy." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) | Text of President Bush's letter

"Low Income Communities Will Face Long-Term Adverse Impacts From President Bush's Decision Not To Curb Carbon Dioxide Emissions" - "OAKLAND — Consumers, especially those with lower incomes, will face significant negative consequences from President George W. Bush's abrupt decision not to treat carbon dioxide (CO2) as a pollutant when it comes to power plant emissions." (Redefining Progress release)

Driving the economy over a cliff would certainly be "redefining progress" but just how it would improve the lot of low income families remains a mystery.

"Cooling Carbon Dioxide Rhetoric" - "The Bush administration is being blasted by some environmental groups for withdrawing the support the president pledged during the campaign to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. But it would have been irresponsible for the administration to push ahead with costly new controls on power production plants at a time when energy prices are soaring and power shortages are being experienced in parts of the country." (Detroit News Editorial)

"ECONOMY IN THE BALANCE" - "President Bush's time at the Harvard Business School seems to have paid off: His position on power-plant emissions and climate change could be a case study in how to properly weigh costs and benefits." (New York Post)

"Bush takes stand on CO2" - "Swayed by science — or at least, by the fact that the science about "global warming" is by no means settled — President Bush has decided not to pursue mandatory reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) output, publicly distancing himself from comments to the contrary made by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and some other Bush administration staffers. Environmental activists have tried for several years to portray carbon dioxide — an inert gas that comprises a great portion of the Earth's atmosphere — as a "pollutant" that must be regulated to combat "global warming." (Washington Times)

"Lost Squadron Ices Global Warming" - "WASHINGTON, DC — Greening Earth Society science advisor Robert C. Balling, Jr., examines the story of infamous "Lost Squadron" from World War II and in the process of recounting a tale of heroism and adventure discovers reasons why, as he says, "We should be skeptical of bold pronouncements permeating conventional wisdom about global warming." (Greening Earth Society)

Myth reinforcement of the day: "Ecologists see Bush ignoring data in greenhouse gas step" - "Responding to President Bush's decision not to support regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, US and European environmentalists said yesterday that one of his main arguments has been debunked. ... Environmentalists said Bush had ignored a finding by more than 3,000 international scientists who concurred that the gas is one of the main causes of global warming." (Boston Globe) | Groups blast Bush for reversing position on emissions reductions (CNN) | Bush's CO2 Hothouse (CSM) | Democrats Slam Bush on Emissions (ABCNEWS.com) | Environmentalists fault Bush for reversing course on carbon dioxide emissions (Scripps Howard)

The hundreds of scientists who contributed to the TAR didn't concur on anything. What has been released to date are simply political summaries agreed by political representatives to the IPCC. What cannot be agreed at present is whether the globe is really warming or not and, if so, why it may be doing so.

Either said "environmentalists" are woefully ignorant about climate science (very likely) or they are disseminating deliberate falsehoods. According to Alan Caruba, the latter applies:

"The National Anxiety Center's 'Warning Signs'" - New column posted - Global Warming: Lies, Lies, Damnable Lies!; Greens within the US Government Working Against Public Interest.

The spin begins. While this UPI piece correctly notes: "One controversial theory has it that burning fossil fuels is warming the atmosphere through the greenhouse effect" - and controversial the hypothesis most assuredly is, it incorrectly states: "observations from satellites support a new theory that carbon dioxide and other emissions are to blame for global warming, confirming what some climate models have been implying."

Actually, the study contains no evidence of surface warming and lead author, John Harries, specifically states that it is unclear whether global warming or cooling is either occurring or a likely result. Unfortunately, one likely result of this study being published is that it will soon be listed as "global warming proven by satellite study" and so the ignorant media will treat it.

already: "Greenhouse Effect Confirmed Over 27 Years" - "LONDON, United Kingdom, March 15, 2001 - While the political fight is heating up in Washington and Brussels over how to limit the emissions of greenhouse gases linked to climate change, scientists have published new evidence that global warming is really occurring. The warming of Earth's climate has now been verified from space by comparison of satellite data over a 27 year time span." (ENS) | Data conclusively show human role in greenhouse effect, researchers say (Globe and Mail)

Buried in this piece is the acknowledgement: "There is no evidence in the report on whether or not the surface temperature of the Earth is actually rising. Harries said this is because the greenhouse effect could start a climate cycle that forms more clouds, keeping more of the Sun's rays from reaching Earth" although it continues with: "But the carefully calculated conclusions are clear - global warming is a reality."

What a fascinating statement: "no evidence the surface temperature of the Earth is actually rising ... conclusions are clear - global warming is a reality." Clearly, after proliferating enhanced greenhouse scare stories for more than a decade, much of the media still hasn't a clue that "global warming" and "enhanced greenhouse" are not interchangeable terms. Here's a quick tip guys, "global warming" (relative to cooler times) is a fact - "enhanced greenhouse" remains a speculative hypothesis. Here's another tip, what Harries et al's spectral analysis actually does is confirm that the atmospheric content of certain gases has actually changed - albeit very slightly. Categorically, it does not confirm "global warming."

"President Bush's U-turn exposes his irresponsibility" - "It may not yet be proven beyond the last scintilla of doubt that man-made pollutants are to blame for global warming. But so persuasive is the accumulating evidence that it takes either wilful blindness, or reckless pandering to a friendly industry, for a national leader to rule out the most obvious measure to curb the output of these pollutants." (Independent) | PAY NOW AND PAY LATER (Miami Herald)

Not merely not proven - enhanced greenhouse is a collapsing hypothesis because the globe isn't warming.

Sigh... "Bipartisan Emissions Bill Counters Bush's Broken Promise" - "WASHINGTON, DC, March 15, 2001 - A bipartisan group of U.S. Congress members introduced a bill today that would set emissions limits for carbon dioxide and other power plant pollutants that contribute to global warming and pose a risk to public health. The bill was released two days after President George W. Bush's controversial decision not to support limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants." (ENS) | GOP moderates defy Bush with bill to cap CO2 (MSNBC)

"HEAT'S ON CHRISTIE IN GLOBAL-WARM SPLIT WITH W." - "Environmental Protection Administration boss Christie Whitman laid low yesterday after getting dissed by President Bush over global warming." (New York Post)

0.038 % is the proportion of its total energy that the UK derives from onshore wind turbines. The DTI estimates that the practicable limits to onshore wind turbine developments would amount to energy production of around 8,180GWh/year which is roughly 2.7 per cent of current electricity consumption. 

These are figures quoted by Lance Mytton, a correspondent to The Times on March 15, from Government sources. He goes on to say:

This is hardly the planet-saving solution to the problems created by burning fossil fuels that Friends of the Earth and the British Wind Energy Association would have us believe (letters, March 12). 

It also makes one wonder whether onshore wind energy isn’t one of Tony Blair’s eye-catching initiatives aimed primarily at diverting attention from the Government’s failure to come up with a long-term strategic solution to the problems of our near total dependence on fossil fuels. 

For this fatuous piece of gesture politics some of the finest landscape in Britain, and particularly Wales, has been sacrificed. Even if global warming were a reality, this would have negligible impact. Never mind the environment as long as the environmentalists are satisfied. (Number Watch)

"Save the rain forest, or fix the boardwalk?" - "Now, the Asbury Park boardwalk, faded icon of the shore, is the center of yet another New Jersey epic -- a debate over whether to use state park money to rebuild the historic promenade with hardwood from the vanishing Brazilian rain forest." (Bergen County Record)

Except that the Brazilian rain forest is not "disappearing" and this is not an either/or situation. If you haven't already, see Amazon Rainforest - Clear Cutting the Myths (VHS).

"Weeds in disturbed areas may be source of more medically important compounds than plants in tropical rainforests" - "Athens, GA – Conservationists have long pointed out that primary tropical rainforests may have dramatic value because of important and undiscovered medicinal plants. New research by an anthropology graduate student at the University of Georgia, however, has found that weeds in easy-to-reach disturbed areas may be even more important." (University of Georgia release)

However, according to MSNBC's resident airhead, Francesca Lyman, we should be Mining nature for new medicines "while imperiled forests and coral reefs last."

"Child leukaemia linked to rogue virus, says report" - "Further evidence that childhood leukaemia is caused by a rogue virus rather than environmental pollution is published today in a study showing that children are more at risk if they live in isolated communities which suddenly experience a large influx of visitors." (Independent) | Wartime clue to cancer cluster (The Times)

"Beware sensationalism" - "I have been developing a new law. There is Murphy's Law - what can go wrong will go wrong. There is Dennis Healy's Law of Holes - when you're in one, stop digging. I would like to offer another - Hannaford's law of inverse meaning. When you read that something is modern, radical, or new, it is in fact the complete opposite." (Richard Hannaford, BBC Online)

"Don't hang up - cellphones make you smarter" - "Hong Kong - Rather than harm people, radiation from cellphones may actually make users smarter, claims a university research project published in Hong Kong. Heat in the ear from cellphone radiation may speed up the rate of processing by the brain, suggested tests conducted on secondary schoolchildren by a University of Hong Kong psychologist." (Sapa-DPA)

Ahem... this very limited and preliminary study does not mean you should rush out and get your kids a cellphone to make them "smarter" (nor should you encourage them to use one - unless they can pay the bill). The only thing demonstrated here is that a group of students who used cellphones scored a slightly higher average on a particular type of aptitude test than a group who do not use cellphones. Does this mean that cellphones are causal? No - it could be that the higher socio-economic group (more likely to have and use cellphones) were advantaged by better diet and health care, it could be that aptitude for such tests indicates a preference for gadgets such as cellphones, it could simply be an anomalous small-sampling result and it could be that kids who don't like aptitude tests don't like cellphones either.

Hand-wringing from Gasbags America: "Religious Leaders, Health Advocates Warn Governor and Legislature Not To Sacrifice Californians’ Health For Energy Boost-- Urge Reliance on Renewable Energy, Conservation, Instead" - "SACRAMENTO, CA — In a news conference today at Westminster Presbyterian Church, California religious leaders joined the American Lung Association of California in calling on the governor and state legislators not to sacrifice the health of Californians in their search for solutions to the energy crisis." (ALA-California release)

"Greenpeace-a danger to shipping and themselves says Intercargo" - "How long will it be before there is a major maritime incident involving a ship as a direct result of the action of environmental activists? Hardly a month goes by without another report of a ship being endangered by activists." (Maritime Press, Korea)

"Natural birth 'riskier than drink-driving'" - "NATURAL childbirth is more dangerous than drink-driving or riding a motorbike without a helmet and women will increasingly choose a caesarean delivery, a Canberra conference will be told today." (The Australian) | Half of births caesareans by 2010 - doctor (NZPA)

"Minister: precautionary principle has 'got out of hand'" - "Michael Meacher, UK minister for the environment, today conceded that, in responding to the foot-and-mouth outbreak, 'the precautionary principle perhaps got out of hand because we did not understand all of the issues'." (Spiked-Online)

"Firms 'in despair' over new EU regulations" - "BRITISH firms are struggling to cope with an avalanche of costly new regulations imposed by the European Union and now face extra demands for worker participation in management decisions. This contradicts Government claims that Europe is genuinely embracing the free market. Ruth Lea, the policy chief for the Institute of Directors, said: "We're in despair. We're seeing the re-regulation of the UK labour market, undoing all the gains of the last 20 years. It may be disguised right now because the economy is buoyant but, as the climate changes, we'll see the rocks underneath." (Telegraph)

"Heat is on as Iceland issues third warning" - "SUPERMARKET chain Iceland today issued its third profit warning this year, predicting a fall of another 33 per cent. ... Earlier this year, Iceland abandoned its organic food policy after incurring heavy losses, and indicated that the takeover of cash-and-carry chain Booker was not bringing in big savings. ... The new management revealed serious problems with the integration of Booker cutting into cost savings, as well as a big loss from the switch to exclusively stocking organic own-brand frozen vegetables." (The Scotsman)

Must be spring - look what's coming out of hibernation: "Starbucks Campaign Taking The GE Food Fight Directly To The US Marketplace" - "... Now is the time, in the wake of the StarLink scandal, for US consumers and food activists to go on the offensive. The Organic Consumers Association and five of our closest allies (Friends of the Earth, Rights Action Canada, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network, and Sustain) have decided to target Starbucks, the largest gourmet coffee shop chain in the world, as our first major North American corporate target." (Optimal Wellness Center)

"Bove sentenced for GM destruction" - "French anti-globalisation campaigner Jose Bove has been sentenced for the destruction of genetically modified plants. A court in the southern French town of Montpellier gave the radical farmer a 10-month suspended sentence and put him on two years' probation." (BBC Online)

"Golden Rice and Beyond" - EMOTIONS ARE THE PROBLEM, NOT RATIONAL DISCOURSE (Plant Physiology Online)

"Thailand Mulls GMO Labeling To Protect Consumers - Report" - "BANGKOK -- Thailand`s Commerce Ministry plans to introduce compulsory labeling of all edible goods sold in the domestic market having contents linked to genetically modified organisms, a local Thai-language newspaper, the Manager, said in its Thursday edition." (Dow Jones Newswires)

"EU parliament voices support for biotechnology" - "STRASBOURG, France - The European Parliament declared support for biotechnology yesterday, but stopped short of calling for the European Union to lift its ban on new genetically modified (GM) food strains." (Reuters)

"GE Varieties Needed for Disease Control" - "LORNE - Mar 14/01 - STAT -- Genetic engineering is the next logical step in trying to combat a large number of plant diseases which afflict wheat and barley crops around the world, argues Dr James Cook, from the U.S. based Washington State University. Speaking at this year's Australasian Soil-borne Diseases Symposium here in the state of Victoria, he said host plants need to be bred which can resist a wider range of diseases before the full yield potential of wheat and barley crops can be realized under traditional or organic production schemes." (STATpub.com)

"Department rejects rogue soybean claims" - "The Agriculture Department yesterday played down academics` fears over the presence of genetically modified soybean on the market. GM seeds imported for industrial use would not yield fruit, an expert at the department said." (Bangkok Post)

"Philippine Consumers Unwittingly Buy GM Food - Greenpeace" - "MANILA -- Philippine consumers are unwittingly being exposed to genetically-engineered food products after laboratory tests confirmed the presence of genetically-modified organisms, or GMOs, in food items sold in local supermarkets." (Dow Jones Newswires)

March 15, 2001

Mercury good news not rising - Mercury hysteria has been in the news quite often recently. This week's non-hysteria was a non-event.

All these events were trumpeted by the media.

Researchers reported in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association that no adverse effects from mercury were observed in a population of fish eaters. They even reported beneficial effects from the fish consumption.

Didn't read or hear about it? It's no wonder. There has been no -- zero, zip, nada -- media coverage of the study.

Once again, good news isn't news.

"Hobgoblins in the Cabinet" - "Mr. O'Neill's outlook also raises potential ethical problems for him. One of the ways environmentalists seek to reduce emissions is to insist on the production of smaller, lighter, more fuel-efficient cars. Many auto manufacturers have responded to such pressure by using more aluminum in their cars. As critics at the Competitive Enterprise Institute are quick to note, Mr. O'Neill holds substantial shares of Alcoa, the aluminum manufacturer, and he stands to benefit financially if U.S. policy-makers see hobgoblins in the same places he does." (Ken Smith, Washington Times)

"An implant too far?" - "Are French health care authorities irresponsible — or are their American counterparts simply mired in red tape, ignorance and politics? This is the question that springs to mind when one considers the news that French authorities have lifted the ban on silicone gel implants while here in America, the federal Food and Drug Administration continues to peddle the line that silicone gel is dangerous and to be avoided." (Eric Peters, Washington Times)

"Reaping the whirlwind" - "The lessons of the great forecast bust of March 2001 should not be lost on any student of global climate change: once a disaster is predicted, a hurricane of hype follows. In the ensuing firestorm, there is a substantial risk in disagreement, and no amount of reason or fact can stop the public's panicked response." (Pat Michaels, Washington Times)

"More Americans having gay sex, study shows" - "Positive media images of gay life--like hit TV shows "Ellen" and "Will and Grace"--may be helping spur an increase in gay sexual activity among Americans, a new study suggests. A national survey has found the percentage of US women who say they recently had gay sex has increased 15-fold from 1988 to 1998, with rates among American men doubling over the same period." (Reuters Health)

Are more people are having gay sex or are more people are admitting to gay sex? We'll probably never know from this study because, as the Reuters article reports, "the study did not investigate the reasons behind the increase."


"Even low lead levels impair learning, study finds" - "Children exposed to lead in their homes may still suffer toxic effects, even at levels once thought too low to cause harm, according to research released Thursday." (Reuters Health)

This research is the topic of my FoxNews.com column for tomorrow.

Causing much excitement in the greenhouse advocacy camp: "Satellite data confirms greenhouse effect" - "A comparison of satellite data from 1970 and 1997 has yielded what scientists say is the first direct evidence that so-called greenhouse gases are building up in Earth's atmosphere and allowing less heat to escape into space. The study contains no evidence on whether Earth's surface temperature is actually increasing. In fact, whether this greenhouse effect will lead to global warming or global cooling is unclear, the scientists said." (AP) | First, direct observational evidence of a change in the Earth's greenhouse effect between 1970 and 1997 (Imperial College release) | Report: Satellite data proves greenhouse effect (CNN) | ‘Greenhouse’ gases building up, study finds But questions arise about global warming — or global cooling (MSNBC) | Increase in Greenhouse Gases Seen From Space (Reuters)

That this is the first demonstration of change in the emission rates of particular infrared wavelengths is true, although changes in the atmospheric content of greenhouse gases (GHGs) have been tracked for years. What this specifically does not do is indicate whether this might cause warming, cooling, both or neither and, to their credit, most media items include the study authors' caveats on this point (some, regrettably, seem to have missed that bit). Whether the observed (actually, inferred) results were influenced by their particular timing - in 1970 the world was near the end of a cooling phase, in 1997 it was well into a warming phase and we had a fairly powerful El Niño event in progress as well - will not be known for some time. Next generation satellite-mounted infrared instruments are due to be launched later this year. This study does, however, confirm a little of what we had inferred from emissions monitoring and atmospheric sampling - there have been changes in the atmospheric content of the trace-gases, Methane, Carbon Dioxide, Ozone...

Much consternation and some congratulation over President Bush's refusal to drive the US economy over a cliff for the express benefit of the EU:

"Consumer group relieved at announcement on CO 2 " - "WASHINGTON, DC (March 14, 2001) – Consumer Alert breathed a deep sigh of relief today at the announcement from the Bush Administration that it would not seek to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. "On behalf of the 280 million American consumers who exhale carbon dioxide on a daily basis, Consumer Alert thanks George W. Bush and his administration for its position on this issue," said policy analyst James Plummer." (Consumer Alert)

And while the EU whines about the Bush-Cheney administration not limiting CO2 emission from power plants: "MEPs vote to tighten pollution laws on power plants" - "STRASBOURG - The European Parliament voted yesterday to tighten up new laws setting emissions standards for power stations and other large combustion plants. ... The new pollution limits set national air quality standards for SO2, NOX, volatile organic compounds and ammonia" (Reuters)

Don't just see anything here about CO2 though...

Those busily little beavers, working so hard to have the essential trace gas, CO2, reclassified as a "pollutant," always seem to omit little side-effects like this: "Report predicts effects of power crunch on Washington" - "OLYMPIA -- Rising energy prices could cost Washington households $1.7 billion a year and cut job growth by a third, according to a worst-case-scenario report prepared by the state budget office. Hardest hit will be aluminum manufacturers, who use massive amounts of electricity. The leading trade group says energy costs could kill the aluminum industry in the Northwest." (AP)

And the terror campaign continues: "United Nations chief cautions against global warming" - "The United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has warned against global warming. In a keynote address in the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka, Mr Annan said an inundation of low-lying islands and coastal areas could lead to the displacement of hundreds of millions of people. He said the latest forecast of the U-N Intergovernment Panel on Climatic Change makes for chilling reading. Mr Annan said Bangladesh, the world's largest delta, and its millions of people would be exposed to a sea-level rise that could lead to the disappearance of vast swaths of the region." (Radio Australia) | Bangladesh exposed to global warming, Annan (BBC Online)

Dr Robert Bradnock, a sub-continent specialist with the Department of Geography, School of Oriental and African Studies, London, last year wrote: " ... goes on to repeat the often stated view of environmental lobbyists that Bangladesh is being submerged by sea-level rise, with massive refugee consequences. In fact the Ganges delta, which owes its origin to massive deposition over millennia of silt derived from the still-rising Himalaya, is witnessing a continued net growth in its surface area. In what is an enormously complex region, there is no systematic evidence of net sea level rise in Bangladesh." It would seem that, if sea levels are rising, Bangladesh is rising even faster.

And: "Two million English homes at risk of flooding-report" - "LONDON - Up to two million homes in England are at risk of flooding as climate change raises water levels, Britain's government watchdog said today." (Reuters)

Meanwhile: "Kyoto accord may be ratified without US - Germany" - "LEIPZIG - Countries committed to ratifying the Kyoto Protocol on climate change in 2002 may have to proceed without the U.S. if Washington continues to stall progress on global carbon dioxide emissions reduction, the German Environment Ministry said late on Monday." (Reuters)

Please, don't wait for the Umbrella Group, feel free to commit economic suicide anytime if you think there's a lot of votes in having your population freeze to death in the dark...

"Germany unveils new climate protection joint venture" - "LEIPZIG - Germany plans to launch its latest climate protection joint venture this year with a biogas power plant in Morocco, a senior environment official told Reuters at a TerraTec energy conference in Leipzig late on Monday. Germany is pursuing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reduction targets through projects called Activities Implemented Jointly (AIJ) with nations described as economies in transition (EITs)." (Reuters)

Oh... so forests (biomass carbon sinks) must be excluded from any "emissions abatement" or accounting but as someone else's fuel they are a credit (at least for EU countries). While this particular project does not directly source its energy from trees but rather the poop of Moroccan cattle (and cattle are responsible for significant African deforestation anyway, so it may as well be wood), plenty of proposed biomass projects rely on fuel wood/grasses/straw... Grow trees? No good. Burn trees? No problem! What a foolish game this is.

"WINTER 2001: COOLER THAN NORMAL WINTER IN MUCH OF THE U.S.; WARMEST WINTER ON RECORD IN ALASKA; EXTREMELY DRY CONDITIONS IN MUCH OF THE SOUTHEAST AND NORTHWEST" - "March 14, 2001 — The winter of 2000-2001 was cooler than normal in the contiguous United States, NOAA scientists announced today. Using the world's largest weather database at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina, the scientists calculated conditions for the meteorological winter, December through February. Preliminary data indicates this was the first colder-than-average winter since 1993-1994, the 26th coolest winter on record in the U.S. This is in contrast to the previous two winters which were the warmest. On the other hand, the average statewide winter temperature in Alaska was the warmest since records began in 1918." (NOAA)

While Alaska enjoyed a comparatively warm winter, across the Bering Strait, Russia had their coldest winter for 70 years, the Sea of Okhotsk appears to be frozen all the way to Hokkaido (about latitude 43°N) and poor Mongolia suffered their second successive Zud (donations to the relief effort can be made through the Red Cross). The ice concentration map clearly shows the effect of the Atlantic Conveyor transporting tropical warmth to Western Europe. Combined with the positive phase of the NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation), this effect has kept the seas open all the way north to Svalbard (about 77°N) and the Barents Sea appears open to about 50°E. You can see more in the U Wisconsin-Madison Sea Surface Temperature (SST) graphic.

Depending on where you are then, winter 2000/2001 was mild, average or severe (and possibly all of those if you happened to be in the path of intermittent Arctic breakouts). This is a demonstration of regional interannual seasonal variability - it is not evidence of any form of trend. Globally, the world was slightly cooler than the LTA (Long-Term Average) but it will be some time before we can determine whether or not Earth has entered another cooling phase.

"Power cables - what risk?" - "'High-voltage power cables have been officially linked to cancer for the first time', reported The Sunday Times (London) on 4 March 2001. 'A study shows that children living near them run a small but significant increased risk of falling victim to the disease.' With this story, the Sunday Times report heralded a new escalation in government-sponsored scaremongering. The source of the story was Sir Richard Doll, whose name is always followed in press accounts by the description 'the epidemiologist who discovered the link between smoking and lung cancer in the 1960s." (on Spiked-Online by John Brignell, author of Sorry, wrong number: The abuse of measurement)

"Are cell phones harming kids?" - "Cell phones and kids - put them together and some people see potential health concerns. But the state Board of Health, which will discuss the issue today, likely won't be advising parents to minimize cell-phone use by children younger than 17. The board is expected to follow the recommendation of the state Department of Health. Researchers there say their review of scientific research did not reveal enough evidence of harm to advise that parents limit children's use of cell phones." (Seattle Times)

"Study refutes British research, says measles vaccine is safe" - "CHICAGO - Contrary to British research, a U.S. study found no link between the measles vaccine and inflammatory bowel disease that raised fears about the vaccine's safety. Immunization rates dropped in Britain following studies published in 1995 and 1998 that implicated measles vaccines. Dr. Robert L. Davis of the University of Washington, who led the new study, said he hopes the research will boost public confidence and help prevent measles outbreaks. "Measles is a life-threatening disease that still endangers children here and around the world," he said. "We don't want parents failing to vaccinate their kids based on concerns that are unfounded." His study appears in the March issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine." (AP)

"Traffic noise 'could harm children'" - "Living in an area with constant background noise, such as traffic, raises children's blood pressure and stress levels. Even though levels of noise from cars or trains may not be high enough to damage hearing, US and Austrian scientists report in New Scientist that constant, low-level sound can affect children. In a study commissioned by the Austrian Ministry of Health, it was found the noisier the neighbourhood, the higher the children's blood pressure, heart rate and level of stress hormones." (BBC Online)

"Experts to tackle DVT" - "Australian researchers will embark on a study that could determine whether there is a link between air travel and potentially fatal deepvein thrombosis. As researchers prepare to launch their study, DVT specialists at a World Health Organisation conference in Geneva have acknowledged that such a link "probably" exists, although research to date had been inconclusive. As a consequence, the conference declined to endorse a range of preventive measures, including more exercise during long flights and taking aspirin to thin the blood." | Suddenly, DVT's a star of the screen (The Age)

"Eating Well: The Truth Behind the Feel-Good Labels" - "BIRD-FRIENDLY, shade- grown and cage-free are just a few of the new marketing labels being plastered on food packages, and if you do not have a clue about what they mean, you are not alone. Even when you do, what proof is there that the claims are accurate?" (New York Times)

Caveat emptor.

"Coca-Cola to curb marketing in schools" - "Coca-Cola Co. is set to announce today changes in the way it markets products in public schools -- an attempt to address complaints from parents and others about fatty, sugary snacks and excessive commercialism on campus. Among other shifts, the company said it will urge its bottlers not to seek exclusive contracts with districts and will promote a wider array of beverages, including more with calcium and vitamins. It will also make available vending machines featuring a school mascot or commercial-free glass fronts, rather than the Coca-Cola logo. In recent years, cash-strapped districts across the nation have negotiated lucrative, exclusive contracts with soda and snack vendors." (Los Angeles Times)

"Swedish Minister challenges scientists to clean up food supply" - "As Europe's agriculture sector shrinks under the impact of disease, Sweden's agriculture minister has challenged leading scientists and experts to find ways to make food production safer and healthier. Margareta Winberg says people have never before been more concerned about food, its production, animal welfare, public health and the environment." (Radio Australia)

Extraordinary challenge. The developed world's food supply is incredibly safe compared with say, 100 years ago, when everything was grown "organically" and no one had refrigerators.

"Co-Founder Of Greenpeace Speaks Out Against Eco-Activists" - "The man who was the driving force in making Greenpeace Canada, the world's largest environmental activist organization, arrives in Ontario later this month to explain why he now faces off against his former allies. Dr. Patrick Moore, co-founder and former president of Greenpeace Canada, is the featured speaker for the Wm. A. Stewart Lecture & Reception on Thursday, March 29th. Tickets are now available for this public lecture, 'Activism for the 21st Century', to be held at 7 pm at the London Convention Centre in London, Ontario." (Ontario Farmer)

"People in Focus: Norman Borlaug - The Green Revolution's irascible champion" - "Colleagues of Norman Borlaug, the Nobel Prize winner, sometimes joke that three different sorts of human exchange exist: there is dialogue, there is monologue and then there is Borlaug. At 86, the agronomist has certainly earned the right to have strong opinions. But being on the receiving end of them can prove a sobering experience. When he is roused, his voice suddenly loses the quaver that gives his sentences a staccato quality, like a needle skipping across a vinyl record. Belying his benign appearance as a white-haired patriarch, the man hailed as the father of the Green Revolution unleashes the testiness amassed during a lifetime's labour." (Financial Times)

"Do Not Reject Biotech Outright: Borlaug" - "Noted agriculture scientist, Dr. Norman Borlaug, today said biotechnology was the newest, `additional' tool for improving crop plants and building resistance to pests and diseases. It should not be rejected outright." (Hindu)

"Veggie bangers" - "The generation of false fears has long been the trademark of the more successful campaign groups. Greenpeace's manufacture of 'Frankenstein food' is already a text book example of how to dull the powers of rationalism with frenzied, emotion-laden imagery and appeals to latent neuroses. Animal Aid follows the same, cynical path." (Social Issues Research Centre)

"U.S. Groups Funding Disinformation Campaign In Malaysia" - "Malaysian anti-biotechnology groups are being funded by American radical environmentalists, according to preliminary results of an investigation conducted by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) in Australia. IPA's month-long investigation was initiated after a number of leading biotechnology scientists such as Professor C.S. Prakash, a regular visitor to Malaysia, expressed concern over the funding sources of the well-funded disinformation campaign being waged against biotechnology in countries such as Malaysia." (Bernama)

"Biotech Detractors Distort Science to Support Their Views" - "Opponents of foods altered by bioengineering (often misnamed genetically modified or GM foods) cite a number of concerns ranging from human safety to environmental degradation to support their disapproval of the technology. A new twist has surfaced recently: opponents have stated that the new golden rice, enhanced by the addition of genes that allow it to make beta-carotene, will not be effective at treating the vitamin A deficiency that is a major cause of childhood blindness in the developing world. They back up this claim by citing a number of supposed scientific "facts" about beta-carotene, and misinterpreting their meaning." (Ruth Kava, ACSH)

"Salvation or scourge: the genome debate" - "Depending on your point of view, the promise or peril of modern agriculture has germinated on millions of acres of North American cropland as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, have taken center stage. But as science begins to accumulate and explore plant and animal genomes — the entire set of genetic instructions for a particular organism — a revolution is in the offing which, according to biologist Robert Goodman, promises a long-lasting and favorable impact on agriculture worldwide." (ENN)

March 14, 2001

"Bush Reverses Course, Decides Against Carbon Dioxide Regulations" - "WASHINGTON — Backing off a campaign pledge, President Bush is telling Congress he will not regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The decision, outlined in a letter being sent to a Republican senator Tuesday, was a blow to conservationists who see curbing emissions of such "greenhouse gases" as key to reducing global warming. The letter cites skyrocketing energy costs, particularly in the West, as one reason for Bush's about-face, according to GOP sources in Congress and the administration who spoke on condition of anonymity. ... Vice President Dick Cheney told a weekly policy gathering with senators that the administration was preparing a letter that would say carbon dioxide was not a pollutant, said one official on Capitol Hill. The letter was being sent to Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., late Tuesday, said an administration official briefed on the letter." (AP) | Bush Shifts Stance on Emissions Cuts (Washington Post) | Bush Backs Off Campaign Pledge on Pollution (Reuters) | The Sierra Club doesn't like it (Release)

"Regulatory spin-cycle" - "Just when you thought it was safe to go through the dirty clothes basket... OK, it still isn't safe to go there, but Clinton regulators soiled it up even more by attempting to mandate the type of washing machine you can buy." (Washington Times editorial)

"Whitman blows it" - "It mostly caters to bureaucrats in Europe, particularly Britain and Germany, which are pushing climate change as a danger for internal economic and political reasons: Germany to win help from the rest of Europe to clean up high-polluting plants in the former communist East Germany; Britain to help make its North Sea natural gas more valuable. The real point is, though, that the facts aren't in. And as Mr. Lindzen says, "Isn't it better to get the facts before you offer a trillion dollar solution to what could be, at most, a billion dollar problem?" Before Mrs. Whitman says any more about what the Bush administration will do about global warming, she needs to get a real grasp on economic, political and scientific reality, or she will break this administration in two." (Malcolm Wallop, Washington Times)

"Outdoor Smoking Restraints Repealed; Md. Village Reacts To Setbacks in Cou" - "The village of Friendship Heights has repealed a smoking ban considered the toughest in the nation, concluding that continuing the legal fight to enforce the ban after two adverse court decisions could harm the national movement to take the war on smoking outdoors." (Washington Post)

"U.S. Bans European Pork, Goat Products; Foot-and-Mouth Epidemic Is Cited " - "The Agriculture Department yesterday banned importation of most pork and goat products from the 15 European Union countries to protect American livestock from an epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease causing panic overseas." (Washington Post)

"Coca-Cola Tries to Cap Exclusive School Deals; Firm to Discourage Targeting Students " - "The Coca-Cola Co., under fire for contributing to skyrocketing obesity among schoolchildren, will announce a new policy today to aggressively discourage bottlers from making exclusive arrangements with schools to promote the sale of soda." (Washington Post)

"Earth: Climate may have infra red iris" - According to Nature's cover story (March 7), the climate modeling fraternity is getting a little testy over challenges to their cherished models and the assumptions upon which they are built:

"But Slingo [Tony Slingo, Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, Bracknell, Britain] says they're not ready to ditch their models just yet. "The gauntlet has been thrown down," says Slingo, who looks forward to Lindzen and other researchers expanding the search for the heat vent observed in the pacific to other areas of the globe. "They're challenging some of the basic ideas and methods in our climate models, " says Slingo. "Lets get global data and examine this on a global scale."  (Reference to Does the Earth Have an Adaptive Infrared Iris? Richard S. Lindzen, Ming-Dah Chou, Arthur Y. Hou, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Volume 82, Number 3, pages 417–432. | Abstract | Print Version (16pp PDF))

This is a fascinating response when you consider that the Pacific Ocean is the world's largest geographic feature, it covers about one-third of the earth’s surface, the area of the Pacific is greater than that of all of the continents combined, and it makes up nearly half of the area covered by the earth’s oceans. Viewed in that context, the Pacific is significantly more representative of the planet than are the highly suspect amalgams of near-surface temperature readings (taken from mostly urban sites accounting for just a few percent of the globe's landmasses) which are used by the modeling fraternity to estimate recent "global warming."

