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Archives - October 2001

October 31, 2001

Gary Brookins Halloween cartoon (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

For Halloween, we can envisage no sillier scare story to lead the day's themes than enhanced greenhouse, so:

"Experts Work on Global Warming Plan" - "MARRAKECH, Morocco - Technical and legal experts began work Tuesday on the fine points of rules to implement a global treaty on controlling climate change. Environmentalists expressed concern that some industrial countries would backtrack on their support." (AP)

"Greenpeace urges public access to climate data" - "MARRAKESH - The environmental group Greenpeace yesterday called on countries negotiating a key climate-change treaty to ensure transparency and easy public access to technical data for any accord to work.

Greenpeace insists that the Kyoto Protocol is only a first step, and far more ambitious agreements will be needed to combat the gradual warming of the Earth.

Critics say the Kyoto Protocol is a waste of money and will have little impact on climate change.

But [Greenpeace Climate Policy Director Bill] Hare disagreed, saying the five percent target was provisional. "Each five years, there will be deeper cuts," he said. The aim was to reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide, the main gas resulting from human activity, to 80 percent in 50 years." (Reuters)

"Don't ruin Kyoto: UN" - "AUSTRALIA has been warned by United Nations world climate experts not to spoil the Kyoto Protocol on climate change at talks in Morocco. The government was facing pressure on the domestic front not to erode the world environment agreement, but world experts were concerned about Australia's position. Russia, Australia, Canada and Japan were reportedly opposed to the wording of the protocol which described penalties for non-compliance as legally binding." (AAP)

"Greenhouse stance 'violates treaty law'" - "Australia is breaching international treaty law with its insistence on mandatory greenhouse reduction targets for developing countries, according to legal advice to conservation groups." (The Age)

"Shell sells CO2 emissions to soft drink manufacturers" - "ALBERTA, Canada – Turning a liability into an asset, Shell Chemicals has announced it has begun selling to soft drink manufacturers more than 60 percent of the excess carbon dioxide produced at one of its plants." (GreenBiz.com)

"Exxon says it is taking action on climate change" - "LONDON, Oct 30 - U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil defended its decision not to invest in renewable energy at an industry conference in London on Tuesday, and said it was focusing on energy efficiency instead. Executive Vice-president Rene Dahan said Exxon was addressing climate change by working with car makers to improve fuel efficiency in engines." (Reuters)

OK, so there weren't any juicy climate scares in today's press. Just in case anyone is troubled by previous utterances of the global warming hand-wringer brigade, here's some more rational pieces:

"Sea Level" - "Summary: In honor of Halloween, we review one of the major horror stories predicted to follow on the heels of predicted CO2-induced global warming, i.e., a predicted increase in sea level that is predicted to be so wicked (large and rapid) that it's predicted to devastate human settlements and natural ecosystems scattered throughout the world's low-lying coastal areas. Woooooooo ... now that's scary!" (co2science.org)

"Scientists complain of thick Antarctic ice" - "AUCKLAND - Global warming might be a popular worry but scientists on Antarctica's coast this southern summer are recording some of the thickest sea ice ever seen, the Antarctic Sun newspaper reported today. New Zealand's Scott Base and the US McMurdo Sound on Ross Island were blocked in by heavy sea ice, apparently the result of a vast iceberg, the paper reported in its latest edition. On the other side of the continent, a US research ship in Marguerite Bay on the Antarctic Peninsula has just managed to free itself from extensive ice fields

...By the time the US Coast Guard ice breakers arrive in December, the ice edge is typically 24 to 32 km away from McMurdo Station. But this year people wintering at McMurdo Station did not see any open water because of the ice, Dettmar said. The sea ice was now three metres thick in front of McMurdo, and three to 4.4 metres thick at the Williams Field ice runway, west of Scott Base. An ice breaker may have to cut through more than 113 km of ice to reach McMurdo.

Last year the sea ice near McMurdo was 40 per cent thicker than usual, and this year it's thicker still. Meanwhile researchers aboard Nathaniel B Palmer off the Antarctic Peninsula also found heavy ice. They were held in it for several weeks, unable to move." (AFP)

"Extreme Weather Events: How Much Worse Can They Get?" - "Summary: Climate alarmists never tire of claiming the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 content will exacerbate all types of extreme weather. And why should they, when they've got the computer models to prove it? Well, maybe the models don't actually prove it, but they at least suggest it, which in a climate alarmist's mind is one and the same thing. But is it? We here describe a somewhat obscure concept which has recently been buttressed by new data that indicate the world's highly complex and sophisticated climate models are likely missing a far more simple and elegant truth that tells a very different story than the one their creators - and disciples! - like to spin." (co2science.org)

"Planetary Carbon Sequestration: Earth's Biosphere Flexes Its Muscles" - "Summary: Averaged over the globe, the anthropogenic CO2 emission rate has risen nearly 40% over the past two decades, yet the rate at which CO2 is accumulating in the atmosphere has remained constant or even slightly declined. Why?" (co2science.org)

"More Evidence of Increases in Cloudiness and Snow/Ice Cover" - "Summary: Earth's internal system of checks and balances appears to be functioning well in its natural ability to increase the amount of solar radiation reflected back to space in response to increases in the concentrations of greenhouse gases within its atmosphere. Journal of Geophysical Research 106: 5353-5368." (co2science.org)

"The Medieval Warm Period in Western Norway" - "Summary: How warm was it? The Holocene 11: 437-446." (co2science.org)

"Carbon Sequestration in CO2-Enriched Forest Understory Trees" - "Summary: Dwarfed by the much bigger trees that overshadow and shade them, forest understory trees have not been expected to contribute much to the carbon sequestering prowess of forests. However, a new study of sapling photosynthesis under conditions of intermittent sunlight and shade suggests that their role in this effort has been greatly underestimated  Oecologia 122: 163-174." (co2science.org)

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

"Talks To Finalize Kyoto Treaty Under Way" - "U.N. talks to seal an unprecedented climate change treaty got under way in Marrakesh with the United States taking a back seat, according to Reuters.

In "Europe's Kyoto Scam," Senior Fellow Patrick J. Michaels writes, "Kyoto would help wreck the economic engine that drives America forward while Europe lags behind. The persistent and significant differences between American and European gross economic production and unemployment are not accidents. Europe's leaders know Kyoto would 'fix' that."

Cato Institute scholars have long opposed the Kyoto treaty and have written extensively about it and global warming. In testimony before Congress, 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)

"Synchronised spinning" (Number Watch)

"FoE's 'chemicals' postcard campaign is criticised" - "An MEP has criticised a Friends of the Earth campaign which involved sending thousands of postcards with the warning "Danger? - this sample may contain risky chemicals". Labour's European Environment spokesman, David Bowe, said in the current international climate of anthrax scares, the campaign was "unfortunate and inappropriate." (Ananova)

"BT Corn Good For Growers And Consumers" - "Two years of review came to an end recently when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the use of genetically engineered Bt corn varieties for another seven years.

The news has been received quietly, unlike the furor that accompanied claims of harm to the Monarch butterfly or of a human allergen in the Starlink variety. But that is normal in media cycles, where the hypothetical is infinitely more interesting than daily grind of producing food that consumers may actually be interested in purchasing. Bt corn was among the first genetically engineered crops to be grown in North America, and it has been the subject of much scrutiny and controversy. A media flurry and an environmentalist uprising was sparked by a 1999 report that Bt corn pollen could harm Monarch butterflies as well as the corn pests the Bt gene was meant to target. Less publicized has been the continuing research designed to see if this could happen outside of the laboratory." (Food Safety Network)

"Gene silencing produces disease resistance in plants" - "For the first time, a technique known as "gene silencing" has produced resistance to a bacterial disease in crop plants, report researchers at the University of California, Davis. The technique holds promise for creating genetically engineered trees and vines that can stave off crown gall, a costly disease that affects many perennial fruit and nut crops, including walnuts, apples and grapes." (University of California - Davis)

"U.S. seen handing China GMO soy papers this week" - "SINGAPORE - Washington is delivering Beijing a safety certificate for genetically modified (GM) U.S. soybeans this week, which should pave the way for China to resume purchases of the U.S. oilseed, industry sources said on Tuesday." (Reuters)

"Biotechnology seen way to food sufficiency" - "Biotechnology is one of the most viable alternatives to the country's problem in food security even as it will enable the Philippines to catch up with its Southeast Asian neighbors in agricultural productivity, according to a study made by the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc. (Amcham)." (Manilla Bulletin)

"Scientists clear GM food of health risk" - "MOST scientists interviewed by a parliamentary inquiry into biotechnology and food believed genetically modified foods posed little or no health risk.

The parliamentary report, released by the Social Development Committee yesterday, showed only a minority of scientists believed genetically modified food was unsafe. But the inquiry found that controls previously applied to agricultural trials of canola in SA were widely regarded as unsafe.

The committee reported the regulatory framework in place in Australia afforded a high degree of assurance." (Adelaide Advertiser)

"New Zealand Govt. Bans Release of GMOs, Allows Field Trials" - "WELLINGTON, New Zealand - The New Zealand government confirmed Tuesday it would legislate to stop the commercial release of genetically modified organisms (GMO) into the New Zealand environment for two more years. But it would lift a 16-month ban on field trials of the organisms, which biotech opponents have branded dangerous "frankenfoods" that should be kept in the laboratory." (Reuters)

"Way cleared for GM crops" - "New genetically modified crops will be in the ground by Christmas after the Government overruled opposition from its Maori MPs to reopen the door to field trials. The long-awaited Government response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification came as a voluntary ban on applications for field trials was due to expire today." (New Zealand Herald)

"Unfriendly words from both sides of the GE fence" - "Organic farmer Wayne Parsonson believes the GM decision represents a looming threat to his business and wholesome lifestyle. Scientist Dr Daniel Cohen expects interruptions, obstacles and added expense for his pioneering genetics research. Neither man is happy." (New Zealand Herald)

"GM Decision Keeps Options Open For NZ Farmers" - "Federated Farmers of New Zealand President Alistair Polson has hailed the Government's GM decision as a victory for science and the future prosperity of New Zealand's biological based economy.

"The Government's essentially pragmatic decision means New Zealand can continue to move forward and maintain our international competitiveness and leading edge in biological sciences, said Mr Polson." (Federated Farmers Press Release)

"Scientists' big fears vanish but investment doubts stay" - "The Government decision on genetic modification has allayed the worst fears of business and science organisations. But some still worry about its effect on investment in biotechnology." (New Zealand Herald)

"We'll rip up GE crops - activists" - "Daylight raids by protesters on genetically engineered crops look certain following the Government's announcement to allow GE field trials to proceed." (Evening Post)

"Activists could tie GM up in knots" - "Anti-GM activists could choke the genetic experiment application process and turn it into a nightmare." (New Zealand Herald)

"Scientists welcome GE green light" - "Senior scientists say the Government's "pragmatic" decision to hold back commercial releases of genetically engineered plants and animals while allowing field trials to continue will give them the certainty needed for research to continue." (NZPA)

"Fear of GE rebellion produces treaty assurances" - "Labour's Maori MPs, after walking out of caucus yesterday, nailed down an agreement that Treaty of Waitangi clauses in genetic modification legislation will be strengthened." (New Zealand Herald)

"Gene genie will rise again from ballot box" - "The GM debate is over and the decision made. Welcome to the GM debate. By allowing GM field trials with tighter restrictions, the Government has closed the first chapter in the controversy. But GM is now set to be one of the centrepieces of next year's election - and not only because key decisions have been deferred until 2003. Why? Because the Greens have been delivered recruiting and campaigning manna from Helen." (New Zealand Herald)

October 30, 2001

"The anthrax threat" - "America's outbreak of anthrax contamination continues to widen, sowing alarm and confusion. On October 29th, the Supreme Court was forced to convene away from its main building. Three people have now died from pulmonary anthrax since October 5th. This has renewed fears about biological weapons, which may not threaten mass destruction, but are proving very effective at spreading terror." (The Economist)

"Let's Not Overreact to the Threat of Bioterrorism" - "To the Editor: In regard to Dr. Scott Gottlieb's Oct. 19th editorial-page piece "Ammo for the War on Germs" some of his ideas are misleading:" (Gilbert Ross M.D., Wall Street Journal)

"Cipro for Chickens Sets Off Antibiotic Debate" - "While one division of Bayer A.G. has been negotiating with the American government over the price of Cipro, used to treat and prevent anthrax in people, another branch of the company has been locked in a conflict with the government over a sister drug used to treat other infections in animals." (New York Times)

Oh dear... "Misconceptions about the common cold are common" - "SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 29 - When it comes to the common cold, 'common knowledge' may be lacking, Harvard researchers reported here Friday at the annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. It seems that many families are mistaken in their beliefs about the way colds are caught and cured." (Reuters Health)

"WORK PRESSURES HELP STRENGTHEN THE IMMUNE SYSTEM, GORY VIDEOS DO THE OPPOSITE" - "COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Engaging in stressful tasks like trying to meet a deadline may strengthen the immune system while exposure to stress that must be endured passively - like watching violence on TV - may weaken it, a researcher at the Ohio State University says.

The conclusion is based on a study that was designed to draw out the different effects that active and passive coping might have on the body's defenses. It presents some of the strongest evidence yet that certain kinds of stress can promote good health." (Ohio State)

What recall bias? "Nutrition: He Ate, She Ate; He Said, She Said" - "He says they dined on fried chicken; she says it was baked. She says it was 2 percent milk; he says 1 percent. She says he ate popcorn; he professes no recollection of it. Writing in a recent Journal of the American Dietetic Association, nutrition researchers who surveyed the eating habits of couples said they found repeated instances of disagreement between partners asked to describe what they had eaten in the last 24 hours." (New York Times)

"Study looks at asthma, obesity link" - "NEW YORK, Oct 29 - In the ongoing debate over the relationship between obesity and asthma, new study findings suggest that adolescents with asthma are no more likely to be obese than their non-asthmatic peers. The study, which included primarily African-American adolescents, seems to counter previous studies that found a link between the two conditions. Dr. Joel S. Brenner of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, and colleagues compared 265 asthmatics between the ages of 12 and 21 years with 482 children and young adults the same age who did not have asthma. The investigators found that 20% of those in the asthmatic group were obese, compared with 17% of those without asthma--essentially the same." (Reuters Health)

Coffee 'good' today? "Caffeine 'can ease headaches'" - "A cup of tea or coffee might be able to tackle certain types of headache, say researchers. The caffeine it contains could help a higher number of people gain complete relief from "tension headaches". Caffeine is already routinely added to many painkilling medications, including some which can be bought over the counter at chemists, and the latest research confirms that it has therapeutic value against conventional headache symptoms. But researchers at the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago also found that giving caffeine in isolation appeared to be as useful as giving standard pain relief." (BBC Online)

"Study raised alarm over treated wood a decade ago" - "OTTAWA - Health Canada is re-evaluating its approval of pressure treated wood for use in play structures amid concerns that harmful chemicals could be leaching from it. A report done by one of its own scientists a decade ago sounded the alarm." (CBC)

"Most Vitreous Fiber Wools Off The Carcinogen List" - "Man-made vitreous fibers in the form of wools are widely used in thermal and acoustical insulation and in other manufactured products in Europe and North America. These products, including glass wool, rock (stone) wool, and slag wool, have been in use for decades and have been extensively studied to establish whether fibers that are released during manufacture, use, or removal of these products present a risk of cancer when inhaled." (UniSci)

"Experts seek clues to frog abnormalities; Second year of study to determine whether man, nature at fault" - "In the second year of a national survey looking for abnormal amphibians across the United States, federal biologists found 33 wood frogs with deformities last summer among sample populations in three Alaska wildlife refuges from the Kenai Peninsula to Interior Alaska." (Anchorage Daily News)

"Test lawsuits filed over 'economy class syndrome'" - " LONDON - Two British air carriers are facing lawsuits from passengers who developed deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or "economy class syndrome," after long-haul flights. The passengers say British Airways and Virgin Airlines failed to warn them about the potential health risks." (CBC) | Airlines face legal action over DVT (BBC Online)

"Tampa, Fla.-Area Growers Say Ban on Pesticide Will Hurt Farming Profits" - "Oct. 28--TAMPA, Fla.-- Strawberry farmer Carl Grooms isn't happy about losing a potent weapon in the war against the worms and weeds that can choke the life out of his crop. "Some jackass up in Washington is making these rules," said Grooms, who farms berries outside of Plant City. "Is it going to hurt us? Of course it is."

Grooms is referring to the fast-approaching, government-mandated ban of the pesticide methyl bromide. He is feeling the pressure of rising methyl bromide prices compounded by the lack of a suitable alternative. Florida's billion-dollar winter vegetable and strawberry industries head into the growing season with a shrinking supply of methyl bromide, which government regulators targeted for elimination a decade ago. Years of research were supposed to turn up a viable replacement to offset the impact of methyl bromide's phaseout, but scientists say that hasn't happened." (Knight Ridder/Tribune)

"Storms lower ozone levels" - "Ozone miniholes over the North Atlantic follow the unsteady pulse of climate fluctuations." (Nature)

"Plea for Washington to reconsider position on Kyoto treaty" - "Talks to wrap up the UN's Kyoto Protocol have opened in the Morrocan city of Marrakesh, with an appeal to Washington to return to the climate-change pact it snubbed in March." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Bush urged to rethink Kyoto rejection" - "George W Bush is being urged to reconsider his rejection of the Kyoto Protocol in the wake of the US terrorist attacks. Friends of the Earth International's plea comes as politicians from around the world gather in Morocco for the next round of talks." (Ananova)

"Crucial climate meeting gets technical" - "BUENOS AIRES - Representatives of 175 countries will meet October 29 through November 9 in Morocco for a task that looks technical to the layperson, but is crucial for getting countries to meet their 2002 targets for reducing emissions of the gases responsible for global warming." (Asia Times)

"Delegates put final touches on climate deal" - "MARRAKECH, Morocco -- Security concerns were high as thousands of delegates gathered Monday to hammer out a final deal on rules to implement a climate change treaty -- the largest international conference since the Sept. 11 attacks, and the first major such meeting since then in a Muslim country." (AP)

"All Eyes on US as Climate Talks Open" - "All eyes will be on the United States delegation at a global meeting on climate change today to see whether the September 11 terrorist attacks have changed Washington's stance on an international treaty it rejected in March." (OneWorld, UK)

"U.S. Is Taking a Back Seat in Latest Talks on Climate" - "With the United States in attendance but sitting on the sidelines, more than 150 countries begin 12 days of talks in Morocco today aimed at completing the rule book for the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty requiring cuts in gases linked to global warming." (New York Times)

Better balanced than the norm: "Climate roadshow rumbles on" - "Negotiators from more than 150 countries have begun another round of talks on climate change.

Tony Juniper of Friends of the Earth said: "The world has rightly shown its solidarity with the people of the US after the appalling crimes of 11 September. Tony Blair must now use his influence with President Bush to persuade him to show his solidarity with the rest of the world by tackling climate change."

But Philip Stott, professor of biogeography at the University of London, UK, a longstanding climate change sceptic, sounded a different note. "Let's hope all those eager delegates who will be at COP7 actually take time to study the temperature history of where they're visiting - there's no 'global warming' at all in Morocco", he said." (BBC Online)

"Briefly Empty Skies Offer Climate Clues" - "The suspension of flights after the Sept. 11 attacks has provided scientists with a rare chance to improve their analysis of how aviation affects climate.

When the air above 25,000 feet is humid, the skies are laced with drifting streaks called contrails, created as ice crystals form on the exhaust plumes of hundreds of jets. The wind and gravity disperse the narrow contrails, which form wispy cirrus clouds.

This veil-like type of cloud allows sunlight in to warm the earth and traps some of the rising heat before it can radiate into space. This effect is thought to add slightly to a warming trend that scientists say is caused by heat-trapping gases released when fossil fuels are burned." (New York Times)

Perennial favourite nonsense: "Farewell Tuvalu" - "The world has just shifted on its axis, but not in the way you might first imagine. A group of nine islands, home to 11,000 people, is the first nation to pay the ultimate price for global warming." (Guardian)

From the Pew Center for Generating Climate Claptrap: "Pew Center Releases Book" - "It is the greatest environmental challenge of the 21st Century. But what do we truly know about global climate change? And what can we do about it?" (PCGCC)

"Warm spell sees nature defying the seasons" - "Global warming: As 150 countries meet in Morocco to discuss climate change, Britain's natural world responds to record temperatures." (Independent)

"USUAL SUBJECTS, USUAL SUSPECTS, CLIMATE STILL AT RISK" - "Marrakech - Australia, Canada, Russia and Japan are attempting to undermine the landmark Bonn Agreement reached last July to finalise the rules for the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement aimed at preventing dangerous climate change that open in Marrakech today, Greenpeace warned." (Greenpeace)

"Nuclear power 'not needed' to hit green targets" - "Ministers will meet ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without having to build any more nuclear power stations, according to a government-backed report. The Carbon Trust, charged by the prime minister to persuade business to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, has told the government's energy review that the targets can be met if power is generated through other means such as hydrogen, wind and waves. Ian McAllister, who chairs the trust and is also chairman of Ford of Britain, said: "Nuclear is a red herring in this particular debate: you can achieve your low-carbon economy without nuclear. It's not necessary to meet the targets." (Financial Times)

"NO BIO-TERROR FEAR FROM BACILLUS THURINGIENSIS (BT), SAY PLANT SCIENTISTS; Rumors of anthrax-like dangers from organic pesticides and biotech plants are unfounded" - "Tuskegee, AL, Oct. 29 -- As letters containing anthrax have terrorized the U.S. in recent weeks, many assertions have been made comparing the anthrax bacterium Bacillus anthracis (Ba) to Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a bacterium popular with farmers who use it as an organic spray to kill insects. However, scientists at the Agbioworld Foundation have recently discredited these rumors, stressing that there is nothing to fear from organic farming or other agricultural applications of Bt, such as biotech plants that contain a single gene from Bt." (AgBioWorld)

"Contraceptive corn, healthy tobacco: "pharming" takes root" - "In a greenhouse tucked away in Indianapolis flourishes corn being engineered to provide the active ingredients in gels that fight herpes and kill sperm. On 27 acres of Kentucky farmland grows tobacco that someday may actually help fight cancer. And in the tiny northern California farming town of Live Oak, rice laced with disease-fighting antibiotics usually found in mother's milk sprouts on a 10-acre paddy. It's called molecular farming, and it's blossoming at biotechnology start-ups across the country." (AP)

"Chudasma Endorses Genetic Cotton Seed For Its Yield" - "Former agriculture minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasma has favoured cultivation of genetically engineered cotton as its quality and yield were far better than traditional cotton produced in Saurashtra and central and south Gujarat districts." (Times of India)

"EU Nations OK Some Modified Foods" - "LUXEMBOURG -- European Union governments on Monday endorsed a plan that foodstuffs and animal feeds containing genetically modified organisms be clearly labeled, but kept in place a 1998 ban on the marketing of new GMO products in the union. Retaining the moratorium was a blow for the European Commission which said it will now take ``many more years'' before new biotech foods can come on the market in the 15-nation bloc. Eleven such products were approved prior to the 1998 ban and 13 new ones await EU approval." (AP)

"No end in sight for EU block on new GM foods" - "LUXEMBOURG - European Union governments yesterday rejected the idea of lifting a three-year ban on importing and planting new genetically modified organisms (GMOs), a position a top EU official warned was illegal." (Reuters)

"Govt extends moratorium on commercial GE release" - "Prime Minister Helen Clark today confirmed the Government would extend a moratorium on the commercial release of genetically engineered organisms for two years while further research was undertaken. She also confirmed the widely signalled plan to allow GE research to continue under "contained conditions" with mandatory controls and monitoring. Miss Clark made the announcement this afternoon after the Government caucuses discussed the issues. She said the two year moratorium excluded research that provided direct benefits to human health or animal health." | Editorial: Moratorium on GM just fence-sitting (New Zealand Herald) | Full text of the Prime Minister's statement on GE

"Agro-Biotechnology For Improving Agriculture In Sub-Saharan" - "The staple foods of Africa (e.g. cassava, yam, cooking banana, plantain, cowpea) feed tens of millions of poor people daily yet receive relative little attention from the biotechnology industry, because they are not major cash crop commodities. These crops are mostly consumed in the home or villages. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) bridges this gap by linking advanced research institutions around the world to developing countries to help them share the benefits of biotechnology." (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture)

"The Future of Plant Science in Zimbabwe" - "Abstract: Zimbabwe's agricultural biotechnology research capacity is located at universities, government research institutions, and parastatal (state-funded) organizations. Projects range from those using traditional biotechnology to a few that are experimenting with genetically modified organisms." (Idah Sithole-Niang, HMS Beagle)

"Greenpeace chides Canada, grocers on food labeling" - "TORONTO, Oct 29 - Greenpeace Canada lambasted the country's largest grocery chain and Health Minister Allan Rock on Monday for failing to support mandatory labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods." (Reuters)

"Row Over Cancelled GM Debate" - "The Government, Norfolk County Council and the agro-chemical industry were accused of running scared of public debate after a major GM conference planned for Norwich was cancelled.

The authority decided to cancel the conference after Lord Melchett, who is now national policy adviser for the Soil Association, Dr Sue Mayer, of GeneWatch, and Peter Riley, senior real food campaigner for Friends of the Earth, pulled out." (Norfolk-Now.co.uk)

"Nutrition Action Healthletter Cover Story: Genetically Engineered Foods: Are They Safe?" - "Using biotechnology to produce food has enormous potential: safer pesticides and less harm to wildlife, more nutritious foods, and greater yields to help feed the world¹s hungry nations. It¹s the risks of dicing and splicing Mother Nature that are harder to get a handle on. This month, we interview Doug Gurian-Sherman and Gregory Jaffe, co-directors of the Biotechnology Project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, publisher of Nutrition Action Healthletter." (CSPI)

"Self-Destruct Your Moths" - "YOU'VE likely heard of using genetically modified crops to control pests - the concept has worked particularly well against caterpillars, using Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) in corn plants. But how about altering the insects themselves to self-destruct? The concept is called "autocidal biological control" or "self-killing," and it's been around for decades. Now the idea is being used against codling moth (CM), with the help of genetic engineering." (American Fruit Grower)

October 29, 2001

Freedom Book of the Month for October, 2001: Junk Science Judo

Someone -- it may have been Mark Twain -- once referred to three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics. Most of us can identify with that sentiment, but it's still easy to be blind-sided by what purport to be "scientific" evaluations of facts or events and to make erroneous judgments based on those evaluations. (Free-Market.Net)

"The sucker front" - "AMERICA IN THESE sad and frightening days is still P.T. Barnum country, believing just about anything and paying money for it.

''Buy Our Cipro Online Package!'' shouts the advertising in one of many Web sites cashing in on the anthrax fear and offering the antibiotic for the disease at a whopping $69 for six tablets, plus a $75 charge for an online consultation. That's about $11 a pill, when drugstores charge between $4 and $5 and treatment for anthrax requires two pills a day for 60 days." (Boston Globe)

"Overdoses of Painkiller Are Linked to 282 Deaths" - "An extensive federal review of autopsy data has found that the powerful painkiller OxyContin is suspected of playing a role in the overdose deaths of 282 people in the last 19 months, more than twice the number in some previous estimates. The nation's top drug enforcement official recently called the new finding "startling." (New York Times)

Hmm... see Scare-Mongering Over 'Hillybilly Heroin' Deprives the Rest of Us (Steve Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"Red-tape 'disaster' for medical research" - "The future of clinical trials in the UK will be jeopardised by a new EU directive, according to research experts. Although the directive will not come into force in the UK for two years, charities which fund research here are already worried about its consequences. They say it will radically increase how much it costs to carry out academic work, or many drug trials." (BBC Online)

"Everything gives you cancer" - "If even broccoli and strawberries have been linked to the dreaded disease, what hope do we have, asks Tim Dowling." (Guardian via Sydney Morning Herald)

"Little uranium contamination: UN" - "DEPLETED uranium (DU) shells used by NATO forces had not caused widespread contamination in Kosovo, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has said. "There was no widespread contamination," said Pekka Haavisto, the leader of a UNEP team which tested 11 sites in the Yugoslav province bombed by NATO from March until June of 1999. Haavisto said there were also no signs of contamination in the water system or the food chain." (AFP)

"Deadly fashion as young seek sun" - "TANS are back in fashion and young people are spending more time in the sun than they have in the past 10 years, the NSW Cancer Council says. The emerging trend prompted the Cancer Council yesterday to warn people against dropping their sun-protection guard this coming summer.

Research director Bruce Armstrong said survey results showed the generation of people aged 15 to 29 were exposing themselves to the sun more than the previous generation. "It looks like tans are coming back into fashion," Professor Armstrong said." (Sydney Daily Telegraph)

"Key talks on ratifying Kyoto" - "MARRAKESH, Morocco -- U.N. climate talks on a pact to limit global warming resume on Monday with the United States the notable absentee." (CNN)

"US may be isolated at Kyoto talks - minister" - "RABAT - The United States may seem isolated at global warming talks next week at a time when it seeks global cooperation to fight terrorism, a Moroccan government minister said last week." (Reuters)

"Climate Meeting to Finalize Treaty" - "Capping a tortuous four-year effort, negotiators from more than 150 countries are heading to the Moroccan city of Marrakech to put the final touches on an accord aimed at limiting humanity's influence on the climate. The big question is how much difference it can make without the backing of a skeptical United States." (AP)

"Climate Talks Reach Climax Without Main Polluter" - "MARRAKESH, Morocco - U.N. climate talks on a pact to limit global warming resume Monday with the world's main polluter, the United States, on the sidelines. The two-week meeting in the southern Moroccan city will seek to produce a legally binding document for industrialized nations to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade. But the United States, the world's number one industrial power and its biggest polluter, is unlikely to return to the four-year-old pact." (Reuters)

"'Climate saviour' EU calls world to ratify Kyoto" - "BRUSSELS - There will be no excuse for countries delaying implementation of a four-year old pact on global warming once the rules are finalised in the next two weeks, the head of the European Union delegation said last week.

The 15-country European Union has styled itself as the saviour of the Kyoto Protocol on cutting greenhouse gases which the United States pulled out of in March. But the EU needs the support of most other industrialised countries to bring the deal into force." | FACTBOX - What is the Kyoto protocol? | CHRONOLOGY - The fight against global warming | FACTBOX - Science on global warming behind Kyoto pact (Reuters)

"Global Warming Talks – A Case of Misplaced Priorities?" - "WASHINGTON, D.C. — Global warming is once again on the international agenda as delegates meet from October 29 to November 9 in Marrakesh, Morocco for yet another series of negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol. Despite the dramatic change in international priorities that has occurred since September 11th, dozens of nations are returning to negotiations that seem less and less likely to secure any workable agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions." (Competitive Enterprise Institute)

"The Nenana Ice Classic: Betting on Warming"  - "Alaskans have been betting on the date and time of river ice breakup at Nenana every Spring. Now the Greenhouse Industry is in on the act, with some sloppy science in `Science' in the run-up to the COP7 climate conference at Marrakech, Morocco." (John L Daly, Still Waiting For Greenhouse)

"Cell implants may increase cancer risks" - "A new medical technique based on stem-cell and human–tissue research could spread viruses and cancers, scientists have warned. Supporters argue that tissue engineering could heal heart defects, treat deadly diseases and mend broken bones. But medical experts in Britain and on the continent have separately warned the UK Government and the European Commission that it poses dangers to patients." (Independent)

"GE field trials to get OK" - "The Government was set to approve genetic engineering field trials today, while extending a moratorium on the commercial release of genetically modified organisms." (Evening Post)

"Government to sign off GE decision but no announcement today" - "The Government will today sign off its decision on New Zealand's genetic engineering future. However, no announcement will be made until the Alliance and Green caucuses have discussed the decision at their weekly meetings tomorrow. Prime Minister Helen Clark yesterday indicated her Government believed it had found a way through what is a political minefield, believed to be that field trials of GE plants will be given the go-ahead but under strictly controlled conditions." (New Zealand Herald)

"Greens 'will live' with GM trials" - "The Green party says it will live with a decision expected from the Government this week that will end a moratorium on genetic modification field trials." (The Dominion)

"Both sides ready to claim GE win" - "Warring factions within the Government are both gearing up to claim victory when the decision on the future of genetic engineering in New Zealand is made this week." (New Zealand Herald)

October 27-28, 2001

From Professor Emeritus Philip Stott: "URGENT PROTEST" - "Please write to The Observer Sunday Newspaper to complain about their totally uncritical 'Climate Change Supplement' (28th October) published in association with the November Edition of The Ecologist: Letters to the Editor. You should keep your e-mail short. Here is the letter I have sent: "I was deeply disturbed by your uncritical publication of a climate change supplement in association with 'The Ecologist' (28 October). This was surely the near equivalent of issuing a pro-nuclear supplement in association with the nuclear power industry. There are many academics, economists and political analysts who do not accept the current science, economics or politics of climate change as represented by the supplement. It seems entirely inappropriate in a critical newspaper like 'The Observer' to ignore their voices in so biased a manner. Will you now produce counter articles arguing that the current construct of 'global warming' may be seriously misleading for both science and society?"

Thank you for any help you can give; such a supplement is entirely unacceptable in a serious broadsheet newspaper."

I have not seen the supplement in question but, given Philip's reluctance to engage in precipitous response, it must be something of a bellringer for him to request immediate reaction. I would particularly encourage our UK readers to give this matter attention forthwith.

More pre-CoP7 "enhanced greenhouse" items below.

"New Techniques in Ambulance Chasing; Why drug companies should be terrified of daytime TV." - "Princeton, N.J. lawyer John Sakson handles the usual array of personal injury suits. But he has also turned into an expert of sorts on the virtues of daytime television. It's there that his firm spends up to $80,000 a month soliciting potential plaintiffs. Some of his advertising is aimed at slip-and-fall and medical-malpractice victims. But these days he's also trawling for much bigger fish--plaintiffs for deep-pocket attacks on big corporations, especially pharmaceutical companies.

A 1977 Supreme Court decision interpreting the First Amendment opened the door to lawyer advertising. At first the TV ads were for walk-in divorce and estate work. Now, much of the time, the ads are aimed at stirring up litigation against the likes of Novartis, American Home Products and Johnson & Johnson. Last year in the top 75 TV markets, some 2,000 lawyers (out of the nation's 1 million) spent $230 million advertising their services." (Michael Freedman, Forbes Magazine)

"Don't Give In to the Anthrax Scare" - "If one aim of domestic terrorism is to instill feelings of fear and helplessness in citizens, the perpetrators of the anthrax terror hit pay dirt in Washington. They've managed to accomplish what the British tried to generate with their burning of the White House, the Capitol and other government buildings in 1814 -- what Lee Harvey Oswald couldn't deliver in 1963 -- and what the Pentagon attackers sought to but couldn't provoke on Sept. 11: a sense of vulnerability and danger so great that it disables and fundamentally alters the way the nation's capital does its business. The release of virulent spores into a healthy postal system achieved that end." (Colbert King, Washington Post)

Richmond Times-Dispatch)

"EPA finds toxic chemicals around WTC ruins" - "NEW YORK -- Toxic chemicals have been detected at levels exceeding federal safety standards in the soil and air around the still-burning rubble of the World Trade Center, according to documents compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency.

In addition to the dioxins, PCBs, benzene, lead and chromium found at the site, the EPA data released Friday showing low levels of contaminants had been found in the water and sediment of the Hudson River.

Officials were quick to caution people not to apply the measurements taken near the trade center wreckage to other areas of the city. "The debris pile is different from the rest of Manhattan," said Nina Habib, an EPA spokeswoman." (AP)

Should fit into the show-biz eco scene nicely: "Who give a **** about New York when whales and elephants are dying?" - "LEE RYAN from Blue has made an astonishing outburst saying the attacks on New York have been “blown out of proportion.” The stupid boy — there is no other expression for him — told The Sun that instead of feeling sorry for New Yorkers we should be worrying about WHALES and ELEPHANTS. The 18-year-old, who actually WITNESSED the September 11 tragedy, said during a visit to The Sun’s HQ: “Who gives a f about New York when elephants are being killed? “Animals need saving and that’s more important. This New York thing is being blown out of proportion ... I’m not afraid to say this, it has to be said and that’s why I’m the outspoken one from the band.” (The Sun, UK)

"50 million animals to die in poison tests" - "A European Commission plan to test thousands of chemicals for toxicity will initiate the biggest animal testing program Europe has ever seen and require the death of at least 50 million animals.

The plan, which involves testing a minimum of 30,000 chemicals found in everyday products to make sure they are safe for human health and the environment, has been condemned by animal rights groups. It has also been criticised by environmentalists, who think it doesn't go far enough, and by the chemical industry.

The sheer scale of the program being considered by the European Parliament is only now beginning to emerge." (The Sun-Herald)

At least this time animal libbers have a sound point. This "testing program" is nothing more than absurd chemical hysteria.

"Asthma vaccine hope" - "Scientists are investigating whether a vaccine based on a bacteria found in soil can protect against asthma. In previous experiments with blood cells, the bacteria has been shown to change the way immune cells recognise allergens - agents which cause allergies. If successful, the vaccine could help some of the estimated 3.4 million people in the UK with asthma, including more than 1.5 million children." (BBC Online)

"Research shows HRT safe for cancer survivors" - "Australian research shows menopausal women who have had breast cancer can safely use hormone replacement therapy. Research leader, Dr John Eden, said there is a popular misconception that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases the recurrence of breast cancer in menopausal women. However, Dr Eden, of Sydney's Royal Women's Hospital, said his research has dispelled this myth." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

A little more accurate reporting from the 'Beeb': "Cancer study eases family history fears" - "Most women with a family history of breast cancer will never develop the disease, researchers have found. However, the risk does increase with each close relative who develops the disease." (BBC Online)

and Reuters: "Breast cancer risk often lower than women think" - "NEW YORK, Oct 26 - A new report from the UK confirms that women who have a sister, mother or daughter with breast cancer have an above-average risk of developing the disease themselves, but the risk is not as great as often thought.

