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Archives - September 2001

September 29-30, 2001

"Not the end of the world" - "Biological weapons have an apocalyptic reputation. But they are often ineffective in spreading disease, says Henry Miller" (Financial Times)

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

Let's see... there's thought to have been a near-"planet killer" impact some 60-plus million years ago and another possibly a couple hundred-million before that... two events in a quarter-billion years.

For some reason, odds like that don't cost me any sleep. They certainly don't lead to a burning desire to pay more tax so someone can watch to see if the sky really is falling - especially since we couldn't do much about it anyway.

Colour me obtuse but I'd rather see the money spent on securing adequate nutrition and safe water supply, maybe even adequate health care, for all the world's human population before surrendering to a Henny Penny mindset.

Do we really want to divert attention and effort away from real-world problems by obsessing over risks somewhere between negligible and non-existent? Really?

"'Zero tolerance' needed on pollution" - "The UK's Environment Agency says pollution is being treated as an acceptable risk by too many businesses, and is calling for a "zero tolerance" approach to the problem." (BBC Online)

Now, if we could just figure out when, if ever, test-tube pure air, water, etc., existed, or the nearest facsimile thereof, we could figure out what actually constitutes "pollution" so we'd know what is and is not acceptable for "zero tolerance" purposes.

"Hot Air" - "The alarms about dangers from methane at Norrell and Whitcomb Court elementary schools have been thoroughly debunked. But that does not mean work is done for those who stirred up parents' fears.

Some time back, a founder of the group Parents for Life opined that danger from methane is not the central issue. "Children," he said, "should not have to breathe gas at all." (Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial)

?!! "European Companies Not at Fault May be Liable" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium, September 27, 2001 - The European Commission's proposal to make companies strictly liable to pay compensation for causing significant environmental damage even when they are not at fault should apply to a much wider range of businesses, according to a group of environmental NGOs. The organizations are lobbying for changes to the plans before a draft law, known as a directive, is tabled early next year." (ENS)

"Americans leading healthier lives, reducing risk of death from heart disease, UCSF study finds" - "American adults are leading healthier lives and thus are significantly reducing their risk of heart disease mortality, according to a new University of California, San Francisco study recently published in The Journal of American College of Cardiology (October 1, 2001).

"Reductions in heart disease risk factors, such as smoking, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, represent a major public triumph," said Lee Goldman, MD, MPH, lead author of the study and chair of the UCSF Department of Medicine. "We found that substantial reductions in heart disease risk factors are well worth the cost, in part because of reductions achieved by the American public’s positive changes in lifestyle and habits." (University of California - San Francisco)

"Study: No link between fat intake, colon cancer" - "STOCKHOLM, Sep 28 - Consumption of fat and fatty acids appears to have no association with colorectal cancer, neither protecting against nor increasing the risk, according to recently published results from an ongoing study in Sweden.

"Previous studies from the United States have said total fat intake increases the risk of colorectal cancer, but they're old studies. Today there are so many types of fat," said Dr. Alicja Wolk, lead author of the study and a professor of nutritional epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden." (Reuters Health)

What a headline! "Blood Clot Risk Higher with Newest Pill - EU Agency" - "LONDON - The risk of blood clots is higher with the newest generation of oral contraceptives than with earlier versions but women should not stop taking the pill, a regulatory agency said on Friday." (Reuters)

Yeah, there could be a slightly enhanced risk - nowhere near as great as that of pregnancy - but, hey, why stuff a good headline?

"Worst case BSE scenario? 40 million sheep will be killed" - "The British government has admitted that if BSE was discovered in the national flock, up to 40 million sheep could face slaughter in a bid to control the disease.

Contingency plans in case the disease is discovered have been released because the BSE inquiry report of October 2000 recommended that such planning was a "vital part" of government activity.

So far the brain wasting disease, believed to be linked to the fatal human illness vCJD, has not been detected in any sheep and there is indeed as yet no evidence that sheep can contract it. A surveillance programme is currently underway however investigating whether the nation’s 40 million sheep investigating whether BSE can be contracted by the animals in the same way as another similar brain disease scrapie." (just-food.com) | Sheep BSE 'worst case' plans outlined (BBC Online)

"Thousands of patients were exposed to CJD" - "HOSPITALS are having to warn thousands of patients that their operations may have exposed them to the human form of mad cow disease. Research has shown that up to 41 hospitals unwittingly operated on patients incubating variant CJD (vCJD) - and then used the instruments on other people.

The study has also found 22 people who were given transfusions of blood donated by people later diagnosed with vCJD." (Sunday Times)

"Anger at secret monkey BSE tests" - "European Union scientists have secretly given their blessing to controversial experiments in which live monkeys will be infected with mad cow disease.
In a move that has outraged animal rights campaigners, the EU's most powerful scientific committee has concluded that 'important and valuable information' can be gained from such experiments.

They believe the information will help scientists better understand how BSE is caught, particularly by humans. The monkeys will be fed brain matter from British and French meat infected with BSE." (Observer)

"Great Lakes exhaling toxins, study says" - "OTTAWA -- The Great Lakes are starting to "exhale" toxic chemicals, purifying themselves of contamination they absorbed in past decades, a new study says.

Lake Ontario alone released almost two metric tonnes of now-banned PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) into the air from 1992 to 1996, according to the study released Friday.

The five lakes combined showed a net decrease of roughly 10 tonnes of PCBs and four tonnes of the banned pesticide Dieldren over that period.

This is the first time scientists have documented the "outgassing" of toxic chemicals, said Keith Puckett, an Environment Canada researcher who led the study for the Integrated Atmospheric Atmospheric Deposition Network." (CP)

"France orders withdrawal of weedkiller" - "PARIS, Sep 28 - French farm minister Jean Glavany on Friday ordered the withdrawal of a group of weedkillers, saying the chemicals were building up in water supplies and threatening human health.

Glavany said in a statement he had ordered that the products, called triazines, be withdrawn from the market by September 30, 2002, and that manufacturers not use them to make other products as of June 30, 2003. Atrazine, banned by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1999, is among the triazines.

Glavany said his decision was based on evidence of a "generalized presence" of triazines in French water supplies." (Reuters)

"Joint tech-research on global warming OK'd" - "Japan and U.S. officials discussing prevention of global warming agreed Saturday to join forces to continue to develop technologies for reducing greenhouse gases, a government official said." (Yomiuri Shimbun)

"Antarctic fire damages climate change study" - "Fire destroyed an internationally renowned British laboratory in the Antarctic yesterday, dealing a serious blow to research into global climate change." (Independent)

Ah, catastrophic local warming! A significantly more serious problem than alleged anthropogenic "global warming."

"Adaptive-decision strategy offsets uncertainties in climate sensitivity" - "CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The uncertainty of climate change because of global warming is much greater than previously thought, and as a result, policy-makers should adopt a robust, adaptive-decision strategy to cope with potential consequences, researchers at the University of Illinois say.

As will be reported in the Oct. 16 issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research, UI atmospheric scientists Natalia Andronova and Michael Schlesinger found there is a 54 percent chance that climate sensitivity lies outside the 1.5 to 4.5 degree Centigrade range announced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“This is definitely not good news,” Schlesinger said. “If the climate sensitivity is greater than the IPCC’s upper bound, climate change could be one of humanity’s most severe problems of the 21st century. If, however, it is less than the lower bound, then climate change may not be a serious problem for humanity.” (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

"The microbes that 'rule the world'" - "The Earth's climate may be dependent upon microbes that eat rock beneath the sea floor, according to new research." (BBC Online) | Bioalteration of basaltic glass in the oceanic crust (Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems (G3))

"SUMMER 2001 FIFTH WARMEST ON RECORD FOR U.S.; CONDITIONS DRY IN THE NORTHWEST, WET IN SOUTHERN GULF" - "September 26, 2001 — The summer of 2001 was the fifth warmest on record in the contiguous United States, scientists at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., said today. Using the world's largest weather database, NCDC scientists calculated conditions for the meteorological summer, June through August.

