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archives - october 1999

October 31, 1999

subliminal propaganda of the day: "Global Economy Slowly Cuts Use of High-Carbon Energy" - The underlying message of this front-page New York Times article by global warming afficianando William K. Stevens is that the goals of the Kyoto Protocol can be achieved painlessly. The enviros hope this message will lull the Senate into ratifying an economically regressive treaty built on hot air.

progress of the day: from manufacturing jobs to janitorial jobs to what? "Progress in Pittsfield" - This Boston Globe editorial hails an agreement between the EPA and GE calling for GE to spend $750 million to clean the Housatonic River. The editorial mentions the loss of 14,000 jobs from the GE complex in Pittsfield, MA. But not to worry. GE's $750 million will certainly employ thousands in the clean-up of two miles of river. Aside from wasting a vast sum of money on the greatly exaggerated threat of PCBs, the problem is that when the clean-up is over, what will Pittsfield do for jobs?

"New Pollution Reporting Rules Set" - The Washington Post reports, "President Clinton announced plans yesterday to tighten environmental reporting rules by requiring firms that handle even relatively small quantities of certain toxic materials to provide fuller public disclosure when they discharge potentially dangerous chemicals into the air or water... The new regulations, for the first time, cover dioxin, a dangerous byproduct of many industrial processes--including waste incineration and chemical and pesticide manufacturing. Under the new requirements, firms that produce as little as a tenth of a gram of dioxin a year would be required to report potentially dangerous discharges to the public." Click here for Reuters coverage. Click here for MSNBC coverage.

"UCLA increases campus security following threats by anti-biotechnology group" - UCLS's Daily Bruin reports, "Officials at universities and research centers nationwide were concerned this week after receiving threats by the anti-biotechnology group Reclaim the Seeds. Although UCLA was not specifically targeted in the e-mail forwarded to hundreds of life science researchers, the group is tied to numerous alleged domestic terrorist activities and has a track record of major damage to other universities. UCPD is taking security precautions in response to the threats... 'Reclaim the Seeds believes that bioengineering is wrong,' said Jeffrey Tufenkian, a spokesman for Genetix Alert, the media organization responsible for publicizing Reclaim the Seeds' 'Call to Action,'. 'It brings about untold problems like super pests and super weeds which result in genetic pollution.'"

"The Week That Was October 30, 1999" - The weekly update from the Science and Environmental Policy Project.

"Melanoma is on the march" - The Sunday Tasmanian reports, "Melanoma skin cancer is increasing at a faster rate in Tasmania than anywhere else in Australia, a surgeon's meeting in Launceston heard yesterday... 'Many believe that because it is cold and cloudy they don't need sunscreen but the hole in the ozone is largest over Tasmania -- increasing the risk even further.'"

"EU Restricts U.S. Horse Imports Due To Disease" - Reuters reports, "The European Union announced Friday restrictions on the import of horses from the United States following this summer's deadly outbreak of West Nile Fever (WNF). At least five people have died in the United States due to the virus, which is carried by mosquitoes and birds and which can kill humans and horses."

"Millennium Generation Could Live To 120 - Report" - Reuters reports, "The next millennium generation of children could start school at three, launch their own businesses at 20 and live until the age of 120, a leading British think-tank said Saturday."

"Global Warming Likely To Be Beneficial, Study Reports" - "Government officials have declared repeatedly that global climate change science is 'settled' and 'compelling.' Yet, a new report released by the Center for the Study of American Business at Washington University finds that increased global warming is likely to be minor and even beneficial."

"Inside the violent world of the global protesters" - The News Unlimited reports, "Global capitalism is bracing itself for the battle of the millennium as anarchists and eco-warriors build on the success of the City riot and use the Internet to raise the stakes of direct action..."

"Cancer increase blamed on Mafia's toxic dumping" - The Daily Telegraph reports, "Toxic waste dumped by the Mafia is creating an environmental catastrophe in the southern Italian region of Campania."

October 30, 1999

media release of the day: "Previously Sealed FBI Investigation Exposes The Real Truth Behind the Movie 'The Insider'" - "Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation said today that a previously sealed FBI investigation uncovered by the news media 'has now exposed the truth behind the soon to be released film 'The Insider' and shows that the government's key witness lied to federal agents and fabricated death threats. 'The question now,' said Brown & Williamson, 'is how can Disney continue to promote a film based on fabrications and lies?'

admission of defeat of the day: "Appeals Court Statement by EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner" - Carol Browner admits losing this round of the legal battle of the air quality standards. Click here for yesterday's appellate court decision. Click here for Chicago Tribune coverage. Click here for Associated Press coverage.

"EU scientists reject French claims against British beef" - The Associated Press reports, "Britain won a major victory over France on Friday when European Union scientists rejected French claims that a ban on British beef exports is needed to prevent the further spread of mad-cow disease."

"Strong early support for tobacco control treaty" - Reuters reports, "Health officials from more than 100 countries expressed firm support for an international treaty to control tobacco during preliminary negotiations which ended on Friday, the Finnish chairman of the talks said."

"Study Links Radiation Exposure to Non-Cancer Disease Deaths" - "New evidence indicates that radiation exposure leads to serious health problems other than cancer, says a new report from the Radiation Effects Research Foundation. The foundation is a private, nonprofit organization supported by the government of Japan, through its ministry of health and welfare, and by the U.S. government, through the National Academy of Sciences under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy."

"The Governmental Composition of the Insurance Costs of Smoking" - Kip Viscusi reports in The Journal of Law and Economics (University of Chicago Press, October 1999), "The estimated health risks from smoking have significant external financial consequences for society. Studies at the national level indicate that cigarettes are self-financing since external costs such as those due to illnesses are offset by cost savings associated with premature death, chiefly pension costs. This paper extends this analysis to all 50 states and considers the costs considered in the state attorneys general suits against the cigarette industry. Cigarettes are always self-financing from the standpoint of costs to each state. The extent of the cost savings is less than at the federal level. However, smokers' higher medical costs are outweighed by reduced nursing home expenditures, lower pension costs, and excise taxes, where each of these factors alone usually exceeds the medical cost effect."

commentary of the day I: "PETA shows its colors " - The Boston Herald reports, "Why some people continue to treat People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as a worthy cause is a mystery. By condoning terrorism, PETA has lost any claim to respectability."

commentary of the day II: "The Tarnished Image of Dr. Koop" - The Chicago Tribune editorializes, "Dr. C. Everett Koop was the first U.S. surgeon general Americans knew by name. Sadly, it's a name that has lost a good bit of its luster lately."

"Eco-terrorism escalating, study finds" - MSNBC reports, "Arsons, bombings and sabotage in the name of saving the environment and its creatures have swept the American West over the last two decades. At least 100 major acts of such violence have occurred since 1980, causing $42.8 million in damages, an examination of hundreds of crimes in 11 contiguous Western states revealed."

"Frankenfood debate moves into grocery store aisles" - The Canadian Broadcasting Company reports, "Protesters entered a Loblaw's grocery store Thursday night, demanding genetically engineered food come off the shelves. They want Canada to adopt a British system that spells out which products contain genetically altered foods. And until the federal government adopts such standards, say protesters, the food should come off the shelves."

"Testing, testing" - The Guardian reports, "His forthright statements on BSE and genetically modified food have worried colleagues and enraged journalists. But the government's chief scientific adviser will not be deflected from his pursuit of hard fact, whatever the political fallout. Ed Douglas on [Sir Robert May,] the plain-talking Australian who has the prime minister's ear."

"Campaigners target 'harmful pesticides' " - The BBC reports, "An environmental pressure group is launching a campaign to ban produce sprayed with pesticides linked to the damage of human hormone production."

"Q&A: How safe is our meat?" - From the BBC: "As polemics fly about British beef and French farmers' use of feedstuffs containing waste matter, BBC environment correspondents Robert Pigott and Alex Kirby look at the health issues behind the war of words."

"Arguments in favour of genetically-modified crops" - Ben Miflin writes, "Genetic modification (GM) of crops, like any other new technology, should be viewed in the light of what has gone before. Mankind has been manipulating the genetics of crops for around 10,000 years. Wheat, the world’s major crop, is a hybrid of different species. It probably arose from a rare natural occurrence but has subsequently been maintained artificially."

October 29, 1999

i need you: Volunteers needed to test new Internet search engine - E-mail me if you are interested in testing out a new Internet search engine.

judicial ruling of the day: Federal appeals court rules on EPA air quality standards - The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upholds the nondelegation doctrine (i.e., Congress can make law, not the EPA) and says it will apply to the EPA's air quality standards. Imagine that the Constitution even applies to the EPA!

Halloween junk science: "Safety tips for trick-or-treaters" - "Tips" from the San Diego Division of the California Poison Control System. But check out these links:

  • "Holiday mischief: Statistical myths are nothing to celebrate" STATS reports, "California researchers Joel Best and Gerald Horiuchi have studied national criminal data going back to 1958, and have and only 76 reports of any kind of [Halloween candy] tampering. Most of these have turned out to be mistaken or fraudulent."

  • "Trick or Treat from the CDC" - From Halloween 1997, find out why dressing up as an epidemiologist from the CDC makes for a great Halloween costume.

junk journalism of the day: "Wealthier, wiser -- but healthier?" - MSNBC resident bonehead Francesca Lyman attempts to blame breast cancer on "everyday household products, such as lawn chemicals and solvents used in dry cleaning." Too bad the basis is an inherently flawed cluster analysis by the Silent Spring Institute, a group of Rachel Carson worshippers. Lyman's report features the National Cancer Institute's Shiela Zahm (the Inspector Javert of 2,4-D) and Ted Schettler, author of a recent anti-chemical report by the Greenpeace-funded, Health Care Without Harm. In the end, the report is just another one of Lyman's anti-chemical hatchet jobs. Others include:

scare of the day: "Mad Deer Disease: Can Venison Kill You?" - Outdoor Life reports, "A fatal brain disease is spreading in deer and elk... and hunters are dying from a very similar illness."

"Koop Criticized for Role in Warning on Hospital Gloves" - Poor Dr. Koop.

"Dow AgroSciences Comments on Preliminary EPA Risk Assessment" - "It has come to our attention that a group of activists has been attempting to mischaracterize a preliminary EPA risk assessment on our insect control product chlorpyrifos. This group is apparently contacting news organizations in an effort to generate publicity. The documents this group is attempting to draw attention to are preliminary and have been made available by EPA for public comment during the next 60 days. Our review of this preliminary assessment has found both numerous errors and omissions of critical data which skew the assessment's findings and artificially inflate its estimates of risk." Click here for ABC News coverage.

"Study says global climate could change quickly" - The Associated Press reports, "Soaring temperatures abruptly ended an ice age that gripped the Earth for thousands of years, according to new findings that suggest the world's climate can change in just a few decades."

"Helicobacter pylori infection and early onset myocardial infarction: case-control and sibling pairs study" - The British Medical Journal reports, "these two studies suggest a moderate association between coronary heart disease and H pylori seropositivity that cannot be fully accounted for by other risk factors." If true, this weak association study may have significant impacts on the weak association epidemiology that links smoking and secondhand smoke exposure to heart disease.

"'Hidden BSE' test could embarrass Britain " - The Guardian reports, "The only country to test dead cattle for "hidden BSE" has found more cases than had previously been evident in its national herd, it was revealed last night. Trials in Switzerland since March have uncovered early signs of the fatal condition in 18 cows that had not displayed traditional symptoms before they were slaughtered."

"EC extends hormone ban for milk " - The Guardian reports, "The European commission has extended its ban on a package of artificial hormones to boost cow milk production because of harm to the animals and possible risks to human health."

"Leukaemia may begin in womb" - The Guardian reports, "Most cases of childhood leukaemia start in the womb, according to research published in the Lancet today which raises the possibility that they may be preventable."

"British hopes on beef dashed as scientists fail to agree" - The Independent reports, "Scientists were deadlocked last night over their crucial report into British beef, dashing government hopes of a clear verdict in Britain's favour when the food safety committee rules later today."

"Warning Signs" - "The hottest weekly commentary to be found on the Internet, pulling no punches as Alan Caruba points out environmental lies and liars, political pandering, food police nutcases, animal rights lunatics, and the entire managerie of mis-information and dis-information."

"Green groups threaten to sue AEP over coal plants" - Reuters reports, "More than a dozen environmental groups said Wednesday they plan to sue American Electric Power Co. for failing to install better pollution control technology on coal-burning plants when the plants were upgraded." Hmmm, I wonder if the greenie Pew Center for Climate Change will help AEP out -- since AEP is a member of its business leadership council.

"Brent Spar radioactive waste heading for Britain" - Reuters reports, "Low level radioactive waste from the Brent Spar offshore oil installation is coming to Britain from Norway, Britain's Environment Agency said on Thursday."

USA Today debate: Teen smoking - USA Today says states are soft-pedalling efforts to keep teens from smoking. Dr. Gregg C. Sylvester, secretary of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, offers a defense of sorts.

"Tobacco ad ban setback" - The BBC reports, "Tobacco companies have succeeded in blocking the UK Government's moves to ban their advertising without waiting for a European court ruling on whether or not the ban was lawful."

October 28, 1999

Karpatkin-think of the day: One Confused Consumer: Rhoda Karpatkin on the Environment - From ConsumerDistorts.com: "Rhoda Karpatkin is the president of Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports. But what are we to make of someone who oversees the testing of toasters and the advocacy of environmental policy? You be the judge. Check out today's Karpatkin-think, excerpted from Rhoda's essay in the November 1996 issue of Advancing the Consumer Interest."

study of the day: "New study claims data on pollutants worldwide are unreliable, and that some may be less--or more--harmful than thought" - A study in Nature led by EPA whistleblower David Lewis reports, "Much of the information on pollution world-wide is flawed at best and could be entirely wrong, according to a just-published study, led by a visiting scientist at the University of Georgia. The consequences of this oversight are beginning to threaten public health and the environment,... 'The good news is that many environmental pollutants including some DDT derivatives, PCBs and plasticizers aren't as bad as previously thought.'"

junk commentary of the day: "The Real Skinny on Health" - The Los Angeles Times editorializes that Americans are "dangerously fat" -- a comment emanating from this week's focus on obesity in the Journal of the American Medical Association. While being overweight may be undesirable for a number of reasons, Americans aren't eating themselves to death. Despite the prevalence of pear shapes, pot bellies, multiple chins, flabby arms, and thunder thighs, the fact remains that U.S. life expectancy is ever-increasing. It may be that if people took better care of themselves, average life expectancy would increase by even more. But a less than optimum increase in life expectancy hardly constitutes a public health calamity.

food/biotech round-up:

  • "Europeans polled on eco-concerns; Genetically modified foods rank lower than pollution" - MSNBC reports, "Europeans worry more about issues like air and water pollution than the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), according to a new survey. When asked to rank nine environmental issues in order of seriousness, Europeans ranked concern over GMOs as their equal lowest priority, according to the survey for the European Commission."
  • "Environmentalists, Consumers to Stage Rally Against Genetically Engineered Foods" - "Friends of the Earth will hold a press conference and rally to raise consumer awareness about the potential dangers of unlabeled, untested GE foods... As Halloween approaches, Friends of the Earth's Safer Foods, Safer Farms Campaign will introduce its "Frankenfood Monster" and publicly call upon Safeway to go "GE-free" in its own line of products, showing the same consideration to its U.S. customers as its patrons in the UK."

  • "EU says to make beef hormone proposal by Seattle" - Reuters reports, "The European Union will propose how it plans to comply with a World Trade Organization ruling against its beef hormone ban before the launch of a new round of trade talks in late November, an EU official said on Wednesday."

  • "Farmers' Tunnel blockade inflames beef war" - The Times reports, "The food war with France was running out of politicians' control last night as French farmers blockaded the Channel Tunnel, delaying British lorries as they reached the Continent."

  • "Brussels presses for peace in beef dispute" - The Independent reports, "Tony Blair asked the president of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, yesterday to intervene with the French government in the worsening Anglo-French beef war, amid signs that a crucial meeting of EU scientists today will not resolve the crisis."

  • "Blair accused of U-turn on GM crop programme" - The Independent reports, "The Government was accused of a U-turn over genetically modified crops yesterday because ministers are expected to ban their release for the next three years."