In fact, most women with a family of history of breast cancer will never get the disease themselves, according to the report published in the October 27th issue of the medical journal The Lancet. And most women who develop breast cancer do not have a close relative with breast cancer." (Reuters Health)

A silver lining in every cloud? "Political activists, environmentalists feel chill of anti-terror campaign" - "OTTAWA - Peaceniks beware. Rabble-rousers watch out. Tree huggers stay home. The chill is on. Activists who work on environment, peace, trade and health issues say anxiety over terrorism has made it almost impossible for them to be heard.

They allege that once-acceptable political views are suddenly being treated like heresy. They complain they can't get media attention for issues that used to be taken seriously. And they fear they could be caught up in measures intended to defeat terrorism." (CP)

"Greenpeace may rethink protest tactics after Quebec-Cree agreement" - "MONTREAL -- Activists may shelve future protests against hydro projects on Quebec Cree territory now that local communities stand to benefit financially from them, says a Greenpeace spokesman. But Steven Guilbeault warned Friday that a tentative deal to dam two northern rivers and provide jobs for natives is a short-term fix that could have devastating environmental consequences.

"Dams emit greenhouse gases," Guilbeault said in an interview. "This may seem like good news for the Cree in terms of money and jobs but frankly I don't think it is." Guilbeault said the deal, which could see the Cree receive $3.5 billion over 50 years, will force environmentalists to tread carefully to avoid angering their native allies. "It would be extremely tense for Greenpeace or any other group to try and go and protest in these areas," he said." (CP)

Wassamatta? 'fraid your allies won't play nice?

"Picking holes in environmentalists' case" - "ACID rain, global warming, polluted rivers, species loss, deforestation, falling sperm counts and desertification everywhere, the world seems to be going to hell in a hand basket.

Only radical changes in our lives and major population reductions can halt the decline. Or that's what mainstream green groups tell us. But former Greenpeace member and Danish academic Bjorn Lomborg says that's nonsense. In fact, the environment is doing much better than ever before." (Roger Bate, Business Day)

"Researchers plan ocean sound tests; Experiments off Kauai gauging temperatures could start in January" - "A five-year experiment to measure the Pacific Ocean's temperature with sound waves could resume off Kauai as soon as January, its lead researcher said yesterday.

Worcester said the new data on ocean temperatures collected by sound measurements will be combined with information about climate change gathered by satellite and other methods. He said the first two years of testing proved that this method more than met hopes for its accuracy." (Honolulu Star-Bulletin)

"Economic Activity Influences how Global Warming is Measured" - "Upward-trending graphs of global surface temperatures are often treated as evidence of global warming on the assumption that weather stations only record climatic changes, as opposed to, say, growth in economic activity in the vicinity of the instruments, or the deterioration of the measurement infrastructure.

To test this assumption, Ross McKitrick, a professor at Guelph University in Canada, developed an empirical model that separately identified climatic, economic and measurement effects on surface temperature records." (Still Waiting For Greenhouse)

"U.S. appoints delegation leader for COP7 in Morocco" - "WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 - Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky will lead the U.S. delegation to the upcoming international conference on global warming in Marrakech, Morocco, the State Department announced Friday.

The seventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP7) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change is scheduled from Monday to Nov. 9. The conference will adopt a rule book for the implementation of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol." (Kyodo)

"FOCUS: COP7 to clear path for adoption of weakened Kyoto pact" - "TOKYO, Oct. 26 - Upcoming U.N. climate talks are expected to result in an accord that will pave the way for the Kyoto Protocol's entry into force, but the continued lack of U.S. participation and efforts by other countries to seek loosened regulations could mitigate the pact's environmental effectiveness." (Kyodo)

"Russia wants double its carbon sink allocation" - "TOKYO, Oct. 27 - Russia will demand it be allocated a total of 33 million tons of carbon to be soaked up by forests during U.N. climate talks to start Monday in Morocco, nearly twice as much as it was allocated during the preceding climate talks in Bonn in July, negotiation sources said Friday.

Russia has objected to the cap on the so-called carbon sinks -- carbon dioxide absorption by forests to offset emissions -- while expressing dissatisfaction over an allocation of 17.63 million tons as agreed by ministers of signatory states during the Bonn meeting." (Kyodo)

Pre-CoP7 hype getting sillier by the minute: "Global warming could melt away British traditions" - "Researchers are claiming global warming could threaten British traditions like the Sunday roast. Analysts say the Britain's psyche is so intrinsically linked to the weather that many uniquely British traits will be threatened." (Ananova)

"Bureaucratically modified science" - "John Fraser feels like a prisoner - fingers tapping and feet jiggling, waiting for the jail door to swing open.

As a professor in molecular biology, which, he says, "is essentially the ability to shuffle genes between organisms", Fraser has spent years captive to New Zealand's laws restricting the creation of new genetically modified organisms.

His quest to develop a non-harmful superantigen that could strengthen vaccines of any kind has been stymied.

He's far from the only scientist in this position, but his experiences at the often confusing cutting edge of genetic modification offer an insight into the GM debate and how it has affected scientists here." (New Zealand Herald)

"GM Food: Fact Versus Myth" - "Ignore the stories. Food-crop genetic-engineering technology is sound; safety checks work

WORLD FOOD DAY just ended. If you live in Hong Kong, you may have run into some of the people pictured below, Greenpeace protesters who had been slapping warning labels on supermarket products they claimed were made from genetically modified ingredients. Each year, the anti-GM-food lobby gains more converts, even in Asia. They succeed through stunts like this one, and by perpetuating myths that are unwittingly embroidered with each telling. With each new convert, the greater is the delay in introducing more GM food with its lower cost of production. And this only hurts the poor, many of whom live in Asia. Allow us, then, to attempt to clear the air." (Far Eastern Economic Review)

"Combating The - Green Menace" - "Within a few days we will know the degree to which the government has been captured by the Greens.

Its response to the report of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification is likely to be cautious to the point of delaying GM field trials by a further two years. The report itself is so laden with environmental bureaucracy and political correctness as to make any moderate free-enterpriser throw up.

The government, with the help of National and Act New Zealand, easily has the numbers to carry out the report's recommendations but Labour and Alliance are slowly turning green.

The irony is that the report, far from giving GM free rein, locks the research and development community in a green straitjacket from which there is no obvious escape." (National Business Review)

"Clean, green and untrue, say dairy ads' foes" - "Genetic science? Never heard of it.

That's what the dairy industry wants British consumers to believe, but anti-GM groups say New Zealand's richest industry is telling big fibs.

Greenpeace and the Auckland Anti-GE Coalition say billboards advertising Anchor butter all over Britain are "completely hypocritical".

They depict New Zealand cows grazing on rolling green paddocks above the words: "Modern farming? We're 75 years behind, thank goodness".

Greenpeace campaigner Annette Cotter says: "It just shows the hypocrisy when [the dairy industry] is aggressively promoting genetic engineering for animals and animal feed here in New Zealand." (New Zealand Herald)

"Employers urge green light for GM" - "New Zealand cannot afford to be held to ransom by a minority of MPs over the genetic modification (GM) issue, according to the Employers & Manufacturers Association. "The decision due this week must be the Government's view, not one based on opinion polling, or keeping the Green Party on side," said Alasdair Thompson, EMA's chief executive." (New Zealand Herald)

"NZ govt to end ban on GMO field tests" - "The New Zealand government will next week end a 16-month ban on new "field" trials of genetically-modified organisms (GMO), despite opposition from a key political party, government sources said on Friday. A moratorium on the commercial release of GMOs into the environment would be extended for two years, with a few exceptions for very low-risk applications, the sources said." (Reuters)

"Govt depts differ on Gujarat Bt cotton row" - "NEW DELHI -- EVEN as the controversy over illegally grown Bt cotton in Gujarat rages on, there is another storm brewing with interested ministries taking contradictory stands on how to handle it.

Today, department of biotechnology secretary Manju Sharma spoke strongly in favour of ''protecting'' the interests of farmers.

What is interesting though is that she was not talking compensation (that, she said was an issue for the state government to worry about) and added in the same breath that Bt. cotton with Cry 1 A (C) gene was ''perfectly safe.''

However the ministry of agriculture is clear that with India being free from transgenic crops, there was no other option but to destroy the cotton crops in Gujarat." (The Economic Times)

"BT Cotton Mix-Up Shows Difficulty of Controlling GM Crops" - "MUMBAI, India, Oct 25, 2001 -- Three years ago, Indian farmers angry at illegal trials of transgenic Bt cotton torched fields in southwestern Karnataka state. This time, the fields are being burned by the Indian government, which recently discovered thousands of hectares that had been planted with transgenic cotton without the government's knowledge or approval." (Inter Press Service via COMTEX)

"Rutgers' Food Policy Institute Awarded 2.5 Million From USDA For Food" - "What do we know about how the public perceives biotechnology, and to what degree does our understanding help to guide policy makers, regulators, consumers, farmers, food firms, and those in the biotechnology industry?

Unfortunately, the answer is, "not much," says Dr. Bill Hallman, principal investigator of a $2.5 million project to evaluate consumer acceptance of biotechnology in the United States. The USDA awarded the grant to the Food Policy Institute, a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional institute based at Cook College and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station." (Ascribe News)

"Resolving Thorny Gmo Debate Requires Confidence, Patience, Education" - "Policymakers are gearing up for a treacherous and lengthy feud with the European Union over genetically modified (GM) foods, with the central problem being European consumers' mistrust of food regulatory agencies.

According to a European Commission delegate in Washington, D.C., raising European consumer confidence is the only way GM food will have a market in Europe. "If there is no restoration of consumer confidence, GM food is dead in Europe," said Tony Van der haegen, the minister-counselor in the EC's Washington delegation responsible for consumer affairs and food safety. The EC is an institution within the EU that consists of 20 members from 15 countries who submit policy proposals to the EU's two legislative bodies: the Council of the European Union, which consists of the ministers of the 15 member countries, and the European Parliament, whose members European citizens directly elect." (E&E Publishing)

October 26, 2001

"Health Officials Not to Blame in Anthrax Deaths" - "The tragic deaths of two postal workers this week from anthrax has pushed us into the ugly world of finger-pointing." (Steve Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"Post Offices to Install Devices to Destroy Deadly Organisms" - "The Postal Service said last night that it would buy devices that would use powerful beams of high-energy electrons to kill anthrax or other deadly organisms in sacks of mail collected and delivered to mail-processing centers. The technology, often known as ion beam sterilization, is already used in the food and medical-device industries." (New York Times)

"Poll shows Americans not overwrought over anthrax" - "WASHINGTON, Oct 25 - Most Americans are not gripped by anxiety over the anthrax attacks that have killed three people this month in the United States, according to an ABC News poll released on Thursday." (Reuters)

Gary Brookins comment (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

"Don't Panic. We Can Fight Smallpox." - "As frightening as the threat of anthrax has been, the nightmare scenario for biological warfare calls for another pathogen—one which, unlike anthrax, can be transmitted from person to person.

Smallpox fits this description well. It is spread through face-to-face contact, by means of infected saliva or respiratory droplets, usually in a closed setting. It can also be spread by infected linens or clothes: It was probably first used as a biological weapon during the French and Indian Wars by British soldiers who deliberately gave blankets that had been used by smallpox patients to American Indians.

Smallpox is fatal in approximately 30% of cases. As a virus, it is not treatable by antibiotics. No American civilian has been vaccinated since 1972, and it is likely that those who were before that have little, if any, immunity left.

Is this cause for panic or resignation, born of a grim reality that there is nothing we can do to protect ourselves? No, not at all. A review of medical and historical realities should give us confidence that if the unthinkable occurs, we could mount an effective campaign against the biological terrorism of smallpox." (Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan, Wall Street Journal)

"America the sensible" - "TO JUDGE by some accounts, especially in the foreign press, America is shivering on the edge of hysteria. The grandes dames of Georgetown's dinner-party circuit are holed up in safe rooms, their children and servants decked out in nice new gas masks. The Pooh-Bahs of the New York media are dosed up on Cipro and psychotherapy. And the masses are too terrified to do anything other than pop pills and watch television. Quite unlike the Brits, who cheerfully endured the Blitz while singing choruses of “Knees up Mother Brown”, America is suffering a collective nervous breakdown. The truth is much more interesting." (The Economist)

"Hands-free phones still distracting for drivers" - "NEW YORK, Oct 25 - Laws that restrict the use of hand-held cell phones may do little to make roads safer, since drivers using hands-free phones are just as likely to miss traffic signals and have slow reaction times as drivers who use hand-held phones, researchers report. The results of a new study indicate that the phone conversation itself, not just holding or dialing the phone, can keep drivers from focusing on the road." (Reuters Health)

"vCJD 'epidemic' might be waning" - "The total number of cases of vCJD caused by eating BSE-infected beef - could be far fewer than previously thought, says a new study. A research team from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine say that their estimates show that the total numbers likely to die from vCJD is likely to be no more than a few thousand - rather than the tens of thousands currently predicted." (BBC Online)

Yep - if vCJD is actually a new disease rather than a newly identified old disease and if it is actually caused by consumption of BSE infected beef then alarmist claims of looming epidemic could still be vastly overblown.

"Breast cancer does run in the family, major study finds" - "Women are nearly twice as likely to contract breast cancer if they have a mother, sister or daughter who has fallen victim to the disease, according to a landmark new study published. If women have two affected relatives, they are three times more likely to develop the disease than other women, and the risk quadruples if three first-degree relatives are affected." (Independent)

Well, yes... but. The "but" in is this case is that roughly nine-tenths of cases appear in women with no family history of the disease at all while fewer than one in five women with even two affected first-degree relatives will develop breast cancer before age 80years (one in eight for one affected first-degree relative). Having a family member with breast cancer is not exactly a sentence and not having such relatives is hardly a "get out of jail free" card with a rate of one in thirteen.

Hmm... another "let's scare consumers about pesticides" promo from  - you guessed it - Fenton Communications: "NEW ECO-LABEL GREATLY REDUCES GROWERS’ USE OF TOXIC PESTICIDES" - "In response to growing consumer demand for environmentally responsible products, Protected Harvest, a new eco-label that reduces the use of pesticides by farmers, is now being introduced into grocery stores. Protected Harvest is a collaboration between farmers, scientists, and environmental advocates." (Fenton Communications)

"More Green bans?" - "When reports of the following email exchange and subsequent press releases started turning up they were thought apocryphal but, no, apparently this did occur. For your enjoyment: Greens Support Ban On Water! Press Release by New Zealand National Party, 25 Oct 2001." (New Zealand National Party, Green Party, et al)

"Alaska Ice Contest Helps Scientists" - "ANCHORAGE, Alaska - For 84 years, winter-weary Alaskans have amused themselves every spring by placing bets on when the ice on the Tanana River will break up. Now those years of data have helped climate researchers conclude that spring is arriving earlier. The study by Stanford University scientists in Friday's issue of the journal Science relied on records from the Nenana Ice Classic, an annual guessing game held in the community 230 miles north of Anchorage.

The researchers analyzed contest records and discovered that, on average, the Tanana River breakup is occurring 5.5 days earlier in recent years than it did in 1917. The findings are in line with historic temperature data from Nenana and Fairbanks, about 40 miles away." (AP) | Betting on climate change: Alaskan gambling contest yields treasure trove of scientific data (Stanford University)

Isn't this a surprise. A quick glance at the 1917 figure on the US temp track may even suggest a reason.

"Radiocarbon Level In Corals Yields Record Of El Niño" - "University of Arizona Earth scientist Warren Beck is using radiocarbon levels in corals to derive long records of El Niño variability in the equatorial Pacific. He suggests these results are also useful for tracking variations in carbon dioxide emissions from the equatorial Pacific, an important region for controlling releases of this potent greenhouse gas." (UniSci)

"What’s in Store at Next Week’s Global Warming Conference" - "Delegates from 178 countries meet next week for the third time in less than a year to work out more details of the rules and bureaucratic apparatus for the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 global warming treaty." (James K. Glassman, Tech Central Station)

Pre-CoP7 "we're all gonna drown/dry/freeze/broil/something bad": "Global warming alert issued for U.S. Gulf states" - "Conflicts over fresh water are in the future for the five U.S. states that border the Gulf of Mexico, a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists predicts." (ENN)

"UN gears up for climate change talks in Marrakech" - "Four years after the first drafting of the Kyoto Protocol on the global reduction of greenhouse gasses, what may be the final round of discussions starts in Marrakech next Monday. The UN Framework on the Convention on Climate Change 7th Conference of the Parties (COP7) will take place "despite suggestions that it should not," said Michael Zammit Cutajar, Executive Secretary of the Convention, speaking at a press briefing in New York Monday morning." (Earth Times)

"Tokyo eyes EU help over protocol" - "The government is to step up cooperation with the European Union in an effort to bring Washington around to joining the Kyoto Protocol, officials said Wednesday. The administration of George W. Bush has pulled out of the global warming pact. Environment Ministry councillor Hironori Hamanaka told a Liberal Democratic Party meeting on the environment, ``We will have serious discussions with the EU about how to get the U.S. back on board.'' (Asahi Shimbun)

"German VDEW rejects mandatory emissions trading" - "FRANKFURT - German power industry association VDEW yesterday rejected European Union plans to stipulate the trading of pollution right certificates from 2005, saying its voluntary climate protection measures would suffer." (Reuters)

"Expert Panel Report On Biotechnology And Foods: Institute Of Food Technologists" - "In an effort to contribute to a meaningful dialogue on scientific issues and consumer concerns about rDNA biotechnology, the Institute of Food Technologists conducted a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence related to biotechnology and foods." (Institute of Food Technologists)

"INTERVIEW: NZ Green Party Wants Ban On GMO Field Trials" - "WELLINGTON -- New Zealand's Green Party wants the minority government to impose an indefinite ban on field trials of genetically modified organisms. Jeanette Fitzsimons, the party's parliamentary Co-leader, told Dow Jones Newswires Wednesday, her party fears that if the government gives the greenlight to permitting field trials of GMOs, that might irrevocably damage the organic farming sector in the short-term. It could also, she said, damage the country's long-term potential to fully cash in on New Zealand's ''clean green image'' among overseas food consumers, many of whom are increasingly wary of genetically modified food, she added." (Dow Jones Newswires)

"Sharad Joshi Tells Farmers To Protect Bt Gene" - "The Sharad Joshi-led Shetkari Sangathan has rallied support for cotton farmers in Gujarat who are being threatened that their standing crops would be destroyed because they had used an unapproved hybrid variety of genetically engineered seeds." (Times of India)

"This Corn Isn't Fatal" - "It's important to be concerned about ecological and environmental matters. But it's at least as important to apply reason and balance to such concerns. Consider, as an instance, the widely publicized assertion by many advocacy groups that genetically engineered corn crops pose a significant threat to the population of the handsome monarch butterfly." (The Providence Journal)

"European Plan Threatens GM Food" - "WASHINGTON, Oct 24, 2001 -- A European Union proposal requiring labeling and tracing of genetically modified foods is part of a protracted feud with the United States that is based on cultural attitudes and European distrust of its own regulatory process, experts said Wednesday. The EU proposal was adopted by the European Commission this summer and is pending in the European Parliament. It is widely expected to pass and be implemented by 2003." (United Press International via COMTEX)

October 25, 2001

Reminder: "Prominent Thinkers Gather in New York to Debate the Future of Science And Fear, October 26-28" - "NEW YORK, Oct 24 -- With growing worries about bioterrorism and mounting hostility in some parts of the world towards the West over the global expansion of Western commerce and ideas, never has there been a greater need for a serious debate about the uses and abuses of science and technology, the backlash against progress, and the emerging culture of fear.

Prominent scientists, authors, and public intellectuals will gather in Manhattan this weekend to debate the future of progress and ask, ``Have we gone too far?'' (PRNewswire)

"Virtual anthrax" - "WASHINGTON - Terrorists are planning attacks at shopping malls on Halloween. Nostradamus predicted the Sept. 11 attacks. A deadly virus is being spread via the mail in blue envelopes.

How do I know all this? E-mails.

Since Sept. 11, people have spoken of reordering priorities. It's time to start. The next time you get one of these e-mails, put aside pointless worries - and hit the delete key." (Howard Fienberg, Christian Science Monitor)

"U.S. Postal Service to Irradiate Mail" - "WASHINGTON, DC, October 24, 2001 - The U.S. Postal Service will begin irradiating mail as of November 1 in an effort to wipe out deadly anthrax bacteria, Postmaster General Jack Potter announced today. The irradiation is part of a tough new set of measures Potter has introduced to protect postal workers and the public from anthrax in the mail. "This new technology won't be cheap, but we are committed to spending what it takes to make the mail safe," Potter said. Irradiation, which consists of bombardment of the mail with electrons, is already being used to kill bacteria in some foods." (ENS) | Electron beams could be used to irradiate post (New Scientist)

"Authorities feed public panic, says security expert" - "VANCOUVER - Authorities shouldn't be surprised that anthrax fears are growing when the public sees them appear to panic in the face of a potential risk, says a security expert. Health officials in Vancouver are reporting large numbers of people heading to their doctors' offices demanding to be tested for anthrax, despite having had no possible exposure." (CBC)

"Biological monsters in our closets will scare us to death" - "Terrorism and anthrax are the world's new bogymen, but our anxieties are proving more potent than either, writes Catherine Keenan.

The difference between fear and anxiety is that fear has an object. Consequently, said German theologian Paul Tillich, it can be faced, analysed, endured and, often, overcome. Anxiety, in contrast, is fear without an object - it blots out the sun and leaves us floundering in the dark, feeling infinitely vulnerable.

This goes some way towards explaining the massive over-reaction to the threat of anthrax. On the strength of three deaths in the US there have been hundreds of scares and evacuations from Australia to Finland. People are spotting suspicious white powder on everything from envelopes to Danish pastries." (Sydney Morning Herald)

"Scientists Advise Calm in the Wake of the Anthrax Exposures" - "New York, NY—October 24, 2001—Americans should remain calm in the face of the anthrax exposures reported in Florida, New York, Washington, and other areas, advised the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), a public-health group directed by more than 350 leading scientists and physicians.

"This is not to say that we should let our vigilance lapse. Indeed, all we should maintain a heightened sense of awareness to possible biological threats," said Gilbert Ross, M.D., ACSH's medical director.

"But the danger of bioterrorism should not be blown out of proportion. The preparedness exhibited by the public health authorities should serve to reassure the public that all responsible actions are being taken to protect our health." (ACSH)

Also from ACSH: Precaution (of a Sort) Without Principle (Henry I. Miller and Gregory Conko) | Biting Movement: Animal-Rights Trespassing and What Some Critics Are Saying About It (Stephanie Mason) | Ultraviolet Can Make You Blue (Susan L. Narod) | The Semantically Tangled Web of 'CAMpaigning' (Jack Raso)

Media and politicians notwithstanding: "Public Bounces Back After Sept. 11 Attacks, National Study Shows; Confidence levels at 30-year high" - "Americans responded with resilience to the events of Sept. 11, registering large increases in their feelings of national pride, confidence in many institutions, and faith in people, according to the National Tragedy Study by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago." (NSF News)

"Perennial author of policy fiascos" - "Canada is now on record around the world as a patent-breaker. The news made the front page of The New York Times over the weekend and the front page of yesterday's Wall Street Journal, which noted that Canada had "decided to strip the patent on Bayer's flagship product," the anti-anthrax drug Cipro. For this we can thank Allan Rock, Minister of Health and perennial author of world-class policy fiascos

The Health Canada decision to override Bayer's patent in favour of a copycat antibiotic produced by Canadian generic drug maker Apotex turned out to be a major gaffe. It was illegal, unnecessary, uninformed, misleading and inappropriate. As a result, the Apotex contract will now apparently be cancelled, threats of lawsuits are in the air, Canada's international reputations is under water and Mr. Rock is running for cover. In classic form, he implausibly shuffled ministerial responsibility off to "junior bureaucrats" in his department." (Terence Corcoran, National Post)

"Trial Lawyer TV: NBC Announces New Erin Brockovich Program" - "NBC said this week it will feature Erin Brockovich in a pilot for a one-hour syndicated talk show that could begin airing as soon as early next year. NBC’s parent company, it is worth noting, is General Electric.

Brockovich was a legal assistant for trial lawyer Ed Masry in a law firm that successfully pressed a class action lawsuit against Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) on behalf of the residents of Hinkley, Calif.

A PG&E plant was fingered for leaking a rust-inhibitor called hexavalent chromate, or Chromium-VI, into the water near Hinkley. The lawsuit claimed elevated Chromium-VI in drinking water caused cancers as disparate as breast, uterine, prostate as well as other tumors. As Brockovich put it, the leaks "damaged the health of countless people who lived in and around Hinkley, Calif."

The corporate Goliath caved to the tune of $333 million -- while seemingly altruistic trial lawyer Davids racked up over $100 million in fees. Brockovich walked off with a couple million dollars and, more importantly, a narrative she could milk for the rest of her days, including the stylish movie about her activities.

The problem is, as the Hudson Institute’s Michael Fumento has documented in meticulous and exhaustive detail , the suit against PG&E was based on shoddy science and hysteria." (Dr. Sallie Baliunas and Nick Schulz, Tech Central Station)

"Food myths can go back into the meat safe" - "Hands up everyone who thinks it's unsafe to refreeze meat that's been thawed. Well, you're wrong. It's safe, says the nation's food industry body, which set out yesterday to debunk a whole series of myths about what we eat. Among the great food myths that need exposing, it says, are: that chickens are fed growth hormones; that oysters are an aphrodisiac; and that red food colouring makes children hyperactive. At a forum organised by the Australian Food and Grocery Council, the meat question was the highest ranking food myth, believed by 85 per cent of 500 consumers surveyed." (Sydney Morning Herald)

"Estrogen doesn’t prevent second strokes: protective effects of hormone replacement therapy challenged" - "Estrogen hormone replacement therapy does not reduce the risk of stroke or death in postmenopausal women who have already had a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA), according to a report from the first randomized, controlled clinical trial of estrogen therapy for secondary prevention of cerebrovascular disease." (NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)

"Blame North America megafauna extinction on climate change, not human ancestors" - "Even such mythical detectives as Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot would have difficulty trying to find the culprit that killed the mammoths, mastodons and other megafauna that once roamed North America.

Scientists have been picking over the bones and evidence for more than three decades but can not agree on what caused the extinction of many of the continent's large mammals. Now, in two new papers, a University of Washington archaeologist disputes the so-called overkill hypothesis that pins the crime on the New World's first humans, calling it a "faith-based credo" that bows to Green politics." (University of Washington)

"Sticking to our place in the sun" - "TWO decades on, we still haven't got the message to slip, slop and slap. Fewer than half of Queenslanders wear a hat or sunscreen, a survey shows. Its findings come all this time after we were first urged to slip on a T-shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat. One in two Queenslanders is likely to develop skin cancer sooner or later. Queensland Health's latest Sun Smart Survey of 1500 people did reveal a minor increase over the past decade in people wearing hats or sunscreen in sunny weather, and a decrease in those staying out in the sun to get a tan. However, most people remained complacent." (Courier-Mail)

And therein lies the cause of altered skin cancer rates. No point looking for bizarre excuses like "ozone depletion" or anything else. People live much longer now, they have vastly increased leisure time, they've changed fashions in order to expose much more flesh to UV radiation and they like to get out in the sunshine. Guess what? Sun worshippers show increased cumulative skin damage. Duh!

If you really want to blame something and someone then try reduced working hours and high wage rates allowing increased leisure time (sue unions for melanoma rates?) and/or fashion houses for the increased skin exposure to solar radiation (maybe we should sue fashion designers?). On top of this, Ol' Sol, our sun, has been pumping out more UV over the last century or so (perhaps we should litigate against Sol for recovery of healthcare costs?).

Rather than looking at where causation may really lie, we reacted with the Montreal Protocol. The UN claims stratospheric ozone is being depleted due to release of various anthropogenic gases, although no one knows what level of stratospheric ozone is "normal" or even what cycles it undergoes. Meanwhile, the European Space Agency says stratospheric ozone has actually increased due to increased solar irradiance in the ozone-creating bandwidths, blaming this for at least some of the apparent increase in global temperature since 1880. Despite not knowing very much about stratospheric ozone, despite knowing that people have significantly altered lifestyle and fashion and hence their UV exposure, and that they are now living long enough for consequent ill-effect to manifest itself, we've indulged in a witch-hunt, going after the chemical industry and some of society's most useful compounds.

Go figure.

"EU Makes its Move to Ratify Kyoto Protocol" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium, October 23, 2001 - All 15 member countries of the European Union should ratify the Kyoto climate protocol by mid-June next year, the European Commission said today in a legislative proposal. This would see the global climate agreement legally bind the bloc by the close of next year's world sustainability summit in Johannesburg, scheduled for September." (ENS)

"New Pew Center Report Highlights Lessons Learned from Corporate Efforts to Verify Greenhouse Gas Emissions" - "WASHINGTON--As international negotiators gather in Marrakech, Morocco, this month for the latest round of talks on climate change, the issue of how to count, track and verify greenhouse gas emissions will be a key focus. According to a new report released today by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, leading companies throughout the world are developing a range of innovative approaches that hold critical lessons for the development of emissions verification regimes at all levels." (BUSINESS WIRE)

"Paring cost of CO2 cuts priority" - "Although the Kyoto Protocol establishes reduction goals for emissions of greenhouse gases by advanced industrialized nations, the target figure of each nation does not have to be achieved within its borders. Advanced nations can include in their quota some reductions achieved through projects they implement in developing nations." (Asahi Shimbun)

"ANALYSIS - UK polluting more thanks to shift to coal" - "LONDON - A shift towards burning more coal in Britain's power stations is threatening to derail government plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions, seen by many scientists as contributing to global warming.

"Emissions have increased for the second year running, above levels when the government first came into office (1997) and this is largely due to increased coal-burn," said Colin Godfrey, managing director of CLG Energy Consultants.

The government's target of cutting noxious emissions by 23 percent on 1990 levels by 2010 was partly based on the assumption electricity producers would continue to embrace clean-burning gas fired power stations.

But the "dash for gas" - a defining characteristic of the last decade which saw gas-use shoot up - has stalled in the face of soaring wholesale gas prices. Instead electricity generators are turning to cheaper, but dirtier coal as they struggle with falling electricity prices." (Reuters)

"Cross-industry group urges slow down on Kyoto" - "Slow down on ratification of the Kyoto Protocol was the message to Government from a cross-industry group which met today to discuss climate change issues. The workshop, hosted by the Forest Industries Council, the Greenhouse Policy Coalition and Federated Farmers, allowed a range of industry sectors to share knowledge and concerns on this matter, prior to the Government’s consultation forum, to be held in Wellington [New Zealand] tomorrow." (Press Release)

"Greens propose carbon tax" - "The Greens party has proposed a carbon tax for greenhouse polluters, as a key plank of its environment policy. The policy aims to tax stationary greenhouse emitters at the rate of 25-dollars per tonne of carbon dioxide." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

Australia's Tinker Bell political party, the Greens, with their plan to have all Australian industry relocate to Third World countries. Aren't they such clever little vegemites? They are not, however, the only dills to be found "Down Under."

"Grudging vote for carbon tax" - "The McLeod tax review gives tepid endorsement to the idea of a carbon tax. It is sceptical about the magnitude of the global warming problem, and emphatic that New Zealand should not get ahead of the international pack in addressing it. But, it says, if the Kyoto Protocol comes into force, a carbon tax would be a better instrument for transmitting the cost to the economy than a system in which individual companies trade in emissions on the international market." (New Zealand Herald)

Speaking of 'bullshit' taxes: "Farm pollution: Beckett puts her foot in it" - "MARGARET BECKETT, Environment Secretary, inadvertently provoked mirth in her first keynote speech yesterday by proposing that acid rain emissions caused by ammonia might be brought under control on farms for the first time. No one among her retinue seemed to have appreciated what controls on ammonia might consist of. It is a gas largely produced by the livestock industry, in particular by livestock's ordure. It could prove to be Labour's first tax on "bullshit", her audience of environmentalists at the Royal Agricultural Hall in London were quick to point out." (Telegraph) | A heap of tax on manure (The Times)

"O Pioneers!" - "Before the country united in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, embryonic stem cell research was one of its most divisive issues. Religious activists see those cells as future babies, while to scientists they are medical magic. President Bush stepped into the fray in August. In a decision disliked by both sides, he approved a limited amount of stem cell research.

But outside of this spotlight -- and far from the bitter debate over embryos -- there is great hope for stem cells taken from another source: mature, or "adult," tissue. Recent developments suggest that medical fixes born of adult stem cells might be ready for use in as little as three years' time. At least three such regenerative treatments are being tested on humans right now." (Law.com)

"Of public interest?" - "So what has happened to Frankenstein's monster? Has the CSPI abandoned the potential for whipping up hysterical reactions to 'tinkering with nature' and creating 'environmental catastrophe'?" (Social Issues Research Centre)

"Prominent New Zealanders Call On Government To Implement Royal Commission Report" - "More than 850 prominent New Zealanders have endorsed a Communique calling on the Government to implement the Report of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification.

The Communique was delivered to the Prime Minister in Wellington this afternoon. 'The Report of the Royal Commission was a balanced, thorough and informed examination of the strategic issues inherent in the use of genetic modification in New Zealand,' the Chairman of the Life Sciences Network Dr William Rolleston, said this afternoon.

'Many New Zealanders are concerned that the Government should not restrict our opportunities for responsible and cautious use of this new technology. The prominent New Zealanders who have endorsed the Communique speak on behalf of a much wider community,' concluded Dr Rolleston." (New Zealand Life Sciences Network)

"Rethink on GE cleanup" - "HortResearch's plan to sterilise the site of genetically modified tamarillo trials at Kerikeri is on hold. The cleansing has been put off while the Government decides whether to pay for analysis to show whether DNA from the tamarillos has been transferred to soil organisms. Last week, HortResearch said it would fumigate the site with the teargas chemical chloropicrin to ease community concerns about GE. But Port Waikato Opposition MP Paul Hutchison asked Environment Minister Marian Hobbs to pay for the analysis, claiming that to sterilise the site without evidence would be "environmentalism gone mad." (New Zealand Herald)

"Agriculture a Clear Victory" - "Chalk one up for science. The dispute over genetically modified foods must be considered over. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has decided to allow farmers to continue growing modified corn, expressing confidence that it does not pose risks to human health or the environment. Environmentalists on the fringe have been fighting tooth and nail to ban this important advancement in food technology. They cutely labled it "Frankenfood" and managed to incite irrational fear in people throughout Europe." (The Florida Times-Union)

"Consumer Trust in Government Is Key to Policies on Genetically Modified Food - On Both Sides of the Atlantic" - "WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 -- The United States and Europe appear to be on a collision course over the regulation of genetically modified food, according to senior government policy advisors speaking today at a Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology dialogue entitled ``Are the US and Europe Heading for a Food Fight Over Genetically Modified Food?'' (PRNewswire)

"Will Genetic Modification Bring in a New "Race" of Edible Products?" - "MONTREAL -- "Mom, can you put blue tomatoes in the salad, pleeeaaase?" Mom smiles and opens the fridge. She picks out some genetically modified protein-enriched tomatoes, blue due to the added blueberry genes to attract the younger consumers.

Sounds like a scene from a science-fiction movie? Don't be so sure. We may be closer to this kind of situation than most people would like to think. But today, the main reasons for the genetic engineering of food correspond to increased crop yields and a decrease in the use of toxic pesticides and herbicides, by enhancing the plants' own abilities to fight pests and weeds." (U-WIRE)

"Three Environmental Groups Lobby Against Use of Genetically-Altered Fish" - "Oct. 22--Three environmental groups are asking seafood retailers across the United States to pledge not to sell genetically engineered fish and to oppose their commercialization. Citing potential negative human health effects and a threat to the genetic purity of wild salmon, Friends of the Earth, the Center for Food Safety, and Clean Water Action announced a new campaign on Oct. 18 that aims to prevent the commercialization of genetically engineered fish. Transgenic fish of various species of salmon, tilapia, channel catfish and others are being actively investigated worldwide as possible new food producing varieties." (Knight Ridder/Tribune)

"How biotech can engineer corn contraceptives, edible vaccines" - "BIOTECHNOLOGY researchers may yet enter unchartered realms of reality turning biologists’ flights of fantasy to matters of now and here, while daring visionaries to dream, defying imagination to transcend barriers of time, space and substance.

In the pipeline are bacteria that detect land mines, spider silk made from goat’s milk, fish that sniff out pollutants and, lo and behold, swaying fields of corn that may one day assist in arresting the uncontrolled population explosion among humans.

Looking down the road at what is in store from this powerful technology, one never ceases to admire the myriad of novel traits and the innumerable benefits that they can bestow upon this planet, all calculated to enhance the quality of life without a wee bit compromising on biosafety or sustainability of the environment." (Gurumurthy Natarajan, Economic Times)

"Colorado Group Concerned About Genetically Modified Organisms" - "BOULDER, Colo. -- Hinting at the possibility of a referendum initiative to ban genetically modified organisms (GMOs), a small group of local environmentalists said Monday they would be watching closely the county-appointed advisory committee charged with monitoring the use of GMOs on a small but growing percentage of county-owned open space.