The preliminary nationally averaged temperature was 73.6 F (23.1 C), which was 1.5 F (0.8 C) above the long-term mean. June through August temperatures have been above average in 11 of the past 15 years." (NOAA News)

Isn't this staggering? The more we "pollute" the record with urban-centric (corrupted by heat island effect) readings, the warmer things appear. Even so, despite increase in atmospheric CO2, summer 2001 still couldn't top the charts. Why not? Undeniably, atmospheric CO2 rose by about 0.4%. Since rising levels of this essential trace gas allegedly raise global temperature, why didn't the year of highest contemporary atmospheric CO2 levels record the warmest summer? In a nutshell - because atmospheric CO2 does not determine global temperature.

Groan... "Most keen to be green, but uninformed" - "A total of 82.4 percent of the respondents to a survey on global warming prevention and lifestyle said they were interested in environmental problems, according to figures released on Saturday by the Cabinet Office.

The number of people who knew that an increase in carbon dioxide would lead to global warming came to 85 percent, the survey said." (Yomiuri Shimbun)

Really? If only climate science were so advanced that we could make such unequivocal statements.

"Federal Agencies Failing to Reduce Pesticide Use" - "WASHINGTON, DC, September 28, 2001 - Federal agencies can and should be doing more to encourage farmers to reduce use of toxic pesticides on U.S. crops and farmland, according to the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress. The agency's report finds that despite federal promises to slash agricultural pesticide use, pesticide use has risen over the past eight years." (ENS)

"Food writers hold independent debate as they call for government action" - "In the light of recent UK and global events, the issue of long-term food security has never been more urgent, according to the independent body, the Guild of Food Writers.

With the heavy reliance of UK agriculture and food supplies on oil and other inputs and the ongoing foot and mouth crisis that may resurge with the coming cold weather, the Guild believes the issue of sustainable agriculture and food supply in the UK must rise on the Government’s agenda.

Experts from across the food and farming industries will be arguing whether organic food and farming hold the answer at the Guild’s national debate on Monday 1 October, 2001. The Guild is asking Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Rt Hon Margaret Beckett MP, to address the issue urgently." (just-food.com)

"With Friends Like These…" - "Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement, weighed in on America's war with terrorism via satellite from Holland this morning. In the TM empire's latest attempt to cash in on world events, the Maharishi laid out a "peace plan" calling for the deployment of 40,000 trained TM experts to India to "dramatically reduce acute ethnic and religious tensions."

Who is this holy man who offers such a peculiar path to peace? The Maharishi heads a vast web of groups intent on destroying consumer choice. His followers promote organic farming, and the TM offshoot Natural Law Party (NLP), with branches in over 80 countries, is primarily a vehicle for scare campaigns against genetically improved foods. (Perennial NLP presidential candidate John Hagelin was on hand at the National Press Club for the Maharishi's announcement this morning.)

The locus for these anti-choice efforts is Fairfield, Iowa, where the NLP and the Maharishi University of Management (MUM) are based. A MUM professor and his wife run Mothers for Natural Law (M4NL), which works with groups like Friends of the Earth to push for mandatory labeling of all genetically improved foods. And MUM dean John Fagan founded a company called Genetic-ID, a genetic "testing" and certification firm endorsed by M4NL that claimed to find defects in the StarLink corn used in Taco Bell's taco shells and other products. Genetic-ID board member Jay Marcus is a frequent NLP candidate with financial ties to organic food producers, and a director of Demeter, Inc., the principal Biodynamic Organic Certification company in the United States.

It seems TM is less interested in peace than in a piece of the action. These guys are allies the United States -- and freedom-loving consumer choice supporters -- don't need." (GuestChoice.com)

"Health-relevant and Environmental Aspects of Different Farming Systems: 'Organic, Conventional and Genetic Engineering'" - "InterNutrition, the Swiss Association for Research and Nutrition, has carried out a comparison based on published scientific papers concerning the biological, conventional and genetic engineering methods used in agriculture and nutrition. The findings of this study, which was carried out in close collaboration with Professor Klaus Ammann, Director of the Botanical Garden of the University of Berne, were presented to the Swiss media in November 2000. The summary of the study is now available online in English (complete study in German only)." (InterNutrition)

"Cool head in a burning debate" - "It takes a lot to get Dr William Rolleston fired up. The slightly built doctor prefers instead to fight his battles with what he calls well-reasoned arguments.

But since volunteering two years ago to take on the role of mouthpiece for New Zealand's pro-GM movement, Dr Rolleston has found himself at the heart of an unusually fervent national debate.

This is the frontman who passionately argues that GM must be made a part of this country's future. Organics and GM can and should live together, he says. In his measured tone, Dr Rolleston patiently explains that GM is for the good of the country - in every way." (New Zealand Herald)

"Building Confidence in Biotechnology" - "URBANA — Communicating the science of biotechnology to non-scientists is the professional mission of Bruce Chassy, professor and associate director of the Biotechnology Center at the University of Illinois. He believes that much of the controversy surrounding the science of biotechnology and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is driven by misinformation and misconceptions about the science." (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

"Rick Hellmich: A Monarch Man in the Making" - "You can't un-ring a bell. That's a lesson insect researcher Rick Hellmich has learned since the furor arose over the possibility that pollen from genetically modified corn might kill Monarch butterflies.

The bell took the form of a letter to the journal Nature from Cornell University researchers in May 1999. In the letter, researchers reported Monarch caterpillars could be killed by Bt protein—a toxin intentionally produced by genetically modified Bt corn to stop attacks of insects called corn borers.

The Nature letter was just a preliminary study, involving very large doses of Bt toxin. It was, however, seized upon by activists opposed to genetic engineering. Soon demonstrators were donning Monarch butterfly costumes. But were these concerns correct? What really happens when a Monarch caterpillar crawls onto milkweed near a Bt corn cornfield?" (Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology)

"GM food could 'set Africa free'" - "Pretoria - Genetic manipulation to improve agricultural products in South Africa, is here to stay and the government is likely to have a national strategy for biotechnology in place within the next six months.

This was the message to emerge from a two-day conference over biotechnology attended in Sandton by 35 speakers from the US, Europe and Africa." (News24.com)

"Biotech Vs. Rice Blast Disease in Arkansas" - "FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS, USA--A plant defense gene has been used to grow a rice plant that kills blast, probably the world's most serious rice disease. The gene was isolated by scientists of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, the university announced on Sep. 27." (Planet Rice)

"EC-sponsored Research on Safety of Genetically Modified Organisms - A Review of Results"  - "This publication provides a comprehensive review of the results of EC-supported research into the safety of Genetically Modified Organisms. It presents research carried out under successive EC Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development from 1985 (Biotechnology Action Programme) to 2000 (Fifth Framework Programme).

During this period, 81 projects, involving over 400 research teams, have been supported with a combined Community financial contribution of about EUR70 million. The research projects cover plants, plant microbes, biocontrol, food, bioremediation, tools, fish and vaccines. These represent chapters in the book, which contain summaries of each project and an introduction written by a scientist prominent in the field and providing an overview of results, trends and issues. In his introduction to the review, Phillipe Busquin, EU Research Commissioner, states "In today's debate on the use of GM technology in agriculture, food and the environment, it is sometimes suggested that we lack knowledge on possible impacts and how to handle them.