  • "Blair urges reason over GM food" - Reuters reports, "Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday said Britain could not afford to give up its position at the cutting edge of biotechnology by succumbing to scaremongering about genetically modified food."

  • "EU assembly calls for rethink on GM food labels" - Reuters reports, "The European Parliament called on Wednesday for changes to a controversial new law on which foods must be labelled as containing genetically modified (GM) ingredients."

global warming round-up:

"Schools: Environmental Smoke" - The Detroit News comments, "The 'environmental justice' movement’s lack of agitation in getting coal furnaces removed from Detroit schools reveals that the movement is more concerned with politics."

"Animal rights extremists target scientists" - The Associated Press reports, "A group of animal rights extremists has allegedly sent threatening letters booby-trapped with razor blades to six Harvard University scientists. Scientists working elsewhere across the country also have been targeted."

"Health Care Without Harm: Greenpeace Test Results Confirm Need for Phase-Out of PVC Medical Products " - "Today, Greenpeace released test results of medical devices from several countries for a toxic plasticizer known as di-ethylhexyl-phthalate (DEHP)."

"Quebecers will be forced to quit smoking in public" - Reuters reports, "Quebecers, renowned for their love of tobacco, will soon have to butt out in restaurants and at the workplace, the Quebec government said on Tuesday."

"Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids Letter to Philip Morris CEO Geoffrey Bible" - Anti-tobacco groups tell Philip Morris, "It's our way or the highway."

"Physicians for Social Responsibility: Radioactive Waste Storage at Yucca Mountain is Public Health Gamble" - PSR claims, ""he Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) underestimates the dangers associated with storing an unprecedented amount of highly radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain."

"Green activists face crackdown in Russia" - The Globe and Mail reports, "Russian police are arresting or interrogating a growing number of environmentalists in a security crackdown that gained momentum after a terrorist scare last month. Activists say police have interrogated at least seven environmentalists in the past two months. At least one of them is still in jail."

"EU Allows Member States To Apply Tighter Green Laws " - The Environment News Network reports, "The European Commission said Wednesday it had for the first time used new powers it gained in May to permit individual European Union member states to maintain higher environmental standards than the EU norm."

October 27, 1999

junk of the day I: "Exercise cuts breast cancer risk by up to 20%" - Reuters reports, "Seven hours of moderate to vigorous exercise per week reduced breast cancer risk by nearly 20% in women between the ages of 30 and 55, report US researchers." But this is yet another weak statistical association based on unverified health data from the perpetual junk science machine known as the Nurses Health Study. Other than garnering headlines, even under the best circumstances, this study is of absolutely no value to any woman concerned about breast cancer. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that the reported result is true. Let's further say that out of every 1,000 women who don't exercise, 30 get breast cancer. Which 30? No one knows. Then using the study results, out of every 1,000 women who exercise, 20 percent fewer, or 24, would get breast cancer. Which 24? Again, no one knows. Each woman, whether she exercised or not, must remain equally concerned and vigilant about breast cancer. Even if the study result is true, it only provides a tangible benefit on a population basis; it's virtually meaningless on an individual basis. Exercise is no "vaccine." Without a doubt, exercise has many health benefits, but researchers should be careful not to give women false hope.

junk of the day II: "Study: Prayer Helps Heart Patients" - The Associated Press reports, "Heart patients who had someone praying over them without their knowledge suffered 10 percent fewer complications, a study found. 'It's potentially a natural explanation we don't understand yet. It's potentially a super- or other-than-natural mechanism,' said William S. Harris, a heart researcher who was lead author of the study."

"New York court dismisses tobacco class action cases" - Reuters reports, "New York state's highest court on Tuesday upheld a lower court's decision to dismiss five class action suits brought against U.S. tobacco companies, in a ruling industry analysts said highlights a trend in pending tobacco cases."

food/biotech round-up:

  • "Animal feed to be given GM labelling" - The Independent reports, "A GM-labelling system is to be introduced for animal feeds sold in Britain to uphold consumers' right to choose, Nick Brown, the Minister of Agriculture, said yesterday."

  • "GM food 'bias' rejected by BBC" - The Times reports, "BBC governors have jumped to the defence of John Humphrys over complaints of bias against genetically modified foods."

  • "Scientists knew of sewage 'feed'" - The Guardian reports, "The government chose not to warn the public to handle, store and cook French meat properly more than two months ago despite their own scientists' concerns about the presence of some sewage sludge in French animal feed. The ministry of agriculture admitted last night it had issued no press or publicity notices advising consumers to make sure they followed hygiene precautions because it considered that people had no need 'to change from current practice'."

  • "Biotech and the Poor" - Per-Pinstrup Andersen comments in the Washington Post, "Condemning biotechnology for its potential risks without considering the alternative risks of prolonging the human misery caused by hunger, malnutrition and child death is as unwise and unethical as blindly pursuing this technology without the necessary biosafety."

  • "Fear of 'Frankenfood'" - The San Francisco Examiner comments, "In the end, the public's attitude toward bio-engineered foods - and the profits of the companies that make and use them - will rest on informed decision-making and scrupulous science. So will our health."

"A code of conduct for NGOs - A necessary reform" - Anthony Adair writes, "There is a 'double standard' operating here under which companies have to meet extremely high public expectations about their economic, environmental and social performance while their chief critics, NGOs, are able to conduct themselves without formal restraint apart from the criminal law and without any requirement for them to show social responsibility."

"The Gulf War mystery" - The Seattle Times editorializes that Gulf War Syndrome hysteria should continue.

"Strange alliances take shape at global warming meet" - Reuters reports, "The United States walks hand-in-hand with Russia. Oil-rich OPEC countries plead imminent impoverishment. Europe castigates a defensive Washington. On Tuesday, only the second day of a 166-nation conference aiming to agree a timetable for promised cuts to the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, an unusual web of relationships and stances was making matters more complex. 'There are all sorts of alliances that take shape. That's what makes this process so frustratingly slow,' said one bemused Australian delegate."

"Carbon credit scheme urged to reduce greenhouse gas" - The Australian Broacasting Corporation reports, "The World Solar Conference in Adelaide is looking at a plan where a fee would be paid on each vehicle, to be used to plant trees to offset the car's emissions."

"EU Mulls Ban On Some Baby Toys On Health Concerns " - Reuters reports, "The European Commission is drawing up plans to ban sales of some baby toys made from PVC softened with chemicals known as phthalates, a spokesman said Tuesday."

"Health Care Without Harm Welcomes ISDE Prescription of PVC Phase-Out in Health Care" - Health Care Without Harm should be renamed Health Scare Without Shame.

"Americans are getting fatter - and fat can kill, studies warn" - The Associated Press reports, "Obesity is a U.S. epidemic that has surged in the last decade. It now affects nearly one in five adults and kills about 300,000 a year, a collection of new studies suggests." Click here for Reuters coverage. Here are the links for the obesity studies in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association:

"Few Gulf War vets receiving disability pay for 'undiagnosed illness,' administration says" - The Associated Press reports the real Gulf War Syndrome apparently is knee injuries.

"Kentucky governor seeks more money for uranium plant cleanup" - The Associated Press reports, "The governor of Kentucky is demanding more federal money and elbow grease to clean up an Energy Department uranium plant that has endangered workers and still threatens the environment."

"The Effect of Air Pollution on Infant Mortality Appears Specific for Respiratory Causes in the Postneonatal Period" - A study in Epidemiology reports, "the effects of air pollution on infant mortality are specific for respiratory causes in the postneonatal period, are independent of socioeconomic factors, and are not mediated by birth weight or gestational age."

"The Impact of Parental Smoking on Asthma and Wheezing" - A study in Epidemiology (November 1999) reports,"15% (95% CI = 12-19) of the current asthma cases among children and 11% (95% CI = 8.3-14) of the current wheezing cases among adolescents are attributable to parental smoking in Italy."

"Exposure to Phenoxy Herbicides and the Risk of Spontaneous Abortion" - A study in Epidemiology (November 1999) reports, "Exposure to phenoxy herbicides during the first trimester was generally not associated with increased risk of spontaneous abortion. The results suggest a possible role of preconception (possibly paternal) exposures to phenoxy herbicides in the risk of early spontaneous abortions."

"Active and Passive Smoking and the Occurrence of Natural Menopause " - A study in Epidemiology (November 1999) reports, "These results suggest that the effect of smoking on ovarian senescence is limited to active smoking during the menopausal transition."

October 26, 1999

Karpatkin-think of the day: One Confused Consumer: Rhoda Karpatkin on the Environment - From ConsumerDistorts.com: "Rhoda Karpatkin is the president of Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports. But what are we to make of someone who oversees the testing of toasters and the advocacy of environmental policy? You be the judge. Check out today's Karpatkin-think, excerpted from Rhoda's essay in the November 1996 issue of Advancing the Consumer Interest."

counter of the day: "Lack of water quality: The toll" - Leading environmentalists have estimated they have effectively blocked around 300 hydroelectric dams in the Third World, denying many millions of poor people the benefits of electricity and clean water, according to Economically Viable Alternative Green (EVAG). Check out how many people have been made ill and have died thanks to anti-development environmentalism. EVAG is the same group that developed the Malaria Clock.

junk of the day I: "Breast cancer study flags lawn pesticides " - USA Today reports, "Researchers seeking clues about the high rate of breast cancer among wealthy women have found potential environmental factors, including professional lawn and dry-cleaning services." A weak association derived from a small study of assumed exposures (use of a lawn service equals pesticide exposure) is not very credible -- especially from the Silent Spring Institute which has an obvious anti-chemical bias.

"Many Blame Landfill for High School's Cancer Rate" - The Los Angeles Times reports, "Teachers, counselors and former students at John H. Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley gave emotional testimony Monday about current and former colleagues who have cancer that the witnesses suspect was caused, at least in part, by toxic gases from a now-closed landfill across the street from the campus... However, Edwin Lowry, the director of the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, said four sites, including Poly, were recently tested and determined to be safe. Angelo Bellomo, a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District environmental team, also testified the district has found no connection between the health problems at the school and the Sheldon-Arleta Landfill that closed in the late 1980s."

MVP voting: "Latest results in Nando MVP voting" - Marie Curie still leads Rachel Carson in Nando's voting for most valuable people of the century. Click here to cast your ballot for Marie Curie -- or anybody but Rachel Carson.

food/biotech round-up:

  • biotech fearmongering of the day: "Genetic Roulette" - Here's the latest advertisement (in PDF format) placed in the New York Times by the anti-biotech mob. Click here for a reality check of the ad's claims.

  • "Attempt at Clarity in Food Labeling Prompts Much Confusion in the U.K." - The Wall Street Journal reports, "It seems simple enough: Let consumers know when they're buying bioengineered food by requiring a label. It's an idea being promoted heavily in the U.S. by groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, and even by some members of Congress. But a trip up and down the supermarket aisles of Britain, which has required such labeling since March, shows the new law hasn't exactly made things easier for discerning shoppers. Rather, it has spawned a bewildering array of marketing claims, counterclaims and outright contradictions that only a food scientist possibly could unravel."

  • commentary of the day I: "Biotech foods: Mankind's best hope" - Fearing Food co-author Roger Bate writes in the San Francisco Examiner, "Biotechnology is the best hope we have of being able to meet the global food demand, which is expected to nearly double in the next 30 to 40 years. The insertion of new genes in Chinese rice hybrids, for instance, has increased the yield 20 percent to 40 percent. Current forms of high-tech agriculture, which fed the last doubling of the population, cannot do it again. Organic agriculture absolutely cannot. Unless we want to plow up more land currently set aside for wildlife, we need to do something different, and soon." Fearing Food can be purchased at the Junkscience.com bookstore.

  • commentary of the day II: "Why GM foods aren't so scary" - David T. Dennis writes in the National Post, "Opponents have raised an alarm over the processes used to create genetically modified foods. But these practices are no less 'natural' than those used in the development of many common food products."

  • "Key data on GMOS in the European Union" - Reuters summarizes " key facts on how the European Union treats the import, growing and labelling of genetically modified crops and foods containing GM ingredients."

  • "SDI to expand range of gene crop tests" - Reuters reports, "Strategic Diagnostics Inc plans to expand its range of tests for detecting genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in crops, an official of its European unit said on Monday."

  • "Wall Street lobbying for Monsanto breakup" - Reuters reports, "Wall Street portfolio managers and analysts are lobbying Monsanto Co. Chief Executive Robert Shapiro to break up the biotechnology and pharmaceutical company, the Wall Street Journal said, citing unnamed sources." With any luck, Shapiro will go with the pharmaceutical company and take his lead-footed, appeasement-oriented leadership with him. Check out this timely Washington Post report.

  • "Company touts new electric process to kill bacteria in food" - The Associated Press reports, "A company says it has developed an electric process that can kill nearly 100 percent of bacteria in meat, vegetables, fruits and other foods."

  • "Britain will not retaliate against France in beef dispute " - Agence France-Presse reports, "The British government sought the moral high ground on Monday in a growing row with France over a ban on British beef and recent disclosures that sewage is used in French animal feed."

global warming round-up:

  • "Global Warming Lecture" - A video lecture by of Dr. Art Robinson.

  • "Kyoto will cost Canada dearly" - The National Post reports, "Canada is in the worst position among developed countries to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets because it has few low-cost ways of cutting emissions, a new consultant's report concludes."

  • "Germany firm on climate change" - The BBC reports, "The German chancellor has called on all industrialised nations to agree by 2002 to cut emissions of the greenhouses gases that cause global warming."

tobacco round-up:

October 25, 1999

back in the saddle again: Vacation no respite from junk science - I spent the last few days in London where I was disappointed to see the famous Harrods department store was proud it did not serve foods that were genetically modified. But Harrods had no qualms about serving British beef. I wonder what their decision-making process is? After all, in the junk science box score, British beef (thanks to the 'mad cow' scare' leads GM foods in attributed deaths, 43-0.

green surprise of the day: Where on the web is the current global warming conference? - The third conference of the parties parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-3) was held in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997 and was hosted at http://www.cop3.org. The fourth conference of the parties parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-4) was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina in November 1998 and was hosted at http://www.cop4.org. The fifth conference of the parties parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-5) is being held now in Bonn, Germany -- but it's not located at http://www.cop5.org. Why not? See for yourself. COP-5 seems to lead to Junkscience.com. The real COP-5 web site is a little more difficult to find. And it's not looking good for COP-6 either. I hope the weenie-greenies don't have too hard a time finding on the web their precious global warming conference! [Okay, pkay. Click here for the real COP-5 web site and here for detailed coverage of the COP-5 conference.]

obituary of the day: Rhode Island Sen. John Chafee dies at 77 - Republican Sen. Chafee was the powerful chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Unfortunately, Sen. Chafee too often acted like a Democrat on environmental and regulatory reform issues. The good news is his replacement as Committee chairman will be Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) who has shown courage in opposing the Kyoto protocol and the EPA air quality proposals.

food/biotech round-up:

  • "Health risks reduced by GM corn" - The BBC reports, "There is evidence to suggest that some genetically-modified (GM) crops now being grown commercially in the US can have distinct health advantages, according to plant disease experts."

  • scare of the day: "France 'risks BSE crisis'" - The BBC reports, "A leading scientist has warned that France could face a BSE-type crisis after it emerged that French farmers fed sewage to livestock."

  • "UK scientists question beef hormone ban evidence" - Reuters reports, "Scientists working for the British government have questioned the EU's reasons for its ban on hormone growth promoters in beef after studying the first part of an EU risk assessment, the farm ministry said."

  • "Scientists developing test for mad cow disease" - The Associated Press reports, "Scientists say they are close to developing a blood test for diagnosing mad cow disease and similar brain illnesses in animals and humans."

  • "It's not over yet" - The New Scientist reports, "The techniques used to stun cattle before slaughter can spread tiny bits of brain tissue around their bodies. So if an animal is incubating BSE, there is a small chance that its meat could be contaminated with the agent that causes the disease, despite all the measures being taken to prevent this."

  • "Food lobby welcomes Australia/NZ GM law deferral" - Reuters reports, "Opponents of strict labelling of genetically modified (GM) foods have welcomed a decision by Australian and New Zealand health ministers to defer a final determination on labelling laws."