However, plenty are still hopping aboard the gravy train: "Institute To Study Global Warming" - "YAKIMA, Wash. — A new institute has been formed to study the effects of global warming on the world's people and their environment. The Joint Global Change Research Institute is an effort by the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Maryland." (AP) | U.S. to study global warming at UMCP (Baltimore Sun)

"The Planet Is Warming Up!" - "How do we know?  Because someone who apparently dislikes the reports of peer-reviewed science journal articles we post on our web site says so.  Does he have a better source of knowledge than we do?  It's hard to say, but it sure is easier to come by.  All you have to do, he says, is "open your eyes" because "the evidence is all around us." Well, we thought, maybe there is an easier way to get to the bottom of the whole global warming mess.  Maybe we can just look around and see that it's here.  So, being wed to the web, we thought we'd begin by checking out a number of internet news sources to see what's happening around this sweltering world of ours." | A Lunar-Climate Link? | Climate Change in the Asian Subarctic | Rapid Climate Change in China: A Common Occurrence (co2science.org)

"Wildlife Preserve Shows Effect of Global Warming" - "BLACKWATER NATURE REFUGE, Maryland - Anyone who questions the potential impact of global warming should visit the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, where rising waters are rapidly destroying a precious marsh habitat." (Reuters)

Rising waters relative to the local terrain. Global warming and glacial meltdown perhaps? Not exactly, this piece eventually gets around to: "The process is accelerated by a gradual sinking of the landmass under eastern Maryland, which bulged up during the last ice age, over-pumping of water from the underground aquifer and over-grazing of plant life by muskrat and nutria, a South American rodent introduced to the region a century ago." Subsidence and erosion are certainly difficult problems with which to deal - they also have absolutely nothing to do with the enhanced greenhouse hypothesis (save erosion being somewhat alleviated by increased plant growth due to higher CO2 availability). Actual rate of mean sea level rise appears to be about 1-2 inches per century and of little significance to humanity.

"Senate Bill Offers Boost to Nuclear Power" - "WASHINGTON, DC, March 13, 2001 - U.S. Senator Pete Domenici has introduced a bill promoting nuclear power as the best solution for a host of problems, ranging from energy shortages to global warming." (ENS) | US nuclear industry says 2000 a record-setting power year (Reuters)

"Arctic Refuge campaign launched" - WASHINGTON - Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., joined the National Audubon Society Tuesday in launching television and Internet campaigns to help save the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The $150,000 TV campaign, which will consist of 200 spots over the next two weeks, will run in Washington, D.C. and will be aimed at national lawmakers, said Evan Hirsche, Audubon director of public policy. ... Hirsche said the Audubon Society also would be partnering with two Internet companies on its online campaign. He said that the names of the companies would not be released until the end of the week. The organization plans to e-mail 450,000 members of an unnamed dot com company, with the intention of creating an e-mail chain letter, which would eventually be spread to thousands more." (Medill News Service)

"Do Armed Homes Shoot Down Crime?" - "According to the Marietta Daily Journal, Kennesaw, Georgia, the city that passed a controversial 1982 law requiring people to keep guns in their homes, has enjoyed an 89 percent drop in crime, compared to a ten percent decline for the rest of the state. Conscientious objectors are exempt from the law, making it mostly symbolic. "You can't argue with the fact that Kennesaw has the lowest crime rate of any city our size in the country," said Mayor Leonard Church. Kennesaw lawmakers may have taken to an extreme the adage that an armed society is a polite society, but evidence suggests their law could reduce crime more than measures that restrict gun ownership. In "Fighting Back: Crime, Self-Defense, and the Right to Carry a Handgun," Jeffrey R. Snyder shows that crime-rates are reduced in states that adopt concealed-carry laws." (Cato Institute) | A LETTER FROM VIRGIN, UTAH - Where it's a crime not to own a gun (CSM)

"Consumer Alert joins petition for reconsideration of clothes washer rules" - "Washington, DC (March 13) – Consumer Alert has expressed support for a petition sent today to Energy Secretary Spence Abraham urging him to open up for reconsideration a rule that would require consumer to pay almost $250 more for new clothes washers. The petition from the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Ben Lieberman and the Mercatus Center’s Wendy Lee Gramm, was submitted on behalf of thirteen individuals and organizations, including Consumer Alert, with membership totaling more than a million, all concerned about the impact the rule would have on consumers." (Press release)

"Risks from DU 'insignificant'" - "The environmental risks from contamination by depleted uranium ammunition used in the war in Kosovo are insignificant, a United Nations report concluded yesterday, but its authors also said that they remained unsure about the long-term health consequences of DU." (Guardian) | Kosovo uranium 'poses little risk' (BBC Online) | UPDATE - "No cause for alarm" on Kosovo uranium, UN says (Reuters)

"WHO and airlines plan to study life-threatening blood clots" - "GENEVA - Medical experts and international airlines said Tuesday believe there is probably a link between long-haul flights and deadly blood clots." (AP) | DVT caused by most travel - British expert (Radio New Zealand) | Long-haul DVT link admitted by airlines (Telegraph)

"Liver failure risk from arthritis drug" - "Thousands of arthritis sufferers are to be issued with new warnings over side effects of a powerful drug which might be implicated in the deaths of nine people from liver failure." (Guardian)

"What Thomas Pringle Isn't Telling You" - "The New York Times has legitimized Tom Pringle, self-proclaimed mad cow disease expert, with a "Q&A" interview. If you don't know who this guy is, take a spin through Mad Cow: A New American Scare Campaign. As far as the Times is concerned, Pringle is a mild-mannered scientist offering thoughtful commentary; what it isn't telling its readers about him, though, speaks volumes." (GuestChoice.com)

"Actress Jane Seymour leads anti-pesticide campaign" - "Actress Jane Seymour, known around the world for her TV role as Dr. Quinn, medicine woman, is putting her health care role into practice in real life. Seymour is spearheading a national campaign to alert parents to the potential health risks that children face from exposure to pesticides." (ENN)

Yeah right. And who sponsors this specious fear campaign? Big surprise, it's Bioganic Safety Brands Inc., floggers of "organic pesticides." Parenthetically, the pesticide Rotenone, recently alleged to cause "Parkinson's-like symptoms," is a natural plant extract. See comments under "Jane Cares," March 9.

"Mexico says Monarch butterflies killed by the cold" - "The Mexican government's environmental watchdog said Monday millions of Monarch butterflies, which migrate south each winter from Canada, had died from the cold weather rather than deliberate poisoning by loggers, as some environmentalists had alleged." (Reuters) | New turn in monarch butterfly deaths (MSNBC)

"CBS '60 Minutes II' transcript for biotech segment" - aired March 13.

"Growers Must Talk to Consumers More Effectively About Biotech, Expert Says"
Mar. 9--KEARNEY, Neb.--American farmers need a public relations effort to create a new covenant of trust with consumers if they are going to reap all the benefits that biotech crops have to offer, an international grain trade expert said Tuesday. "Communications is the big challenge to consumer acceptance of biotechnology," said Carole Brookins, chief executive officer of World Perspectives Inc. in Washington. Brookins told 325 people attending the Governor's Agriculture Conference that anti-biotech activists have used communications to create mistrust about modern farming practices and food processing. In doing so, she said, they have managed to leave the perception that biotech grains offer the same food safety problems as animal diseases, like mad cow disease, or harmful pathogens, such as E. coli. "There has not been one example of a single biotech seed causing an environmental or health problem," Brookins said. At the same time that the public accepts genetic manipulation to create medicine, many have become fearful of genetic changes in plants, she said. "Agriculture has not told its story as effectively as the pharmaceutical industry," Brookins said." (Knight Ridder/Tribune)

"UK Royal Society to Undertake Another GMO Study" - "The UK Royal Society has announced they are undertaking an independent study into human health issues surrounding genetically modified plants for food use. In it’s 1998 study, the Royal Society found the use of GMOs has the potential to offer real benefits in agricultural practice, food quality nutrition and health. At the same time, however, the study authors voiced concern regarding allergens in GM plants. Since the 1998 statement there has been considerable new research, leading the Royal Society to convene a working group of 10 scientists in order to update its 1998 statement. The working group will advise on any policy implications and issue a report later this year." (AgWeb.com)

"EPA Finishing Review of Major Genetically Engineered Crops" - "WASHINGTON - After months of study, the Environmental Protection Agency soon will be wrapping up its first comprehensive review of the country's major genetically engineered crops: corn, cotton and potato plants that deliver their own pesticides. The agency is awaiting a report this month by an independent panel of scientists on the safety of the crops, which represent a growing share of the nation's farm production. The EPA then will decide for how long to approve their continued use and in what way those crops must be planted to make sure that pests such as the bollworm and corn borer don't build up a resistance." (NY Times Syndicate)

"Doctors criticise report on GM foods" - "A group called the Irish Doctors' Environmental Association has described as "unbelievable" conclusions on the safety of genetically modified foods, made in a Government-commissioned report published last week. The group of 40 Irish GPs, specialists and consultants is to meet the EU Food Safety Commissioner, Mr David Byrne, soon. They will demand a ban on all genetically modified foods, unless they are proved to be safe for human consumption." (Irish Times)

"Genetically Modified Foods Fill Developing World Silos" - "M.S. Swaminathan, architect of the Indian "green revolution" in the late 1960s that doubled crop yields in just four years, painted a confident picture on Friday at Harvard University of sustained rises in agricultural output in the developing world, fueled by genetically modified foods and other new technologies." (Harvard Crimson)

"Trial runs of GM cotton seeds likely by yr-end" - "BANGALORE - THE $8.6-billion Monsanto’s Indian arm is set to get its Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton seeds cleared by the end of this year for commercial use in India. It will be the first genetically-modified crop to find commercial use in the country if it gets an approval from Genetic Engineering Approval Committee this year." (Economic Times)

"Borlaug For PSU-Led Bio-Tech Programme" - "Renowned agricultural scientist and Nobel Laureate, Dr Norman Borlaug, has said the Government should have a strong bio-technology programme in the public sector to counter the monopoly of private multinational corporations in this sector." (Hindu Business Line)

"Seed companies urged to test for biotech protein" - "WASHINGTON -- Farmers deserve written assurances that corn seed is tested for a biotech variety that prompted nationwide food recalls, says an organization representing the seed industry. Such assurances will "augment customer and consumer confidence in future corn crops," Dean Urmston, executive vice president of the American Seed Trade Association, said in urging the step by its 250 companies." (AP)

"Ecological Impact of GM Crops" - "The Times calls for more public debate about genetically modified crops (editorial, March 9). Allow me to examine your statements that GM crops are popular "because they alter natural ecology" and that there are "distant risks" that they will "alter ecosystems." (Letter to LA Times from Maarten J Chrispeels, Director, UC San Diego Center for Molecular Agriculture)

"Specialists: Biotech Varieties Not Critical for Indiana Farmers" - "Purdue University agronomist Bob Nielsen and ag engineer Dirk Maier say biotech varieties are not critical for the success of Indiana farmers. When getting ready for the 2001 growing season, they are concerned about any potential unexpected ‘red flags” regarding acceptance of GM crop varieties." (AgWeb.com)

"Food For Thought" (Summary) - "According to the South China Morning Post, a report in The Independent, following a series of tests on organically produced and non-organically produced food, the head of the country's Food Standards Agency said people were unnecessarily paying a premium for organic fare. “Sir John Krebs, chairman of the government-appointed body, said there was no evidence that organic food was healthier than conventionally grown produce.“ (TKC)

"Organic Farming Poses Its Own Risks, Says Hudson Institute" - "Any significant increase in U.S. organic farming would result in a disproportionate surge in pesticide use, which would lead to unintended and undesirable consequences, warns a new report from the Hudson Institute. Authored by Alex Avery, director of research at the institute's Center for Global Food Issues, the report was released Feb. 9. It is intended to "dispel some of the myths about organic farming," Avery told Pesticide & Toxic Chemical News." (Food Chemical News Publishing)

March 13, 2001

"Third of eye strain complaints about computer monitors indicate workplace dissatisfaction " - "One in three complaints of eye strain, attributed to computer monitors, is really about employee dissatisfaction with working conditions, suggests research in Occupational and Environmental Medicine... Job stress strongly predicted eye strain, accounting for almost a third of the complaints. Job stress included lack of social support, group conflict, low self esteem, low levels of work satisfaction, and underuse of skills. But where employees did feel supported, they were a third less likely to report eye strain... The authors conclude that a proportion of eye strain complaints are psychological in origin, and are an expression of workplace stress rather than having any true organic cause. They suggest that stimulating an emotionally supportive environment could alleviate the effects of stress." (Media release) | Study (PDF format)

Will the next round of ergonomics rules mandate employer-provided emotional support groups?

"The Real Erin Brockovich" - "Despite the fact that the name Erin Brockovich has become, oddly enough, a household name, doesn't mean we really know the real story. " (Linda Stasi, New York Post)

"WTO upholds France's ban on asbestos" - "The appeals body of the World Trade Organization upheld a ruling that France is legally entitled to ban imports of all products containing asbestos on health grounds." (Associated Press)

"U.S. stands by herbicide used to eradicate coca cultivation in Colombia" - "The State Department on Monday defended the U.S.-backed program to wipe out Colombian coca cultivation against charges the pesticide used in the air campaign also kills corn and other legal crops." (Associated Press)

"Playground wood leaks arsenic, newspaper says" - "A type of pressure-treated wood popular for building playgrounds, decks and picnic tables leaks arsenic at levels higher than state environmental officials consider safe, a newspaper's investigation found." (Associated Press)

Hmm... Brewing biotech scare? "60 Minutes II is scheduled to air a segment on biotech foods on Tuesday, March, 13, 2001." - "What Have They Done to Our Food? Modifying Food Via Biotechnology Is It Really Safe? Watch Tuesday, (March 13) 9 p.m. ET/PT Science On The Plate: Would you eat food that's been genetically engineered? You may have no choice, because it is practically everywhere. 60 Minutes II found a salmon growing three times faster than nature intended, and that's just the beginning. Wait till you see what's growing in some greenhouses." (CBS News)

Hmm again... seems the New York Times travels to Moscow by very slow boat: "The Approaching Age of Mud" - "Around the North Pole there is now a stretch of open sea where the ice cap has melted. Global warming is already making itself felt and is proceeding even more rapidly than previously expected. That is the gist of the latest research on the subject, summarized for us by the world’s scientists in the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released earlier this year." (Moscow Times)

It was not the IPCC that made the ridiculous claims about the North Polar meltdown of course, (although the political summaries have made similarly spurious and equally ridiculous claims) but the New York Times. Following Fred Singer's excellent WSJ article, NYT quietly retracted their specious nonsense almost 2 weeks later, but not quickly or quietly enough to avoid becoming the butt of Letterman's infamous "Top Ten" list: Top Ten Signs The New York Times Is Slipping. Maybe the Moscow Times will also retract in a couple of weeks - when they catch up with NYT's retraction. You'd have thought they'd consult their own Met. Bureau before running such a story though - far from energy-starved Siberia being "less cold," the poor blighters are suffering through their coldest winter for at least 70 years. Imagine that - their press is as shoddy as ours...

"Canada has moral obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions" - "MONTREAL -- Canadians have a moral obligation to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions even though the country's economy stands to benefit from some of the impacts of global warming, a leading expert said Sunday. Dr. Robert Watson, chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, outlined the perils of ignoring climate change in a lecture at McGill University on Sunday. It was his first Canadian public address since the UN panel of 2,000 scientists released its third report, which confirmed that human activities are changing the earth's climate." (CP)

Sorry Bob, your gravy train's running out of track as paper after paper in recent editions of journals such as Nature, Climate Research and the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society strip away the basic (flawed) assumptions upon which the enhanced greenhouse scare is based.

As the IPCC's Draft TAR 2000 (Third Assessment Report) itself noted: "In sum, a strategy must recognize what is possible. In climate research and modeling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-liner chaotic system, and therefore that the prediction of a specific future climate state is not possible." This is well supported by another paper from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, which concludes that: "Our review of the literature has shown that GCMs [climate models] are not sufficiently robust to provide an understanding of the potential effects of CO2 on climate necessary for public discussion."

The statement "... the UN panel of 2,000 scientists released its third report, which confirmed that human activities are changing the earth's climate" is simply not true. To begin with, only political summaries for policymakers have been officially released but that is not the major problem. What is really in the TAR is a collection of 245 model runs, composed of 35 make-believe scenarios presented to a model with each of 7 different sets of guesses about how the atmosphere might react (sensitivity settings). Since when did 245 wild guesses "confirm that human activities are changing the earth's climate"?

Climate scientists write that "the prediction of a specific future climate state is not possible" and that "GCMs [climate models] are not sufficiently robust to provide an understanding of the potential effects of CO2 on climate necessary for public discussion." Political writers of summaries for policymakers write "[climate models] confirm that human activities are changing the earth's climate."

Dr. Richard S. Lindzen (The Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)) said recently that the latest summary of the TAR "was very much a children's exercise of what might possibly happen" prepared by a "peculiar group" with "no technical competence."

(Watson is in Canada for an invasive species conference. Hopefully, he will approach that with considerably less imagination than he does his role with the IPCC.)

"Go Green for Both Growth And Climate, Expert Says" - "SYDNEY - Instead of worrying that a world economic slowdown will make it too expensive to curb the emissions that are changing the climate, governments should go green for growth, a top international expert says. Tomihiro Taniguchi, vice chairman of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said the challenges of cutting carbon emissions should be viewed as an opportunity to develop new technologies and make a profit in the process." (Reuters)

Like Ma Brown's rabbit pie recipe (first, catch your rabbit), we first need to identify a real-world problem - then we can decide what measures, if any, are appropriate.

"DOE Sets Up Institute to Study Climate Change" - "WASHINGTON - The U.S. Energy Department on Monday said it would create a global warming research institute to study the cheapest ways to curb carbon dioxide emissions and other economic impacts of the changing climate. The DOE jointly with the University of Maryland will investigate the interaction between climate change, energy production, economic effects and regional impact at the new Joint Global Change Research Institute." (Reuters)

Great news guys! There's a really cost-effective means of dealing with the "situation" - realize that it doesn't exist in the real world.

"MINISTER SEEKS LEVEL PLAYING FIELD ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE" - "Developing countries will have to constrain their Greenhouse gas emissions if global action to reduce the gases is to be effective, the Minister for Industry, Science and Resources, Senator Nick Minchin, said today. "If developing countries are not involved, all that will happen is that countries like Australia will export jobs and industry offshore as companies move to locations where they don't have to meet greenhouse conditions." (Australian Science, Industry and Resources release, March 7)

Nick Minchin is right about the effect of "curtailing greenhouse emissions" simply shifting said emissions unless every country is subject to the same restrictions. The silly part, of course, is that said emissions don't represent a problem that needs to be addressed to begin with.

Book review: "THE LITTLE ICE AGE: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850" - "The Little Ice Age, a period of violent shifts in weather, began about 1300 A.D. and gradually came to an end from 1850 to the present. Fagan shows how the long Medieval Warm Period (900-1200), with its mild winters, warm summers and regular harvests, supported the stability of the feudal system that dominated Europe. It also enabled the Vikings to settle Iceland and Greenland, and to sail westward to North America in search of timber, fish and other commodities. If you've ever wondered why the Vikings failed to establish permanent settlements in North America, Fagan offers the answer: "As the Arctic ice pack spread southward, Norse voyages to the west were rerouted into the open Atlantic, then ended altogether. Storminess increased in the North Atlantic and North Sea. Colder, much wetter weather descended on Europe between 1315 and 1319, when thousands perished in a continent-wide famine." (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

"Plant Water-use Efficiency" - "There is a host of research that demonstrates how, as atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations increase, virtually all plants "relax" a bit and partially close the small pores on their leaves. These pores are called "stomates" and the reason the plants relax is that more CO2 is available to them, with less effort. Think of it as you being able to breathe through your nose on a jog rather than gulp oxygen to keep your system up and running. The plants’ stomates also allow water to escape. As a result, if its stomates are partially closed, a plant’s rate of transpiration decreases. It becomes more water-use efficient. Four recent studies underscore this important phenomenon." (GES)

"Record of ancient climates can be a map to riches" - "Blacksburg, Va., March 12, 2001 -- The earth is like a birthday cake -- layered and containing prizes. Virginia Tech researchers are looking at the rock record from the last 600 million years to study the past history of climate change and to determine where oil and gas may be hidden. J. Fred Read, professor of geological sciences, and Ph.D. student Thomas C. Wynn of Mebane, North Carolina, will present their research at the 36th annual meeting of the Northeastern Section of the Geological Society of America (GSA) in Burlington, Vermont, March 12-14." (Virginia Tech)

"Renewable condor Cuisinarts" - "The future looks rather dim, if, as House Science Committee Chairman Rep. Sherwood Boehlert stated at the first committee hearing of the 107th Congress, "renewables and . . . efficiency are the keys to our energy future." Despite the $10.3 billion that U.S. taxpayers lavished on the research and development of renewable energy between 1978 and 1998, (according to a 1999 General Accounting Office report) non-hydro renewables, such as wind and solar power, made up less than 5 percent of total energy production in the United States in 1999 and only 2.5 percent of electricity generation. Nor is that likely to increase anytime soon. According to committee witness Mary J. Hutzler, director of the Energy Department's Office of Integrated Analysis and Forecasting, "The share of total energy consumption that is derived from renewable sources" will be approximately the same in 2020 as it is today." (Washington Times)

"Time Will Show Whitman Is No Browner" - "New Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Christie Todd Whitman has beltway denizens perplexed. In rapid succession, she has affirmed diesel regulations advanced by her predecessor Carol Browner, applauded a Supreme Court decision upholding EPA air regulations, and took a page from Al Gore’s agenda by talking of the need to reduce greenhouse emissions. At the same time, she has kept talking about state environmental initiatives, the need for regulatory flexibility, and her preference for incentives over punishment. The press of circumstance has Whitman sounding a lot like Browner as she reacts to court decisions and makes rapid-fire responses to looming regulatory matters. But it is the search for cooperation and flexibility, not the Browner look-alike agenda, that will likely define the Bush-Whitman environmental agenda." (at least, so says Lynn Scarlett, Tech Central Station)

"Have 'high appetite' for information, but low enthusiasm to fight problem" - "Canadians may know that air pollution can be a killer, but they don't appear ready yet to attack the problem, a new government poll suggests. A national survey, which was performed for Environment Canada, says Canadians have a "high appetite" for information on the problem, but they're much less enthusiastic to actually act on it. "Despite a relatively widespread recognition of some of the main causes of air pollution and factors that lead to poor air quality, there continues to be a measure of resistance against changes in behaviour and lifestyle," said the poll's final report." (Ottawa Citizen)

"Damage claims soar from emissions tests" - "Emissions tests were supposed to help solve one problem--air pollution--but drivers say they've caused another. In the two years since Illinois began new, more extensive tests of vehicle emissions, the number of drivers complaining about damage to their cars has skyrocketed. In 1999 and 2000, more than 1,000 people complained each year that their cars were damaged during the mandated smog control testing of vehicles. That is a drastic increase over the 27 people who complained of damages in 1998, the last year the old test was used." (Chicago Sun-Times)

"Spain may be open to discussing EU energy tax law" - "BRUSSELS - Spain said on Sunday it was open to discussing European Union proposals on taxing energy if wider issues about the functioning of electricity markets in the EU were included." (Reuters)

"Sportsmen have been disarmed but gun crimes still increase" - "AFTER one man went on the rampage at Dunblane five years ago today, anti-gun campaigners persuaded the government that a ban on sporting handguns would make the public safer. They whipped up such a frenzy that logical debate was impossible. The ban was enacted, the sport of pistol-shooting was destroyed, many small businesses were ruined and the British taxpayer had to foot a bill which, though yet to be fully calculated, runs into hundreds of millions of pounds. Yet five years on, the criminal misuse of handguns has actually increased greatly. Handguns are used in a greater proportion of offences involving firearms - 54 per cent in 1999 compared with 44 per cent in 1989. Clearly the ban has not had any positive effect. So you might expect the anti-shooting lobbyists to keep quiet. Instead, they make ever more extreme demands." (Mike Yardley, Daily Telegraph) | Tragedy has done little to quash appetite for gunplay (Independent)

"Women who live with smokers have higher carcinogen levels, study shows" - "Even when they don't smoke, women who live with smokers have five to six times the level of carcinogens in their urine as other women, a University of Minnesota study reveals. The findings may help explain why women exposed to secondhand smoke also have a higher rate of lung cancer. The study, published in Wednesday's Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found that even women living with nonsmokers had traces of a cancer-causing substance called NNK, found only in tobacco. However, those living with smokers had significantly higher levels of the carcinogen, said Kristin Anderson, an assistant professor of epidemiology and the lead author of the study. "There have been a large number of studies indicating that women who live with a smoker are at increased risk of lung cancer," she said. "What we were looking for is some biochemical evidence that might explain it." (Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune) | Bar smoke a risk for workers, study finds (New Zealand Herald)

But NNK only causes cancer in rodents at levels equivalent to that of a smoker with a two-pack-a-day habit sustained over 40 years. That it is present in trace amounts in people cohabiting with active smokers is neither surprising nor a "smoking gun." See Steve Milloy's recent column: Secondhand Smokescreen (FoxNews.com, 03/09) and Martha Perske's response to WCBS.