The group calls itself Citizens Promoting a Healthy Environment. On Monday members spoke at the Boulder County (Colo.) Courthouse where county commissioners meet.

"We're here to advocate for greater citizen involvement in land-use decisions for public lands in Boulder County," said Ann Krohn Rick of Longmont, Colo., a member of the group. "Our concerns were brought to the (forefront) by the introduction of an untested, radical new technology -- genetic engineering -- in agricultural crops. Perhaps we need to bring this issue to the ballot box in the future." (U-WIRE)

"Australia overrides NZ on labels" - "The mandatory labelling of food containing genetically modified ingredients has been postponed for a year after Australian health ministers overrode New Zealand's desire to introduce the new rule in December. The Australia New Zealand Food Authority, made up of nine Australian ministers and New Zealand Health Minister Annette King, decided 18 months ago that consumers had the right to know whether food contained genetically modified products. They told food manufacturers they had to comply with a new labelling system by December 7. But during a teleconference yesterday, the group decided to give manufacturers a further 12 month breathing space, meaning stock already on the shelf would not have to be removed or re-labelled. Only food bought, manufactured or imported after December 7 would be affected." (New Zealand Herald)

"Greens call for changes to food authority" - "A decision allowing unlabelled genetically engineered foods to remain on shop shelves for up to a year has prompted renewed calls from the Greens for changes to the authority which regulates food." (NZPA)

October 24, 2001

"Scientists attempt to dispell misinformation about biological warfare" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium - Hoping to discourage would-be bioterrorists, a global organization of nearly 500 germ banks removed some details about anthrax from its Internet database and added information on controls for dangerous agents. The recent steps were also intended to help members of the World Federation for Culture Collections counter misperceptions about access to lethal germs at research labs, officials said Tuesday. "It's very difficult to get dangerous products from collections," insisted WFFC president Jean Swings, a professor at Ghent University." (AP)

"Anthrax: pre-publication and special issue" - "Recent events have confirmed that bioterrorism is no longer a threat but a reality. To provide wide-ranging access to the latest scientific information about anthrax and other potential bioweapons, Nature has put together a special online focus on this issue. This focus includes the pre-publication of two research papers on anthrax toxin, as well as a collection of research, news and feature articles from our electronic archive. Because of the heightened interest in this area, among both the scientific community and the general public, all material in this feature has been made freely available." (Nature)

"Irradiation Explored As Answer to Anthrax; Process Used on Food Could Be Adapted To Rid Mail of Pathogens, Industry Says" - "It's already done with chicken, spice, ground beef and baby bottle nipples. The U.S. mail may be next. And soon. In the midst of the growing anthrax scare, the government is exploring the possibility that irradiation or other state-of-the-art sterilizing technology might be used to cleanse the mail of pathogens." (Washington Post)

"Health Group Urges Irradiation to Protect Mail" - "October 23, 2001. The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) urges the U.S. Postal Service to consider using irradiation technology to sanitize mail and thus protect workers and the public from bioterrorism. ACSH is a public health consortium of over 350 leading physicians and scientists.

Just in the last few days, finding anthrax spores in a letter sent to Senator Tom Daschle led to the closing of both houses of Congress temporarily. Two postal workers have died of inhalation anthrax, and many more are being tested. Clearly, since other pieces of mail in New York City as well as Washington, DC, are known to have carried anthrax spores, the situation warrants rapid action to guard against further contamination and exposure.

The technology exists to safeguard the mail—irradiation." (ACSH)

"Cutting the cost of fall-out from Chernobyl 15 years after the world's worst nuclear accident" - "Chernobyl has made a chilling contribution to medical history, accounting for the largest group of human cancers associated with a known cause on a known date, ECCO 11 - the European Cancer Conference heard in Lisbon today. (Tuesday 23 October) Nearly 2000 cases of thyroid cancer have been linked to the world's worst nuclear accident which occurred in Ukrainian city 15 years ago - and the number is still rising." (Federation of European Cancer Societies)

Hmm... see The Truth About Chernobyl Is Told by Zbigniew Jaworowski. Jaworowski, a former chairman and current member of UNSCEAR, is unimpressed by claims of significant effect from Chernobyl.

"Immune to Reason" - "Nineteen days ago a man in Ohio showed signs of what doctors believe is diphtheria. With all the anthrax news, the case was barely news. And normally, given this country's vaccine successes, the odd case of diphtheria isn't a concern. But thanks to an easily intimidated public-health system, we now must worry about illnesses we thought we'd defeated.

Over the next few months, millions of American infants may not receive their DTP vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough). Some of these children may die as a result. The reason is an all-too-familiar tale of public-health officials chasing phantom risks, and of the consequences of such irresponsible behavior." (Wall Street Journal)

"Rock backs down in drug dispute" - "OTTAWA - Allan Rock, the Minister of Health, was forced yesterday to seek an out-of-court settlement in a dispute over an anthrax drug to avoid an embarrassing and costly lawsuit, senior government officials say." (National Post)

Uh-oh, coffee bad again: "Caffeine intake increases the rate of bone loss in elderly women" - "Nutrition, lifestyle, and genetics may all contribute to the decrease in bone mineral density (BMD) that comes with aging and leads to osteoporosis, a major cause of fractures in the elderly. Previous research implicated caffeine in increased risk for hip fracture and poor calcium retention. As part of a larger long-term study of osteoporosis, Rapuri et al. compared the BMD of women in high and low categories of caffeine consumption to examine the interaction between caffeine intake, genetic type, and osteoporosis. They found that women with high caffeine intakes had significantly higher rates of bone loss at the spine, and that women who were homozygous for a mutation in the vitamin D receptor (VDR) gene were at greater risk for caffeine-related bone loss." (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)

but chocolate-coated veggies are in: "Cocoa and dark chocolate show positive effects on LDLs – But don't shun veggies" - "University Park, Pa. -- A Penn State-led study has found that a diet high in flavonoid-rich cocoa powder and dark chocolate had favorable effects on LDL ("bad" cholesterol) when compared with a diet that limited or excluded other flavonoid sources such as tea, coffee, wine, onions, apples, beans, soybeans, and orange and grape juices.

Dr. Penny Kris-Etherton, Penn State distinguished professor of nutrition and leader of the study, says, "Cocoa and chocolate are ‘fun foods' and I think these results show that they can contribute to a healthy diet – especially if they are used in forms that don't include large amounts of fat and sugar. However, cocoa and chocolate shouldn't be considered significant sources of flavonoids in the same category with fruits and vegetables which also have fiber, vitamins and minerals." (Penn State)

"Unique UNC study confirms suspected worldwide epidemic of childhood obesity" - "CHAPEL HILL – Twenty-five of every 100 U.S. children are either overweight or obese, but children from other major nations are beginning to weigh too much as well, a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study concludes. Sixteen percent of Russian youths are overweight or downright fat, and the figure for Chinese children is 7 percent." (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

"Genes More Important Than Environment for Asthma" - "NEW YORK - Genetic makeup appears to play a more important role than environmental factors such as cigarette smoke, pets or dust in the development of asthma in young children, according to a report.

They calculated that genes account for 68% of asthma prevalence, while exposure to similar allergens accounted for just 13% of asthma prevalence." (Reuters Health)

"Canadian workers 'depressed,' having fewer children: study" - "CALGARY - Researchers at a conference on health and the workplace say Canadian workers are depressed and stressed out and they say more people are opting out of parenthood or having fewer children as a result." (CBC)

Oh... poor things. Perhaps they'd like to swap places with some of the two billion people on the planet who don't have reliable electricity supplies, food security, safe water and no employment enabling them to afford such commodities even were they available.

These "researchers" seem intent on treating the populace in the manner of overly indulgent grandparents pandering to tantrum-throwing preschoolers.

Stressed? Depressed? Sheesh! No generation in history has had comparable incomes, leisure time and leisure opportunities. You've got a good life - an easy life. Now stop whingeing about it, stop wallowing in fear and self-pity, get off your butts, get on with your jobs, get on with your lives and appreciate what you have! (What's the bet I've just been precluded from any warm-and-fuzzy social science faculties' shortlists.)

If you're that desperate for something to worry about, try this: "Pumpkin dearth hits US" - "A combination of heavy rain early in the year and a dry summer has left slimmer pickings this fall in pumpkin patches across Michigan, one of the nation's largest pumpkin suppliers.

"It's going to be a terrible year for pumpkins," said Paul Forte, owner of Harvest Time Farm Market in Oxford Township. "They're going to be much smaller than normal, and the yield is going to be way down."

Mr. Forte increased his pumpkin price from 30 cents to 35 cents a pound this year, which would be $6 to $12 for a nice-size carving pumpkin. Some retailers are selling them for as much as 39 cents or 45 cents a pound, he said." (AP)

But for a little perspective: "Energy: The Challenge of Expanding Supplies to 2 Billion People" - "BUENOS AIRES, Oct 22 - The lack of access to electricity by one-third of the world population is the biggest challenge facing suppliers, oil industry representatives and government officials from more than 60 countries, meeting in the Argentine capital, agreed Monday. Around two billion of the world's six billion people have no access to energy, underlined participants in the 18th World Energy Council Congress, which opened Sunday and runs through Thursday in Buenos Aires with the participation of more than 3,000 delegates." | Need for Power Pits Fossil Fuels Against Cleaner Energy (IPS)

"Anthropogenic CO2 Emissions Could Dramatically Increase Global Agricultural Production By Thwarting the Adverse Effects of Ozone Pollution" - "Summary: As the air's carbon dioxide content continues to rise, great political pressure is being brought to bear upon the nations of the world to reduce their CO2 emissions in response to the stated goal of curtailing global warming. Such actions, however, are tantamount to biting the hand that feeds us; and they will be our downfall if vigorously pursued." (co2science.org)

"Snowfall in Asia Is Starting Earlier and Lasting Longer" - "Summary: Does that sound like a logical response to unprecedented global warming? Geophysical Research Letters 28: 551-554." (co2science.org)

"Two Centuries of Temperature Change in Rural Norway" - "Summary: Where urban influences are absent, much of the earth seems to have reached a temperature maximum sometime in the 1930s (above which it has not subsequently risen) in the course of the planet's recovery from the global chill of the Little Ice Age. Climatic Change 48: 201-218." (co2science.org)

"Cloud Cover Over the Indian Ocean" - "Summary: The author of this study says climate model calculations suggest that cloud cover over the northern Indian Ocean should have "significantly decreased over the past several decades." Real-world data, however, tell a radically different story, as earth's climate system flexes its negative feedback muscles. Geophysical Research Letters 28: 3271-3274." (co2science.org)

"Green Alert, October 22, 2001 Vol. 1, No. 8" - "The world over, woody plants encroach upon arid and semiarid grasslands, and savannas. This natural phenomenon has been going on for a century or longer (Idso, 1995) and has been driven – at least in part – by the rise in the air’s carbon dioxide concentration (Knapp and Soule, 1998; Soule and Knapp, 1999). Could this be the phenomenon responsible for much of the planet’s so-called missing carbon? The rate at which the atmosphere’s concentration of CO2 should be rising has been less-than-predicted when taking into account known sources and sinks. Is carbon sequestration by woody plants an unidentified and growing repository of organic matter that explains why? New research into the subject suggests the answer is "Yes." (GES)

"Eyes on EU, Russia for Climate Talks" - "UNITED NATIONS - All eyes will be on Russia and the European Union when governments meet in Morocco to reach a final deal over rules to implement the climate change treaty already abandoned by the United States. Since the United States abandoned the 4-year-old Kyoto Protocol, the support of the Russians and the 15-member EU is critical because the treaty must be ratified by a majority of those industrial nations responsible for global warming to take effect." (AP)

"EU Unveils Plan for Kyoto Pollution Market" - "BRUSSELS - The European Commission (news - web sites) proposed a first international market in the right to pollute on Tuesday as part of a U.N. plan to combat global warming that has been shunned by the United States. The Commission also said it wanted the 15 EU states to ratify the so-called Kyoto protocol on curbing greenhouse gases, agreed by more than 180 states in July, before a world environment summit in Johannesburg in September 2002." (Reuters)

"Germany's econ minister questions emission targets" - "BERLIN - German Economics Minister Werner Mueller this week warned against ambitious national climate targets, calling them a potential burden on the economy and security of energy supply." (Reuters)

"Belgium says climate deal at risk if challenged" - "BRUSSELS - The Belgian European Union presidency cautioned this week that a landmark U.N. pact to limit global warming would be in jeopardy if countries sought to renegotiate key details at talks this month. "A deal is a deal. We won't renegotiate," Belgian Energy Minister Olivier Deleuze told a news conference ahead of the 180-nation talks in Marrakesh, Morocco, from October 29 to November 9 to agree final details of the Kyoto protocol." (Reuters)

"VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT October 23, 2001 Vol. 2, No. 41" - "That the human race faces environmental problems is unquestionable. That environmental experts have regularly tried to scare us out of our wits with doomsday chants is also beyond dispute.

With those two remarkable sentences, Denis Dutton opens a Sunday, October 21st, front-page Washington Post "Book World" review of Bjorn Lomborg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World. A Danish former Greenpeace member, Lomborg jauntily clings to his left-wing academic credentials while exposing as hype virtually every environmental gloom and doom scenario, and scary claim, of the last twenty-five years.

Lomborg, a statistics professor, set out with a team of academicians to disprove the late Julian Simon’s claim in Wired magazine that fears about overpopulation, animal species dying by the hour, and deforestation are hysterical nonsense. On the way, they discovered Simon was right. According to Dutton, a philosophy professor at New Zealand’s University of Canterbury, "Lomborg found on close analysis that the factual foundation on which the environmental doomsayers stood was deeply flawed: exaggeration, prevarications, white lies and even convenient typographical errors had been absorbed as unchallenged into the folklore of environmental disaster scenarios." Add to that list, apocalyptic climate change." (GES)

"Taxpayer dollars help fund many environmental groups" - "A major investor is helping The Nature Conservancy -- America's largest environmental group -- buy land and protect species across the United States.

The same benefactor is providing financial aid to the World Wildlife Fund for international conservation. It is spending heavily to help other groups, from the American Farmland Trust to Trout Unlimited, hold conferences, post Web pages, restore habitat and sway public opinion in favor of protecting the natural world.

Few philanthropists, in fact, have ever showered money so broadly across the environmental community.

Who is this conservation-minded patron?

You -- and every other taxpayer in the United States, that's who." (Tom Knudson, Sacramento Bee)

In a welcome shift from flaky scare campaigns: "Consumer group backs genetically modified foods" - "WASHINGTON - A consumer advocacy group has come out in defence of genetically modified foods. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) says the current GM products on the market are safe to eat." (CBC)

"U.S. Wins Asian Approval for Agricultural Biotechnology" - "SHANGHAI, China, October 22, 2001 - Heads of government meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Sunday endorsed a proposal by the United States to establish a new high level policy dialogue on biotechnology. The APEC leaders are expected to "exchange views and pursue cooperative activities on a wide range of issues relating to biotechnology development, regulations governing new products, implications for trade, and effective communications strategies." APEC officials plan to hold the first session of the biotechnology dialogue in Mexico City in February 2002." (ENS)

"FSA rejects EU's GM derivative labelling" - "The government is on a collision course with Brussels and consumer groups over EU plans to introduce stringent new labelling requirements for foods containing or derived from, GMOs. Under proposals drawn up by EU food safety commissioner David Byrne and agriculture commissioner Franz Fischler, GM derivatives would have to be labelled, whether or not the final products contain genetically modified DNA." (Hoover's)

"AGBIOVIEW SPECIAL"  - "Opportunistic Attack on AgBiotech - Anthrax Connection, Bt Sprays, Bioweapons, Bioterrorism and Luddites" (AgBioView)

"UPDATE - US-China soybean trade tiff resolved-US farm group" - "WASHINGTON - A trade dispute between the United States and China over genetically modified foods has been resolved, opening the door for renewed sales of U.S. soybeans to China, a U.S. farm group official said this week." (Reuters)

October 23, 2001

"A Dose of Anthrax Reality Behind the Hysteria" - "We're watching history in the making. Bar none, this is our nation's single greatest mass hysteria. It's the reaction to the 1938 War of the Worlds radio broadcast times 1,000. Nobody, it seems, wants to be the last kid on the block to call 911 to report a suspicious powder." (Michael Fumento, National Review Online)

"Bleak anthrax forecasts stoke hysteria" - "Dire warnings that anthrax attacks could kill hordes of people are largely responsible for public hysteria about a highly treatable condition that federal officials now seek to quell." (Frank J. Murray, Washington Times)

"Anthrax Offers Lessons in How to Handle Bad News" - "In recent decades, social scientists have learned much about how government authorities can best inform and reassure an anxious public faced with a new and unfamiliar threat. But in their initial handling of the anthrax crisis, government leaders did almost everything wrong, according to psychologists and other researchers." (New York Times)

"Without Bayer, We’re Bare to Bioterror" - "If you have been exposed to Anthrax, what’s it worth to save your life?

How about $4.31 a pill?

That’s what Drugstore.com lists as the retail price of Cipro, an antibiotic developed and patented by Bayer, AG, the German-based drug and chemical company. In the midst of all the fear about anthrax, we should be exceedingly thankful that this disease, usually fatal if untreated, can be cured at a reasonable price.

And Cipro just got cheaper. In response to public fears over anthrax, whose bacterial spores have been spread by terrorists through the mail and have killed one person and sickened about a half-dozen others, Bayer is tripling production– from 20 million tablets a month to 200 million tablets over the next three months – and is selling pills to the government at just $1.83 each, or roughly $220 for the recommended two-a-day dosage for two months. Less than what most workers must pay for parking in central cities.

But a New York Senator, Democrat Charles Schumer, isn’t satisfied. He wants to throw out Bayer’s patent." (James K. Glassman, Tech Central Station)

"The real nature of bioterrorism" - "America's House of Representatives is due to resume business on October 23rd, after closing for several days because of concerns about anthrax contamination. A postal worker in Washington DC is now seriously ill with respiratory anthrax but there are nevertheless signs that American panic about bioterrorism is starting to subside a little." (The Economist)

"Guns in the Sky: Why James Bond Would Approve Today" - "...Since America’s airline pilots were first required to undergo body and luggage screening at airports in 1987, they’ve been unable to carry protective handguns on-board or in the cockpit. This singular vulnerability of disarmed crews made the calculations of the terrorists in Sept. 11’s tragedies less complex and far more certain of success. No one layer of protection against terrorism will ever prove enough. But more layers of protection raise the uncertainty of success and so lessens the likelihood terrorists will try to do anything." (Sallie Baliunas, Tech Central Station)

"Second Sight" - "In 1996 the legal scholar Dan Polsby wrote an essay for Reason magazine in which he suggested what might happen if the Second Amendment ever achieved "the status of normal constitutional law." Instead of arguing about whether the amendment has any practical force at all, he said, we would have to start exploring the contours of the right to keep and bear arms.

Thanks to a recent decision by a federal appeals court, that process may have begun. By declaring unambiguously that the Constitution protects an individual right to possess firearms even while upholding an exception to that right, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit has invited both sides in the gun control debate to get serious." (Jacob Sullum, Reason)

"Irradiated food products still on sale" - "Health food companies have ignored a series of warnings that they are breaking the law by selling irradiated products, a report claims. 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)

"Food-mood link more complex than ads suggest" - "ST. LOUIS, Oct 22 - Certain foods can indeed affect our brains, and for some people dietary changes can help fight depression, but the idea that a single food can help boost everyone's mood is a vast oversimplication, according to a Florida researcher. "The idea that you can modify just one (food item) and somehow fix the whole problem is extremely naive," said Dr. Nick Hall, director of the Wellness Center at Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa. Speaking at the American Dietetic Association's annual meeting Sunday, Hall noted that many so-called functional foods are being touted as a means of boosting mood or helping treat depression." (Reuters Health)

"Child obesity increases in the East" - "The problem of obesity in children has spread beyond the West with Russia and China experiencing an alarming increase in the number of overweight youngsters, a new study reveals. One in four children, aged between six and 18, in the United States are now overweight or clinically obese. But the same trend has been identified in developing nations where overeating and high-fat diets among affluent children are to blame. In Russia, 16 per cent of youngsters are overweight or clinically fat and in China, seven per cent weigh too much. The research, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, comes after the World Health Organisation called for an urgent analysis of childhood obesity." (Independent)

"Ear infection linked to childhood obesity" - "SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 22 - Parents of babies and small children with ear infections may be overfeeding them to soothe their ear discomfort, unknowingly contributing to childhood obesity, a public health official said Sunday at the American Academy of Pediatrics' annual meeting here. Dr. Mary C. Darken, of the New Orleans Health Department in Louisiana, and her colleagues decided to study the connection when they noted that many overweight children seen in city clinics had ear infections." (Reuters Health)

"Fur seals venture a little further north each year" - "Scientists researching the migratory patterns of New Zealand fur seals say their range is extending further north every year, with regular spring sightings on the mid north coast of New South Wales. National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger Martin Smith says the animals seen off the Coffs-Nambucca coast are usually yearlings that have been weaned and are becoming adventurous." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

What? No hand-wringing about dreaded global cooling as these Antarctic creatures head ever closer to the equator?

"Marrakesh Talks Seen Paving Way to Kyoto Approval" - "UNITED NATIONS - A U.N. official predicted on Monday that talks beginning next week in Marrakesh, Morocco, would reach agreement on a set of rules to make the Kyoto pact on global climate change fully operational. Approval of the rules package would pave the way for governments to ratify the 1997 Kyoto treaty and bring it into force, ultimately leading to reductions in the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming." (Reuters)

"Germany's econ minister questions emission targets" - "BERLIN - German Economics Minister Werner Mueller yesterday warned against ambitious national climate targets, calling them a potential burden on the economy and security of energy supply." (Reuters)

"Latin Officials: Green Issues Eclipsed by Attacks" - "RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - Environmental initiatives could be another casualty of the Sept. 11 attacks on America, Latin American officials warned on Monday. Almost 10 years after world leaders pledged to save the planet at the watershed Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the officials say few promises have been kept and those that have are losing momentum as the U.S.-led war on Afghanistan mounts." (Reuters)

"The time is ripe for edible vaccines" - "Early data from the first human trials of a potato-based edible vaccine against hepatitis B are encouraging says the vaccine's developer Hugh Mason, plant geneticist at the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research at Cornell University. Unpublished data reveal promising levels of antibodies in volunteers, Mason told BioMedNet News. The commercially available, injectable vaccine for hepatitis B is expensive to produce and requires refrigeration during transport and storage. Plant vaccines are cheaper, can be grown locally, and bypass the need for needles, making them particularly suitable for use in developing countries." (BioMedNet News)

"Apec line on GE the 'way for NZ to go'" - "New Zealand farmers yesterday jumped on the Apec leaders' endorsement of biotechnology as further reason for the Government to adopt a pro-GE policy. Federated Farmers president Alistair Polson said the Apec leaders' reference to recognising the benefits of biotechnology was "a sensible conclusion." (New Zealand Herald)

"Western Canadian Farmers Growing More GM Crops" - "According to Canola Council of Canada statistics, farmers in Western Canada appear to be following the international trend of growing more genetically modified crops, with 61 per cent of the 9.9 million acre canola crop in the west this year GM, up from 55 per cent in 2000 and 53 per cent in 1999.

Joanne Buth of the Canola Council of Canada was quoted as saying, "Since the initial release of GM canola in 1996, its use has increased dramatically. We did a survey on why farmers are growing more transgenic crops and the primary reason is weed control. Both of the available varieties of GM canola are herbicide tolerant so farmers are seeing some real benefits with hard to control weeds." (The Leader-Post - Regina)

Shiva, again: "India urged to halt gene cotton field trials" - "AHMEDABAD, India - Indian environmental activists called yesterday for suspension of field trials and production of gene-modified cotton until further studies were conducted on possible health and environmental hazards. The call for a 10-year moratorium follows the detection of large-scale illegal planting of genetically modified (GM) cotton in India's western state of Gujarat. The government ordered the destruction of the GM cotton last Friday." (Reuters)

"Good Science, Not Emotion" - "LABOUR governments have always prided themselves on their willingness to innovate. When Prime Minister Helen Clark and her Cabinet make their decision on the future of genetic modification in the next few days, they should remember that tradition, and not allow themselves to be spooked by the Luddite hysteria of the Greens." (The Dominion)

"Parasitologists' puzzle: How not to kill the messenger" - "September 12 was not the best day for an international meeting, and the timing doomed a conference in London about genetically modifying vectors to control parasitic diseases. But when discussion resumes next month at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Atlanta, it will confront a critical unanswered question: When and how to test these vectors in the field." (BioMedNet News)

October 21-22, 2001

"Hoarding Cipro Won't Cure Anthrax Scare" - "Anthrax scares ignited a run on ciprofloxacin (Cipro), a drug used to treat infection. Thousands are seeking prescriptions just in case they might need it some day. Bayer, which makes Cipro, plans to increase production 25 percent. It's time for a Cipro time out. Hoarding the drug and taking it on your own is not smart, say experts on infectious disease." (Detroit News)

"Experts Say Cipro Overuse Could Lead to Problems" - "Infectious disease experts are increasingly concerned that overuse of the antibiotic Cipro by people worried about anthrax may cause a second wave of health problems. These problems include side effects for people taking the drug and the possibility that a surge in Cipro use may exacerbate bacterial resistance to the drug and undermine its usefulness in the future." (New York Times)

"Facts often obscured in uncertainty of anthrax scare" - "WASHINGTON - The facts trickled out at first, and then came downstream fast as the public tried to understand what anthrax was and how scared they should be. Much of the information has been misleading or wrong. It took more than a week for health authorities to share the stage with politicians, who typically are more willing to talk but more likely to give out inaccurate information." (AP)

"Keeping Panic at Bay" - "LOS ANGELES -- The essence of terrorism is to kill or injure opponents in ways specifically designed to cause fear, and thus to disorganize the opposing society to a degree far out of proportion to the number of victims. Whether this strategy is used in wartime or against a nation at peace, the desired effect is the same. The German V-1 flying bombs and V-2 rockets launched against London in 1944 killed civilians in each attack, but their psychological effect on the population was far greater than the number of dead might suggest.

We Americans are now experiencing terrorism for the first time on American soil, as well as forms of terrorism new in world history. But the phenomenon of terrorism itself is ancient. What can we learn from the past that could help us cope?" (Jared Diamond, New York Times)

"Preparing America for the Reality of Germ Warfare" - "AMERICA is overreacting. Lost in the pandemonium over the recent anthrax attacks is good news: experts say the tainted letters are easy to detect, their effects easy to treat and their origins relatively easy to trace. Simple precautions involving the delivery and opening of mail, they say, can prevent further infections with the lethal germ." (New York Times)

"This is a psychological emergency!" - "As the anthrax scare swirls about him, a panicky Allan Rock has been urging everybody to remain calm. Just about everything Mr. Rock has done and said since anthrax and bio-terrorism became hot news topics has been devoid of credibility. Yesterday, in a typical performance, he repeated his scary incantation: "I want to emphasize how important it is to keep these risks in perspective, to remain calm."

Remain calm -- but get out of the way here, this is an emergency, clear the road, we've got to stockpile drugs and we'll take them from anywhere. To hell with patents, to hell with the law. Whatever it takes. Move it!" (Terence Corcoran, National Post)

Sigh... "Drug Makers Wrestle With World's New Rules" - "WITH fears of bioterrorism growing by the day, the nation's pharmaceutical companies are facing a quandary — trying to show that they are patriots, not profiteers, even as they protect their way of doing business.

In the last two weeks, as consumers and public health officials have scrambled to procure enough antibiotics to treat anthrax, the drug industry — especially Bayer of Germany, which makes Cipro, the antibiotic most in demand to fight the disease — has had its ethics questioned.

It has watched as the patent system, the bedrock of its business, has come under renewed attack, not as something that merely causes higher drug prices but as a threat to national security itself. On Thursday, Canada said it would ignore Bayer's patent on Cipro and buy one million tablets of a generic version from another company, saying it could not be assured of getting enough from Bayer. Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, has urged the American government to follow Canada's lead." (New York Times)

And drug companies will invest hundreds of millions developing new drugs and bringing them to market just so they can't make a profit on them - just like you and me eh? Actually, having just rummaged through my loose change, I seem to be short several hundreds of millions just to develop even one, so, take care of that tab would you?

"The real nature of bioterrorism" - "Although dozens of Americans have now been exposed to anthrax, only a small number of people have contracted the disease. That has not stopped alarm about bioterrorism spreading across America, and around the world. Yet the real threat may be panic, not poison or disease." (The Economist)

"The real danger from terrorists" - "Back in 1979, people all over the world were gripped with fear at the news that a space station called Skylab was about to fall out of orbit, hurtle through the atmosphere, and crash into Earth, where it might squash someone. Experts insisted that the risk was minimal, but the anxiety didn't subside.

So one entrepreneur offered a novel protective device: hats made of aluminum foil. His sales pitch was that though your chances of being hit by Skylab were low, your chances of being hit by Skylab while wearing an aluminum-foil hat were even lower.

Right now we could use some aluminum-foil hats to allay the widespread fear of being killed by terrorist mayhem. The danger is real, but judging from all available evidence, it's also very small." (Steve Chapman, Washington Times)

"Genetic clue to asthma" - "Genes could play more of a part in asthma than previously thought. A study found that identical twins were more similar in their rates of asthma than the non-identical pairs. The research, from the Institute of Psychiatry, London, suggests genetic factors are more important than environmental factors, such as air pollution in regard to asthma rates." (BBC Online) | Genes have a much greater role than environmental factors in asthma (BMJ release)

"No 'cancer explosion' predicted" - "A leading cancer expert says the perception that the world faces an enormous surge in cancer cases is misleading. Professor Julian Peto, head of Epidemiology at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, was speaking at the opening of a major cancer conference in Lisbon. While the total numbers of cases was increasing, he said, this was due largely to population increase, an ageing population and the elimination of "competing diseases". He said: "Take away the cancer deaths caused by tobacco and the reality is that deaths from cancers linked to other causes are stable or falling." (BBC Online)

Worldwide Font of Nonsense cranking up the chemical hysteria: "Pesticide regulations come under fire" - "Dozens of pesticides banned by countries that consider them dangerous are legal in Canada, says the World Wildlife Fund, one of the country's largest environmental groups." (Globe and Mail)

"CO2 output up two years running" - "Carbon dioxide emissions from industrial activities totaled 486.09 million tons last year, marking the second consecutive year of increase, the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren) said Friday." (Japan Times)

"Environmental groups slate Liikanen over delays on EU climate package" - "Liikanen accused of kow-towing to national interests" (Helsingin Sanomat)

Dear oh dear! Fancy putting national interest before an apparently unfounded scare campaign.

"Superstorms will raise flood threat" - "BRITAIN faces a growing threat from superstorms that could bring at least 10% more rain than today's worst downpours, greatly increasing the risk of flooding. A study funded by the government and the water industry suggests that Sussex, Cornwall, south Wales and the west coast of Scotland will be worst hit. Last year more than 7,500 homes suffered flood damage." (Sunday Times)

The Week That Was October 20, 2001 brought to you by SEPP

"War Effort Pushes 'Green' Issues Aside; Environmental Groups Rethink Agenda As Nation Focuses on Anti-Terror Fight" - "For nearly five years the Environmental Protection Agency complained that air force F-16s flying reconnaissance missions over Iraq and Kosovo were releasing a gas that was punching holes in the Earth's ozone layer and posing a long-term threat to public health. The agency tried to persuade the Pentagon to eliminate the gas by changing the fire suppressant in the fuel tanks.

But when the Pentagon stepped up its missions over Iraq and dispatched F-16s to defend the skies over Washington and New York after the September 11 terrorist attacks, EPA officials dropped their objections and abruptly closed the case. A senior EPA official said that with the country at war with Afghanistan and battling anthrax terrorism at home, "it's not an issue worth worrying about." (Washington Post)

"Children blinded by Greenpeace!: Co-founder ready to organize protest against Greenpeace" - "Earlier this week, Greenpeace activists in Paris successfully prevented me from speaking, from Vancouver via videoconference, to 400 delegates of the European Seed Association. The Greenpeacers chained themselves to the seats in the Cine Cite Bercy auditorium and threatened to shout down the speakers. The conference organizers decided to retreat to the Sofitel Hotel, where many of them were staying. The auditorium is in a very important building and they did not want their conference to be associated with an incident there. As the Sofitel does not have videoconferencing capability, my keynote presentation was cancelled." (Patrick Moore, National Post)

"Modified bananas could deliver anthrax vaccine" - "SHANGHAI - Genetically modified fruit and other food could be used in future to deliver medicine, including a vaccine against anthrax, an Australian bio-technology fund manager said on the weekend." (Reuters)

Raining on somebody's parade? Over the weekend of September 29-30, I featured and commented on:

"Spaceguard UK opens observatory" - "Spaceguard UK, the organisation which has spent years lobbying the government to take the threat of asteroid impacts on Earth more seriously, opens its Spaceguard Centre in Knighton, Powys, on Saturday." (BBC Online)

This caused exactly two correspondents to take umbrage. One initiated a sequence of e-mails pointing out that the risk of impact from >1km diameter asteroids is assessed at 1 per 100,000 years. They also stated: "Believe it or not, but your statistical risk of dying from an asteroid impact is higher than that of dying from an airplane crash (compare that risk assessment to the billions spent on airline safety)."

Is it true? Well, not exactly. This is a statistical fudge comparing a given individual's flight risk with a planet year impact risk - sounds impressive but is irrelevant. The comparison of interest is event frequency. According to airsafe.com, there have been some 271 fatal crashes of commercial airliners since 1970 (this does not include military or private aircraft), giving an event frequency of approximately 1:42 days. Compared with a frequency of 1:36.5million days for major asteroid impact it should be fairly obvious why money is spent on addressable items such as air safety since the likelihood of someone dying from an air crash is roughly a million times greater than the chance of the sky falling on our heads.

Another correspondent wonders which of the estimated millions of items of space debris has Earth's name on it (probably lots of them - over sufficient time span). There's often talk of NEOs (Near Earth Objects) and PHAs (Potentially Hazardous Objects) and certainly they exist - have done so for millions of years. Less frequently mentioned is the infrequency of significant Earth impacts.

The same correspondent has written again highlighting: Asteroid Discoveries May Outpace Ability to Assess Threat to Earth from space.com, finding "On Oct. 8 of this year, for example, an asteroid thought to be between 50 and 100 meters in diameter zoomed by our planet at little more than twice the distance to the Moon -- a whisker by the standards of our solar system's size. The object was first detected just two days prior. Its path was determined only the day before the close encounter." most pertinent. Fair enough, they should also note from the same item: "Astronomers stress that there is almost no immediate threat that the planet will be hit. Any large asteroids bearing down on Earth would likely be discovered decades in advance, experts say. But smaller objects often go undetected and could destroy a city. And no one can say if or when a surprise impact might occur."

Now we've burrowed down to the crux of the matter - the big stuff doesn't need special projects to look for them since they're likely to be picked up by other astronomy projects and the smaller debris won't be picked up by NEO or PHA projects, at least not in time for us to do anything about it anyway.

Do I think we should be distracted from real-world risks by worrying about whether the sky is going to fall on us? Get real!

October 20, 2001

Haruspicy? "Month of birth may be linked to risk of developing Crohn's disease" - "Month of birth may be linked to the risk of developing Crohn's disease in later childhood according to a research pointer by Sorensen and colleagues. They studied the pattern of annual cyclical variation in month of birth for people who were born in Denmark and in whom Crohn's disease was diagnosed at age 20 years or younger. They found that the highest risk was in the second half of the year, which is the opposite of what has previously been reported in Britain. The authors suggest this may be because of different causal factors, such as an infective agent." (BMJ)

Relative risk (RR) less than 2.0 is no risk at all, it could easily be pure chance, in fact, esteemed epidemiologist Ernst Wynder even said that relative risks less than 3.0 are suspect ["Workshop on Guidelines to the Epidemiology of Weak Associations," Preventative Medicine, 1987, pp. 139-141]. Here, Sørensen, et al, report a pathetically weak statistical association [RR 1.30 (95% CI 1.04-1.55)] between Crohn's Disease (CD) and birth month in the second half of the year. Last year, Haslam, et al [Gut, 47:801-803], after trawling UK data, quite correctly noted:

... There were marginal differences between the birth dates of the CD patients and those predicted from the general population. Further analysis of both season of birth and year halves revealed a very weak association with the first half of the year [RR 1.14 (95% CI 1.01-1.30)]. There was no association between developing CD and birth during measles epidemics between 1951 and 1967.
CONCLUSIONS: In utero or perinatal exposure to seasonal environmental factors are unlikely potential aetiological agents in the later development of CD.

And there you have it. There is no hemispheric difference between seasons in the UK and Norway and, given the amount of human movement within the region, no plausible difference in exposure to infective agents. Studies conducted either side of the North Sea find associations, albeit weak ones, between CD and birth month in opposing halves of the year. Haslam, et al, note the unlikelihood of seasonality being a factor, which tells you all you need to know about the featured item.

Readers not understanding relative risk factors should see Steve Milloy's new book: Junk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams for everything you need to know but were afraid to ask about this sort of nonsense. Just why BMJ gave the featured item print space is a mystery.

See also Number Watch (October 2001) for additional coverage.