  • "GMO-free livestock feed may be next biotech issue" - Reuters reports, " As European consumers balk at food made from genetically modified crops, industry analysts say livestock feed may be the next flash point in the debate over whether such products are safe for the environment and human consumption."

  • "Philippine consumer groups lobby for GMO labelling" - Reuters reports, "Philippine consumer groups asked the government on Friday to require food firms to label food products containing ingredients with genetically modified organisms (GMO)."

  • "U.S. rethinks approach to biotech food regulation" - Reuters reports, "Faced with staunch resistance by some European and Asian consumers to genetically modified (GM) foods, the Clinton Administration is scrambling to develop a recipe that will maintain overseas sales while giving customers what they want."

global warming round-up:

  • "'Ignore global warming hype' says scientist " - Philip Stott writes, "The idea that climate change is brought about by just one or two factors, such as carbon dioxide emissions, is simply nonsense. We must grasp the fact that curbing human-induced greenhouse gases will not halt climate change. That is the biggest myth of them all."
  • "Climate talks start as willpower wanes" - The BBC reports, "About 5,000 participants from 150 countries are expected in the German city of Bonn on Monday for the opening of the latest round of talks on climate change."

    "Election Seen As Obstacle To Climate Change Pact" - Reuters reports, "Environmentalists preparing for next week's global warming meeting in Germany said Friday they fear a final international climate change agreement may be waylaid by next year's U.S. presidential election."

  • "Division Hinders Global Warning Talks" - Reuters reports, "An international conference on global warming that opens in Bonn Monday looks set to be plagued by division, the United Nation's climate chief said in an interview."

  • "That sinking feeling" - The New Scientist reports, "Not for the first time, the human race may be about to take a dangerous short cut. Next week, governments from around the world will meet in Bonn, the former German capital, to complete plans for creating forests to soak up the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. They see planting trees as a partial alternative to cutting emissions of the gas from power stations and vehicle exhausts. Unfortunately, just two weeks ago, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put the finishing touches to a report that shows this strategy to be based on a dangerous delusion. In reality, say its scientists, planned new forests, called 'carbon sinks', will swiftly become saturated with carbon and begin returning most of their carbon to the atmosphere, temporarily accelerating global warming."

cell phone round-up:

    "Wireless Worries? New Studies Call for More Research, Some Scientists Say" - 20/20 reports, "While the cell phone industry has assured consumers for years that cellular phones are completely safe, the industry’s former research director has now come forward to say this can no longer be presumed." Click here for the report transcript.

    "CTIA's Response" - "In response to ABC's airing of a 20/20 segment questioning the safety of wireless phone use, the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) has posted the following materials to both answer and refute allegations made during the broadcast."

    "Consumer Update on Mobile Phones" - From the FDA, in preparation for last week's 20/20 report on cell phones.

ionizing radiation round-up:

  • "Pharaohs left behind a radioactive curse" - The New Scientist reports, "Forget fatal fungi and diabolical booby traps. Some of Egypt's ancient monuments harbour a more insidious threat--they contain high levels of the radioactive gas radon."

  • "Radiation link with stillbirths" - The BBC reports, "Higher exposure to radiation is associated with a greater risk of fathering a stillborn child among men working at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant, according to a large-scale study."

  • "Radioactive element found in U.S. baby teeth" - Reuters reports, "Higher-than-expected levels of a man-made, cancer-causing element first introduced as a by-product of nuclear bomb tests has been found in baby teeth collected near nuclear power plants in three states, U.S. researchers said Thursday."

  • "Radiation Risk and Ethics" - Zbigniew Jaworowski asks, "The established worldwide practice of protecting people from radiation costs hundreds of billions of dollars a year to implement and may well determine the world's future energy system. But is it right?"

"Superfund tax might be revived" - MSNBC reports, "Legislation overhauling the Superfund environmental cleanup program could resurrect taxes on oil and chemicals that ended in 1995 -- but not if a key House committee chairman can stop it."

"The Week That Was October 23, 1999" - The weekly update from the Science and Environmental Policy Project.

commentary of the day: "Alcohol gets too much blame in traffic deaths" - Wayne State University law and psychiatry profesor Ralph Slovenko commenbts in the Detroit News, "MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) ought to be just MAD (Mothers Against Driving)."

"Reno's Racket" - Wally Olson writes in Forbes (Nov. 1), "Holy Herb Schmertz! The federal government's new tobacco lawsuit, if it succeeds, could open companies to charges of fraud and racketeering for defending themselves in public controversy."

October 20, 1999

report of the day: No increase in deaths among U.S. atomic vets - There has been no increase in overall deaths or deaths from cancer among 70,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who participated during the 1950s in at least one of five groups of atmospheric nuclear tests chosen for examination, reports a new study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). Click here for the full report.

Bush-whacking: Washington Post ambushes George W. Bush on air pollution in Texas - The Washington Post set off a firestorm last week with its report on George W. Bush's environmental record as Governor of Texas. The Post reported, "[T]here is statistical evidence that the air in Texas cities is as foul -- and perhaps more so -- than when Bush took power in 1995... Last week the state's environmental agency, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC), claimed an 11 percent reduction in industrial emissions from 1994 to 1997. But environmentalists strenuously dispute the number, saying Environmental Protection Agency statistics show a 10 percent jump." But a look at EPA's "National Air Quality Emissions Trends Report, 1997" reveals quite a different picture. Table A-14, "Metropolitan Statistical Area Air Quality Trends, 1988-1997" (PDF file), summarized below, indicates an overall downward trend in air pollution in Texas metropolitan areas since Bush has been in office. While Bush may or may not have anything to do with the downward trend, there certainly has been no upward trend during his term. Finally, the EPA has completed the "National Air Quality Emissions Trends Report, 1998" but will not release it until December. The rumor is the agency is delaying the report's release while figuring out how to trash the enviromental record of presidential candidate Bush. After all, Carol Browner, a former staffer for Sen. Al Gore, is widely recognized as the most political EPA administrator ever.

Texas Metropolitan Statistical Area Air Quality Trends, 1995-1997
                                                                Air Pollutant Trends
                        Carbon                                Nitrogen                                Particulate              Sulfur
Area                     Monoxide          Lead            Oxide              Ozone               Matter                Dioxide

Austin                    Down                                   Down               Down               Down
Port Arthur              Up                 None           None               None                                                  Up
Brazoria                                                                                       Down
Brownsville                                                                                                            None
Corpus Christi                                                                            Down                Down                      Down
Dallas                     Down               Down          Down              Down                Down
Fort Worth            Down               Down          Down              Down                Down                        Up
Galveston                                         Down                                  Down                None                        Down
Houston                      Up                Down          None               None                 None                       Down
Lubbock                                                                                                                   Down
San Antonio               Up                Down                                  Down                Down

Click for Post spin-off articles in the Boston Globe and Philadelphia Inquirer. Click here for the Clean Air Trust's rantings.

'tax time' update: More tax returns of the junk science mob - Check out the additions to "Tax returns of the junk science mob," including tax returns from the Audubon Society, Farmworker Justice Fund, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Public Citizen, Rachel Carson Council and the Violence Preventrion Center." E-mail requests for groups not listed.

commentary of the day: "The latest Gulf War Syndrome hype" - The New York Post comments, "If at first you can't identify a cause for so-called "Gulf War Syndrome," then try, try again. That's the watchword at the Pentagon, which now appears ready to pin the blame on an experimental anti-nerve gas drug administered to U.S. troops in 1991."

junk proposed regulation of the day: "Regulation of radon in water proposed" - The Associated Press reports, "For the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed Tuesday to regulate the amount of radon in drinking water." This is incorrect. the EPA first proposed to regulate radon in drinking water in 1992. The high cost and lack of scientific underpinning of the 1992 proposal forced it back to the EPA drawing board. There hasn't been any new science that would justify the proposal in the interim.

"USA Today debate: Side-impact air-bags" - USA Today comments in favor of consumer choice. Not surprisingly, Joan Claybrook comments against consumer choice and for federal mandates.

"Speed limit targeted in air proposal; Plan to cut emissions calls for 60-mph ceiling" - The Dallas Morning News reports, "North Texas motorists may soon be forced to drive at top speeds of 60 mph under a tentative, 14-point clean-air plan unveiled Monday by regional leaders."

junk of the day: "Breast-fed babies may have lower cancer risks" - The Associated Press reports, "According to a new study, breast-fed infants may have up to a 30 percent lower risk of developing some forms of childhood leukemia when compared to babies who are bottle-fed." This is a weak association derived from unverified, self-reported data.

"World Wildlife Fund warns of climate change" - The Associated Press reports, "Cities including New York and Tokyo may face flooding, large swaths of Latin America will suffer from drought and Australia's Great Barrier Reef may be destroyed global warming is stopped, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature warned Tuesday."

"Drug company-backed research less critical than independent studies" - The Associated Press reports, "Researchers have found that studies on the cost-effectiveness of drugs are far more likely to report favorable findings if they are sponsored by the drug companies themselves rather than independent groups."

"Breast screening expectations 'too high'" - The BBC reports, "Many women have unrealistically high expectations about the ability of breast screening to detect cancers, according to a survey of almost 3,000 20 to 69 year olds." So who's surprised given the touting of early screening by popular media like Consumer Reports?

"Wine drinkers think positive" - The BBC reports, "Positive thinking could be responsible for the health benefits associated with drinking wine, according to a study that found people who drink wine consider themselves healthier."

"Vitamin E may help protect smokers: Study finds high dietary intake lowers risk of lung cancer" - MSNBC reports, "Eating a diet rich in whole grains, green vegetables and other foods containing plenty of vitamin E may help smokers ward off lung cancer, a study finds. Researchers said the results suggest the antioxidant vitamin can help counteract some of the cell damage that may be caused by cigarette smoking." Smokers should take no confort from this weak association study of borderline statistical significance. If you want to maximize your chances of optimum health, don't smoke.

"Making Superfund work" - In my humble opinion, a good start for making Superfund work would be an air strike on the current legislation.

October 19, 1999

tax time in october? Tax returns of the junk science mob - Junk science is a HUGE industry. Check out the actual tax returns (in PDF format) for members of the junk science mob. E-mail requests for groups not listed.

"Trying to Map Elusive N.Y. Cancer Source" - The Los Angeles Times reports on "cancer-mapping" for Long Island. Cancer-mapping is the latest effort of the junk science mob to link so-called "cancer clusters" with sources. The idea is to find a geographic areas with cancer rates that appear to be above average (whatever that means) and then link these "cancer clusters" to local industrial facilities. But cancer clusters usually turn out to be simple statistical variations. At best, cancer mapping is geographic scare-mongering.

self-debunking of the day: "Nerve Gas Protection, 'Gulf War Syndrome' Link Explored" - The Washington Post reports, "The use of the drug pyridostigmine bromide (PB) by 250,000 soldiers during the Persian Gulf War 'cannot be ruled out' as a cause of lingering illnesses in some veterans, according to a new report prepared for the Defense Department... It's been used for decades, at much higher doses than those given to soldiers, to treat the neurological disease myasthenia gravis. Neither people with that ailment, nor healthy volunteers who've taken PB experimentally, are known to suffer Gulf War syndrome-like symptoms."

junk science TV: 20/20 does cell phones - ABC's 20/20 television show will report on the potential health effects of cell phones on Wednesday, October 20 at 10 p.m. EST. According to Louis Slesin, publisher of Microwave News, "ABC tested a number of mobile phones and measured how much microwave radiation would be absorbed by a user. According to the [20/20] press release, four out of five phones tested exceeded the U.S. federal government limit in at least one position." Slesin also reports, "On the following night, October 21, French television station France 2 will air its own show on mobile phone health risks. Note that Paul Kenyon, who is listed in the credits, was the reporter on the BBC Panorama program on health risks which aired on May 24 of this year."

commentary of the day: "Biotech Companies Say 'Hasta la vista, baby!' to So-called 'Terminators'" - Mike Fumento writes, "By forfeiting development of this technology, the agri-giants have denied both themselves and farmers a real benefit. Yet by seizing a powerful emotional weapon from the opposition, they can gain consumer confidence and portray themselves as the good guys. That, in turn, may be key to preserving the future of agricultural biotechnology for all of us."

pop junk of the day: "How long will you live - really?" - MSNBC has a "life expectancy calculator" that factors in, among other things, exposure to secondhand smoke and, appropriately, whether you have a sense of humor.

junk of the day: "Air pollution increases risk of infant death" - Reuters reports, " Infants exposed to polluted air are at greater risk of dying from respiratory problems during the first year of life, according to study results reported in the November issue of Epidemiology." Sorry, but I have a hard time swallowing air pollution as the critical difference between babies born in Czechoslovakia -- a knee-jerk reaction that is bolstered by the study being based on weak statistical associations derived from a case-control study design, guesstimated air pollution exposures and a small study population (133 cases).

biotech article of the day: "Threats to Health Reduced with Bt Corn Hybrids" - The American Phytopatholoical Society reports, "The recent approval and commercial release of genetically modified, insect-resistant corn hybrids (Bt corn) represents the culmination of decades of research. This innovative technology has a distinct health benefit of discouraging the build up of mycotoxins in corn, potentially dangerous human and animal toxins produced by fungi that cause plant disease." Click here for the full article.

biotech hysteria of the day: "Unlabeled, untested... and you're eating it" - If you missed it, here's the full-page ad (PDF format) placed in major newspapers by the anti-biotech coalition, The Turning Point Project. Check out the list of supporters. They're what's really scary!

scare of the day: "Lettuces 'illegal level of pesticides'" - This Is London reports, "Every time you eat a 'healthy' green salad you could be ingesting a cocktail of chemicals, according to a new report today."

disappointment of the day: "Dropping the Fight on Science, Firms Scramble to Look Greener" - The Wall Street Journal reports, "In major corners of corporate America, it's suddenly becoming cool to fight global warming." This is too bad because a companion article is titled "Foes of Kyoto Treaty in U.S.Could Kill Pact Around World."

Good Morning America on GM food - Here's the transcript from last friday's Good Morning America report on genetically modified foods. Note how ABC's "science" editor advises worried consumers to go organic. I guess the make-believe risk of GM foods must outweigh the real risk of E.coli in organic foods?

"Ministers 'ignoring public' on GM food" - The BBC reports, "The government has underestimated the intelligence of the public over its policies on genetically-modified (GM) foods, says a new report."

"Nebraska Farmers Keeping Faith In Altered Crops" - Reuters reports, "European opposition to genetically modified grain grown in the United States concerns farmers, but not enough to dampen enthusiasm for what many in one top growing state see as money-saving crops."

"U.S. Regulators Take New Look At Biotech Foods" - Reuters reports, "Faced with a growing consumer backlash in Europe and Asia against genetically modified (GM) foods, a U.S. government agency said Monday it would re-examine the safety of the foods and whether special labels may be needed."

"GM policy 'cannot be left to the scientists'" - The Independent reports, "The Government should commission regular opinion polls, citizens' juries and focus groups to influence its genetically modified foods policy, an authoritative report claimed yesterday."

"Thailand To Ban Altered Seeds" - The Los Angeles Times reports, "Thailand will ban imports of seeds derived from genetically modified organisms pending clear scientific proof they are safe, Deputy Prime Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi said Monday."

"FDA takes gene food issue to public: Government holding meetings to ease resistance to biotech" - MSNBC reports, "The federal agency that ensures genetically engineered foods are safe will hold unusual meetings around the country this fall to hear what Americans think about bioengineered food."

"Cars, not cigarettes, choke our children; Many anti-smokers think nothing of using their SUV to drive two blocks to the store" - Check out what this smoker has to say in the National Post about SUVs and air pollution.

"Climate 'next century's biggest challenge'" - The BBC reports, "The United Kingdom Environment Minister, Michael Meacher, says the world will have to go far beyond the measures it has so far agreed if it is to cope with climate change." Click here for coverage by The Guardian.