"Harvard’s George Gray Brings Science And Sense To Chemical Risks" - "Environmental problems generally revolve around the concept of risk - where something, whether human, animal, or ecosystem, is held to be at risk from exposure to some potentially harmful force. Environmental policy usually focuses on risks of human origin, though sometimes, as with the risk of foreign species invading a cherished ecosystem, risk management can involve one non-human species harming another non-human species. Of the many environmental risk issues that pop up in the news or popular media, one of the most volatile is the debate over pesticides and other environmental chemicals. A steady drumbeat of newspaper stories, magazine articles, or advocacy group reports lay the blame for a variety of diseases on environmental chemicals and call for chemical bans. Regulations banning pesticides or other chemicals are becoming more common, and chemical-risk issues sometimes move beyond the news in movies such as Erin Brokovich." (Interview with Ken Green, Tech Central Station)

"Talks in Geneva over flying condition - deep vein thrombosis" - "World health officials and representatives of the airline industry are meeting in Geneva, to discuss the growing fears about deep vein thrombosis. Michael Brissenden reports, no-one knows exactly what causes the so-called Economy Class Syndrome." (Radio Australia) | Flight health risks under scrutiny (BBC Online)

"As spring break arrives, debate about safety of tanning continues" - "With spring break arriving and swimsuit season close behind, tanning salons seem to offer an easy cure for pale, white winter skin. But before plunking down the $5 to $10 typically charged for each session, it's worth noting that the debate over tanning beds' safety is perhaps more heated than it's ever been. On one side is the U.S. indoor tanning industry, with 28,000 salons, which claims that the beds are safer than actual sunlight. On the other are 11,000 of the nation's dermatologists. Long opposed to the use of tanning beds, these medical specialists recently issued calls for greater regulation of tanning beds and even outright bans." (Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune)

"Studies show powerful natural anti-cancer system exists" - "Scientists at Johns Hopkins and Tsukuba University in Japan have confirmed the existence of a long-suspected natural system the body uses to block the cancer-causing effects of toxic chemicals in food and the environment. The system hinges on a sharp boost in protective enzymes, called phase II enzymes, which can dispose of toxic chemicals. The enzymes effectively neutralize toxins' ability to damage DNA and trigger cancer, the researchers say." (JHMI) | Scientists Get Proof of Natural Anti-Cancer System (Reuters)

"UCSD research shows common drug prevents spread of cancer in mice" - "UCSD Cancer Center researchers have obtained evidence that the common anticoagulant drug heparin diminishes metastasis of certain cancers in mice by interfering with interactions between platelets (a type of normal blood cell) and specific molecules on tumor cell surfaces. This work also indicates that the early phase of these interactions is crucial for metastasis – a process in which tumor cells from the primary site enter the bloodstream, travel to distant tissues and establish new tumors. It is metastasis that eventually kills most patients with cancer." (UCSD)

"The Fattening of the American Child" - "MONDAY, March 12 -- Those oversized clothes your kids are sporting may be more than just a fashion statement. American children and teen-agers have gotten fatter, the government said today, continuing a trend begun in the 1980s." (HealthScout) | CDC release | Physical Activity Trends in the United States, 1990–1998 (release) | Physical Activity Trends --- United States, 1990--1998 (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 50(09);166-9) | Philadelphia's Mayor Puts His City on a Diet (New York Times)

"HRT 'may prevent osteoarthritis'" - "Hormone replacement therapy may protect against osteoarthritis in the knee by preventing the loss of cartilage, a study has suggested. A study has shown hormone replacement therapy (HRT) users had almost 8% more cartilage volume than women who did not take the drug." (BBC Online)

"Straw attacks banks that dumped protest firm" - "The home secretary Jack Straw yesterday attacked the "cowardly" attitude of British banks for abandoning the research laboratory under siege from what he called "mad and bad" animal rights militants. Twenty-four hours after two women MPs confirmed they had been told by police to beware of attacks by anti-hunting campaigners, Mr Straw condemned the banks for putting profits ahead of their "wider social and business responsibilities." (Guardian)

"Green Party attacked again at GM commission" - "The Green Party was under attack again at the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification today, this time by a group representing sufferers of rare diseases. The group, appearing for Lysosomal Diseases New Zealand and New Zealand Organisation for Rare Diseases, took exception to a statement by Green Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons that it was "ethically irresponsible to use sheep and cows (to produce therapeutic proteins) . . . when that manufacturing can be done with micro-organisms in a laboratory". In the only rebuttal evidence accepted for hearing by the commission Rare Diseases chairman John Forman said that if that claim was accepted by "the commission, the government and the public of New Zealand", it could have considerable negative consequences for people affected by rare disorders." (The Dominion, NZ)

"Patents: Part of Fierce Battle Over Genetic Engineering" - "AFTER agreeing last month to hear a dispute between two corn-seed companies struggling for economic advantage in the lucrative market for genetically engineered plants, the United States Supreme Court is preparing to settle whether such seeds should be awarded the kinds of patents that usually cover mechanical, electrical or chemical inventions. Customarily, the court has supported a broad interpretation of federal patent law, but with key exceptions for inventions based on mathematical algorithms and products of nature. Under the current law, just about anything else is eligible for a patent if it meets invention requirements. But last year, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that shaved away at the exception for math algorithms, and some say that the court's willingness to hear the corn-seed case may indicate that it wants to take another look at the exclusion for products of nature." (New York Times)

"NFU Adopts GMO Policies" - "The National Farmers Union (NFU) says control regarding genetically modified crops is needed to ensure a safe food supply and open markets. [D]elegates to the National Farmers Union's (NFU) convention have adopted policies they say will ensure food safety and protect the farmers from liabilities “due to environmental and health dangers caused by the producers of GMO technology.” (AgWeb.com)

"Group urges testing for biotech corn" - "A seed industry group says farmers deserve written assurances that corn seed is tested for a biotech variety that prompted nationwide food recalls. Such assurances will 'augment customer and consumer confidence in future corn crops,' Dean Urmston, executive vice president of the American Seed Trade Association, said in urging the step by its 250 companies." (Associated Press)

"Finance Minister Favours Genetic Technology" - "Genetic engineering will be part of the future New Zealand economy, according to the Finance Minister, Michael Cullen. Dr Cullen told a business retreat in Turangi on Saturday morning that he firmly believes transforming the economy will have to involve the development and application of new biotechnologies. He said those biotechnologies offer major gains, but also have the potential to make industries obsolete if they fail to catch the right technological wave." (newsroom.co.nz)

"Biotech Foods Essential, Seed Rep Says" - "Last month, a well-known agricultural speaker said that 80 percent of the world's population will come to accept genetically modified foods, out of necessity. Thursday morning, a representative of a local seed company expounded on that prediction, and said the biotechnology industry is just beginning to make its case to the public. "We are clearly an overpopulated species, and it's going to take GMOs to feed the world," Mark Mattingly, products manager for Hoffman Seeds Inc. of Landisville, said at an Ag Issues Forum, held at Kreider Farms Family Restaurant in Manheim." (Intelligencer Journal)

"CANADA: Government approach to GM crops slammed by first independent scientific panel" - "Canadian government regulators have been slammed by an expert panel on the Future of Food Biotechnology, who says that GM crops should not have been grown in Canada. The criticism comes six years after the Health Canada and Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) gave the OK for GM crops to be grown and used as food ingredients without conducting scientific assessments for their safety. Last year, the Royal Society of Canada formed the first independent scientific panel to assess the Canadian approach to GM crops, and its findings have now been attacked by Health Canada, which claimed that the panel did not fully understand the regulation of biotechnology." (justfood.com)

"Regional Biotechnology Forum: A Latin American Biotechnology Initiative" - "Montevideo, Uruguay, 28-30 March 2001. BACKGROUND: In less than 30 years after the publication of a seminal research paper that marked the beginning of "new" biotechnology, the pharmaceutical and agri-chemical industries are being radically transformed by the application of recombinant and cell technologies. Biotechnology-derived drugs (biopharmaceuticals) are now routinely used in medicine and over 25 industrial and food crops have been genetically modified. Biotechnology is having a major impact on almost all the major sectors of industry. ..." (UNIDO release)

"China Prudent Towards Genetically-Modified Crops" - "The Chinese government is taking a prudent attitude towards genetically-modified crops and has started drawing up regulations on the control of biological technologies, Shi Yuanchun, vice-chairman of the China Association for Science and Technology, said Thursday." (People's Daily)

March 12, 2001

"McCarthy-ism alive and well in Lubbock" - A Texas physician who dared criticize the scientific orthodoxy on secondhand smoke was attacked for being a Libertarian by a member of the Lubbock, TX Smoking Ordinance Ad Hoc Committee. Here's my letter to W.R. Collier, Lubbock's own Joe McCarthy.

Hmm... wonder why this wasn't picked up by the world press: "Global warning questioned" - "Janardhan Negi, a theoretical geophysicist and emeritus scientist at the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) here has made a controversial forecast that global warning phase will change to global cooling and the temperature anomaly will decline substantially by the year 2030. According to Negi, his theoretical analysis of existing data question the assumption that green house gases like methane and carbon dioxide generated by human activity trap the outward radiation from earth leading to global warning. Negi has used the temperature anomaly record complied and updated up to September 2000 by the Goddard Institute of the United States and made a ‘linear auto regressive prediction’ beyond year 2030 to show significant decline in global temperature from now on. ... According to Negi, the solar activity and not human activity is contributing to the observed temperature variations. The sunspots also occur in a cyclic fashion with the well-known periodicity of 11 years, 50 years and 180 years. To highlight the link between global temperature and solar activity, Negi says that the number of sunspots fell sharply between 1640 and 1720 around the time when the earth  experienced a cooling of more that 1.2 deg. C. ... For instance Negi notes that most of the observed effective warming in twentieth century (about 0.65 deg. C) has come before 1940 while increase of all the green house gases occurred after 1940 thus questioning the role of these gases in global warning. “Surprisingly the period between 1940 and 1976 - part of the industrial age - really shows a global cooling trend,” says Negi. Satellite data and weather balloon measurements during last two decades (after 1979) show no warming and in fact show a decline of 0.24 degrees C in 1988-97, says Negi." (Sunday Observer, India (January 22))

"Arctic Sea Ice Thickness Remained Constant During the 1990s" - "This is the self-explanatory title of a recent paper by P. Winsor of the Earth Sciences Centre of Göteborg University, Sweden, just published in Geophysical Research Letters (GRL v.28, no.6, pp1039-1041, March 15 2001). The study analysed sea ice thickness data from six submarine cruises, concluding - "This extensive data set shows that there was no trend towards a thinning ice cover during the 1990s." The ice area studied was of transects from the Beaufort Sea (just north of Canada and Alaska) to the North Pole itself. While the North Pole has been the subject of recent scare stories (see special report on the North Pole here), this study found that in the Beaufort-North Pole transect, there was a slight increase in mean ice thickness at the North Pole and a slight decrease in the Beaufort Sea, neither of which was considered significant in the study. It was noted however that the Beaufort Sea showed larger variability from year to year. This paper contradicts claims by environmentalists that the polar sea ice has been thinning during the 1990s." (Still Waiting For Greenhouse)

"Greens blame NSW floods on logging" - "Logging and land clearing, not natural causes, had led to the floods in northern New South Wales, environmentalists said today. Susie Russell, president of the North Coast Environment Council, said flooding was the natural consequence of logging and clearing in upper and middle catchments." (AAP)

Uh-huh... and the best part of 4 feet of rain had nothing to do with it? Given the constant tree-hugger claims of forests bringing rain, Queensland's south coast and New South Wales' northern regions might be pleased to have no greater forested region. The recent storm is considered a one in one hundred year event and the regional flooding currently cited as "the worst for 30 years."

"Abnormal protein sheds light on 'mad cow' disease" - "Two teams of scientists have gleaned clues about the mysterious link between an abnormally folded protein and some of the most deadly and bizarre brain disorders, including "mad cow" disease. Among other findings, the scientists uncovered evidence that the proteins, called prions, can jump across species barriers and lead to brain-degenerating infections such as the human Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease that can result from eating contaminated meat, they reported in the British journal Nature. In one study, investigators prodded a muscle protein to take on an abnormal structure reminiscent of the clumping observed in the brain of patients with Alzheimer's and CJD, indicating more proteins than had been thought might be susceptible to the aberration. In the second study, scientists fused yeast cells to compose a "promiscuous" hybrid capable of jumping the species barrier and infecting proteins from two distantly related species of yeast." (UPI)

"And You Thought Germs in the Subway Were Bad" - "As if chronic delays, rising fares and the looming threat of disruptive labor disputes this spring and summer weren't enough, put-upon airline travelers have been hearing more lately about another potential source of dismay: the spread of infectious disease. No one is saying airplanes are spreading plague and pestilence, or that the days of grim Ellis Island-style health inspections could be returning. But with more than 1.5 billion people traveling by air each year from every corner of the earth, world health officials are increasingly concerned about the ability of contagious diseases to hitch quick rides from continent to continent." (New York Times)

"Airline videos to combat DVT" - "AIRLINES are showing videos about deep vein thrombosis on Australian domestic routes to instruct passengers on ways to decrease the risk of getting blood clots during air travel. Both Qantas and Ansett are showing information videos, similar to the general safety presentation, which show a range of exercises that are recommended to increase blood circulation." (The Adelaide Advertiser)

"Pill 'can cut cancer risk'" - "AN Australian expert is stirring controversy by advising women to take the contraceptive pill continuously without a pill-free week to reduce their risk of breast cancer. Professor Roger Short, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne said reducing hormonal fluctuations during the month may help prevent breast cancer." (Sydney Daily Telegraph)

Today's mercury panic: "Study Backs Non-Mercury Blood Pressure Devices" - "ROCHESTER, Minn. - Hospitals and doctors concerned about pollution from mercury in blood pressure monitoring devices could switch to mechanical ones without sacrificing accuracy, researchers said Sunday. ... The clinic said the study was done because mercury-based devices carry a small but serious risk of leakage and environmental pollution. It said a recent editorial in an American Heart Association journal suggested that hospitals avoid mechanical devices because of calibration and validation concerns." (Reuters)

"Clearing up confusion over sinus infections" - "Nasal drip is as much a part of winter as cold temperatures. There is little we can change about the latter, and, as it turns out, less we should do about the former in most cases. It is estimated 40 to 50 percent of people with sinusitis, or sinus inflammation, will recover in 10 days with or without antibiotic drugs. "Antibiotics are overprescribed for sinus problems," said Dr. Itzhak Brook, an infectious-diseases specialist at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. "We have to educate both doctors and patients to not jump to antibiotics right away." (Chicago Tribune)

"Fruit fights infertility" - "An antioxidant found in some fruit and shell fish can help fight infertility in men, scientists have concluded. Researchers in India discovered lycopene, which is found in watermelon, grapes, tomatoes and some sorts of shellfish, can boost sperm concentrations in infertile men." (BBC Online)

Hmm... well, the archaic name for a tomato was "love apple." It may be efficacious but fellas, having extra tomato ketchup on your burger and fries won't turn you into a super sire.

"Safe driving slogan sends wrong message - researcher" - "If you drink then drive, you may not be a bloody idiot after all, according to a leading accident research scientist who says the common road safety slogan is wrong. John Bailey, an independent researcher of traffic accidents for nearly 30 years, said evidence showed that too many drinks made a driver dangerous, not the fact that they were drinking at all. He said it followed that the Land Transport Safety Authority's apparent "zero tolerance" to drinking and driving meant a vital road safety message was not reaching those it needed to. "I think it is unwise," Dr Bailey said, of the authority's if you drink then drive you are a bloody idiot slogan. Pathology reports on fatal accidents involving alcohol showed very few drivers had low, legal amounts of alcohol in their systems at the time of the crash, though more than 70 per cent of the accidents involved "hard core" drink drivers, Dr Bailey said. The three or four drivers a year who were within the legal alcohol limit at the time of their fatal crash were so few that it was impossible to say whether alcohol or something completely unrelated was to blame." (The Dominion, NZ)

"Deaths and illnesses from pollution in Asia increasing " - "QUEZON CITY, Philippines--Pollution in Asia has worsened since last year and is directly responsible for the death of thousands in Beijing, Jakarta, Seoul, Bangkok and Manila. This is according to the World Bank and the Stockholm Development Institute (SDI) which is currently implementing an Atmospheric Environment Program in Asia with the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). SDI says that sulphur dioxide, ammonia and nitrogen oxides have been rising steadily over the past few decades and ground level ozone concentration has increased. Air pollution in the continent has now surpassed the combined emissions in Europe and North America." (Earth Times)

"Save a kiwi - for the oven" - "New Zealand families should be able to tuck into a Sunday roast of prime kiwi, says an Australian conservationist. Dr John Wamsley, who runs the privately owned Environmental Sanctuaries, argues that the kiwi can be saved only through commercial breeding. Otherwise, the country's national symbol will be extinct on the mainland within 20 years. "If you were in the position where every family could eat kiwi for Sunday lunch, then you would have solved the problem, wouldn't you?" The private enterprise conservationist was guest speaker at Act's annual conference at the weekend. Dr Wamsley said it was time to discard "emotional clap-trap" and use the logic of commercial farming to save the kiwi." (New Zealand Herald)

I like John Wamsley, he's not too conventional but he's certainly pragmatic. Of course, the Cat Preservation Society don't share my opinion because he'd be happy to turn all cats (felis catus) into hats. (Feral cats and European Red Foxes (Vulpes vulpes) are believed to have decimated Australian and New Zealand native animals over the last 200-odd years - along with rats and other deliberately and unintentionally imported critters.)

"MPs offered reward in genetics fight" - "A Hawke's Bay philanthropist is offering MPs a $5000 reward to introduce a law forcing chemical companies to pay for damage caused by their genetically engineered crops. Andrew Martin, an organic farmer and businessman, advertised in The Dominion on Saturday calling for MPs to stand up to multinational chemical corporations by submitting a "Protect New Zealand Bill" to Parliament." (The Dominion, NZ)

Figures... "Greenpeace renews its opposition to GM rice" - "GREENPEACE has renewed its opposition to field trials of "golden rice", a GM crop being developed to combat blindness and malnutrition in the Third World. Greenpeace International said last month that it would not attack trials planned in the Far East following claims that 50,000 people would go blind for each month that the rice, enriched with vitamin A, was delayed. Greenpeace, whose representatives will visit the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines next week, has now said it will treat the rice like any other GM organism. Benedikt Haerlin, Greenpeace international co-ordinator, based in Berlin said: "Although we do not have any immediate plans to take direct action against 'golden rice' field trials, we reserve the right to take direct, non-violent actions against any releases of GMOs into the environment." (Telegraph)

"The dirty secret: petrol is too cheap" - "If the global threat posed by human-induced climatic change could be corrected by lowering the price of petrol and diesel, Australia would lead the world in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But the problem will get worse unless politicians are prepared to tell electors the awful truth: the price of fuel will have to rise a lot more." (Kenneth Davidson, The Age (Melbourne))

And anyone contemplating such a move knows one thing for sure - they'll be looking for new jobs after the following election. Thanks to all the Australian media watchers who sent me this link but no, I don't know if there's any truth in the rumor that Davidson's lost his driver's license for the foreseeable future due to some infringement or other. Given the slant of his previous columns I suspect he actually believes enhanced greenhouse to be a problem.

"BNFL plans new nuclear stations" - "Atomic energy company BNFL has drawn up secret plans to replace its eight ageing Magnox power stations with a new generation of nuclear plants. Given the controversial nature of the subject, it plans to wait until after the general election before triggering a fresh public debate on the future of nuclear power in Britain. The disclosure comes a week after privatised British Energy hinted that it would start replacing its nuclear power stations." (Mail on Sunday)

March 10-11, 2001

"No one really knows why globe's warming" - "WASHINGTON -- A recent U.N. report warned that temperatures would spike by up to 10 degrees in the next century, sparking altered ocean currents, increased spread of diseases and numerous natural catastrophes unless governments curb greenhouse gas emissions, the major culprit in the global warming theory. But within hours of the release of the report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Gallup Organization put out a poll taken last year that says Americans are not ready to overhaul their lives based on studies from the United Nations. It's not that Americans don't care about the environment, Gallup says. In fact, our fellow citizens are quite concerned about polluted drinking water and the contamination of soil, rivers, lakes and reservoirs. But for now, Americans have concluded that the United Nations has yet to prove its case for global warming, despite press coverage from an unquestioning and often supportive media." (Baltimore Sun)

"Bush's Moves on Environment Disappoint Industry" - "While environmentalists have sounded an anxious alarm over President Bush's agenda, it is his allies in industry who are expressing concern that his administration is falling short of their expectations." (New York Times)

"‘Browner Lite’ comes to Washington " - "Now that the Environmental Protection Agency is under Republican management -- Christine Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey -- you might think the anti-Kyoto forces could relax. But it appears that Whitman is just as seized with tender feelings about the planet as her predecessor, Carol Browner. Whitman reportedly attempted to insert a call for a 'multi-pollutant' control strategy with very similar effects to the Kyoto agreement into President Bush’s recent budget speech to Congress." (Tom Bray, Detroit News)

"Despite Opposition in Party, Bush to Seek Emissions Cuts" - "The Bush administration, some influential Republicans in Congress and several big owners of coal-burning power plants have joined in advocating something long sought by environmental groups and Democrats: cuts in the plants' emissions of carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping greenhouse gas widely thought to contribute to a global warming trend. The cuts would come as part of a larger bill controlling carbon dioxide and three other emissions from the power plants: sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain; nitrogen oxides, which contribute to smog; and mercury, a toxic heavy metal." (New York Times)

"Bush's road to an energy tax" - "U.S. energy policy now stands at a crossroads, and the time has come for Mr. Bush to make a choice. He can either pursue a Kyoto agenda of carbon taxes and energy suppression, or he can pursue a prosperity agenda of tax relief and energy abundance. Mr. Bush would be well advised to champion free market energy policies and leave the Kyoto agenda to the dustbin of history." (Alan Keyes, WorldNetDaily)

"Green groups push Bush for utility plant cleanups" - "WASHINGTON, March 9 - A coalition of 13 organizations Friday called on President Bush to fulfill what they termed a presidential campaign pledge to clean-up pollution generated by electric power plants. The groups, which include the American Lung Association, Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth, cited a Sept. 29 Bush campaign announcement that he would require "all power plants to meet clean air standards in order to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and carbon dioxide within a reasonable period of time." (Reuters)

"Norton, Whitman urge consensus approach to environmental rules" - "WASHINGTON, DC, Mar. 9—Key Bush administration policymakers Thursday said the White House wants to move away from the “system of conflict” that environmental regulation has come to represent. Interior Sec. Gale Norton and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman conveyed that message at a seminar sponsored by the National Environmental Policy Institute (NEPI), a bipartisan group that includes business, local and state regulators, and academia." (Oil and Gas Journal)

"Major Studies Jeopardize IPCC Storylines" - "WASHINGTON, DC — In the six short weeks since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its Third Assessment report on January 20, two major scientific studies strongly shake its foundation. They may crumble it entirely. At risk is the much-publicized conclusion that average global temperature will rise between 1.4°C and 5.8°C over the next hundred years. The IPCC arrived at that 4.4°C range of potential temperature increase by inputting thirty-five different scenarios – each describing an alternative IPCC vision of future greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions – into seven different climate models. The seven climate models actually were just one, tweaked a bit to produce different output. The major tweaking altered climate sensitivity – how much the earth warms for an atmospheric doubling of carbon dioxide from pre-industrial levels. The low estimate was 1.7°C; the high, 4.2°C. In order to create the most extreme outcome from among the 245 possibilities (35 scenarios x 7 models), the greatest climate sensitivity was goosed by the most extreme emissions scenario, one in which carbon dioxide emissions are high and aerosol emissions are low. The result: a 5.8°C temperature rise. That’s the edifice the Third Assessment erects. Let’s check the size of the termites gnawing away at its foundation:" (Greening Earth Society)

"The Week That Was March 10, 2001 brought to you by SEPP"

    New York Times editorial ,February 26, 2001, urging the White House to act
  2. Our response: THE SNOW-JOB OF KILIMANJARO (see TWTW of March 3).
    The climate is not warming!
    (an editorial in the Wall Street Journal Europe):
    " Requiem for a Treaty: It's time to drive a stake through the climate-change treaty."
  4. Our letter to EPA Administrator Whitman of March 2. As part of our effort to inform the debate within the Bush Administration, we try to alert EPA Administrator Whitman that global warming science is not a done deal. We hope she will consent to a briefing showing that the Kyoto Protocol lacks a scientific basis.
    WSJ op-ed of March 8 by James Glassman: "When it comes to global warming, two members of President Bush's cabinet--Paul O'Neill and Christine Todd Whitman-- are sounding more like Gore appointees."
  6. Our Letter to the WSJ, proposing a public debate on the science of global warming

"Cheering in the Press Box, Meteorologically Speaking" - "BOSTON -- No matter what your current professional travails, you would not have wanted to trade jobs with Joe Joyce this week." (New York Times)

"Weather forecasters cry 'wolf' too often?" - "This week, millions in the Northeast stayed home from work or school for a day or two, awaiting the ''blizzard of the century.'' Now many, especially in the Big Apple, are complaining that they were misled by forecasters. ... Are such dire weather predictions proper precaution? Or do forecasters cry ''wolf'' too often?

The National Weather Service claims this record of accuracy last year:

  • Winter storms: 85%, with average warning time of 10 hours.
  • Tornadoes: 65%, with 10-minute warning.
  • Flash floods: 86%, with 44-minute warning.

Hurricanes are often most difficult to pinpoint. But the National Hurricane Center claims it now accurately predicts within 24 hours where a hurricane is likely to hit in a 100-mile-wide area." (USA Today)

And forecasters are vilified if they do not provide sufficiently strong warnings - despite the fact that weather prediction is a near-impossible task.

Note also the claimed accuracy/warning times. Hurricanes, to 1 full day; major storms, hours; tornadoes and floods, minutes. "Climate" is the sum of all weather events over time and we can't really predict next week's weather. What price climate predictions for 100 years time?

"Why Some Numbers Are Only Very Good Guesses" - "Society runs on numbers: the number of people residing in the United States, the number of people in Florida who voted for each of the presidential candidates, the number of unemployed, the percent chance of a crippling blizzard.

Those who come up with these all-important digits know they aren't perfect, even if it sometimes comes as a surprise to the public. And some diehard believers in progress cling to the hope that technology will fix our numbers problem.

But some numbers just can't be fixed..." (New York Times)

"Russian rocket leaves sooty trail across US" - "Washington - A high-altitude research plane checking the skies over California has discovered a cloud of sooty burned kerosene, probably produced by a Russian rocket launch nearly two weeks earlier. It was the first time such emissions have been detected high in the stratosphere. Researchers had expected such rocket plumes to disperse in the air." (Sapa-AP)

"Pyres may be spreading 'mad cow' disease" - "Britain's blazing foot and mouth funeral pyres risk giving people the human form of mad cow disease, the Government has admitted. The Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Foods (Maff) accepts – after commissioning an independent risk assessment – that there is a chance the pyres will spread the prion that causes both BSE and variant CJD into the air and water supplies. Other assessments have suggested that the E.coli and salmonella might also be released." (Independent)

I was wrong - I thought the first health scare from the burning of thousands of tons of stock in open pyres would be dioxins and particulates but it seems they're reserved for all those nasty industrial processes.

"Yes, our food is cheap - and so is our talk" - "The outcry over foot and mouth won't change a thing, says Matthew Fort" (Observer)

"CDC: 1990s a lazy period for U.S. adults" - "ATLANTA, Georgia -- Just one in four U.S. adults exercised enough in the 1990s, the government said Thursday. Only 25.4 percent of adults met government recommendations for physical activity in 1998 -- virtually unchanged from the beginning of the decade, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Almost 30 percent reported no physical activity at all." (AP)

"Cancer study cites 'overdiagnosis' Early testing causes anxiety in women" - "WASHINGTON -- Detecting suspicious breast cells earlier and earlier will only increase women's anxiety about cancer and lead to unnecessary treatment, according to a study by the Institute of Medicine." (USA Today)

"Stop being paranoid, Britain's parents told" - "A controversial new book on child-rearing to be published this week will urge parents to let their children take more risks and stop panicking about playground bullies and paedophiles. The book's author, Frank Furedi, Reader in Sociology at the University of Kent, argues that parents' obsession with the safety of their children is more damaging than the risks themselves." (Observer)

"Fat-busting drug will be made available on NHS" - "A new drug that helps obese people lose weight by restricting the digestion of fats will become available to thousands of patients on the NHS, at an estimated cost of £12m." (Independent) | Fat people must slim first to get drug help (The Times)

"Doctor Links Viagra to Five Cases of Blindness" - "NEW YORK - A U.S. ophthalmologist says there appears to be a very small risk that men taking the impotence drug Viagra could suffer permanent vision loss, but the firm that makes the drug on Friday played down the reported threat." (Reuters)

"Safety investigation into trendy herbal cure" - "An Indian alternative medicine enjoying a surge in popularity in Britain is under investigation following fears over health risks." (Independent)

"New tack for anti-smoking push" - "Anti-smoking campaigners are taking a fresh angle to persuade people to quit - by pointing out the annual cost of cigarettes." (BBC)

"Exposure to cats may prevent asthma" - "A team of asthma and allergy experts from America looked at over 200 children's immune response to cat and mite allergens. Just under 50 of the children had some asthma symptoms They found that some children developed a tolerance, protecting them against cat allergies, because of a particular type of antibody they developed." (BBC) | Reuters coverage

"Scientists find cause of CJD cluster" - "Investigators say they have traced the exact cause of Britain's first CJD cluster in the village of Queniborough in Leicester." (BBC) | Guardian coverage

"Britain fears second wave of livestock disease" - "Two weeks after Britain restricted the movement of animals through the countryside to contain the spread of foot-and-mouth disease, officials feared Friday that a second wave of the livestock ailment was beginning to hit." (AP)

"Study adds evidence for trans fatty acid dangers" - "Eating too much of a certain type of fat appears to boost heart disease risk, a Dutch study confirms." (Reuters Health)

"Study shows why a drink a day may help the heart" - "A drink or two per day has been shown to be good for the heart, but exactly how alcohol bestows its benefits has been unclear. Now new research suggests that in moderate amounts, alcohol may fight inflammation in heart arteries." (Reuters Health)

"North German Orchard Owners Losing Ground" - "JORK, Germany--The tree huggers of the world will be forgiven for feeling confused about the latest clash with those wielding chain saws, as the orchards that have graced this corner of northern Germany for 700 years are being felled in the name of environmental protection. The Altes Land orchards that account for one-third of Germany's fruit output are nurtured by an intricate web of water channels that were carved from the Elbe River flood plain in the 13th century by Dutchmen brought in to help reclaim the low-lying farmland. The dikes and rivulets have long lent the region the charm and serenity of the Netherlands, but the pastoral peace is being shattered this month as farmers felled the first of as many as 750,000 fruit trees that will be removed because they are too close to the water's edge." (LA Times)

"Scientists Discover Memory-Enhancing Switch" - "March 9, 2001— Scientists have genetically engineered mice with enhanced memory that persists until researchers switch it off by removing a drug that controls a gene that encodes a key memory-governing enzyme. With enhanced memory, the mice perform better on memory tests and then revert to normal when the drug is removed." (HHMI)

"UB Oral Biologists Demonstrate Gene Transfer Between Unrelated Oral Bacteria" - "CHICAGO -- Oral bacteria can exchange genes, raising the possibility that organisms in the oral cavity can be transformed from harmless to destructive, and from antibiotic-susceptible to antibiotic-resistant, oral biologists at the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine have found. In findings presented here today (March 9, 2001) at the annual meeting of the American Association for Dental Research, UB dental researchers showed direct experimental evidence that horizontal gene transfer can occur between two different families of bacteria commonly found in the mouth." (University at Buffalo release)

"Much ado about nothing" - "Genetically modified foods will not bring back cattle struck down by natural diseases, but their use might help Britain's economy, and possibly the diet of her citizens. The only question is whether Britain has the stomach for it." (Washington Times editorial)

March 9, 2001

"Secondhand Smokescreen" - "Researchers reported this week that nonsmokers living with smokers are exposed to tobacco smoke. That's obviously not news. So that's not how the study was touted by the researchers and reported by the media." (Steve Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"Ergo, no workplace regulations" - "Dismantling the edifice of Clintonism will take some time, but this week's vote by the House and Senate to nix a Clinton administration edict relating to workplace "ergonomics" rules is a fine beginning." (Washington Times editorial)

"Requiem for a Treaty" - "Is the Kyoto Protocol dead? The conventional wisdom certainly played taps after George W. Bush defeated the protocol's author and champion, Al "Earth in the Balance" Gore in last year's Presidential election. But rumors of the demise of a global agreement on climate change have spread in the past, only to be proved wrong. At the fateful marathon meeting in Kyoto back in 1997, a collapse seemed imminent until Mr. Gore appeared on the scene and pushed his own negotiators to agree to deeper cuts in so-called greenhouse-gas emissions. And so, despite the fact that a Republican is now in the Oval Office, and even after Bill Clinton's presumably more-pliable negotiators deadlocked the last climate talks in The Hague, it may be too early to sound the taps for Kyoto..." (Wall Street Journal editorial)

"Up in the Air on the Right" - The Washington Post reports,

Conservatives were elated last month when they succeeded in pulling from President Bush's speech to Congress an approving mention of regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant. But that fight is hardly over. In fact, conservatives had heard that Vice President Cheney might be making an announcement, as early as today, of a plan to regulate carbon dioxide, and they were battling yesterday to try to scuttle it.

The pro-enviro, anti-global warming effort is said to be led by what Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute calls a "secret cabal" of folks inside and outside the administration. The "cabal" includes Eileen Claussen of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change; Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill; Fred Krupp, a liberal Republican and longtime head of the Environmental Defense Fund; and Kenneth Lay, head of Enron Corp. The latter three sit on the board of the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, Ebell notes, presumably the cabal's headquarters.

And there is Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, known unaffectionately among conservatives as Christine "Browner" Whitman, referring to Clinton EPA chief Carol Browner.

Here's a little more complete coverage of the above:

Apparently the Bush Administration is getting its Kyoto advice from Eileen Claussen, Tim Wirth's understudy at State in negotiating the Kyoto Protocol. Note that Eileen Claussen serves on the board of the Heinz Center with Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, Fred Krupp, head of Environmental Defense (formerly known as the Environmental Defense Fund) and Kenneth L. Lay, chairman of Enron and one of the people who got the language about regulating CO2 as a pollutant into the Bush campaign's energy plan.

About Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill: [Comments from 1998 speech distributed at Bush's first cabinet meeting.] Two issues which transcend all others: "One is nuclear holocaust.... The second is environmental: specifically, the issue of global climate change and the potential of global warming."

On Kyoto: "I believe the real danger to civilization is that, as a consequence of this 'brilliant' political process, we don't do anything for 10 years. That would not be a good idea."

Comments on conflict of interest.

Paul O'Neill owns $90 million in shares and stock options from aluminum manufacturer Alcoa. When asked whether this constituted a conflict of interest he told Meet the Press on March 4 that, "The ethics department lawyers said they thought it was OK for me to maintain these shares. You know, I can't imagine that, as treasury secretary, I'm going to have decisions come before me that have anything to do with this."

Mr. O'Neill, however, has positioned himself as the Bush administration's chief supporter of Kyoto-style policies. A favorite policy among environmental activists to implement Kyoto is to raise fuel economy standards for automobiles. What this would mean is greater use of aluminum in automobile manufacturing and a potential boon to Mr. O'Neill's bank account. Once carbon dioxide is defined as a pollutant when produced by electricity generation, the next step logically will be to regulate other carbon dioxide emitters, such as autos.