Uh-oh... "Cancer death shock for breast screening" - "Mammography screening for breast cancer does not prevent deaths and should not be recommended, according to an exhaustive international review by high-ranking researchers. Their conclusion upsets the basis for one of the most costly and widespread public health programs in the developed world. And it has ignited a slanging match, including an allegation that the world's most prestigious medical research organisation tried to censor the results." (Sydney Morning Herald) | Analysis: Mammograms Don't Cut Cancer Death Risk (Washington Post) | Cochrane review on screening for breast cancer with mammography | Associated Commentary (The Lancet)

Whoops! Someone's gravy train getting a little wobbly? "Cancer council encourages women to ignore Danish research" - "Australian women have been warned to ignore Danish research which claims breast x-ray screening programs do not save lives. The warning comes from the Cancer Council of Australia." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Who hates the drug industry now?" - "Now that everyone on Capitol Hill is popping antibiotic Cipro pills like they were Altoid mints, it is worth reminding our prescription-clutching public servants that their precious drugs don't grow on government trees. Somebody in the private sector invented these miracle products. Somebody invested in them. Somebody tested them, somebody manufactured them, and somebody jumped through years of regulatory hoops to get FDA approval for them." (Michelle Malkin, Washington Times)

"Venison probably not to blame for brain disease" - "NEW YORK, Oct 19 - When three young adults who regularly ate deer or elk meat developed a fatal brain-wasting disease that usually strikes much older people, public-health officials became concerned that the patients might have contracted the disease from animals. But when researchers scrutinized the three cases, they did not find strong evidence to prove that the disease passed from elk and deer to humans, according to a report in the October issue of the journal Archives of Neurology." (Reuters Health)

"Inquiries launched into BSE blunder" - "There has been scathing criticism of UK Government scientists checking for possible BSE in sheep after they admitted they had carried out their tests on cattle brains by mistake. The Food Standards Agency said it was stunned by the blunder and called for more research. However, it also insisted that all current evidence suggested British lamb was safe to eat." (BBC Online) | Labour 'buried report of BSE inquiry' (Independent) | Beckett in firing line over brains fiasco | Worry over giving lamb to children (The Times)

"Conflicting data on asthma-obesity link: studies" - "NEW YORK, Oct 19 - The rising rates of asthma among children in affluent nations have perplexed scientists, who have blamed everything from declining rates of breast feeding to greater exposure to cigarette smoke and other pollutants. Now, two new reports in the November issue of Thorax offer conflicting conclusions about the role of body weight, another possible risk factor for the disease." (Reuters Health)

Today's mercury hysteria: "Link between dental fillings and dermatitis found" - "In Japan, a pair of researchers have told an international conference that amalgam, a mercury compound metal used for filling dental cavities, causes the chronic skin disease atopic dermatitis and other allergic dermatitis. They also called for the government to prohibit its use or at least inform patients of the compound's potential side effects." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Human actions 'worsen natural disasters'" - "Natural disasters often wreak unnatural levels of havoc, a US-based conservation group says. This is because human activities frequently intensify the damage caused by nature, the group claims. It says the huge growth in human numbers and in buildings, roads and other development also mean many more people are in danger. Yet preparing for disaster is far cheaper than the cost of recovery afterwards." (BBC Online)

Worrywarts Inc. correctly point out that there are more people and more infrastructure to be affected by natural disasters than there were before. Following which, in their usual fashion, they head off with the fairies about rising sea levels etc., etc.. Curiously, Worrywarts also omit mention that development and wealth generation is the means of protecting currently impoverished peoples from a less-than-benign natural environment. Wealthy regions have advanced warning systems (likelihood of extreme weather event in locale over following n days), transport infrastructure (so people can be moved out of harm's way and remedial effort imported) and the spare finance and available effort to adequately support the local populace during any transient dislocations. Note that, while there has been little reduction in the frequency and/or severity of extreme weather events striking the US over the last century, casualties from these events are down by orders of magnitude. Not that inconvenient facts have ever stopped Lester Brown and his Disaster-Singing Band from beating their drum of doom and gloom.

"Colorful Autumn Foliage Contributes To Air Pollution" - "Autumn leaves that light up hillsides in bold strokes of gold and other colors also appear to play a role in regional air quality and climate. This month, scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are measuring levels of chemicals that are emitted as leaves change color and fall to the ground at a research site in northern Michigan. The chemicals, known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), have far-ranging effects: they combine with certain types of industrial emissions to create smog, and in some cases they play a role in global warming." (UniSci)

Groan... "Tax on energy saving is triple that on power use" - "Householders are being charged more than three times as much for investing in energy saving as they are for using energy, according to Friends of the Earth. Now the Government is being urged to end the "bizarre" anomaly on the eve of Energy Efficiency Week." (Ananova)

Typical FoE dodgy stats. "Nearly 30% of all carbon dioxide, the biggest contributor to global climate change, comes from power stations generating the electricity used in homes." Um... no. Almost all global CO2 emission is all-singing, all-dancing, all-natural emission from biological and/or geological activity with just a paltry few percent being anthropogenic (human caused). Nor is CO2 the major contributor to the so-called greenhouse effect, most of which comes from water vapour. CO2 is present in the atmosphere at around 370ppm (parts per million) and H2O ranges to about 40,000ppm (significantly less in the freeze-dried polar atmosphere, which is why alleged enhanced greenhouse effect should theoretically be most pronounced and already obvious in polar regions - it isn't; also see: Polar ice cap studies refute global warming).

The question has been asked as to why I state "so-called greenhouse effect" and the answer is simple - it's a misnomer. Greenhouses act as a physical barrier interrupting convection and preventing/slowing atmospheric mixing, something so-called greenhouse gases (GHGs) patently do not do. So-called GHGs absorb infrared radiation in specific bandwidths and, if "greenhouses" were so constructed they would not act near as efficiently as "greenhouses" but rather better as "shade houses" by blocking incoming infrared radiation, which would defeat their purpose.

Regrettably, an ill-conceived name is the least of the problems with this absurd, hand-wringing farce.

"Kudos to the EPA" - "The Environmental Protection Agency sided with good science and reason this week — a welcome change for the often politicized agency — by announcing that so-called "biotech," or Bt corn, is not a threat to either the environment, or the people who ultimately consume it. "Bt corn has been evaluated thoroughly by the EPA, and we are confident that it does not pose risks to human health, or to the environment," announced EPA Assistant Administrator Steve Johnson of the EPA's Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances. EPA's findings echo recent studies conducted by the National Academy of Sciences, which found that concerns about Bt corn raised by those opposed to so-called "Frankenfoods" reflect irrational fears and, more to the point, remote risks. EPA's endorsement of Bt is good news all around." (Washington Times editorial)

"CSIRO develops GM virus for mice" - "CSIRO scientists are developing a genetically modified virus, which could help control mouse plagues in the future. The virus causes infertility in female mice, but needs to be approved by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator before commercial release." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"To be or not to be GM-free" - "It was always going to be divisive, pitching widespread little "g" green concerns against the Government's need to appear science- and business-friendly. But now - perhaps inevitably - the GM debate is descending into a political maelstrom for the Government with the Greens threatening to withdraw support, the Alliance racked with jealousy at the thought the Greens will harvest any credit, and the Maori caucus flexing its cultural muscles.

On the other side of the fence key Government ministers, including Michael Cullen, Pete Hodgson, Jim Sutton and Steve Maharey are concerned that an overly restrictive regime will compost their efforts to catch the knowledge wave and would drive research offshore." | Knowledge has calmed the biotech nightmares (New Zealand Herald)

"Government 'will not be stood over' Greens told" - "A war of words over genetic modification yesterday drew return-fire from Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton, who told Green MPs that an early election would make the Government's day. The Government was likely to extend a ban on the commercial release of genetically modified crops and organisms, but would not be held to ransom by Green MPs, Mr Anderton said." (The Dominion)

"You promised, Anderton tells Greens" - "Acting Prime Minister Jim Anderton has warned the Green Party it would be breaking a promise if it withdrew support for the Government over its stance on genetically modified food. Greens co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said yesterday that the party's supporters would not tolerate its continuing to back the Coalition if it took the country down the "GE road". She said the Greens' support for the Government was never unconditional." (New Zealand Herald)

"Government in no danger over GM position says Clark" - "Prime Minister Helen Clark believes the Government will survive mounting pressure over its position on genetic modification. The Green Party has threatened to withdraw support if the Government's response to recommendations from the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification is too liberal. But Helen Clark, in Shanghai for the Apec summit, told the Weekend Herald said she did not think it was in the Greens' interests to undermine the Government." (New Zealand Herald)

"US Soybean Export To China Normal Despite GMO Rule-Indus" - "SINGAPORE -- U.S soybean shipments are still entering China's ports without any difficulty despite confusion over the Chinese government's new rules that restrict the importation of genetically modified crops. ''No U.S. soybeans were stuck in China's ports,'' Phillip Laney, country director for the American Soybeans Association in Beijing, said Friday. Laney denied reports that 500,000 metric tons of U.S. soybeans were barred from entering China because of the new rules on GMO." (Dow Jones Newswires)

"GM cotton crop to be destroyed" - "NEW DELHI: In a landmark decision, the Union environment ministry’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has ordered the destruction of genetically modified cotton grown illegally over hundreds of hectares in Gujarat. It has, however, decided to give the offending company one last chance to file an explanation, and scheduled a meeting for this on October 31." (Times of India)

October 19, 2001

"Misinformation Is Real Anthrax Danger" - "Alarmists in the federal government and media were wrong about the "potency" of the anthrax found in Sen. Tom Daschle's office. This error hasn't dissuaded those who are exploiting the alleged "potency" to blame the recent anthrax letters on state-sponsored terrorism." (Steve Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"Toll of anthrax fear" - "The fear of biological weapons such as anthrax may be more likely to create illness than the weapons themselves, say experts. Long-term social or psychological damage could be the result of panic caused by the news of anthrax attacks. A letter to the British Medical Journal from researchers in the UK, US and Australia predicted that while bioweapons themselves might not kill many people, for many more, their prospect is having a devastating effect. Already, there are reports of mass "sociogenic" illness - on 29 September, paint fumes set off a bioterrorism scare at a school in Washington State, sending 16 students and a teacher to the hospital." (BBC Online) | Psychological effects of biological and chemical weapons may be worse than physical symptoms (BMJ release)

"Media alert: It's no time 'to go wobbly'" - "ON OCT. 16, the day after an aide to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle opened an envelope containing anthrax spores, the front page of the New York Post featured a trick photo of the statue of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial wearing a gas mask, above the giant headline: ''Anthrax Hits the Capital.''

Ten years ago, during the anteceding days to what can now be seen as the first phase of a long war, President George H.W. Bush suffered a small crisis of confidence. Bush's great Gulf War ally, Margaret Thatcher, reportedly took the president aside. George, she famously said, this is no time to go wobbly.

This is still no time to go wobbly. Also, it is no time for the American media to revert to the hysterical, silly, fear-mongering, self-centered, juvenile, and ninnyish form that has made it so widely mistrusted and so cordially detested." (Michael Kelly, Boston Globe)

"Television, tool for terror" - "WASHINGTON - The White House has had some success in getting the television networks to cut back on airing statements from Al Qaeda spokesmen.

CNN, negotiating for an interview with Osama bin Laden, has promised to screen it for newsworthiness. Attorney General John Ashcroft has admonished government agencies to be more careful about releasing documents under the Freedom of Information Act. But the current high alert over anthrax raises a more fundamental question about television and terrorism - the incentives that television unthinkingly offers to those seeking to terrify us.

The networks have settled into a new familiar routine of treating every anthrax scare - most of them hoaxes - as a major news event, with live reports from correspondents, law-enforcement, and public health officials. Thus, a small investment in a powdery substance can bring a big reward in media attention for antisocial elements who get their kicks that way.

History provides examples of the multiplier effect of TV on terrorism. In 1979, the young militants who stormed the American Embassy in Tehran were planning only a brief demonstration - until they saw the cameras gathering outside and learned that they were doing great on American television. So they stayed for a hostage crisis that lasted 444 days." (Daniel Schorr, Christian Science Monitor)

"Osama Dilemma: Interview Him or Turn Him In?" - "Now that anthrax has turned up at the offices of the major TV networks, will media organizations everywhere reconsider their policy of treating terrorists and evil-doers as celebrity "gets" -- that is, as A-list interview subjects? Or to put it another way: If ABC News President David Westin finds out where Osama bin Laden is hiding, who will he call: George W. Bush or Barbara Walters? It says something about today's media climate that we can't be sure which one he'd pick." (Wall Street Journal)

"Anthrax terror is mainly in the mind" - "A killer disease is stalking the United States. Among its many strains are some of the deadliest pathogens that mankind has known. The germs that cause it are inhaled from the air that circulates in homes and offices. Although a vaccine exists, millions of people have never received it.

This grave threat to public health comes not from anthrax, nor indeed from any agent of bioterrorism. It is nothing more sinister than the influenza virus — common or garden flu. Everyone who has stockpiled Cipro this past week, who has raised the alarm over soap powder or sand, who has queued for an army surplus gas mask, faces greater risks from this most familiar of illnesses than from any number of spores wrapped in brown paper." (Mark Henderson, The Times)

"EPA says anthrax risk to water systems small" - "WASHINGTON - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Whitman said yesterday the risk of water contamination by anthrax or other biological or chemical hazards was small. "That would take truckloads of anthrax to be introduced to a major water supply system to have an impact on the public," Whitman said after touring a suburban Maryland water testing laboratory. "That is very unlikely for anyone to have that much anthrax and do it in that fashion," Whitman said. She said smallpox contamination was also a minimal threat due to normal water chlorination procedures." (Reuters)

She's right too - the logistics are completely prohibitive.

Packaged paranoia or another fear-profiteer? "N. Carolina Firm to Sell Home Anthrax Test Kits" - "NEW YORK - Vital Living Products Inc., a maker of water testing kits, is planning to ship home anthrax tests to retailers before Thanksgiving, but some merchants are lukewarm about stocking them due to questions about their reliability and effectiveness." (Reuters)

"Russia Offers Calm Antidote to U.S. Anthrax Alarm" - "MOSCOW - Russia is offering its anthrax antidotes and expertise to a United States gripped by anxiety over bioterrorism attacks, but experts say Americans need more help coping with their fears rather than a mass vaccination program.

Experts and ordinary Russians have looked on the panic sweeping the United States -- where one person has died after opening infected mail and a dozen others have been exposed to anthrax -- with a mixture of consternation and some bemusement. "We have big (vaccine) stocks, so if the Americans are short of them we will be able to help," said Benjamin Cherkassky, a senior scientist at Moscow's Central Institute of Epidemiology. "But in my opinion we need to protect the Americans not from anthrax, but from the feeling of fear. I'm serious. Panic is even worse than the disease." (Reuters)

"The EPA Comes Clean on Asbestos" - "No more than a few hours after the World Trade Center fell, the media were reporting that the north tower had contained 40 floors of asbestos, all of which was now swirling around downtown Manhattan. City health officials, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and, most importantly, the Environmental Protection Agency, landed on the scene to conduct air-quality tests. What they did next was nothing less than astonishing: They said it was safe to be downtown." (Kimberley A. Strassel, Wall Street Journal)

"Snafu forces new VA Agent Orange cancer review" - "WASHINGTON, Oct 18 - A gaffe by Australian researchers has forced the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to temporarily cancel plans to compensate Vietnam veterans for cancers linked to the infamous herbicide Agent Orange. A faulty survey questionnaire distributed to 50,000 ex-soldiers in Australia has called into question a major study that led experts last spring to link Agent Orange exposure to rare but highly fatal acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) in children of vets." (Reuters Health)

"Asthma and obesity 'link'" - "The increase in childhood asthma may be explained by the rise in obesity, a US study has suggested. Rates of both have shot up dramatically in recent decades in the West. The number of youngsters in the UK considered fat or obese has almost doubled in the last decade. Over 5m people are currently being treated for asthma, compared to 3.4m in 1999." (BBC Online)

Perhaps. Then again, the apparent increase in asthma rates may be an artefact of changed diagnosis and classification. It is intuitively reasonable that unfit lard balls may demonstrate less than optimal lung function. What changed so dramatically that there was an increase of about 50% in the number being treated for asthma in the space of just 2 years? Was there an "explosion of obesity" since 1999? Seems a little doubtful doesn't it.

"Studies Mixed on Risks of Antibiotics in Animal Feed" - "Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are common in American meat, and the microbes survive in the human intestine for a week or more, where they could potentially be the source of drug-resistant infections in people. Those are among the conclusions of three studies published in today's New England Journal of Medicine. However, the new research also suggests the interaction among animals, people and microbes may not be as simple and predictable as previously believed." (Washington Post)

"EPA says US air quality better, but smog still a problem" - "WASHINGTON - Air quality in the United States is steadily improving, but smog and haze are still a problem for more than 100 million Americans, according to a report released on Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency." (Reuters)

"New concerns over breast screening" - "A fresh row has broken out over controversial claims that screening for breast cancer may not actually be saving lives. The research was first published last year, but has been re-examined following a series of protests from cancer organisations over the findings. Now one of the world's leading medical journals, The Lancet, agrees that there is not enough evidence from large-scale trials to support breast screening." (BBC Online)

"Sheep BSE research 'flawed'" - "Research that indicated the presence of BSE in Britain's sheep has been found to be flawed. Ministers said last month that the UK's 20 million sheep and 20 million lambs might have to be destroyed if the findings were confirmed. But after the government's advisers called for the study to be re-examined, checks revealed that the BSE-infected tissue had come from cows." (BBC Online) | Scientists in vital BSE experiment tested wrong animal brains (Independent) | BSE test on sheep ends in fiasco (Telegraph) | Tests for BSE in sheep end in fiasco (The Times)

"Ottawa peppered over 'toxic' road salt; Industry lobbies government to head off designation of de-icing agent as dangerous" - "The salt industry is trying to overturn a scientific recommendation by Environment Canada that road salt, which rusts cars, kills trees and pollutes groundwater, should be classified as a toxic substance. The Salt Institute of Canada, an industry lobby group, has questioned dozens of scientific studies used by the federal government to conclude that the chemical is a danger to plants and aquatic life, according to records released under the federal access-to-information law. The group is worried that any federal action would frighten people about using table salt, which is part of almost everyone's diet and is in nearly all processed foods, Richard King, institute executive director, said in an interview." (Globe and Mail)

"WEATHER FORECASTERS MAY LOOK SKY-HIGH FOR ANSWERS" - "These days, weather forecasters are lucky if they can accurately predict the weather a week into the future. But a new study, funded in part by NASA, says shifting wind patterns in the stratosphere during the winter may help forecasters predict weather on the surface two months ahead of time, because they have an affect on where storms track in the northern hemisphere." (NASA/GSFC)

"NOAA REPORTS U.S. TO FACE ANOTHER COOL WINTER" - "For most of the United States, winter 2001-02 will feel like a sequel to last year's cold season, with sharp swings in temperature and precipitation, including heavy lake-effect snows in the Northeast and Midwest, cold air outbreaks in the South, and the potential for Nor'easters along the East Coast." (NOAA News)

"Earth's wobbles affect climate say NZ scientists" - "Wobbles" in the Earth's orbit are causing rapid changes to the East Antarctic ice sheet and leading to global climate changes and marked sea-level changes around the world, New Zealand scientists say." (New Zealand Herald)

Are causing? As in right now? Uh... no. The period under study occurred 34 to 15 million years ago (hardly contemporary). See: Orbitally induced oscillations in the East Antarctic ice sheet at the Oligocene/Miocene boundary [Nature 413, 719 - 723]. Those unable to browse Nature online may find the following useful: Antarctic cores reveal ice history (BBC Online) | ANTARCTIC SEAFLOOR CORE SUGGESTS EARTH'S ORBITAL OSCILLATIONS MAY BE THE KEY TO WHAT CONTROLLED ICE AGES (OSU release)

"IPCC chairman expects U.S. to revert to Kyoto Protocol" - "TOKYO, Oct. 18 - The head of a U.N. expert panel on climate change said Thursday he expects the United States sooner or later to revert to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on curbing global warming due to industrial pressure. Robert Watson, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told a Tokyo business conference organized by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper, ''I could envision that the U.S. will sooner or later be part of the international debate on climate because industries in the U.S. will demand it.'' (Kyodo)

"North Queensland rainforest under threat from global warming" - "The Australian scientific organisation, C-S-I-R-O, says a one degree increase in global temperatures could destroy half of North Queensland's rainforests. A climate change seminar in the region will today hear predictions of hotter, wetter summers in Far North Queensland and up to 20 percent stronger cyclonic winds by the end of the century." (Radio Australia)

"MIT prof: Oceans at risk if policy tool not restricted" - "CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--A policy tool key to arresting global warming could potentially wreak havoc on the oceans if instituted with no restrictions, warn an MIT professor and colleagues in the October 12 issue of Science.

Carbon trading, a feature of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, would limit abiding countries’ emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. A country that exceeds its limit could fulfill its commitment by purchasing "carbon credits" from a country that emits less than its quota.

Carbon credits could also, however, be purchased from commercial industries that have developed ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere. And therein lies the hitch, says Professor Sallie W. (Penny) Chisholm of MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Department of Biology." (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

"NOAA MAKES NEW TREE RING DATA AVAILABLE" - "New data from tree rings from 500 sites around the world are now available from NOAA. These data are important because they provide climate scientists and resource managers with records of past climatic variability extending back thousands of years." (NOAA News)

"Transgenic Plants for Vaccine Production" - "Abstract: The expression of antigens in vegetables and fruits has opened up a new avenue for the development of oral vaccines. In a recent report, an oral multi-component vaccine comprising a viral and a bacterial antigen has been successfully designed and has shown protection in mice. Even though there are still improvements to be made in the areas of expression levels and glycosylation, this is a promising technology for the future and for vaccine production." (HMS Beagle)

"ANZFA to teach shoppers who don't understand food labels" - "The Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) embarked yesterday on a poster campaign in the countries' supermarkets and doctors' waiting rooms, after four fifths of consumers confessed to not understanding all the nutritional information provided on the labels of packaged foods. Last November, food standards ministers agreed to overhaul labelling laws on all packaged foods, making it essential that manufactures list the ingredients that can cause allergic reactions, sugar and saturated fats levels. 86% of respondents in a recent survey commented however that information explaining nutritional labels would be helpful." (just-food.com)

"Consumer groups critical of defeat of GM labelling bill" - "OTTAWA - Consumer groups have vowed to keep fighting for mandatory labelling of genetically modified products after a private member's bill on labelling was defeated in the House of Commons." (CBC)

"INTERVIEW - Greens issue confidence warning to NZ govt on GMOs" - "WELLINGTON - New Zealand's environmentalist Green Party yesterday warned the government not to take its continued support for granted, as Prime Minister Helen Clark's cabinet nears a policy decision on genetically modified organisms (GMOs)." (Reuters) | Greens threaten government over GM (The Dominion) | GE dispute 'can be settled' (NZPA)

"Global GM Crop Area Continues to Grow Likely to Reach 50 million Hectares, or 125 Million Acres, in 2001" - "The global area of transgenic crops, often referred to as genetically modified or GM crops, is likely to reach 50 million hectares, or 125 million acres, at the end of 2001. Preliminary information from a global survey conducted by Dr Clive James, Chairman of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), indicates that this is more than a 10 % year-on-year growth compared with 2000. Despite the on-going debate on GM crops, particularly in countries of the European Union, millions of large and small farmers in both industrial and developing countries continue to increase their plantings of GM crops." (ISAAA, Press Release)

October 18, 2001

"Medical journal wants to ban antibiotics in livestock" - "HALIFAX - A highly regarded medical journal is calling for a ban on antibiotics in animals. The New England Journal of Medicine cites new studies showing that drugs in animals are causing health problems in people. Animal feed is often spiked with a low dose of antibiotics to prevent disease. The animals stay healthy and grow faster, getting to market quickly. However, a steady diet of antibiotics also allows bacteria to evolve and become resistant. It's harder to kill with normal drugs. When consumers eat the meat, that bacteria is passed on to them." (CBC)

Back to this again. Question: is veterinary use a primary concern in antibiotic resistance or should we be more concerned with over-prescription by GPs handing out antibiotics for coughs, colds and pimples on the belly?

Another question: is there really significant overlap between farm veterinary antibiotics and those required for human use? For example, the class of products known as ionophores are unable to be used in humans due to absorption by the intestine but are able to be used in animals with a different intestinal structure. They prevent bloat in cattle and reduce methane production. Ionophores are also widely used to prevent coccidiosis (an intestinal parasitic organism) in poultry, pigs and cattle.

Blanket bans on the feed use of antibiotics would paradoxically lead to more animal disease, resulting in more therapeutic use of antibiotic classes that are more likely to lead to cross resistance. This has been the case in European Countries where such bans have been put in place.

And just how certain are we that exposure is the 'cause' of resistance? Actually, we're not:

September 16, 1999 - Rodent Study Queries Traditional Antibiotic Theory - "LONDON - British scientists have questioned the prevailing wisdom that says managing antibiotic use carefully can help control the worrying spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Until now, efforts to reduce this resistance have been based on the assumption that it can be found in bacterial populations that have been exposed to antibiotics, and that restricting the use of antibiotics should restrict the spread of resistance. But British scientists who studied wild voles and wood mice in northern England said this was not necessarily the case. ``Our results show that resistance to antibiotics is widespread in at least some wild populations even though these have never to our knowledge been exposed to antibiotics,'' Anthony Hart of the University of Liverpool wrote in the science journal Nature Wednesday." (Reuters)

See also Junkman's article Where's the Beef on Farm Antibiotics? on FoxNews.com.

"US Germ expert says panicky people can iron mail" - "WASHINGTON - A leading bioterror expert said this week people who feel panicky about opening their mail amid the anthrax scare can use a hot steam iron and a moist layer of fabric to kill germs." (Reuters)

Don't know if it'll do much for your mail's legibility though... and how would you feel ironing the figures off your dividend check or whatever?

"Court Says Individuals Have a Right to Firearms" - "In a case that had drawn intense national attention from supporters and opponents of gun control measures, a federal appeals court in New Orleans ruled yesterday that the Constitution guarantees individuals a right to have firearms. But the court, in wading into one of the most contentious issues of constitutional law, disappointed pro-gun groups by declaring that the right was subject to some regulations, leaving open the door for gun control provisions." (New York Times)

"U.S. National Security Being Undermined From Within" - "WASHINGTON, D.C. — “At a time when our national security should be at an all-time high, it is alarming to realize that some federal regulations have the potential to seriously damage this country’s ability to protect itself,” says Fred L. Smith, president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Smith is referring to regulations that make it easier for terrorists to obtain information about things like chemical plant operations and “risk management plans” under current “right to know” laws. In addition, our military readiness is in jeopardy because of extreme environmentalists who are making endangered species laws, which hinder or halt any type of environmental disturbance, a priority over properly training recruits at military bases across the country. Smith says both of these regulations, enacted during earlier, peaceful times, must today be re-examined in order to support our country and our troops. “It’s dangerous to do otherwise, and I think the American public would support re-examining these regulations during these most troubling times,” he adds." (Competitive Enterprise Institute)

"Scientists criticise Hawking 'hype'" - "Professor Stephen Hawking's latest fears for the future of humanity have been criticised by academics for being contradictory and little more than hype for his forthcoming book. The famous physicist said that the human race was likely to be wiped out by a manmade, doomsday virus before the millennium was out, unless we set up colonies in space." (BBC Online)

"Study examines how prion disease adapts to new species" - "Although scientists believe that mad cow disease spread from cattle to people in a few instances in the United Kingdom, they know very little about how that happened. To better understand how diseases like mad cow jump and adapt to a new species, researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) examined the process by which a disease called scrapie transfers from hamsters to mice.

"We found that the adaption is a prolonged and subtle process, and the early stages of it are very difficult to detect," says Bruce Chesebro, M.D., senior study author and researcher at NIAID's Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) in Montana. The results of his team's work are reported in the current issue of the Journal of Virology." (NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

"EU delay on climate change package angers greens" - "BRUSSELS - The European Commission has postponed a major legislative package to combat global warming, angering environmentalists. EU officials insisted on Wednesday the delay was purely technical but pressure groups blamed last-minute industry lobbying. Less than two weeks before a new round of United Nations climate change talks in Morocco, Environment Commissioner Margaret Wallstrom had hoped the policy proposals would show Europe's determination to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. But the EU executive failed to complete discussion of the package, which included the world's first carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions trading scheme and a document aimed at legally binding the bloc to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate change." (Reuters)

"Green Backlash Feared from World Slowdown" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium, October 16, 2001 - European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström has voiced fears that economic gloom in the wake of last month's terrorist attacks on the United States could crowd environmental issues off the global agenda. "There is a serious risk that we will experience a backlash where these economic problems will overshadow long term questions of environment and sustainable development," Wallström told "Dagens Nyheter" newspaper in her native Sweden. Such a reaction must be resisted, she said." (ENS)

Poor Margot still doesn't get it. Only affluent societies enjoying a boom economy can indulge the warm and fuzzy, nonsensical rituals we call "being green." Quite correctly, these bizarre pantomimes with no useful outcome are abandoned as soon as practical considerations absorb the available finance/effort pool. The silliest part is that ignoring these fringe elements and concentrating effort where it is needed actually achieves the very things the greens claim they desire much more efficiently and rapidly. People like Wallström ("big gee" Greens) seem to have been so immersed in the illusion that they no longer recognise that technological advance and societal affluence are both the driving forces for, and the means of achieving environmental improvement. Go figure.

"ANTARCTIC SEAFLOOR CORE SUGGESTS EARTH'S ORBITAL OSCILLATIONS MAY BE THE KEY TO WHAT CONTROLLED ICE AGES" - "COLUMBUS, Ohio - An international team of scientists reported this week that a rock core drilled from the seafloor off the coast of Antarctica is the first to show cyclic climate changes in polar regions that are linked to cores taken from the ocean bottom in both temperate and tropical zones.

These records show ice sheet advances and retreats that match Milankovitch cycles - variations in the Earth's orbit around the sun, in the tilt of the Earth's axis and in the direction the planet's axis is pointing. The finding, reported in the British journal Nature, suggests a link between these orbital oscillations and the timing of Antarctic ice ages." (OSU release)

"If People Cause Global Warming, Why Is There No Human Fingerprint?" - "The debate over the President's decision on the Kyoto Protocol has focused media and public attention on the question of global climate: Do people cause global warming? During the last 100 years the average temperature of the earth's surface has increased by one degree Fahrenheit. In that same period the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide increased by 25%. A large part of the increase in carbon dioxide is the product of human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels. Is it possible that these two increases -- the rise in earth's temperature and the rise in carbon dioxide resulting from human activity -- are connected?

A blue ribbon panel of scientists, convened by the National Academy of Sciences in response to a request by President Bush, concluded that they are. The separate summary that accompanies the panel's full report states in its opening sentence: "Changes [in the temperature of the earth] observed in the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities." But the report also states that "the most valuable contribution U.S. scientists can make is to continually question basic assumptions and conclusions." It is in that spirit that this critique is written." (Frederick Seitz and Robert Jastrow, Tech Central Station)

"VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT, October 16, 2001 Vol. 2, No. 40" - "According to an article in the October 11th edition of Nature, the general circulation models used to forecast future climate incorporate a major and fundamental error. If corrected in accordance with the researchers’ finding, forecasts of rising global temperature likely would drop about 20 percent." (GES)

World Climate Report Volume 7, Number 4, October 22, 2001 is available.

"Tuvalu Cons the Kiwis" - "Tuvalu, an island nation of 10,000 people on nine low lying atolls in the South Pacific, have now conned the New Zealand government into accepting an annual quota of Tuvaluans as `environmental refugees', citing rising sea levels from climate change as their justification (See BBC report here). In concluding the agreement, the Tuvalu government condemned Australia and the USA for not embracing the Kyoto Protocol and for not joining with New Zealand in accepting `responsibility' for Tuvalu's real or imagined fate." (John L Daly, Still Waiting For Greenhouse)

"Canaletto's art confirms sinking of Venice" - "A project using more than 100 paintings by the Venetian painter Canaletto has shown precisely how much the sea has risen around the city in the 200 years since his death. Canaletto's realistic paintings of the city include features such as tide marks on buildings beside canals. The paintings are as accurate as photographs because Canaletto used a camera obscura, a device using a lens to project images on to sketchpads or canvases, to produce them. His works offer a record of where the high tide marks lay during his life, from 1697 to 1768. Those show that the sea has since risen by 80cm (31in) – an average of 2.8mm (just over an inch) every year." (Independent)

Oh dear. While this correctly states that 80cm (800mm) is approximately 31", 2.8mm is just over one-tenth of one inch (or the parenthesised value given per decade not per year). Those who read far enough into the article will see that sea level relative to Venice is hardly indicative since Venice has a subsidence problem - it's literally sinking into the lagoon. In fact, extraction of groundwater to help run an industrial complex between 1930 and 1970 dramatically increased local subsidence but Venetians have been battling local apparent sea level rise since the 3rd Century simply because the place is continually sinking into the fine silt bed of the lagoon.

"Global warming fight 'jeopardised'" - "The government's plans to fight global warming are being jeopardised by its own new rules on buying and selling electricity, ministers are being warned. The Energy Minister, Brian Wilson, is to be challenged in the Commons on Wednesday over the new system which, it is claimed, is causing major problems for wind energy and small power stations." (BBC Online)

"Australia energy group warns of renewables slide" - "MELBOURNE - The Sustainable Energy Industry Association of Australia said yesterday that renewable energy risked losing market share after a mandated government target for its use expired at the end of the decade." (Reuters)

"Ozone-Depleting Chemical May Get Reprieve" - "COLOMBO - Developed countries may be allowed limited use of ozone-depleting methyl bromide beyond a 2004 deadline to phase out the chemical, officials at an environmental conference in Sri Lanka said on Wednesday. Methyl bromide is used as a crop fumigant and for pest control and although it is less damaging to the ozone layer than chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) it is released directly into the atmosphere. "This is the first time the issue of exemptions on methyl bromide has ever been taken up," Milton Catelin, chairman of the Open-Ended Working Group on the Montreal Protocol, told a news conference." (Reuters)

"Green" chemicals harming ozone layer" - "Four chemicals being marketed as harmless to the ozone layer may be nothing of the sort, new research suggests. As evidence grows that the ozone hole over the Antarctic is not healing as expected, an international coalition of governments will discuss this week whether to ban them." (New Scientist)

"Think twice before accepting the benevolence of soy" - "Health-conscious Americans have long accepted the benefits of tofu, infant formula and other food products made from soybeans and soy extract. But their assumption is now being called into question by Jill Schneider, associate professor of biological sciences at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. In a study of hamsters completed under Schneider's direction, Jamie Swanson, a biological sciences major, recently found that a component of soy beans - isoflavones - significantly accelerated the onset of puberty in the rodents." (Lehigh University)

"Engineered Vaccine Helps Kill Tumors Caused By HPV" - "A genetically engineered vaccine appears to direct the immune system to kill tumors caused by human papillomavirus 16 (HPV-16), report researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins University. Their research appears in the October 2001 issue of the Journal of Virology." (UniSci)

"Sweeter tomato breakthrough" - "A TINY $10,000 project in Australia could lead to a breakthrough in creating a sweeter tomato – a project on which US researchers have been spending millions. While a sweeter tasting tomato has obvious benefits to consumers, it is the resultant multimillion-dollar cost savings to the tomato processing industries that is the main goal. The industry is worth about $200 million in Australia, with Queensland the biggest producer. NSW produces about $10 million worth of tomatoes a year for the fresh and processed markets. In the future, other fruits such as the grape also could be genetically manipulated, with enormous economic benefits to the wine industry." (The Advertiser)

"IACP On Tour: Exploring the Issues of Food Biotechnology" - "In early 2001, the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) conducted discussions on food biotechnology with panels of experts in six U.S. cities: Los Angeles; New York; Chicago; Dallas; Portland, Oregon; and Washington, D.C. Individuals ranging from consumers and ethicists, to chefs and scientists, and to organic farmers and opinion leaders held passionate dialogues in which they presented their various perspectives and views. This article highlights some of the views expressed at those sessions." (International Food Information Council Foundation)

"Stewardship Of Genetic Modification" - "One hundred and fifty, farmers, teachers, scientists and agri-industry professionals meeting at a recent gene technology workshop held at Lincoln University, strongly agreed that New Zealand's future lay with wise stewardship of genetic modification technologies." (New Zealand Institute of Agricultural Science)

"Virginia Tech Leads Global Effort To Sort Out Social, Economic Impacts Of Agricultural Biotechnology" - "Biotechnology is also likely to produce winners and losers as a result of social and economic impacts, says George Norton. The professor of agricultural and applied economics at Virginia Tech says sorting out these social and economic effects may be critical to public acceptance of biotechnology. Without that acceptance, he fears, many potential benefits may be lost." (Virginia Tech University)

"Government plan to keep GE foes on side" - "EXCLUSIVE - The Government is planning a two-year compulsory freeze on GE field trials to appease the Green Party and head off a threatened revolt by its own Maori MPs. The Maori MPs met on Tuesday night to discuss their concerns that senior ministers were leaning towards decisions in line with the report of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification. The Government is to announce its decision by October 30." (New Zealand Herald)

"Clark dismisses GE report" - "Prime Minister Helen Clark today rubbished a media report it will ban field trials of genetically-modified organisms for another two years. Miss Clark has already signalled, however, that she is leaning towards extending the moratorium on the commercial release of genetically modified organisms." (NZPA)

"Tough line on liability for genetic engineering risks" - "Anyone who sells or uses any genetically modified organism should be liable for physical harm, damage or economic loss to property caused by that organism. That is the recommendation from a report on who should bear the financial risks associated with genetic engineering. The report was made by public law firm Chen Palmer and Associates and economic consultants Simon Terry and Associates." (New Zealand Herald)

October 17, 2001

"America's fears may raise risks of distraction" - "The United States is in the midst of the biggest bioterrorist attack in its history. One man is dead and at least a dozen others have been exposed to anthrax, causing a rush across the country for the one approved treatment of the rare disease.