October 18, 1999

new at Consumerdistorts.com: Consumer Reports' faulty breast cancer advice - Consumer Reports takes the opportunity of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month to give its readers questionable advice. Consumer Reports promotes the unproven -- and potentially dangerous -- breast cancer drug tamoxifen and advises women in their 40s to have annual mammograms, even though this recommendation was rejected by an unbiased panel of experts at the National Institutes of Health. The latest research indicates tamoxifen may not prevent breast cancer in the near-term and may actually increase breast cancer risk over the long-term. Mammography for women in their 40s may produce a high percentage of false-positive results - meaning needless anxiety and possible surgery and other medical interventions that are not without risk. Consumer Reports should stick with toasters and televisions and leave women's health to qualified professionals.

compliment of the day: "Flack Attack: Industry PR guys invent a 'green genocide agenda'" - The Progressive (a lefty rag) attempts to smear Alan Caruba and the Junkman, but has to admit "Milloy's style may seem bizarre, but it's effective." It's too bad I can't say the same for article authors Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber. The article is fundamentally flawed. I did not invent the "green genocide agenda" -- Rachel Carson did that more than 47 years ago. And Caruba says, "Its eviscerating flaw is the fact that, since 1990 I have funded The National Anxiety Center entirely out of my own pocket, never receiving any funding from any source other than the sale of a popular poster the Center publishes." Beyond that he notes, "The article is filled with errors, but, as a veteran public relations counselor, I am delighted I am having an impact on the endless flow of Green lies designed to influence public opinion and policy."

bad advice of the day: "Go for the green, Gore" - Eric Goldscheider writes in the Boston Globe, "To rekindle his campaign, Gore must cast himself as an unapologetic ecologist..." Go ahead, Al. Make my day.

today's Gore-ing: "Gore goes from wooden to plastic" - The New York Post comments, "In 1996, Gore tried to humanize himself by giving a convention speech that described his sister's death from lung cancer. He promised to fight the tobacco lobby. But he kept taking money from that cancer-causing lobby. And now he has hired that industry's top image-maker, Carter Eskew, as his top adviser."

"A new twist to the diversity debate; Some say species quality is more important than quantity" - MSNBC reports, "Scientists marvel at the rich diversity of life on Earth: Plants, mammals, reptiles, microbes ... perhaps 100 million species. Some environmentalists warn that modern-day extinctions are putting this biodiversity under threat, possibly leading to a global catastrophe. But two new studies take issue with the doomsday scenario."

"Unlabelled Gm Food Threat From Europe" - The Independent reports, "European Commission plans to allow food to contain up to 1 per cent genetically modified material without being labelled are being opposed by British consumer groups."

"Agriculture: Farmers Demand Double Money To Become Organic" - The Independent reports, "Farmers are to demand a doubling of state aid to help them switch to organic methods after two years of funding to help them shift from conventional farming was allocated in just six months."

commentary of the day I: "Too Much Doctoring of the Law" - Michelle Malkin writes in the Omaha World Herald (Oct. 17), "The medical lobby thinks it has all the right cures for the body politic. Here at an annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics, doctors hawked cough syrup, baby diapers, legislative pills and jumbo government band-aids."

commentary of the day II: "Biotech Offers (Baby) Food for Thought" - Henry I. Miller writes in The Scientist (Oct. 11), "It is not too late for Gerber and the other companies to save the day. By reversing their decision to reject gene-spliced foods and aggressively and publicly defending their position, the companies would enjoy the advantages of the widest and best array of production tools, consumers would be assured that they are purchasing the best product that technology can offer, and gene splicing would thrive."

commentary of the day III: "GM Crops Face Heat of Debate" - Ricki Lewis and Barry A. Palevitz write in The Scientist, "With certain environmental groups not-so-subtly catalyzing the antitechnology movement, much of the public is unaware that evidence that GM foods are unsafe is so far nonexistent, and that the products hold enormous promise for feeding a burgeoning human population."

"Carbon cuts only buy time" - The BBC reports, "British climatologists say massive reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) will have a fairly modest effect in slowing climate change. "

"Ministers 'ignoring public' on GM food" - The BBC reports, "The government has underestimated the intelligence of the public over its policies on genetically-modified (GM) foods, says a new report."

October 17, 1999

Meat consumption not associated with cancer risk, study says - U.S. and Finnish researchers report in Cancer Causes and Control (Oct. '99) that red meat consumption was not associated with colorectal cancer in a prospective study of 27,111 male smokers that included 185 cases of colorectal cancer. The authors conclude, " Since high meat intake did not increase the risk of colorectal cancer in our population,... recommendations concerning safe meat intake should focus on cooking methods rather than general meat restriction."

Magnetic fields associated with cancer risk, study says - Swedish researchers report in Cancer Causes and Control (Oct. '99) that occupational magnetic field exposures were statistically associated with genital cancers and malignant melanoma in a cohort study of about 2.4 million men and women. But the authors also say, "All associations observed were weak. Large cohort studies based on registry data, involving millions of people and long follow-up times, seldom produce strong associations, partly because they are often based on crude surrogate measures of the exposures aimed at. Also this study suffers from exposure misclassification, due to crude data on occupation and imprecise estimates of the magnetic field exposure for many occupations with large variability within occupational groups and changes across periods of time. This misclassification, together with the failure to cover magnetic field exposure outside of work, contributes to weaken the results."

understatement of the day: Tobacco smoke exposure and cervical abnormalities - University of Washington researchers report in Cancer Causes and Control (Oct. '99) that smoking and secondhand smoke exposure were weakly associated with low-grade cervical cytological abnormalities in a study population of 2,448 women. But in addition to the weak statistical results -- the secondhand smoke result was not statistically significant -- and self-reports of smoking/secondhand smoke exposure status, the study authors admit, "Our data are limited in that they did not include person encounters with participants, which precluded evaluation of [human papillomavirus] status. HPV is now recognized as the strongest risk factor for cervical cancer and its precursor conditions. The possibility therefore remains that our results may be due to residual confounding by this factor." [Emphasis added] Just a "possibility"?

'hot potato' of the day: "Corn modified to be contraceptive" - The Times reports, "Corn has been genetically modified to make it grow a contraceptive, writes Roger Dobson. In a move which could revolutionise birth control, especially in developing countries, scientists have succeeded in getting the maize to produce human antibodies to sperm." The extreme left has already targeted GM food. Contraceptive corn is guaranteed to roil the extreme right.

"Why Britain's Scientific establishment got so ratty with a gentle boffin" - The Guardian reports, "Arpad Pusztai has been vilified and ridiculed for his research on GM foods."

commentary of the day: "Not So WOW; The only weight loss is in chip sales" - The Dallas Morning News comments on a piece of news that undoubtedly warms the heart of Michael Jacobson and the rest of the "food police" at the Center for Science in the Pubic Interest who conducted a jihad against the Procter and Gamble fat substitute, olestra.

"Eight ways to beat a toxic lifestyle" - The Guardian reports, "Every day, we absorb a cocktail of chemicals and pollutants. Maureen Rice offers simple ways to clean up your life."

"SEA-US Lies to Australia" - Aaron Oakley writes, "I have said it before and I'll say again. Anti-nuclear activists cannot be trusted to tell the truth about the nuclear industry. In this article I expose the barrage of lies, distortions and falsehoods coming from the Sustainable Energy and Anti-Uranium Service. The misinformation purveyed on this web site is so bad, I estimate that it would take a document ten times the size of the original web site to fully expose the sheer anti-nuclear bigotry of its author(s). Nevertheless, the main canards can be put to rest briefly."

"Minnesota science teacher seeks to debunk evolution " - The Associated Press reports, "Rodney LeVake, a high-school biology teacher, says believing in evolution is as absurd as thinking the Earth is the center of the universe."

October 16, 1999

study of the day: Methodology for estimating secondhand smoke exposure questioned - Simon Fraser University researchers report in the in the Oct. 15 American Journal of Epidemiology, "[N]umerous studies of the effects of environmental tobacco smoke have studied the lung cancer risk of nonsmoking wives as a function of their husbands' smoking habits. In these spousal studies, husbands' smoking is being used as a surrogate for [ETS] exposure. The majority of these studies have largely ignored the possibility of confounding from either direct occupational exposure of the subjects or paraoccupational exposure through their spouses. Studies such as that by Fontham, which have made some attempt to control for occupational exposure of the subjects, have used job classification as a surrogate for occupational exposure. If an attempt were made to control for paraoccupational exposure of the wives by their husbands, a somewhat different set of job groupings would likely be used as a surrogate for paraoccupational exposure. In either case, we have a situation in which the exposure variable and the confounder are both being estimated through surrogates, and failure to take this into account in the analysis could lead to erroneous or misleading results..." [ Source: "Recovering True Risks When Multilevel Exposure and Covariable Are Both Misclassified," Am J Epidemiol 1999;150:886-91.]

commentary of the day I: "Numbers Can Be Misleading" - About improvements in standardized test scores, this Los Angeles Times op-ed cautions, "We need to take into consideration the "Hawthorne effect" when evaluating the meaning of small score increases."

commentary of the day II: "Organic just means it's dirtier, more expensive" - Sondra Gottlieb writes in the National Post, "Organic farmers have tended to be low-tech. I was just reading a book by Leslie Land, a garden writer, who describes her organic garden of flowers and veggies. She composts human ordure from her outhouse with healthy peat moss and kitchen leavings, until it turns into something "almost like soil" (night soil, to use a Chinese euphemism), which she spreads on the flowers -- not the vegetables. But Leslie, what about the birds and the bees, creatures great and small, that transfer bits of night soil from the Casablanca ... So what's a bit of E.coli?" Click here for the related news article.

"Lawyers say Philip Morris making Internet move on jurors" - Reuters reports, "A new Philip Morris website in which the giant cigarette maker acknowledges for the first time that smoking causes diseases was a backdoor maneuver to sway jurors in a high stakes class-action suit, anti-tobacco lawyers said on Thursday."

"GM controversy intensifies" - The BBC reports, "The scientific research that was largely responsible for sparking the intense debate in the UK over the safety of genetically-modified (GM) foods has finally been published, alongside new work showing possible effects on human health."

"GM Safety Scientist Elated At Publication" - Reuters reports, "The scientist at the center of an international uproar for raising safety concerns about genetically modified (GM) food said he hoped the publication of his work in a leading medical journal would lead to more research and tests."

"Japan FamilyMart store chain opts for non-GM eggs" - Reuters reports, "Japanese convenience store chain FamilyMart Co Ltd said on Friday it would begin using only chickens fed with non genetically modified (GM) corn for eggs it sells using its own brand name."

"Strategic offers grain toxin testing kit" - Reuters reports, "Strategic Diagnostics Inc. said Thursday it was offering a new on-site kit to test toxins in grains that it plans to package with its test for detecting genetically modified (GMO) grains."

"The Week That Was June October 16, 1999" - The weekly update from the Science and Environmental Policy Project.

"Health risks of waste incinerators need study" - Reuters reports, "Modern waste incinerators 'pose little risk to public health,' but older models can emit above-normal levels of harmful emissions, including heavy metals. The true risks posed by these older models have not been adequately measured and have not been studied for long periods of time, according to a report issued this week by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS)." Click here for the NAS press release. Click here for the study.

"NATO obstructs UN inquiry into depleted uranium" - The Independent reports, "After insisting that no scientific study had ever proved depleted uranium (DU) shells could cause cancer in Iraq or Kosovo, Nato has refused to co-operate with a United Nations team investigating the use of the munitions in the former Yugoslavia."

October 15, 1999

metal underwear crowd: "Metal undies keep things covered" - The Daily Telegraph reports on the "metal underwear crowd" -- victims of the media scare about electric and magnetic fields.

featured commentary: Anti-tobacco means never having to say weak associations are sorry - The American Council on Science and Health has published a critique of a Cato Institute report on the CDC fantasy that smoking kills 400,000 per year. I've critiqued the critique.

'to do' of the day: Should The Lancet have published Dr. Pusztai's work on GM potatoes? - Visit Philip Stott's Anti-Ecohype site to cast your ballot. Need more info before casting your ballot?

  • "Rats at centre of GM food furore 'were starving'" - The Daily Telegraph reports, "The controversial research that triggered the GM food furore is published today by The Lancet and suggests that starvation, not genetic modification, may have caused the adverse health effects in rats fed GM potatoes by Dr Arpad Pusztai."

  • "Why GM safety is such a hot potato " - Roger Highfield and Aisling Irwin comment in the Daily Telegraph,, "Take one GM potato. Subject it to a half-baked study, stir in a dollop of media overkill, spice with BSE angst and overripe comments from environmentalists."

  • "The Pusztai affair - science loses" - BBC science editor comments, "[Pusztai's research is in The Lancet] not because it is good science. It is there because it caused a fuss. A fuss brought about by single-interest pressure groups and the media."

  • "Gene-Altered Food Study Fuels a Fire" - The Washington Post reports, "The emotional debate over whether genetically engineered food is safe to eat escalated yesterday with the publication of a controversial study showing possible health problems in rats that ate gene-altered potatoes."

  • "A Disputed Study Suggests Possible Harm From Genetically Altered Food" - The New York Times reports, "A prestigious medical journal is publishing a study suggesting that genetically modified food may be harmful, even though the research has been widely criticized by scientists and was found wanting by some of the journal's own referees."

  • "Study creates new dispute over genetically altered food" - The Associated Press reports, "Research claiming to provide evidence that rats developed tissue damage after being fed genetically altered potatoes has finally been published in the British medical journal Lancet, renewing a fierce debate over the safety of such modified foods."

  • "Scientists at odds over GM food study" - The Guardian reports, "The most controversial evidence that genetically modified food could be a threat to human and animal health is published in the Lancet today. It is backed by a separate finding by Scottish scientists that the natural poison at the heart of the dispute - an insecticide called a lectin produced by snowdrops - sticks to human white blood cells in laboratory dishes."

commentary of the day: "Deactivate the Mandate" - The Detroit News comments, "Motorists should be allowed to weigh the dangers and benefits of air bags rather than be forced by the government to purchase the equipment."

"Warning Signs" - "The hottest weekly commentary to be found on the Internet, pulling no punches as Alan Caruba points out environmental lies and liars, political pandering, food police nutcases, animal rights lunatics, and the entire managerie of mis-information and dis-information."

"Study on death rates of atomic veterans to be discussed at public briefing on Oct. 20" - The National Research Council announces, "In 1976, a veteran who participated in a 1957 nuclear test in Nevada claimed that he developed leukemia as a result of his exposure to the radiation. Ever since his claim, veterans and their families, scientists, and the public have tried to determine if there is a connection between radiation exposure and illness. "The Five Series Study: Mortality of Military Participants in U.S. Nuclear Weapons Tests," a new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), compares mortality data on military participants in five series of U.S. atmospheric nuclear weapons tests conducted in the 1950s with data on other military personnel who served at that time. At a one-hour public briefing on Oct. 20, researchers from IOM will discuss the study's findings. The briefing begins at 11 a.m. in the Lecture Room of the National Academies building, 2100 C St., N.W., Washington, D.C."

"Exploding Anti-nuclear Myths Part 2 - 'High Level Nuclear Waste Threatens Human Life for 250,000 Years'" - Aaron Oakley writes, "A common canard thrown out by the anti-nuclear industry is that high level nuclear waste threatens life and must be stored for a quarter of a million years. Like almost all statements from the anti-nuclear howler monkeys, it is rhetorically impressive but not particularly meaningful."

"WTO defends its environment record" - The Financial Times reports, "The World Trade Organisation yesterday replied to environmentalist critics who argue that freer trade harms the environment. It said environmentalists should campaign for sound environmental policies at national and international level, rather than call for trade protection."

"Natural route to eco-friendly capitalism" - The Financial Times reports, "Amory Lovins is, by most people's reckoning, an idealist. He speculates about a world in which cars and buses are virtually silent, vehicles emit only water vapour, involuntary unemployment does not exist, only the rich pay income tax, worldwide forest cover is increasing and the effluent leaving factories is cleaner than the water coming into them."

"Does time really exist?" - "Time seems to be the most powerful force, an irresistible river carrying us from birth to death. To most people it is an inescapable part of life, a fundamental element of the Universe. But I think that time is an illusion," writes Julian Barbour, an independent theoretical physicist and author of "The End of Time."

"Radiation risks" - The British Medical Journal editorializes, "Appropriate decisions come from valid data, not inaccurate perceptions of risk."

"Does stress cause cancer?" - The British Medical Journal editorializes, "There's no good evidence of a relation between stressful events and cancer." Click here for the study. Click here for BBC coverage.