What an interesting little clique: Paul O'Neill, former chairman of Alcoa, now Treasury Secretary, close to Cheney; Eileen Claussen, head of Pew Center on Global Climate Change, who as assistant secretary of State laid the groundwork for the Kyoto Protocol; Fred Krupp--liberal Republican head of Environmental Defense, who briefed Governor Bush last June in Austin, leading to Bush's statement that he had been given new information and now believed that global warming could be a significant problem requiring government action and; Kenneth L. Lay, chairman, Enron, a Texas-based energy and utility company that hopes to profit from the banning of coal, big supporter of Bush, close to both Bush and Cheney.

"Jane Cares" - "You probably know me best as an actress, but my most important role is mother to six children. Nothing concerns me more than the health and well being of my children. It frightens me that children - my children - are exposed to, and at risk from, dangerous pesticides on a daily basis." (Jane Seymour, careforkidsnow.org)

Jane Seymour cares for kids, that's nice. Probably small furry animals too - but that has nothing to do with the relative toxicity of various compounds or the relative risk of using or not using pesticides.

Does Ms Seymour think her children would be better off with fleas, body/head lice and bed bugs? It's not really that long ago these were banished from our homes - with pesticides. If these pesticides are supposedly carcinogens and we use them so much, why are cancer rates and mortality down for the last rating period?

And how about children's nutrition? Ms Seymour may not be concerned about cost but there's a very large proportion of children who only get adequate fresh fruit and veg. because pesticides have enabled cheap abundance. What about those in foreign lands who could not survive if their families' meager crop was decimated by marauding insects, how much better off would they be?

Does Jane care?

"Erin Brockovich Crusades Against Mold" - "Sacramento -- In her hallmark miniskirt and stilettos, Erin Brockovich came to the Capitol yesterday -- not to talk about the crusade against PG&E that made her famous, but about her personal battle against the toxic molds ravaging her Southern California home." (San Francisco Chronicle)

Scrap the "energy efficiency" standards and reintroduce decent ventilation then. And if Ms Brockovich wants someone to sue this time, try the deep-pocket enviro-flake organizartions who've driven the suffocation of the populace - unlike PG&E and Cr6, they're not innocent.

"Affluence clue to breast cancer" - "Eating less and exercising more may protect women from breast cancer, according to research published today. The study, in this week's British Medical Journal, focuses on the lower levels of breast cancer in the developing world than in affluent countries where food for most is unlimited." (Guardian) | Lifestyle, hormones, and risk of breast cancer (BMJ)

Hmm... fairly sweeping conclusion that doesn't seem to consider factors such as late puberty and early menopause in the undernourished (although starvation is not a general health benefit); late or complete avoidance of childbearing available to comparatively wealthy career women or anything other than hormone levels and energy intake really. Doesn't look like that much of a "clue" to me.

"Battle of the celebrity gender theorists" - "Christina Hoff Sommers skewers Carol Gilligan, Jane Fonda and their "girl crisis" rhetoric." (Salon)

"Scientists fighting smog in parks, wilderness areas" - "RIVERSIDE, California -- A group of scientists has begun tackling a curious problem for parks and wilderness areas in the West: smog. Seen as an urban ill, smog and haze also can shroud remote, otherwise scenic spots like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite's Half Dome and Joshua Tree National Park in the desert east of Los Angeles." (AP)

"Eucalyptus trees 'can cause smog' " - "An Australian environmental study says chemicals given off by eucalyptus trees may help create pollution. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation study found that some of the chemicals the trees give off react with sunlight causing smog, according to Beyond 2000. Ian Galbally, from CSIRO Atmospheric research, said: "It's not just cars and industry that cause air pollution. Plants release highly reactive hydrocarbons that can add significantly to photochemical smog problems." (Ananova) | Trees and air pollution (CSIRO)

Ronald Reagan was ridiculed for quoting Rasmussen on this very topic, however, Rasmussen was quite correct. For some background dating back to the 1980s, see http://www.research.ucla.edu/chal/2environ.htm (scroll down to "Attack of the killer trees"); http://www.ese.ogi.edu/newsarchive.html (scroll to DR. RASMUSSEN KNEW IT ALL ALONG) and; http://www.epa.gov/natlibra/hqirc/enb/enb99/enb0316.htm (scroll to ** CLEAN AIR **). As with everything else, nature beat humanity to VOCs - with attendant smog problems.

"Why profits come before people" - "Merck & Co., the drug giant, caved in to a mounting PR campaign yesterday by agreeing to slash prices on two HIV treatments sold in developing countries. "At these new prices," the company said, "Merck will not profit from the sale of these medicines in the developing world." This corporate capitulation is being hailed around the world. "Extraordinary news," said an official with the World Health Organization. If poverty and illness could be relieved by chanting slogans and scoring media hits, the world today would be free of both. It is not. In fact, the last big slogan -- from each according to his ability, to each according to his need -- managed to set the cause of poverty relief back by a century or more. But that doesn't stop the sloganeers and activists at the WHO and other centres of slogan production." (Terence Corcoran, National Post)

"Beating obesity with drugs" - "The National Institute for Clinical Excellence is set to decide whether the obesity drug Xenical can be prescribed more widely on the NHS. This decision is expected to have wide implications for NHS funding as about half the population in England and Wales is either obese or over weight." | Decision expected on slimming drug (BBC Online)

Gordon Brown has his own answer for this dilemma, he's busily saddling the population with massive over-taxation, increasing the number of impoverished and forcing people to walk by so-heavily taxing vehicle fuel that the UK has the most expensive fuel in known world.

"Americans Fail to Change Their Sedentary Ways" - "ATLANTA - American adults failed to change their "couch potato" habits over the past decade despite pleas by government experts to get up and sweat a little, federal health officials said on Thursday. The level of physical activity among adults remained stagnant between 1990 and 1998 in a country where half of the adults are considered overweight and about 18 percent are obese, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a report." (Reuters)

"UPDATE - EU could ratify climate pact by July 2002 - Sweden" - "BRUSSELS - The European Union could ratify a 1997 United Nations agreement to combat global warming ahead of an Earth summit of world leaders next year, Sweden's environment minister said yesterday. Speaking during a break in a meeting of EU environment ministers which he chaired, minister Kjell Larsson also said he was hopeful the EU would resolve its differences with the United States which have thrown the climate change pact into doubt." (Reuters)

Which is exactly what this release is about - pressuring the US into capitulating to EU extortion.

"Storm of Hype" - "The TV weatherpeople flew into a blizzy. "The East's worst storm in 50 years" was predicted in a tone of confident panic. Phrases like "three feet of snow" were bandied about as weathercasters in front of jerkily moving radar maps explained with certitude how the winter storm would stall, lashing the region for days. ... And what happened to the prediction-paralyzed big cities? Nothing much; Washington got a dusting of snow, New York a few inches. To some, the non-nor'easter came as a blessed relief; to most, it was kind of a letdown. The New York Times, which had postponed an annual meeting of employees because of "inclement weather," noted tersely the next day that snowfall had been "generally short of predictions." (William Safire, New York Times)

A little unfair, given what is and is not feasible in forecasting. The advice not to expect great accuracy and to understand that the hype will always be pushed to the max (employment depends on it), is sound. Why isn't similar skepticism applied to global warming hyperbole? After all, the error potential of a "forecast" for 100 years from now is roughly 36,500 times greater than that for tomorrow - and the hyperbole suffers a similar magnification.

"Let’s clean up toxic dump sites first" - "With a new administration in office, it is time to rethink the way that environmental problems are defined and handled. When international environmentalists, like those of past administrations, concentrate on global warming, greenhouse gases and the possible changes in weather during the next century, they are spending time, energy and public good will on preventing speculative future disaster." (Mike Madias, Detroit News)

"Scotland's seas 'getting warmer'" - "Evidence of possible global warming in the seas off Scotland's west coast has emerged, according to scientists. A team from the Scottish Association for Marine Science said that sea temperatures have increased considerably in recent years." (BBC Online)

Global warming is one possibility. Phase shift in the NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation, see also Climate Prediction Center's item) is another possibility and perhaps the simplest and most likely explanation is a slight drift in the Atlantic Conveyer, the current carrying tropical warmth to the Arctic and the very reason that the UK and Western Europe doesn't have polar bears while the Hudson Bay region, at similar latitudes, does.

"Soil strategy call" - "INCREASED industrial pollution, climate change, soil erosion and the persistence of a number of diseases are all pointing towards the need for a Scottish soil strategy, say scientists. Work has started on a three-month long study of the scope of the issues involved by the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Aberdeen to be handed in to the Scottish executive by the summer." (The Scotsman)

Probably a very good idea considering it was this same publication last week advocating against minimum tillage but rather adopting deep tillage - to address global warming no less.

"Concerns, criticism follow climate forecasts" - "Environmental forecasts are increasingly sounding a drumbeat of disaster: The earth is warming up faster than predicted, drinking water is becoming scarce in much of the world, deserts are expanding and there are fewer fish to eat in the boundless oceans. "U.N. Scientists Warn of Climate Armageddon," screamed The Scotsman, a leading Edinburgh newspaper, after a United Nations report last month forecast dramatic and potentially disastrous climate changes before the end of the century." (Joan Lowy, Scripps Howard)

While there is some rebuttal provided by Jerry Taylor it's mostly drowned out by doom-saying (from the usual suspects: IFPRI; WRI; Worrywarts Inc. and Lowy's even dredged up Overpeck for a "we're all gonna drown" finale).

"New Administration Should Practice ‘New Environmentalism’" - "“The future ain’t what it used to be,” Lynn Scarlett, host of TechCentralStation’s New Environmentalism section and president of the Reason Foundation, told a gathering of state and local environmental leaders Thursday in Washington. At the National Environmental Policy Institute’s annual environmental summit, Scarlett said that the Bush administration holds the promise of a “New Environmentalism that taps local knowledge, inspires innovation, reinforces self-motivated environmental stewardship and achieves more integrated decision making.” Scarlett was joined at the summit, “Democratizing Environmental Policy, Moving State and Local Priorities into Washington,” by Interior Secretary Gale Norton and EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman." (Tech Central Station)

"Organic Farmers Say They Will Soon Be the Norm" - "PARIS - If Francois Thierry is right, organic farming will some day be the norm. How soon that happens, however, depends on the will of all the players in the European food sector -- producers, consumers, retailers and politicians." (Reuters)

"Organic" farming was the norm for 10,000 years and average human lifespans didn't creep above 46 years until modern agriculture was developed in the 20th century. There are other very significant factors, like sanitation and health care, but cheap and plentiful nutrition has been a big factor and none of these came from "organics."

"Scientist Studying Why Tobacco Budworm Resists Bt" - "One of the most promising biocontrol products of recent years, bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), appears to be losing its strength against certain subspecies of the tobacco budworm." (AgWeb.com)

Read carefully. It appears that under-dosing (?too-weak solution at application, rain dilution...) contributes significantly to resistance buildup, suggesting that spray application of Bt may lead to resistance inhibiting the value of bioengineered crops expressing Bt toxins rather than the other way around. While that is a purely speculative hypothesis, it does rather reverse the paradigm doesn't it? Rather than "ban biotech" to preserve the value of organic Bt sprays, perhaps we should ban organics to preserve the value of genuinely useful crops.

"Frankenstein foods?" - "One of the most serious threats posed to the future welfare of Indians is the Green agitation against genetically modified (GM) foods. In the UK, Greenpeace has organised burning of fields on which scientific trials of GM crops were being conducted. Surprisingly, the leader of this vandalism, an aristocrat — Lord Melchett — was acquitted by a jury. There has been a general whipping up of hysteria all over Europe over what have been labelled Frankenstein foods. But if GM crops are the creation of a Frankenstein, so is virtually everything we eat. Any method that uses life forms to make or modify a product is biotechnology: brewing beer or making leavened bread is a “traditional” biotechnology application." (Business Standard)

"EPA: Altered animal feed must pass human standard" - "WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency will no longer approve genetically engineered food for use as animal feed unless it's safe for human consumption, too. Yesterday, EPA officials acknowledged that approving products only for animals was a mistake. It was the latest repercussion from last year's recall of taco shells, corn chips, and other food products that contain StarLink corn." (Boston Globe) | Bio Reaffirms Support of EPA Decision to End 'Split' Biotech Crop Approvals (PRN)

"Greenpeace bashes Kellogg''s again on StarLink" - "Greenpeace lashed out again today at Kellogg's, claming that its Morningstar Farms label "Corn Dogs" purchased in a Baltimore Safeway store have tested positive for StarLink corn. Greenpeace added that the products also contained genetically engineered soy, but the group didn't emphasize that this product is approved in the U.S. and Europe for food use." (AgWeb.com)

"Nobel laureate emphasises biotech use" - "LUCKNOW: Nobel laureate Norman E Borlaug on Wednesday came down heavily on environmentalists, who assert that chemical fertilisers should be abandoned in favour of organic fertilisers. He stressed that the amount of food required to feed people all over the world could not be produced without using chemical fertilisers. Talking to reporters, the Nobel laureate, whose pioneering work in developing a new variety of protein-rich maize has been hailed world over, said that environmentalists who buy foodgrains from the supermarket and plead for organic fertilizers were trying to ``mislead`` the people." (Times of India)

"EU To Crack Down on Biotech Food" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Union's environment commissioner said Thursday she will put forward proposals this month on the labeling and tracing of genetically modified organisms in an effort to end a moratorium on new GMO foodstuffs in Europe. Margot Wallstroem cautioned the EU head office could face lawsuits from biotech firms if the ban imposed three years ago on the marketing of new genetically modified foods continued. ``We cannot afford to lose more years of not aiding the biotechnology industry,'' Wallstroem told a news conference at a meeting of EU environment ministers." (AP)

"Govt to utilize genome data to produce new rice plants" - "The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry plans to develop a computer simulation system in which data from an international rice plant genome-sequencing project and Japan`s 100-year-plus expertise on the improvement of plants will be combined to develop new plants, ministry officials said Wednesday. The ``rice genome simulator system`` will use rice plant genome information decoded in the International Rice Genome Sequencing Project (IRGSP), in which 10 countries and Taiwan participated, and Japan`s expertise on the improvement of rice plants." (Yomiuri Shimbun)

"Food safety agency defends labelling exemptions" - "The Government's food safety agency told the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification on Thursday that it saw no paradox in championing consumer choice but rejecting the need for labelling in restaurants. After being asked to appear to answer numerous criticisms, the Australia New Zealand Food Authority strongly defended the several exemptions to the labelling regime. These include where mingling of GM and non-GM ingredients leaves the product substantially the same, where the GM presence is deemed minute, and where the food is eaten at the point of sale. "A universally mandatory labelling system would be extremely difficult and extremely expensive," managing director Ian Lindenmayer said. There was a case for labelling, but not to the extent of costing the industry billions of dollars, costs that would be passed on to the consumer." (The Dominion, NZ)

"StarLink Corn Weighs on U.S. Farmers" - "WASHINGTON - Foreign wariness over StarLink biotech corn -- never approved as a food -- was cutting into U.S. corn sales and depressing prices, U.S. Agriculture Department said Thursday. In a monthly report on crops and food demand worldwide, USDA shaved 50 million bushels from its forecast of corn exports ``because some importers, like Japan, are expected to minimize purchases of varieties of corn not approved for some, or all, uses,'' a description fitting StarLink." (Reuters)

"Kuza Issue #6 - Focus: African Rice"

  • Africa's New Rice Winner
  • The Little Known Indigenous Rice
  • New and Simpler Method for Genetic Engineering
  • Monsanto Constructs First Complete Genome Map of a Livestock Species
  • GM Crops No Harm to Natural Habitats- Latest Study Reveals
  • Rice Genes are Mapped
  • Genetic Engineering and Vegetable Diseases
  • Briefs
  • The ABCs of Ag and Biotech (TKC)

?!! "Brain cell transplants help Parkinson patients" - "NEW YORK: Patients with Parkinson's disease experience significant improvements after receiving transplants of brain cells that produce dopamine, a chemical messenger in the brain, study findings suggest." (Reuters) | Cell Therapy for Parkinson's Disease (NEJM editorial)

"Parkinson's Research Is Set Back by Failure of Fetal Cell Implants" - "A carefully controlled study that tried to treat Parkinson's disease by implanting cells from aborted fetuses into patients' brains not only failed to show an overall benefit but also revealed a disastrous side effect, scientists report." (New York Times)

"Let's Hear It For Those Other Genomes!" - "Several dozen organisms, in addition to humans, have been fully sequenced. Genomes of these organisms can help us locate human genes, identify their structure, delineate their function, and find regulatory regions. In this article, the author explores using comparative genomics as a tool for interpreting the human genome. In addition, we present here a number of other important articles on the human genome, including selected BioMedNet commentaries and articles from various Trends journals, not yet in print or online, which we are happy to be "pre-publishing" on the Beagle:" (BioMedNet)

March 8, 2001

"House Scraps Ergonomics Regulation; New Alignment Nets Big Win for Business " - "The House yesterday followed the lead taken by the Senate less than 24 hours earlier and voted, 223 to 206, to kill the [ergonomics] rule, which is aimed at curbing repetitive-motion injuries on the job. The measure now goes to President Bush, who has indicated he will sign it." (WashingtonPost.com)

"U.S. Will Buy Back Corn Seed; Firms to Be Compensated for Batches Mixed With Biotech Variety " - "The Agriculture Department will spend up to $20 million this year to compensate seed companies for corn mixed with an unapproved genetically modified variety -- the first direct federal bailout of food producers harmed by biotechnology." (WashingtonPost.com)

"Administration in the Balance" - "Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill is fond of telling the story of meeting Jane Fonda a few years ago. While CEO of Alcoa, he was invited to a White House briefing on global warming and found himself seated next to the actress and peace protester. She turned to him and said, 'I'm a friend of the greens. What in the world are you doing here?'" (James Glassman, Wall Street Journal)

"Feminism Is Bad For Women's Health Care" - "That women are second-class citizens of the medical research establishment is a claim much trumpeted. Hillary Rodham Clinton once remarked on the 'appalling degree to which women were routinely excluded from major clinical trials of most illnesses.' A recent report of the Commission on Civil Rights claimed that 'women have been excluded from clinical trials for decades.' Last June the Harvard Women's Health Watch proclaimed that 'nearly all drug testing has been done on men.' But what we know is wrong. Last week the National Institutes of Health, which had stated in 1997 that 'women were routinely excluded' from its research, issued a retraction of this claim. The Institutes' recognition of this error (made in two letters to a Rockville, Md.-based advocacy group called Men's Health America) is most welcome." (Sally Satel, Wall Street Journal)

"Sense and the Census" - "The phrase "statistical sampling" doesn't get the heart racing in too many people, but it's been the Holy Grail for a lot of folks who make a living from politics. For years various factions have been pounding on the U.S. Census Bureau to statistically "adjust" the number of various minorities in America who presumably are "undercounted" in the bureau's decennial head count. On Tuesday, Commerce Secretary Don Evans, affirming a decision by the Bureau's pros, said the U.S. will stick with the raw head count. Unless you make you're living off of racial and ethnic tensions, the Bureau's decision is a most hopeful one." (Wall Street Journal editorial)

"What Cancer Epidemic?" - "Ever since the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring in 1962, one of the staples of environmentalist dogma has been that industrial chemicals and pesticides are causing an epidemic of human cancers. "What...is driving the modern cancer epidemic?" asks environmental activist Samuel Epstein in the November 2001 issue of Tikkun. "Study after study points to the role of runaway industrial technologies… producing a dizzying array of synthetic chemicals that have never been screened for human health effects." Worldwatch Institute founder Lester Brown concurs, noting, "Every human being harbors in his or her body about 500 synthetic chemicals that were nonexistent before 1920." ''Cancer is reaching epidemic proportions and we need to identify the links between the public health crisis and the environment,'' declared Priscilla Rosenwald of the Pennsylvania Women's Health and Environment Network during a breast cancer conference in 1997. Such claims are often accompanied by pleas for massively expensive regulations that would require removing even the smallest traces of synthetic chemicals from the environment. But are we in the midst of a rising cancer epidemic? No, according to Cancers Facts and Figures 2001, issued earlier this year by the American Cancer Society (ACS)" (Ronald Bailey, Reason Magazine)

"Women blame stress for their breast cancer, attribute positive attitude for remission" - "Ask women what caused their breast cancer, and the most common answer will be stress, an unfounded belief that can affect how these women approach their treatment and survival." (CAH)

Chemical scare du jour: "New homes harbour 'toxic chemicals'" - "Those who have just bought a brand new house may be feeling sick at the expense they have just incurred. But researchers say they could also be at risk from the presence of toxic chemicals, say researchers. Studies in both Australia and the UK, detailed in the New Scientist have found new-build homes have high levels of toxic chemicals leaking into the air out of carpets, floors and paints." (BBC Online)

Note that much of this level of indoor toxicants is attributed to "reduced draftiness" (read: "poor ventilation"), something being retro-applied to older dwellings in the name of "energy efficiency" and "greenhouse abatement" - pity about the side-effect of poisoning the population.

"Tony Daniels: Don't blame the drug companies for the problems of the world" - "Everyone loves to hate a drug company: hatred of wrongdoing being the nearest most of us can come these days to virtue. And the guilt of the drug companies is assumed, like a truth universally acknowledged. But is the truth actually true?" (Independent)

"WHO retracts statement backing South Africa in drug companies' lawsuit" - "GENEVA - The United Nations health body on Wednesday retracted its statement made Tuesday supporting the South African government in a court battle with pharmaceutical companies. The World Health Organization said there had been a "mistake" when a spokesman said Tuesday that the agency believed South Africa's law did not break international rules. "The WHO reiterates that it has a general policy not to take position in litigation in member states," it said. "What we meant to say was that we had provided technical assistance to South Africa on issues that were being addressed in this court case." (AP)

"Is This Drug Necessary?" - "Doctors have been accused of writing prescriptions even when patients don't really need medication, because patients are more satisfied when they get a drug. But do patients really feel that way? The University of Gottingen in Germany studied 185 patients to find out whether they expected to get a prescription, and whether they felt upset if their doctors didn't order a drug." (HealthScout)

Lesson here for U.S. over-prescribers of antibiotics? Increasing rates of resistance are associated with prescription of useless courses of antibiotics for people with viruses. Although the AMA likes to claim farm use of antibiotics is the major culprit this is highly unlikely given the proportion of feed/farm antibiotics which have no direct counterparts or chemically similar compounds used for human treatment.

"The watch dogs need closer watching" - "It's a strange thing about journalism: Many, probably most non-journalists say they distrust the news media. Yet most of what those same non-journalists believe about their county, state, nation, and other nations comes from - you guessed it - the news media. Put another way, people who are part of an event often complain that the journalists got the coverage wrong. Yet, when they read about distant events, those same people often accept the accounts unquestioningly, sharing their mediated knowledge at the water cooler or the dinner table as gospel truth." (Book review, CSM)

"Hype trumps reality in quake, storm news" - "As difficult as it is to live through a natural disaster in your hometown, it's even worse to learn about it from TV." (USA Today)

"Conspiracy theorists read between lines in the sky" - "A new conspiracy theory sweeping the Internet and radio talk shows has set parts of the federal government on edge. The theory: The white lines of condensed water vapor that jets leave in the sky, called contrails, are actually a toxic substance the government deliberately sprays on an unsuspecting populace. Federal bureaucracies have gotten thousands of phone calls, e-mails and letters in recent years from people demanding to know what is being sprayed and why. Some of the missives are threatening." (USA Today)

Oh boy... actually, I was kidding in that posting on the "Great Moon Hoax" (Weekend edition Feb 24-25), when I said "Next we know, there'll be official rebuttals for the paranoid schizophrenic's favorite standby, evil contrails!" - at least, I thought I was.

'"Black Marketing" update' - "Yesterday a mad-cow press release caught our attention with this statement: "six out of ten Americans polled say they are concerned that the disease may affect beef here in the United States." It also claimed that a whopping 76 percent of Americans would reduce or eliminate their meat consumption "if the disease was even suspected in American cattle." Did this PR tidbit come from the Centers for Disease Control? The US Department of Agriculture? The Food and Drug Administration? Surprise! The press release was from the nannies at Gardenburger, a corporation that sold $71 million worth of "meat alternative" foods last year. The mad cow scare campaign seems to have turned a corner, as companies like Gardenburger are spreading fear to make a buck. Click here for our report on Mad Cow." (GuestChoice.com)

"Animal research: a scientist's defence" - "Animal research has played a major part in the development of medicine, and will continue to do so." (Spiked-Online)

"Sacrificial lambs on Europe's altar" - "The Taliban destroys 2,000-year-old Buddha statues and we rightly shake our heads: How barbaric in these modern times to sacrifice graven images at the altar of religious purity. And yet, while Buddhas are bombed in Afghanistan, the European Union is engaged in its own quasi-biblical cleansing ritual: the fiery sacrifice of tens of thousands of animals to appease the hungry gods of free-market economics. When I first heard the farm animals described as capital's sacrificial lambs (it was German environmentalist Mathias Greffrath who said it to me), I thought it was hyperbole. Surely those hillsides were burning to protect public health, not the market value of meat or future access to foreign markets." (Globe and Mail)

Naomi Klein associates FMD with biotechnology (takes some doing) and decides it presents a "decisive opportunity" for anti-biotechies. Granted, FMD doesn't present a significant human health threat but it is a cruel affliction for cloven-hoofed animals and one best suppressed ruthlessly if at all possible - for the sake of the uninfected livestock as much as economics. Impressively silly piece.

"The search for the real culprit" - "A NUMBER of hares, if that isn’t too much of a mixed metaphor, have been set running in the past few days as the foot-and-mouth outbreak has developed. For example: it was caused by factory farming, although the new word seems to be industrial; it happened because all the friendly local slaughterhouses have closed down; it was caused by Saddam Hussein/anti-fox hunting protesters/ refugees/ illegal immigrants/ deliberately by the government; it’s no worse than flu in humans, so why not simply let it run its course or vaccinate instead of this outdated slaughter and burn eradication policy? Everyone has a theory, particularly columnists and feature writers on Sunday broadsheets or Michael Nicolson of ITN. Mercifully, most of these theories hover for a day or two then disappear. But the industrial farming theory has stuck, fuelled by the greens, the organic enthusiasts, the vegans, the vegetarians and animal welfare groups." (The Scotsman)

"FMD: another outbreak of panic" - "... While farmers take the familiar practical steps necessary to contain an epidemic that is clearly a serious threat to livestock and to food production, the FMD panic has acquired a life of its own, reaching far beyond the world of agriculture. It seems that the FMD virus is more the occasion of this panic than its real cause, and that the panic is driven by much wider social and political forces. Hence the mood of national emergency rapidly incorporated the Selby rail crash and the snowstorms, and moved on to include the latest scare about overhead electricity cables causing cancer in children." (Dr Michael Fitzpatrick, Spiked-Online)

"A Rare Look at the Truth" - "Chemistry professor Robert L. Wolke hit one out of the park with his latest "Food 101" column in the Washington Post. Wolke put the lie to the nannies' needless warnings about food irradiation, pointing out that the scientific community is behind this important technology. Among those opposed is Ralph Nader's group Public Citizen, which Wolke said inundated him with a large number of identical protest letters, "as doctrinaire as any dogma held by a religious sect." Our kudos to Professor Wolke for telling the truth." (GuestChoice.com)

"Shiva's Little Green Book" (Book Review) - "Vandana Shiva is the Chairman Mao of the green movement. Her long intellectual march on behalf of peasants and plants, and against what she sees as the dominance and destructiveness of reductionist science and the industrialisation of technology, is enervating, brilliantly expressed, intellectually beguiling and ultimately crackers. It contains within it a recipe for as much potential for famine and social dislocation as Mao Tse-tung's Great Leap Forward. Luckily, she has no country to try it out on." (Fred Pearce, The Times Higher Education Supplement)

"The seeds of science" - "WASHINGTON - After months of study, the Environmental Protection Agency soon will be wrapping up its first comprehensive review of the country's major genetically engineered crops: corn, cotton and potato plants that deliver their own pesticides. The agency is awaiting a report this month by an independent panel of scientists on the safety of the crops, which represent a growing share of the nation's farm production. The EPA then will decide for how long to approve their continued use and in what way those crops must be planted to make sure that pests such as the bollworm and corn borer don't build up a resistance." (Boston Globe)

"ANZFA propose release of four GM crops after scientists prove they are safe" - " GM crops such as corn, sugar beet, cotton and canola do not pose a safety threat to consumers or the environment, according to the Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA), who today backed the sale of such crops to consumers. Marion Healy, a chief scientist with ANZFA, revealed that the four crops, all of which were resistant to herbicides, were studied for their nutritional values, increased allergens and toxicity. "All the GM foods we have looked at to date have all the benefits of the conventional foods and no disadvantages," he said." (just-food.com)

"Study Shows Runoff from Bt Cotton Has Limited Impact on Nearby Waterways" - "A four-year study of runoff water from fields planted to genetically engineered cotton appears to reinforce what bioengineering proponents have said from the start - that there is limited environmental impact from genetically altered crops because of the reduced need for pesticides. ... The scientists concluded that there are no detrimental environmental effects from either pyrethroid or organophosphate insecticides in runoff from any of the watershed sites sampled during this study." (AgWeb.com)

"USDA to buy up biotech corn" - "WASHINGTON - The U.S. Agriculture Department agreed Wednesday to buy as much as $20 million worth of corn seed that was contaminated with a variety of genetically engineered grain that prompted nationwide recalls of food products. In announcing the purchase, the government estimated that "less than 1 percent" of the 40 million bags of corn seed produced for planting this year contains some trace of the biotech variety, known as StarLink." (AP)

"Philippine Farmers Want Bt Corn to Combat Pests" - "Saying Bt corn would help them combat a growing corn borer problem, Philippine farmers this week sent a letter to their country’s president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The farmers asked her to review her anti-GM stance and allow field experiments with GM crops to take place." (AgWeb.com) | Philippine Ag Secy Open To GMO Use To Raise Crop Output (Dow Jones Newswire)

"Gene Research Finds New Use in Agricultural Breeding" - "As the controversy surrounding genetically modified foods intensifies, scientists are trying to use the rapidly growing knowledge about genes to enhance conventional breeding of crops and livestock rather than implant genes from one species into another. Many say such an approach is less likely to arouse the public objections that have been raised by the development of genetically altered plants and animals. The enhanced breeding approach involves testing which genes are in a plant or animal, allowing researchers to select more easily which ones to cross. That can shave years off the breeding of a new variety." (New York Times)

"Biotech Wheat Getting Cool Reception" - "DES MOINES, Iowa, Mar 06, 2001 -- With farmers still suffering from the financial hangover caused by the contamination of last year's corn crop by the genetically engineered StarLink variety, few are anxious to embrace biotech wheat. A spokeswoman for the Wheat Growers Association says farmers don't want to plant the altered seed until all customer countries have approved it." (United Press International via COMTEX)

"Ministry Confirms Position on Trade in GM Products" - "The Agriculture Ministry has reaffirmed Thailand's stand on not allowing any commercial trade of genetically modified (GM) products in the country. "Since the international forum of the World Trade Organisation has not yet stated clearly its position on transgenic products, permission for the products in Thailand may benefit some companies," said Nathee Klipthong, the deputy agriculture minister. He has instructed the Agriculture Department to study the pros and cons of GM products and world trends, and to provide more timely information for consumers so that they can make their own decisions. "GM goods will play a more important role in our daily lives in the future and will definitely have an impact on Thai people," he said." (Bangkok Post)

"Environment-Indonesia: Ministries Clash Over Transgenic Cotton"  - "JAKARTA, Mar 6, 2001 -- Indonesia's Ministry of Environment has joined non-governmental organizations in opposing the use of transgenic crops in this country until they are proven to pose no harm to humans and to the environment. This pits the ministry against another government department, the Ministry of Agriculture, which earlier this month issued a degree that has opened the door for the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Indonesia." (Inter Press Service via COMTEX)

"Genetic Tinkering Makes Roundworms Live Longer" - "LONDON - U.S. scientists have extended the life span of roundworms by tinkering with their genetic makeup in a discovery that could one day help humans to live longer. Roundworms normally die at about two weeks old, but after researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) gave the tiny creatures extra copies of chromosomes containing a specific gene they lived up to three weeks." (Reuters)

"Forecasters under attack for erring on snow's path" - "Weather forecasters who had high expectations for a Blizzard of 2001 on Monday were having to explain low precipitation by Tuesday." (Bergen County Record)

Poor blighters, victims of completely unrealistic expectations built by media and the political authors of IPCC summaries. Not that you can blame the consumer population for being less than impressed either. After all, climate is the sum of all weather events over time and, since the public is bombarded with "predictions" of climate 50-100 years hence, it would seem reasonable to expect that forecasters must know what will happen over the next 50-100 hours, mustn't they?