The primary objective of this review is to demonstrate how the EC has tackled this need; to show that it has made a sustained effort, building up a sizeable community of researchers and contributing to the world's fast-accumulating knowledge and experience in the field." (European Commission)

According to appropriately monikered FOE: "Liability For GMO Contamination Needed Now To Ensure Biosafety, Says Friends of the Earth International" - "WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 -- A new report on GMO contamination worldwide shows the urgent need to ratify the Biosafety Protocol and for liability rules as soon as possible." (U.S. Newswire)

"German Senate Commission Approves Transgenic Crops" - "BONN, Germany, September 27, 2001 - Germany's Senate Commission on Genetic Research has come down on the positive side of genetically modified crops. Using genetically modified plants and micro-organisms in food production helps to ensure food security for the world population and to protect sustainable agriculture, according to a new report edited by the commission." (ENS)

"Serious genetic contamination revealed in Mexican maize" - "Greenpeace yesterday called on Mexico to adopt emergency measures to combat the first serious outbreak of genetic pollution in the centre of diversity of maize, located in several communities in the state of Oaxaca. Testing of maize varieties from 22 communities in the area have revealed genetic contamination in 15 of them: 13 samples showed up to 10% levels of contamination, in two others the contamination level is known to be even higher, but no details have been published yet. The contamination originates from genetically engineered (GE) maize grains imported from the United States to Mexico to be used for food." (press release) | Mexican Envmin confirms detection of transgenic corn (Reuters)

September 28, 2001

"Bio-Terror Fear More Costly Than Attacks" - "Many special interests are encouraging fears of terrorism to advance their own dubious causes at public expense. We need to get a grip on our fears and not become victims of our domestic terrorists." (Steve Milloy, FoxNews.com)

Case in point: "Now for GM weapons" - "It's time to get tough with the biotech firms over germ warfare." (Jeremy Rifkin, Guardian)

"A Recipe for Fear" - "We have reported again and again about efforts to scare consumers out of choosing the foods they wish. Now, the results of these orchestrated fear campaigns are starkly visible. "A succession of food scares, diseases and related problems means many consumers have lost faith in what they eat," Welsh organic farmer Bob Kennard tells a food conference.

For organic marketers like Kennard, though, this isn't bad news -- it's been the plan all along. According to an Organic Times brochure, "polls indicate that this anxiety [over food fears] remains a contributing factor to sustained, dramatic increases in organic food sales." Or, more to the point, here's marketing consultant Katy Hamilton at the 1999 Organic Foods Conference: "The potential to develop the organic market would be limited if consumers are satisfied with food safety." (GuestChoice.com)

"Chinese medicines 'still a danger'" - "Some traditional Chinese medicines sold in the UK could still contain "potentially dangerous and illegal ingredients", say experts. Despite moves to remove toxic ingredients from the market, the Medicines Control Agency (MCA) says that it can give no assurances that such medicines are safe." (BBC Online)

"Body May Rust Inside If Vitamin C Over Maximum Dose" - "If you have a bruise, a muscle sprain, an inflammatory disease or if you take iron supplements, exceeding 100 mg per day of vitamin C may be damaging to your body, according to a study by University of Florida researchers.

That's because all of those conditions produce free iron, which reacts negatively with vitamin C in much the same way that the iron on bicycles and fences reacts with water and oxygen.

"You will rust inside, so to speak," said Christiaan Leeuwenburgh, the senior author and an assistant professor in UF's department of exercise and sport sciences." (UniSci)

"Virtual lung models every breath you take - and its impact" - "RICHLAND, Wash.—A virtual lung model developed at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory may help predict the impact of pollutants on respiratory systems and provide new insights into asthma, a condition afflicting 15 million American adults, as well as other pulmonary diseases.

Understanding biological impacts from pollution has become more important as respiratory ailments have increased, as evidenced by the nearly doubling of asthma sufferers since 1980." (PNNL release)

Perhaps - if "pollution" is causal or even contributive in "the nearly doubling of asthma sufferers since 1980." Whether this simplistic notion is valid is actually rather dubious, however, since asthma rates are rising in the very regions where air quality improvements have been so dramatic. I seem to recall a graph by Lomborg in this Economist article showing SO2 and smoke particulate pollution peaked before 1900 and has declined to near nothing now. The same technological advances that have done so much for London's air quality are used throughout the developed world and similar air quality improvements are evident. Why would we assume that such improvements increase asthma incidence?

Parenthetically, Lomborg will be presenting "The Environment: Getting Better, Not Worse" in Washington Wednesday, October 3. Those who wish to attend can register here.

"INTERVIEW - UK faces struggle to meet green power goal" - "LONDON - Britain will struggle to meet ambitious renewable energy targets because the government is not providing sufficient encouragement for green power schemes, said the head of the newly-created Renewable Power Association.

"The government is being timid with its renewables support", David Byers, chief executive of the Renewable Power Association (RPA) which launches on October 8, told Reuters in an interview.

Byers said the government either needs to force suppliers to buy more green energy or it should increase penalties for those retailers which fail to buy green power. Possibly it needs to do both, he added." (Reuters)

David... what do the words "Democracy"; "Self-determination" and; "Freedom" mean to you? Dictatorial seems to apply to those who would "force suppliers to buy more green energy or should increase penalties for those retailers which fail to buy green power."

"Economic man, cleaner planet"

Shocking as it may seem to most anti-globalists, market forces can help the environment. In fits and starts, they are already starting to

“THE foresighted utilisation, preservation, and/or renewal of forests, waters, lands and minerals, for the greatest good of the greatest number for the longest time.” That, insisted Gifford Pinchot, a founder of America's conservation movement, should be the proper goal of greenery. Decades after he penned those words, his sentiments still inspire.

Sadly, that is because the world's approach to environmental protection has mostly failed to heed Pinchot's call for wise use of resources. Instead, governments everywhere have tended to follow a heavy-handed “command-and-control” approach that sets impossibly lofty environmental goals and requires needlessly expensive responses or rigid technological fixes. In America, these came in the shape of a wave of federal environmental laws passed three decades ago, around the time of the first Earth Day. Most of the world then followed the same path." (The Economist)

"Wildlife Society conference starts" - "RENO, Nev. -- More than 1,800 scientists attending a national wildlife conference were urged to remain vigilant in protecting the environment as the nation focuses on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"With the events of the last two weeks, many of you might be thinking our natural resources will be taking a back seat while all the attention is placed on national security," Terry Crawforth, director of the Nevada Division of Wildlife, said Wednesday at the Wildlife Society's eighth-annual conference.

"It's especially important for us at this point in time to do a good job of safeguarding our natural resources and making sure we do what we can to ensure for their peace and solitude." (AP)

psychosis n. loss of contact with reality:  a psychiatric disorder such as schizophrenia or mania that is marked by delusions, hallucinations, incoherency, and distorted perceptions of reality.

natural resource n. naturally occurring exploitable material: a naturally occurring material such as coal or wood that can be exploited by people.

"Wildlife conference tackles Endangered Species Act" - "RENO, Nev. - A wildlife scientist who helped write the Endangered Species Act as a Senate aide then helped enforce it as an Interior Department official says the nation's premier conservation law is getting a bad rap.

"I've often felt that anyone who has ever been involved with writing laws should be sentenced to implementing them," he joked in a speech to more than 1,000 wildlife biologists and other natural resource professionals at the Reno Hilton." (AP)

Really? I can think of quite a few people of the opinion that anyone involved in writing the ESA should face mandatory capital punishment. Maybe that's why I didn't get an invite to the Reno Hilton.