"Eastern U.S. benefits from emissions trading by power plants" - "The controversial 'emissions trading' provision of the federal government's Clean Air Act is improving the environment and public health, especially in the Northeast and East, according to a new study by researchers at Resources For the Future (RFF), an independent think tank in Washington, D.C. Emissions trading allows power plants to trade, sell and bank allowances for sulfur dioxide emissions as a way for plants to hold down the cost of pollution reduction. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is a primary cause of 'acid rain.'"

"Vegans likely short on calcium, experts say" - "An examination of the amount of calcium in strict vegetarian diets that exclude dairy products has found that these diets, known as vegan, lack the calcium needed to prevent osteoporosis later in life."

"Sea level rise behind coastal tree deaths" - "When University of Florida researchers first looked into Florida west coast residents' complaints of dying palms, they thought the cause was a disease. But in a landmark study recently published in the journal Ecology, a team of UF and U.S. Geological Survey researchers concluded the cabbage palms and many other coastal trees are falling victim to saltwater exposure tied to global sea level rise."

"790 million malnourished people in the world, U.N. says" - The Associated Press reports, "About 790 million people in the world suffer from chronic malnutrition, said a report issued Thursday in London by the U.N. World Food Program. Those numbers were attributed to war and natural disasters."

"Thousands of fen-phen users say they won't accept settlement" - The Associated Press reports, "Thousands of people suing American Home Products Corp. for medical problems allegedly suffered while taking the fen-phen diet drug combination won't participate in a proposed $3.75 billion settlement, threatening the resolution of one of the largest product liability cases ever, lawyers say."

"Balkans environment 'seriously damaged'" - The BBC reports, "A United Nations task force which has been investigating the aftermath of the Balkan war says it found four environmental hot spots in Serbia."

"Teenage smoking drops" - The BBC reports, "Fewer teenagers in England and Scotland are drinking and smoking, although the older they get the more likely they are to take drugs, according to government figures."

"Lawyers say Philip Morris making Internet move on jurors" - Reuters reports, "A new Philip Morris website in which the giant cigarette maker acknowledges for the first time that smoking causes diseases was a backdoor maneuver to sway jurors in a high stakes class-action suit, anti-tobacco lawyers said on Thursday."

"EU optimistic of accord on UN Biosafety Protocol" - Reuters reports, " The European Union said Tuesday it was optimistic agreement could be reached early next year on a global pact to regulate trade in genetically modified commodities."

"SRL sees strong GMO test needs" - Reuters reports, "Japan's largest clinical laboratory, SRL Inc, sees a big opportunity in the food testing business as food processors are eager to prove their products don't contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs)."

October 14, 1999

new Junkscience.com web site! Consumerdistorts.com - Junkscience.com has launched Consumerdistorts.com, a new web site serving as a watchdog for Consumer Reports. Consumerdistorts.com spotlights Consumer Reports' use of junk science to increase circulation and further the political agenda of its publisher, Consumers Union. Let me know what you think!

Capitol Hill circus of the day: "Senators Push Pesticide Legislation" - I attended this Capitol Hill press conference where Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) and Patty Murray (D-Wash), supported by notorious junk scientist Phil Landrigan and anti-pesticide advocate Jay Feldman, announced new legislation requiring schools to scare parents and children when pesticides are used. Before getting cut-off by Torricelli, I was able to ask Landrigan about the specific scientific basis for the legislation in light of Landrigan's previous admission that no evidence exists of any legal pesticide application harming any child. Landrigan fumbled for an answer, eventually having to be prompted by Torricelli about a supposed Journal of the National Cancer Institute study allegedly linking pesticide use with childhood leukemia. Of course, no such study exists. I did find, however, an interesting study in the October 1997 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives. The study was a critical review of 31 epidemiologic studies published between 1970 and 1996 that investigated whether occupational or residential exposure to pesticides by either parents or children was related to increased risk of childhood cancer. The study concluded, "an etiologic relationship between pesticide exposure and childhood cancer is far from proven." I guess that's why Landrigan stumbled so badly when queried.

data access rule update Final rule published Oct. 8 - The data access rule is out (the link is to a PDF file of the Federal Register notice). The final rule is far from perfect but it's only a first step in the battle against "secret science." Notably, the rule only applies prospectively (e.g., the infamous Pope study is out of reach) and to regulatory actions that have the force of law (i.e., regulations and administraive rulings, not risk assessments). Ongoing research is exempted. So all a junk scientist need do is claim that he's still analyzing his data. It's a long way to Tipperary...

hypocrisy of the day: 'Public has known for a long time' about the dangers of smoking - Reuters reports,"White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said Philip Morris was acknowledging 'something the American public has known for a long time, and the admission today does very little to undo the deceptive practices that they've engaged in along with other tobacco companies, and that's something they'll have to answer to in court.'" But according to the recently filed federal lawsuit, the tobacco industry allegedly has been deceiving the public about smoking for the last 45 years. What gives? Or do I need to ask?

tobacco brouhaha wrap-up:

  • "The Truth About Tobacco" An odd title given there is little truth in this New York Times editorial. There's no admission, government warning labels have been on cigarettes for more than 30 years and smoking doesn't kill 400,000 per year.

  • "Philip Morris says smoking admission not tied to future lawsuits" - The Associated Press reports, "David Greenberg, a Philip Morris executive, said the decision to state the company's views on smoking risks was not part of 'a litigation strategy.'"

  • "Foes say Philip Morris late with cancer admission" Reuters reports, "President Bill Clinton and tobacco foes on Wednesday said Philip Morris Cos. Inc. had waited too long to finally acknowledge that medical evidence points to smoking as a cause of lung cancer and other lethal diseases."

  • "W.House rips into Philip Morris cancer admission" -

    Reuters reports, "The White House on Wednesday ripped into the acknowledgment by tobacco giant Philip Morris Cos. Inc. that there is a scientific consensus that smoking causes lung cancer and other deadly diseases."

  • "Clinton welcomes Philip Morris tobacco admission" - Reuters reports, " U.S. President Bill Clinton on Wednesday grudgingly welcomed Philip Morris Cos. Inc's admission that medical evidence shows smoking causes lung cancer, and said it was long overdue."

  • "Tobacco giant admits health risks" - BBC coverage.

"Side-Impact Air Bags Called Risk To Children" - The Washington Post reports, "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will issue a consumer advisory today telling parents that children seated near side air bags are at risk of serious injury or death."

"Activist Group Public Citizen Joins Attack on WTO" - The Washington Post reports, "One of the country's best-known activist groups joined in the chorus of voices criticizing the World Trade Organization yesterday, suggesting the international agency has led the United States and other countries to weaken their environmental, health and safety laws."

"Backlash for GM dissenters" - The BBC reports, "Claims that the system used to assess the safety of genetically-modified (GM) food is flawed has sparked a furious row among scientists."

"GM scientists go on offensive over safety of crops" - The Guardian reports, "Genetic engineers today launch a counter-offensive in the battle over GM crops. Five scientists protest in Nature, the world's leading science journal, against a claim that genetically altered crops could not be regarded as safe until they had passed the toxicity tests used for new drugs."

"EU Environment Ministers Write Rules on Pollution, Global Warming" - The Environment News Service reports, "Air pollution and global warming dominated the talks as European Union environment ministers held the first of two formal Environment Councils scheduled under the Finnish EU presidency yesterday. Finland assumed the six month rotating presidency of the 15 nation European Union on July 1."

Environment News Service wrap-up - The ENS reports:

  • "Houston beats out Los Angeles as smoggiest city"" This summer, Houston was the smoggiest city in the U.S., beating out long time title holder Los Angeles, California. For the first time in more than 50 years, Los Angeles went an entire summer without a single Stage 1 smog alert anywhere in the region."

  • "Is Houston's pollution Goveror Bush's fault?""The Texas chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) says Texas Governor George W. Bush invited the state’s biggest polluters to 'write loopholes to allow their smokestacks to avoid regulation.'"

  • "One billion moviegoers to view global warming message""A new movie trailer on the risks of global warming will debut in theaters latervthis month to reach an international audience of more than one billion people. Produced by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Earth Communications Office (ECO), 'A Perfect Balance' uses images and celebrity narration to illustrate the causes of global warming, and describe simple ways to reduce climate change."

"Screensaver to predict climate change" - The BBC reports, "A UK scientist is appealing for anyone with a home computer to help forecast how the Earth might be affected by global warming in the next century."

yawn of the day: "Scientists breed tumor-resistant mice" - If I had a dime for every mouse that was made safe from cancer... Unfortunately, mice aren't people and this headline will likely turn out to be much ado about nada. Finally, I don't know about your mouse, but mine is less likely to get cancer because it gets a lot of exercise -- mostly point-and-click.

"Battle over teen smoking heats up: Feds blast study showing lax enforcement of law to limit cigarette sales" - MSNBC reports, "A new study has more bad news about a bad habit: teen smoking. It says both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and dozens of state governments have failed to enforce a 1992 law that is supposed to prohibit the sale of tobacco to minors."

"Irish coffee ingredients may limit stroke damage" - Reuters reports, "A combination of alcohol and caffeine diminishes the ravages of a stroke, according to results of a study conducted in lab rats. The finding suggests that combining these ingredients -- as found in Irish coffee -- may also reduce the effects of stroke in humans, report Texas researchers -- who caution that more study is needed to determine if this theory is in fact true."

"It's that man again" - The New Scientist reports, "Arpad Pusztai is finally publishing a paper about his experiments on modified potatoes. But the meaning of his work remains unclear."

"All dried up; Forest fires are upsetting the global weather machine" - The New Scientist reports, "Smoke from forest fires can stop clouds forming raindrops, new satellite observations have shown. Experts warn that this may lead to unexpected effects on the world's climate."

"Good ol' milkweed" - The New Scientist reports, "The number of monarch butterflies is declining steeply in North America because farmers destroy the milkweed plant, which is the sole diet of the butterfly's caterpillars. Now agricultural researchers in the US have found uses for milkweed--which could save the butter-fly, and the ozone layer into the bargain."

October 13, 1999

product defense of the day: The Roundup Roundup Sensing Monsanto blood in the water from the GM foods controversy, European activists have now targeted Roundup, a widely used weed killer made by Monsanto. Not surprisingly, the activists don't have a leg to stand on.

misleading headline of the day: "Philip Morris admits evidence shows smoking causes cancer" That's a headline from the print edition of today's New York Times and it refers to new text on the Philip Morris web site. But Philip Morris did no such thing -- just read the article. The web site simply presents "mainstream" views on smoking and health. The web site contains no admissions. Matt Myers of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids is quoted as saying '... [the web site] falls a critical step short because it doesn't say whether Philip Morris agrees with these conclusions.'" This is much ado about nothing. Click here for BBC coverage.

lawsuit of the day: "Former Makers of Lead Paint Are Sued by Rhode Island" The Wall Street Journal reports, "Taking a page from state lawsuits against tobacco companies, Rhode Island sued former makers of lead paint to recover public costs of providing health care and special education to children harmed by lead poisoning... But past suits have been successful only against owners of specific buildings. Paint manufacturers have escaped liability because plaintiffs have had trouble proving which company was responsible for their injuries or the degree to which lead from paint may have been a factor. Brands of lead paint are virtually indistinguishable from others, and several different coats -- each microscopically thin and made by a different company -- may cover the same wall. Moreover, many healthy Americans have some lead in their blood, sometimes in amounts exceeding standards set by the Centers for Disease Control. There are other sources of exposure to lead, including leaded gasoline made before that was banned, and water from lead pipes."

stupid quote of the day: Confused calamities Denver Post staff columnist Diane Carman wrote in her Oct. 12 column "Learning to live with less," "... we [in the developed world] also produce 75 percent of the greenhouse gases responsible for depleting the ozone layer." Of course, Diane has confused one eco-hysteria with another. Greenhouse gases allegedly cause the dreaded "global warming." Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) allegedly cause the dreaded "ozone depletion." Yeesh.

scare of the day: "Holiday stresses may increase risk of heart disease" CNN reports, "As the holiday season approaches, researchers warn this festive time of year may be hazardous to your health. A study in this week's Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association, found December and January have the highest number of deaths from coronary artery disease." Too bad this study collected no data implicating the holidays or stress as a trigger for the deaths in question. The reported seasonal variation may be real, but the reason for the variation is a mystery.

eco-babble of the day: 'Sustainable ageing?' At the recent 15th annual meeting of the International Epidemiology Association, Dr. Ruth Bonita, director of non-communicable disease surveillance for the World Health Organization, called for "science based advocacy" to achieve "sustainable and healthy ageing of all populations worldwide," according to the Epidemiology Monitor (October 1999). Just what is "sustainable ageing"? Is this English? International bureaucrat-ese? What?

"Kansas Board of Education rewriting standards after evolution flap" The Associated Press reports, "The debate over evolution in education may not be over in Kansas. The State Board of Education sparked a national debate two months ago by approving science standards that de-emphasize evolution. But it voted 7-3 Tuesday to direct Education Commissioner Andy Tompkins to come back with proposed changes in the 94-page document outlining the standards. The move is because three national science groups are refusing to let the board include their copyrighted materials in Kansas testing standards because of the board's stance on evolution."

"Laws banning smokes sales to minors going unenforced, study says" Worried about teen smoking? Try enforcing the laws instead of blaming manufacturers.

"EU optimistic of accord on UN Biosafety Protocol" Reuters reports, "The European Union said Tuesday it was optimistic agreement could be reached early next year on a global pact to regulate trade in genetically modified commodities."

"BSE: French move raises fresh fears over beef dispute" The Financial Times reports, "Fears of a protracted dispute between London and Paris over beef exports heightened yesterday, when a French minister said there could be no absolute guarantees that British beef was safe until beyond August 2001."

"GM Food: Mexico's farming habits under pressure" The Financial Times reports (Oct. 12) that genetically modified seeds may threaten Mexico's biodiversity. But I would say the millions who live in squalor in Mexico are a more pressing, real problem. That's just me, though. You may think that hand-wringing over a conjured-up, hypothetical problem is important. Greenpeace certainly does.

"Tobacco industry influence and income on decline in California" "A series of political defeats, declines in campaign contributions and a recent falloff in revenue appear to signal an erosion of tobacco industry influence in California, even though the industry remains a major political force in the state, according to a new report from the University of California, San Francisco."

October 12, 1999

gut-check time for Monsanto: "Monsanto weedkiller 'wipes out beneficial insects'" Will Monsanto defend Roundup? Or will chairman Bob Shapiro once again bow to the junk science-fueled demands of the enviros?

"A Group Sows Seeds of Revolt Against Genetically Altered Foods" The Wall Street Journal reports on the cabal out to torpedo GM foods.

junk journalism of the day: "Lancet defies GM study advice" The BBC reports, "The leading medical journal The Lancet is embroiled in a furious row with its own advisers over a decision to publish the controversial research on genetically-modified (GM) potatoes by Dr Arpad Pusztai. The panel of experts who were asked to peer-review the work are understood to have told the journal that the research is "unsound" and should not be published."

statistical furball of the day: "That pet census barks" The Seattle Times comments, "King County is going to the dogs - and cats - if pet census figures emanating from the licensing department are to be believed. Not to worry. Some figures are suspect."

"Malaria worst since 1930s in South Africa" The Times reports, "Milder winters, due to global warming, an influx of migrants from neighbouring countries where anti-malarial programmes have all but collapsed, and the growing resistance of the mosquito parasite to traditional drugs have been identified as reasons for the worrying trend." But "I think such an oversimplistic explanation is dangerous," said Dr. Paul Reiter, chief of entomology for the dengue branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "When we talk about emerging diseases, we are missing the boat, if we just mention climate." Click here for the Malaria Clock.

commentary of the day I: "Defusing the population bomb" The Chicago Tribune editorializes, "The United Nations marks Tuesday as the day the world's population officially reaches 6 billion. That's a cause for reflection, but not, as some would have it, for panic or alarm."

the price of ignorance: "High prices keep organic foods off shopping list" The Guardian reports, "The campaign to make organic foods a mainstream part of shopping and eating habits is being hampered by their higher prices, the Soil Association, the sector's leading lobby group, said yesterday... The survey showed organic consumers are more likely to be women, from higher social classes. They buy the produce because it is seen as free of pesticides, chemicals and additives, free of genetic modification and better for the environment and livestock." Click here for a related story in The Times.

corporate junk of the day: "New Research by The Gatorade Sports Science Institute: High School Football Players Benefit from Sports Drinks in Crunch Time" I love Gatorade. But this "research" claiming 2.2 percent more power output among 37 high school football players who drank Gatorade vs. a flavored-water placebo is a bit much. As if the trivial result based on limited and suspect-quality data isn't enough, there's this aimed at coaches: "This study confirms that a sports drink is better than water when a hard game is on the line... The carbohydrate in a sports drink, like Gatorade, gives you the edge... The research also confirmed another fact -- athletes need to be actively encouraged to drink enough of the proper fluids [read "Gatorade"] to stay hydrated. When water was consumed voluntarily based on thirst, the athletes became dehydrated." Even if the research was sound, the blatant marketing ruins its credibility.

commentary of the day II: "Endocrine false alarm" Michael Fumento writes in the National Post, "A major U.S. study has failed to deal a death blow to the scare over 'hormonal disrupters,' chemicals suspected of reducing human sperm counts and shrinking alligators' phalluses. But the evidence says these claims are largely, uh, impotent."