"Bush 'serious on climate change'" - "A prominent US expert on climate change says President Bush and his cabinet are convinced it is a serious problem. The new administration, barely a month in office, is already planning curbs on domestic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. This is the first time any US government has proposed CO2 reductions. But the prospects for the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol seem increasingly uncertain." (BBC Online)

And who says so? None other than Eileen Claussen, president of the PCGCC (Pew Center for Generating Climate Claptrap?).

"United Nations Perverts Science for Political Advantage - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Summary Reports on Global Warming a Study in Spin" - "WASHINGTON, D.C. — The release this week of the United Nations’ latest summary reports on global warming have many of the scientists who contributed to them up in arms over the way their work has been twisted to serve a political agenda. The Third Assessment Report’s three Summaries for Policy Makers have taken the work of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) contributing scientists and distorted it until if reflects the political agenda of its bureaucratic authors – that catastrophic global warming is undeniable, that the problem demands massive intervention in the global economy, and that the nations of the world have no rational choice but to support the Kyoto Protocol in order to stave off disaster. The actual science of the Third Assessment Report (TAR), however, in no way supports such conclusions. The Summaries for Policy Makers are less a condensed version of the IPCC’s full report than they are effective propaganda tools for misleading the media and alarming the public into supporting the policies of international environmental activists. Several co-authors of the full TAR have voiced their concerns:" (Competitive Enterprise Institute)

"Australia's climate and WA's dry" - "Serious rainfall decreases in south-western Western Australia since the 1970s could have profound implications for the rest of Australia. Researchers from CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology are trying to identify the causes of south-west WA's continuing 'dry'. They hope to use their findings to better estimate what may happen in coming decades. "Water supply authorities and agencies designing new water catchments need to know whether south-western Western Australia will stay relatively dry, become drier, or return to pre-1970s' conditions," says Dr Ian Smith, from CSIRO Atmospheric Research." (CSIRO release)

Here's an interesting one. According to the attached BoM graph, despite a brief recovery in the early 1960s, total annual rainfall for south-west Western Australia appears to have declined markedly over the period mid-1940s - mid-1970s (the period of global cooling that precipitated all those doom-saying cries of impending ice age). If south-western WA's rainfall is responsive to global temperature then this period of cooling appears associated with drying, suggesting that warmer would be wetter (always providing there is a direct correlation). Equally interesting is that there has been no recovery in total annual rainfall during the period of putative global warming since the 70s. Curious. Either we set aside the hypothesis that global warming and south-western WA rainfall is positively correlated or we assume that alleged warming over the last few decades is indeed an artifact of UHIE corruption of the surface reading amalgams and has not occurred in reality.

"Top MIT Expert to TechCentralStation: Global Warming Report 'Children's Exercise;' Kyoto Agreement 'Absurd'" - "WASHINGTON - The Kyoto Treaty on climate change "is absurd," says Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Dr. Richard S. Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, one of the world's foremost atmospheric scientists. In an interview posted today, Dr. Lindzen also tells TechCentralStation host James Glassman that the latest summary of the upcoming United Nation's climate change report that he helped author, "was very much a children's exercise of what might possibly happen" prepared by a "peculiar group" with "no technical competence." (BUSINESS WIRE) | Download Summary for Policymakers (PDF) (IPCC Working Group III [Mitigation]) | Previous political summaries in PDF format: The Scientific Basis: IPCC Working Group I Third Assessment Report accepted in Shanghai, 20 January 2001, Download Summary for Policymakers; Impacts , Adaptation and Vulnerability: IPCC Working Group II Third Assessment Report accepted in Geneva, 16 February 2001, Download Summary for Policymakers

"Stop complaining about the weather - it's better than ever" - "If you think the weather is crazy now, be glad it isn't normal. Agriculture, civilization, and the lifestyles we now take for granted developed during 10 millenniums of unusual climatic calm." (Book review, CSM)

"Mr Blair's hot air" - "UK prime minister Tony Blair, speaking at a World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-hosted conference in central London on 6 March 2001, warned that 'the evidence grows daily all around us of the dangers of indifference to our duty to treat nature with respect, and care for our environment'. But is the evidence about global warming really that clear cut?" (Helene Guldberg, Spiked-Online)

"Brown's green initiatives bring in no cash" - "Chancellor Gordon Brown says the Government cannot achieve the Kyoto targets and its own goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 20% without the Climate Change Levy." | Firms to get tax relief for 'green' technology (Ananova) | The Chancellor shows off his generosity at our expense (Daily Telegraph) | Millions live in poverty in the UK (BBC Online)

"UPDATE - German coalition at odds on energy taxes" - "BERLIN - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's centre-left coalition ran into a bump on the road to key regional elections on Tuesday when his junior partners, the Greens, said they wanted to keep raising unpopular petrol taxes." (Reuters)

"Senator seeks more US reliance on nuclear power" - "WASHINGTON - New Mexico Republican Sen. Pete Domenici introduced legislation yesterday to spur use of nuclear power, saying the measure would promote new plant construction and expand technology funding for the "safe and environmentally clean fuel." (Reuters)

March 7, 2001

"Workplace Health Initiative Rejected Senate Acts to Kill Ergonomics Rule " - "The Senate voted yesterday to kill a far-reaching Clinton administration rule aimed at preventing workplace injuries. The Bush administration joined congressional Republicans in their first joint assault on a major legacy of President Bill Clinton." (WashingtonPost.com) | New York Times coverage | Washington Times

"Risk Analyzer to OMB" - From the Washington Post:

It's official: President Bush yesterday tapped John D. Graham, founding director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health, to the key regulatory position of administrator of the office of information and regulatory affairs of the Office of Management and Budget. Graham is one of the top gurus in the field on risk analysis and cost-benefit views of government regulation.

"Snow Job?" - About the recent mis-forecasts of snow in the Washington, D.C. area, the Washington Times editorializes,

Yet because they attempt to predict the behavior of chaotic systems based on limited information and still somewhat ill-understood phenomena, weather forecasts are, like Hollywood marriages, almost inherently unreliable. Improvements in technology do not dictate the weather, they only increase the probability of correct forecasts about it.

The same could be said for predictions about global warming. If 24-hour forecasts about local conditions are always suspect and often wrong, how much more so are 20-year forecasts about global conditions?

"NRPB Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation Power Frequency Electromagnetic Fields and the Risk of Cancer" - "After a wide-ranging and thorough review of scientific research, an independent Advisory Group (chairman: Sir Richard Doll) to the Board of NRPB has concluded that the power frequency electromagnetic fields that exist in the vast majority of homes, are not a cause of cancer in general. However, some epidemiological studies do indicate a possible small risk of childhood leukaemia associated with exposure to unusually high levels of power frequency magnetic fields." (National Radiological Protection Board statement)

There's nothing new in this report. In its 1997 report that essentially ended the power line-cancer scare, the U.S. National Research Council noted a persistent but weak statistical association between power lines and leukemia. But the NRC concluded the association was likely artifactual because there was no biological explanation for how EMFs could cause cancer. The NRC pointed out:
  • Studies on individual cells and isolated tissues indicated "that exposures to electric and magnetic fields... induce changes in cultured cells only at field strengths that exceed typical residential field strengths by factors of 1,000 to 100,000."
  • "There is no convincing evidence that exposure to ... electric and magnetic fields causes cancer in animals."
  • "There is no evidence of any adverse effects on reproduction or development in animals, particularly mammals, from exposure to power-frequency... electric and magnetic fields."
  • "There is convincing evidence of behavioral responses to electric and magnetic fields that are considerably larger than those encountered in the residential environment; however, adverse neurobehavioral effects of even strong fields have not been demonstrated."
  • "Neuroendocrine changes associated with magnetic-field exposure have been reported; however, alterations in neuroendocrine function by magnetic-field exposures have not been shown to cause adverse health effects."
  • "There is convincing evidence that [certain] low-frequency pulsed magnetic fields are associated with bone-healing responses in animals."
The NRC concluded, "the current body of evidence does not show that exposure to [electric and magnetic fields] presents a human-health hazard." So the absence of biological plausibility electrocuted the statistical association.

"UK Scientists Link Power Lines to Child Leukemia" - "LONDON, United Kingdom, March 6, 2001 - The possible health effects of living near power lines are being assessed after UK scientists found that children exposed to certain levels of electromagnetic fields for prolonged periods could be at an increased risk of leukemia. In its report released today, "Power Frequency Electromagnetic Fields and the Risk of Cancer," the National Radiological Protection Board NRPB concludes, "the power frequency electromagnetic fields that exist in the vast majority of homes, are not a cause of cancer in general. However, some epidemiological studies do indicate a possible small risk of childhood leukemia associated with exposure to unusually high levels of power frequency magnetic fields." (ENS)

Pretty good coverage from the Environmental News Service really, at least they bother to point out: "Electromagnetic fields are found in all households which use electricity, either as a result of electrical appliances or electrical circuits around the house. High level electromagnetic fields are found in 0.5 per cent of households in the UK. Of those households with higher levels of electromagnetic fields, about 20 per cent are close to electricity pylons." [emphasis added] That is, higher intensity fields may involve a slight risk elevation for childhood leukemia but the proximity of pylons is not indicative (4 out of 5 dwellings with higher EMFs are not close to pylons).

"Power line cancer link not established: expert" - "Governments would have to decide if the possible link between power lines and childhood leukaemia justified burying the lines, a leading epidemiologist said today. Sir Richard Doll said if the "passage of electricity" produced any risk, this would add about two cases a year to the 500 that occurred in the United Kingdom. Of those two additional cases, only one every two years would come from a powerline, with the other three coming from other sources of radiation." (AAP)

"Leukaemia study finds unexplained home radiation" - "Powerful, unexplained electromagnetic fields have been measured in homes that are nowhere near electricity pylons, scientists reported yesterday, throwing further confusion on possible links with cancer. Long-term exposure to high levels of electromagnetic radiation, such as that found near pylons, is associated with a possible two extra cases of child leukaemia each year on average, 0.4% of the total in Britain, the report said. But this did not prove that electromagnetic radiation caused the cancer, said Sir Richard Doll, head of the report team. Nor was there evidence that the extra cases existed. He would "bet money" on a statistical quirk being responsible for the association." (Guardian) | Electricity in homes linked to child cancer (Independent) | Cancer may be linked to magnetic fields (AP) | Watchdog confirms pylon cancer link (BBC Online) | Electromagnetic Fields Linked to Small Leukemia Risk (Reuters)

"Report author says leukaemia study findings taken out of context" - "The author of a study of the link between electricity pylons and childhood leukaemia says some of his findings have been taken out of context. Emeritus Professor of Epidemiology at Oxford University Sir Richard Doll says while his research shows the possibility of a risk exists, it has not been established." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.) | Watchdog casts doubt on pylon leukaemia link (Telegraph)

"Wooldridge warning on powerlines" - "[Australia's Federal] HEALTH Minister Michael Wooldridge has warned families living close to high-voltage powerlines to keep very young children away from the potentially cancer-causing electro-magnetic radiation. The warning has been issued ahead of the release this week of a report that Britain's Sunday Times says will, for the first time, demonstrate a link between electro-magnetic radiation and leukaemia in children." (The Australian) | Federal warning on cables (The Age)

Groan! According to this report, Mick Wooldridge feeds unwarranted health fears on the basis of "somethin' we heard from a guy who read it in the Sunday papers." Meanwhile, Sir Richard Doll, head of the report team, says there's no evidence of any additional cases and would "bet money" on a statistical quirk being responsible for the association. Good one Mick!

Oh NO! Ananova perpetuates internet myths: "Study finds deodorants spark health problems" - "Scientists have concluded deodorants can cause health problems such as cancer. ... It backs up earlier research which suggests that anti-perspirants are bad for users because they stop the body getting rid of toxins, according to Sify News." (Ananova)

Oh for Heaven's sake! This old chestnut again? "Breast cancer caused by antiperspirants" because "the toxins can't get out" is an e-mail-driven crock! Plenty have wasted their time rebutting this rubbish with one of the best being perhaps Ed Friedlander's Anti-Perspirants -- Not a Breast Cancer Risk.

"No link seen between childhood shots, autism" - "CHICAGO, Illinois -- Childhood immunizations against measles, mumps and rubella are not a factor in a higher reported incidence of autism, researchers said on Tuesday. Several years ago, a group of British researchers hypothesized that shots immunizing younger children against the diseases when given together or in quick succession might be behind increasing rates of autism. Autism is a mysterious ailment, often difficult to diagnose, that has symptoms that can include emotional and verbal disconnection from others and repetitive behavior. The current study and previous research has found no correlation between the shots and autism in the United States, Britain, or Sweden, according to Loring Dales of the Immunization Branch of the California Department of Health Services in Berkeley." (Reuters)

"EU Panel says uranium was not a health risk" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium - Depleted uranium used by NATO to pierce soldiers' armor in Kosovo had no detectable adverse effect on health, a European Union panel of experts concluded Tuesday. The findings concurred with NATO's own studies saying there was no link between depleted uranium, a substance used in anti-armor munitions because of its penetrating power, and cancer among peacekeeping troops. "I don't think there is any reason to be afraid," said Ian McAulay, the professor of Trinity University in Dublin who headed the panel." (AP)

"Do passengers get enough oxygen? Experts examine a threat that affects everyone who flies" - "As the number of reported heart attacks, faintings and other medical emergencies aboard airlines continues to soar, the government is considering changing the way cabins are pressurized to provide more oxygen to passengers." (USA Today)

"Study Casts Doubt on Vitamin E Supplements" - "CHICAGO - Vitamin E supplements appear to have no antioxidant benefits, believed to protect against illnesses like cancer and Alzheimer's disease, for healthy adults, according to a study published on Tuesday. "Our results question the rationale for vitamin E supplementation in healthy individuals," said the study from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia." (Reuters)

"Mutant bacteria next threat from Mir?" - "MOSCOW, Russia -- Forget the danger of heavy debris raining down from space when Russia sends the Mir space station to a watery grave this month -- the real threat could be mutant fungi, a researcher said Tuesday. Yuri Karash, an expert on the Russian space program, said there was a possibility microorganisms that have spent the last 15 years mutating in isolation aboard Mir, could present a threat if they survived the fall to Earth." (Reuters)

Con job #17534962: "Happy Planet launches 'Action Caps' - B.C. Juice Company encourages consumers to save the Great Bear Rainforest" - "VANCOUVER, March 5 /CNW/ - Happy Planet Foods, a Vancouver-based producer and distributor of fresh juices and smoothies, has launched a progressive marketing campaign. Beginning March 5, the company's juice caps will depict cause-related messages around topical social, agricultural and environmental responsibility issues, encouraging civic activism. The first in a series of breakthrough 'Action Caps' - "Save B.C.'s Great Bear Rainforest" - was created in partnership with the Sierra Club of B.C., and draws attention to the need to "Stop-the-Chop" in the Great Bear Rainforest. Included on the label is the image of a grizzly bear claw, and a call to action with links to the Sierra Club's website and the Premier of B.C.'s phone number." (Canada News Wire)

That's really nifty fellas - 'cept there's no such place. Here's a Reuters backgrounder on the illusion.

"When Biological Control Gets Out of Control" - "... The problem, according to a new study published in Conservation Biology, is not the gypsy moth itself, but a parasitic fly brought from Europe and released into the wild to get rid of it. Catholic in its tastes, the fly, it turns out, is not only killing gypsy moths but huge numbers of wild giant silk moths. ... Researchers praised the findings as the best explanation yet for declines in wild silk moths in the Northeast. But even more important, scientists say the study provides some of the first compelling evidence of the damage that can be done when foreign species are released into the wild to get rid of pests. This powerful and popular strategy known as biological control has long been touted as the green alternative to chemical pesticides. "Every indication would suggest that there are a lot more stories like this out there," said Dr. Donald Strong, an ecologist at the University of California at Davis." (New York Times)

"Driven to Distraction" (You might have figured this out for yourself ) - "Scientific research is very serious. A good researcher never accepts any idea until it has been fired in the crucible of scientific study.  That's about the only explanation for a study by the department of psychology of the University of Helsinki in Finland. It was published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention. The study dealt with automobile accidents, and the conclusion was: If you're looking at your speedometer, you can't see the car ahead of you very well. Don't you just want to say, duh? (Sam Uretsky, HealthScout)

"E-commerce: friend or foe of the environment?" - "On the surface, e-commerce appears to offer a big environmental bonus by eliminating hundreds of thousands of trips to the mall. A closer inspection, however, reveals a net environmental impact that's decidedly mixed, according to Scott Matthews, a research scientist involved in assessing environmental impacts of technology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. ... Instead of shipping, say, 10 copies of "Harry Potter" in one box to a bookstore, 10 boxes with one book are shipped to e-commerce customers. “This method is costly for everyone,” Matthews and colleagues write in Spectrum Magazine, a publication of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. With e-commerce sales estimated to hit $200 billion by 2004, it's important to look at the environmental impact of the new trend, they say. "It's unlikely e-commerce will save the planet as some have claimed," says Bette Fishbein, a senior fellow at Inform, an environmental research organization in New York City. "There might be some reductions in energy use, but there's a huge increase in packaging and shipping by air results in much more air pollution." (ENN)

"Are hybrid vehicles for everyone?" - "It used to be that hybrids (as in roses and tomatoes) were the main topic of conversation at the annual garden show. Now, they are the stars of auto shows worldwide. Hybrid-powered vehicles that are part electric, part gasoline-powered, are being touted by environmentalists as the answer to America’s energy conservation and air pollution woes." (Diane Steed, Detroit News)

Really? Then why aren't the Greens buying green?

"Four-Part Fallacy Fuels Foolish Zero-Emissions’ Mandate" - "Finally, General Motors has decided to take California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) to court over the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate. It’s a suit long overdue, since the mandate is shockingly bad policy, particularly for those who want to clean the air more than they want to usher in the age of dressed-up golf carts." (Kenneth Green, Tech Central Station)

"Statement on Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve by Myron Ebell Director of Global Warming & International Environmental Policy" - "WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today in a press conference at the headquarters of the Department of Energy, Senator Bob Smith (R-NH), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), and Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham announced the creation of a Northeast Home Oil Heating Reserve to shield homeowners from expected price increases in oil supplies. The announcement is puzzling given the apparent support in the Bush administration and by Senators Smith and Collins for increased regulation of fossil fuels. It hardly seems rational to demonize the nation’s largest source of energy while simultaneously using tax dollars to subsidize its purchase by millions of homeowners." (Competitive Enterprise Institute)

"Meteorologists prove once more theirs is not an exact science" - "Meteorologists, it seems, have as many excuses as they have evolving forecasts: It's the computer, it's the media, it's the very nature of a nor'easter. ... And weather is not an exact science." (Bergen County Record)

No, weather is not an exact science and the Met boys (and girls) generally do a great job of guesstimating what may soon happen in a coupled, non-linear, chaotic system - so get off their case, you eventually got a storm didn't you?

If it's long-term precision you're after then the only practitioners claiming to provide such are the political authors of the IPCC's Summaries for Policymakers, who say they can predict the weather for the year 2100 - and they have a distinct advantage in that few, if any, of us will be around to say "See? You were wrong."

"Blair stokes fear of eco-apocalypse" - "Tony Blair is to paint an apocalyptic vision of a world being ravaged by global warming in a speech aimed at facing down critics who say that he does not take green issues seriously." (Observer)

"Don't bet on a global warming doomsday" - "If the greenhouse theory is correct, increased levels of carbon dioxide should be trapping heat in the atmosphere as well as at ground level. The computer models all assume that happens, Christy points out. But his satellite readings suggest it is not. You have to look closely, but Page 2 of the report concedes that these differences in temperature readings "are not fully resolved." It's a significant admission that the doomsday scenario predictions may be wrong. It suggests that rising temperatures recorded at ground level might be due to something other than the greenhouse effect. It suggests the global warming crowd might be trying to fix something that really isn't broken." (Indianapolis Star)

"Blair heeds message of doom" - "EXTENSIVE flooding of low-lying areas, a rising sea-level engulfing the shore-line of the UK, and even malarial infestation in the warmer parts of the country. Like an Old Testament prophet wailing in the wilderness, Michael Meacher has been toiling up and down Whitehall in recent months uttering such apocalyptic warnings about the effects of climate change on Britain. "This is absolutely deadly serious. It is the number one issue. Not just environmentally but for our whole world - and for the survival of the human race," he said at the weekend." (The Scotsman)

"How green are our turbine valleys?" - "Tony Blair yesterday spoke on the environment in an overheated hall in St James’s Square. He should have spoken somewhere else. He should have spoken at Ordnance Survey reference SN828953, in the moorland north of Dylife in Mid-Wales. There he could have seen his green policy in action. He could have seen a spectacle of such appalling desecration that words (almost) fail me." (The Times)

"Blair gives stark warning over global warming" - "Tony Blair has warned that failure by world leaders to reach agreement over ways of curbing global warming will be a bitter blow. He told a conference leadership on this vital issue is all important and urged negotiators at the climate talks in Bonn in July to succeed." (Ananova)

"U.N. IPCC THIRD ASSESSMENT IN ERROR" - "WASHINGTON, D.C. — In stating that the increase in temperature in the 20th Century is likely to have been the largest of any century during the past thousand years, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Assessment report has revealed its underlying bias and that it is in error. The IPCC’s conclusion is based upon a new analysis of proxy data for the Northern Hemisphere. That analysis often is graphically depicted as a “hockey stick” showing relatively flat temperature excursions during the last thousand years and a dramatic increase in the last hundred. The hockey stick effect is accomplished by discounting the existence of the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period." (Greening Earth Society)

'"Heat Vent" In Pacific Cloud Cover Could Diminish Greenhouse Warming' - "The tropical Pacific Ocean may be able to open a "vent" in its heat-trapping cirrus cloud cover and release enough energy into space to significantly diminish the projected climate warming caused by a buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere." (Science Daily)

"Make Money by Going Green, UK's Blair Says" - "LONDON - Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair tried on Tuesday to entice big business into investing in ``green'' technology, saying there was money to be made by helping save the world from the effects of global warming. Blair announced a $147 million fund to boost investment in Britain in wind, solar and wave power. But some critics said he was just making a cynical appeal for the environmental vote ahead of an expected spring election. ``Green technologies are on the verge of becoming one of the next waves in the knowledge economy revolution,'' Blair said in a speech to the Worldwide Fund for Nature." (Reuters) | Blair wins greens' praise | Blair pitches for green vote (BBC Online)

"Green energy: A viable alternative?" - "The government has pledged that 10% of the UK's energy will come from renewable energy sources by 2010 - a promise backed up by a £100m boost announced by Prime Minister Tony Blair on Tuesday. Mark Johnston, Climate Solutions Campaigner with Friends of the Earth (FoE), says while environmentalists welcome Mr Blair's announcement, they would like to see the 10% target doubled. But at present less than 3% of Britain's electricity comes from alternative sources and to Ian Fells, Professor of Energy Conversion at Newcastle University, achieving the target by 2010 would be "difficult". BBC News Online asked both men to weigh up the benefits and problems of different sources of renewable energy." (BBC Online)

"Unprecedented Present Warmth: The Lie Takes a Licking … Again!" - "Climate alarmists loudly proclaim that the last decade of the 20th century was the warmest such period of the past millennium.  Why do they do that?  They do it because it enables them to make the subsidiary claim that the putative hothouse of the present is due to a century-or-so-long increase in the strength of the atmosphere's greenhouse effect, which phenomenon the relentless global warmers attribute to the concomitant rise in the air's CO2 content, which they further say has been caused by the burning of ever-increasing quantities of coal, gas and oil. This thesis, together with a host of doom-and-gloom scenarios that the climate alarmists associate with the postulated warming (see last week's Editorial), spurs the funding of further research of the perceived problem, which is hyped to high heaven by a vast array of political opportunists who see it as the greatest stimulus for global governance the world has ever known, and which they and their minions therefore use as a lever to promulgate the doctrine that all nations of the earth must act together - strictly adhering to whatever regulations are imposed upon them by an all-wise planetary management authority - in order to slow the rate of postulated warming and thereby mitigate the host of catastrophic consequences that might otherwise occur." (co2science.org)

"Kennedy Urges Farmers to Fight Factory Farms" - "In his keynote address to the National Farmers Union’s 99th anniversary convention in Rochester, N.Y., Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., president of the Water Keeper Alliance, asked the family farmers of America to join in the battle to stop hog factory operations that are "destroying the hog industry, rural communities and the environment." The alliance is a coalition that includes environmentalists and family farm activists who have launched a broad legal assault against the corporate hog industry. The group recently announced it was suing Smithfield Foods of Virginia, and intends to take similar action against other “factory farms.” (AgWeb.com)

"The natural advantage" - "Organic agriculture has gone corporate. Until recently, our typical image of an organic farmer was a stereotyped hippie emerging from the commune every few weeks to sell a few bins of bruised fruit out of an old rainbow-coloured van at the edge of the local farmer's market. No longer. This economically marginal lifestyle has been replaced by businesspeople who, concerned about their bottom line, run large and profitable enterprises. The word "capitalist" has become a comfortable descriptor for "organic farmer." (Vancouver Sun)

So, anti-corporate, anti-"industrial farming" organic has now gone... corporate and industrial? So the distinction now is, at best, similar produce at a higher price. Well whoopee!

"FEATURE - Europe's organic lobby says nature needs nurture" - "RAMSAU AM DACHSTEIN - Robert Simonlehner boosted the quality of his milk and got back what a lot of budding Alpine organic farmers get for their money and time - nothing." (Reuters)

"Organic Food Retailer Urging Mandatory GM-Food Labeling" - "The world’s leading natural and organic food retailer – Whole Foods Market – has launched a consumer write-in campaign to the FDA, opposing the agency’s new rule and guidance on labeling of genetically modified foods. The company is urging FDA to amend the new voluntary labeling rule. Margaret Wittenberg, vice president of governmental and public affairs for Whole Foods Market believes that voluntary labeling actually does nothing for the consumer's right to know and that it is no substitute for mandated labeling." (AgWeb.com) [Press release]

"Cheaper Than Buying an Ad" - "Talk about free advertising! The Allentown Morning Call recently printed an op-ed from Ardath Rodale, chairwoman and CEO of the Rodale organic empire. Rodale argues that the "USDA Organic" labeling program should be embraced, and that genetically improved foods should come with warning labels or be banned. What she doesn't tell you is that Rodale stands to make millions from the promotion of organic agriculture and the demise of "chemical farming." In addition to being the preferred publishing arm for the nanny culture, Rodale Press is also a Fenton Communications client. Fenton's PR machine is responsible for a variety of food-scare and enviro-nanny campaigns, including the well-documented 1989 Alar scare." (GuestChoice.com)

"GREENPEACE FOUNDER SUPPORTS BIOTECHNOLOGY" - "AUBURN, ALABAMA March 6, 2001-Dr. Patrick Moore, ecologist and co-founder of Greenpeace, stated today that "the campaign of fear now being waged against genetic modification is based largely on fantasy and a complete lack of respect for science and logic." Moore joined over 3,000 scientists from around the world in signing a Declaration in Support of Agricultural Biotechnology, saying that, "In the balance it is clear that the real benefits of genetic modification far outweigh the hypothetical and sometimes contrived risks claimed by its detractors." Moore, who is now an environmental consultant, was a founding member of Greenpeace. He served for nine years as President of Greenpeace Canada and seven years as a Director of Greenpeace International. Recently, however, he broke with Greenpeace, accusing it of abandoning science and following agendas that have little to do with saving the Earth." (AgBioWorld)

March 6, 2001

"A Critic Takes On Psychiatric Dogma, Loudly" - "ometimes people buttonhole Dr. Charles H. Clark Jr. at professional meetings and hint that he might do well to muzzle his most high-profile employee, Dr. Sally Satel... (NYTimes.com)

"Can't you control Sally?" they ask.

The subtext, Dr. Clark said, is clear. His colleagues would like it if Dr. Satel, who works 12 hours a week as a psychiatrist at Dr. Clark's methadone clinic in northeast Washington, did not voice her provocative views on addiction, mental health policy, minority health issues and other sensitive topics quite so loudly, writing about them in the Op-Ed pages of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, in magazines like Commentary and The New Republic or in her book, "PC, M.D.: How Political Correctness Is Corrupting Medicine," published in December.

They wish, for example, that Dr. Satel would not insist that addiction is fundamentally a problem of behavior, over which addicts have voluntary control, rather than a "chronic, relapsing brain disease," as the National Institute on Drug Abuse asserts.

They cringe when she calls well-known public health researchers "indoctrinologists," as she does in her book, and accuses them of promulgating a "social justice agenda" by focusing on racism and poverty rather than health education and disease- fighting strategies.

They would prefer that she did not criticize feminists for construing wife-battering as a symptom of a patriarchal society.

Or argue that psychiatry is being co-opted by a culture of "victimology," which undermines personal responsibility and ultimately damages patients.

Get Sally's book, PC, M.D. from Amazon.com.

"Supreme Court Hands EPA Second Victory on Air Rules " - "The Supreme Court cleared the way yesterday for the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce new regulations aimed at reducing air pollution in the eastern half of the United States." (WashingtonPost.com)

"Getting Older? The Government Says Blame Your Boss." - "One of the most destructive legacies of the Clinton administration may be the Occupational Health and Safety Administration's new ergonomics standard, which was rushed through with little scrutiny and took effect Jan. 16." (Tama Starr, Wall Street Journal)

"Rising oceans threaten to destroy ecosystems" - "Coastal sea levels have risen a foot in the past century. Scientists expect them to rise still more. The culprit is global warming, say scientists." (ENN)

Sigh... Australia is a large, geologically stable platform with unimpeded coastal frontage to the Indian, Southern and Pacific Oceans, making it an ideal platform from which to monitor sea levels. Data is maintained by the NATIONAL TIDAL FACILITY. From their document SEA LEVEL RISE IN AUSTRALIA AND THE PACIFIC (PDF 16pp): "Again, taking the average of the group, the indication is that Australian relative sea level trends show +0.3 mm per year, substantially less than the IPCC estimate and also less than was found for the Pacific case." That's 30mm per century, just under one-tenth of the IPCC estimate, suggesting the IPCC may be overstating sea level rise by a full order of magnitude.

But wait... there's more:

Super-accurate satellites have a nasty habit of invalidating data gathered elsewhere. This is not just the case with the temperature satellites, but also with a satellite system called Topex/Poseidon, which has altimetry instruments which can measure the height of the sea surface to an accuracy of 4 centimeters on one orbital pass, and to much tighter accuracy once many passes are made. Poseidon has been validated against a small network of reference tide gauges in the Pacific, so its accuracy is beyond question. It has been in operation since 1992.

The IPCC claims sea levels have risen 30 centimeters (300mm or about one foot) over a century, based on global tide gauge data and modeling, and further claim that this network shows sea levels now to be rising 3 millimeters per year, which comes to a neat round number of 30 centimeters per century, thus `validating' their original claim. (See the `Isle of the Dead').

But Poseidon has shown otherwise. It's altimetry data shows sea levels since 1992 to be rising at only half a millimeter per year, or 5 centimeters per century, only one-sixth of the IPCC estimate. But it gets worse.