Yet, even as Americans clean out drug store supplies of the anthrax-killing antibiotic, Cipro, public health officials know there is something even more important that they won't get - flu shots.

Plain old influenza and pneumonia kill 67,000 Americans each year, yet millions of people who are most vulnerable to the diseases don't get the vaccine that could protect them. With so much focus on anthrax and other exotic diseases this year, federal health officials fear immunization rates may be lower than usual." (Boston Globe)

"Anthrax impact: little harm, but a lot of fear" - "As a weapon of mass destruction, anthrax has so far proved to be less than effective - with just one fatality and a handful of illnesses resulting from the spate of recent cases. But as a form of psychological warfare, it's having a profound impact." (Christian Science Monitor)

"False alarms take toll on tired crews" - "People are crying "anthrax" too often, officials say, and they are urging people to use common sense before calling out exhausted teams of experts to examine piles of ordinary dust, baby powder or blackboard chalk." (Washington Times)

"Anthrax hoaxers very difficult to stop" - "Hoaxers around the world are exploiting public fears about anthrax attacks, but there is little that can be done to prevent them, say psychologists." (New Scientist)

There's a very simple response - stop reporting this nonsense and feeding the absurd fear cycle as have some Australian networks. Getting a sense of perspective would help too. According to NOAA's "Weather" page, an average of more than 70 people are killed each year in the US by lightening and hundreds more are struck and survive. The country is not paralysed with fear worrying about lightening but a little powder has people scrambling for gas masks - get a grip!

Henry Payne's comment (Detroit News)

"The Band Plays On; Good News on AIDS – Why the Silence?" - "If I ever decide I need to get blood from a turnip, I’m calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and their friends in the media. Why? For almost fifteen years now they have performed the incredible feat of exaggerating the AIDS epidemic in every possible way, to make it more politically correct and bring more money into federal health agency coffers." (Michael Fumento, American Spectator)

"More Americans are dying from diseases of old age" - "WASHINGTON - Heart disease and cancer are still the biggest killers, but Americans are surviving longer and more are dying of diseases associated with old age, a government report issued last week showed. Life expectancy for Americans has reached a new high of 76.9 years, compared with 76.7 years in 1999, mostly because fewer people are dying early from heart disease and cancer, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported." (Reuters)

Watch this fire up the libbers again: "Study: Animal Protein Linked with Stomach Cancer" - "WASHINGTON - People who eat large amounts of cholesterol, animal protein and vitamin B12 have a higher risk of a particular kind of stomach cancer, Yale University researchers said on Tuesday. But people who take vitamin C supplements have a 40 percent lower risk of the cancer, known as adenocarcinoma of the esophagus and gastric cardia, the researchers said. People who eat plant-based diets, rich in fiber, vitamins and low in meat and dairy, also have a lower risk of the cancer. The research, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, supports numerous other studies that link cancer with diets heavy in meats and animal fat." (Reuters)

"Animal rights fanatics are health hazard" - "BIO-TERRORISM is driving the anthrax scare, whatever its source. Yet animal rights extremists — those who would interfere with scientific research to combat such deadly diseases — are winning their campaign.

That's because, as I noted last Thursday, Bill C-15, which will change laws on animals, elevate their status and make it easier to sue scientists, is close to final approval.

The public has been falsely led to believe these militants are only concerned with animal welfare; it's non-extreme animal lovers who are in this category. Greater protections against animal cruelty are an undisputed part of the new bill, with harsher penalties for abusers. But the part that is contentious — and needs urgent attention in the face of germ warfare — is language that opens the door to lawsuits and lack of legal safeguards for research to benefit humankind." (Ellie Tesher, Toronto Star)

"California Enacts Nation's Toughest Gun Laws" - "In a last-minute flurry over the weekend, California Gov. Gray Davis (D) signed into law over 120 bills to meet a midnight deadline for approving bills passed in the final weeks of the legislative session. Among these were the strictest requirements in the nation for prospective handgun buyers, according to The New York Times.

In "Gun Policy in the Aftermath of Littleton," Cato Fellow Doug Bandow writes that gun control is misguided and that studies show that guns are used five times as often to prevent as to commit crimes. 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.

Last year, the Cato Institute hosted a book forum featuring legal scholar John R. Lott, Jr., author of "More Guns, Less Crime." The updated edition of his book presents the most comprehensive analysis ever done on crime statistics and right-to-carry laws. Video of the forum is available on the Cato Web site." (Cato Institute)

"Good Science" - "The National Dairy Council publishes a newsletter entitle Dairy Council Digest. The October 2001 issue is devoted to an article entitled "Good Science: Its Role in Setting the Record Straight." Described are the sources of nutrition information, how the media and special interest groups contribute to confusion, and how to spot bad science.

Keys to identifying bad science have been endorsed by several professional groups. These include promising a quick fix, dire warnings of danger from a single product, claims that sound too good to be true, simplistic conclusions from complex studies, recommendations based on a single study, lists of good and bad foods, statements refuted by reputable professional organizations, studies that are not peer reviewed, and studies that ignore differences among individuals or groups.

HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Whether you like milk or not is irrelevant. This is an outstanding article. Too often, scientists and the news media make mountains out of ant hills. Most scientific experiments are the equivalent of tiny baby steps forward. And you know what usually happens to babies taking their first steps – they fall on their faces." (Nutrition News Focus)

"UK Dairy Farmers Give Up on Organics" - "British dairy farmers are abandoning plans to convert to organic production, because it doesn’t pay anymore. Farmers who have already converted to organic production are caught in a bind. The Farmers Union of Wales (FUW) has warned that a flood of cheap imports, triggered by the weak Euro, is displacing domestic organic milk, according to Farmers Weekly Interactive." (AgWeb.com)

"There Are Bigger Environmental Fish to Fry Than Anthropogenic CO2 Emissions" - "In the eyes of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as well as those of a host of political functionaries worldwide, the curtailment of fossil fuel usage is, in a way of speaking, the only game in town, and the United States is the proverbial odd man out when it comes to sitting down at the environmental banquet table. As a perceptive scientist (Kite, 2001) has recently pointed out, however, the rest of the world would do well to similarly excuse themselves from the deceptively enticing meal, which promises much but will ultimately meet the dietary needs of no one.

Kite begins with the basics, noting that "the overall greenhouse effect is a good thing," and that without it, "life would be rather uncomfortable."  Indeed, he correctly reminds us that some ten thousand years ago, "the sites of most major North American and European cities were buried below hundreds of meters of ice," a situation that makes nearly all scenarios of future climate change pale in comparison." (co2science.org)

"Potential Inaccuracies in Temperature Trends" - "Summary: They exist; and they are many. And their nature is such that they may be giving us a false sense of insecurity about the planet's climate." (co2science.org)

"Assessing Northern Hemispheric Temperature Trends Via Reconstructed Precipitation Trends in Spain" - "Summary: A set of relationships between precipitation in southern Spain, the North Atlantic Oscillation, and Northern Hemispheric temperature raises serious questions about the global warming claims of climate alarmists. Journal of Geophysical Research 106: 14,805-14,818." (co2science.org)

"A Century of Temperature Data from the Kola Section of the Barents Sea" - "Summary: Just another real-world temperature history that stands in stark contrast to the model-inspired claim of the climate alarmists that the last decades of the 20th century were host to a warming that was greater than any other of the past millennium and propelled the planet to an equally unprecedented level of warmth. Climate Research 17: 73-82." (co2science.org)

Professor Emeritus Philip Stott's site is back online after a complete renovation - click on in.

"New chemicals fuel ozone worry" - "The latest measurements of ozone damage show it is almost as bad as the worst year recorded. The British scientist who discovered the Antarctic "ozone hole", Joe Farman, says it is continuing because emissions of ozone-depleting bromine compounds are increasing. Mr Farman said the damage showed no sign yet of recovery. And he said several new chemicals were not helping to repair the damage. Mr Farman, who was a British Antarctic Survey scientist when he discovered the hole in 1985, is now a consultant to the European Ozone Research Coordinating Unit, based in Cambridge, UK." (BBC Online)

Farman "discovered" the "hole" in 1985 did he? In a paper titled "Forty Years' Research on Atmospheric Ozone at Oxford: A History" (Applied Optics, March 1968), Gordon Miller Bourne Dobson (1889-1976) described an ozone monitoring program that began at Halley Bay in 1956.

When the data began to arrive, "the values in September and October 1956 were about 150 [Dobson] units lower than expected. ... In November the ozone values suddenly jumped up to those expected. ... It was not until a year later, when the same type of annual variation was repeated, that we realized that the early results were indeed correct and that Halley Bay showed a most interesting difference from other parts of the world."

"2001 OZONE HOLE ABOUT THE SAME SIZE AS PAST THREE YEARS" - "Satellite data show the area of this year's Antarctic ozone hole peaked at about 26 million square kilometers -- roughly the size of North America -- making the hole similar in size to those of the past three years, according to scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Researchers have observed a leveling- off of the hole size and predict a slow recovery." (NASA News)

Everyone stand by for the hysterical warnings about sun exposure due to this depletion. While it's true that pockets of reduced ozone air may disperse over settled regions as the vortex collapses, these are highly transient and any effect occurs for about one day in any given region. Basically a case of "Big deal!" when it occurs and "So what?" if it doesn't but it has been observed a few times.

New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) are reporting that ozone levels got as low as 132DU this year, NASA says 100DU and you can bet that the UN will report a different figure again. Rigaud and Leroy [Annales Geophysicae (November, 1990)] reported levels as low as 110DU observed at the French Antarctic Observatory at Dumont d'Urville in the spring of 1958 so it does not appear there have been any startling changes since the phenomenon was first noted during the International Geophysical Year of 1956. This springtime phenomenon has been observed every time anyone has measured atmospheric ozone levels in the region at this time of year and there is no reason to believe that it has not occurred for millennia.

"Ben & Jerry's charitable arm funds anti-globalisation activists" - "Benny & Jerry's, the ice cream company renowned for its socially responsible actions, has been spending millions of dollars lining the pockets of anti-globalisation protest groups, it emerged yesterday [Monday]." (just-food.com)

"(Con) Fusion cooking" - "Environmental campaigners' implacable opposition to food and agricultural biotechnology has found sympathetic friends among a bunch of celebrity chefs in the USA, who operate some of the grandest and most glorious eateries in the universe. Though their numbers are small, their influence is considerable, particularly since they took up televangelism." (Irena Chalmers, Sp!ked)

"US Ars: Resistance Genes Key to Protecting Chocolate Supply" - "Anyone who needs a chocolate fix would do well to fear witches' broom, frosty pod rot and black pod. A major supplier of chocolate lovers, Mars, Inc., wants to protect the world's cocoa beans from these and other fungal diseases. Agricultural Research Service scientists, led by plant geneticist Raymond J. Schnell at the ARS Subtropical Horticulture Research Station (www.ars-grin.gov/ars/SoAtlantic/Miami/homeshrs.html) in Miami, Fla., have signed a research agreement with Mars to develop more resistant cacao trees as quickly as possible." (M2 Communications)

"Salt of the Earth" - "Genetic engineering may help to reclaim agricultural land lost due to salinisation.

During medieval times, salt was a precious commodity that was traded weight for weight with gold. Arab traders with salt caravans of up to 300 camels crossed the desert for days to communities such as the mystical Timbuktu, which rose to glory because of this lucrative trans-Saharan salt trade.

But salt can be more of a threat than an asset, and it lies at the heart of one of today’s major agricultural problems. Excess salinity in soil has devastating effects on plant growth, reducing crop yields worldwide and even leading to complete crop failure in the worst-affected areas. To overcome these limitations, plant breeders have long been trying to generate more salt-tolerant crops, largely without success. Now, researchers from the University of Toronto and the University of California in Davis have genetically engineered plants to withstand significantly higher salt concentrations than their wild-type counterparts. Through the manipulation of just one gene, they have shown that plants are able to thrive in saline conditions that would otherwise be sufficient to class a soil as useless." (EMBO)

"New Genetically Modified Plant Has It All" - "Creating salt-tolerant plants through gene modification can boost Agricultural productivity, especially in areas with high-salt soils.

Until now, Scientists thought that salt tolerance could be engineered, but at the expense of Something else. For example, engineered salt-tolerant canola plants might have a Poor oil quality or poor oil yield. Now, in Article #4764, researchers at the University of Toronto and the University of California at Davis show that if the Right gene is chosen you can have your cake and eat it too: salt tolerance, high quality, and high yield. The researchers took AtNHX1, a gene encoding a protein that transports salt into the internal compartments of the plant cell, from a salt-tolerant plant species and inserted it into the canola plant genome." (PNAS)

"EPA Allows Biotech Corn Farming" - "WASHINGTON - Farmers will be allowed to continue growing genetically engineered corn after the government decided the crop isn't a threat to human health or the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency is renewing for seven years registrations for varieties of biotech corn that produce their own toxin to kill an insect pest, a moth larva called the European corn borer. The crop is known as Bt corn for a bacterium gene that it contains." (AP)

"Chemical clean-up for GE trial site" - "Land used to grow a genetically engineered crop will be decontaminated for the first time in New Zealand despite warnings it could harm the public's perception of GE." (New Zealand Herald)

"HortResearch says gene-trial site free of risk" - "The crown research institute HortResearch last night confirmed it would clean up land used for growing genetically modified tamarillos. But the organisation insisted that the trial site in the Bay of Islands had never, and still did not, present any continuing risk. But it had offered to temporarily cover and fumigate the site using the teargas ingredient chloropicrin to mitigate any perceived risk to the soil environment." (New Zealand Herald)

"Editorial: Deceptive tactics by anti-GM lobby" - "The Green campaign against genetic modification is doing itself discredit with the claims it is making about the "decontamination" of soil at Kerikeri, where a crown research institute has grown an experimental crop of tamarillos. The institute, HortResearch, has evidently agreed to sterilise the site - not because there is the slightest evidence of contamination but to "appease" the anti-GM campaign and reassure those among the public who are susceptible to its scaremongering." (New Zealand Herald)

"Dialogue: GM decision will decree how green we become" - "The Government is about to make one of the most critical decisions of its first term - perhaps its whole life. It will decide policy on genetic modification. Whichever way it jumps, there will be no way back to where we are now for a long time, perhaps eternity. The cabinet will make this critical decision amid a frenzy of lobbying and propaganda from GM's opponents (who call it genetic engineering, which sounds more sinister) and proponents, some of whom have had the Prime Minister's ear in recent weeks." (New Zealand Herald)

"Margins are blurring best way to view GM" - "Sadly the whole genetic modification debate is becoming horribly polarised, and a very good royal commission report is being stranded in the middle." (New Zealand Herald)

"Csiro: Researchers Cotton on to Enzymes" - "The solution to the problem of residual pesticides is literally under our feet. Naturally occurring soil bacteria contain enzymes which can reduce toxic chemicals to harmless compounds. A recent enzyme field trial on a cotton farm showed spectacular reduction of organophosphate residues by 90%, says CSIRO's Dr Robyn Russell. "There's no single enzyme that will break down every one of the agrochemicals," says Dr Russell. "Each chemical or group of chemicals needs its own enzyme. But we believe that there's a bacterium for practically every organic pollutant," she says. Although farmers can reduce their application of pesticides by using transgenic crops and precision agriculture techniques, researchers are continually looking for ways to deal with residual pesticides in soil and water. "Most of the work is in the initial identification of the appropriate enzymes," says Dr Russell." (M2 Communications)

"Farmers reject GMO rice" - "Farmers in Cordillera have raised fears that genetically engineered rice seeds introduced in the region will displace indigenous rice seeds that have been used for centuries." (ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp.)

"Biotech Cotton Causes Stir In India" - "NEW DELHI -- Ten thousand hectares of unauthorized transgenic cotton have been found in India. The news has angered firms waiting to grow genetically modified crops in the country, and raises serious questions about the ability of developing nations to regulate the introduction of genetically modified varieties." (Nature Biotechnology)

"INTERVIEW-India may allow GM crop production by March" - "BOMBAY, Oct 16 - India is likely to allow by March the commercial production of a genetically modified (GM) crop for the first time, a top government official said. ''Things are moving very fast,'' Manju Sharma, secretary in the federal department of biotechnology in New Delhi, told Reuters by phone late on Monday. The first approval is likely to be given to India's Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company (MAHYCO), which has been conducting large-scale field trials of its GM cotton variety in collaboration with U.S.-based biotech firm Monsanto." (Reuters)

"Editorial -- Frankenfood Fear Grows" - "Chew on this bit of ambiguity: ''Voluntary Claims About Foods That Are and Are Not Products of Gene Technology.'' If you're a consumer who wants to avoid Frankenfood, the word ''voluntary'' isn't going to satisfy your craving for clear information. Then there's the word ''claims.'' Claims? Is this really the title of a document on labelling genetically modified food?" (Winnipeg Free Press)

October 16, 2001

Junkman on CNN's Crossfire! "Target Terrorism: How Prepared Is America?" - The Junkman was on CNN's Crossfire last night with Bob Novak, former Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson, and Ambassador Paul Bremer. Here's the transcript.

"Columnist Dead Wrong on Dark Winter" - Randy Larsen, the director of the Institute for Homeland Security, fibbed in this letter to the Washington Times about a recent column by the Junkman.

I wrote in a recent column ("Exaggerated threat of smallpox terrorism," Washington Times, October 7) that the participants of last summer's bioterror war game called "Dark Winter" pretended to fail in their response to the epidemic so that 1 million people died.

Larsen wrote, "Had Mr. Milloy carefully checked his facts, he would have discovered that fewer people 'died' in the Dark Winter exercise than died at Pearl Harbor."

Unfortunately for Mr. Larsen, I checked my facts. According to page 43 of the Dark Winter script, one million people were projected to die from the hypothetical smallpox outbreak.

This death toll was reported by the media, including CNN, BusinessWeek, Agence France Press, Investor's Business Daily, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

How about a new term for the phenomenon of bioterrorism disinformation? We'll call it "Larseny."

E-mail your thoughts about Larseny to the Institute for Homeland Security.

"Anthrax Anxiety: The Truth Behind the Hype" - ""Be afraid. Be very afraid." That was the advertising slogan for the 1986 science-fiction film remake, The Fly. With a "remake" of the anthrax outbreak in Florida, this time at NBC News in New York, that's exactly what a lot of us are doing. Even before the New York case, people across North America were stampeding out of everything from subways to police stations because of anthrax angst, set off by things as little as a lunch bag left behind on a train. This is not good. Let's step back, take a deep breath, and look at what we're facing." (Michael Fumento, National Review Online)

"Anthrax link to al-Qaida unlikely; Some experts call it work of psychopath, not trained terrorists" - "As authorities nationwide sift through the latest fears of anthrax exposure, experts say the attacks are not likely the work of Islamic terrorists with links to Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida terrorist network. Instead, it's probably the handiwork of homegrown psychopaths like the Unabomber. The target total is too small, the methods too crude and the anthrax too unsophisticated to be part of a concerted attack by the same stripe of terrorists who planned the devastating Sept. 11 hijackings, experts say. This, of course, is not to discount -- with the investigation still sketchy -- the possibility that the anthrax cases were clumsy, small blows mainly meant to spread fear cheaply." (Kevin Fagan, San Francisco Chronicle)

"After Attacks, Studies of Dust and Its Effects" - "Despite a steady stream of data from public agencies showing that the stubborn, eye-stinging plumes of dust from the wrecked World Trade Center pose few risks, thousands of people — residents and workers in nearby neighborhoods, firefighters, demolition crews, those who fled the attacks — say they still fear for their health." (New York Times)

"No decline in heart disease" - "Middle-aged men are just as likely to be diagnosed with heart disease now as they were 20 years ago, according to research. Although death rates are down and fewer men are suffering heart attacks, there has been no decrease in the overall incidence of coronary heart disease. Researchers surveyed 8,000 men between the ages of 40 and 59 at regular intervals between 1978 and 1996. The rate of diagnosis of heart disease remained steady throughout the time of the study. The chances of dying from heart disease in Britain have gone down - as they have throughout the industrialised world. And fewer men are experiencing symptoms such as angina (chest pain)." (BBC Online)

Pesticide Phil, et al: "Research Is Urged for Healthier Breast Milk" - "With her 7-week-old baby nursing at her breast, Dr. Sandra Steingraber spoke at a conference held recently in New York to address an important issue: the presence of low levels of chemical residues in breast milk." (New York Times)

"Natural protein may fight breast cancer" - "Scientists have found out why women who have a baby when they are relatively young have a lower risk of developing breast cancer. They have identified a substance produced naturally in the body that protects against the disease. Hormones released during pregnancy trigger the changes in the breast tissue of young women. The research raises the possibility of one day developing a pill that could protect against breast cancer." (BBC Online)

Maybe. But this trial involves rodents inbred to be prone to cancers and rodents aren't little people. Still in the realms of "could," "might" and "possibly."

BMJ notes once more that lack of wealth is a health hazard: "Health gap between rich and poor in London widens" - "The health gap between the rich and the poor across London is getting wider despite government targets to stamp out inequalities in health, a report has shown.

People living just a few miles apart have widely varying life expectancies—a pattern that is likely to be repeated throughout England and Wales, says the document from the recently established London Health Observatory, one of eight regional public health observatories around England.

Figures collected by the London Health Observatory for 1997 to 1999 showed that a baby boy born in Westminster, one of London’s richest boroughs, is likely to outlive a baby boy born in Newham, one of the poorest boroughs, by six years. In the early 1990s, the difference in life expectancy was just five years." (BMJ)

A revelation this is not, disposable income has long been associated with health and longevity.

Curiously, Kyoto promoters, using bizarre extrapolations of supposed health benefits and consequent healthcare cost savings in an attempt to make The Protocol appear affordable and even beneficial, omit the health cost of reduced wealth generation. I've never tried to guesstimate the number of life-years lost with say a 1% reduction in GDP but it sure wouldn't be difficult to fudge up some very big numbers. If you factored in economic depression in developing countries as wealthy developed world purchasers reduced imports in line with declining disposable income you'd probably find a huge cascading effect with disproportionate impact on the world's poorer nations. A case could then be made that Kyoto will cause [big number] "premature deaths" and cost [bigger number] "lost life-years."

While it is demonstrable that wealth generation is health generation, any figures so derived belong firmly in the realm of fanciful extrapolation. The only thing they'd have going for them is that they are based (loosely) on the well observed and repeatable establishment of a correlation between disposable income and health. Granted, this is considerably better than claims that implementation of the Kyoto Protocol would improve health, which appear based solely on wishful thinking.

"New Technologies and Global Warming Science"

(Editor’s note: These are edited remarks of Sallie Baliunas to the Ohio Energy Conference on Oct. 1, 2001)

"Human use of coal, oil and natural gas have become the centerpiece in an international debate about global warming, its causes and its future path.

It is a fact that human consumption of fossil fuels has increased the amount of greenhouse gases, in particular the main one carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases are essential to life on earth in that they help retain energy near the surface that would otherwise escape to space. Based on ideas about how climate works, the small additional energy resulting from additions of carbon dioxide should warm the planet." (Sallie Baliunas, Tech Central Station)

"Global warming science, politics" from Heartland's Environment and Climate News, October 2001

"Threats to Ozone Layer Persist as Governments Seek Tighter Controls" - "COLOMBO — Recognizing the need to eliminate any remaining weaknesses in the international regime for protecting the earth's ozone layer, Governments will meet here from 16 to 19 October in order to strengthen the effectiveness of the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer. "Despite the enormous cuts in ozone-depleting chemicals achieved under the Montreal Protocol, the stratospheric ozone layer remains in poor health as a result of past emissions", said Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), under whose auspices the 1987 Protocol was adopted. "To minimize the damage to humans and the environment caused by increased ultraviolet (UV-B) radiation reaching the surface, we need to tackle simultaneously all the remaining sources of these chemicals", he said." (United Nations Environment Programme)

What increased UV-B radiation reaching the surface Klaus?

The attack on chemical usage continues unabated: "California Strawberry Growers Begin to Cope without Methyl Bromide" - "Oct. 12--California strawberry growers are learning to live without methyl bromide, but it's a separation that comes with a price. "Growers have been trying to find alternatives to methyl bromide, but it's been a challenge," said Dominique Hansen, communications director of the California Strawberry Commission. "Even those growers who are using methyl bromide are finding it more expensive to acquire and to apply," Hansen added.

One of the most effective soil fumigants available, growers have had their access to methyl bromide reduced substantially twice in three years. It is scheduled to be phased out entirely by 2005. The timetable was established in 1997 at the Montreal Protocol, where scientists said that the gas was contributing to a depletion of the planet's ozone layer." (Knight Ridder/Tribune)

Alas, poor Green Mythology... "Green farming schemes 'don't work'" - "Researchers say attempts in the Netherlands to make farming more environmentally friendly have not worked. They say the fields affected are no richer in plant and bird species than conventionally-farmed land. With European Union (EU) spending on environmentally-friendly farming set to double before long, the researchers urge a scientifically sound evaluation of its usefulness. The EU scheme began in 1992, but the Dutch experience goes back to 1981. The researchers, from the nature conservation and plant ecology group at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, report their findings in the magazine Nature." (BBC Online)

According to New Scientist "Green farming can be an expensive failure" - "Up to a billion Euros spent across the European Union on environmentally friendly farming each year could be going to waste. A Dutch scientist has found that a large 'green farming' project in the Netherlands, designed to benefit wildlife, does not work.

For 20 years, Dutch farmers have been paid to delay the spring mowing of their grass fields until June, to encourage birds to nest and hatch their chicks in safety. Until now, nobody thought to check if the birds liked the idea. They don't, says David Kleijn of Wageningen Agricultural University.

"Birds avoided the eco-fields because the soils contained fewer earthworms," he says. "They feared going hungry." Why were there fewer worms? Because late mowing meant farmers were applying less nitrogen fertiliser to the fields."

"Bugs-to-drugs firm taps China for insect medicines" - "LONDON, Oct 15 - Butterflies and beetles may hold the key to new drugs to fight infection and other diseases, according to a French biotechnology company that is working with Chinese scientists in the hunt for insect-based medicines. Entomed SA announced plans on Monday to tap into Chinese know-how through a collaboration with the Shanghai Institute of Entomology." (Reuters)

October 15, 2001

"Suddenly, everything is a threat" - "All over America yesterday, life was disrupted by soap flakes and sugar substitutes, pudding mix and styrofoam - anything that sent people's minds reeling toward the much-feared, little-known weapons of bioterrorism." (Boston Globe) | Bioterror fears as anthrax spreads (AAP, AFP, Canberra Times)

"Powder scare on flight was confetti; passengers held for 3 hours" - "SAN JOSE, Calif. - Eighty passengers and five crew members weren't allowed to leave a jet for three hours after it landed Saturday after a passenger reported witnessing a man disperse a powdery substance in the ventilation system. The substance was confetti from a greeting card that a man had accidentally spilled, FBI spokesman Andrew Black said." (AP)

"The Spread of Dread" - "If a war on terrorism is really an attempt to stop people from spreading fear across the land, what is the role of the news media? Journalists see a need to warn people about threats and dangers. But at what point does such information do more than just alert people and actually alarm them - perhaps even harm them?" (Christian Science Monitor editorial)

"The Fear Factor: Real Danger Lies is Overreaction to 'Bioterrorism'" - “Bioterrorism Puts the Nation on Edge.” So read the Page 1 headline in the October 10 Washington Times. But for a single word, it was correct. It’s FEAR of bioterrorism that has us doing the headless-chicken routine." (Michael Fumento, Investor's Business Daily)

"Media try to avoid anthrax alarmism" - "Television networks, scrambling to report U.S. cases of anthrax, say they are trying to strike a proper balance between reporting the news and not alarming the public." (Joyce Howard Price, Washington Times)

Really? Well they're doing a woeful job of it.

"Hard to detect pattern in anthrax-letter cases" - "... In the meantime, he says, Americans should not be afraid to open their mail. And if they do come across a suspicious package containing some sort of powder, they should just carefully put it in a trash can, tie the bag tightly, and call the authorities. "By putting it in that plastic bag and tying a knot, it's no longer a weapon," says Mr. Larsen. "It's just trash." (Christian Science Monitor)

Well said Randall Larsen, director of the ANSER Institute for Homeland Security and well worth repeating: By putting it in that plastic bag and tying a knot, it's no longer a weapon, it's just trash. It's also the appropriate receptacle for 'bioterror' hysteria.

"The truth about the anthrax threat and terrorism" - "In the wake of the Florida outbreak, the media has been panicking about anthrax as though it had been invented yesterday. Yet anthrax has been with us probably for as long as we have had domesticated cattle and sheep. The fifth and sixth plagues in the Bible (Exodus 9:1-12.) may have been outbreaks of anthrax in cattle and humans. Virgil described the disease in 25 BC. By 1881, Pasteur had developed a vaccine against anthrax. Unfortunately, media organisations are largely composed of people with no scientific training who frequently see scaring people as a good opportunity to grab public attention. So let’s do what they have failed to and look at the Florida outbreak in a scientific light." (Dr Aaron Oakley, The New Australian)

"Consider the source: Don't take each dose of medical news seriously" - "Scarcely a day passes when we're not bombarded with media reports of medical studies — from the alleged effects of cell phones and apple-shaped bodies to shocking data about the possible dangers of vitamin C or still another worrisome report about hormone-replacement therapy. How can a person make sense of this media overload?" (Connie Lauerman, Chicago Tribune)

Not a bad effort but Lauerman omits the layman's best defense against junk studies masquerading as science - get (and read) Steve Milloy's new book: Junk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams.

Hand-wringing from the World Hysteria Organisation: "Interaction of climate change and ozone depletion multiplies risks" - "Together, climate change and ozone depletion is proving to be a lethal combination likely to significantly increase the hazards to health and environment, beyond current projections, according to emerging research.

Speaking at the first conference into the combined effects of changes in the global atmosphere at Orvieto, Italy on 5 October, Dr Roberto Bertollini, Director, Division of Technical Support, World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Europe, said, “The potential damaging impacts of the interaction between climate change and ozone depletion are very significant. Urgent action is required to reduce both environmental damage and its impact on health.” (Edie.net)

Demonstration of the folly of making simplistic assumptions regarding  cause-and-effect relationships in complex systems: "Deforested areas may face severe drought in coming decades" - "The drying effects of deforestation in regions such as the Amazon have been mitigated by changes in global climate patterns, but in coming decades when rainfall patterns change back again, these areas could face severe drought, according to new research.

Despite the fact that deforestation in the Amazon Basin in South America is predicted to result in warming and drying of the land mass, between 1950 and 1990, there was a 20% increase in rainfall, which appears to be the result of worldwide shifts in rainfall patterns, say a team of scientists from Iowa State University (ISU). The team found that water vapour converging in tropical South America was an over-riding force in the climate of the region throughout this period." (Edie.net)

Note also that planetary cooling occurred ~1950 - ~1975 (the looming ice age scare), following which there was some incomplete recovery during the studied period. This suggests that global temperature and Amazon Basin rainfall are independent or at least not tightly coupled variables.

From the same bunch that crafted the UK's infamous "climate levy:" "Home-generated power 'better than nuclear energy'" - "A think-tank with close links to Labour is urging the Government to drop plans to build nuclear power stations and instead encourage people to generate electricity in their homes. The left-leaning Institute for Public Policy Research calls on Tony Blair today to stop "pandering" to the industries of the previous century and devise a new approach to cutting emissions and tackling climate change." (Independent)

"Quietly, animal cloning speeds onward" - "COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS - They are Big Bertha and Tiny Tina, a couple of piglets. They may look and act differently (hence, their names), but these oinkers are identical. They are the newest cloned animals from Texas A&M University, which - with their births - leads the academic pack in the number of species cloned. And the fact that animals with the exact same genes can be different sizes and have different character traits may be just the first of many things that scientists hope can be learned from these little pigs." (Christian Science Monitor)

October 14, 2001

"Anthrax Has Newsrooms On the Alert; Some Journalists Wonder If Media Are Now a Target" - "Now the story has really hit home. Journalists who are chronicling the war on terrorism suddenly found themselves transported to the metaphorical front lines, a development sending shudders across America's newsrooms." (Washington Post)

The question now is whether journalists and the media have the self-discipline to avoid giving terrorists the publicity they crave - no publisher, no gratification, no incentive. The media can virtually rid the world of terrorism and do so very quickly, all it takes is a conscious decision to act in the public interest rather than chasing circulation and/or ratings.

For decades consumers have been conditioned to expect and even demand the absurd breathless coverage of even the remotest risk, been titillated by it and, by making it profitable, have encouraged such promiscuous behaviour by the media. This is no longer a case of corporate vandalism by beating up ridiculous chemical risks and other "green" fantasies though, the stakes are now very high indeed and the global economy is at risk from destroyed consumer confidence. The media should note that their revenue streams are at the same risk as the rest of the economy.

Cranking up the fear factor: "Calls flood Johns Hopkins' bioterrorism center" - "BALTIMORE - The phones have been ringing off the hook at Johns Hopkins University's bioterrorism center as on-edge callers look for guidance in the aftermath of terror attacks that have raised the threat of a biological attack.

Six days before the terrorism onslaught, Donald A. Henderson, the center's director, gave the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a stern warning that the nation is "ill-prepared" to handle bioterrorism. "The consequence of such an attack would be an epidemic, and, in this country, we have had little experience in coping with epidemics," said Henderson, who is known for his lead role in eradicating smallpox in 1977." (AP)

with the inevitable result: "New Yorkers flood hospitals after anthrax case reported" - "NEW YORK - Panicked New Yorkers headed to emergency rooms after an assistant to NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw was infected with anthrax, intensifying fear about bioterrorism in a city and nation already on edge." (AP)

"Ministry of Fear remains live and well on the Internet" - "During World War II, British novelist Graham Greene wrote a book called The Ministry of Fear. It dealt with the attempt by the Nazis to spread panic and a sense of hopelessness throughout England by means of rumors, propaganda and the activities of a few sympathizers -- Fifth Columnists as they were called. In Greene's mind, it amounted to an arm of a shadow government, a ministry directed at winning psychologically what couldn't be achieved militarily. Nowadays we don't need all that because we have the Internet. As a source of spreading misinformation, false rumors and scares, it is hard to imagine a more formidable ally for Osama bin Laden. With Americans on edge, and a distressing number of them lacking any ability to sift information critically, something gets spread on the Internet and is believed." (George Cantor, Detroit News)

"Rush for cancer scanner" - "HUNDREDS of Australian families are having radiation levels checked in their homes after a British report found a link between high-voltage power lines and childhood cancer. The demand has created a 10-week waiting period for radiation scans by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency. Spokesman Graeme Elliot said the agency had received hundreds of inquiries from concerned parents since the British report, the first reputable investigation to find the leukemia link, was published in March." (Sunday Mail, Queensland)

At a guess, they're on about Childhood Leukaemia and Residential Exposure to Magnetic Fields, which states:

The findings of the IARC WG on possible effects of ELF magnetic fields are consistent with those of the NRPB Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation (AGNIR), which published a report on ELF electromagnetic fields and the risk of cancer in March this year. The main conclusions of that report are: 'Laboratory experiments have provided no good evidence that extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields are capable of producing cancer, nor do human epidemiological studies suggest that they cause cancer in general. There is, however, some epidemiological evidence that prolonged exposure to higher levels of power frequency magnetic fields is associated with a small risk of leukaemia in children.

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.

"Rotavirus vaccine may have been prematurely withdrawn" - "A vaccine to protect infants from rotavirus, a common but dangerous virus that causes severe and sometimes fatal diarrhoea, may have been prematurely withdrawn from the market. Wyeth Laboratories manufactured and sold the vaccine, Rotashield, in the US from August 1998. But the US Centers for Disease Control documented a rise in intussusception, a rare type of bowel obstruction, in infants receiving Rotashield. Wyeth then stopped producing the vaccine and recalled existing stock." (New Scientist)

"The decline and fall of Autumn" - "Keats's season of mists isn't what it used to be. And now the Woodland Trust is getting worried.

It used to be said that for a Cox's apple to taste really good it needed to have had a frost on it before being picked. When Mike Austen was a teenager harvesting apples on the family fruit farm in Kent, that wasn't a problem. They never picked their apples until October, and by then there had often been a frost.

That was in the Fifties, long before global warming. Now, Mr Austen says, Coxes need picking in September, which is when the hops used to be brought in. But hops, in turn, are being gathered in August, with rape, barley and wheat following a similar pattern of ripening much earlier than they once did." (Independent)

Hmm... cited Kent farmer, Mr Austen, believes seasons were significantly different in the 1950s. Growing seasons are supposed to be approximately 11-12 days longer now than they were in the 1970s. However, in the mid 70s, the claim was: "In England, farmers have seen their growing season decline by about two weeks since 1950, with a resultant over-all loss in grain production estimated at up to 100,000 tons annually." (This quote from "The Cooling World" Newsweek, April 28, 1975, Pg. 64 - but it was certainly no orphan) Net change then appears to be that growing seasons have not quite recovered to what they were some 5 decades ago.

Obviously, not all these claims can be true unless the calendar is seriously out of sync with the planetary orbit - not impossible but unlikely over just 50 years. Given that the public record is replete with expressions of concern regarding looming famine caused by global cooling during the 1960s and 70s, and that the surface temperature amalgams indicate a cooling trend over the period, we assume there was evidence to that effect. All this suggests "the Woodland Trust is getting worried" over... Mr Austen's faulty memory?