"Drinking tea protects arteries from cholesterol build-up" Reuters reports, "The authors acknowledge that at least in the West, people who drink tea generally have a healthier lifestyle and diet, which may account for the findings. In this study, for example, the researchers found that people who tended to drink more tea were also lean, had a healthy diet, and smoked less."

"Rocket fuel linked to cancers in aerospace workers" Reuters reports, "Although the findings suggest a strong link between prolonged hydrazine exposure and risk of death from lung cancer and other cancers, the authors stress that their findings remain preliminary, and 'need to be replicated in other populations.'"

"Sri Lanka accuses Voice of America of dumping toxic waste" The Associated Press reports, "Villagers in western Sri Lanka have accused Voice of America radio of dumping toxic waste near their water supply, a government official said Monday. The villagers say they are coming down with strange ailments."

"Greenpeace activists reportedly beaten in Lebanon" Agence France-Presse reports, "Lebanese soldiers broke the arm of an environmental activist and seriously injured another's back during a protest against the dumping of chemical waste, the Greenpeace organization said Monday."

"British beef remains banned, but can pass through France" The Associated Press reports, "The French Food Safety Agency recommended Monday that British beef - feared to be infected with mad cow disease - remain banned. However, it can be allowed to cross through France on its way to other countries as long as it is not unloaded in the country."

"Beef battles expose EU's health dilemma" Reuters reports, "The European Commission is under pressure to take legal action against France over a refusal to import British beef, while using similar arguments to France in keeping U.S. hormone-treated meat out of Europe, analysts say. France has said it will not lift a 3-1/2 year embargo on British beef over mad cow disease. In a similar standoff, the EU executive insists its decade-old ban on U.S. meat cannot be lifted. Both arguments rely on the interpretation of science."

"Greenpeace in legal battle to curb oil exploration" Reuters reports, "Environmentalist group Greenpeace took the UK government to court on Monday over what it sees as Britain's failure to protect coral beds, whales, dolphins and other marine life from the effects of oil and gas exploration."

"Fury at tobacco ban delay" The BBC reports, "Anti-smoking campaigners are furious after the government revealed delays to a planned ban on tobacco advertising. A total ban had been due to begin on 10 December. Instead, it will be phased in over three years."

"Tobacco firms go to court to delay UK ban" Reuters reports, "Tobacco companies launched legal moves on Monday to prevent the British government from implementing a ban on advertising ahead of a ruling by the European Court. Ironically, the hearing at the High Court in London began on the same day that the health ministry announced it was postponing some of its tough new restrictions on tobacco advertising."

October 11, 1999

stupid quote of the day: Robert Bork on youth and crime Last week, Republican presidential candidate Georgw W. Bush said, "Too often, on social issues, my party has painted an image of America slouching toward Gomorrah" -- a slam of social conservatives as symbolized by Robert Bork's book "Slouching Towards Gomorrah." Bork responded today in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, "Slouching Toward Bush Won't Save Us From Gomorrah." Bork writes, "Crime is down, both because of the Guiliani effect and demographics, but is still very high and may well rebound as the number of young males in the population increases." [emphasis added] While I'm skeptical that more "young males" directly leads to more crime, I wonder if Bork, a well-known abortion opponent, might change his view on abortion because of this recent (junk) study linking increased abortion with less crime.

MVP update: "MVP voting: Einstein and Curie" Marie Curie is still beating the pants off Rachel Carson in Nando's voting for most valuable people of the century. Click here to cast your ballot for Marie Curie!

"Scientists revolt at publication of 'flawed' study" The Independent reports, "The study that sparked the furore over genetically modified food has failed the ultimate test of scientific credibility. Research purporting to show that rats suffer ill-health when fed GM potatoes has been judged as seriously flawed and unworthy of being published by a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Referees used by The Lancet, one of Britain's leading medical journals, to review the research have found that it has failed to prove a link between GM potatoes and intestinal disorders in the rats. The referees - all experts in their own fields who judged the work independently of each other - found the study to be defective in design, execution and interpretation. Despite their assessments, however, The Lancet has decided to go ahead and publish the study this week, on the grounds that publication of even flawed research could be in the public interest."

"Turn Down Heat in Food Feud" About the biotech food controversy, the Los Angeles Times editorializes " U.S. and European regulators should get together and seek a solution acceptable to both sides."

"Public gripped by cancer myths" The BBC reports,"More than half were under the impression that living near electricity pylons increased cancer risk, when this has never been proven."

"Climate blamed for penguin deaths" The Independent reports, "Global warming is being blamed for an outbreak of malaria that wiped out an entire colony of penguins at a zoo. A total of 26 birds at Marwell Zoo, near Winchester, died after they were infected with avian malaria."

"Anger as tobacco ad restrictions delayed" The BBC reports, "The government has been accused of appeasement after announcing it intends to soften a blanket ban on tobacco advertising due by the end of the year."

"CIA: Mosquito may be a foreign agent" The Independent reports, "Sooner or later someone had to say it, and now they have. The outbreak of mosquito-borne encephalitis that left five people dead in New York and made as many as 50 ill, could have been the first detected example of biological terrorism directed against the United States. This week's issue of the New Yorker magazine reports that analysts at the CIA felt a 'whiff of concern'" that the first-ever outbreak of West Nile fever in the Americas could have been caused deliberately."

"New York officials dismiss report that virus may be Iraqi bioterrorism" The Associated Press reports, "City officials downplayed a report suggesting the CIA is investigating whether the recent West Nile-like encephalitis outbreak was deliberately set by Iraqi bioterrorists."

"US avoiding addressing one child policy" Reuters reports, "The United States is deliberately suppressing the need to address a one child family policy for parts of the world where the population is exploding in order to preserve its right to consume resources, in the opinion of a British population growth expert."

"Long-burning candles can emit unsafe levels of lead" Reuters reports, "Burning a candle with a metallic core in its wick -- such as a scented or ceremonial candle -- for just one hour in an enclosed room can raise airborne lead to levels determined unsafe by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)."

"Brown pelicans making a comeback" The Associated Press reports, "Brown pelicans are making a comeback along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. They're doing so well that wildlife officials no longer see a need for them to be listed as threatened." That's nice. But the article erroneously blames the pelican decline to DDT. For more information, check out "100 Things You Need to Know About DDT."

"Southern Calif. Adopts Smog Rules" The Associate Press reports, "Under pressure from a federal judge, Southern California air quality regulators on Friday adopted what they described as the nation's toughest restrictions on ozone-depleting emissions from cleaning solvents."

October 10, 1999

"Mobiles keep mice on the run" Operator, can I have X-Lax 329?

oddity of the day: Olestra increases fecal excretion of dioxin A letter in The Lancet (Oct. 9) reports, "Two patients with chloracne [severe acne] had concentrations of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) of 144 000 and 26 000 pg/g blood lipids. Olestra, a non-digestible, lipophilic dietary fat substitute accelerated the patients' intestinal excretion of TCDD by eight to ten fold. This is sufficient to reduce the normally observed elimination half life of TCDD from about 7 years to 1-2 years." The patients were given olestra chips (Pringles fat-free chips, 10 g olestra/28 g chips, provided by the Procter & Gamble Company, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA) over 38 days, using five different dosing regimens (from 15 to 66 g olestra daily) lasting 7 days each. And, much to the chagrin of Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, "The patients experienced no gastrointestinal side effects."

commentary of the day I: "Why did they settle?" The new York Post comments, "Bad science has carried the day in the case of the fen-phen diet-drug combo."

commentary of the day II: "Unsound science" The Boston Globe editorializes, "People want to believe in magic, and they often find it in misinterpreted science. The supposed 'Mozart effect' has pregnant women standing close to stereo speakers so their babies can hear music that will make them smarter. Never mind that the original research made no claims about general intelligence or about infants, in the womb or in the crib. The 1993 University of Wisconsin study merely found that adults answering spatial relationship questions on an IQ test had a temporary boost in their scores after listening to 10 minutes of a Mozart piano concerto."

junk commentary of the day: "Terminating the terminator" The St. Louis Post-Dispatch comments "Monsanto's pledge that it won't pursue controversial 'terminator' technology is welcome news."

"Six billion of us" The Denver Post features commentaries on population.

"Drug-resistant bacteria perceived to be on the rise" Agence France-Presse reports, "At a seminar here this week, doctors were blamed for over-prescribing antibiotics on a massive scale and farmers for using antibiotics to fatten up their animals."

"Labour sues for peace on GM foods" The Independent reports, "The Government is seeking peace talks with environmentalists and consumer groups in an attempt to end the battle over genetically modified foods, the Independent on Sunday can reveal."

"US alarm grows over GM foods" The Telegraph reports, "American consumers are finally waking up to the international controversy over genetically modified food, with members of Congress joining a growing clamour for compulsory labelling and leading companies searching for alternative ingredients for some products."

"Health of Europe's forests worsens" The BBC reports, "The main causes of the vitality losses and damage are air pollution and extreme droughts."

"French play for time over beef ban" The Guardian reports, "Britain's worst fears over the BSE beef ban were revived last night as France appeared to be persuading other countries to back its opposition to lifting its embargo on British exports, and the European Commission in Brussels started backing away from its threat to take legal action."

"The Week That Was October 9, 1999" The weekly update from the Science and Environmental Policy Project.

October 9, 1999

"Carlo To Air Fears At 7-Eleven" Wireless Week reports, "If you stop by selected 7-Eleven stores, Subway sandwich shops or other convenience marts this month, you might see an advisory flashing on the video monitor at the checkout line: 'Wireless phone users: If you stay connected, will your health be affected?'"

"GE Squeezed Into $250M PCB Cleanup" The Environment News Network reports, "General Electric Company has agreed to spend an estimated $250 million to clean up the Housatonic River, polluted by decades of hazardous chemical discharges from its plant in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The settlement, announced Thursday, finalizes cleanup and reclamation plans that the company has been negotiating with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Justice and state officials for more than a year."

junk commentary of the day: "Fight grows over high-tech crops" A decidedly negative editorial on biotech foods by the St. Petersburg Times. I guess the editors missed my op-ed in yesterday's Investor's Business Daily. Send your comments to the St. Petersburg Times.

commentary of the day I: "Genetically engineered food" Jay Ambrose writes, "Something could go wrong with genetically engineered food, just as something could go wrong with any other kind of food, but reasonable safeguards are in place. The noise and excitement should cease."

commentary of the day II: "The Weekend Australian or the Anti-Nuclear Australian?" Aaron Oakley comments, "Unfortunately, the Tokaimura incidence says more about the minds of newspaper editors than it does about the safety of nuclear energy."

commentary of the day III: "Prosperous Billions" The Detroit News comments, "Human ingenuity dictates the sustainable population of the Earth, not the fevered imaginations of environmental pessimists."

commentary of the day IV: "Warning Signs" The National Anxiety Center's Alan Caruba comments, "Six Billion People. So what?"

commentary of the day V: "Smoking Does Not Cause Lung Cancer (According to WHO 1999 Data)" The Journal of Theoretics editorializes, "Yes, it is true, smoking does not cause lung cancer, it is only one of the many lung cancer risk factors for getting it. I initially was going to write an article on how the professional literature and publications misuse words like saying "smoking causes lung cancer"1,2, but the more I looked into how biased the literature, professional organizations, and the media are, I modified the article to one on trying to put the relationship of smoking and cancer into perspective. (No, I did not get paid off by the tobacco companies, or anything else.)"

commentary of the day VI: "Send Anderson to science class" Terry Corcoran asks in the National Post, "Whatever possessed David Anderson, on the [Canadian] environment job for only a few weeks, to drive his first global warming initiative right off a cliff?"

"Critics say EU biotech approval process flawed" Reuters reports, "The European Union's regulatory approach to genetically modified crops is slow, unpredictable and overtly motivated by political considerations, a senior U.S. government official said on Friday."

"New Mexico education board drops required instruction in creationism" The Associated Press reports, "Teachers in New Mexico no longer have to teach creationism along with the theory of evolution in their classrooms."

"Antibiotics: A fading wonder" "Superbugs - bacteria that resist the effects of the most powerful antibiotics - are being reported more and more frequently. Some doctors see their rise as heralding the end of the age of antibiotics. BBC News Online's health team presents an overview of the past, present and future of the 20th century's greatest medical breakthrough."

October 8, 1999

"Tests show no basis for mobile ban in aircraft" The Independent reports, "The ban on mobile phones in aircraft has no scientific justification, according to studies by the aircraft makers Boeing and Airbus and by the American Federal Aviation authority. Britain's Civil Aviation Authority has also admitted it has no scientific data showing any effects from mobile phone use."

commentary of the day I: "Biotech reporting mimics Hollywood rumor mill" My op-ed in today's Investor's Business Daily.

commentary of the day II: "Ergo, lawsuits" The Wall Street Journal editorializes, " And any day now, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a subsection of the compulsively intrusive Labor Department, is set to issue new ergonomic standards for workplaces across the nation. The Republicans in the Senate yesterday were asking for a moratorium on application of those regs until the National Academy of Sciences, already assigned to the task, completed a big study of the matter next year. Seems like a sensible idea, given the vagaries of ergo maladies. But the Democrats killed it, leaving OSHA and the lawyers always found in the agency's slipstream free to launch the attack. And a broad attack it will be."

lawsuit update: "Florida smokers trial penalties phase pushed back" Reuters reports, "A Florida judge on Thursday pushed back to November 1 the start of the potentially high-stakes penalty-fixing phase of the massive Engle class-action suit on behalf of sick smokers...But the start of the first follow-up trial has been delayed by an appeal that turns on the question of whether each smoker's claim must be argued individually in court. Such an arrangement would postpone any industry payouts... Florida's Third District Court of Appeal (DCA) in Miami is scheduled to hear arguments on the industry's appeal on October 20, with a ruling to follow at any time afterward."

study of the day: "Huge Antarctic ice sheet could be in its death throes " "An immense expanse of Antarctic ice that has been receding steadily for 10,000 years poses the most immediate threat of a large sea level rise because of its potential instability, a new study indicates. The West Antarctic Ice Sheet - about 360,000 square miles, or roughly the size of Texas and Colorado combined - rests on the Antarctic land mass below sea level, which makes it particularly susceptible to rising sea level. Its complete collapse would raise global sea level 15 to 20 feet, enough to flood many low-lying coastal regions. The new study shows that the ice sheet's complete disintegration in the next 7,000 years could be inevitable, said Howard Conway, a University of Washington research associate professor of geophysics, who is the lead author for a paper describing the research in the Oct. 8 issue of Science. While human-caused climate change could hasten the ice sheet's demise, it might be that there is nothing humans can do to slow or reverse the trend, Conway said." Click here for Reuters coverage. Click here for BBC coverage.

corporate cave-in of the day: "AHP, fen-phen lawyers sign proposed $4.83 bln deal" Reuters reports, "American Home Products Corp. and lawyers for past users of the fen-phen diet cocktail have signed a memo of understanding under which the drug maker would pay $4.83 billion over up to 16 years as part of a national settlement of thousands of liability lawsuits, both parties said Thursday." Click here for MSNBC coverage. Click here for Associated Press coverage.

corporate bonehead of the day: "BP Amoco warns against cellular phone use at gas pumps" The Associated Press reports, "BP Amoco is warning customers not to use cellular phones near gasoline pumps due to concern that electronic impulses could start a fire." I guess someone at BP Amoco missed the San Francisco Chronicle article exposing the cellhone-gas station explosion hoax.

stupid quote of the day: Robert Kennedy, Jr on Al Gore: "He's our last best chance to save the planet." Reuters reports, "Vice President Al Gore, whose support among environmentalists has flagged lately, got a boost Thursday with an endorsement by several prominent 'green' activists in New York. The Democratic presidential hopeful was described as 'our last, best chance to save the planet' by Robert Kennedy Jr., an environmental attorney, who announced his support for Gore at a $1,000-a-head fundraiser in Manhattan." Click here for New York Times coverage.