"Japan, U.S. to put off ministerial climate talks to early Oct." - "TOKYO, Sept. 27 - Japan and the United States will postpone ministerial talks on climate change to sometime in early October from the originally scheduled for late September in the U.S., an Environment Ministry official said Thursday." (Kyodo)

"Look what the tide washed in" - "For every problem, H.L. Mencken once said, there's a simple, clear, elegant solution that's completely wrong. But sometimes — if you think about things carefully enough — there's a simple solution that's actually right.

Take global climate change and world-wide sea levels." (Michael Smith, CNEWS Science)

"Global Warming Produced a Greener, More Fruitful Planet" - "For over a decade, many industry groups have maintained that putting carbon dioxide in the air would produce a general "greening" of the planet. In fact, that's the thesis of a famous 1992 video, "The Greening of Planet Earth," which riled the environmental community more than just about anything else that business has done in its own defense on this issue." (Pat Michaels, Cato Institute)

"Lukman Expresses Fears Over Kyoto" - "The Special Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo on Petroleum and Energy, Dr. Rilwanu Lukman has expressed fears over the implementation of Kyoto protocol also known as the Clean Development [Mechanism] (CDM).

Dr. Lukman explained that the CDM is the creation of the Kyoto protocol; hence, if the protocol does not enter into force, there will be no CDM adding: "At least not unless and until some new international agreement, which might replace the protocol years from now, also includes on CDM or something like it."

You know, he said, that the United States of America said it will not [ratify] the Kyoto protocol, and nothing on the horizon is about to change the mind of the United [States'] president he added.

The presidential adviser explained that the rejection of the Untied States to [ratify] the Kyoto protocol means that what could have been the major inducement for the Russian federation to [ratify] the protocol has been significantly diminished.

"I refer to the expectation of most analysts that the participation of the USA would provide the Russians with a huge market into which it would sell emission credits to companies pursuant to the emissions trading of the protocol.

"Many billions of dollars were expected to be moved to Moscow from US companies, which would have needed the credits to satisfy the emissions ceiling set by the protocol for US." (Daily Trust (Abuja))

"Weapon against livestock parasites" - "An ancient mechanism of the immune system may hold the key to controlling pesky parasites in the livestock industries.

CSIRO Livestock Industries' Dr Tim Doran, a winner of the AFFA Science Award for Young People 2001, says a biological technique that allows important genes be targeted and switched off has huge potential for wiping out parasites." (CSIRO release)

"New cream may stop skin tumours" - "A SUNBURN cream which appears to stop skin cancers before they have a chance to form could be on sale within two years, its developers predicted yesterday.

The Queensland Institute of Medical Research was expected to start human trials of the cream in a few weeks.

Its developer, Sydney biotechnology company Novogen Limited, said early tests were encouraging but the active ingredient still had to be proven in human beings." (Courier-Mail)

"Butterfly Balls: Genetically Modified Maize Is Not That Bad For Monarchs (Summary)" - "According to The Economist, 29 researchers published a set of six papers on the website of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (www.pnas.org/papbyrecent.shtml) which were paid for in part by the Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Technical Committee, an industry body, were co-ordinated by May Berenbaum of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

These papers feature the writings of several scientists, which concur that "agriculture is always destructive of wild creatures. However, GM maize seems to be no more so than the ordinary kind," - if not less." (BKC)

"Genetically modified mosquito" - "LINDA MOTTRAM: The world's deadliest disease, malaria, could be wiped out within 25 years if plans to breed mosquitoes with a synthetic gene are successful.

Scientists in the United States say that they can override evolution by unleashing genetically modified mosquitoes which are unable to pass on malaria to humans.

More than two and a half million people die from malaria each year. In Africa alone almost 3,000 people die of the disease each day. The head of the Victorian Infectious Disease Service, Professor Graham Brown, told David Mark that the work is exciting but that ethical questions must also be considered." (This is a transcript of AM radio broadcast, September 4, 2001, Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"ANALYSIS - Argentina confident about soybean sales to China" - "BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Argentina, one of the world's biggest soybean exporters, does not believe China will fulfill its threat to reduce purchases of genetically modified soybeans, given its great need for large stocks of the oilseed, traders said." (Reuters)

September 27, 2001

One picture is worth a thousand words?

If so, what's the story told by this recent shot? The EPA has repeatedly advised that toxin and asbestos levels measured in their sampling regime around New York are not hazardous. While rescue workers should certainly take precautions there is no apparent danger to the general public.

New York Mayor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, has done a great job trying to restore people's confidence in his battered city. Come to New York, he says, we're safe and we're open for business.

And Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton? Does she really believe the air in New York is so noxious that she must appear like this? If so, then apparently she doesn't trust the EPA. Can't say she's giving Mayor Giuliani terrific support for his message either, since this picture says "Hillary thinks the air in New York is hazardous. Stay away!"

Was this ridiculous piece of dramatic grandstanding for the public good? Hardly, but then, baseless fear mongering is never in the public interest but is rather driven by some other agenda. What's hers?

Not that it's her only questionable behaviour recently:

"Frown of a Senator in crisis" - "What's eating Hillary Clinton? Her behavior during President Bush's address to Congress last week was abominable. At a time when even the most partisan of her Democratic colleagues stood united with the president, New York Sen. Clinton shunned patriotism for petulance. She grimaced. She sighed. She rolled her eyes. She fidgeted like a 5-year-old at an opera." (Michelle Malkin, Washington Times)

"As the wall came down, the weight shot up" - "The sudden collapse of communism and rapid rise of capitalism have visited some unpalatable side effects on the residents of the former German Democratic Republic. These include soaring unemployment, poverty and racial violence.

But a major population study on the children of the former communist state shows that they have wasted no time in adopting the worst of capitalist eating. And after more than a century of steady weight patterns, the number of fat children in the east of the nation has almost doubled since the Berlin Wall came down." (Sydney Morning Herald)

"Book closed on dioxin timebomb scare" - "Taranaki's environmental watchdog has closed the book on New Plymouth's toxic timebomb scare. Taranaki Regional Council (TRC) decided yesterday that unless some solid evidence came to light about toxic dump sites in New Plymouth, it would not take any further action. "Our policy has always been to follow up on complaints, but we would now need some evidence to spend significant ratepayers' funds," TRC chief executive Basil Chamberlain said. The decision comes at the end of a four-month, $166,500 TRC investigation into 36 alleged chemical dump sites in New Plymouth. The TRC found there to be no evidence of drum dumps or significant environmental risk at any of the sites analysed." (Independent Newspapers, NZ)

"Pollution-Caused Cell Messengers Linked To CP Disease" - "Proinflammatory cell messengers caused by atmospheric pollutants could play an important role in cardiopulmonary disease, according to a new study.

Canadian scientists report that tiny atmospheric particles (PM10) and other forms of acute atmospheric pollution stimulate large scavenger cells in the tiny air sacs of the lung (alveolar macrophages) to produce proinflammatory intercellular messengers called cytokines which they believe play an important role in increased cardiopulmonary illness and mortality.

Epidemiological studies have shown a significant association between exposure to tiny ambient air particles and greater illness and death from cardiopulmonary disease." (UniSci)

"Radiation warnings for mobile phones" - "INFORMATION about mobile phone radiation levels will be included in handset packaging. The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) said the emission levels of new model handsets released in Australia would be tested under international standards from October 1. The results would be included in product manuals or a separate brochure as the models were released from this weekend." (AAP)

"Lasers fired from space could create cheap fuel" - "Powerful laser beams from space could be fired at sea water on Earth to provide cheap fuel in 20 years' time. The lasers, fired from an orbiting satellite, would be used to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen-powered fuel cells are a clean emerging technology which could, for instance, run cars without causing any pollution. But at present the only way to make hydrogen is to split water with electrical energy from polluting power stations, which defeats the whole object of the exercise." (Ananova)

Odd, I thought most hydrogen was produced by hydrocarbon-steam reformation reactions, which still largely rely on fossil fuels as feedstock and all generate carbon dioxide as the reformation byproduct. At this stage, "clean" hydrogen is basically a fossil fuel, still liberates the same amount of CO2 and is energy inefficient to produce.