"Policy clash leaves carbon tax in limbo" - "There may be a carbon tax in our future, but at the moment the question is uneasily in the no man's land between tax policy and climate change policy. The Government is committed to ratifying the Kyoto climate change treaty next year, and a tax on the carbon content of fossil fuels is one of the policy instruments being considered. But at the same time it has commissioned a major, independent, review of the tax system by a committee headed by Rob McLeod. And it has has promised to introduce no significant new taxes without a mandate from the next general election." (New Zealand Herald)

The Week That Was October 13, 2001 brought to you by SEPP

"U.S. Not Likely to Relent on Global Warming" - "ZURICH, Switzerland, October 12, 2001 - Last month's terrorist attacks on the United States have taught the Bush administration the importance of multilateral responses to global threats but are unlikely to alter its rejection of the Kyoto climate protocol, former climate policy chief Frank Loy said yesterday." (ENS)

"Investigators Expose Smuggling of Ozone Depleting Chemicals" - "LONDON, United Kingdom, October 12, 2001 - There is evidence of a thriving illegal trade in CFCs and other ozone depleting substances across Asia, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) revealed today. This has been identified as part of a "dramatic increase" in smuggling across developing countries, by the independent, international campaigning organization that investigates and exposes environmental crime." (ENS)

"Crime" courtesy of the Montreal Protocol.

October 13, 2001

"In Florida, an Anthrax Outbreak Turns the Air Into a Terror Suspect" - "BOCA RATON, Fla., Oct. 11 — Having learned in the last month to fear airplanes and tall buildings, the people of this moneyed retirement haven have gone a step further and become suspicious of the very air they breathe." (New York Times)

Unfortunately, this is a prime case of freedom of the press actually constituting a weapon of terror. While the right of the free press to fulfil its role in society, that of disseminating sound information and of freely airing criticism and comment without fear or favour must be zealously guarded, that right carries onerous responsibility.

Without media coverage, terrorism is an impotent weapon at any but strictly local scale. There is no reward for, and precious little motivation to perpetrate these crimes if the sole response is a bald statement that X investigation bureau is seeking information on Y persons for attempted extortion, multiple homicides or whatever. With no promotion of their cause or imagined grievance then there is little or no gratification for individuals or groups perpetrating these acts.

The potential societal impact of biological or chemical assault by terrorists is actually quite small and the potential number of casualties very limited. The societal impact of promoting and accentuating people's fears by irresponsible media coverage is demonstrably enormous. The media need to decide whose side they are on because "bio-terrorism" is largely a media artefact.

Have no illusions, media freedom is a foundation principle of democracy and I will defend to the death the media's right to hold and expound their frequently ludicrous positions. The media, however, may wish to ponder why they have apparently been targeted with primitive and mostly ineffectual attempts to disperse infectious agents. Could it be that terrorists realise media houses will find maximum incentive to promote activities arriving in their own mailrooms? Is it likely that this is a calculated move to crank up the terror factor? Isn't it true that the only real societal damage occurring from these incidents is hysteria prompted by media coverage? Think about it. Not only are they acting as agents of terror but they are increasing the likelihood that they will be so targeted.

If not from a sense of social responsibility then perhaps for reasons of self--preservation, the media collectively should take a deep breath, tighten their sphincters and can the histrionics. Terror tactics exist as a vehicle to maximise exposure for the perpetrators - no coverage, no point. The media is uniquely placed to play a pivotal role in the fight against terrorism. They must now choose between boosting ratings or circulation - and hence advertising revenue - or truly making the world a better, safer place. We'll soon know whether the modern media is truly worthy of the freedom that so many have paid so high a price to protect.

"The Anthrax Alarm" - "... As much as medical readiness, people need reminders that the actual likelihood of a successful large-scale biological attack is slim. Known failures, such as the multiple unsuccessful attempts by Japan's Aum Shinrikyo cult, suggest the technical difficulties of getting, weaponizing and distributing biological agents. Other panic-inducing possibilities, such as crop-dusters, present even greater practical barriers. A concerted effort to prevent panic may be able to dissuade people from depleting antibiotic stocks, unwisely self-medicating or otherwise undercutting the nation's best attempts at readiness." (Washington Post editorial)

"Weapons of Mass Confusion" - "There's anthrax in the subway. Who you gonna call?" (Joshua Green, Washington Monthly)

"BSE bacteria test could save livestock" - "A TEST for BSE in live animals, which could eradicate the need to slaughter young cattle and lift the threat of a national sheep cull, has been proposed by a government funded study. The full report, which has only recently been sent to the Department of Environment, supports the theory that BSE is an auto-immune disease caused by a common bacteria. The theory, first proposed by Alan Ebringer, professor of immunology at King's College, London, and his colleague the late Prof John Pirt, opposes the accepted idea that rogue prions are responsible. The completed report, funded at a cost of £234,260 by the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), has been submitted to the department, and will be presented to a meeting of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee." (Telegraph)

"Fat May Offer Path to New Bone Marrow" - "LOS ANGELES - Fat left over from liposuction may lead to a plentiful source of stem cells for cancer patients needing a bone marrow transplant, according to research presented on Friday at a meeting in Phoenix of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research." (Reuters)

"National agency needed with total power to deal with climate change" - "Thailand needs a national climate authority with absolute power in dealing with the issue of climate change, said Sitanon Jesdapipat, head of the Centre for Ecological Economics." (Bangkok Post)

You have to say one thing for the global warming industry, they sure aren't shy about their grab for absolute power.

"New U.S. Multilateralism Won't Stretch to Kyoto" - "BRUSSELS - The United States' quest to build an international coalition to fight terrorism is unlikely to make it adopt a multilateral approach to halt the threat of global warming, analysts said. President Bush pulled out of the 1997 Kyoto treaty on climate change in March, saying the deal signed by his predecessor, Bill Clinton, would harm the U.S. economy." (Reuters)

"Japan ready to seek ratification of Kyoto Protocol" - "After months of wavering and foot-dragging, Japan will seek ratification of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on curbing global warming during a 150-day ordinary Diet session that is to open in January, government sources said Thursday. The long-awaited move by the world's second-largest economy -- which ostensibly holds the swing vote on the future of the landmark environmental pact in the wake of the United States' withdrawal -- will likely kick the protocol into force by the end of 2002." (Japan Times)

"U.S. unable to submit climate proposal soon: Kawaguchi" - "TOKYO, Oct. 12 - The United States would be unlikely to present an alternative proposal to the Kyoto Protocol aimed at curbing global warming by the next U.N. climate change talks from Oct. 29 to Nov. 9 in Marrakech, Morocco, Environment Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said Friday. It would be difficult for the U.S. to hold a ministerial-level meeting to discuss the alternative plan for the 1997 pact by the seventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP7) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change because of last month's attacks on New York and Washington, she said. ''It would be difficult in terms of time (left before COP7). I feel it is difficult'' for the U.S. to submit the counterproposal before the 12-day session, Kawaguchi told reporters." (Kyodo)

"VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT, October 11, 2001 Vol. 2, No. 39" - "According to Reuters’ coverage of a University of Virginia post-doctoral research associate’s work as published in the October 5th edition of Science, "Several species of plants in the U.S. Midwest could become extinct within 30 years if climate conditions continue to become drier and warmer as many experts predict." Researcher Julie Etterson and her associate, Ruth Shaw, examined what happens when seeds of partridge pea (a species native to the Great Plains) taken from plants adapted to conditions in Minnesota are sown in Kansas and Oklahoma. They found, based upon data from a single growing season, that the seeds taken from plants native to Kansas and Oklahoma perform better (produce more seeds) in those places than do those grown from the Minnesota seeds. Why test such a thing? "One global climate model predicts that the Minnesota population [of partridge pea] will experience soil moisture conditions similar to the current climate of Kansas by 2025–2035," they write.

That’s right; there is only one climate model that predicts such a thing might happen – that of the Canadian Climate Center. This is the model that predicts the most extreme temperature rise in the United States from among all the climate models recently examined by the team responsible for putting together the U.S. National Assessment of Climate Change (USNA)." (GES)

"Age reporter backs green alternative energy lunacy" - "Claire Miller is The Age’s environmentalist-in-residence, and in this regard has been that paper’s biggest cheerleader for the Kyoto Protocol. Claire’s environmental hand wringing continued this week with a stab at the Victorian government. In Coal: It's dirty politics, Mr Bracks (The Age 6/10/01) she took the Bracks government to task for wanting to expand the coal mining industry. Oh no! Not Coal! Panic! Angst! We're all going to die!" (Dr Aaron Oakley, The New Australian)

"Patent laws leave farmers defenceless" - "Australian farmers are being warned they could be left wide open to being sued by agrochemical companies, unless changes are made to patent laws. This follows a recent Canadian case where a farmer was found guilty of growing Monsanto's GM-canola without a licence. The farmer argued the seeds had blown on to his land from neighbouring properties but the presiding judge indicated it didn't matter how they got there." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

Actually, that isn't what happened in the Percy Schmeiser case at all. Schmeiser was adjudged a thief who tried to grow RR Canola with seed saved from the previous year's crop without paying the same license fees rightly paid by other farmers. He was cheating on everybody for personal gain and got caught. Schmeiser has since become the darling of the anti-biotech crowd and jet sets around the world propagandising on their behalf.

Readers should be aware that Monsanto has never demanded compensation from farmers in cases of accidental appearance of Roundup-tolerant crops. Indeed, the highly publicised case of Percy Schmeiser versus Monsanto Canada had nothing to do with GM crops showing up on a farmer's field by accident and a farmer being prosecuted as a result.

"Saskatchewan farmers plan lawsuit against GMO companies" - "SASKATOON - Saskatchewan organic farmers have launched a fund to help their legal battle against developers of genetically-modified crops. The farmers say gene-altered canola crops have ruined their market for the seed. The farmers say GM wheat will inevitably be spread through the handling system and into farmers' fields. That means they can't guarantee their crops are free of any genetically modified organisms." (CBC)

"Genetic Enhancement Guards Against Food Allergies; Rigorous testing provides necessary safeguards" - "Biotechnology holds promise for producing allergen-free foods, but before these genetically enhanced foods are introduced, they must undergo strict scientific safety assessments and regulatory approvals from around the world, according to Steve L. Taylor, Ph.D., a leading expert in agricultural biotechnology." (AMA)

"Plant health scientists issue statement in support of biotechnology" - "St. Paul, MN (October 12, 2001) -- The American Phytopathological Society (APS), the world’s largest organization of plant health scientists, has issued a formal statement in support of biotechnology. Citing the enormous potential benefits to humanity possible through biotechnology, while advocating responsible and science-based oversight and regulation, the APS members hope to call attention to the importance of biotechnology in their work.

“Virtually all aspects of plant pathology are affected by biotechnology,” states Sue Tolin, a plant pathologist with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and a member of the APS Public Policy Board. “Advances in this area have played a critical role in our ability to identify and control plant pathogens that cause billions of dollars of crop losses each year, particularly in developing countries where diseases routinely destroy important food crops.” (American Phytopathological Society)

"Plant-based Vaccines Show Promise Against Infectious Diseases; Benefits include heightened vaccine safety and lower cost" - "Scientists are developing safe, inexpensive, plant-based vaccines to protect against diseases such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B and rabies, according to Alexander V. Karasev, Ph.D., a leading expert in biotechnology vaccine research. "Plant-based vaccines represent the way of the future primarily because of two considerations – cost and safety,” says Dr. Karasev, an assistant professor in the department of Microbiology and Immunology Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and part of the Biotechnology Foundation Laboratories at Thomas Jefferson University." (American Medical Association)

"New Study Shows That Biotechnology Offers Significant Benefits To Diverse Crops" - "Preliminary research results confirm the major benefits biotechnology has already brought to growers of crops such as soybeans, corn and cotton, reducing pesticide use and lowering grower production costs, according to Leonard Gianessi, a leading expert in pest management." (AMA)

"GM Wheat Might Benefit U.S. Producers, World Consumers" - "If wheat producers in the United States were the only adopters of genetically modified (GM) wheat, they would enjoy a competitive advantage over other exporting countries as a result of lowered production costs while producers in other countries would suffer. At the same time, consumers worldwide would benefit, according to a prediction model developed at North Dakota State University. The analysis is in a report from the Center for Agricultural Policy and Trade Studies at NDSU." (AgWeb.com)

October 12, 2001

"Concerns Vs. Chaos in the Anthrax Scare" - "Bio-terrorism alarmists view last week’s death of a Florida man from anthrax as validation of their advocacy of panic. Cooler heads view the incident more as a limited bio-crime rather than a harbinger of mass bio-terrorism." (Steve Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"'Environmental' ills often psychosomatic: study" - "FRANKFURT, Oct 11 - As many as 60% of patients with symptoms that they attribute to environmental pollutants are in fact suffering from psychological problems, according to a recently released German study. Lead researcher Dr. Hermann Ebel, director of the Hospital for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy/Psychosomatic Medicine in Ludwigsburg, notes that cases of illnesses attributed to pollution in air, water or food are rising. Symptoms linked to such causes often include headaches, sleeplessness, breathing difficulties, inability to concentrate and skin problems.

In many cases, patients were found to have a fixation on environmental dangers and spent a large amount of time reading news stories or watching TV programs on the subject, the group told a meeting of the German Society of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Mental Health (DGPPN). Ebel told Reuters Health that 60% of study participants who displayed symptoms of such "environmental" illnesses were instead suffering from mental problems. "This is really not a surprise," he said. "Other studies, in Sweden, the US and UK, have reached the same conclusion." (Reuters Health)

"Contaminants Below Levels for Long-Term Concerns" - "he quality of the air has become a matter of widespread anxiety among people who live or work in Lower Manhattan — anxiety compounded in many cases by open disbelief in assurances from government and public health officials that the air, while acrid and sometimes smelly, is generally safe to breathe.

But independent testing by a company hired by The New York Times has concluded that the outdoor street level air in the vicinity of the trade center site does not contain poisons or toxic substances, especially lead and asbestos, in levels sufficient to raise long-term public health concern. The results, according to the report by Adelaide Associates of Brewster, N.Y., essentially mirrored the findings that have been reached and widely reported by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

"Adelaide's conclusions support the E.P.A. and New York City claims that there are no significant health risks," the report said." (New York Times)

"New variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease: The epidemic that never was" - "The link between the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) prion and new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is open to question, argues George Venters, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, in this week's BMJ. He applied standard criteria - used to establish links between cause and disease - to the case for the BSE prion being the cause of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. He found no direct evidence that this prion was infectious to humans. Other inconsistencies, including the small rate of growth in the number of cases and suspect or weak evidence directed at confirming the hypothesis rather than testing it, also suggest that the variant is not caused by the prion and is not new, he explains. (British Medical Journal release) [BMJ article]

"The Precautionary Principle: A Critical Appraisal of Environmental Risk Assessment" - "BOOK FORUM, Thursday, October 18, 2001. Featuring Indur Goklany, author of Clearing the Air: The Real Story of the War on Air Pollution.

The precautionary principle - the environmental version of the admonition "first, do no harm" - has been invoked by many people to justify policies to control, if not ban, any technology that cannot be proven to cause no harm. In his new book, The Precautionary Principle: A Critical Appraisal of Environmental Risk Assessment, Indur Goklany argues that the application of this principle to justify such policies is flawed and counterproductive because it ignores the possible calamities that those very policies might simultaneously create or prolong. Rather than challenge the merit of the precautionary principle, Goklany clarifies and reconstructs it so that it might reasonably inform the environmental debate." (Cato Institute)

"Yes, We're Still Fat" - "It's official. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that the prevalence of obesity and diabetes continues to increase among young adults in the U.S. And although more and more of us are trying to lose weight, it isn't working. And it just might be connected with lack of exercise and low consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Over 185,000 adults were surveyed in the year 2000. The prevalence of obesity, defined as having a body-mass index of 30 or more, was 20 percent; seven percent of those surveyed were diabetics. Most diabetes resulting from obesity is the Type 2 form, in which the body resists its own insulin. The study appeared in the September 12, 2001 issue of JAMA.

HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Among people trying to lose or maintain weight, fewer than one in five was eating less and exercising more. Hey!! That's proven to work, not those tiny pills for $50 a bottle that makes someone rich and don't affect your weight. Most fruits and vegetables are low calorie, fill you up, and displace the high calorie snacks that get us all in trouble." (Nutrition News Focus)

"Scientists compare Tube travel to smoking" - "It's claimed a 40-minute journey on the tube, is as bad for you as smoking two cigarettes. Scientists at University college London, say passengers and staff are breathing dangerous levels of dust. But, London Underground safety officials, say pollution levels don't break health laws." (Ananova)

"Global Warming Facts, Consensus Melt Away" - "The exaggeration over the supposed scientific consensus on the human cause of global warming continues, even as the evidence that the underlying data supposedly proving a human connection melts away." (Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas, Co-Host, Tech Central Station)

Heard from the southern end of a northbound cow: "Student's research is a gas, gas, gas; Bessie's flatulence may spark giggles but it could have serious implications" - "BIBLE HILL - Sitting on the ledge of a cow pen at a Nova Scotia Agricultural College research facility, Shelly Juurlink tries to seriously discuss her research. The 22-year-old graduate student works to keep from giggling as she explains how the methane produced by cow flatulence contributes to the greenhouse effect on the Earth's atmosphere." (Halifax Herald)

Speaking of flatulence: "COP7 to be held as scheduled despite terrorism" - "WASHINGTON, Oct. 11 - Crucial U.N. climate talks to curb global warming will be held as planned from Oct. 29 to Nov. 9 in Marrakech, Morocco, despite the Sept. 11 terror attacks and ongoing U.S. antiterrorism operations, the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) said Thursday. The last three days of the 12-day session of the seventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP7) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change will be ministerial-level, UNEP officials said. The COP7 is set to adopt a comprehensive accord on rules for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which aims to impose cuts on emissions of greenhouse gases, so it can come into effect by next year as agreed to in previous international talks. Differences remain over important issues, including whether to impose a binding penalty on violators, conference sources said." (Kyodo)

"'Warming' greens vs. red, white and blue" - "There's a war on. And it cannot be successfully prosecuted without a delicate combination of U.S. leadership and international cooperation. Anything that threatens either threatens all. Unfortunately, two upcoming environmental issues do both." (Patrick J. Michaels, Washington Times)

"[Australia] $37m in funding to cut greenhouse gas emissions" - "The Federal Government announced $37 million in greenhouse gas abatement funding yesterday, just days after Labor launched its policy to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Labor won widespread support from the renewable energy industry and green groups for its commitment to ratify the world climate change agreement, a move the Government has so far refused to do." (Canberra Times)

"Editorial: Labor's Kyoto pledge is pure gesture" - "LABOR leader Kim Beazley has promised to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on global warming by September 2002. Such grandstanding may appeal to some of the middle-class and professional supporters whose loyalty has been tested by Beazley's mirroring of John Howard's hardline stance on the boatpeople. It has also been welcomed as the first significant point of policy difference between Labor and the Coalition in the election campaign. But Labor is indulging in the politics of gesture. Greens senator Bob Brown, whose favour Labor no doubt hopes to curry with its Kyoto endorsement, could not have said it better: "It's hugely symbolic. But it's not going to make a big impact on greenhouse gas reductions in Australia." Or anywhere else in the world, he might have added." (The Australian)

"Researchers report on possible biological effects of deep-sea CO2 sequestration" - "MOSS LANDING, California— Deep-sea animals may be highly sensitive to environmental changes in carbon dioxide concentration and pH, the predicted consequences of deep-sea carbon sequestration. A study by researchers, reported in the 12 October 2001 issue of Science, exposes the need for more research on the biological impacts of CO2 injection in the ocean." (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute release)

"Terrorist Threats On Agriculture Being Studied At Texas A&M" - "COLLEGE STATION -- Researchers at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station say prevention, detection and clean up methods for bioterrorism at the farm level must be found now to avoid human harm and economic devastation of the food and fiber supply." (Agricultural Communications,  Texas A&M University)

"Eating Organically Grown Food Puts Consumers at Risk of Diseases" - "Eating organically grown food puts consumers at risk of the following diseases: Food poisoning from: Salmonella, E.coli 0157 and Cryptosporidiosis, mycotoxin poisoning, liver cancer and other cancers (e.g oesophageal) and probably new variant CJD." (Dr Geraldine Rodgers, BWG Online)

"Building Confidence In Biotechnology" - "Communicating the science of biotechnology to non-scientists is the professional mission of Bruce Chassy. The professor and associate director of the Biotechnology Center at the University of Illinois believes that much of the controversy surrounding the science of biotechnology and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is driven by misinformation and misconceptions about the science." (Rooster News Network)

"Green groups to test Bt corn for allergic reaction" - "WASHINGTON, Oct 11 - Unhappy with a federal investigation into dozens of allergy complaints, a coalition of U.S. environmental and consumer groups said on Thursday they would launch their own probe into whether the reactions were caused by genetically engineered corn. The Genetically Engineered Food Alert said its action was in anticipation of the Environmental Protection Agency's decision next week to renew the registrations of Bt corn." (Reuters)

"Manitoba farm group speaks out against genetically modified food labels; Keystone Agricultural Producers wants MPs to vote down bill" - "WINNIPEG -- Manitoba's largest farm lobby group wants MP's to vote against a bill requiring labelling for genetically modified foods. Don Dewar, of Keystone Agricultural Producers, says the bill does nothing to improve the safety of Canada's food supply. He says support for the legislation would result in a number of things, including a 10 per cent price increase for Canadian produced and processed food." (CP)

"GM protesters get support from council" - "COUNCIL leaders in the Highlands have refused to bow to pressure from Ross Finnie, the rural development minister, to remove a protest camp set up beside a GM farm trial. Finnie claimed the campaigners, who are holding a round-the-clock vigil at Munlochy in the Black Isle, are harassing farmer Jamie Grant, who is carrying out two GM crop trials. But Highland Council says the protesters are representing local public opinion and will next month consider a planning application to allow the camp to stay for 12 months. The camp was set up in August, on council land in a lay-by next to Grant’s field, after Finnie announced a second GM field trial in the area." (The Scotsman)

"United Nations Report Calls for Public Investment in Genetically Modified Crops" - "Crops genetically modified for greater resistance to disease and drought could significantly reduce malnutrition around the world, according to a new report from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). But far greater public investment in research and development is needed to ensure that biotechnology meets the agricultural needs of the world's poor. "We can't count on the private sector alone to do the job," says Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, the lead author of the Human Development Report 2001." (AgJournal)

"US Asks China To End ''Unfair'' Barriers To Soybean Trade" - "BEIJING -- The U.S. demanded Thursday that Beijing immediately lift quarantine restrictions that threaten more than $1 billion in annual soybean exports to China. U.S. soybean producers have refused to ship to China since June 6 when the Chinese government announced new inspection and quarantine procedures. The reluctance stems from the experience of other soybean exporting countries that have had their shipments held up in port since June because of uncertainty about new biotechnology laws for genetically modified foods. The inspection procedures are based on a new requirement to label products containing genetically modified organisms. However, many countries, including the U.S., don't separate genetically enhanced farm products from traditionally grown produce." (Dow Jones Newswires)

October 11, 2001

Only an environment minister could be so crass: "INTERVIEW - UK's Meacher says hopes US accepts Kyoto" - "JOHANNESBURG - Britain's environment minister said yesterday he hoped the United States would embrace global treaties such as the Kyoto climate pact in the new diplomatic atmosphere created by the attacks on its soil.

"The lesson of September 11 shows that even the world's most powerful country needs a global coalition," Michael Meacher said, referring to U.S. efforts to forge a coalition to root out those behind suicide attacks that killed more than 5,500 people.

"Only the U.S. stood out on Kyoto. Maybe the terrible events of September 11 will give it pause to remember its international obligations," Meacher, who was in South Africa on a ministerial visit, told Reuters in an interview." (Reuters)

Congratulations Mike, you've just scored JunkScience.com's inaugural A-grade Prat award for shameless exploitation.

"Expert: US public overreacting to bioterror threat" - "WASHINGTON, Oct 10 - A bioterrorism expert told a House Committee Wednesday that bad information has led to an unreasonable level of panic about the probability of a bioweapons attack. "Despite what you may have heard in recent weeks, there are meaningful technical hurdles that stand between this nation's citizens and the ability of terrorist groups to engage in mass casualty attacks with chemical and biological agents," Dr. Amy Smithson, director of the chemical and biological weapons nonproliferation project at the Henry Stimson Center, told the House Energy and Commerce Committee's oversight subcommittee." (Reuters Health)

"A risk-averse America faces real risk" - "In his bloodcurdling videotape, Osama bin Laden bragged of having made Americans afraid. "America has been filled with horror from north to south, and east to west, and thanks be to God. What America is tasting now is only a copy of what we have tasted." ...

... But bin Laden, in his own perverse way, may have a point. Something fundamental has changed. The old American confidence that whatever might happen abroad, people were safe in their own house, has been badly shaken. As a result, many Americans are feeling not just horror but fear. ...

Moreover, this comes at a time when the American aversion to risk already seemed at a fever pitch. A veritable hysteria has existed since the 1960s, for example, about chemicals and cancer, though scientific evidence increasingly suggests the links are dubious in most cases (and self-correcting, as we recently learned from Canadian experiments showing that PCBs in the Great Lakes are dissolving in a sort of natural respiration process).

And since the late 1980s, there has been hysteria about the supposed dangers of global warming. People who can't predict the weather 10 days from now began predicting calamity a century from now." (Thomas Bray, Detroit News)

"U.S. life expectancy reaches all-time high" - "ATLANTA - The government revealed a double dose of good news for the United States Wednesday, reporting that life expectancy has climbed to an all-time high of nearly 77 years, while infant mortality has dropped to the lowest level on record. A government study of death certificates nationwide put U.S. life expectancy at 76.9 years for someone born in 2000, up from 76.7 in 1999, the National Center for Health Statistics said. Infant mortality dropped last year to 6.9 deaths for every 1,000 live births. Life expectancy has been rising steadily for years." (AP)

"Articles on Bioterrorism" - "Five articles on bioterrorism by the Working Group on Civilian Biodefense—addressing anthrax, smallpox, plague, botulinum toxin, and tularemia—are online and free of charge." (JAMA)

"European Scientists Urge Stricter Cosmetics Controls" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium, October 9, 2001 - A scientific committee of the European Union has stunned policy makers and the cosmetics industry by calling for a blanket ban on all confirmed and likely carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic substances in cosmetic products without any prior assessment of their exposure related risks." (ENS)

Animals 'good' today: "Cats, dogs 'good for asthma'" - "GROWING up with a family cat or dog may actually help prevent children from developing asthma, new research suggests. A growing body of evidence suggests that early pet ownership may protect children against the disease early in life, according to a statement released today by Sydney's Institute of Respiratory Medicine." (AAP)

and coffee 'bad': "Caffeine limits for pregnant women" - "Pregnant women should drink no more than four cups of coffee a day, a government agency has advised. Those exceeding this limit may risk low birthweight babies - or even miscarriage. The advice comes from the Food Standards Agency (FSA). It puts a figure on the previous Department of Health recommendation of "moderate" consumption." (BBC Online) [FSA release on report from the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (CoT)] [Click here to veiw a copy of the COT Report (PDF)]

"Former 'Greenpeace' Activist Now Says Earth Healthier than Ever" - "Danish Professor Bjorn Lomborg was a former Greenpeace member who truly believed the earth was in dire condition and that humans were ruining the environment until he was challenged to check the facts for himself. "I never doubted the environmental myths. I used to be a very concerned Greenpeace kind of leftie," he said." (CNSNews.com)

"Accumulated change courts ecosystem catastrophe" - "MADISON - Subjected to decades of gradual change by humans, many of the world's natural ecosystems - from coral reefs and tropical forests to northern lakes and forests - appear susceptible to sudden catastrophic ecological change, an international consortium of scientists reports today, Oct. 11, in the journal Nature.

Indeed, as scientists have come to assess change over time and over entire ecological regimes, a gradual awareness is building in the scientific community that stressed ecosystems, given the right nudge, are capable of slipping rapidly from a seemingly steady state to something entirely different, says Stephen Carpenter a limnologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a co-author of the paper.

For example, 6,000 years ago, swaths of what is now the Sahara Desert were wet, featuring lakes and swamps that teemed with crocodiles, hippos and fish. "The lines of geologic evidence and evidence from computer models shows that it suddenly went from a pretty wet place to a pretty dry place," says Jonathan Foley, a UW-Madison climatologist who is also a co-author of the Nature paper. "Nature isn't linear. Sometimes you can push on a system and push on a system and, finally, you have the straw that breaks the camel's back." (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Imagine that, 6,000 years ago things weren't the same as they are now. And this change was caused by pressure from humans six millennia ago? That would seem rather doubtful and therefore such change must be labelled as "natural" - no surprise there since change is the norm. This release continues:

"Most ecosystems, the authors write, face a steady diet of change, whether it be from increased nutrient levels or a ratcheting up of human exploitation. Moreover, anticipated changes in global climate are expected to add to what now seems to be a far more precarious situation than scientists had previously imagined."

Let's see... 6,000 years ago was during the Holocene maximum (sustained warm period during the current interglacial) and "swaths of what is now the Sahara Desert were wet, featuring lakes and swamps that teemed with crocodiles, hippos and fish." The current maxim is that "enhanced greenhouse" will drive temperatures up once more. The example of change used was that the Sahara desiccated (but they omitted to mention that this occurred as the planet cooled). Presumably, this change was bad since they used it in their hand-wringing example. The "anticipated changes in global climate" are basically that the planet could warm, so... rains could return to the desert? And this would be... bad?

"Mushrooms may slow global warming" - "Saved by fungi? In forecasting the effect of carbon dioxide emissions on Earth's climate, scientists may be misjudging the response to global warming from some of the planet's tiniest terrestrial inhabitants. As a result, researchers could be overestimating the average warming the planet might experience." (Christian Science Monitor)

"Yet Another Biophysical Feedback Mechanism that May Help to Protect the Planet Against Deleterious CO2-Induced Global Warming" - "Several years ago, Charlson et al. (1987) described a biophysical feedback mechanism that tends to stabilize earth's surface air temperature against the effects of both natural and anthropogenic-induced perturbations in various climate forcing factors (see Dimethyl Sulfide in our Subject Index). Very briefly, the negative feedback loop they proposed begins with an impetus for warming that induces an increase in sea surface temperature, which stimulates the productivity of oceanic phytoplankton, which leads (via a few intermediate steps) to an enhanced surface-to-air flux of dimethyl sulfide, which leads via a few other steps to the creation of more cloud condensation nuclei, which leads to the creation of more and smaller cloud droplets, which leads to the creation of more and longer-lasting clouds of greater albedo, which leads to the reflection of more incoming solar radiation, which finally tends to counteract the initial impetus for warming." (co2science.org)

"Weather Extremes (General)" - "Summary: One of the most common claims of climate alarmists is that rising temperatures promote extreme weather of nearly all types. Is this claim true? One way to find out is to search for either direct or proxy records of various weather phenomena over periods of time when temperatures are known to have increased. These data resolve the issue, and resoundingly so." (co2science.org)

"Winter in the Northern Baltic Sea" - "Summary: Why doesn't somebody tell the Baltic Sea that the 20th century was supposed to have experienced a warming that is unprecedented over the past millennium? Ice break-up dates for the port of Riga, Latvia, seem to indicate just the opposite of what would be expected under such conditions. The uncooperative region clearly needs to get with the program of the climate alarmists. Climate Research 17: 55-62." (co2science.org)

"A Tale of Two Temperature Trends" - "Summary: The temperature history of the United States from 1910 to 1997 is analyzed in such a way as to reveal the likely effects (if there are any at all) of the concomitant rise in the air's CO2 content on daily maximum and minimum air temperatures. Would you believe the results suggest a moderating influence on climate? Climate Research 17: 45-53." (co2science.org)

"A Century of Sea Level Change in the Eastern Indian Ocean" - "Summary: New data obtained from a study of corals raise questions about global sea level rise over the past hundred years, suggesting it may have been much less than what we have long believed on the basis of tide gauge data adjusted for postglacial rebound. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 191: 173-184." (co2science.org)

"High Uncertainty Of Climate Change From Global Warming" - "The uncertainty of climate change because of global warming is much greater than previously thought, and as a result, policymakers should adopt a robust, adaptive-decision strategy to cope with potential consequences, researchers at the University of Illinois say. As will be reported in the Oct. 16 issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research, UI atmospheric scientists Natalia Andronova and Michael Schlesinger found there is a 54 percent chance that climate sensitivity lies outside the 1.5 to 4.5 degree Centigrade range announced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change." (UniSci)

Another gravy train: "Ozone Layer Recovery Compels Global Cooperation" - "COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, October 9, 2001 - Accelerating protection of the Earth's ozone layer will be the urgent focus of governmental representatives meeting here next week. The 13th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol will draw some 400 delegates from 130 countries." (ENS)

"Coral bleaching may be viral" - "A virus could be to blame for the bleaching of coral reefs around the world. Scientists have been trying to find out why some corals are more vulnerable than others in rising sea temperatures. New evidence suggests some of the reefs' algae may contain a virus which makes the corals vulnerable to changing sea temperatures." (Ananova)

"EU Report Says GM Plants, Crops Pose No Additional Risks" - "BRUSSELS -- A report released by the European Union Commission Tuesday unequivocally states genetically modified plants and crops pose no additional risks to human health and the environment. The report - which summarizes some 81 research projects financed by the E.U. over the last 15 years - says the use of better technology and greater scrutiny makes (GM crops and plants) ''even safer than conventional plants and foods.'' (Dow Jones Newswires)

"Web Page Available on BT Corn Risk to Monarch Butterflies" - "Information about Bt corn`s impact on monarch butterflies is now available on a web page from the Agricultural Research Service. The core of the web page is research coordinated by ARS and recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences." (M2 Communications)

"US sees EU GMO labeling rules as impeding trade" - "WASHINGTON - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said yesterday it would be difficult for the United States to accept the European Union's proposal on labeling genetically modified foods as not trade distorting. Veneman also held out the possibility the United States could challenge the EU proposal before the World Trade Organization." (Reuters)

"Danes Cracking Down On Gmo Contamination" - "THE HAGUE - Oct 9/01 - STAT -- According to a report made by the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service, the Danish Government has been testing the quality of organic feed. In a report released August 1, 2001, the Danish Plant Directorate under the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries tested 48 samples, 20 of which contained traces of GMOs. Out of those 20, 7 had a concentration of more than 1%." (STATpub.com)

"Suspension of Resolutions Passed by Anti GM Local Authorities" - "The administrative tribunal in Nice has suspended a resolution passed by the local authority of Signes et Cuers (Var) banning the culture of GMOs in the region. The tribunal has found that the local authorities are "not competent" to make this kind of decision. In August the administrative tribunal in Rennes suspended a resolution from the local authority in Chasné-sur-Illet demanding that Novartis should halt GM maize trials in the area." (The Broadcast Monitoring Company)

October 10, 2001

"Don't panic: it's safer than you think" - "Civilisation is under threat, runs the mantra. The barbarians are not simply at the gate, but inside it, too - terrorists with bagfuls of nuclear material, or deadly toxins, just waiting to strike. As the World Health Organisation warned us, we have "to take the risk of biological warfare seriously and recognise that it might be easier than the use of other forms of potential terrorist warfare".

The warnings have generated a sense of panic among the public. Shops run out of gas masks, there is a stampede to buy nuclear shelters, and the chatter among parents waiting for their children at the school gates is about how to fend off anthrax or smallpox." (New Statesman)

"Anthrax Attack? Probably, but that's no reason to panic" - "It's pretty safe to say that the Florida incident is not a natural occurrence," says Claudine McCarthy, a research associate in the Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Project at the Henry L. Stimson Center in Washington, D.C. "You don't get anthrax in office buildings and on people's keyboards naturally."

McCarthy hastens, however, to point out that the Florida incident is a good example of what is much more likely to happen if terrorists actually use anthrax: a few people are exposed and harmed, but there is no widespread exposure or mass casualties. "It is much more difficult to use anthrax and other biological agents in mass attacks than is often suggested by the media," McCarthy notes. Because of the difficulty in "weaponizing" biological agents, she concludes that even if the Florida incident does turn out to be some sort of attack, Americans have no reason to panic." (Ronald Bailey, Reason)

"The Truth about Anthrax" - "The word alone is enough to strike fear into any heart - and never more so than today. Yet much of the anxiety we feel about the world's most notorious biological weapon is based on myth and misunderstanding. Steve Connor separates fact from fallacy." (Independent)

"Global warming forces spiders northward to Kanto area" - "TOKYO, Oct. 9 - A type of spider called Crytophora moluccensis has long favored southwestern Japan as its habitat, but global warming has apparently changed that. In a report on global warming issued last March, the then Environment Agency said southern-oriented Crytophora moluccensis that were observed in western Japan in the 1970s were later found in the Kanto region in the 1980s." (Kyodo)

"Dissent in the Maelstrom" - "Maverick meteorologist Richard S. Lindzen keeps right on arguing that human-induced global warming isn't a problem

Looking back at the past decade of climate science, many researchers say computer models have improved, estimates of past climate are more accurate, and uncertainty is being reduced. Lindzen is not nearly so sanguine. In his mind the case for global warming is as poor as it was when his crusade began, in 1988. Climate research is, he insists, "heavily polluted by political rhetoric, with evidence remaining extremely weak." (Scientific American)

"Governments to finalize procedures making Kyoto Protocol 'fully operational'" - "9 October – The world's governments are to converge on Marrakech, Morocco, at the end of this month to finalize the procedures and institutions needed to make the Kyoto Protocol fully operational, the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) announced today.

Gathering for the seventh Conference of the parties to the Convention on Climate Change from 29 October to 9 November, the participants will aim to translate the political principles reached at a meeting in Bonn last July into a detailed operational rulebook. They will also address how to increase the flow of financial and technological support to developing countries under the Convention.