The Poseidon data span is very short at 8 years (remember the industry claims that the satellite record of temperature is too short? - at 21 years?). But, within that 8 years, 1992-1995 and 1997-1998 were El Nino years, which Poseidon has already found causes sea level to rise slightly. [See El Niño is behind rise in sea level (Ocean Altimetry and Climate Group)] Conversely, La Nina causes a similar fall. Since 6 of the 8 years of data has been affected by El Nino, even that half-millimeter rise is probably one third of two fifths of nothing much at all. (Adapted from an item by John Daly, March 2000. See Still Waiting For Greenhouse for more information.)

"More political will needed to combat global climate changes: report" - "The world has the technological means to combat global climate changes but the political will is missing, top UN climate experts say in a report issued after a conference in Ghana. ... IPCC chairman Robert Watson stressed that the scientists are not taking sides in the controversial debate over climate change. "We're not supporting the Americans or the Europeans, what we try to do is to be very honest, very factual, show the uncertainties," Mr Watson said." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.) | Global warming can be fixed, report concludes (MSNBC) | Climate change 'can be beaten' (BBC Online) | Global warming fixes available now at low cost - UN (Reuters)

"Is [The] Globe Warming? Sure, But Far Less Than Alarmists Say" - "Climate models exaggerate warming by failing to take into account how clouds behave, says Massachusetts Institute of Technology Dr. Richard S. Lindzen. The Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, one of the world’s foremost atmospheric scientists, tells TechCentralStation host James Glassman that a new study out this month that he performed with NASA scientists shows clouds over the tropics “act as an effective thermostat.” “Our personal feeling is that you’re not going to see due to man’s activities … much more than a degree (of warming) and probably a lot less by 2100,” said Lindzen, a consultant to the Global Modeling and Simulation Group at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and a Distinguished Visiting Scientist at California Institute of Technology's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He also says the Kyoto Treaty on climate change “is absurd” and declares the released summaries of the upcoming United Nation’s climate change report mischaracterize the work of scientists involved in writing it." (Tech Central Station)

Finally: "'Heat vent' may diminish global warming" - "The Pacific Ocean may open a "heat vent" above it that releases enough energy into space to reduce projected climate warming caused by the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. ... The researchers estimate that this effect could cut by two-thirds the projected increase in global temperatures initiated by a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body which has done more than any other agency to publicise what it regards as the certainty of global warming, has itself conceded the importance of understanding cloud behaviour. How clouds impact on climate is widely regarded as one of the great unknowns in atmospheric science." (BBC Online)

Well hurray! Albeit belatedly, a major media outlet has picked up potentially the most significant enhanced greenhouse piece since this whole silly farce kicked off more than a decade ago. Congratulations to the BBC. Now where the hell is everybody else?

"Carbon Caps Aren’t The Answer To Global Warming Uncertainties" - "Barely a month into her role as Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Christine Todd Whitman chimed in on climate change. “The science is good on climate change. It does exist,” she assured Crossfire TV show host Robert Novak. She also added that a policy to regulate carbon dioxide with other so-called greenhouse gasses might be in order. The only problem is that the science on climate change is not settled. And even greater uncertainties afflict proposed policy measures to reduce greenhouse gases." (Lynn Scarlett, Tech Central Station)

"Alternative power given £100m boost" - "Tony Blair will announce a £100m boost for projects involving wind, solar and wave power today when he delivers a speech calling for a "step change" in attitudes to the environment in the 21st century. In an attempt to restore Labour's green credentials, the Prime Minister will promise the new cash for renewable energy as he warns of the "deadly serious" threat of global warming and catastrophic weather patterns." (Independent) | Blair unveils green energy fund (BBC Online) | Blair turns attention to green policies (Telegraph) | Alternative energy to get £100m from Blair (The Times)

Looks like a politician in election mode, quacks like a politician in election mode, must be... going to squander a big pile of taxpayers' money on froth and nonsense.

"Tony Blair: Climate Change Offers Commercial Chance" - "LONDON - Efforts to tackle global warming will founder unless big business is convinced of the commercial opportunities offered by renewable energy, British Prime Minister Tony Blair will say Tuesday. Blair will make a keynote speech to a World Wildlife Fund for Nature conference in London and pledge to spend $150 million of government money on developing renewable energy sources -- wind, wave and solar power. But stinging criticism of his environmental record from a cross-party group of British politicians will still be ringing in his ears." (Reuters)

"Brown attacked over 'dangerous' fuel price confusion" - "The Government's decision to cut fuel tax in response to last autumn's fuel price protests has come under fire from a committee of MPs. A report by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee said the move was politically motivated. Committee chairman John Horam, Conservative MP for Orpington, said it was a dangerous decision which sent a confusing and misleading signal to the public about the need to protect the environment. Mr Horam claimed that only four out of 21 Government departments were taking environmental legislation seriously. The criticisms were levelled two days before Mr Brown is due to outline his latest Budget proposals." (Ananova)

"Green concerns were 'kicked out' by fuel duty cut" - "Environmental issues were "kicked out of the window" when the Government cut fuel taxes in response to the petrol protests last autumn, an influential Commons committee said yesterday. In a highly critical report into the Treasury's green credentials, the Environmental Audit Select Committee said the move to scrap the fuel duty escalator had been "politically motivated" and ill-thought out." (Independent) | Green takes second place in Labour's rosy spectrum (The Times)

Tony Blair postures about "alternate fuels," meanwhile: "Coal exporters win big price rises" - "Australian and Canadian coal exporters have won significant price increases for semi-hard coking coal. The prices of some semi-hard coal grades have been increased by $8 per tonne or by more than 23 per cent. This follows the recent $3 a tonne or almost 8 per cent rise in hard coking coal prices to US$42.75 a tonne. The new prices will come into effect for the year beginning April 1 2001. Thermal coal prices are still not settled between Australian exporters and the Japanese power utilities. Analysts expect significant thermal coal price increases of between US$2.50 and US$5 a tonne or 8 to 18 per cent. Coal - including coking and thermal grades - is Australia's largest commodity export and such exports have been booming." (Financial Times)

"German Greens want to extend "ecology" tax" - "BERLIN - Leading German Greens said on Sunday they wanted to keep controversial so-called "ecology" taxes in place after a 2003 cut-off date, despite the tax's unpopularity with their Social Democrat coalition partners." (Reuters)

"Leukaemia is linked to pylons, says watchdog" - "Children living near power lines run an increased risk of developing leukaemia, a new study indicates. ... It will be the first time that government advisers have acknowledged an association between cancer and high-voltage power lines. But they will say more research is needed before any causal link can be proved. Last night one source said: "There is a weak association, but that doesn't necessarily mean there is a causal link between electromagnetic fields and childhood leukaemia." (Independent) [emphasis added - association is not causation] | Fresh pylon link to child cancer (BBC Online)

"Pylons' constant radiation factor in cancer danger" - "A New Zealand pathologist says he is not surprised by a British scientist's warning that children living close to electricity pylons risk developing leukaemia. Dr Peter Bethwaite, of Wellington, was reacting yesterday to a weekend report on the work of epidemiologist Sir Richard Doll. ... Dr Bethwaite said power pylons were more of a risk than a television or other appliances because radiation levels were high and constant. He advised people not to panic, saying childhood cancers were very rare and the increase in risk was small. ... Meanwhile, an Otago University lecturer, who has researched electromagnetic fields in the home, said the report on Sir Richard's research was unclear. Dr John Dockerty's 1998 study found no significant link between childhood cancer and electromagnetic fields from household sources and power lines. "What [the 1998 study] showed us was that for the very large majority of children in our country, at the field levels they were exposed to, there was no risk. "For a very, very few with a high field there's an indication there could be slight risk." (New Zealand Herald) | NZ probes child cancer link (The Press)

"Researchers unsure about the safety of living near power lines" - "Australian researchers say the jury is still out about the safety of living next to power lines." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Sensible separation of people and cables" - "The Cancer Society hopes the Government and electricity authorities will take seriously the British study linking cancer and power pylons. The society's medical director, Dr Peter Dady, said yesterday that any study by epidemiologist Sir Richard Doll had to be respected. But he also acknowledged that "it's a risky old world. I think the message I would take from that is that there should be proper separation of people and power lines." (New Zealand Herald)

Most of these items aren't too bad, noting that the association is weak and that the risk, if any, is slight. 15 months ago, Sir Richard Doll described Exposure to power-frequency magnetic fields and the risk of childhood cancer [The Lancet, 354, Number 9194] as "definitive," saying: "This major study provides firm evidence that exposure to the levels of magnetic fields found in the UK does not augment risk for childhood cancer."

The press, however, are not content with that. In Cancer study lifts Basslink pylon fears, the Tasmanian Mercury has already elevated the as yet unseen report to "compelling."

"Supreme Court Lets Stand EPA Pollution Rule" - "WASHINGTON - In a defeat for utilities and industry groups, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand a federal rule requiring a number of states to reduce interstate drifting of air pollution, mainly from power plant emissions. The high court rejected without any comment or dissent a challenge to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) rule that had been brought by about 50 utilities, various industry groups and by eight states." (Reuters)

"Bush clean-air plan still hazy, some say" - "Constantly citing Houston's smog problem during the 2000 campaign, President Bush's critics predicted murky skies nationwide if he reached the White House. But with moves on several major issues last week, the Bush administration confounded the expectations these warnings may have planted. Environmentalists applauded the actions, while Bush's business allies were left grumbling. Dramatic as they were, the week's events were hardly definitive. Much is still unknown about the direction in which Bush may try to lead the nation on complex and interconnected air-quality issues." (Houston Chronicle)

"Household changes can reduce asthma in children" - "CINCINNATI, Ohio -- Removing allergens from the home could reduce the number of young children who develop asthma by almost 40 percent. A study published in the journal Pediatrics shows if household risk factors were eliminated, more than 500,000 children under age 6 would not have the disease." (CNN) | Elimination of household allergens and pollutants could reduce asthma nearly 40 percent (Children's Hospital Medical Center of Cincinnati)

Now I get it! "Energy-efficient" (read "poorly ventilated") dwellings are "environmentally-friendly" because they accumulate allergens and sundry toxicants, helping to kill off those pesky humans and thus taking the load off dear old nurture-figure, "Mother Nature" (Gaia... whatever).

"Scientists hint at link between TV and Alzheimer's" - "TELEVISION is the only mid-life recreation positively linked to developing Alzheimer's disease, says a report today." (Telegraph)

Interesting way of putting it. As I read the reports it appeared that people who are physically and mentally active have a lower Alzheimer's risk than those who are either less physically or less mentally active and significantly lower than those who are neither physically nor mentally active. Amount of time spent simply vegetating in front of the idiot box may be and likely is a marker for physical and mental inactivity. That's a fair stretch from intimating that television viewing may induce Alzheimer's though.

"Causes of autism probed" - "A study is to be launched to try to establish once and for all what causes autism. The Department of Health will join forces with the Medical Research Council (MRC) to conduct the study." (BBC Online)

"Saving Statistical Lives" - "In the movie "Erin Brockovich," a feisty single mom investigates a mysterious case of poison in the water supply; she uncovers a human toll of bleeding noses, rotting teeth, miscarriages and cancer. The role of Brockovich is played by Julia Roberts, so we know that her cause is right and good. In real life, unfortunately, it is harder to be certain. The Environmental Protection Agency, also hoping to be played by Julia Roberts some day, recently took action against the threat of arsenic in the water. High levels of arsenic can cause bladder, lung and skin cancer. So the EPA has issued a rule that would reduce the maximum level permissible by 80 percent. The catch is that, by some calculations anyway, the EPA's Brockovichian act of righteousness will cost lives as well as dollars." (Washington Post)

The latest from Health Scare Without Shame: "Maine Hospitals Set Pollution Prevention Precedent; Historic Agreement Will Phase out Mercury and Reduce PVC Plastic" - "AUGUSTA, ME — Today, hospitals throughout the state of Maine made history by entering into a pollution prevention agreement that is the first in the nation to call for a reduction in the use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic medical supplies. The agreement between the Maine Hospital Association (MHA), the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and the Natural Resources Council of Maine (on behalf of Health Care Without Harm) sets an ambitious agenda for the state's 39 hospitals. The Maine People’s Alliance and the Toxics Action Center provided critical support during the development of the agreement." (HCWH release)

"Greenpeace flotilla targets nuclear freighter" - "Australian and New Zealand protest boats will today try to intercept a British freighter carrying a new plutonium compound to Japan. And the federal opposition has backed the protest, with Labor environment spokesman Nick Bolkus claiming the federal government is turning a blind eye to safety concerns. The Pacific Pintail is carrying 230 kilograms of plutonium in a mixed-oxide fuel from a processing plant in France to a nuclear reactor in Japan." (AAP)

Plutonium has high particulate affinity and so precipitates readily out of seawater. Given the amount that naturally erodes from the crust there must be quite significant tonnages in the sediment plumes beyond every estuary and yet the `peas et al are all excited over the movement of less than one-quarter ton. This despite having sailed over significantly more of the element on their way to make a nuisance of themselves waving their rags and frightening the whales.

"South Africa Fights Over AIDS Drugs" - "PRETORIA, South Africa - Thousands of people protesting the high cost of AIDS medications marched on the U.S. Embassy on Monday while manufacturers asked a judge to throw out a law activists say is needed to get AIDS drugs to the poor. The demonstrators in Pretoria, South Africa's capital, want the United States to pressure drug companies to withdraw a lawsuit they filed to overturn a law that gives the nation's health minister a limited right to import generic versions of patented drugs or license their domestic production. Smaller protests were also held in Cape Town and the east coast city of Durban." (AP)

"The poor need medicines, but the drug industry is not a global charity" - "At first humanitarian glance, the merits of the case which opened yesterday in Pretoria could not be clearer. The defendant is South Africa, 10 per cent of its population infected by the HIV virus, needing billions of dollars it does not have to pay world-market prices for the drugs required to treat this modern plague. And the plaintiffs? None other than the big drug companies, dripping billions of dollars in profits, refusing to permit the cheap production of their drugs which could save thousands of lives. As one Oxfam official fulminates, "At the end of the seven days of this trial, 5,000 poor South Africans will be dead who were alive at the beginning of it. In the same time, the top five drug companies will have sold $1.3bn of medicines." So there, with the help of some misleading statistics, you have it: wicked multinational corporations putting bloated First World profits ahead of Third World lives. Fine, emotive stuff – except it is simplification verging on distortion." (Independent)

"Could Tussles Over Water Erupt In Full-scale War?" - "Disagreements over water catchment areas, in and around Mt Kenya Forest, in central Kenya, has already been replayed several times over elsewhere in the world. The tussle over water rights and control of the streams and catchment areas is but the initial pointer to the direction the control over natural resources, particularly water, will take in the 21st Century, water experts say." (ACIS)

Water Wars Not a Worry for World's Top Dam Expert

"Food-Africa: Local Scientists Develop Pest-Resistant Maize" - "Kenyan scientists working on a new insect-resistant maize variety have isolated a group of genes found to be effective against a wide variety of pests, which cause high crop losses in Africa. The scientists, working for the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and the International Wheat and Maize Improvement Center (CIMMYT), have successfully incorporated the pest-resistant genes into the various maize varieties grown in Kenya and tested them using a variety of grain borers found in the region. CIMMYT, a Mexico-based grain research institute, is dedicated to improving maize and wheat crops in the developing world." (IPS)

"Farm Journal: Three Cheers!" - "Cotton growers in the desert West are breathing a collective sigh of relief. The Arizona Bt Cotton Working Group announced recently that pink bollworm is not developing resistance to Bt cotton as rapidly as had been predicted--thus extending the availability of a highly successful tool in an ongoing battle with the insect. Researchers who are part of a team that monitors intensively for Bt-resistant pink bollworm are finding many fewer than anticipated, says University of Arizona entomologist Bruce Tabashnik, who is part of the monitoring program." (Farm Journal)

"GM Plants Will Not Survive In Wild" - "Genetically modified canola plants which self-seeded after trials in Tasmania have as much chance of survival as 'Chihuahuas released into the wild', according to a visiting biotechnologist. In early February, inspections by the Interim Office of the Gene Technology Regulator found that GM canola plants had self-seeded at 11 sites where trials of at least two herbicide-resistant varieties had been conducted up to two years ago. The companies responsible, Monsanto and Aventis, were issued with an action plan to clean up the sites which involved hand-weeding and spraying of the trial areas." (Canberra Times)

"Market Forces; Rice And Shine" - "While People Power euphoria was sweeping the nation late in January, a different kind of celebration was taking place in a small corner of Los Banos in Laguna. During that same week Filipinos were converging at EDSA Shrine to collectively express indignation - and eventually topple - a corrupt government, scientists at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) were taking receipt of samples of a newly developed type of rice. It is no ordinary rice. The people who were involved in the experiments that led to its development say the rice is genetically engineered to contain beta-carotene, an element that produces vitamin A. This vitamin helps people gain healthy vision and resistance to disease." (Business World)

"Golden rice under attack" - "Genetically improved "Golden Rice," which adds the nutritional benefit of beta carotene (the body turns this into vitamin A), is a perfect example of a biotech product that could show tangible, unimpeachable, life-saving results. It should come as little surprise, then, that some activists are now trying to cast doubts on the product's viability. Witness recent pieces in the New York Times Magazine and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Sadly, we can expect to see more of this sort of thing as Golden Rice gets closer to market." (GuestChoice.com)

"CHINA: Consumer watchdog voices concern over government GM labels proposal" - "Hong Kong's Consumer Council has urged government officials that a proposed labelling system for GM food does not go far enough, and a more comprehensive and compulsory system is essential. Head of the research and survey division at the watchdog body, Connie Lau Yin-hing, added that monitoring of GM food needs to be increased and labels should be compulsory where GM content in food products exceeds 1%. Currently, the government has proposed a 5% threshold for labelling, and there are no requirements to label loose foods or meal ingredients in restaurants. The deputy director of Food and Environmental Hygiene, Dr Leung Pak-yin, has defended these proposals saying that a 5% level would be more acceptable to the public and the industry." (justfood.com)

"FBI investigates environmental group's arson claim in California" - "... We chose this warehouse because it contained massive quantities of transgenic cotton seed in storage," the message said. "But now, this seed will no longer exist to contaminate the environment, enrich a sick corporation, or contribute to its warped research programs." The message was from the Earth Liberation Front, a shadowy group the FBI considers one of the nation's leading domestic terrorist organizations. And though the fire at the Delta & Pine Land Co. cotton gin marked the first time the ELF has claimed responsibility for an attack in California, the group made it clear it will not be the last." (Sacramento Bee)

March 5, 2001

"Rich countries renew commitment to fight global warming" - "Environment ministers from the world's seven most industrialized countries plus Russia have agreed to fight global warming. The delegates at the G-8 meeting in Trieste vowed they will strive to reach an agreement over gas emission reductions which are blamed for creating the Greenhouse Effect. The ministers say they will commit themselves to ensuring the environmental integrity of the Kyoto protocol." (Radio Australia) | G8 Ministers Commit to Global Warming (AP) | G8 Nations Renew Pledge to Tackle Global Warming (Reuters) | EU, G-8 ministers vow to help implement Kyoto Protocol (Kyodo) | G8 progress on climate change (BBC Online)

What warming?

"Analysis: U.S. Green Charm Offensive Wins Friends" - "TRIESTE, Italy - The new U.S. environment supremo succeeded in a weekend charm offensive in convincing partners in the G8 rich nations' club that Washington is serious about cleaning up the planet, diplomats said. With doubts over new President George W. Bush's position on green issues -- particularly on global warming -- there had been tense anticipation at G8 environment ministers' talks in Trieste of what clues Bush's envoy Christine Todd Whitman would give to his thinking. Above all, European Union countries wanted to hear whether Bush would return to negotiations on sealing the 1997 Kyoto pact on reducing pollution blamed for climate change, an agreement he had called ``unfair to America'' during his election campaign. Whitman obliged. ``The president has said global climate change is the greatest environmental challenge that we face and that we must recognize that and take steps to move forward,'' she told reporters during a pause in the Trieste talks Saturday." (Reuters)

"Greens happy with US stance on environment" - "Trieste, Italy - Green activists saw glimmers of hope after the close of a G8 environment meeting on Sunday, but said much hard work was still needed to protect the planet." (The Star, ZA)

"INTERVIEW - UK warmed by early US hints on climate stance" - "TRIESTE, Italy - Britain's environment minister on Saturday welcomed U.S. willingness to resume international climate change talks but said a fuller picture of Bush administration policies would not be known for some weeks." (Reuters)

"Global warming a hot topic as Bush officials push for action" - "WASHINGTON - A rift is developing in the Bush administration on global warming - one that encourages environmentalists and alarms business lobbyists. Struggling on one side of the issue are Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who take global warming very seriously and want the government to do the same. Opposite them, conservative sources say, are Vice President Dick Cheney, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Commerce Secretary Don Evans. They are more sympathetic to industries' concerns about the costs of controlling emissions of greenhouse gases." (Seattle Times)

They may be right about the above-mentioned friction but I can't say I think much of their "Global warming is the theory, now almost universally accepted by scientists, that emissions of certain gases trap heat in the atmosphere, raising Earth's temperature." Global warming (and global cooling) are facts dependent simply on reference point (the world has cooled relative to the MCO [Medieval Climate Optimum] and warmed relative to the LIA [Little ice Age]) but this is not what they mean. They refer to the enhanced greenhouse hypothesis - also not a theory and never likely to advance to one. "Global warming" is certainly almost universally accepted by scientists - "enhanced greenhouse," at least to the extraordinary extent touted by serial disaster prognosticators, remains highly contentious.

"G8 fails to get US word on warming" - "TRIESTE, March 4: Talks among the Group of Eight countries saved the UN's Kyoto Protocol on global warming from collapse on Sunday, but failed to resolve lingering questions over Washington's willingness to back the troubled treaty. G8 environment ministers reaffirmed their concern at the latest scientific evidence which suggests uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels is gradually warming the Earth's atmosphere, bequeathing a disastrous legacy for future generations. And they pledged to work for a breakthrough at talks in Bonn in July which resume an ill-tempered round last year that left Kyoto in intensive care. "We express our concern about the seriousness of the situation according to the findings of the IPCC (UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change)," they said in a statement. "We commit ourselves at the resumed (talks) to strive to reach agreement on outstanding issues and to ensure in a cost-effective manner the environmental integrity of the Kyoto Protocol." But the statement steered clear of committing all the G8 members to ratifying the Protocol in time for a grand 2002 summit on the world's biggest environmental problems." (AFP)

"Ministers wrap up G-8 summit of environment" - "TRIESTE - MINISTERS from the world's seven most industrialized countries plus Russia on Sunday wrapped up a three-day summit on the environment in this northern Adriatic city. Some heads of the delegations left Sunday morning, including Christie Whitman, the US Environmental Protection Agency chief, who said that her departure had to be moved up because of a snow storm approaching Washington. The outcome of the meeting was "positive," Canadian environment minister David Anderson said as he entered the summit for a final round of talks. "We're searching for ways that bring us together. This meeting was in that line, but it was not definitive," the Canadian said." (AP)

"Environmentalists note regional effects of warming" - "CONCORD - A United Nations panel of scientists recently concluded that global warming is already affecting the world's climate, effects that regional environmentalists say are evident or looming across New England, from rising sea levels along the coast to diminishing snow pack in the mountains." (Boston Globe)

Really? So there has been no tectonic movement, groundwater extraction, drainage works or alterations to local hydrology of any kind which may cause subsidence and the illusion of local sea level rise? What an extraordinary populated region. Regarding snow pack diminution, there are so many inter -annual/ -decadal/ -centennial/ -millennial variances it is not even possible to know whether the current pack represents high, low or "normal" volume.

Changes observed (or surmised) may be due to phase shifts in the NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation see also Climate Prediction Center's item) and/or the The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) (see also this item). That phase shifts occur and that these shifts influence local climate is beyond doubt - see Empirical evidence for North Pacific regime shifts in 1977 and 1989 and The FANB (Fairbanks, Anchorage, Nome and Barrow) temperature record for examples. (Many thanks to Jerry Brennan for recalling some of these items to attention)

"Public concerns table Kona global-warming experiment" - "KEAHOLE POINT, North Kona -- Faced with public opposition, the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority has voted to exclude an experiment with carbon dioxide from its Kona waters. The laboratory's board of directors earlier gave preliminary approval to an experiment on carbon dioxide "sequestration," meaning locking carbon dioxide in ocean water. The experiment would help see if the method could be used to slow carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere, thought to cause global warming." (Honolulu star-Bulletin)

"Blair bids for green lobby" - "Tony Blair will tomorrow try to put flesh on his commitment to fight global warming, by promising extra investment to remove Britain's dependence on fossils fuels, such as oil and gas. In his second big speech on the environment in a few months, Mr Blair is expected to announce extra cash for solar, wind and wave power as he promises that 10% of British energy will derive from renewable sources by 2010. He will predict the renewable energy market will reach £1bn by 2010." (Guardian)

"Greens blast developed countries for energy double-talk" - "Developed countries are giving polluting fuels such as coal, oil and nuclear energy at least 10 times as much subsidy as they put into renewables like wind and solar energy, green groups said on Saturday. Environmental campaigners issued a blistering attack on G8 countries, meeting in Italy this weekend, accusing them of propping up polluting industries and failing to help new, clean technologies. According to data gathered by Greenpeace, the European Union ploughed $10 billion into fossil fuels and $5 billion into nuclear energy in 1997, compared with just $1.5 billion on renewables." (Reuters)

At least society and the environment get a decent return on the first two, the amount wasted on so-called renewables is a worry though. Interestingly, it is the fluorescent greens who have interfered most with the only viable renewable, hydroelectricity, meaning that the remaining "renewables" get a disproportionately high 9% of subsidy while delivering a pitiful less-than-1% of G8 baseload electricity generation. Fossil fuel generators receive just 7 times the subsidy to deliver 70 times the power. They're right, subsidies are in desperate need of adjustment - we should shift all "renewable" subsidy to encourage clean nuclear power generation immediately.

"Whitman pleases environmental groups in first month at EPA" - "WASHINGTON - In word and deed, Christie Whitman spent a busy first month as Environmental Protection Agency administrator taking steps against air pollution and pleasing environmental groups that had been dubious of her record as New Jersey governor. At the same time, Whitman has steered clear of what is shaping up as the hottest environmental question of the early Bush administration: whether to allow oil drilling in an Arctic wildlife refuge. Ed Hopkins, director of environmental quality at the Sierra Club, said Whitman surprised him by taking decisive action on diesel fuel and making positive comments about climate change and the enforcement of the Clean Air Act." (AP)

Yep, dare say she surprised most everyone else too.

"Oil industry says new EPA diesel rule may threaten supply" - "WASHINGTON - The American Petroleum Institute said last week it remained concerned that federal regulations announced to sharply cut diesel fuel pollution by 95 percent from mid-2006 may threaten supplies as refineries scramble to meet the new requirements." (Reuters)

"UK budget boost sought for "real" green road fuels" - "LONDON - Britain should champion serious pollution-cutting transport fuels rather than just cut tax on the latest low-sulphur and unleaded offerings, a coalition of green, motoring and health groups said on Friday. "Biodiesel and road-fuel gases, both less polluting than petrol and diesel, can immediately benefit from tax cuts," the coalition said in a letter to the UK's finance minister Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown ahead of his annual tax-and-spend budget speech next week. In the letter the environmental pressure group Greenpeace, the National Asthma Campaign and the Royal Automobile Club motorists' organisation also asked Brown to invest directly in hydrogen as a transport fuel." (Reuters)

"ANALYSIS - Power games over German "green" energy boast" - "BERLIN - Germany's boast of being a world leader in environmentally clean power faces a critical test in coming days as a dispute over a central plank of its energy policy is slugged out at ministerial level. At stake is not only the peace within the ruling coalition - where the issue is a matter of honour for junior partners the Greens - but also whether Germany can meet commitments to halt global warming and thus continue pressing others to do the same. Convinced that proposals forcing them to convert more plant to "green" energy would entail huge costs, the country's largest power firms - which the government has already committed to a gradual withdrawal from nuclear power - want their say." (Reuters)

"Scientists report gains in protecting ozone layer" - "In an important success story for environmental action, scientists see encouraging signs that the Earth's protective ozone layer will yet escape being erased by industrial gases. The threat to the ozone layer, which shields Earth from the sun's ultraviolet light, comes from chlorine- and bromine-based industrial gases released into the air. Strict international controls on the use of such gases were imposed in 1987, and measurements now show their decline has begun. "We're all feeling very proud of the fact that we identified the problem and then the international community responded," atmospheric scientist Charles Kolb said. "We now see that the chlorine content (of the air) has peaked, and it seems to be declining." (Newsday)

Yeah, hurray... The UN claims ozone depletion due to anthropogenic gases, ESA claims ozone increase due to increased solar activity, Russian scientists claim rocket exhausts deplete far more ozone than anthropogenic halides ever could and Chinese research shows the Antarctic Ozone Anomaly to be a perfectly natural phenomenon that has been occurring for millennia. So who's right? Probably everyone and no one.

Here's the latest EP/TOMS image. Note that total Southern Hemisphere ozone is way down from what it was at the height of the last depletion event (common usage name 'ozone hole,' although it is no such thing) when there was comparative massive ozone density adjacent to the low density zone inside the Polar Vortex. At the same time, there is considerably less ozone in the Northern Hemisphere than current. Click here for access to the EP/TOMS image archives. Amuse yourself by choosing, say a 3-month interval, and scrolling back through the images. No such thing as a "stable" ozone layer is there? In fact, ozone levels are highly seasonal and volatile and ozone is constantly created and destroyed in the upper atmosphere, above about 20kms (12 miles) - below which too much incoming solar radiation of appropriate bandwidths has been blocked by overlying free oxygen (O2) and ozone (O3) to drive the required photochemical reactions.

Kolb is busy crowing about what a nifty job we've done to "save" the ozone layer. Meanwhile, Siberia and Eastern Russia are suffering their coldest winter for 70 years, Mongolia, poor blighters, are having a repeat performance of their Zud, that's two years in succession. Last year, in conjunction with Mongolia's suffering, we had all the hype over "dangerously low levels of ozone" and "record Arctic ozone depletion" [THESEO 2000 (Third European Stratospheric Experiment on Ozone) media release] due to cold Arctic conditions. Well, this year's even colder and it's a virtual guarantee that we'll see an Arctic depletion event and the same old "ozone recovery delayed - more effort needed to curtail anthropogenic ozone-eaters" hype trotted out again as they go after methyl bromide and remaining useful chlorine compounds. What a silly game this is.

"Defining liability for a death tied to alcohol" - "In the ever-expanding universe of people deemed responsible for alcohol-related accidents - from drunk drivers to bartenders to people who throw a keg party - add another candidate: the friend on the next bar stool." (Boston Globe)

"MP hits at safety on outbreak farm" - "There was renewed concern about the Northumberland farm at the centre of the foot and mouth epidemic yesterday, with the local MP criticising lax safety procedures in the run-up to the outbreak and questioning the continued use of pigswill as an animal feed. Meanwhile, anxious neighbours of Burnside Farm, near Heddon-on-the-Wall, said they were dissatisfied with official explanations that nothing could have been done to curb activities at a pig unit labelled squalid and a disaster waiting to happen. The operators of Burnside are now the centre of a national investigation, with officials at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food concentrating on the contents of pigswill made from school meal slops collected in Sunderland and Gateshead." (Guardian)

Fascinating isn't it? While simultaneously exploiting green hyperbole over "industrial farming," the UK government (or at least some of its representatives) seek to apportion blame to a "hillbilly" farming operation. And a "hillbilly" operation would be what? One that does not incorporate modern "industrial" standards and techniques perhaps?