"Monsanto versus Greenpeace" The BBC reports, "The big biotech firm Monsanto has come face-to-face with one of its main critics - Greenpeace. The two organisations have polarised views on the potential benefits and dangers of genetically-modified (GM) crops, which they laid out before a public audience in London. Read what the Monsanto chairman Bob Shapiro and the Greenpeace UK executive director Peter Melchett had to say and then e-mail us with your opinions."

"DeAngelis expected to be named new JAMA editor" The Associated Press reports, "The American Medical Association is about to name a new editor of its influential journal, and speculation Thursday centered on Dr. Catherine D. DeAngelis, a dean at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore." Click here for a stroll down memory lane.

"Regulators confident that bio-engineered foods are safe" The Associated Press reports, "The federal regulators responsible for ensuring the safety of genetically engineered crops sought Thursday to banish concerns that hazardous biotechnology products could reach the market."

"Drugs may have been made from BSE infected cattle " The Guardian reports, "Patients treated with vaccines during the early years of the BSE crisis may never know whether their drugs might have been made using potentially dangerous material from infected cattle."

"Setback for hopes of early end to French ban on beef" The Guardian reports, "Government hopes of a speedy resolution to France's refusal to lift its ban on British beef appeared to be in the balance last night as Germany weighed in with its concern that the safety of the meat might have to be reconsidered." Click here for coverage from The Times.

BMJ Overpopulation debate:

October 7, 1999

'must read' of the day: "Adapt or Perish" Philip Stott reviews the new book Fearing Food in today's Wall Street Journal Europe. Fearing Food is available at the Junkscience.com store. Don't forget to visit Stott's Anti-Ecohype web site.

commentary of the day: "EPA looks away from possible health threat" USA Today editorializes about the EPA's controversial "sludge rule." Click here for the response from the EPA.

failed government program of the day: "Report on Acid Rain Finds Good News and Bad News" The New York Times reports, "In what researchers say is the first comprehensive look at the effect of those reductions on rivers and lakes, an international team of scientists plans to report on Thursday that they have found a nearly universal decrease on both continents in the levels of sulfates -- the major acidifying pollutant deposited by acid rain in surface water. Despite the reductions in sulfates, however, the researchers did not see a decrease in overall acidity, the sign of true recovery, in all regions." A 1980s-vintage U.S. government report costing $500 million reported no adverse effects on the environment from the dreaded "acid rain." So why should we be surprised that a multi-billion dollar regulatory solution for a fantasy problem produced no results?

corporate bonehead of the day: "Monsanto pledges GM dialogue with Greenpeace" Monsanto shareholders probably wish chairman Robert Shapiro's parents had "terminator" genes.

"Hain Food's New Labeling May Prompt U.S. Shoppers to Demand 'Biotech-Free'" From today's Wall Street Journal.

"New Ads Highlight Global Warming" The Associated Press reports, "Three environmental groups began an $8 million, six-week TV and newspaper advertising campaign Wednesday to try to 'jump start' public discussions about global warming."

"Tobacco industry manipulates scientists and public opinion, WHO executive claims" The Associated Press reports, "The tobacco industry uses enormous wealth to manipulate scientists and public opinion in an attempt to increase global cigarette sales, the World Health Organization's European director said Wednesday. "

"Global warming can make sea level plunge " The BBC reports, "Global warming can lead to a dramatic fall in sea level, says a US geologist. This suggestion is the opposite of the generally-expected effect of rising temperature. And while it is unlikely to happen in the near future, Dr John Bratton of the US Geological Survey says the process behind it could offset the sea level rises which are predicted to flood low-lying areas of the world. It could also explain mysterious plunges in sea level in warmer periods in the Earth's geological past."

hot air of the day: "MIT study assesses effects of Kyoto Protocol" "The first comprehensive assessment of economic, atmospheric, climatic, and ecosystem effects of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change will hit newsstands in Nature's October 7 issue. The study, by researchers from MIT and the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, shows that a strategy for controlling multiple gases associated with greenhouse warming could reduce control costs by over 60 percent compared with controlling carbon dioxide (CO2) alone." Click here for Associated Press coverage.

scare of the day: "Chemicals in diapers cited as possible asthma trigger" Reuters reports, "Childhood respiratory problems, including asthma, may be linked to inhaling the mixture of chemicals emitted from disposable diapers, researchers write in the September/October issue of Archives of Environmental Health." Question of the day: Is there a difference between diaper contents and the Archives of Environmental Health?

"Antarctic ozone hole smaller than last year, NASA reports" The Associated Press reports, "The Antarctic ozone 'hole' is smaller than last year, NASA scientists reported Wednesday. The hole, actually an area of depleted ozone concentration high in the atmosphere, remains very large, however, said researcher Richard McPeters."

junk of the day I: "Fat can be fatal, study says" The Associated Press reports, "A study involving more than 1 million Americans offers the most convincing evidence yet that simply being overweight can lead to early death." Click here for the study abstract. Click here for the accompanying editorial. Without passing judgment on the extent to which obesity is a health threat, this study suffers from the "garbage-in, garbage-out" phenomenon. The study used the American Cancer Society's Cancer Prevention Study II (CPS-II) data set. To assemble the CPS-II, the ACS had about 70,000 untrained volunteers ask their friends, family and friends personal health questions -- e.g., So how much do you smoke and drink Aunt Mary? The data collected was never validated for accuracy. Self-reported data is not all that reliable and the problem is compounded by amateur data collectors. I also find it interesting that the study authors were able to adjust their crude results for mortality risk factors such as diet, exercise and health history. But in the infamous Pope study, used by the EPA as the scientific basis for issuing the most expensive environmental regulation of all time, the same authors failed to adjust their results with those same confounding risk factors.

"Fears over cancer drug" The BBC reports, "Fears about the risks of using tamoxifen to prevent breast cancer have been strengthened by research which shows a four-fold increase in the risk of another cancer among long-term users."

junk of the day II: "`Cookie-sharing' children credited for crime drop" The Toronto Star reports, "The first day-care kids are becoming young adults, and they're pushing down the crime rate. Demographer David Baxter thinks he knows one reason why: Day-care children were 'raised to share their cookies, not to be the Marlborough Man.'"

"Scientists fear criticism could hamper altered crop development" The Associated Press reports, "Scientists worry that a public backlash against genetically modified foods could slow the development of crops that could improve health and nutrition."

"Smog sends 53,000 to hospital each summer - report" Reuters reports, "Smog sends 53,000 people to the hospital each summer and triggers more than 6 million asthma attacks in the eastern United States, according to estimates released on Tuesday by clean air activists."

"UK Experts Urge Better Safety Tests For GM Food " Reuters reports, "British scientists called Wednesday for better tests to assess the safety of genetically modified (GM) foods. They said the standard measure known as 'substantial equivalence' -- showing a GM food is chemically similar to its natural equivalent -- should be ditched because it is not accurate enough to prove safety for human consumption." Click here for BBC coverage.

"US grain group urges firms to create GM-crop tests" Reuters reports, "The National Grain and Feed Association on Wednesday said seed companies should develop efficient, low-cost tests to enable grain handlers and processors to detect genetically modified (GM) commodities."

"'Evolution' struck from Kentucky school requirements" The Associated Press reports, "The word 'evolution' has been deleted from guidelines of what Kentucky public school students should know, the latest blow to a topic many scientists consider a cornerstone of biology."

October 6, 1999

article of the day: "Modified crops cause concern" My Chicago Sun-Times article about a new dilemma faced by farmers -- whether they should exchange the benefits of GM seeds for a possible price premium on non-genetically modified grain."

"GM Foods: Battle intensifies" The Financial Times reports, "A handful of Wall Street analysts - such as the food/agribusiness team at Deutsche Bank Alex Brown - has gone as far as to predict that the technology is 'dead'. Others have merely lowered ratings on companies heavily exposed to its acceptance, from DuPont/Pioneer to St Louis-based Monsanto."

outrage of the day: PSA test: Promoting stress and anxiety? Find out why a new study in the Oct. 6 Journal of the National Cancer Institute spotlights the folly of routine prostate cancer screening. Click here for Reuters coverage of the JNCI study.

scare of the day: "Salon Hair-Washing May Harm Necks" The Associated Press reports, "There's a new peril among the chemicals, scissors and razors at the hair salon: the sinks where customers get their hair washed. People with neck problems risk developing a painful condition from leaning their heads back over the sink, according to researchers at New Jersey Medical School in Newark. The researchers have even given it a name: Salon Sink Radiculopathy, or injury to nerve roots leading from the spinal cord to the extremities."

politically convenient study of the day: "Smoking cost Medicare $20 billion in 1997" Reuters reports, "Smoking-related diseases cost the Medicare system $20.5 billion in 1997, accounting for nearly 10% of the federal program's costs that year, according to estimates from researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)." Twenty billion dollars is the same amount claimed in the federal lawsuit against the tobacco industry. UCSF is the home of anti-tobacco oberfuehrer Stan Glantz. Coincidence?

commentary of the day: "Hormonally Challenged" Michael Fumento writes in the American Spectator (Oct. issue), "Alarmists claim man-made chemicals called "endocrine disrupters" are causing widespread birth defects and lower sperm counts. Now an authoritative report shows those warnings to be mostly hype. But don't tell that to politicians or the press. "

lawsuit of the day I: "Antismoking Group Sues Tobacco Firms" The Associated Press reports, "An antismoking group sued three tobacco companies on Tuesday, asking that the federal court require them to establish a $330 million fund to help prevent smoking-related illness."

lawsuit of the day II: "Tobacco industry tries to stop Canada smoking suit" Reuters reports, "The tobacco industry moved to stop Canada's first lawsuit over smoking-related health costs on Tuesday, arguing its opponents have capitalized on the industry's unpopularity to violate its constitutional rights. Canadian cigarette makers asked a British Columbia Supreme Court judge to strike down a law that was enacted by the British Columbia legislature to allow the provincial government to launch a suit modeled on legal action taken by more than 40 U.S. states."

anti-nuclear hysteria of the day: "Dangers of Chernobyl Echo in Japan" Paul Josephson writes in the Los Angeles Times, "Until solutions to radioactive waste and decommissioning are found, until reactors can be designed that are truly safe and until reactors are built far from population centers, expansion of the nuclear enterprise must cease. Tokaimura and Chernobyl symbolize not cheap electricity but a technology of still unknown risk." Send your comments to the Los Angeles Times.

"Concern remains as Monsanto drops terminator gene" Reuters reports, "Monsanto Co's renunciation of the 'terminator' gene will do little to silence opposition to the biotechnology company's powerful role in seed development, campaigners said on Tuesday."

"World braced for terminator 2" The Guardian reports, "Monsanto's pledge not to commercialise the "terminator" technology that genetically programmes plants to bear sterile seeds was yesterday hailed as a significant victory for developing countries and for farmers around the world, but others dismissed it as little more than a public relations exercise."

"Indian peasants torch crops amid fear of losing home-grown seed" The Guardian reports, "They called their protest operation Cremate Monsanto. Peasants with green shawls flung over their shoulders clambered over the experimental field sites and dug their fingers deep into the hard black soil, yanking out hundreds of cotton plants. Then they turned acres of genetic engineering in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh into giant funeral pyres."

"UK farmers can displace much US soya" Reuters reports, "Britain will always have to import protein for animal feed, but farmers can profitably do more to replace imported soya, a key protein source whose genetically modified variety has aroused widespread consumer mistrust."

"Study says many Chinese smokers unaware of risks" Reuters reports, "Smoking has grown in popularity in China, the world's largest producer and user of tobacco, where most people are unaware of the associated health risks, Chinese and U.S. researchers said on Tuesday." Click here for the study. Click here for BBC coverage.

corporate boneheads of the day: "Judge says settlement is near in fen-phen trial, dismisses jury" The Associated Press reports, " In anticipation of a national settlement, a judge sent home the jury that was hearing evidence in a class-action lawsuit filed by New Jersey users of the fen-phen diet pill cocktail." Click here for my recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. Click here for a recent study casting more doubt on the scientific basis of the fen-phen litigation.

Response to yesterday's 'bogus warning of the day' Airline pilot Randy Oliver responds to the Wall Street Journal article (Oct. 5) "Cell-Phone Use Aloft May Not Be The Danger That Airlines Claim."

"A hard earned thirst could lead to a healthier life" ABC News reports, "New research has found that moderate beer drinking can reduce the risk of two of Australia's major causes of death - coronary heart disease and thrombotic stroke."

October 5, 1999

"Mixed signals; The evidence indicates that cell phones don't cause cancer, but George Carlo is not so sure" The Boston Globe reports, "Louis Slesin, publisher of Microwave News, an industry watchdog group... remains skeptical, however, about Carlo's 'death-bed conversion' on cell-phone safety issues, and wonders if Carlo may just be wooing more research money."

bogus warning of the day: "Cell-Phone Use Aloft May Not Be The Danger That Airlines Claim" The Wall Street Journal reports, "As anyone who has flown has heard, using a cellular telephone aboard an airplane is dangerous. American Airlines warns passengers that cell phones 'may interfere with the aircraft's communication and navigation systems.' Similar warnings come from Delta, United and Continental. British Airways links cellular interference to potential problems with compasses and even cabin pressure. What the airlines don't tell passengers is that there is no scientific evidence to support these claims. What concerns there are about cellular phones in airplanes dwell in the realm of anecdote and theory -- and to some extent in that of plain finance. There is money to be earned or lost by cell-phone companies and airlines if cell phones are used in-flight."

corporate cave-in of the day: "Green Group Welcomes Monsanto 'Terminator' Move " Reuters reports, "Environmental group Friends of the Earth Monday welcomed U.S. biotechnology group Monsanto Co's decision not to develop a so-called 'terminator' gene which would sterilize seeds used by farmers." Click here for Financial Times coverage. Click here for New York Times coverage.

scare of the day I: "Extinction warning for freshwater species" The BBC reports, "Scientists say the US faces losing most of its freshwater species by 2100."

commentary of the day I: "The Futile Crackdown" Philip E. Ross writes in Forbes (Oct. 18), "Governments, decreeing zero tolerance of drugs, have 400,000 drug offenders in this country in jail. Mothers Against Drunk Driving persuades legislators to raise the drinking age and now wants to restrict advertising of alcohol. The Justice Department concocts a convoluted theory about how tobacco vendors deplete federal coffers and sends them a bill for $20 billion a year. What you are witnessing is the New Prohibition. It is the Volstead Act all over again, in different guises. It aims to enforce clean living by edict. And it is almost certain to fail, as greatly as the last Prohibition failed in the 1920s."

commentary of the day II: "Warming orthodoxy ambush " Fred Singer writes in the Washington Times (Oct. 4), "Non-believers of global-warming catastrophes are severely chastised. Academic scientists have had their research funds cut off for expressing skepticism. Government scientists have been ostracized or forced to resign; some have even been fired. Others have been harassed, demonized and libeled. The number of such cases is on the upswing."

"US corn group urges non-GMO crop certification" Reuters reports, "The American Corn Growers Association said on Monday it is working with members of Congress to establish a form that would allow farmers to certify they did not deliver GMO (genetically-modified organisms) crop to their local grain merchant."

scare of the day II: "Rain heavily contaminated by mercury, study shows" The Globe and Mail reports, "The rain falling in many areas of the U.S. Midwest is not the clean, pristine water normally associated with precipitation, but contains elevated levels of mercury, a potent nerve toxin."

scare of the day III: "Toxic chemicals found in snowcaps" The Globe and Mail reports, "Scientists testing the snowcaps from the coastal mountains to the Rockies have found large concentrations of toxic chemicals -- including PCBs -- linked to birth defects and reproductive problems."