"Senate committee approves bill to phase out anti-pollution fuel additive that contaminates drinking water" - "WASHINGTON -- A Senate panel voted Tuesday to phase out an anti-pollution fuel additive after leaks fouled some communities' drinking water.

Opponents pledged to block further action because of language in the measure that would let states opt out of using corn-based ethanol, the only other fuel oxygenate available. Most opponents are from Midwestern farm states, with major corn industries." (AP)

I love this one: "Climate change a challenge for fisheries - analysts" - "OSLO - Global climate change may depress fish stocks in a sector already struggling with overfishing and rising consumption, marine scientists said yesterday.

"One of the big challenges is the relationship between fish stocks and global warming," David Griffith, general secretary of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), told Reuters at an annual four-day ICES conference in Oslo.

"There has been global warming in some areas and a decrease in temperatures in other areas. And (fish) stocks in general have been declining because of the changes in some of these regions," he said." (Reuters)

"Global warming" (except it's localised "in some areas") and accompanied by "a decrease in temperatures in other areas." Yeah, sounds like global warming - in a localised and contradictory sort of way...

Pre-CoP7 model-excusers' piece of the day: "Atmosphere, Not Oceans, Carries Most Heat to the Poles from the Equator" - "BOULDER -- According to a new data analysis, the atmosphere redistributes annually as much heat from the tropics to the poles as would be produced by five million of the world's biggest power stations, generating 1,000 megawatts each. This is far more heat than previously estimated and much more than the oceans carry poleward. Until now scientists have been unable to reconcile observations of the atmosphere and ocean with results from global climate models. The new study establishes the role of each in total heat transport poleward.

"This new analysis makes the observations more consistent with the most stable global climate models and gives us confidence that the models are on target," says Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Trenberth and NCAR colleague Julie Caron performed the analysis, which was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Climate, a publication of the American Meteorological Society. It was selected this month by the journal Science as an Editor's Choice of important new findings." (NCAR/AMS)

This is another gem. The models work better than believed because they were designed to represent the wrong thermal transports and physical phenomena... Good selling point! Flog used cars in your spare time maybe? Sheesh!

"Researchers discover how micro-organisms affect global cycling of iron" - "Santa Barbara, Calif.--A research team report findings that "have significant implications for the cycling of iron in the oceans," according to their article published in the Sept. 27 issue of Nature. Their experiments show that iron bound to siderophores (small molecules produced by bacteria and other micro-organisms) reacts to light. The authors state that this photoreacivity "is an important new concept in our understanding of how siderophores function in biological iron acquisition." (University of California, Santa Barbara - Engineering) | Scientists chart iron cycle in ocean (NSF)

"The Biotech Roadblock for Sellers" - "While U.S. farmers are rapidly expanding their acres devoted to genetically modified (GM) crops, consumers around the world are saying, "Wait a minute." Despite extensive testing in the U.S., they're not convinced it's safe to consume food with genetically modified ingredients.

Europeans have been especially belligerent about keeping GM products off their grocery shelves. Their mantra is the Precautionary Principle, which says no human technology should be used for widespread human consumption unless full scientific certainty exists that it will not cause human or environmental harm." (AgWeb.com)

"Greenpeace In 10,000-Postcard Thailand GMO Food Protest" - "BANGKOK--Environmental watchdog Greenpeace delivered to Thai authorities Wednesday more than 10,000 postcards that it said contained complaints from consumers about genetically modified food. More than 20 Greenpeace activists carrying protest banners gathered in front of the Thai Food and Drug Administration office and handed over the postcards stuffed in baskets. Greenpeace is demanding an ''immediate elimination'' of genetically modified organisms in food products and stricter and tighter labeling rules on food items containing GMOs, a Greenpeace statement said." (AP)

"Pressure mounts for tougher label rules; Greenpeace wants benchmark set at 1%" - "Greenpeace yesterday delivered more than 10,000 postcards to the government urging tougher labelling requirements for genetically modified organisms in food. About 20 Greenpeace activists wearing black T-shirts gathered in front of the Food and Drug Administration headquarters in Nonthaburi carrying banners demanding "Every GMO ingredient must be labelled" and "Don't turn your back on the people". Vichai Chokevivat, the FDA secretary-general, met the campaigners." (Bangkok Post)

September 26, 2001

"Science, Knowledge & Humanity; Debating the Future of Progress" - "Science, Knowledge and Humanity is a major series of public debates about the future prospects for human innovation and progress, organized by the London-based Institute of Ideas and the New School University's Wolfson Center for National Affairs. Debates run from the evening of Friday, October 26th, 2001 through Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th, and take place at the New School University's Tishman Auditorium in New York City." (Institute of Ideas)

"Molecular reductionism masks value of observation" - "An obsession with reducing diseases to molecules is turning researchers away from old-fashioned but vital observation of patients, warns a leading European pharmacologist. "There are so many scientists who really don't know what in vivo is!" said Carl Persson, professor of clinical pharmacology at the University Hospital of Lund in Sweden.

Persson is not anti-molecular biology; his objection is to a "paradigm shift" that he says has encouraged concentration on that line of research alone. "These techniques are being used to support paradigms rather than do the best research," he told BioMedNet News. "The reward is given to scientists who support paradigms frequently in a very uncritical fashion." (BioMedNet News)

Unfortunately, uncritical support of paradigms is a problem common in many fields.

"Breast tumor radiation not tied to thyroid cancer" - "NEW YORK, Sep 25 - Breast cancer patients treated with radiation therapy do not have an increased risk of developing thyroid cancer in the years following their treatment, according to a new report. There has been some concern that "scattered" radiation from breast cancer treatment might raise the risk of cancer developing in the nearby thyroid gland, which is located in the neck. But new findings, published in the September 15th issue of Cancer, show that women who are treated with radiation therapy, also known as radiotherapy, do not need to be monitored closely for thyroid cancer following their therapy." (Reuters Health)

"Calcium and Prostate Cancer" - "While all scientists agree that adequate calcium is essential for building bones, a few are concerned that high calcium intake might increase the chances of getting prostate cancer. This is because a few studies have associated high dairy intake with prostate cancer. Some have suggested the fat was the culprit, and some suggested calcium was the problem.

A study in the July 1, 2001 issue of The Prostate found that there was no increased risk of prostate cancer with consumption of dairy products or with total calcium intake. Almost 290 cases and over 760 control subjects in Italy were studied. There was not even a hint of any increase in risk no matter how much milk, cheese, or calcium was consumed.

HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: This probably won't be the final word on this subject. But these findings may temper some of the unfounded calls to reduce calcium consumption in various countries. Most of us need more, not less, than we are consuming now." (Nutrition News Focus)

"Study finds low Alzheimer's risk in rural India" - "NEW YORK, Sep 25 - The elderly in rural India face a much lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease than older Americans do, new study findings suggest. The reason is unclear, but researchers speculate that genetic and environmental factors may help explain the disparity.

...Similarly, the Pittsburgh team speculates that this Indian population either lacks certain risk factors for Alzheimer's or may have unknown protective factors related to diet or other environmental exposures." (Reuters Health)

The Western diet and lifestyle "smoking gun?" Maybe nothing at all, but at least this report carries the appropriate caveat:

"Still, Ganguli and colleagues note, "we urge caution in the interpretation and generalization of our results." For one, they explain, problems in daily activities that would suggest the beginnings of dementia might have been missed by family members. "The daily functional demands on older adults in rural India are limited by their living with, and being cared for, by their family members," the authors write. "Further, they live in a 'low-tech' environment that does not include, for example, the daily use of telephones, bank accounts, or supermarkets."