Letter of the moment: "Natural enemy" - "Circa 1450, the following order was made in England: 'We command that no bocher sell noo beestis of moren, ne no roten Schep'. The myth of a disease-free, localised, 'organic' farming idyll of the past (Focus, last week) is just hogwash. From the rampant 'murrain' to the Irish potato famine, pestilence and plague stalked all pre-modern agriculture, while cattle were walked, spreading disease, from Scotland to London. It is to the great credit of modern farming that a cheap food supply has been maintained under the constant attack of Nature, black in tooth and rot." (Philip Stott, Observer)

"Running around like headless chickens over foot-and-mouth" - "The problem is not panic buying so much as panic living. As the national epidemic of panic spreads, and the search for scapegoats grows more feverish, it seems a wonder that no compensation lawyer has suggested posthumously suing the sheep accused of spreading foot-and-mouth. No doubt a rival firm would launch a class action on the sheep’s behalf against the pigs said to have started the outbreak." (Mick Hume, The Times)

"Don't let the foot-and-mouth outbreak stop the march of intensive farming" - "Despite the gathering hysteria surrounding the spread of foot-and- mouth disease, it may well be far less damaging and far more quickly controlled than most commentators are prepared to admit. Still less should it cause any great debate, let alone action, to reverse the trend towards global marketing and intensive farming. Foot-and-mouth has undoubtedly come as a nasty shock to UK livestock farmers, who were witnessing a recovery from three years of depressed incomes. It is all too easy when watching harrowing pictures of animals being destroyed, however, to create another casualty of the outbreak: objectivity." (Sean Rickard, Independent)

"The Week That Was March 3, 2001 brought to you by SEPP"


?!! "Scientists create killer moth to control pests" - "Scientists are preparing to start trials of the world's first genetically modified insect, an unnatural born killer moth that will fly over cotton fields, passing a deadly gene on to its pestilent kin as an alternative to pesticide." (Guardian)

Uh... not exactly. The enclosed proof-in-principle trial actually involves moths genetically modified by the addition of a fluorescence gene taken from jellyfish so that progeny can be identified (they glow green under UV light) and mating success data derived. This data could be used to determine whether sterile competitor techniques, as are employed for fruit flies, would work and, if so, at what release rates they would usefully reduce pest numbers. It may be possible to engineer competitor moths that will prime population collapse in their wild kin a generation (or more) later but this trial categorically does not involve "killer moths" - they simply fluoresce under specific light conditions. I fear, however, we are witnessing the birth of another media myth. Along with "Killer Tomatoes;" "Killer Potatoes;" "Killer corn;" now add "Killer Moths." Sigh...

"Court orders France to publish GM crop test sites" - "PARIS - A French court has ordered the government to publish a list of sites in France where genetically modified (GM) crops are being grown on a test basis, an environmental group said on Friday. France Nature Environnement (FNE) said the administrative tribunal of Paris had ordered the government to divulge the list on the basis that it is public information." (Reuters)

March 3-4, 2001

"G8 Promise to Push Ahead with Troubled Climate Pact" - "The world's top industrialized nations renewed their commitment Sunday to push ahead with an international strategy to fight global warming -- a strategy whose future had seemed in grave doubt." (Reuters)

"A trail of hot air" - The Washington Times editorializes,

This weekend, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman will travel to Italy as the leader of the U.S. delegation to a meeting of G-8 environmental administrators.

As she does so, Mrs. Whitman would do well to rethink her recent remarks on global warming. According to Mrs. Whitman, "There's no question but that global warming is a real phenomenon, that is occurring. And while scientists can't predict where the droughts will occur, where the flooding will occur precisely or when, we know these things will occur."...

Scientists still do not know the identities of all of the players on the global climate stage, and they have only a limited understanding of the roles they play. Cato Institute Scholar Steven Milloy has noted that, "The IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] explicitly admits a lack of knowledge about climate factors, stating there is 'low' or 'very low' scientific understanding for 9 of the 12 factors thought to affect global climate."...

"U.S. Promises Complete Re-Think on Climate Change" - "TRIESTE, Italy - The United States will completely re-think its stance on global warming before reopening talks on an international pact to tackle climate change, Washington's top environment official said on Friday." (Reuters)

"U.S. Won't Back Away From Kyoto Climate Goals, Whitman Says" - "Trieste, Italy, March 3 -- U.S. President George W. Bush's top environmental official said the administration supports the four-year-old Kyoto agreement to fight global warming, an endorsement which could spur talks to halt damage to the Earth's climate." (Bloomberg)

"U.S. Says Scraps Clinton Stance on Climate Change" - "TRIESTE, Italy - The United States' top environment official said on Friday Washington was determined to tackle global environmental issues but would not necessarily honor commitments made by the previous administration." (Reuters)

"US Not Backtracking on Global Warming - EPA Chief" - "TRIESTE, Italy - The United States is not backtracking from an international commitment it made in 1997 to cut the pollution blamed for global warming, the top U.S. environment official said on Saturday. On her first official visit to Europe since being appointed to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Christine Todd Whitman  moved to soothe concerns that President George W. Bush might rip up the historic Kyoto Protocol. ``Let me just start with the clear and unequivocal statement that the global climate review that's being undertaken by this administration does not represent a backing away from Kyoto,'' she told reporters on sidelines of a G8 meeting in Italy. But Whitman heavily qualified the Bush administration's acceptance of the United Nations pact under which industrialized nations agreed to trim their ``greenhouse gas'' emissions by 2010. Crucially, she refused to confirm whether Bush would be bound by the target of reducing greenhouse gases by seven percent the United States agreed to in Kyoto." (Reuters)

"Washington Reviewing Global Warming" - "TRIESTE, Italy - The Bush administration is reviewing its strategy on global warming, the top U.S. environment official said Saturday at a ministers' meeting in this Adriatic port city, where police in riot gear braced for demonstrations." (AP)

"Keeping cool when the heat is on" - "Jan Pronk, environment minister for the Netherlands, is at the centre of negotiations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the fight against global warming. He was recently in Bangkok to attend the Ninth Greening of Industry Network Conference." (Bangkok Post)

"Farm Conservation Funds Running Low" - "WASHINGTON - Read Smith says farmers want to do more to protect the environment, if they can afford it. Smith, who raises wheat, barley and cattle in eastern Washington state, has switched to no-till farming methods, which scientists say help control global warming, and plans other expensive improvements." (AP) | USDA urged to spend $3 billion more on green programs (Reuters)

Uh-huh... no till to "help control global warming" while The Scotsman is promoting deep till - for the same purpose. At least soil conservation is a good idea and minimum tillage agriculture has a lot of environmental benefits. Meanwhile, no one can find any evidence that the world has, in fact, warmed in more than a half-century and global warming scare stories no longer even make a pretence of occasionally touching base with reality.

"Protests But No Violence at Climate Talks" - "TRIESTE, Italy - Several thousand demonstrators protested on Saturday as environment ministers from G8 countries got down to the nitty-gritty of how to fight climate change. The anti-globalization demonstrators staged a loud but mostly peaceful protest near the venue of the talks, throwing colored smoke bombs and sending flares into the sky over the heads of security forces." (Reuters) | Tight security at environment talks (BBC Online)

Smoke bombs and flares... yeah, I can really see how that improves air purity.

"Embracing the Fantasy" - "WASHINGTON, DC — Fully embracing fantasy, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Working Group II on February 19th released its summary of a report entitled Climate Change 2001: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Vulnerability. IPCC Working Group I already had laid out a scenario (storyline) under which there is potential of a 5.8°C change in global temperature by 2100. Using that extreme scenario, Working Group II’s Summary for Policymakers characterizes the not-so-distant future as one where there are far greater occurrences of starvation and tropical disease. There is to be more heat stress, stronger hurricanes, and more mudslides and avalanches. Oceans will swallow shoreline and entire(!) nations. Water shortages will spark political unrest." (Greening Earth Society)

"U.N. to Cause & Effect: Drop Dead!" - "Most scientists work on the notion that effects are created by causes, and that understanding the cause allows one to predict the effect." (GES)

"A High-Sticking 100-Year Forecast" - "The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has made much of Mann, Bradley, and Hughes' reconstruction of global temperatures for the past 1,000 years, prominently featuring it in its new "Policymakers' Summary." Starting around 1900, temperatures start soaring so abruptly that the figure resembles a "hockey stick" (see Figure 1). This visually stunning presentation of historical temperatures show current readings far exceeding anything seen at least since the Battle of Hastings. Naturally, the stick's blade has been linked by some to the burning of fossil fuels." (GES)

"Nuclear plants to be built in UK" - "BRITISH Energy is drawing up plans to build a chain of nuclear power plants. The nuclear generating company believes that rising natural gas costs and worries over future supplies from the North Sea have made atomic energy more attractive. British Energy is planning the replacement of its seven advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGRs), the first of which are due to be shut down by around 2014." | The nuclear option (Telegraph)

"Atom of sense" - "BRITISH Energy, as we report today, would like to replace its ageing nuclear power stations with new ones. The proposal will be greeted with outrage by the environmental lobby, and with surprise by practically everyone else: since the explosion in the ageing Soviet nuclear reactor at Chernobyl more than 15 years ago, nuclear power has been almost universally written off as a disastrous folly. Nuclear power, however, has been unjustly vilified." (Sunday Telegraph)

"American Chemistry Council Statement on the Supreme Court Decision on Clean Air Law" - "People overwhelmingly think it's a good idea for the government to calculate both what the costs and the benefits of regulations are likely to be. Comparing risks and problems, determining what the costs of regulations might be, and having government clearly state what benefits might be expected from the regulations-people think having the government do these things is a good idea. And they're right." (Media release)

"Pylons are cancer risk - official" - "HIGH voltage power cables have been officially linked to cancer for the first time. A study shows that children living near them run a small but significant increased risk of falling victim to the disease. Sir Richard Doll, the epidemiologist who discovered the link between smoking and lung cancer in the 1960s, will this week warn that children living near electricity power lines are at an increased risk from leukaemia." (Sunday Times)

Hmm... Flashback - December 1999: "The study was headed by professor Sir Richard Doll, the scientist who first spotted the link between smoking and lung cancer, and he described it as "definitive".  He said: "This major study provides firm evidence that exposure to the levels of magnetic fields found in the UK does not augment risk for childhood cancer." See Exposure to power-frequency magnetic fields and the risk of childhood cancer; The Lancet, 354, Number 9194.

"Cellphone talk isn't cheap for drivers" - "Drivers in Marlboro Township have been warned: They can talk their way into a $250 ticket, but might not be able to talk their way out of it. On Thursday, township police began enforcing a ban on drivers using cellular phones while operating vehicles in this suburban Monmouth County town. Signs telling motorists to hang up or pay up were posted Wednesday." (Bergen County Record)

"GOP Plans Attack on Workplace Rule; Congressional Maneuver Could Kill New Ergonomics Regulation " - "Senate Republican leaders are planning to use a little-known legislative weapon next week to try to kill the Clinton administration's regulation to prevent injuries on the job, the most sweeping and costly workplace change government has ever ordered." (WashingtonPost.com) | New York Times coverage | Sen. Bond's media release

"EPA faces big hit" - "Bush's budget plan would give states more control, money." (Houston Chronicle)

"Former EPA Chief Carol M. Browner Joins Aspen Institute" - "The Aspen Institute today announced Carol M. Browner, former administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as a senior fellow at the Institute's Program on Energy, the Environment, and the Economy. Browner will work with the program to develop a multi-stakeholder project on sprawl and urban growth and subsequently serve as the project's co-chair." (Media release)

"Parade Succumbs to Foot-and-Mouth " - "Dublin canceled its St. Patrick's Day parade today and Dolly the cloned sheep was put under protective quarantine as European health authorities stepped up efforts to contain a potentially disastrous outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease among farm animals in Britain." (WashingtonPost.com) | New York Times coverage

"Cold spell link to foot-and-mouth" - "The cold weather may be contributing to the rapid spread of the foot-and-mouth outbreak, according to scientists." (BBC Online)

"Analysis: Too Much Ado About Animal Disease" - "LONDON, Mar 02, 2001 -- Is foot-and-mouth disease really so bad? Is the panic buying in food stores, the screaming newspaper headlines, the flaming pyres of slaughtered animals, virtual shutting down of British agriculture, postponement of sports events -- even possible delay of the May general election -- really so justified? According to a senior British veterinary expert and a Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food spokesman, the answer is probably "No," at least from the animal and human health point of view." (United Press International via COMTEX)

"Now Mr Blair poses as a simpleton" - "MODERN political leaders are expected to be all things to all men, but the Prime Minister's attack on supermarkets in front of an audience of farmers in Gloucestershire last Thursday was breathtaking, even by his standards of political oportunism. It is supermarkets, he claimed, who bear responsibility for the current outbreak of foot and mouth disease: they have put farmers in an "armlock", forcing the closure of local abattoirs and so enabling the disease to spread." (Sunday Telegraph)

"Nostalgic nonsense is clouding the debate over our food production" - "It is one of the functions of a democratic leader to hold a mirror to his people and to represent them and their aspirations. That is the function to which the Prime Minister might have been born. There is no opinion too trite, no conventional wisdom too widely held, no popular sentiment so treacly that he cannot gather it up, express it with a tonal judgement bordering on the supernatural and reflect it back to the electorate." (Independent)

"The plague that never was" - "Foot and mouth should not be a crisis. We have all been misled by the men from the ministry." (Independent)

"Is this really necessary?" - "A mass slaughter of livestock is under way to stop foot and mouth - yet the disease is no danger to humans and usually does not kill animals. Jon Ungoed-Thomas and Rosie Waterhouse report on a crisis threatening to spiral out of control, driven by money as much as medicine." (Sunday Times)

"A national nervous breakdown" - "I know that UK prime minister Tony Blair has been keeping his hand in by launching 'bog-standard' bombing raids against Iraq, but has a full-scale war broken out in the UK without us being told? Everywhere, it seems, the talk is now of a 'national emergency', of 'staring into the abyss', even of 'Armageddon'. Whole areas of the country have been cut off, transport restrictions imposed, major sporting events and demonstrations cancelled, and now there is speculation about postponing the general election. Such a fever has rarely taken hold of the UK in peacetime. Given that the country does not appear to have been invaded by a foreign power, what is the ostensible cause of this nationwide panic? It is an animal disease that poses no known threat to human health, and is not usually fatal to the farm animals that contract it." | Foot-and-mouth: 'People have overreacted' (Spiked-Online)

"Flu epidemics coincide with solar eruptions, B.C. study says" - "You're coughing, you're sneezing, you think you've just got the flu, but you could be a victim of sunspots." (National Post)

Chemical scare du jour: "Toxic chemical scare in nappies" - "Claims that highly toxic chemicals have been found in nappy brands available in Britain are under investigation in two European countries. Scientists in Britain and Germany are carrying out further tests after some brands, including Pampers and Huggies, were allegedly found to contain traces of the chemical tributytin." (Sun-Herald)

"2 Endocrinology Groups Raise Doubt on Earlier Onset of Girls' Puberty" - "wo professional societies representing endocrinologists have issued a statement saying that despite the conclusion of a widely noted study, it is not yet established that girls typically enter puberty earlier today. ... The organizations, the Endocrine Society and the Lawson-Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society, also urged that rigorous studies be undertaken to determine not just the average age when puberty begins but how quickly it progresses. They questioned the study concluding that puberty was starting earlier, saying that doctors and nurses who had evaluated girls might have mistaken fat tissue in chubby girls for breasts and that the girls in the study had not been randomly selected. And, they said, the age of girls at the one incontrovertible sign of puberty — first menstruation — has been the same for decades." (Gina Kolata, New York Times)

"Report by CDC Finds More U.S. Children and Pregnant Women at Risk From Mercury Exposure Than Ever Before" - "One in 10 women of childbearing age in the United States are at risk of having newborns with neurological problems due to in utero mercury exposure, according to a government study released today. Fetuses are exposed to mercury in the womb primarily because of their mothers' consumption of fish, and are highly susceptible to related health problems." (Media release)

Get a grip CDC.

"Wild Trout Is Out; Farm Fins Are In - Farm-raised fish have low contamination levels"- "FRIDAY, March 2 -- If you love catfish and trout but are afraid of the heavy metals that may wind up in your system from eating them, take heart. A new study found that if you eat them in a restaurant or buy them from a grocery store, there's little contamination risk. "Most of our trout and 98 percent of our catfish are farm-raised," says lead researcher Charles Santerre, associate professor in the department of food and nutrition. There are two reasons why farm-raised fish are less risky: The water in which the fish are cultured tends to be cleaner than lakes and oceans; and farm-raised fish are fed commercial feed, rather than smaller fish that may be contaminated." (HealthScout)

"Fish Consumption Advisory Not Needed for PFBC Hatchery Trout" - "HARRISBURG, Pa., March 2 /PRNewswire/ -- State officials responsible for monitoring Pennsylvania's waterways and protecting public health today announced that a consumption advisory for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) is not needed for Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) hatchery trout stocked in Pennsylvania's waterways for recreational angling." (media release)

"Study raises questions about when and how far to lower blood cholesterol in elderly men" - "SAN ANTONIO, March 2 – Less may not be best with cholesterol – at least in elderly men. A long-term study has found that men older than age 70 with total cholesterol readings between 200 to 219 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) are less likely to develop coronary heart disease than those with higher or lower levels of cholesterol. The findings are reported today at the American Heart Association’s 41st Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention." (AHA release)

"Sweet or Salty? Study Sheds Light on Food Craving" - "NEW YORK - A desire for chocolate may be a signal you are tired and the urge for salty snacks or milk products may indicate your body wants a real meal, according to results of a study on food cravings. The study, conducted in France, also found that women crave food more often than men do, and seem to have their strongest cravings if they are blue or anxious. Men, on the other hand, indulge their stomachs more often when they are happy. The complete findings are published in the March issue of the International Journal of Eating Disorders." (Reuters Health)

Today's Topic: Cravings - Myth #24,758: Another myth about nutrition that has a lot of appeal but no basis in fact is that your body craves what you need. If that were the case, most women would want cheeseburgers because the most widespread nutrient problems in women are deficiencies of iron and calcium.

Laboratory rats have been fed in experiments from lots of separate little dishes containing their diets broken down into the different ingredients. Even these little critters do not eat what they need. While rats usually go for adequate protein, they really like the taste of sugar and fat (just like us). But they don't eat vitamins and minerals presented separately. In fact, a diet used to induce obesity in rats is referred to as the "cafeteria" diet and contains foods craved by rats: peanut butter, salami, chocolate creme cookies, and so forth.

We would all like to think that Mother Nature has arranged for us to desire what is good for us, but a minute's reflection disproves this. The biggest food cravings are chocolate by women and meat by men. Craving chocolate does not signify a deficiency in any nutrient. Craving salt does not mean your sodium is low. These are simply tastes that are pleasurable. So enjoy your cravings a bit: just don't try to justify them with science." (This story originally appeared in Nutrition News Focus on April 27, 1999.)

"One more puff could be enough to cause a heart attack" - "SAN ANTONIO, March 2 – Cigarette smoking seems to have an acute effect that may increase the risk of a heart attack following each cigarette smoked, according to a study presented today at the American Heart Association’s 41st Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention." (AHA release) | 'One puff could cause heart attack' (BBC Online)

"Increases in life expectancy likely to be smaller in future" - "Though life expectancy rose dramatically during the 20th century - rising by 30 years - additional increases are likely to be smaller, according to a new study. If current trends in death rates continue, the average life expectancy will reach 85 years in 2033 in France, 2035 in Japan, and 2182 in the United States." (BMJ)

Curious, on last available data, Japan's adult smoking rate is about 1:2; France about 1:3; while the US has adult smoking rates of around 1:5. Doesn't seem to support a direct correlation between reduced smoking rates and population longevity very well does it.

"Asthma may increase risk of heart disease in non-smokers" - "SAN ANTONIO, March 2 – For the first time, researchers say asthma may significantly increase the risk of hospitalization and death from heart disease in non-smokers, according to a study reported today at the American Heart Association’s 41st Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention." (AHA release) | Asthmatics 'risk heart disease' (BBC Online)

"2nd Blow To Village Ban on Smoking; Friendship Heights' Authority Questioned " - "The village of Friendship Heights did not have the authority to pass the nation's strictest smoking ban, a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge ruled yesterday." (WashingtonPost.com) | AP coverage

Note the caption for the Washington Post photo of Alfred Muller, the Friendship heights mayor who led the charge for the smoking ban. The caption reads, "Alfred Muller, a doctor and honorary mayor of Friendship Heights, is advocating the smoking ban."

The caption omits mention that Dr. Muller recently was arrested and charged with 2nd degree child sexual abuse. He is accused of molesting a 14-year-old boy in a Washington National Cathedral restroom on Jan. 28.

Below is a Feb. 2 excerpt from the Washington Post describing the incident:

"I am vigorously denying the allegation," said Muller, 58, who was arraigned in D.C. Superior Court yesterday on a charge of second-degree child sexual abuse. Muller was released on his own recognizance and will face trial Feb. 21.

Police allege that Muller fondled the boy about 3 p.m. Sunday in a public restroom under the cathedral sanctuary. The boy, whom police did not identify, was visiting the cathedral with an out-of-town school group, authorities said.

Muller, the unpaid mayor of the 5,000-resident Montgomery County village just north of the District line, got worldwide media attention in December after he pushed through the nation's toughest tobacco ban -- a measure that prohibits smoking on all public property in Friendship Heights, including sidewalks and streets. Last week, a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge blocked the village from enforcing the ban.

Muller retired from a medical practice and a teaching position at Georgetown University medical school last summer. Officials at the cathedral said he has volunteered there for more than 35 years and recently completed a 1 1/2-year term as head usher...

The boy was in the restroom checking his contact lens when he saw Muller enter, according to the affidavit written by Detective Dan A. Lewis. The youth noticed Muller looking at him in the restroom mirror and smiling, the affidavit said. It said the boy then went to a urinal and Muller, who was at the adjacent urinal, reached over with his right hand and grabbed the boy's genitals.

The boy ran out of the restroom and told friends and trip chaperons about the incident, according to police. They said Muller left the building before a cathedral security officer could talk to him.

A staff aide at the cathedral, after being told that one of the boy's friends had pointed out Muller as the man who was in the restroom, remembered that Muller's picture had appeared in People magazine with an article about the village smoking ban. She found the article and a security officer showed the photo to the boy, who identified Muller as the man in the restroom, according to the affidavit.

Muller was later interviewed by police. "He admits being on the scene and that an incident occurred in the restroom, but he states that the circumstances were different," the affidavit said. Muller and his attorney yesterday declined to elaborate.

For more on the secondhand smoke controversy get Passive Smoke: The EPA's Betrayal of Science and Policy.

National Anxiety Center's "Warning Signs" has been posted.

"Biotech's 6 Myths" - "The truth about biotechnology has been clouded by half-truths, detail omissions and exaggerations of problems. Stanley Abramson, environmental attorney, recently spoke out about the "myths" about genetically modified plants that are widely propagated by opponents to biotechnology. These myths are disproved in research and field practice, according to Abramson. He comes well qualified to discuss the issue. Last winter, he completed a committee assignment for the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). The committee investigated the risks and benefits of biotech crops as well as their regulation. The committee included 10 scientists, one economist and Abramson, who is with the Washington, DC, law firm Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn. The report issued by the committee was a consensus report, a unanimous report," he relates. "We found no evidence to conclude that products on the market today pose any harm." (Farm Industry News)

"Researchers Put Debate On The Web" - "Will genetically modified food benefit society, or will it ultimately pose threats to human health, the environment, and the world economy? These questions are debated in scientific circles, but the public gets just a narrow glimpse of the debates, usually in highly charged news articles. This changed during February 2001 with the launching of a Web-based forum that will provide the public and policy makers with the tools to understand the debate over genetically modified foods (GMF). The information available on-line will come from top scientists in the field who study the techniques of genetic engineering and their impact on human health and the environment." (NewsRx.com)

"Scientists in Maize Pest Breakthrough" - "Scientists from the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute have announced a major breakthrough in their search for a remedy to the notorious maize stem borers. The team of scientists who are involved in the study of insects said that a gene known as 'Bacillus thuringiensis or BT will allow maize to produce a natural protein that is toxic to certain groups of insects, particularly the stem borers." (PANA)

"'Distrust and polarisation' in GE debate" - "The battle lines have been drawn in the gene debate, creating a climate of "distrust and polarisation," New Zealand's environmental watchdog says. The comments, from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Morgan Williams, come as the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification winds up and prepares to write its report. Dr Williams told the commission this week there was a perception that "expert arrogance" on one side and "interest-group pressure" on the other had hardened attitudes in the debate." (New Zealand Herald)

"New Source of Drug Compounds Found" - "WASHINGTON - Genes extracted from soil bacteria and slipped into a laboratory microbe have given pharmaceutical scientists a new source of a group of natural compounds that are used to make several major drugs. The compounds - polyketides - used in drug production are usually made by certain bacteria families. Manipulating the genes in these bacteria to cause them to form particular types of the compounds has led to development of drugs that now account for about $10 billion in annual sales. Many of the drug compounds are difficult to synthesize, so pharmaceutical companies use natural organisms, such as soil bacteria, to make the drugs in huge, industrial-sized vats. But some key polyketide-making bacteria are hard and slow to grow, and they also resist the genetic manipulation necessary to make the drugs. This makes industrial production of drug compounds from these organisms difficult and more expensive. That problem may be solved, according to a study appearing Friday in the journal Science." (AP)

"Zebrafish could become genetics 'lab rat' of choice" - "WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — In the post-genomic world, the lowly zebrafish may be king. Scientists at Purdue University have developed a technique that allows zebrafish to pass genetic modifications to its offspring. The discovery will lead to researchers being able to study genes and proteins in a less expensive way." (Purdue University)

March 2, 2001

"Adjusting Science to Fit Policy " - "Some have been urging a tax cut larger than the $1.6 trillion urged by President Bush. Their case was strengthened this week when the Supreme Court upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s air pollution regulations -- junk science-powered rules estimated to cost Americans an estimated $100 billion per year." (Steve Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"Government Orders Test of Tainted Corn" - "Agriculture officials yesterday told seed dealers to determine quickly how much of the nation's corn seed stocks contain the genetically engineered variety that prompted massive recalls of food and corn crops last year." (WashingtonPost.com)

"Last-Minute Clinton Water Standard Challenged in Court by Wood Preservers " - "The American Wood Preservers Institute (AWPI) filed a legal challenge in federal court today to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency's new arsenic regulation, one of the last acts of the departing Clinton Administration." (media release)

"Whitman Has Some Industries Worried; Power Plant, Diesel Stances Criticized " - "With Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christine Todd Whitman taking the lead, the Bush administration this week began staking out positions on key environmental issues that have alarmed some industry officials." (WashingtonPost.com)

"Smoke and mirrors at the U.N." - "The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which bills itself as the authoritative consensus of scientists on matters climatic, pronounced a possible global warming of 10 degrees Fahrenheit this century. This grave forecast got above-the-fold billing in many of the big daily newspapers." (Pat Michaels, WashTimes.com)

Where's the coverage? Yesterday, Junkscience.com featured the NASA/GSFC February 28 release "'Heat vent' in Pacific cloud cover could diminish greenhouse warming" on a previously unrecognized and certainly unmodeled atmospheric event which, if confirmed, devastates the enhanced greenhouse hypothesis and associated disaster prognostications. Known in common usage terms as "global warming," enhanced greenhouse stories habitually dominate the wire services and appear in news media around the world within 24 hours. At time of writing, the sole mention noted is in the Environmental News Service "AmeriScan" composite, March 1 (item 5). If it's not media bias then it sure looks suspiciously like it.

"Leading Climate Scientist Disputes Global Warming Theories - Work of United Nation’s Climate Panel Criticized as Misrepresenting Work of Scientists" - "WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a briefing before congressional staff, members of the press and scientists, Professor Richard S. Lindzen of the Massachusetts Institute for Technology assailed the politically driven work of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), specifically its pattern of misrepresenting the work of its contributing scientists to fit a preconceived agenda. “The whole notion of a scientific consensus has been contrived to disguise the genuine disagreement among scientists on a number of different issues. Major media outlets announced, incorrectly, as early as 1988 that the issue of global warming was scientifically settled, and the IPCC has been spending over a decade trying desperately to make their reports conform to this belief,” said Lindzen. “To think that hundreds of scientists could be in full agreement in dozens of separate disciplines is ridiculous. The aura of certainty with which the IPCC’s conclusions are being reported is clearly more a matter of politics than science.” (Competitive Enterprise Institute)

"Canada sees no climate change progress at G8 meeting" - "Canada said Wednesday that environment ministers from the world's leading industrialized nations had little chance of breaking a logjam over climate change talks when they hold a summit in Italy this weekend. Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson said the March 2-4 meeting in Trieste was likely just to underline the deep differences between Europe and North America on how to limit pollution blamed for global warming. "I do not expect to be able to come away from Trieste and tell you of a step having been taken or a clear change having occurred. It will be discussion of a very tough problem," Anderson told reporters." (Reuters)

"UN Bills Greenhouse Gases Economically Viable" - "As diplomats and experts converge on Accra, Ghana to finalise a major assessment of the technology and policy options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, senior UN officials are calling on governments to recognise the economic and competitive benefits of making an early transition to climate-friendly economies. "There is now no question that human-induced climate change is happening and poses serious risks. Governments must 'bite the bullet' and commit to reducing and limiting emissions of greenhouse gases," Michael Zammit Cutajar, executive secretary of the UN Climate Change Convention, said." (PANA)

Actually Mike, CO2 already is economically viable - without people trying to "limit emissions." As much as 12% of crop yield increase since 1950 is attributable to CO2-enhanced plant growth as a free byproduct of fossil fuel use. As an added bonus, if atmospheric CO2 increase has a measurable effect on climate it will manifest itself in the plant and animal friendly manner of limiting the descent of winter and nocturnal minima but have negligible effect on diurnal maxima. Sure seems economically viable.

Oh no! "Speed the plough, save the earth" - "THE answer for farmers who are interested in saving the planet is not, as many have supposed, to stop ploughing and operate with a minimum tillage system. It is, as researchers have just established, to plough more deeply than normal. They have found that deep ploughing actually retains much more carbon than normal ploughing but both lose more carbon than using no cultivators at all on land. But putting the plough more deeply into land reduces the amount of damaging nitrous oxides escaping into the atmosphere when compared with a low or no tillage system. And when both these actions are taken together, the conclusion is a preference for deep ploughing." (The Scotsman)

Is all the study and effort that has gone into developing minimum tillage agriculture to preserve arguably the world's most precious resource, top soil, and to maintain soil structure, now to be sacrificed on the alter of enhanced greenhouse? This must be one of the most vivid demonstrations yet of just how damaging is the IPCC myth-machine.

"Ottawa stands behind tar sands" - "OTTAWA -- The Liberal government won't let international commitments on climate change stand in the way of massive new tar sands developments aimed at feeding the vast U.S. energy appetite, Natural Resources Minister Ralph Goodale said yesterday. In an interview yesterday, Mr. Goodale said Canada is eager to play an integral role in the U.S. energy picture, but insisted that increased sales of oil and natural gas do not conflict with the country's commitment to reduce greenhouse gases." (Globe and Mail)

"Scientists push for renewable energy" - "Increasing demand for energy and the recognition of a human role in global climate change should lead Congress to support renewable energy — power from wind, sun, and organic wastes — scientists asserted at a hearing before the House Science Committee Wednesday. ... Not everyone agreed. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) commented that "global climate change theory, though unproven, is driving energy policy-and driving my home state of California towards disaster with it," since several hydroelectric plants in California have been dismantled because of environmental concerns, and air quality restrictions limit fossil-fuel-driven plants. (UPI)

"Environmentally friendly fuels — no single solution" - "The growing momentum to develop more environmentally friendly transport fuels that are competitive with conventional crude oil based fuels is unlikely to lead to any single solution being universally implemented, OUTLOOK 2001 was told today. In the meantime, benefits were also expected to arise from ‘cleaning up’ conventional fuels." (ABARE Media Release)

Today's mercury hysteria: "Mercury Levels High in Some U.S. Women" - "ATLANTA - Nearly one in 10 US women could have levels of mercury in their blood that are close to hazardous, government scientists estimated Thursday. Their findings imply that efforts to reduce mercury exposure should be continued." (Reuters Health)

Uh-huh... if "nearly one in 10" could have "close to hazardous" mercury levels then it would be safe to assume a significant number of women well above the purported hazard level because exposures vary and the near-10% figure will include a broad range. Let's say one in 100 is far into the hazard range. So where are all these women suffering mercury toxicosis?