"Fuel for thought" The Financial Times reports, "The 'hydrogen economy' is beginning to take shape. Using hydrogen instead of carbon-based fuels such as coal and oil is increasingly seen as an attractive way of moving towards low-pollution energy... Safety could play an important part in deciding which option to adopt. Ever since the 1937 Hindenburg airship disaster, hydrogen's ability to ignite easily has been a cause for anxiety."

"French look again at beef transit ban" The Guardian reports, "The French government is tomorrow expected to recommend lifting the ban on the transport of British beef through France for sale in other countries, after the EU threatened legal action in defence of Britain's farmers."

"Six dead this year from v-CJD" The Independent reports, "Six people have died so far this year from BSE-induced "new variant" Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (v-CJD), figures from the Department of Health show. In total, 46 have died from the disease since it was identified in 1995. However, the low number so far gives little indication of this year's total, as full post-mortem diagnoses take several months."

junk of the day: "Oats, antioxidants may reduce short-term cardiac risk" Reuters reports, "Recent study findings have suggested that risks for heart attack or stroke rise in the hours following a high-fat meal. Now researchers report that the consumption of oatmeal and other high-fiber foods, or antioxidants such as vitamin E, may help reduce that increase in cardiovascular risk." Wake me when Quaker Oats finds a scientist who can demonstrate that eating oatmeal actually prevents otherwise imminent heart attacks.

"Environmentalists, labor unions unveil new alliance" Reuters reports, "Labor unions and environmental activists -- often bitter foes in the battle over natural resources -- announced a new alliance Monday to fight rogue corporations and 'misguided' international trade pacts like the World Trade Organization (WTO)." Watch for organized labor to adopt junk science-based enviro rhetoric.

October 4, 1999

junk news conference of the week: Enviros to launch global warming TV campaign The National Environmental Trust will hold a news conference to announce a television advertising campaign to "educate" the public about global warming. The campaign will run this fall. Participants in the news conference will feature renown climatology experts, including: Phil "My brain has been rotted by the" Clapp (National Environmental Trust), Robert Musil (Physicians for Social Responsibility), and Lynn Goldman (former EPA pesticide head). The date is October 6, 1999. The location is the National Press Club Ballroom 14th and F Streets NW, Washington, DC. The dress is dunce cap.

"Germany: Greens set to consider party reforms" The Financial Times reports, "Germany's troubled Greens, junior partners in the country's ruling coalition, will on Monday be told to abandon the democratic traditions rooted in the protest movements of the 1970s and to adopt a more traditional structure for the party."

"Disasters: Why we can't blame it on the weather" The Financial Times blames bad weather on global warming and earthquake damage on poor people forced to live in earthquake-prone areas. I think this article was actually meant for the Hysterical Times.

good news of the day: "Big Tobacco Pursues Secondhand Smoke Data " The Los Angeles Times reports, "Philip Morris appears likely to win access to information behind a study that found increased cancer risk for nonsmokers. A victory could help firm discredit such evidence."

"Council calls for phone mast ban at schools" The Herald (Glascow) reports the, "Greater Glasgow Health Board has called for a temporary ban on the erection of mobile phone masts on sites close to schools following fears the emissions could be linked to childhood leukemia and cancer" I guess the Board missed the recent expert panel report from the Royal Society of Canada declaring mobile phone towers to be safe.

"Bt-treated crops may induce allergies" Science News reports, "Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a moth-killing bacterium that farmers use as an insecticide, has been considered nontoxic to all but a few types of insect larvae. It may pose some health risk for people, however. A new study of Ohio crop pickers and handlers finds that Bt can provoke immunological changes indicative of a developing allergy." Despite Janet Raloff's scary write-up, the study authors did state "occupationally related clinical diseases were not observed in this cross-sectional survey." Click here for the study abstract.

commentary of the day: "Conspiracy theories" Jacob Sullum writes in the Washington Times, "Now Miss Reno wants to pretend there was no reversal, that the [federa; tobacco] suit is based not on political considerations but "on the evidence and the law." If you believe that, you probably also believe cigarettes are safe - in which case the Justice Department desperately needs to hear from you."

"GM food critic set to reopen safety debate" The Telegraph reports, "The row over the safety of genetically modified food is set to enter a new phase as the scientist at the centre of the controversy publishes his results. Dr Arpad Pusztai ignited the GM row last August when he claimed that GM food might directly harm human health. He is now to publish research on rats fed GM potatoes in The Lancet." Click here for BBC coverage.

"Groundless fears on pill 'boost teen pregnancy'" The newsUnlimited reports, "Widespread misinformation and unwarranted fears about the safety of contraceptive pills are to blame for the rise in teenage pregnancies, a leading charity claims today."

"Minister seeks water fluoride feedback" The BBC reports, "Health boards across Scotland have been instructed by Health Minister Susan Deacon to reopen the debate about fluoridation of water supplies."

"Ignoble advances in science" Scripps Howard News Service reports, "Oh, wonderful. Just what forward-looking, high-tech, well-educated Colorado needs; to share with Kansas an 'Ig Nobel' prize in science education because its standards for teaching evolution are so wimpy."

October 3, 1999

"Mobile phone radiation risk list revealed" The Independent reports, "The first comprehensive study of the health risk from mobile phones reveals that some models expose users to up to 20 times more radiation than others on the market. The research, carried out by German scientists from the Institute for Satellite and Mobile Communication, provides the first consumer guide to emissions from popular brands of cell phone. The 'safest' phone was found to be the Motorola Star Tac 130. At the bottom of the league is the Philips Genie 900."

article of the day: "Health Business Thrives on Unproven Treatment, Leaving Science Behind" The New York Times' Gina Kolata again shows why she is one of the nation's premier science journalists. Spotlighting an industry selling a bogus, expensive and painful product, this article will help you ask the right questions should cancer strike you or your family.

commentary of the day I: "Fascism and the campaign to end smoking" Pierre Lemieux writes in the National Post, "The Nazis were known, and admired, for implementing the most progressive public health policies in their time. They applied state-of-the-art research and regulation to occupational, environmental and lifestyle diseases. Cancer was declared "the number one enemy of the state." Nazi policy favoured natural food and opposed fat, sugar, alcohol and sedentary lifestyles. The existing temperance movement against alcohol and tobacco became more active under the Nazis, who were involved in what Prof. Proctor calls 'creating a secure and sanitary utopia.'"

commentary of the day II: "Victims of 'Coffin Nails'?" George Will writes in the Washington Post, ""Say, sport, have you got a coffin nail on you?" asks a character in an O. Henry short story written in 1906. The New Dictionary of American Slang dates the phrase "coffin nail" from the late 19th century. Which fact indicates that the government, in its suit against the tobacco companies, is committing the sin -- fraud -- that it supposedly is suing about."

junk of the day: "Iceberg threat to shipping" The BBC reports, "A massive iceberg [music link] that has been floating freely since it broke away from Antarctica in 1992 could now be a threat to shipping off the southern tip of South America. Scientists also believe that this break up of Antarctic ice represents further evidence of global warming." Click here for the Junkscience.com article from last October's iceberg hysteria.

junk commentary of the day: "6 billion, 6 billion and 1..." The San Francisco Examiner editorializes, "Clearly, one response to a more populous planet ought to be the promotion of lifestyles that pollute less. Zero-emission vehicles should be favored over gas-guzzling SUVs, for example."

"Expert on GM danger vindicated" The Independent reports, "The scientist who suggested that genetically modified foods could damage health - and was comprehensively rubbished by Government ministers and the scientic establishment as a result - is to have his reputation dramatically vindicated. Britain's top medical journal, The Lancet is shortly to publish Arpad Puzstai's research showing changes in the guts of rats fed with GM potatoes. This will reignite fears that eating GM foods may endanger human health."

"Blood test to show whether Britain faces CJD epidemic" The Sunday Times reports, "Britain could finally learn whether it faces an epidemic of the human form of "mad cow" disease after scientists announced they had devised a simple blood test that could be used to screen the population. The test, already secretly proven on humans, can show the presence of the microscopic prions that cause variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) - the human form of BSE - long before any symptoms develop."

"GM crop ban to be extended" The Sunday Times reports, "The government is expected to announce a three-year extension to a voluntary ban on the commercial planting of genetically modified crops." "

"Nicholas Lezard bites the GM apple" A fawning and sycophantic review of the latest book from technophobe Jeremy Rifkin.

"Heavy rains partially diluted pollution threat from Floyd" The Associated Press reports, "Dangerous bacteria and chemicals flushed into North Carolina waterways by Hurricane Floyd's disastrous flood haven't caused widespread health problems, but long-term environmental damage remains to be seen, state officials say."

October 2, 1999

'nuclear hysteria antidote' of the day: "Exploding Nuclear Myths Part 1 - 'No safe level of radiation'" Just in case you've been overexposed to the word "disaster" in connection with the recent nuclear incident in Japan.

today's Gore-ing: "Gore In The Balance" Jonathan Rauch writes in the National Journal, "Every politician -- at least every politician worth voting for -- harbors something embarrassing in his past, something that raises questions about his suitability for the presidency. For Texas Gov. George W. Bush, that something is the suspected, and not denied, use of cocaine or some other illegal drug, probably more than 20 years ago. For Vice President Al Gore, the something is Earth in the Balance, his apocalyptic 1992 book on the environment."

junk journalism of the day: "Toxic Blast Closes Commerce Department" The Washington Post reports, "A malfunctioning electrical transformer exploded yesterday at the Commerce Department, spewing a cancer-causing liquid that required the decontamination of nearly 50 people." The so-called "cancer-causing liquid" included PCBs. But Junkscience.com readers, unlike Washington Post reporters, know the PCB scare was debunked this year by the scientist who started the scare 24 years ago.

commentary of the day I: "Population controls create crisis" Beverly Lahaye writes in the Deseret News, "Around the world, the population control frenzy has created a climate where preserving life and health takes a back seat to promoting abortion and birth control. In Kenya, Margaret Ogola, a medical doctor, testified twice at U.N. conferences that she cannot get the penicillin she needs to treat dying children, but international aid programs stuff her medical clinics full of expensive birth control devices."

commentary of the day II: "Six billion people? Three cheers" "Every issue from human rights to reproductive health has been twisted into an argument for controlling population. But the only place where there are too many people is in the population control lobby, says Frank Furedi."

eco-babble of the day: "Clean politics and clean environment go together" William Shutkin writes in the Boston Globe, "Environmental quality has everything to do with civic capacity; sustainable development hates political disaffection." What?

"The Week That Was October 2, 1999" The weekly update from the Science and Environmental Policy Project.

"GM maize trials under way in Portugal" Reuters reports, "Two experimental genetically modified (GM) maize trials are under way in Portugal and the crops are scheduled to be destroyed soon, an Environment Ministry spokesman said on Friday."

"Japan to proceed with GMO labeling - minister" Reuters reports, "Japanese Agriculture Minister Shoichi Nakagawa said on Thursday that Japan would implement mandatory labeling for food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but he declined to comment on the move's impact on imports."

"EU warns Paris over beef row" The Times reports, "Britain's beleaguered beef farmers were thrown a lifeline last night when the European Commission threatened France with legal action over its refusal to lift the ban on British beef imports."

October 1, 1999

scare of the day I: "PVC toys may pose risk to children" The Times reports, "British babies are at risk of poisoning from PVC toys and teething rings because government tests for measuring toxicity are unreliable, according to the European Commission."

scare of the day II: "Most Canned Food Is Contaminated, Survey Says" Reuters reports, "Research in five European countries shows that most canned food is contaminated by traces of varnish used to coat the metal, Belgian consumer rights magazine Test Achats said Wednesday." Click for the EU response.

scam of the day: "Log on and plant a tree to pay your carbon bill" The Independent reports, "People wishing to atone for the fossil fuels burnt to power their daily lives - from driving cars to making tea to listening to compact discs - can now log on to a website where they can buy and plant exactly the right number of trees to compensate. Future Forests, the environmental group that launched the site yesterday, says studies show that the fuel consumed for the average Briton's non- transport use generates three tons of carbon dioxide a year."

"Warning Signs" "The hottest weekly commentary to be found on the Internet, pulling no punches as Alan Caruba points out environmental lies and liars, political pandering, food police nutcases, animal rights lunatics, and the entire managerie of mis-information and dis-information."

commentary of the day I: "It's not easy being antigreen(peace); Questioning Greenpeacers as if they were unelected politicians" The Globe and Mail takes Greenpeace to task for its anti-biotechnology advocacys.

"Europe's Electronics Firms Unwilling to Get the Lead Out" The Environment News Service reports, "Electronics manufacturers in Europe say they need to use some toxic materials such as cadmium, lead and mercury and a proposed ban in five years would hurt the industry."

commentary of the day II: "Tobacco lawsuit: Feds blowing smoke?" The Deseret News editorializes, "The judicial system concerns itself with matters of fact and law. At this juncture, it would appear that matters of fact and law weigh on the side of cigarette manufacturers."

commentary of the day III: "The Queens of Nile Denial" The new York Post comments, "Environmentalists love to hate man-made substances like pesticides. But the outbreak of the West Nile virus - a virus never before found in the Western Hemisphere - ought to be enough for New York City's greenie activists to hang up the bullhorns and call off the rallies."

commentary of the day IV: "Justice Department suit oversteps legal, ethical bounds" Amy Ridenour writes in the St. Louis Post-Dispach, "After having failed to increase federal tobacco taxes through the democratic process, or even trying very hard to do so, the Clinton administration has turned from Congress to the courts to try to levy its unpopular tax increase on an American industry. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution grants to the Congress, not the executive or the courts, the power to raise taxes. But the administration believes that the Constitution should be ignored when it gets in the way. If Clinton succeeds in ignoring it here, expect the litigation tax to fall soon on other controversial everyday items like alcohol, snacks, guns, cars and fast food."

junk commentary of the day: "SUVs vs. lungs" The St. Louis Post-Dispatch participates in the assault on SUVs.

"R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company Says, Arkansas Judgment Highlights Weaknesses in Department of Justice Suit" "For example, McKim said, in dismissing the Arkansas Carpenters' case on Sept. 28, U.S. District Judge James M. Moody noted that: 'Each of the plaintiff's claims suffers from some version of the same fatal flaw: the aggrieved party or parties, legally speaking, in each of the claims is someone or some group other than the plaintiff. The plaintiff, in other words, is too far removed from the challenged harmful conduct to succeed on any of the several claims.'"

"Radiation Risk to Japan Public May Be Minimal" The Los Angeles Times reports, "The accident at the Tokaimura reprocessing plant was almost certainly a "criticality" event: a runaway nuclear chain reaction. If so, that is bad news for the plant and its workers but probably good news for residents of the surrounding countryside. Such accidents do not normally release sustained large amounts of radiation."

study of the day I: "U.S. study finds no heart damage from diet drugs" Reuters reports, "Boston researchers said on Thursday they had been unable to find evidence that people who took the popular 'fen-phen' diet combination had a higher-than-usual rate of heart disease." Click here for my recent Wall Street Journal op-ed.

study of the day II: "U.S. study finds no heart damage from diet drugs" Bad news for drug company/physician pushers of hormone replacement therapy. A study in the British Medical Journal reports, "Women who would subsequently use hormone replacement therapy were already at lower cardiovascular risk before the start of treatment than women who would remain untreated. Some of the claimed beneficial effects of treatment may thus be explained by women who would use hormone replacement therapy representing a healthier cohort than women who would remain untreated."

commentary of the day V: "Time to register randomised trials" The British medical Journal editorializes, "The case for registering all clinical trialsfirst advanced a decade ago1is now unanswerable. The public has the right to know what research is being funded. Researchers and research funders don't want to waste resources repeating trials already under way. And those conducting systematic reviews need to be able to identify all trials begun on a subject to avoid the problem of publication bias. Otherwise, clinicians may be deceived on what the evidence shows."

'reassurance' of the day: "Monsanto says no change on gene food" Reuters reports, "Biotechnology group Monsanto said on Thursday it was not considering changing its stance on genetically modified (GM) food."

statistic of the day: "Infant, maternal death rates down 90 percent in 20th century, CDC reports" The Associated Press reports, "Touting what they called one of the century's most significant advances in public health, federal officials announced Thursday that infant and maternal mortality rates have dropped by more than 90 percent since 1900." Click here for the CDC release.