"Study confirms obesity is in the genes" - "NEW YORK, Sep 25 - New study findings confirm what many would believe to be common sense--that overweight parents are more likely to have overweight children.

The idea that body composition--the distribution of fat and muscle within the body--is a trait genetically passed on to children from their parents is not new, but for the first time researchers have confirmed previous findings by using an instrument called a dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA). The investigators report their results in the October issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition." (Reuters Health)

Contagious too, is it? That would explain their having fat pets as well.

"Plans to build ethanol plant in Wisconsin are tossed" - "LACROSSE, Wisc. -- After more than 11 months of negotiating, plans to build a controversial $54 million ethanol plant in Dodge County have been scrapped. Nesnah/Venture Bio Fuels of LaCrosse had already received zoning approvals from the Elba town board and the Dodge County Board. "We decided to search elsewhere primarily because we had a problem getting a firm, guaranteed supply of natural gas to that area," he said. Natural gas would fuel the plant." (Wisconsin State Journal)

"Corn for Fuel: Not Such a Hot Idea?" - "A new word -- gasohol -- found its way into the dictionary during the energy crisis of the early 1970s. Blends of gasoline and grain alcohol were produced to reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil, and the government jumped in with tax breaks to help a fledgling industry convert corn to ethanol fuel. More recently, the blends have been promoted as a way to replace gasoline additives that pollute air and water and cut carbon dioxide emissions that may contribute to global warming. And now with rising uncertainty in the Middle East and the possibility of oil-supply disruptions, renewed calls for ethanol production can be expected." (BusinessWeek Online)

"Out With The New, In With The Old" - "Disenchanted with the seemingly one-sided reporting of the global warming debate, four years ago I embarked upon a journey that led to the creation of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change.  Together with my brother Keith and a handful of scientific advisors, we set about developing a vehicle to disseminate, as our Mission Statement says, "factual reports and sound commentary on new developments in the world-wide scientific quest to determine the climatic and biological consequences of the ongoing rise in the air's CO 2 content." | Are Climate Models Up to the Challenge Required of Them? | Hurricanes in Alabama | The Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age in Russia (co2science)

Pre-CoP7 hype: "Climate change warning for SA" - "South Africa will soon start feeling the effects of an atmosphere polluted by the by-products of progress, according to a recently released publication on the impact of climate change. The report, titled "The Heat is On", exposes how climate change threatens to make vast areas of South Africa uninhabitable for the plants that have thrived here for millennia." (Sapa)

II: "Physicians Warn Arizona Residents to Prepare For More Floods, Bad Ozone Days And Health Emergencies" - "PHOENIX, Sept. 24 -- According to Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), residents of Arizona could experience increased health risks as a result of climate change. These threats are outlined in "Death by Degrees: The Health Threats of Climate Change in Arizona," a new 40-page report released today by PSR. Arizonans are used to living with extremes in climate, with sharp differences in rainfall across the state and temperature variations sometimes changing by 50 degrees or more within a single day. But the changes projected during the next 100 years could provide the greatest challenge yet. According to physicians who have studied global warming and its potential effects, Arizona residents will experience a wide range of increased health risks." (U.S. Newswire)

"Menace of global warming; It's about time we made our concerns heard" - "THE Bonn breakthrough on the Kyoto Protocol, sceptics say, has actually turned back the clock on the global combat against climate change. The European Union (EU) says that the Bonn deal, or compromise if you like, has "rescued the Kyoto Protocol"; however, there are reasons to believe otherwise. It has been a victory for the EU, indeed. After all, the climate change negotiations in Bonn on June 23 did arrive at a conclusion to go along the Kyoto lines without the United States, which incidentally produces nearly a quarter of total world emission of greenhouse gases." (Daily Star editorial)

Hmm... "US produces nearly a quarter of total world emission of greenhouse gases."

"Science ... warns me to be careful how I adopt a view which jumps with my preconceptions, and to require stronger evidence for such belief than for one to which I was previously hostile. My business is to teach my aspirations to conform themselves to fact, not to try and make facts harmonize with my aspirations." -- Thomas Huxley, 1860.

Of the estimated global total GHG emissions, something over 96% are all-singing, all-dancing, all-natural functions of volcanism, crust weathering, biological activity, hydrologic cycle (a real biggie because water vapour is really the only major GHG by quantity and effect)... So, rather than 25% of global emissions, they really mean "of global anthropogenic emissions," which are a small part of the picture.

Does this necessarily mean the US is adding that near-1% of total global emissions to the atmosphere? Not going by A large terrestrial carbon sink in North America implied by atmospheric and oceanic carbon dioxide data and models [Fan, S., Gloor, M., Mahlman, J., Pacala, S., Sarmiento, J., Takahashi, T. and Tans, P.. Science 282: 442-446] (PDF).

Rather than a GHG producer, the US actually seems a net consumer (sink). In the unlikely event that GHG emissions are really a problem, the US is already "cleaning up other people's mess." That's not quite the same as "US produces nearly a quarter of total world emission of greenhouse gases" and is certainly not the portrait America-bashers like to paint.

"Ottawa hopes to sign international pollution deal in 2002 despite attack" - "WINNIPEG -- Ottawa believes things are on track to sign an international deal to reduce air pollution despite the expected economic aftershocks of recent terrorist attacks, Canada's energy minister says. It's not certain what impact the attacks on New York and Washington will have on the Kyoto protocol worldwide. But Ralph Goodale said the federal government is still hopeful an agreement will be reached with the provinces on greenhouse gas reductions some time in 2002." (CP)

"Climate change policy to hurt NZ forestry - report" - "WELLINGTON - Plans for New Zealand to embrace climate change policies will hurt the country's substantial forestry industry, a report commissioned by the forestry sector and the NZ government said today." (Reuters)

"El Nino Drought Ruled Out Over Southern Africa" - "JOHANNESBURG - Weather experts rule out an El Nino-induced dry spell over southern Africa and forecast normal rains at year-end, a meteorologist at the South African Weather Service (SAWS) said on Tuesday. Analysts forecast normal to above-normal rainfall for the region south from The Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, said Melton Mugeri, a meteorologist at the SAWS.

Regional meteorologists met at the Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook forum in Malawi last week and decided the region was not under threat from an El Nino episode, he said. "It's good news for the region because there were reports of El Nino coming and people were getting very worried, but we don't think that is likely," Mugeri told Reuters." (Reuters)

"COP-5 of the UNCCD: International community discusses ways to combat soil degradation" - "BERLIN, 25 SEPTEMBER 2001 — Next Monday sees the opening in Geneva of the Fifth Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, which will be attended by government representatives from all over the world. The Conference will discuss ways of dealing with one of the most serious problems affecting the global environment - desertification. Each day, more soil is lost in the world than formed, with the result that less and less agricultural land is available to meet the growing need for food. Soil degradation is particularly serious in arid areas, which comprise around 40% of the Earth's land surface. Around 250 million people are directly threatened by desertification, and a further billion are exposed to severe risks. Each year, about three million people become environmental refugees as a result of desertification." (German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU))

All the greater need for biotech then?

"Editorial: Science must win the GM argument" - "Concerns are mounting in some quarters of the country that the Government is going to over-ride the recommendations of its own royal commission and continue a moratorium on the conditional release of genetically modified organisms. When the commission produced its report in July, suggesting releases should be allowed to "proceed with caution", the Prime Minister hailed the report as "thorough, balanced and measured." The Government gave itself three months to decide what to do.