"Extra-terrestrial visitor makes a surprise impact" - "Awful weather, an horrific train crash, a rampant disease threatening the farming industry, an earthquake in Seattle; whatever could happen next in this litany of doom? A meteorite hitting the Earth? Well, yes. Happily, the extraterrestrial rock that landed yesterday morning at the edge of a field in Hopgrove, near York, was not quite as large as the one which, 65 million years ago, crashed into what is now the Yucatan Peninsula and wiped out the dinosaurs." (Independent)

The Indy needs to check a little further before seizing a peg for their disaster series, although, to be fair, only the meteor and planetary experts at the Natural History Museum in London urged caution at the growing meteorite hysteria. So what really happened?

"A high-powered electricity cable, buried 3ft deep, had split, shorted and blown - causing the gurgling and popping noises. A spokesman for City of York council said: "The hole was caused by the earth being blown out, not by an object going in at high speed and burying itself."

Only The Telegraph bothered to check though. See UFO fever comes down to earth with a bang.

"Radiation-proof mobiles become reality" - "Amid worries about the safety of mobile telephones, four scientists in Hong Kong said Wednesday they have developed a new protective device that can absorb up to 70 per cent of the radiation emitted by handsets. The microscopic film, made of a composite material, can absorb between 50 per cent and 70 per cent of the radiation, depending on the type of phone being used, according to tests performed by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology." (AAP)

I had an interesting e-mail the other day from a lady who says she can prove that it is the batteries and not cell phones which are "dangerous." She informs me that, with the batteries removed, cell phones emit no detectable radiation.

"Government asks judge to reconsider tobacco claims" - "The government asked a federal judge to reconsider her ruling that dismissed two claims in a massive lawsuit against cigarette-makers. The Justice Department insisted the government should be allowed to recover $20 billion a year spent by Medicare and other federal health plans to treat smoking-related illnesses. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler threw out the claims in September, saying that if the government had wanted to recover expenses dating back to the 1950s it should have acted sooner." (AP)

"Scientists Call for Tougher Controls on Tobacco Firms" - "LONDON - Scientists called Friday for tougher controls over the tobacco industry after new research showed teenagers are being encouraged to smoke through sophisticated marketing techniques. They urged the House of Lords, which is debating a bill to ban tobacco advertising, not to ease up on the industry." (Reuters)

"Cardiac Arrests on Rise in Young" - "SAN ANTONIO -- The death rate from cardiac arrest rose surprisingly among young American adults in the 1990s, climbing 10 percent in men and 32 percent in women, federal officials said Thursday. Cardiac arrest is still rare under age 35, accounting for just 1 percent of all deaths from this cause. But experts say the newly recognized increase is troubling and almost certainly represents a real trend and not a statistical blip. Researchers believe a major reason for the increase is the epidemic of obesity, along with increased smoking and drug abuse, particularly cocaine, which can be a powerful trigger of cardiac arrest. ... According to federal figures, 17 percent of U.S. high school students say they smoke cigarettes regularly, compared with 12 percent a decade ago. Twelve percent of people in their 20s are now considered obese, compared with 7 percent 10 years ago. Among people in their 30s, obesity has risen from 11 percent to 19 percent." (AP) | Sudden cardiac deaths jump among teens and young adults – biggest increase seen among women (AHA)

Hmm... numbers, numbers, numbers... What are we to make of them? Big increase in the number of self-reported high school smokers so we can assume either kids are more likely to admit smoking now than they were 10 years ago or billions of dollars worth of abstinence indoctrination backfired very badly. Obesity figures may well be accurate, it's not called corpulent America without reason and kids do seem to be trained out of doing anything physical - playground equipment removed lest owners are sued over accidents arising from its use, kids not allowed to go run in the park because it might be dangerous, parents so bombarded with warnings they won't allow children to walk to school or do anything unsupervised and the population's getting fat. And cocaine? Well, in my opinion you might as well stick a file up your nose and burn $100 bills but if you're that silly you won't be a problem to society for long. I don't think I'd list cause of death as "Cardiac Arrest" though, "Terminal Stupidity" seems more appropriate.

Then again, it might be Cheesy Poofs: "UK: Britain snacks its way to top of junk food league" - "LONDON - British snackers munched their way to the top of the world junk food league in 2000 as the 33 billion pound global crisp, tortilla and dips industry expanded even faster than consumers' waistlines. A report from industry consultants Euromonitor showed Britons spent 3.1 billion pounds last year on savoury nibbles - that's 53 pounds for every man, woman and child. Meanwhile, Americans spent a relatively modest 43.40 pounds per head, but at 12 billion pounds the U.S. market, dominated by Pepsi's Frito-Lay, accounts for over a third of all global snacking." (Reuters)

Fruit's "in" again this week: "Fighting heart disease with fruit" - "Boosting your daily fruit and vegetable intakes could help protect you from heart disease, say scientists. Scientists from Cambridge University found that a boost in vitamin C intake has been shown to cut the risk of death from heart disease." (BBC Online) | Study Links Vitamin C to Lower Death Rates (Reuters)

"Study: State's '91 gun law cut violent crime" - "California's 1991 gun control law reduced the rate of violent crime by preventing people with some misdemeanor convictions from buying guns, according to a study published Wednesday. ... Those opposing gun control criticized the limits of the study. "It's a puny little study that tries to look at a small number of people" and draw large conclusions, said California Rifle and Pistol Association spokesman Chuck Michel. "It proves essentially nothing." Critics say gun control laws are useless because criminals have other means of getting guns. Dr. Timothy Wheeler, with the group Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership (DRGO), said the study has "serious flaws, including a weak retrospective study design, erroneous assumptions about criminals' gun-buying practices, and author bias toward promoting more gun control laws." (Sacramento Bee)

"Free trade makes the world cleaner" - "Of all the arguments made against globalization and free trade, the loudest comes from environmentalists. They argue that, as global capitalists spread their tentacles around the world, nature inevitably suffers. "The international flow of goods and money, if unregulated, can have devastating impacts on the environment," says Friends of the Earth. The green argument has a certain appeal: Factories cause pollution and globalization means more factories in more places, so globalization must be bad for the environment. But quite the opposite is true. Far from ruining the environment, globalization improves it. In the long run, a free-trading world is a cleaner world." (Marcus Gee, Globe and Mail)

"Osteoporosis drugs found to combat malaria, other diseases" - "CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A series of bisphosphonate drugs already approved to treat osteoporosis and other bone disorders in humans carry potent anti-parasitic activity, offering a new approach to the treatment of malaria, sleeping sickness and AIDS-related infections such as toxoplasmosis. Researchers from the University of Illinois, the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research in Caracas and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine report their findings in the March 15 issue of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. The paper is online at the journal’s Web site." (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

"Why accidents don't happen any more" - "We are witnessing the death of the accident. For a few tragically unlucky travellers, the Selby rail crash destroyed lives. For a few unlucky farmers, foot-and-mouth disease is destroying livelihoods. For them, as for the rest of us, they are victims of accidents. Yet we seem unable to handle them as such. We have been schooled into not believing in accidents. The concept of no-fault disaster is as old hat as medieval pestilence, from which modern technology and jurisprudence have supposedly delivered us. In place of the accident is the vastly more rewarding god, blame." (The Times)

"The myth that modern farming brought us foot and mouth" - "THERE ought to be a word for it: postjudice. Nothing else can explain the rush to judge the foot and mouth outbreak as a damnation of intensive farming. We have been so brainwashed into thinking that small-scale, old-fashioned farming is better that we immediately assume that all disasters in the countryside can be attributed to modernisation." (Matt Ridley, Daily Telegraph) | Time for the urban Juliet to embrace the rural Romeo (Alice Thomson, Daily Telegraph)

"Environmental Groups Sue Smithfield" - "The Water Keeper Alliance, along with the Sierra Club and a group of individuals, has filed multiple lawsuits against Smithfield Foods, which is based in Virginia. The lawsuits aim to stop the company from “polluting America’s waterways and fouling them with animal waste,” the Sierra Club stated. They include multiple pollution suits, as well as common law tort litigation and federal racketeering allegations under the country's organized crime statutes. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Jan Schlichtmann and Charles Speer announced the filings yesterday. They are working for the Water Keeper Alliance and intend to continue bringing litigation against the major U.S. pork producing companies." | Smithfield Foods Reacts to Lawsuit | NPPC Addresses Lawsuits Filed Against Smithfield Foods (AgWeb.com)

"Sooooo-ey! Sue!" - "We told you it would come to this. A group of enviro-nannies has begun taking their anti-meat crusade to court. According to today's Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal (subscriber site), a coalition led by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s group (called the Water Keeper Alliance) filed a federal lawsuit yesterday against Smithfield Foods, North Carolina's largest hog producer. What makes this legal action particularly insidious is that it was filed under the "RICO" racketeering statute. This means that the environmentalists are hoping to hold Smithfield executives personally liable for triple damages if they can prove environmental and economic harm. Robert F. Kennedy made no bones about his objectives, telling the L.A. Times: "I promise you this: We will march across this country and we will bring these kind of lawsuits against every single pork factory in America if we have to." The Guest Choice Network has been telling you about this anti-hog movement since 1999. They're organized, they're dedicated, they're fully-funded, and they're coming to a coutroom near you." (GuestChoice.com)

"Goodyear Introduces World’s First Corn-Derived Tire" - "The new Goodyear GT3 is the first tire on the market using a new starch-based filler material derived from corn. The material – BioTRED – is a patented innovation developed at the company’s Luxembourg technical center. BioTRED replaces the more conventional carbon black and silica. “This presents important environmental advantages, including remarkably lower rolling resistance - and as a result, less fuel consumption, noise reduction, lower carbon dioxide emissions and less energy consumption in the production processes," said Filomeno Corvasce, the Goodyear engineer who developed it." (Agweb.com)

"Scientific discovery in plants may advance human medicine" - "COLLEGE STATION - Researchers at Texas A&M University studying the tips of chromosomes in a lowly weed have new insights that likely will lead to advances in human medicine. "Much of the plant genome is very similar to the human genome," said Dr. Dorothy Shippen, Texas A&M associate professor of biochemistry and biophysics. "Also, because we can do these wonderful genetic tricks in plants, we think that much of what we learn in the plant system will be ultimately translatable, and perhaps have significant impact, in human medicine." (Texas A&M)

"Genetic engineering speeds development of new antibiotics" - "Our world is full of all kinds of bacteria-the good, the bad and the innocuous. Most often, it`s the bad bacteria that catch our attention with their health-stealing antics. But sometimes, as the old adage goes, it takes a thief to catch a thief. By hijacking the biosynthetic machinery of bacteria, scientists can create antibiotics to kill the bad bacteria that rob us of our vitality. Now, genetic engineers in the Stanford lab of Professor Chaitan Khosla have inserted the largest working genes to date into the Escherichia coli bacterium, transforming this run-of-the-mill microbe into an organism that can churn out new precursors of erythromycin, a broad-spectrum antibiotic and penicillin substitute." (Stanford University)

"Fast-track fruit" - "Orange trees that bear fruit in just one year have been created by researchers in Spain. Normally, citrus plants take at least 6 years to reach maturity and produce fruit." (New Scientist)

Just before anti-biotechies come boiling out the woodwork with claims we don't need fast-fruiting biotech citrus (I'm probably too late already), read all the article. The technique is a tool, not an end in itself.

"Commercialising biotechnology: A growing opportunity" - "Australia is about to reap benefits from newly commercialised biotechnology research, the OUTLOOK 2001 Conference was told today. Australia has a long history of first-class biotechnology research. But to have a leading role in the emerging global biotechnology industry the nation must be able to commercialise discoveries and grow new enterprises. While the Government’s National Biotechnology Strategy is delivering programs to assist commercialisation, researchers have been busy developing new opportunities. Milk products that prevent and repair dental cavities, heal wounds or improve athletic performance are examples of products with direct benefits for consumers that also provide new opportunities for dairy producers." (ABARE Media Release)

"Perspective: The GMO Debate Will Only Grow More Heated & Confusing" - "With the European Commission`s recent publication of new rules governing the production and distribution of genetically modified foods and organisms, the debate surrounding GMOs is set to intensify. The new rules will strengthen the existing regulation of genetically modified feed by introducing compulsory consultation with the public regarding the growth of GMOs, mandatory labeling and traceability at all market stages, and mandatory monitoring of the long-term effects. The commission asserts that the directive will provide the foundation for a coherent, transparent, and efficient regulatory framework to cover the handling of GMOs. However, another commission plan promises to have an even greater impact on the world market. The European Commission expects to soon have a similar set of regulations governing traceability and labeling of GMOs through the entire food chain in addition to those governing GM feed. The implications of this measure are immense." (MeatNews.com)

"Crop giant admits possibility of GMO cross-pollination" - "Crop multinational, Aventis says it cannot guarantee "escaped" genetically modified plants have not contaminated other plant species in Tasmania. Naomi Stevens from Aventis says the company has grown GM trial crops at 49 sites in Tasmania since 1998. She says some canola crops have regrown at the company's sites and have since been removed. The regrowth breaches federal government guidelines on genetically modified organisms." | Serve-Ag defends monitoring of GM canola trials | Call for GM canola trials to continue | Monsanto to abide by councils decision (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

March 1, 2001

REMINDER for Washington, DC-area global warming fans: Capitol Hill global warming briefing by Dr. Richard Lindzen, Noon-1:30PM TODAY. For Lindzens' bio, abstract of briefing and contact details see item February 26.

More from Christine Todd Browner: "Whitman Backs Clinton Rules Designed to Cut Diesel Pollution" - "The Bush administration has decided to let stand regulations imposed by President Bill Clinton that are intended to reduce substantially the pollution caused by diesel fuel and engines, officials said today. In a victory for environmentalists, Christie Whitman, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said she would support the regulations, which were drafted by Clinton officials in a last-minute flurry of new rules and then put on hold when President Bush took office in January. Mrs. Whitman said the new standards would eventually cut pollution from heavy-duty trucks and buses by 95 percent and reduce the sulfur content of highway diesel fuel by 97 percent. The move, she said, would prevent an estimated 8,300 premature deaths and tens of thousands of cases of bronchitis each year. "The Bush administration determined that this action not be delayed in order." (NYTimes.com)

The claim that diesel particulate causes thousands of premature deaths every year is classic junk science, circa Carol Browner.

"The Bogus 'Precautionary Principle' " - "The application of the precautionary principle has resulted in unscientific, discriminatory policies that inflate the costs of research, inhibit the development of new products, waste resources and restrict consumer choice. Other technologies are susceptible to a similar fate: European regulators are working feverishly to incorporate the bogus precautionary principle into various international health and safety standards and, most ominously, even into the World Trade Organization's rules." (Henry I. Miller, Wall Street Journal, letter)

"Hot seat may await Bush " - "President Bush's first address to Congress Tuesday night doubled its intended time to a near Clinton-like length of close to 50 minutes, but there was not a word said about global warming. What makes this significant is that the treacherous subject actually was touched on in an early speech draft, but then was omitted." (Robert Novak, Chicago Sun-Times)

"Engineered Corn Turns Up in Seed; Companies Detect 'StarLink' Protein " - "Corn seed about to be sold to farmers for this year's crop has been found to contain small amounts of a genetically engineered variety of the grain that prompted massive recalls of food and crops last year, government and industry sources said yesterday." (WashingtonPost.com)

"In Europe, the Ordinary Takes a Frightening Turn; Health Scares Confound Continent " - "A bowl of cornflakes can kill you -- not to mention a ham sandwich or a T-bone steak. Getting vaccinated can kill you. Flying economy class can kill you, and business class isn't much better. The rubber duckie in your bathtub can kill you (and your children). And put down that cell phone, before it kills you!" (WashingtonPost.com)

"Energy in the balance" - "On the heels of the coldest November-December in more than 100 years, the Bush administration directed Clinton-Gore administration holdover appointees to brief Cabinet-level officials on one of Al Gore's pet projects, something he actually had a hand in inventing — the theory of catastrophic global warming. Now those efforts are bearing poisoned fruit." (Christopher Horner, WashTimes.com)

"Climate Change Talks to Resume in Bonn on July 16" - "AMSTERDAM - International talks to limit the pollution blamed for global warming will restart on July 16 in Bonn, Dutch Environment Minister Jan Pronk said on Wednesday." (Reuters)

Bet they won't like this: "'Heat vent' in Pacific cloud cover could diminish greenhouse warming" - "The tropical Pacific Ocean may be able to open a "vent" in its heat-trapping cirrus cloud cover and release enough energy into space to significantly diminish the projected climate warming caused by a buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. If confirmed by further research, this newly discovered effect – which is not seen in current climate prediction models – could significantly reduce estimates of future climate warming. Scientists from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology present their findings in the March 2001 issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. ...

Clouds play a critical and complicated role in regulating the temperature of the Earth. Thick, bright, watery clouds like cumulus shield the atmosphere from incoming solar radiation by reflecting much of it back into space. Thin, icy cirrus clouds are poor sunshields but very efficient insulators that trap energy rising from the Earth’s warmed surface. A decrease in cirrus cloud area would have a cooling effect by allowing more heat energy, or infrared radiation, to leave the planet.

If this "iris effect" is found to be a general process active in tropical oceans around the world, the Earth may be much less sensitive to the warming effects of such influences as rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. The researchers estimate that this effect could cut by two-thirds the projected increase in global temperatures initiated by a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere." (NASA/GSFC)

The modeling fraternity must be feeling a little victimized lately.

First Hansen [An alternate scenario. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 97, 9875–9880] and then Jacobson [Strong radiative heating due to the mixing state of black carbon in atmospheric aerosols, Nature, 409, 695–697] shot away one-third of purported enhanced greenhouse effect with black particulates (soot). Carbon dioxide wasn't doing it, soot from smoke and exhaust was. The net effect was zero, however, because sulfate aerosols, which cool the planet, countered the effect.

Now, GSFC and MIT have also decided to rain on their parade (mean of me to say things like "rain" - modelers really hate anything associated with cloud, impossible damn stuff to model and includes all kinds of inconvenient effects like "albedo"). According to the above NASA/GSFC release, a recently observed effect, if general in and above the tropical oceans, would slash model-projected warming by two-thirds.

Things are beginning to get worrisome - with three-thirds of modeled (virtual) warming now virtually eliminated, so to speak, we may need to stop investigating before we end up getting rid of even more. Hell, if we're not careful we'll start a virtual ice age!

Heartland's March edition of Environment News has been posted.

Among this month's items are:

  • Global warming: Watson indulges in scare tactics . . .again
    Predicting an 11°F temperature rise in 100 years, the IPCC's new Policymakers Summary is the product of the most extreme climate model run under the most extreme set of future emission scenarios.
  • Global warming theory faces real-world test . . . and loses
    Britain's Nature magazine has reported the results of a five-year study of the historic record of carbon dioxide and global temperature rise. Lead researcher Jan Veizer concludes, "atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were not the principal driver of climate variability."

"Climate panel urged to 'get real'" - "A damaging row is threatening to envelop a panel of United Nations experts charged with recommending the best ways of softening the impact of climate change. The panel starts work on 28 February in Accra, Ghana, to finalise its report to governments. The report will be the third issued in 2001 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Its two earlier reports this year said unambiguously that there was greater scientific confidence that the world was warming, that human activities were at least partly responsible, and that the consequences would be serious. But this third report, by contrast, by the IPCC's working group three, looks likely to dwell instead on the remaining uncertainties surrounding climate change, and on the consequent difficulty of choosing suitable mitigation policies." (Alex Kirby, BBC Online)

Alex Kirby once again leading the inside story on the IPCC and telling it like it really is. Good work.

More computer-generated hysteria: "Study reveals global warming threatens Australia's climate" - "Leading atmospheric scientist is warning that much of Australia will become drier as global warming bites." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.) | Industry leaders to hear the latest on climate change science (Senator Hill's media release)

"Well DUH!" headline of the day: "Oil, coal would be hit if carbon use cut-UN study" - "GENEVA, Feb 28 - Oil and coal industries would be forced into decline if governments around the world took firm measures to halt global warming by limiting carbon emissions, according to a United Nations draft report." (Reuters)

"U.S. Acts to Sharply Cut Diesel Pollution" - "WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on Wednesday strict new rules to cut diesel fuel pollution from trucks and buses by 95 percent starting in 2006, marking the first major clean-air decision by the Bush administration and a big win for environmentalists. The new regulations were first announced in the waning days of the Clinton White House, but were put on hold when President George W. Bush took office on Jan. 20 as part of a general stay on late-term orders approved by the previous administration. "The Bush administration determined that this action not be delayed in order to protect public health and the environment," said EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman in a statement." (Reuters)

"EPA's Regulatory Smog Upheld by Supreme Court" - "The nation's premier environmental law withstood a major industry challenge Tuesday as the Supreme Court upheld the way the government sets air-quality standards under the Clean Air Act, according to the Associated Press. The court unanimously rejected industry arguments that the Environmental Protection Agency must consider financial cost as well as health benefits in writing standards. The justices rejected industry arguments that the EPA took too much lawmaking power from Congress when it set tougher standards for ozone and soot in 1997. Nevertheless, the court threw out the EPA's policy for implementing new ozone rules and ordered the agency to come up with a more "reasonable" interpretation of the law. In "The EPA's Clean Air-ogance," Steven J. Milloy and Michael Gough, commenting on air standards, show how "a close inspection of the EPA proposal shows that it lacks a sound basis in science." In "Time to Reopen the Clean Air Act: Clearing Away the Regulatory Smog," K.H. Jones and Jonathan Adler make the case for revisiting the Clean Air Act to reduce EPA regulations such as "mandatory carpooling and enhanced inspection and maintenance programs to technology standards for factory emissions and new emissions controls on lawn mowers, snow blowers, chain saws, and the like." (Cato Institute)

"High Court’s Air-Standards Finding Drains Reason From Environmental Rule-Making" - "... Everyone favors clean air, and, indeed, air quality in most of the country has improved for 30 years, with improvements generally starting before federal regulations were put in place. But the High Court’s findings are a mixture of good and bad for those who want both clean air and rational risk-management policy." (Kenneth Green, Reason Public Policy Institute)

"Internet could help protect environment, says think tank" - "A think tank says that the internet and e-commerce could become saviours of the environment." (Ananova)

Maybe, maybe not. I've also seen studies suggesting that the individual packaging and single item delivery regimes actually have a net increase in environmental cost attributed to e-commerce. The internet, too, requires energy and estimates of this requirement range from a low of 3% of baseload (usage including telephonic switching but not any allowance for manufacture and distribution of equipment and infrastructure) to over 10% (including share of telecommunications infrastructure manufacture and maintenance, although it was not stated just how much, if any, was included for manufacture and distribution of end-user equipment). Either way, there is obviously a significant energy demand for the internet. Adding the inevitable environmental cost of manufacture and distribution of all the terminal equipment needed by users to access this wonder of technology suggests that, of all the reasons to use the internet, "protecting" the environment isn't one of them.

Still posturing as though they'll proceed with a general election, despite their FMD outbreak, UK politicians are busily verbally sacrificing science and technology on the alter of rabid green appeasement. Here's a collection of articles from The Independent concerning enviro ministers and wannabes being put through the hoops by the fluorescent green brigade:

they are not prepared, however, to actually commit to anything in case they win:

and The Independent disapproves:

"Genome project's likely impact on cancer care: Limited in short term, unpredictable in long term" - "Completion of the human genome project will influence the general framework for anticancer drug development but not fundamentally alter it any time soon predict two cancer specialists in a commentary in the March issue of Nature Medicine. In "Gazing into a crystal ball -- Cancer therapy in the post-genomic era," Mark Ratain, M.D., of the University of Chicago, and Mary Relling, Pharm.D., of St Jude's Children's Research Center, the chair and vice-chair of the Pharmacogenetics of Anticancer Agents Research Group, caution that before genetic information allows doctors to tailor therapy to each patient, much more work must be completed." (UCMC release)

"Go-ahead for GM test sites sparks fury" - "Michael Meacher, the environment minister, was pilloried by leading environmental groups last night after he announced 58 major GM test field sites for oilseed rape and beet. Two of the sites are already in doubt because they are believed to be within the exclusion zones set by the government to avoid the spread of foot and mouth. The minister's announcement of the new trial sites, which will test the seeds of Monsanto and Aventis and will be planted at the end of March in 19 English and two Scottish counties, inflamed the anti-GM lobby." (Guardian)

"Monsanto expects more biotech acreage this year" - "SAN ANTONIO - Monsanto Co. expects farmers to plant more of its genetically modified crops this year than last year, a company official said Tuesday. "I feel confident that in every core crop, a core crop being corn, soybeans and cotton, that we will plant more Monsanto biotech acres than we did in 2000. I believe we will be up in every one of those crops," said Brett Begemann, Monsanto's vice president of US branded products. Begemann said he based his conclusion on information from growers and seed companies that license Monsanto's technology. Heading into the US spring planting season, Begemann said he believes the controversy over gene-altered crops is fading, due in part to stepped-up efforts by the industry to defend biotechnology." (Reuters)

"US farmers could find GM wheat a tough sell" - "WASHINGTON, Feb 28 - The US biotechnology giant Monsanto was on the defensive again Wednesday in the face of growing international hostility to its plans to market a genetically modified (GM) version of wheat. The Roundup Ready wheat, which has been spliced with a gene to make it resistant to the company's Roundup herbicide, has barely made it out of the laboratory, but wheat buyers from Japan and Europe have already registered their opposition to it. "We have a lot of time ahead of us to work with the industry," on the crop, Monsanto spokesman Bryan Hurley said Wednesday. "The market place isn't at all reflective of what it might be in five years." (AFP)

"Maori want right of veto over GM organisms" - "A call for an "unequivocal" Maori right of veto over applications to introduce or experiment with genetically modified organisms, on Tuesday added to an increasingly tough overall Maori line against the new technology. Put to the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification by Maori Congress chief executive Tu Williams, the call came with a series of tough recommendations, including for a 10-year moratorium on all field tests or general release of genetically modified organisms." (The Dominion, NZ)

"Industry cleared over wildlife" - "A TEN-year study by a leading crop protection firm has concluded that farming systems have only a marginal effect on rural wildlife. Much more important are the cultivation techniques employed and the management of field margins, says Aventis CropScience. ... The study, which compared organic, conventional and ICM systems, also found that while the latter system produced similar yields to conventionally grown crops, it benefited from lower input costs, particularly on fuel. The ICM system also reduced chemical usage by 55 per cent for fungicides, 45 per cent for herbicides, 40 for insecticides with growth regulators being eliminated completely. As expected, average crop yields on organic systems were well down on both conventional and ICM systems." (The Scotsman)

"Drinking water to be checked for pesticides" - "WASHINGTON -- The government will start monitoring pesticide residues in city water supplies around California and New York to find out more about the toxins people are drinking. The water monitoring is being added to an annual survey that the Agriculture Department does of pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables. The data will be used by the Environmental Protection Agency in assessing the health risks posed to infants and children by pesticide residues." (AP)

"Vegetable Washes: Sprays Vs. Plain Water" - "New "produce washes" on the market promise to rid your produce of every last drop of pesticide used by the farmers that grew them. What's wrong with that age-old method of rinsing with a little H 2 0, you ask? Experts with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences (UGA) had the same question. Larry Beuchat, a microbiologist there, put many of these products to the test in his lab. Some are no better than water, he found. Others are better than chlorine, which is used extensively in the industry to wash produce. ... Elizabeth Andress, another specialist with UGA, says you might want to use the washes to remove bacteria, but when it comes to pesticides, there's no reason for concern. "In the US," she explains, "there's very little produce with pesticide residues anywhere near the allowed tolerance levels. If you use a produce wash, you may be reducing the levels of pesticide residues, but the levels were nowhere near harmful to begin with." (CSM)

"Fatty fish cuts risk of death from heart attack in elderly" - "SAN ANTONIO, Feb. 28 – Older individuals are less likely to die from a heart attack if they eat at least one serving of fatty fish per week, according to a study presented today at the American Heart Association’s 41st Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention. Eating fatty fish at least once per week was associated with a 44 percent lower risk of dying from a heart attack among a group of older adults, average age 72. In contrast, eating fried fish – which is typically lean – was not associated with a lower risk of dying from a heart attack. Examples of fatty fish are tuna, salmon and mackerel; examples of lean fish are cod, catfish and snapper." (AHA release)

"Flabby minds" - "BIN that hamburger now. Scientists in Canada say that a high-fat diet not only clogs arteries and piles on the pounds, it can also impair memory. Gordon Winocur and Carol Greenwood of the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care in Toronto fed one-month-old rats a diet rich in either animal or vegetable fat until they were four months old. Forty per cent of their calories came from fat, but the diet was otherwise nutritionally complete. Control rats got standard lab chow, in which only 10 per cent of the calories come from fat." (New Scientist) | Fatty diet 'leads to flabby thinking' (BBC Online)

"Epstein-Barr virus linked to invasive breast cancer and lymphoma" - "ANN ARBOR, MI - Scientists in the University of Michigan Medical School have found a molecular link between aggressive breast and lymphatic cancers and the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes infectious mononucleosis. In a paper published in the March 2001 issue of Nature Medicine, U-M scientists show how the Epstein-Barr virus alters the function of a cellular protein that normally suppresses the movement of malignant cells. When this natural brake on cell migration is disabled by the virus, cancerous breast and lymphatic cells are free to metastasize or spread." (University of Michigan Health System)

"Scientists uncover breast cancer facts, raise even more questions" - "Scientists have figured out a key process by which breast cancer spreads to other organs, and they have successfully blocked it in mice. But they and others cautioned that there is no guarantee that such an approach would work in humans. "The literature is littered with cures for cancer that worked in animals but haven't translated to humans," said Jonathon Sedgwick, director of immunology at the DNAX Research Institute in Palo Alto, Calif. "But this has the potential to influence how we might think about treating cancer in the future." (AP)

Featured, in part, because AP distributed the caveat: "The literature is littered with cures for cancer that worked in animals but haven't translated to humans." This is perfectly true and applicable to all kinds of animal models, from potential cures to potential toxicity - mice just ain't "little men"! This is what's wrong with assumptions like the US "Delaney Clause," which states unequivocally that any synthetic food chemical that causes cancer in lab animals must be assumed to pose a human cancer risk - no matter how minimal the human exposure - and must be banned. These effects simply do not transpose across species or from Maximum Tolerated Dose to trace exposure and the assumption that they do causes significant harm - just ask a Kenyan farmer who has watched his pregnant wife die of malaria whether he cares rats can't tolerate massive does of DDT without increasing their cancer risk - something which apparently does not occur in humans. Animal models can and do provide some very useful clues to help guide development of treatments and to test a plethora of substances - but only clues and nothing definitive.

"Possible New Test Finds Mad Cow Disease in Blood" - "WASHINGTON - British researchers said on Wednesday they had found a surprising new effect of mad cow disease on the body and that it might lead to a blood test for the disease." (Reuters)

"Study: Green tea doesn't prevent stomach cancer" - "NEW YORK -- Japanese researchers are throwing cold water on one of the much-touted benefits of green tea. Their study in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine suggests that drinking green tea does not prevent stomach cancer, as many believe." (AP)

"Sleep disorders may be misdiagnosed as ADD" - "A link between children's sleep patterns and attention deficit disorders is being investigated by Australian researchers. Sleep experts believe some children diagnosed with the condition may actually be suffering severe sleep problems." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Cash-Strapped NASA Whittles Space Station Plans" - "CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - The International Space Station was designed to fly far above the clouds but found itself under a big one on Wednesday as NASA, headed for $4 billion in cost overruns, began lopping off modules and scaling back plans for the giant construction site." (Reuters)

Funny how these items always seem to turn up after "Mars Life Found!" banner headlines...

"Everything You Know About Video Game Violence Is Wrong" - "A stunning Surgeon General's report puts new doubt into the media violence connection. Where do we go from here?" (The Adrenaline Vault)