"The work of translating the Bonn Agreements into a detailed operational rulebook must be completed here in Marrakech," said Michael Zammit Cutajar, the Convention's Executive Secretary." (UN)

In case there was any doubt about Kyoto being a political issue - it's election time in Australia: "Labor promises to ratify Kyoto treaty" - "A Beazley Labor government would ratify the Kyoto treaty on climate control before September 2002 in a bid to restore Australia's influence in international environmental negotiations. The Howard Government has supported the recent move by President George W. Bush to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. But Opposition Leader Kim Beazley said yesterday that Labor would follow a different path that would put a future Labor government onside with Europe, not the US, over climate control." (Canberra Times)

Is that right Mr Beazley? Strange position to take less than two weeks after JSCOT (Australia's all-party parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Treaties) released a status report (Sept. 27) on its ongoing inquiry into the Kyoto Protocol.

The committee has repeated its view expressed earlier this year that "...there are many difficult issues associated with the design, scope and implementation of the Protocol that have yet to be resolved. Until these issues are resolved it will not be possible to predict accurately the domestic impact of the emissions targets specified in the Protocol."

JSCOT further observes: "While an international consensus was forged on some issues at the Conference of Parties held in Bonn in July 2001, many significant and complex issues remain unresolved. Indeed, there is now renewed international debate about whether the Kyoto Protocol is the best means of advancing consideration of these issues."

As a result of these reservations, JSCOT regards it as "imprudent to provide definitive advice to Parliament on whether Australia should ratify the Protocol."

The all-party parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Treaties can't decipher the damn thing but Kim's a believer. Terrific...

Meanwhile, back in the real world: "Australia ABARE sees 2.3% annual energy use rise" - "MELBOURNE - Australian final energy consumption was forecast to grow an average annual 2.3 percent to 2019/20, as coal and oil met the vast bulk of total energy demand, Australia's commodity forecaster said yesterday." (Reuters) | ABARE Media Release

"EU may have first market in emissions" - "The European Union would have the first international marketplace for trade in the gases responsible for global warming under proposals to be unveiled by the European Commission later this month. The emissions trading plans would impose quotas on the amount of carbon dioxide that could be pumped out by power stations, oil refineries and iron and steel works, as well as the cement, glass, ceramics and pulp and paper industries." (Financial Times)

"The Upbeat Environmentalist's Case" - "WASHINGTON With terrorists having just demonstrated the vulnerability of the U.S. homeland, it might not seem the ideal moment for a foreigner from a small and distinctly unwarlike north European country to come to Washington to proclaim that the world is becoming a better place. Yet that was the message delivered here last week by Bjorn Lomborg, a young Danish professor of statistics at the University of Aarhus, who produced a mountain of figures to show that doom-laden warnings about the future of the Earth are completely wrong." (Reginald Dale, International Herald Tribune)

"EU largely isolated on WTO environment issue" - "GENEVA - The European Union stepped up its bid this week for negotiations on environmental issues to be included in any new trade round, but most members of the World Trade Organisation remained firmly opposed, officials said." (Reuters)

"EU Says Biotech Foods May Be Safer" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium - Contradicting the prevailing sentiment in Europe against biotech crops, a report Tuesday from the European Union's head office suggested they may be even safer than regular foods. The biosafety report summarizes 81 research projects financed by the EU over the last 15 years, at a cost of $64 million, on genetically modified crops and products made from them. The research has not found ``any new risks to human health or the environment, beyond the usual uncertainties of conventional plant breeding,'' said the European Commission, the EU's executive branch. ``Indeed, the use of more precise technology and the greater regulatory scrutiny probably make them even safer than conventional plants and foods.'' (AP)

"Europe May Set Gene-Modified Food Regs Next Year" - "WASHINGTON - The European Union could set down controversial new guidelines requiring the labeling of all foods containing genetically modified organisms shortly after the New Year, the EU's health and consumer protection commissioner said Tuesday.

Commissioner David Byrne said that proposed new guidelines are based on legislation Europe is considering for food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The rules would require companies to label all foods that contain over 1% genetically modified ingredients, and would also institute a strict tracking system to trace production methods and aid in potential product recalls." (Reuters Health)

"Pressure Increases To Grow GM Crops Farmers Fear Restrictions Are Handing Commercial Advantage To Americans" - "British farmers could soon be growing an increased acreage of GM crops under proposals being put forward by Brussels. All 15 member states will be urged to lift a three-year moratorium on approving new GM varieties at a special meeting next week, amid fears that America will soon become dominant in both production and technology. No new GMOs have been approved for use here since 1998." (Western Daily Press)

"INTERVIEW - Demand surges for non-GMO animal feed in Europe" - "AMSTERDAM - European demand for animal feed guaranteed to be free of genetically modified organisms (GMO) has soared this year after supermarkets agreed to pay more to satisfy worried consumers, a certification firm said this week." (Reuters)

"Progress Towards A Truly 'Green' Method Of Toxic Metal Cleanup" - "Phytoremediation, the use of plants to clean up polluted and contaminated soils, has been steadily gaining acceptance by both academia and industry over the past few years. Many thousands of acres are tainted with the toxic byproducts of industrial practices such as mining. Conventional remediation, which involves physical removal and burial of contaminated soils, is neither feasible nor affordable. The use of plants, with their extensive roots systems and efficient uptake of a wide variety of molecules, offers a low-input, affordable alternative. However, naturally occurring plant species are either too slow growing or absorb insufficient amounts of pollutant to make a significant impact on soil quality." (ISB News Report)

"The Politics of Precaution: Genetically Modified Crops In Developing Countries" - "Genetically modified (GM) food crops have inspired increasing controversy over the past decade. By the mid-1990s they were widely grown in the U.S., Canada, and Argentina, but precautionary regulations continue to limit their use elsewhere. The restrictive policies of Europe and Japan toward GM crops have been much discussed. Less attention has been paid to the policies affecting the adoption of GM crops in the developing world, where their potential impact on the availability and quality of food is even greater." (Robert L. Paarlberg, International Food Policy Research Institute)

"This is the first major empirical study that sheds light on the policy dynamics influencing the adoption of biotechnology in developing countries. The analytical framework and the wealth of new information make it both original and substantive. In addition, the study is an honest and candid account of trends in developing countries. This is an important book that will inspire the practitioner, challenge the academic, satisfy the curious, and appease the bewildered." -- Calestous Juma, Harvard University

"EU's Byrne says GM product approval could resume" - "WASHINGTON, Oct 9 - The European Union could resume approving new varieties of genetically modified foods and other products early next year if members sign off on a new plan to end a three-year moratorium, EU Consumer Health Commissioner David Byrne said Tuesday. Earlier Tuesday, Reuters reported the European Commission had worked out a compromise to allow EU governments to end the pause in approvals of new genetically modified (GM) products ranging from foods to pharmaceuticals." (Reuters)

October 8-9, 2001

"Book explodes myths of 'scientific research' " - The Chicago Sun-Times reviews the Junkman's new book Junk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams. The Sun-Times particularly appreciated this bit of the Junkman's advice:

As Milloy says in the closing pages, after exhorting the reader to go forth and fight junk science, "Be prepared, Chicago-style."

"Make no mistake," Milloy said. If you criticize junksters, you open yourself to attack by them.

"If you persist and especially if you succeed, prepare yourself for savage retaliation. Remember the lines uttered by Sean Connery to Kevin Kostner as Elliot Ness in the movie The Untouchables: 'He pulls a knife on you, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way.'"

Get your copy of Junk Science Judo from the JunkScience.com store, Amazon.com or other fine bookstore.

"Fears of Anthrax and Smallpox" - "With potential biological terrorism looming large in the minds of government officials and a frightened public, attention has focused on two threats above all others: the germs that cause anthrax and smallpox. Both are hardy and highly lethal, making them good weapons for inflicting mass casualties. The consequences of such an attack could be so awful — deaths conceivably reaching into the tens or hundreds of thousands — that the government obviously has an obligation to prepare for the worst. At the same time, individual citizens need to be educated about how remote the danger is." (New York Times) FBI investigating Florida cases involving anthrax bacteria (AP)

"Breast milk contaminants warrant more research" - "NEW YORK, Oct 08 - Recent reports about environmental pollutants in breast milk may be cause for concern, but until the health implications become clear, women who are breast-feeding their infants should not be alarmed, experts say. "Without question, breast milk is the very best nutrition source for infants," according to Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, director of the Center for Children's Health and the Environment (CCHE) at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City." (Reuters Health)

Well, at least Landrigan admits breast milk is good fare for infants. I guess that's something of an improvement for a pesticide hysteric of some renown. Ol' "Pesticide Phil" has featured on this site on numerous occasions, here's a link to a column by Steve Milloy.

"High-protein diets not proven effective and may pose health risks" - "DALLAS, Oct. 9 – High-protein diets have no proven effectiveness in long-term weight reduction and pose potential health threats for those who adhere to them for more than a short time, according to an advisory from the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee in today’s Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association." (American Heart Association)

"Firm's claims on food irradiation misleading: USDA" - "WASHINGTON, Oct 08 - The food irradiation company SureBeam Corp. cannot claim that its process is similar to pasteurization, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said in a letter released late last week. A spokesman for San Diego-based SureBeam told Reuters Health in late August that the company had been informed by the USDA that it could claim its technology is capable of pasteurizing meats and poultry. The company was responding to allegations by consumer advocacy group Public Citizen that its pasteurization claims were false and misleading. The group had asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate SureBeam and several other companies. (Reuters Health)

Hmm... click here.

"States Taking the Initiative to Fight Global Warming" - "More than two dozen U.S. states and cities, no longer waiting for the Bush administration to seize the initiative against global warming, have begun taking steps to reduce emissions that scientists say are heating the planet.

From Vermont to Oregon, state and local governments are calling for broader use of energy-saving devices, more energy-efficient building standards, cleaner-burning power plants and more investment in such renewable energy sources as wind and solar power--all to help reduce greenhouse gases that trap the sun's energy near the Earth's surface.

Many of the strategies being promoted mimic those endorsed in July by 180 nations as part of an international campaign against global warming that the Bush administration declined to join." (LA Times)

"UK power industry readies for green energy trading" - "LONDON - British electricity companies are gearing up to start trading green energy certificates in January as part of a government scheme to encourage the expansion of the country's fledgeling renewable energy sector. From next year, the Renewables Obligation scheme will require power companies to supply three percent of electricity sales from green energy sources, rising to 10.4 percent in 2011, or face a financial penalty. At present about 2.8 percent of the country's power is classed as renewable." (Reuters)

"Sweden says green power plan will lift prices" -"STOCKHOLM - Swedish electricity prices will rise as a result of government plans to withdraw subsidies from the renewable sector and instead force consumers to buy more green power, Sweden's Industry Ministry said last week. "The price will become higher for the consumer... but we hope people will understand it is for the better and will be cheaper in the long run," Pernilla Axelsson, spokeswoman at the Industry Ministry, said." (Reuters)

"Vegie link to diabetes" - "IT IS the excuse children have been waiting for – now research has proved vegetables are not always good for growing bodies. In fact, eating vegetables may trigger type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes. In a world-first discovery, Australian scientists have found a link between a toxin found in some vegetables and diabetes in children. The cause of type 1 diabetes, which affects an estimated 150,000 Australians (as opposed to lifestyle-linked type 2 diabetes, which affects about 900,000) is unknown. The research provides the best clue to date to an environmental trigger for the disease." (Sydney Daily Telegraph)

Here's some wildcat statistics: "Bio-Domenica promotes organics, while debate over pesticide contamination continues" - "While Italy observed its first Bio-Domenica (Organic Sunday) on 7 October, studies showed that 2 kilos of pesticides are “consumed” by each person every year, but the shift toward organically production is gaining speed." (just-food.com)

"Europe May Lift Moratorium on Approvals For GMOs If U.S. Accepts Labeling Rules" - "BRUSSELS -- The European Commission is willing to propose lifting a moratorium on the approval of new genetically modified organisms, but it wants assurances first that the U.S. won`t resist the strict European Union labeling rules for food containing GMOs.

David Byrne, the commissioner charged with enforcing EU food safety standards, said in an interview that he would raise the issue with the member states that have blocked new GMO crop approvals. He said he hoped for a result ``sooner rather than later,`` but added it would be a hard sell in Europe if the U.S. continued to challenge the way the EU requires food products with GMOs to be labeled." (Wall Street Journal)

"GM cotton in Gujarat alarms regulatory body" - "NEW DELHI: The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) in the ministry of environment has been shaken by the revelation that a genetically modified (GM) variety of cotton is growing in some 10,000 hectares of land in Gujarat without its knowledge. GEAC whose permission is required for commercial growing of GM crops has so far not approved cultivation of any such crop. So the disclosure has made a total mockery of Indian regulations regarding import and use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GEAC Chairman A M Gokale was not available to comment." (Times of India)

October 6-7, 2001

"Florida man succumbs to anthrax" - "LANTANA, Fla. - A 63-year-old Florida man died Friday after contracting the inhaled form of anthrax, the first such death in the United States in 25 years. The case raised fears of a biological attack, but health officials said there is no evidence he was the victim of terrorism.

Stevens was described as an avid outdoorsman. Dr. Steven Wiersma, a state epidemiologist, said officials believe he contracted anthrax naturally.

Eric Croddy, a bioterrorism expert at California's Monterey Institute, said that everything so far leads him to believe that the government is right, that Stevens caught the disease naturally and that it is an isolated case. "He's an unfortunate, unlucky fellow," Croddy said." (AP)

"WHO dismisses Afghan virus 'scare'" - "Reports warning of an outbreak of a deadly viral disease similar to Ebola on the frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan are "incorrect and misleading," the World Health Organisation (WHO) says. It says reports of a potential epidemic of Crimean Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) have been exaggerated. WHO says there have been only 35 reported cases of the virus in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region this year and only four people are currently being treated." (BBC Online)

"Cancer bias puts breasts first" - "People suffering from a range of cancers are getting second-class treatment because the breast cancer lobby has swallowed up the vast majority of available expertise and funding. Cancer experts have warned that the breast cancer lobby is now so powerful it is distorting research spending, treatment and facilities at the expense of those suffering from other cancers." (The Observer)

"New BSE threat from European imports" - "BRITISH consumers are increasingly at risk of eating BSE-infected meat imported from the continent, food safety inspectors have revealed. Spot checks by Meat Hygiene Service staff recently revealed 19 cases of beef carcasses still containing spinal cord, which is banned because it is the part of the animal most likely to contain BSE. The situation is particularly alarming because cases of BSE - which is believed to cause vCJD in humans - are continuing to rise on the continent." (Scotland On Sunday)

"Early exposure to farm life may cut asthma risk" - "NEW YORK, Oct 05 - Farm kids are known to be less likely to develop asthma and allergies, and new study findings indicate that the protective effect of exposure to farm life is strongest when it occurs before a child reaches age 1." (Reuters Health)

"No link found between soft drink consumption and cavities in teens and young adults" - "ORLANDO, Fla., Oct. 6, 2001 — Dental cavities among teenagers and young adults are not linked to soft drink consumption, Virginia Tech researchers reported to the annual meeting of the American College of Nutrition. The findings of Rich Forshee and Maureen Storey, research faculty members with Virginia Tech’s Center for Food and Nutrition Policy, are based on an analysis of a large, nationally representative nutrition and health survey conducted by the federal government." (Virginia Tech)

"Britain has 'lost the battle against obesity'" - "BRITONS have lost the battle to control their weight and the nation is facing a public health disaster, according to the country's first dedicated "professor of obesity". Paul Trayhurn, the newly appointed professor of obesity biology at Liverpool University, told The Telegraph that he believes only new drugs will combat the problem. He is establishing a laboratory that he hopes will help to develop the world's first effective anti-fat pill." (Telegraph)

"France sued over Chernobyl disaster" - "More than 100 people suffering from thyroid cancer have filed lawsuits against the French Government. They accuse it of failing to warn them of the health risks from radioactive contamination, following the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine. A judicial investigation started in July after 51 French cancer sufferers filed a suit against the government." (BBC Online)

Hmm... check out Is radiation an essential trace energy?

"British environmental challenge to Sellafield" - "British Nuclear Fuel's planned mixed oxide plant (Mox) at Sellafield was under threat yesterday after environmental groups launched a legal challenge to overturn the British government's approval for the project. Lawyers representing Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth filed an application at the High Court seeking a judicial review of the decision to allow work at the £470 million sterling plant to go ahead. The expansion plan was announced by the Environment Secretary, Ms Margaret Beckett, on Wednesday." (Irish Times)

"High price of eco-extremism" - "The Sanbanze reclamation project on the Chiba coastline facing Tokyo Bay has long been a beacon for Japan's environmentalists. They can claim another victory now that the new leftwing governor of Chiba Prefecture, Akiko Domoto, has called for a freeze on the 101-hectare project.

Chiba officials say the land is needed mainly for a new sewage-treatment plant and highway. The environmentalists say the area is tideland that should be preserved for migratory birds and threatened marine species.

And the reality? Earlier this year I joined a neutral-minded group inspecting the site. We were flabbergasted. Environmentalists tend to exaggerate in defense of their favorite causes. But what we saw went far beyond that." (Japan Times)

"'Sceptical Environmentalist' heats global debate" - "WASHINGTON - A new book by a former member of the environmental group Greenpeace is drawing bravos from business groups and brickbats from greens because it claims the world's environment is improving." (IPS)

Andrew Nikiforuk is not impressed: "Crying eco-wolf" - "Bjorn Lomborg is one of those tall, charming Danes with a gift for gab and a mind for numbers. If you don't instantly recognize the name, relax. You'll soon hear a lot of Canadian politicians and industrial leaders quote from his lengthy polemic, The Skeptical Environmentalist, and with uncritical gusto. You'll easily recognize these foolish acolytes because they will sound like zebra mussels sucking on the end of a sewage drainage pipe. Two years ago, Lomborg raised a lot of hell in Europe with the publication of this anti-environmentalist manifesto, and he'll likely do the same here with a weightier international edition." (Andrew Nikiforuk, Globe and Mail)

But then, Nikiforuk is author of Saboteurs: Wiebo Ludwig's War Against Big Oil and appears one of the very eco-doomsters whose money-spinning premise is so challenged by Lomborg's analysis of available data.

I guess that makes me "sound like zebra mussels sucking on the end of a sewage drainage pipe" (he certainly does have a way with words).

"Author compares oil industry to terrorists" - "Oil and gas executives are furious today after Canadian novelist Timothy Findley compared oilfield companies to the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. Mr. Findley, the University of Calgary's writer in residence, told a crowd of academics and business executives Thursday that there are "other kinds of terrorists in this new reality besides those who hijack planes and fly them into buildings." Mr. Findley said the industry is doing little to reduce greenhouse emissions as companies "rush headlong and heedless of danger into the exploitation of global gas and petroleum reserves." (National Post)

"Coal: It's dirty politics, Mr Bracks" - "My favorite slogan summing up the case for sustainable development is "The Stone Age didn't end for lack of stones". It came to mind this week when the Victorian Government called for tenders to develop the Latrobe Valley's vast brown coal reserves.

The government would like Victorians to believe the tender announcement demonstrates a vision for the future. It says a massive expansion of coal mining will lead to regional jobs and investment requiring the development of world's best environmental technologies.

In truth, it is just another in a series of contradictory policy announcements reinforcing the perception here and abroad that Australian governments are not serious about tackling global warming." (Claire Miller, The Age)

Poor Claire, she's The Age's resident environmental hand-wringer and no one's ever told her that no government on the planet is "serious about tackling global warming." It's a political issue rather than a physical one - governments use Kyoto as a bludgeon attempting to wrest trade and/or manufacturing advantage against more efficient competitors. It's a high-stakes game of bluff, a bluff that has wisely been called by President Bush.

Those who profit from the enhanced greenhouse industry are prone to offering highly selective supporting evidence for their claims. For example, much has been made recently of growing seasons having extended by 10-12 days over the last few decades and, for sure, that represents change. What they omit to mention is that there were serious fears of catastrophic cooling and looming famine in the 1970s because growing seasons had shortened by about 12 days since 1950. Net change over a half-century is negligible but that hasn't prevented changing length of growing season being used to support claims of impending doom. It's really a matter of perspective and selected baseline as to whether current "change" (relative to some particular time) represents an increase or a recovery. If we shift the base point selection we get different answers: relative to AD1600 growing seasons are long; relative to AD1000 they probably haven't yet recovered. All we can really say is that shorter growing seasons are largely bad for the biosphere while longer is better.

Is "climate change" occurring? Of course, it has always done so. Should we be worried? Hardly, warmer is definitely better than cooler, although another phase shift to a cooling cycle is inevitable. Whatever the climate does, political posturing over Kyoto won't change it - the time is long-past due to derail the gravy train.

Pre-CoP7 nonsense: "Pacific islanders flee rising seas" - "The Pacific nation of Tuvalu has secured New Zealand's agreement to accept an annual quota of its citizens as refugees. They want to leave Tuvalu because they say rising sea levels are driving them out. Tuvalu says the cause of the rise is climate change, which it blames for other environmental problems." (BBC Online)

This one is a perennial favourite. It is also a complete nonsense.

Tide gauge data is available since the end of the great global cooling scare from Funafuti, the main atoll of the Tuvalu group. While it certainly shows fluctuation of monthly mean sea level depending on the ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) phase, there is no indication of a rising trend despite the period being that of allegedly alarming warming. You can access the graph here.

See also The Little Nation That Cried 'Wolf!' from a year ago.

The Week That Was October 6, 2001 brought to you by SEPP

The Week That Was September 29, 2001 brought to you by SEPP

Hmm... "Small farmers to be given millions in aid" - "BRITAIN'S biggest farms would lose more than £1 billion a year in European Union subsidies, allowing proportionately more to go to smaller and more environmentally friendly units, under plans being drawn up by Tony Blair's key agricultural adviser.

Lord Haskins, appointed by the prime minister to investigate how rural communities can recover from the economic impact of foot and mouth disease, wants farms graded according to the degree to which they damage or enhance the environment.

Green farms, run on sustainable principles, would receive increased support and subsidies. Other, larger-scale and more commercial enterprises, called "blue" farms by Haskins, would be forced to become more independent financially." (Sunday Times)

Wonder how they're quantifying "more environmentally friendly units." Handouts for inefficiency make for very poor conservation measures.

John Stossel to speak on GMO's at Univ of MI - "The Second Biannual Isadore A. Bernstein Symposium will be held 8:30AM to 2:00PM on Friday, October 26th, 2001 at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, Michigan. John Stossel of ABC News and 20/20 will be the featured speaker. The topic will be Environmental Health Policy, Science and Public Perception: A Challenge for Genetically Modified Organisms. Other speakers include: Robert Horsch, Vice President, Product & Technology Cooperation, Monsanto Company; Rebecca Grumet, Professor of Horticulture, Plant Breeding and Genetics Program, Michigan State University; Derek Burke, former Vice President and Scientific Director of Allelix, Canada's largest biotech company; Peter M. Sandman, founder and former director of the Environmental Communication Research Program, Rutgers University

Because of University security for the event, pre-registration is mandatory. Contact James A. Darby, Gelman Educational Foundation. phone (734) 913-5819, fax (734) 913-5839, e-mail jdarby@palasc.com. Please respond by October 15th." (media release)

"Brussels tells Britain: grow more GM food" - "Brussels is mounting a campaign to increase vastly the amount of GM crops and foods grown and eaten in Britain and throughout Europe, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. The European Commission is calling a meeting next week of the 15 EU governments to persuade them to lift a three-year moratorium on approving new GM varieties. Documents seen by this newspaper show the EC wants them almost to double the amount of approved GM foods and more than treble the number of permitted GM crops even before a recently agreed directive has been put into force." (Independent)

"Greenpeace wins libel damages over GM food warnings" - "Greenpeace UK and its former executive director Lord Melchett have accepted undisclosed libel damages after issuing warnings about GM foods. The environmental body sued The Herald newspaper in Scotland over allegations they deliberately spread unfounded fears about GM foods to further their financial interests." (Ananova)

Didn't someone say that the law is an ass?

"New and improved: GM foods could even relieve anxiety" - "Beyond increasing crop yield, lowering pesticide use, or merely creating a redder tomato with a longer shelf life, genetic technology has great potential for improving health care. At a briefing today sponsored by the American Medical Association (AMA), researchers reviewed their progress toward using genetic modification to create vaccines in crops, and to remove allergies from them." (BioMedNet News)

"Antibody Breakthrough 'A-Maizeing'" - "The new technology should make the mass production of therapeutic antibodies easier and cheaper, say the team from biotech company Epicyte in San Diego, in the US. Currently, therapeutic antibodies are produced using hamster ovary cells, but this is an expensive method and produces only limited amounts.

Epicyte's new "plantibody" technology allows the DNA that codes for antibodies to be introduced into crop plants such as maize. The antibodies are only produced in the maize kernels so it is possible to extract them using current maize-processing methods, explain the team." (Health Media Ltd)

"US to Lodge China Farm Trade Complaints" - "WASHINGTON - U.S. officials next week will tell Chinese counterparts of their growing irritation over an interruption in agricultural trade just as the World Trade Organization is preparing to admit China, a U.S. Agriculture Department official said. Since July, high-ranking Bush administration officials, including Secretary of State Colin Powell and Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, have been pressing China to clarify rules for restrictions that took effect in June on imported bioengineered foods. China's refusal to provide those details has resulted in a virtual suspension of Chinese bookings of U.S. soybeans that are now being harvested." (Reuters)

"Rock wins praise for stand on labelling GMOs" - "OTTAWA -- Health Minister Allan Rock is winning praise from environmental and consumer groups for coming out in favour of mandatory labelling of genetically modified food. But it's not clear that Rock's position has the support of cabinet, and some industry groups fear mandatory labelling would undercut Canada's biotechnology industry. Both sides in the debate warn of complex technical problems to be overcome before mandatory labelling can be introduced." (CP)

"Pro-GM group rallies troops for final effort" - "Key politicians and top Beehive staff will be the targets of a last-minute lobbying campaign from a worried pro-genetic modification community. In an e-mail obtained by the Herald, the pro-GM group Life Sciences Network this week urged its members to promote the benefits of GM to a carefully selected list of MPs. Admitting that the Green Party had "successfully sidelined" the report of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, the group in its call-to-arms offers a glimpse of its growing concern that the Government will decide this month to turn its back on GM field trials." (New Zealand Herald)

October 5, 2001

"Smallpox Attack Exaggerated" - "Concern over the possibility of terrorist attacks involving biological agents—especially the smallpox virus—is developing into full-fledged hysteria. Sen. Bill Frist claimed last week that a smallpox attack could kill 40 million Americans. But a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, slated to appear in the November-December issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases and detailed here for the first time, should provide some relief to a worry-worn public." (Steve Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"Canada bracing for bioterror" - "Health Canada is stockpiling antibiotics as fears of a bioterrorism attack increase and has alerted medical authorities to be on guard for unusual diseases that could be connected to a biological or chemical agent. Canada bought a large supply of antibiotics after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington and is in the process of buying more. While Health Canada says the risk of bioterrorism in Canada is low, it acknowledged yesterday that such stockpiles exist and the amount of medical supplies is likely to increase." (National Post)

"Biochem terror: a reality check" - "PARIS - The fear of imminent chemical or biological attack by terrorists that is gripping millions of Americans is unfounded. But the chances that someone is planning something of the sort are high enough to warrant defensive measures, and America is ill-prepared. That appears to be the consensus among experts and politicians as Americans grapple with the possibility that the Sept. 11 attacks were only the beginning of a terrorist campaign that could see much worse." (Christian Science Monitor)

"Experts debunk bioterror myths; No terrorist to date has had success aerosolizing lethal microbial agents" - "WASHINGTON – If you're planning to buy a gas mask, as many nervous New Yorkers already have, you might want to save your money. Despite media noise, the chances of terrorists attacking America with biological weapons are slim, say leading biowarfare experts. And even if terrorists do try to spread lethal microbial agents here, they'll likely fail." (Paul Sperry, WorldNetDaily.com)

"Agencies Scrub Web Sites Of Sensitive Chemical Data" - "Some federal agencies have been removing documents from Internet sites to keep them away from terrorists, rekindling concerns that important information is being withheld from communities at risk from hazardous chemicals. The documents contain information about potentially dangerous, yet commonly available materials such as chlorine, gasoline or pesticides, which can cause serious damage or death if misused or deliberately freed into the environment.

The EPA dismantled its risk management program Web site, which contains general information about emergency plans and chemicals used at 15,000 sites nationwide. More sensitive information about "worst case" chemical accidents is kept in special reading rooms." (Washington Post)

Well gosh! They're waking up to the dangers of disclosing this kind of information? Plenty of us pointed out what a gift these resources are to those of malicious intent while the chemical scare industry boosted their donation stream howling about people's "right to know" about potential hazards. Pity they didn't give more thought to the hazard such information creates isn't it.

"Premature deaths of diabetes sufferers higher than thought" - "A new study shows the risk of premature death for people with diabetes is more than three times that of general Australian population, according to the latest findings from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. The study of people with insulin-treated diabetes on the National Diabetes Register shows a much higher death rate among people with the disease. This is particularly the case for those with type two or adult-onset diabetes, which is primarily caused by lifestyle choices such as a poor diet and lack of exercise." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Anti-theft tags 'pose danger to children'" - "SECURITY devices used in many stores emit magnetic radiation at levels above international guidelines and may damage the health of children, scientists warned yesterday." (Telegraph)

"Milk and Breast Cancer" - "Some studies have suggested a link between milk drinking and prostate cancer; others have indicated a protective effect on colon cancer. While much research on breast cancer has zeroed in on dietary fat, not a lot have reported consumption of actual foods. The few studies on milk and breast cancer have either suggested a possible protective effect or no effect.

A new prospective study in almost 49,000 Norwegian women examined a statistical connection between milk drinking during childhood or adult years with development of breast cancer. Women filled out a questionnaire while they were all healthy and were followed for six years; 317 developed breast cancer during that time. High milk consumption (3 or more glasses daily) during childhood and up to 39 years of age was inversely associated with breast cancer. In other words, the more milk, the less cancer. Milk drinking at later ages was not significantly related. This study appeared in the September 15, 2001 International Journal of Cancer.

HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Anti-milk ideas abound, especially over the Internet. There is no credible evidence that milk is harmful, and much evidence that it is important for bone health and can lead to lower blood pressure and less body fat. Milk's relation with various types of cancer is still under study, but the net results also indicate either no harm or potential benefit." (Nutrition News Focus)

On the opinion-for-hire front: "Courts Split on Expert Testimony in Parlodel Drug Liability Case" - "A federal magistrate in Alabama has denied defense motions for summary judgment in a products liability action over the lactation-suppressing drug Parlodel, finding that the plaintiffs' "expert opinions are scientifically reliable and admissible." The Sept. 21 decision came nine days after an Illinois federal judge reached the opposite conclusion in another Parlodel case and excluded plaintiff's expert testimony as "scientifically unreliable." (National Law Journal)

Pre-CoP7 hot air: "Cut pollution, save billions, report says" - "An analysis in today's edition of the scientific journal Nature estimates that Italy could save about $2.9-billion annually by cutting its greenhouse-gas emissions. Experts say the same calculation could apply in Canada." (Globe and Mail) | Abstract | Full text [Subscription required]

This is another one patterned á la Devra Lee Davis, claiming extraordinary cost-savings from not having to treat asthmatics, et al, who would apparently miraculously not be ill if only we'd get rid of all that nasty fossil energy, industry and transportation. Collapsing economies and societal impoverishment are now apparently associated with good health[!], while sound economies and wealth generation make us sick. Sheesh!

See also Doubly Dangerous Internal Combustion (Statistical Assessment Service)

"Stalagmites in caves show progression of history" - "WASHINGTON - The drip, drip, drip of mineral-rich water in New Mexico caves created stalagmites that preserve a record of wet and dry periods covering over 4,000 years in the arid Southwest - and help explain culture changes among ancient Americans. Victor J. Polyak of the University of New Mexico said that two-foot-long stalagmites taken from Carlsbad Caverns and from two other caves contain mineral deposition rings that correspond to levels of precipitation in the Southwest." (AP)

From the virtual world: "Common native plant of great plains may be threatened by climate change" - "MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL--A common Great Plains prairie plant, the partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata), could face severe reduction in numbers if climate conditions in the Midwest change to the extremes predicted for the next 25 to 35 years, according to a study to be published in the Oct. 5 issue of the journal Science." (University of Minnesota)

"Scientists surprised to find new glaciers" - "ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, Colo. -- Geologists exploring the rugged Continental Divide say they discovered more than 100 additional glaciers here in a single summer, a surprising find since glaciers around the world are shrinking in warmer temperatures.

The results dramatically change the map of one of the nation's oldest and best-known national parks, along with the knowledge of weather and water cycles at high elevations.

Previously, officials believed the park 60 miles northwest of Denver included 20 permanent ice and snow features, including six named glaciers.

The new survey by geologist Jonathan Achuff shows there are as many as 120 features. Most are located in cold, north-facing pockets on the east side of the Divide at elevations above 12,000 feet.

Most of the newly discovered glaciers are covered with rocky debris; continuous freezing and thawing splinters the brittle granite that forms some of the park's majestic peaks. Park officials say comparisons with historical photos suggest that at least some of the glaciers are expanding.

Glaciers are barometers of climate change, and researchers said the survey results here contradict global warming trends." (AP)

Does this refute claims of global warming? In a word - no. Neither do claims of shrinking glaciers prove warming since glaciers advance and retreat in cycles largely driven by precipitation. Small glaciers may show obvious reaction over mere decades while very large ice masses may be largely impervious to change over millennia. Sometimes glaciers are observed in retreat while a near neighbour is advancing but the reasons for this apparent paradox are not well understood. All we know is that local conditions appear similar but the glaciers are behaving differently. Glaciers have been in general retreat throughout the Holocene (the current interglacial period) and so, yes, genuine "global warming" causes a reduction in glacial mass but it doesn't follow that observation of a preponderance of glaciers in retreat is "proof" of accelerated warming.

"US lawmaker - utilities must cut 4 pollutants, not 3" - "WASHINGTON - A high-stakes meeting to discuss proposed changes to the Clean Air Act began yesterday with the head of the Senate Environment committee vowing to hold U.S. electric utilities accountable for cutting emissions. Democrats want to require utilities to begin making steep cuts in 2002 in emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and carbon dioxide." (Reuters)

"EU stance on environment threatens new trade round" - "European Union insistence that the World Trade Organisation negotiate on environmental rules could sink prospects for a new global trade round, trade diplomats said on Thursday. Just five weeks ahead of the prospective launch of a round at the WTO's ministerial meeting in Doha, Qatar, Brussels' stance has emerged as the most serious stumbling block so far in talks on a draft agenda for future negotiations." (Financial Times)

"Scientific Scare Stories Get Big Headlines; The Debunking That Often Follows Usually Doesn't Get As Much Play" - "Take the flap over StarLink, the genetically engineered corn approved for animal feed but not for humans. Some of it got into the human food chain, setting off a huge recall action. For a while there, we had to forgo our crispy tacos. A number of people reported allergic reactions to corn after the publicity. But according to a report from the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, scientists have been unable to find a clear link between the food and reactions." (Jim Barlow, Houston Chronicle)

"Our future depends on genetic technology" - "In considering the issue of genetic modification, the Government must follow the findings of the royal commission, writes Dick Bellamy" (New Zealand Herald)

Professor Dick Bellamy, a molecular biologist and virologist with an interest in child health, is Dean of Science at the University of Auckland.

"Food-based vaccines will be safer, cheaper" - "NEW YORK, Oct 04 - Protecting yourself against such deadly scourges as HIV and hepatitis B may one day be as easy as eating a salad or taking a pill.

So-called "edible vaccines," made by plants such as potatoes, soybeans and tomatoes that are genetically altered to produce antibodies against these and other diseases, could be available within the next decade, Dr. Alexander V. Karasev, a vaccine researcher with Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, said Thursday." (Reuters Health)

"Researchers Conduct Risk Assessment for Biotech Alfalfa" - "In 2004, alfalfa growers will have new biotech alfalfa varieties they can select, and new research will help prevent the accidental dispersion of biotech pollen to volunteer alfalfa plants. Pollen can carry genetically engineered genes to wild alfalfa plants that appear in or near a field of planted crops or into a related Species, so Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists conducted a 3-year biorisk assessment of mock transgenic alfalfa. The study was conducted in Manhattan, Kan., and in Prosser, Wash., near the ARS Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center." (AgWeb.com)

"Draft Policy for GM Foods" - "After more than 20 years of debate and consultation, South Africa has come up with a draft policy on genetically modified (GM) food and products.

Published a month ago, the draft-strategy document states that biotechnology will improve access to and affordability of health care, provide sufficient nutrition at affordable costs, create jobs in manufacturing, and protect and enrich the environment.

As early as 1978 a committee of scientists took the initiative to establish an organisation, known as South African Genetic Experimentation, which would act as a watchdog and advisory body to scientists, industry and the government. It developed a set of bio-safety guidelines that have been applied to all GM products and trials since 1990." (Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg))

"Food Allergies and Biotechnology" - "For people with food allergies, checking a label, or questioning a waiter about the ingredients, could be life-saving. Now there's hope that biotechnology may one day reduce or even eliminate food allergies. But researchers say that hope should be tempered by concern.