Though the deadline, October 31, is still more than a month away, the Government is coming under pressure to maintain the moratorium indefinitely, a step which would deal a serious blow to agricultural research. Indeed, the newly established dairy conglomerate, Fonterra, has warned that it may take its research investment overseas if the moratorium is prolonged." (New Zealand Herald)

"First GM Sweet Potato Crop Is Harvested" - "The first biotechnology sweet potato crop has been harvested while trials on Bt-cotton may start as soon as the National Bio-safety Committee approves.

The sweet potato project which was launched in August last year has produced a disease-resistant crop. However, the yields still have to undergo tests to evaluate environmental consequences and adherence to biosafety protocols before being distributed to farmers.

According to Dr Florence Wambugu, the geneticist behind the project, the second season of the GM sweet potato starts in October when the long rains are expected. The crop will undergo four seasons before finally being released to farmers." (Daily Nation)

"India plans to regulate GM farm imports - official" - "BOMBAY - India plans to regulate imports of genetically modified (GM) agricultural products due to concerns about their effects on health and the environment, a top government official said." (Reuters)

"Where The Money Comes From" - "My name is Christopher Morris and I’m a research associate at the Capital Research Center. CRC studies philanthropy with a special focus on non-profit, public interest, and advocacy groups. We examine funding sources that sustain these organizations, we examine their agendas, and we examine their impact on public policy and society. I oversee the Green Watch project, which covers the activities of 527 environmental organizations. A searchable database of these organizations is available online at http://www.green-watch.com." (Christopher Morris, Capital Research Center)

September 25, 2001

"'One in seven' damaged by asbestos" - "As many as one in seven people in western society may have been damaged by exposure by asbestos, say researchers. Tests on a random sample of autopsy corpses found the tell-tale signs of asbestos in 13% of them. Approximately the same proportion had a thickening of a lung membrane which suggests damage. This is a worryingly high figure, and experts say that the number of fatal cancers in industrialised countries caused by exposure to the fireproofing material will continue to rise until 2020." (BBC Online) | Asbestos-related disease 'will rise for 20 years' (The Times)

Catchy headline: "One in seven damaged by asbestos" but what does it mean? It was spawned by A time bomb in the lungs: the ravages of asbestos - Industrialized as well as developing countries under threat (European Respiratory Society) apparently.

Another study, presented to the Congress by Krassimir Mitchev, of the Erasmus Hospital in Brussels (Belgium), provides an idea of the scope of exposure in a randomly chosen urban population. Of 160 autopsies performed consecutively between 1998 and 2000 (100 men and 60 women), pleural plaques (indicating a thickening of the pleura) were found in 14% of subjects (20% of male subjects) and concentrations of over 1,000 asbestos bodies per gramme of dry lung tissue were found in 13% of subjects. This means that, at present, almost one person in seven bears the scars of asbestos exposure.

Does this mean that one-seventh of the population will die or become ill as a result of asbestos exposure? In a word, no. History demonstrates that a portion of the population heavily exposed to asbestos, usually only those occupationally exposed over a period of years and particularly if they smoke, are likely to suffer ill-effect. Asbestos-related morbidity and mortality in the environmentally-exposed general population appears fortunately rare.

"One in n damaged by [X]" makes a great grab banner and it's true as far as it goes but remember that it can be applied to anything: One in three North Americans damaged by food [they eat more than their exercise regime requires - being fat is a health hazard]; One in two beachgoers damaged by sun [got sunburned]... The headline could also have accurately stated "One in seven dead people exhibited pleural plaque" because pleural plaques were discovered routinely in this autopsy series but no tumors were mentioned.

"Asthma link to English speakers" - "ASTHMA is most common in English speaking countries, according to a worldwide study that has linked the illness to lifestyle and not to genes. A 10-year study of 140,000 people in 22 countries found that the disease was developing more quickly in Britain, Ireland, America, Australia and New Zealand, than in Eastern Europe, India or Mediterranean countries." (Telegraph)

Hmm... seems to be that these countries are also largely populated by peoples of Anglo-Saxon lineage, so what precludes genetics?

"Soft drinks firms 'push poor diets'" - "Campaigners trying to cut the amount of salt in the UK diet say that soft drinks manufacturers are deliberately pushing unhealthy snacks. Calculations published in a leading journal suggest that if everyone in the UK halved their daily salt intake, in line with doctors' recommendations, there would be approximately 5bn fewer soft drink sales here a year. The campaigning group Consensus Action on Salt and Hypertension (Cash) says that soft drink firms are keen to promote salty snacks as a way of encouraging parched consumers to buy more soft drinks, and are opposing moves to try to improve health by cutting salt intake." (BBC Online)

"More environmental harm from new concentrated agricultural herbicides" - "Although there has been a decrease in the amount of agricultural herbicides sold in Finland, the environmental hazards could actually be on the rise. Many of the newer weed-killers are much more efficient than before. With the new products the same weed-killing effect can be achieved with only a fraction of the amount previously used. Likewise, the environmental impact of the new, more toxic substances can actually be more serious than with the old chemicals." (Helsingin Sanomat)

"Confusion over endangered species law delayed water to fight wildfire that killed four" - "WASHINGTON Confusion about whether the Endangered Species Act allowed water to be taken from a river delayed a water drop on a wildfire that killed four firefighters. The amount was relatively small and did not lead to the deaths.

The Forest Service's report is due out Wednesday on last summer's deaths in the north-central Cascade Mountains of Washington state. Sources with knowledge of the investigation said there was a delay of almost two hours as Forest Service personnel sought guidance about whether the Fish and Wildlife Service needed to give permission to get water from the Chewuch River, home to several endangered fish." (AP)

While this will rightly remove any confusion, note well that policy does not elevate critters over firefighters, as eventually mentioned in this item:

"A 1995 directive from the Fish and Wildlife Service, which enforces the act, makes clear life and property come first.

The directive says: "FIREFIGHTER SAFETY COMES FIRST ON EVERY FIRE, EVERY TIME. ... NEVER delay the measures needed to protect the lives of fire crews waiting for (endangered species) consultation."

"Potential Error in National Academy of Sciences Report on Gas Mileage Standards Wouldn’t Be the First Time" - "Washington, D.C., September 21, 2001—The possibility that a new report on fuel economy standards could actually be erroneous doesn’t come as a surprise to the Competitive Enterprise Institute. CEI’s general counsel, Sam Kazman, says it wouldn’t be the first time that the National Academy of Sciences has been wrong on the federal government’s program, known as CAFE." (CEI)

Pre-CoP7 hype: "Global Warming to Impact Developing Nations" - "Global warming is likely to boost the world's food production but 40 of the world's poorest nations will show sharp drops, a study conducted by the Austria-based International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis has revealed. Whilst developing countries have contributed relatively little to the causes of global warming, these countries will bear the brunt of climate change through loss of food production." (Synergy Africa (Lusaka))

"'Global warming will cost billions', says Prescott" - "The effects of global warming worldwide will "cost billions", Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott warns. He says attention must be made to the work of experts in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The group is beginning a week-long meeting in London to finalise its latest assessment of the effects of greenhouse gases on the world's weather systems." (Ananova)

There's a small possibility of that and a guarantee that Kyoto will cost orders of magnitude more for no measurable benefit.

"Alberta flayed over gas emissions" - "Alberta is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Canada, says a study being released today that is highly critical of Alberta and Ontario for adopting policies it says undermine Canada's ability to reduce discharges of planet-warming pollutants." (Globe and Mail)

"Climate Model Will Be First To Use A Geodesic Grid" - "Using cutting-edge supercomputers to help solve mapping problems, Colorado State University atmospheric scientists will superimpose a geodesic grid on the earth's lands, ocean and atmosphere to better simulate climate factors.