For most people, what they eat is a matter of personal choice but for several million Americans, food allergies limit those choices. Exposure to the offending foods can cause symptoms ranging from minor itching or hives, to shock and death. Steve Taylor, Ph.D./University of Nebraska: "Food biotechnology offers the only hope that we have of being able to diminish the allergenicity of existing foods.” (KPIX)

"Prevent biotech divide now: U of T profs" - "TORONTO - Canada can take a leading role in preventing a health care gap between industrial and developing countries in the field of biotechnology, say two U of T researchers." (CBC)

October 4, 2001

"Experts Warn of Dangers of Gas Masks" - "LONDON - Gas masks are flying off the shelves in U.S. and European cities as protection against feared biochemical attacks, but experts warn that without proper fitting and training masks could be useless or even deadly." (Reuters)

"Terrorists and mass destruction" - "Will the next terrorist attack involve biological, chemical or nuclear weapons? How worried should we be?" (The Economist)

Gasp! They're goin' after us with toothbrushes! "Electric toothbrushes may leave more than shine in mouth" - "That shine on your teeth may not be as healthy as you think. An Australian lab technician has discovered that electric toothbrushes could be leaving traces of heavy metals in your mouth. Phillip Colquitt, who runs an independent research company in Queensland, has told this week's New Scientist magazine that he discovered nickel and chromium had come off his powered brush." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Education Efforts Reduce Food-borne Illness Outbreaks" - " Food-borne illnesses appeared to decline in 2000, thanks to new food-safety programs and surveillance tools, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

FDA credits the drop in food-borne illness with programs and systems like PulseNet, FoodNet and the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring Network. In addition, the consumer education partnership called Fight BAC! extended nationwide last year to educate consumers on safe-handling practices." (AgWeb.com)

"Environment Risks Seen Low at New York Attack Sites" - "WASHINGTON - Extensive tests of air, dust and water in and around the site where New York's World Trade Center once stood have uncovered no major risks to people's health, government agencies said Wednesday. "Our data show that contaminant levels are low or nonexistent and are generally confined to the Trade Center site," Christine Todd Whitman, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said in a statement." (Reuters)

"US gov't reports set stage for multi-pollutant debate" - "WASHINGTON - Tightening the Clean Air Act to limit toxic emissions by U.S. power plants would boost power generation costs by tens of billions of dollars over the next 20 years, the U.S. government said in a new pair of reports." (Reuters)

Here we go again: "Environmental study shows death rates rise with high SPM" - "TOKYO, Oct. 4 - Researchers from the National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES) have found a direct correlation between the death rates of residents in Tokyo and the density of suspended particulate matter (SPM) emitted in exhaust fumes from diesel cars and from factories. The study, conducted by a research group led Masaji Ono, head of the NIES international public health laboratory, shows there is a marked increase in the number of deaths in Tokyo's 23 wards on days when the SPM index is high.

The study showed that with an increase of 100 micrograms of SPM in the air, the death rate rose 6%. The Ono group divided the data between the deaths caused by respiratory failure and those caused by circulatory factors and found no significant difference in the mortality rates between the two groups. ''The results are about the same as those reported in the United States,'' said Ono, noting that researchers have not been able to explain the mechanism linking SPM density and mortality." (Kyodo)

Proof at last? Smoking gun? Hardly, association is not causation. What caused the increase in SPM? Was is unusually cold or perhaps hot and humid conditions? Both of these are stressors associated with increased mortality. Were the "excess deaths" represented largely by people inadequately sheltered from such conditions (perhaps unable to afford adequate heating/cooling)? Were there interruptions to the energy supply? What was the actual exposure of these people to regionally increased SPM loadings... The list of potential confounding factors is large and the actual exposure of these people is unknown. We simply cannot say whether there is a cause and effect relationship or whether increased SPM and increased mortality are coincidental effects of n other causal or contributive factors. Statistically associated? Big deal.

"Toxic Avengers; For the hard work of informing us that dentists and fire logs cause cancer, lawyers get rich" - "Clever moneymaking scheme: Visit any doctor or dentist in California. If you don't see signs warning you that the physician is using potentially harmful chemicals as defined by the state's Proposition 65 (e.g., mercury fillings), haul him into court and demand $2,500 for each day he didn't post the warnings. You get 25% of the loot, the state 75%." (Dorothy Pomerantz, Forbes Magazine)

"From Saccharin to Breast Implants: Mass Torts, Then and Now" - "Travel back with me, if you will, for 24 years -- to 1977. That was a more innocent age. It was a time when the President's admission of mere "lust in the heart" was enough to quicken our nation's collective pulse. Life was different then. And so was the world of mass torts." (Mark Herrmann, Law.com)

"Law firms try to compel pharmaceutical firms to study mercury traces" - "PORTLAND, Ore. - A coalition of law firms went to court across the nation Tuesday, in a bid to force the pharmaceutical industry to study whether vaccines containing a trace of mercury cause autism and other brain damage in young children." (AP) | There's No Vaccine Against Irrational Fears | This Vaccine Won't Hurt at All (Howard Fienberg, Statistical Assessment Service)

"Jurors' comprehension of scientific evidence" - "As society becomes more technologically complex, people called for jury duty have an increasingly difficult task. In principle, jurors still have to come to a conclusion about the facts and then apply the law. However, the preponderance of novel scientific technology introduces new challenges to the jurors and impacts on their ability to assess the credibility of the evidence." (Brooklyn Law School)

"Gulf War children's 'defect risk'" - "The children of Gulf War veterans are almost twice as likely to be born with birth defects than those of other soldiers, research has found." (BBC Online)

Research? Actually, no. This is a collation of self-reported ills and "defects" and apparently includes "too short," "a bit slow" and other subjective quantifiers. Lots of work needed here before any conclusions can be drawn.

From the "who cares" files: "Environmentalists Oppose Shift on Hudson Dredging" - "WASHINGTON, Oct. 2 — A half- dozen environmentalists told officials at the Environmental Protection Agency here today that they opposed altering the government's half-billion-dollar directive on how the General Electric Company should dredge the Hudson River of poisonous chemicals." (New York Times)

See Stirring up sleeping dogs on the Hudson.

"Forest loss estimates were over-optimistic" - "UN forestry bureaucrats have bowed to criticism and admitted mistakes in an optimistic assessment of declining rates of deforestation made in March. A new calculation shows that in fact an extra area of forest as large as the Netherlands was lost during the 1990s.

Last March, releasing preliminary figures from its Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said 90 million hectares of forests had disappeared during the 1990s. It pointed out that this was an improvement on the 110 million hectares lost in the 1980s.

But critics such as the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based think tank, said the optimism was unwarranted. A change in the definition of a forest was partly responsible for the apparent improvement." (New Scientist) | Forests rapidly disappearing in tropics but growing in Europe: UN agency (AFP)

Uh-huh... after re-evaluating to suit eco-doomsters, WRI, they found the improvement was not 20 million ha but only 16 million. Still a significant improvement over a decade one might think and even WRI might be happy since things are improving slightly more slowly than thought.

"Lomborg Lands in DC to Demolish Eco-Terror Myths" - "Global warming is a problem, but trying to fix it would make the world worse.

That’s one of many conclusions by Danish statistician Bjorn Lomborg in his iconoclastic new book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, that most environmental activists don’t like.

But World Wildlife Fund Director David Sandalow and World Resources Institute chief information officer Allen Hammond failed to refute it Wednesday as panelists before a packed-house at the American Enterprise Institute." (Duane D. Freese, Tech Central Station) | Capitol Hill Briefing Oct. 4th to Highlight Findings by "The Skeptical Environmentalist." [invitation from CEI]

"'Super-cyclone' threat to Great Barrier Reef raised" - "Severe tropical cyclones, called "super-cyclones", hit the Great Barrier Reef coast every 200 to 300 years - 10 times more often than previously thought. Moreover, "we've gone a long, long time without having a big one," says Jonathan Nott, from James Cook University in Cairns, Queensland." (New Scientist)

Interesting, implied then is that the Great Barrier Reef must cope with massive nutrient and sediment loads every few hundred years and remains in remarkably good health. Further implied is that current hand-wringing about nutrient and sediment presenting a potentially fatal hazard to the reef system might be somewhat overwrought.

"A new understanding of ocean-heat transfer" - "Climatologists have had trouble squaring computer simulations of earlier climates with geological data. Skeptics have used this failing to cast doubt on computer projections of future global warming. Now it appears that, in two key aspects, the geological data have been misleading." (Christian Science Monitor)

Uh-huh... models and real-world data disagree so, change the data!

"Dinosaurs felt greenhouse effect" - "The greenhouse effect may have been a factor millions of years ago when dinosaurs and early mammals walked the Earth. An international team at the University of Bristol has discovered that tropical ocean temperatures were above 30C in the Late Cretaceous and Eocene periods." (BBC Online)

"GM seeds seen salvaging Indian cotton yields" - "MUMBAI -- WORLD over more and more countries are planting genetically improved cotton to improve yields at a time when the controversies over the use of biotechnology is stalling the use of these seeds in India, the country with the world’s largest area under cotton cultivation." (Economic Times)

"Greenpeace urges Manila to label GMO foods" - "MANILA, Oct 3 - Environmental group Greenpeace urged the Philippines on Wednesday to impose mandatory labelling on food products containing genetically modified organisms, saying recent tests showed massive levels of GMOs in several baby food products sold locally." (Reuters)

October 3, 2001

This is how bio-terrorism really occurs - innuendo and resultant terror: "Manila blames virus report on 'Afghan hysteria'" - "MANILA, Oct 02 - Hundreds of Philippine students reported sick on Tuesday and a Manila school fumigated its rooms while parents, fearing a chemical attack, dragged children home in a panic blamed by officials on hysteria over Afghanistan." (Reuters)

"Law suits filed over vaccines" - "PORTLAND, Ore. -- A coalition of law firms went to court across the nation Tuesday, trying to force the pharmaceutical industry to study whether vaccines containing a trace of mercury cause autism and other brain damage in young children. The lawsuits were filed as class actions and led by an Oregon woman who says her 2-year-old son, William, became autistic after getting vaccinations containing the mercury-containing preservative, thimerosal." (AP)

"Do vaccines cause autism? IOM panel demurs" - "Existing data does not show a link between a mercury-containing preservative, thimerosal, and the neurological disorders some children develop after taking vaccines. So says a report issued today by the US Institute of Medicine (IOM), a government advisory body set up by the National Academy of Sciences. However, IOM held back from issuing any strong recommendations on this controversial topic, saying that little data exists, and more research must be done." (BioMedNet News)

"Drug co. to fight jury award to heartburn-drug users" - "NEW YORK, Oct 02 - Johnson & Johnson said on Monday it will ask a Mississippi judge to overturn or reduce a $100 million jury award to 10 people who claimed they were hurt by the firm's heartburn drug Propulsid before it was recalled last year after being indirectly linked to 80 deaths. A jury in Port Gibson, Mississippi, late on Friday awarded $10 million in compensatory damages to each of the 10 plaintiffs, who claimed they had suffered anxiety, heart problems and other health setbacks after taking Propulsid." (Reuters)

"Blood infection kills thousands" - "A deadly form of blood poisoning may kill up to 146,000 people in the European Union every year. Sepsis is a poorly understood condition with a low public profile. But new data suggest that it kills as many people as lung or breast cancer." (BBC Online)

"Antibiotics in feed spark superbug fear" - "ANTIBIOTICS are being used in chicken feed in Australia without any national program in place to check poultry for antibiotic resistant "superbugs" dangerous to humans." (Courier-Mail)

"Infection risk from antibiotic-treated animals can be reduced: AMA" - "The Australian Medical Association (AMA) says while there are some risks of bacterial infection associated with eating meats from animals which have been given antibiotics, they can be minimised. A microbiologist from the AMA's Queensland branch, Dr Joan Faoagali, says concerns have been raised in recent media reports about the potential risk." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

This is getting a fair bit of coverage: "More bugs in organic chickens" - "ORGANIC chickens are three times as likely to contain Britain's most common food poisoning bug than battery birds, say Danish researchers. A study of 22 organic broiler flocks found that all were infected with the campylobacter bacterium, compared with only a third of 79 conventional flocks. The findings, published in the journal Letters in Applied Microbiology, undermine claims that organic food is always healthier than intensively produced food." (Telegraph)

"Doubts over 'safe phone' sticker" - "A sticker developed by a Scottish-based firm, which claims to neutralise radiation from mobile phones, has been given a sceptical response by safety experts. Aulterra International claimed to have developed a sticker which shields the user from radiation from mobile phones handsets. American inventor Kim Dandurand, who launched the product in Glasgow, said research showed his product was effective in removing any harmful effects. However, Dr Michael Clark, scientific spokesman for the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB), was "sceptical" about the stickers' properties." (BBC Online)

"Politicised Science" - “If we stop supporting science, we slip back at once,” says noted physicist Frederick S. Seitz, author of the classic textbook Modern Theory of Solids whose seminal work in solid state physics helped open the Silicon Age. The former president of the National Academy of Sciences talked to Tech Central Station’s Science for Earth host Sallie Baliunas about his life in science and his thoughts about its future. One problem: the politicization of science as in the global warming debate. “It’s almost a violation of the precepts of basic science,” Seitz says." (Tech Central Station)

"World Climate Report" Volume 7, Number 3, October 8, 2001 is now available.

"Flat Champagne" - "The undead Kyoto Protocol, has hit a new snag, this time in Australia. The parliamentary `Joint Standing Committee on Treaties' (JSCOT), which advises the Australian federal Parliament on treaty ratifications, has just issued a status report (27 Sept) on its ongoing inquiry into the Kyoto Protocol." (John Daly, Still Waiting For Greenhouse)

"On Beginning My Second Career" Dr. Sherwood B. Idso's opening EC as president, Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change. | The Little Ice Age in the Arabian Sea | Cyclone Frequency "Down Under" (co2science.org)

"Dire Predictions?" - "Those who hate modern industrialized societies -- whether they are Islamic radicals or radical environmentalists -- threaten the hopes of the poor and imperil the natural world as well." (Ronald Bailey, WSJ)

"Romantics beware: nature isn't always nice" - "...All species, whether plant or animal, are in a life-and-death struggle for survival. In any stable population, each pair of parents can only expect two of their offspring to reach reproductive age. On average, only one of an oak's thousands of acorns will survive to grow into a tree; only two of the babies from all of the litters of a pair of rabbits will live long enough to reproduce themselves. For the great majority of living creatures, what is natural is a violent death at an early age, from predation, disease or starvation. Just as nature has brought us a host of useful chemicals, it has also brought us smallpox, plague and the meningococcus." (David Vaux, The Age)

"New Movement Among Farmers to Give up the Plow Takes Root Across Asia's Breadbasket" - "THE HAGUE, 2 October 2001 — Scientists announced today that a major agricultural transformation is sweeping across Asia's breadbasket regions that could have significant implications for charting a course toward more ecologically-friendly, higher-producing, cost-effective agriculture among all groups of farmers in Asia. So-called "low-till" farming, which does away with intensive and repeated plowing of farmers' fields, is increasing harvests, reducing water use by as much as 30 to 50 percent, and requiring less fuel for running tractors on farms. Because there are one-half to two-thirds fewer weeds, herbicide use is reduced. Farmers living in four countries—Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan—are taking up low-till agriculture in such numbers that scientists say the impact in the region could be as great as the Green Revolution of the 1970s." (futureharvest.org)

"Held hostage by the minority" - "I WAS looking back over some old papers the other day and it started me thinking; how is it that after a royal commission costing more than $6 million, we still have to go through the basics of the pros and cons of genetic modification before the Government can make its decision at the end of the month?" (William Rolleston, New Zealand Herald)

William Rolleston is chairman of Life Sciences Network

"GM free has commercial benefit" - "There are compelling commercial reasons New Zealand should adopt a position of being genetic engineering free. First we must define what that means, then establish what the benefits and costs would be and how it would be put into practice ... in a similar way to the establishment of our nuclear free policy." (Seager Mason, New Zealand Herald)

Seager Mason is chief executive of Bio-Gro NZ, an organic certifier.

"Report debunks 'organic' benefits" - "Scientific studies suggest "organic" foods are neither healthier nor safer than genetically modified products or those grown conventionally." (New Zealand Herald)

"Genetically engineered food is a new reality" - "Genetic engineering long has been regarded as the future of food production, and now, it has become a reality. By altering the genetic makeup of plants, scientists can produce healthier crops and more of them. Open any kitchen cupboard or look on any restaurant's menu, chances are, they are full of products enhanced by food production companies to be cheaper, healthier and better.

Over the years, these companies have used technology for the benefit of mankind by making our food healthier, cheaper and more abundant than ever. This burden is not taken lightly, and because of the current economy, cost conscious consumers have become more aware than ever of the price of food." (The Battalion via ispi News Service)

"EPA Extends Registration Period for Bt Corn" - "EPA announced Monday it has extended its decision on insect-protected corn, to allow the public additional time to review recently published studies regarding Monarch butterflies. Indication from the Monarch studies is potential damage from Bt corn is not as severe as first thought. In fact, studies recently published signal little or no ill effect. A decision is expected in about two weeks. “The Bt corn comprehensive reassessment is still underway,” says EPA. “However, to provide adequate time for the Agency to consider public comments and complete the reassessment process, the Bt corn registrations have been extended and are set to expire October 15, 2001.” (AgWeb.com)

"EPA Renews Registration for Bt Cotton" - "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has signed and finalized an agreement with Monsanto for re-registration of its Bt cotton under the name Bollgard. Bollgard was first registered in 1995 under a conditional, or time-limited, registration that expired in January 2001, and is the only commercially available Bt cotton to date. "This renewed registration assures that cotton growers can continue to use this valuable technology to protect against insect pests while reducing the use of chemical pesticides," said Randy Deaton, global cotton lead for Monsanto. "This renewal affirms the EPA's assessment of the environmental and health safety, effectiveness and benefits of this technology." (AgWeb.com)

October 2, 2001

"Chronic pain sufferers finding it harder to get OxyContin" - "COLUMBUS, Ohio - Sally Royster cried when her orthopedic surgeon told her that he would no longer prescribe OxyContin for the chronic back pain that leaves her unable to walk. She was told prescriptions for the drug were under too much scrutiny.

Sheila Lambert sent the medical history of her degenerative spinal disease to 25 doctors and phoned 100 others but all said they weren't taking new patients or didn't take pain patients. "If they hear you have been on OxyContin they treat you like an addict," said Lambert of Jonesville, Va.

Across the country, chronic pain sufferers like Royster, 50, and Lambert, 41, are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain the powerful prescription painkiller, dubbed "Hillbilly Heroin" because of its burgeoning abuse as a narcotic in Appalachia.

They say that abuse - and the response to it by lawmakers and law enforcers - has made doctors increasingly unwilling to provide the drug, even to the cancer patients and chronic pain sufferers who need it." (AP)

See Steve Milloy's column: Scare-Mongering Over 'Hillybilly Heroin' Deprives the Rest of Us

"Vaccine preservative removed from supplies as scientists study possible link with childhood disorders" - "WASHINGTON - Scientists are still unable to determine if there is a link between a mercury-containing preservative used in some vaccines and disorders such as autism in children, the National Academy of Sciences said Monday. The ingredient, thimerosal, has been removed from most vaccines and the academy said that, despite the lack of proof that it is a hazard, prudence dictates that steps be taken to further reduce its use." (AP)

"MMR shot not linked to 'regressive' autism: study" - "NEW YORK, Oct 01 - There is no link between a subtype of autism and a vaccine recommended as part of the standard immunization schedule, according to a new report.

Autism is characterized by difficulty with communication and other social interactions, as well as repetitive, stereotyped patterns of activities and interests. It typically appears during the first 3 years of life and affects somewhere between 1 in 500 to 1 in 1,000 children, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Some researchers have proposed that a form of autism marked by regression in development and gastrointestinal symptoms, known as autistic enterocolitis, is brought on by the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine." (Reuters Health)

"Women sue over pill" - "The families of more than 100 women are set to sue the makers of the third generation contraceptive pill. They say they were not warned of the potential side effects. Lawyers representing the families of 122 women announced on Monday that they were taking three pharmaceutical companies to the High Court in London. They claim the third generation pill caused these women to develop blood clots which led to long-term damage to their health, and in around 10% of cases proved fatal. However, the pharmaceutical companies have rejected suggestions that the third generation pill is slightly riskier than its predecessors." (BBC Online)

"'Timebomb' of inactive children" - "Almost half of all children say that schoolwork is more important than taking exercise - and experts say this could harm them later on. A nationwide Mori poll examined the attitudes of seven to 16-year-olds towards physical activity. This age group has already been branded a "couch-potato generation" as computer games and television take the place of sports and games. They found 49% of those questioned said that study was a higher priority than getting exercise." (BBC Online)

"Psychosocial factors contribute to development of asthma in genetically at-risk children, study finds" - "ROCHESTER, MINN. -- A new prospective study finds that early parenting difficulties are associated with the development of asthma in genetically at-risk children between the ages of six and eight. The study in which Mayo Clinic participated, appears in the October issue of Pediatrics.

Asthma is an allergic condition that causes labored breathing and can be life-threatening. It is the most common chronic illness of childhood, according to an article on MayoClinic.com. Its prevalence has risen sharply in inner-city children over the past decade. One in nine children now has the condition." (Mayo Clinic) | NJMRC release

"Just Whose Agendas Are Being Served Here?" - "Richmond's School Board, City Council, and many private citizens have spent the better part of a year in a petty, squalid argument over the safety of children at two public schools, Norrell and Whitcomb Court. What began with reasonable concern festered into acrimony and slander. The pointless mess has cost the taxpayers more than $100,000, and it has cost Richmond a City Councilman who would have brought to that body much-needed thoughtfulness and integrity.

The complaints originally centered on alleged ailments allegedly caused by the alleged leakage of methane from old landfills near the schools. The use of "alleged" is not intended to minimize any suffering or fear. But no correlation has been demonstrated. A report by KCI Technologies, released in June, said methane levels never reached even one-tenth of the level that could be considered potentially unsafe." (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

"UK Food Watchdog: Price Decisive For 46% Of Consumers" - "LONDON -- Almost half of U.K. consumers polled by the Food Standards Agency consider price the most important factor influencing their groceries shopping, the government food watchdog said Monday. Around 46% of 1,003 consumers polled by the FSA in September said price was way ahead of other factors when it came to their food shopping, the FSA said. Price is especially important for consumers aged 35-44 years, the FSA added. After price, the top factor for 18% of consumers was taste, followed by quality for 17%, personal and family health for 12% and production methods - organic or free range - for 10%." (Dow Jones Newswires)

"High infection rate in organic chickens" - "Organic broiler chickens are three times as likely as conventionally-bred poultry to be contaminated with a bacterium that causes food-poisoning, say Danish vets. The team at the Danish Veterinary Laboratory in Aarhus found that all 22 organic broiler flocks they investigated were infected with Campylobacter - the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK. Only one third of 79 conventional broilerhouses were infected. "The organic movement is sound, but this is unwelcome news," says Karl Pedersen, who supervised the project." (New Scientist)

"Trade: The Best Way to Protect the Environment" - "Congress will soon consider H.R. 2149, the Trade Promotion Authority Act of 2001. Trade promotion authority (TPA) enhances the President's ability to negotiate trade agreements by restricting agreements negotiated by the Administration to a straight up or down vote in Congress. TPA is important because it reassures America's trading partners that deals struck with America's trade negotiators will not be undone through congressional amendment. Without such assurances, many countries are unwilling to negotiate with the United States.

One of the greatest challenges facing passage of TPA is concern among some Members of Congress that free trade creates a "race to the bottom" in environmental protection. Nothing could be further from the truth. Poor nations cannot afford to value environmental protection more highly than such basic goods as food or health care. If poor nations are to increase environmental protection, they must first increase their wealth. Free trade is a necessary component in catalyzing economic growth. Therefore, free trade is critical in providing the economic means that will enable countries to adopt measures that enhance their protection of the environment." (Heritage Foundation)

"Global Warming Facts, Consensus Melt Away" - "The exaggeration over the supposed scientific consensus on the human cause of global warming continues, even as the evidence that the underlying data supposedly proving a human connection melts away." (Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas, Tech Central Station)

"Danish Scientist Claims Kyoto Treaty Useless" - "The earth's environment is steadily improving. Global warming is nothing much to worry about. The real danger is the Kyoto Treaty, which will cost far too much and do almost no good. These are the ideas of a Danish professor and former Greenpeace activist who has written a book titled, "The Skeptical Environmentalist." The book, which has recently been published in English, is causing outrage in the environmental community." (VOA News) | Capitol Hill Briefing Oct. 4th to Highlight Findings by "The Skeptical Environmentalist." [invitation from CEI]

"Increased Hunting Proposed to Save Arctic Tundra" - "WASHINGTON, DC, October 1, 2001 - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to increase hunting of snow geese and other small geese to help halt their destructive population boom. Vast flocks of geese are now overgrazing their fragile Arctic tundra breeding habitat, and for the past several years, wildlife managers have depended on hunters to help control their numbers." (ENS)

"ICELANDIC WEATHER SYSTEM HELPS DECIPHER CHANGES IN THE ARCTIC ICE PUZZLE" - "Largely natural "ups and downs" in a weather system centered near Iceland have contributed to regional variations and an overall decrease in Arctic sea ice cover over the last twenty years, according to new NASA research." (NASA/GSFC)

Pre-CoP7 hype: "Seychelles under threat" - "The Seychelles, a group of volcanic islands in the Indian Ocean, are home to several unique species of bird and animal life. In recent years, the islands have experienced a steady rise in temperature, which, as the BBC's Rita Payne found out, is now posing a serious threat to the country's environment." (BBC Online)

"Canadian provinces holding the country back from reducing emissions" - "A lack-lustre response by Canadian provinces to the needs of tackling climate change is causing the country to renege on its international obligations, with Alberta in particular criticised for its unswerving commitment to fossil fuels. The report, Provincial Government Performance on Climate Change 2001, published by environmental policy think-tank the Pembina Institute, covers five Canadian provinces: Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Québec and Saskatchewan, which account for 89% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. All five provinces have produced almost no new climate change policies since 1990, the result of a lack of political will, says the Institute." (Edie News)

"Companies announce first ever greenhouse gas transaction under new emissions scheme" - "The science company, DuPont and energy trading company, MIECO Inc. have announced the first-ever transaction of greenhouse gas emissions allowances under the UK’s newly developed trading scheme, instantly boosting the system, which will not even be formally launched until April 2002." (Edie News)

"Greenhouse gas trading simulation needs companies to participate" - "A new round of on-line greenhouse gas emissions trading simulations, taking place between 1-8 November, requires companies to participate in order to give them an insight into how a future emissions trading regime might work, and what the ramifications of it might be." (Edie News)

"Peabody Energy Appoints Dr. Craig Idso As Director - Environmental Science" - "ST. LOUIS, Oct. 1 -- Peabody Energy announced today that Craig D. Idso has been named director - environmental science, reporting to Vice President - Environment and Technology John M. Wootten.

Idso will be responsible for the application of environmental science to Peabody's activities related to the environmental impacts of coal use and the management of coal combustion emissions and by-products, with an emphasis on carbon sinks, carbon sequestration and energy efficiency. Peabody is a strong proponent of continued improvement in emissions from coal-based generation, development and deployment of clean coal technologies, and advancement of climate change research and carbon sequestration efforts." (PRNewswire)

"Foreign sand spreading acid: experts" - "A yellow sand that blows into Japan from deserts in China and Mongolia each spring is carrying massive volumes of acid gases that may cause long-term soil depletion, researchers at the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, said Sunday.

The sand is said to absorb acid gases and carry them far distances to foreign lands. The annual volume of sand-borne acid gas hitting Japan is equivalent to the nitrogen oxide emitted from 700,000 passenger cars, the team said." (Japan Times)

"Fusion power 'within reach'" - "Fusion power is "within reach", according to atomic scientists in the UK." - "Fusion is the form of nuclear energy that powers the stars. Although, it has many advantages over conventional nuclear power, it has been technically difficult to develop. The best approach appears to be to confine a superhot gas, called a plasma, in a magnetic field. Some success has been achieved this way using huge experimental fusion reactors. But now, according to United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) scientists, making smaller versions of the same equipment may be technically easier, cheaper and swifter to develop. The most recent experiments show promise, they claim." (BBC Online)

BBC News Online science editor, Dr David Whitehouse, wisely maintains his distance from this one with appropriate use of the weasel terms like "could"; "might" and; "they claim" - so would I.

"Molecule may destroy tumors" - "WASHINGTON -- Scientists have developed a molecule that appears to make cancer its own worst enemy. In laboratory tests on mice, the molecule -- called icon -- killed tumors by destroying the blood vessels that feed them. It also caused the cancers to produce copies of icon, which spread through the body and attacked other cancers. The process eliminated human melanoma and prostate cancers in the tested mice. The first trials in people are planned for next year." (AP)

"Prevent soil erosion by less ploughing, FAO urges" - "LISBON - The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) yesterday urged farmers to help prevent soil erosion by stopping conventional ploughing and using more sustainable practices instead." (Reuters)

"New US Supreme Court case gives agbiotech the jitters" - "On Wednesday, October 3, the US Supreme Court will hear a patent case that could shake the nation's biotech industry to its roots. The case revolves around a David-like figure who is challenging one of the Goliaths of the genetically engineered seed industry. The outcome could make biotech patents in general much easier to challenge.

Technically, the Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether sexually reproduced plants are patentable subject matter under US law. If Goliath loses, the decision could overturn the precedent-setting 1980 case, Diamond v. Chakrabarty, on which companies have relied in seeking patents for biotech products." (BioMedNet News)

"GM food products can save lives" - "Genetic manipulation of food products provokes strong emotions whenever the subject is discussed. So far, this discussion has mainly taken place in Europe and North America, and for too long it has been portrayed as a conflict between commercial interests and consumer interests." (Gro Harlem Brundtland, Manilla Bulletin)

"'Exporting Fear': The Influence of European and North American NGOs and Institutions Upon The Development of Brazilian Biotechnology" - "Paper presented at the II Congresso Brasileiro de Bioseguranca / II Simposio Latin Americano de Produtos Transgenicos; 27 September 2001, Salvador, Brazil." (John Conroy , Freelance Television Producer)

"Government OKs Biotech Cotton" - "WASHINGTON - The government has decided against requiring farmers to cut back on planting cotton that is genetically engineered to produce its own pesticide.

Environmentalists are worried that insects are going to become resistant to the crop`s pesticide, which also is an ingredient in sprays used by organic farmers.

But the Environmental Protection Agency (news - web sites) said Monday there is no evidence that such resistance is developing. Requiring farmers to reduce their use of the crop ``would result in unacceptable economic losses`` and lead to more use of chemical insecticides, the agency said." (AP)

"Federal govt under fire for gene job" - "The Federal Government has sparked an angry reaction from green groups, after appointing a former biotechnology advocate to the position of Gene Technology Regulator. Dr Sue Meek, who currently works for the Western Australian Commerce and Trade Department, will take up her new job in December, replacing the acting regulator, Liz Cain. As Gene Technology Regulator, Dr Meek will be responsible for granting licences to trial genetically modified crops. But Greens Senate candidate and former chair of the Organic Farmers Federation, Scott Kinnear, says Dr Meek is inappropriate for the job, because she's long promoted gene technology." | Minister defends Meek appointment (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Unclear signals on GM trials alarm business and science" - "Like pioneers in a new land, New Zealanders await this month's Government decision on genetic modification not sure whether the order will be to circle the wagons or ride hopefully forward.

It is two months since the royal commission on genetic modification suggested the country should proceed cautiously with the technology it dubbed the next frontier of civilisation.

Since then industry and science have become increasingly concerned by signals from Government ministers that their voluntary moratorium on field trials could become a more permanent fixture." (New Zealand Herald)

"Americans Choose Benefits, Not Fear" - "Americans don't scare easily. Despite the anti-consumer-choice forces' efforts to frighten people away from genetically improved foods, "most Americans are not concerned about food safety, according to the results of a new study," Scientific American reports.

In the North Carolina State University study, two-thirds of those surveyed said they would choose genetically improved foods "to resist pesticides or be more nutritious." In fact, most people considered food spoilage a bigger concern than genetic improvement. "Biotechnology is simply not an issue of concern for the vast majority of U.S. consumers," the report concludes. "In fact, most U.S. consumers are looking forward to the benefits that biotechnology will provide in the future." (GuestChoice.com)

"Genetic Modification Taints Corn in Mexico" - "In a finding that has taken researchers by surprise and alarmed environmentalists, the Mexican government has discovered that some of the country's native corn varieties have been contaminated with genetically engineered DNA.

The contaminated seeds were collected from a region considered to be the world's center of diversity for corn — exactly the kind of repository of genetic variation that environmentalists and many scientists had hoped to protect from contamination. The result was unexpected because genetically modified corn, the presumed source of the foreign genes, has not been approved for commercial planting in Mexico." (New York Times)

"Transplants From Pigs to People" - "Scientists have hoped for nearly 100 years that they will one day be able to replace people's failing tissues and organs with transplants from animals. Gale Scott spoke with a physician and a veterinary research scientist about the implications of research in human-to-animal transplantation, known as xenotransplantation. Following are edited excerpts from the interviews." (New York Times)

October 1, 2001

"When a car's tailpipe is more lethal than a car crash" - "Global warming may be too remote for the general public to get worked up about, but illnesses such as asthma and heart disease really hit home. Now environmentalists say we should tackle the two together, Martin Mittelstaedt reports" (Globe and Mail)

Mittelstaedt flag-waves Devra Lee Davis' bizarre claims (the greatest surprise about which was that they were published in Science: "Hidden Health Benefits of Greenhouse Gas Mitigation" [Luis Cifuentes, Victor H. Borja-Aburto, Nelson Gouveia, George Thurston, Devra Lee Davis. Science 293, 1257-1259] click here for the article in PDF (166Kb)). He leads into this with simplistic claims about the Atlanta Olympics and asthma incidence but, to the best of my knowledge, no one has managed to determine whether there was any real change in reported asthma incidence or whether people were simply less inclined to present for treatment in other than life-threatening circumstance because they were too busy watching the games.

Asthma incidence is rising in the developed regions - the very regions where air quality has improved so dramatically over the last century and particularly over recent decades. If we took a similarly simplistic perspective we could conclude that asthma incidence is inversely proportional to air pollution load.

"Vitamin C put out in the cold" - "Dosing up on vitamin C does not cure the common cold, according to Australian National University research out today.

ANU Visiting Fellow Professor Robert Douglas and colleagues at ANU's National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health concluded taking high doses of vitamin C would not lower the duration or severity of cold symptoms in healthy Australian adults. The results are published in The Medical Journal of Australia today." (Canberra Times)

'Healthier' and 'safer' organic? - "Danish vets have found that all 22 flocks of organic chickens they tested were infected with the food-poisoning bacterium Campylobacter, compared with a third of broiler flocks. They think the reason is that organic chickens spend more time in the open and are killed later, giving them a greater chance of catching the disease from wild animals and birds." (The Times) [Scroll down to 2nd item]

"Spiders' guts 'a danger to eyes'" - "BRISBANE: Squashing spiders can be a health hazard, a poisons expert warns. If the venom doesn't get you, the guts could." (Canberra Times)

"Scientists to Check on Antarctica Ice for Warming" - "WELLINGTON, New Zealand - Scientists tracking the effect of global warming on Antarctica's vast ice sheets will next week launch a seven-year research program seeking clues to how much ice could melt if temperatures continue to rise.

The Antarctica Drilling Consortium (ANDRILL) program is to start during the South Pole summer research season, which gets underway with the first summer flight to the U.S. base at McMurdo Sound Tuesday.

If Antarctica lost its ice, ocean levels would rise as much as 65 meters (211 feet) and scientists want to know what happened last time a similar bout of global warming occurred 20 million years ago, ANDRILL scientist Tim Naish said Monday." (Reuters)

Maybe, maybe not. The continental configuration was rather dissimilar 20 million years ago and the North Polar ice cap didn't even exist then. Most likely, neither did the Greenland ice shield since North Polar cooling to this extent is believed to have occurred as recently as 2-3 million years ago following the ascension of the Isthmus of Panama, prior to which significantly different oceanic currents facilitated far greater equatorial heat transport to the Arctic Sea. Continental drift has changed the world greatly over the last 20 million years and there is near-zero likelihood of a return to past conditions under any circumstance.

Pre-CoP7 hype and fear-mongering book promo: "Crash effort pushed on alternative fuels" - "In "The Coming Storm," novelist and onetime Chicago Tribune reporter Bob Reiss tackles the ultimate hot topic--global warming. In his chilling expose on the potential for human-induced meteorological catastrophes, he writes that many scientists believe that, in the next 50 years, "we may push the planet across a critical threshold to a point where the atmosphere will violently change, causing rising seas, a surge in tropical diseases, mass migration from destabilized Third World countries [and] killer heat waves." (Chicago Tribune)

"Scientists launch project replicating impact of greenhouse gases" - "CSIRO scientists are embarking on a project designed to simulate the effects of greenhouse gases on the environment in the coming 50 years. A scientist from CSIRO's Davies Laboratory in Townsville has joined forces with Queensland Nickel's Yabulu refinery for the Free-Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment Project (FACE). Dr Andrew Ash says flooding study areas with levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) which are predicted to be present, may help identify just how much of an effect rising greenhouse gas levels will have on coastal savannah ecosystems. Dr Ash also says there is some information already about increased growth in plants subjected to higher levels of CO2 in glasshouse experiments, and applying that to a real ecosystem is the next step." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Knee-jerk rejection of GM foods could be an own goal for economy" - "Johannesburg - South Africa should avoid getting embroiled in an emotional debate over the use of biotechnologies such as genetically modified (GM) foods, says futurologist Wolfgang Grulke. Grulke, the chief executive of the Future World consultancy, said this week bio and other new technologies represented a massive business opportunity for the country in the long term." (Business Reporter)