Working with oceanographers and mathematicians from other institutions, the Colorado State team has a cooperative agreement with the Department of Energy for $4.5 million to build the mathematical simulation over the next five years.

"This will be the first geodesic model that couples atmosphere and ocean -- in fact, the first geodesic model to deal with the ocean at all -- and it's also the first model to use 'hybrid' coordinates for both atmosphere and ocean," said David Randall, professor of atmospheric science and principal investigator. "It's a fairly radical step." (UniSci)

"Green Alert September 18, 2001 Vol. 1, No. 6" - "As the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide (CO2) content continues to rise, there are a number of different ways in which plants are expected to sequester more carbon than they do under conditions where the concentration is static or declining. In earlier "Greening Alerts" we have explored the aerial fertilization effect as a fundamental example of what results from atmospheric CO2 enrichment. Based upon research we’ll explore here, another consequence appears to be that leaves will live longer than they do under the present CO2 concentration." (GES)

"VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT September 21, 2001 Vol. 2, No. 38" - "The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change considers its review of the science to be comprehensive. They entitle their latest report Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis. It’s obvious from the way the lead authors present the work of the scientists who have labored to appropriately characterize the state of scientific knowledge, that theirs is a worldview interested only in putting forth the notion that the world is headed to hell in a handbasket unless something quickly is done to restrict greenhouse gas emissions. Study after study depicts how our climate actually may be changing in ways that are benign or even beneficial. While it is true that the lead authors cannot simply ignore such published findings, they either play them down or, in at least one case, bury them in text accompanied by a "schematic" illustration that depicts the opposite outcome." (GES)

"NZ's PM Hopes To Find Middle Ground On Biotech's Future" - "WELLINGTON -- The New Zealand government's response to an inquiry into genetic modification will be one that allows scientific progress without endangering the country's ''clean green'' image, said Prime Minister Helen Clark Monday.

Clark told the Meat Industry Association's annual conference that she agrees with the report's central theme of preserving opportunities.

''That cuts both ways. New Zealand will want to safeguard its clean green image and it will want to produce food which people want to consume. We will also want to maintain our scientific edge,'' Clark said." (Dow Jones Newswires)

"FASS Facts On Biotech Crops – Impact On Meat, Milk And Eggs" - "Federation of Animal Science Societies has produced a colorful brochure addressing the safety issue of biotech feeds." (Federation of Animal Science Societies)

"Group Seeks to Stall Biotech Crops" - "CHICAGO, Sep 21, 2001 -- An environmental group Friday urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency not to automatically re-approve five kinds of genetically engineered crops. Friends of the Earth said the varieties made by Monsanto and Syngenta have some of the same characteristics as StarLink, the biotech crop believed to present a human health hazard." (United Press International via COMTEX)

"California Biotech Researchers Hope to Discourage Government Interference" - "Sep. 23--TAHOE CITY, Calif.--One biotech company is harvesting spider silk, made not by spiders but by genetically engineered goats, part of an effort to create light, affordable fibers for surgical sutures or even bulletproof vests.

Other firms are collecting proteins from pig semen and chicken eggs that have been genetically engineered to produce human hormones for treating disease.

This is the world of transgenic animal research, in which genes taken from one species are spliced into the genetic machinery of another.

Two decades after the creation of the first transgenic animals, including oversized mice grown large by adding a human growth hormone gene, researchers say they are making real if fitful progress in advancing a technology that can cut the cost of biotech drugs, produce new industrial chemicals and change the nature of the food we eat." (Knight Ridder/Tribune)

"Dolly scientists target biomedical research" - "Dolly the sheep might never have been created if current attitudes to genetically modified food had prevailed in the 1990s. The pioneering Roslin Institute, which made the famous clone, says public hostility towards GM food in the UK has forced it to reassess its research goals. It intends to focus on biomedical applications of cloning technology rather than pure agricultural research like that which led to Dolly." (BBC Online)

"Officials fight ban on field tests; It's blocking path to knowledge, they say" - "The Department of Agriculture yesterday reiterated its demand that the ban on field trials of genetically modified plants be lifted, arguing that the ban was a major obstacle in developing genetic engineering technology for the agricultural sector.

The government agreed to impose the ban last year as proposed by the Assembly of the Poor, said Hiran Hiranpradit, the department's senior expert in crop production.

"Continuing the ban on GM field trials will cause great damage to the country, especially in agricultural research and development," said Mr Hiran, a member of a PM's Office Office sub-committee on GM products policy." (Bangkok Post)

"Patenting GMOs - a Difficult Question of Balance" - "GENEVA - Patenting living organisms -- a means to create unfair profit potential for the rich or an efficient way of encouraging new technologies to conserve dwindling natural resources and promote world food security?

Those are just two sides of the debate over the complex and sensitive issue of slapping intellectual property protection on living forms, including genetically-modified organisms (GMOs)." (Reuters)

"EMBO Reports: 'Is Opposition To GM Crops Science Or Politics?'" - "Read A.Trewavas and C.Leaver's original report ("Is Opposition To GM Crops Science Or Politics?"), the direct response by S.Flothmann and J.van Aken, as well as another retaliating response from Trewavas and Leaver. Very interesting discussion from both sides of the biotech debate." (EMBP Reports)

"Note of Caution On GM Food" - "The importation of substandard manufactured goods, expired foods and drugs and chemical products that are banned in their countries of manufacture, is nothing new. After all, this is Kenya, where anything and everything that can earn unscrupulous businesspeople a quick shilling, goes.

For this reason, last week's statement at the Central Kenya ASK show in Nyeri by Agriculture Minister, Bonaya Godana that the government had accepted genetically modified technology in food production is worrisome. The long-term effects of genetically modified technology on the health and ecology are still the subject of intense scientific investigation." (The Nation (Nairobi))

"U.S./EU Dispute Over Gmo Worries Consumers" - "HARARE, Sep 21, 2001 -- Fearing for their food security, African consumer groups are closely watching the impending trade dispute between the United States and European Union over the mandatory labelling of genetically modified organisms (GMO).

The groups fear that without proper labelling, consumers may end up importing and eating GM products unknowingly.

"Consumers have rights, in particular, to know what they are eating, and that it is safe, to choose what they want to grow and eat, to be heard, and to redress," says Amaodu Kanoute, Consumers International director for Africa.

Those opposed to GM technology say they fear the long-term effects on consumers." (Inter Press Service via COMTEX)

"Opportunities and risks of genetically modified food" - "In its new publication, the Senate commission deals with issues concerning the objectives, application and legal framework of green genetic engineering. It comments on conceivable risks resulting from the cultivation and consumption of genetically modified plants or food and refers to safety precautions to protect the consumer. The statement focuses on food from transgenic plants. Animal food is to be dealt with at a later point in a separate publication.

The statement has been coordinated with the Senate commission on food safety and is to appear as a bilingual publication in German and English." (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft)

September 24, 2001

Oh good grief! "Mad deer! Mad deer!" cries Joe Garner of RMN  "Colorado elk herds might be destroyed" - "DENVER - More than 850 elk in three Colorado commercial herds are under threat of being destroyed in an attempt to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease, which is related to an illness that has caused human deaths." (Rocky Mountain News)

Really? Which illness? Which human deaths? CWD affects deer and elk, there's no suggestion that it affects people.

"Is obesity a disability?" - "CALGARY (CP) -- Is obesity a disability? That's the weighty question facing a federal panel that could have heavy consequences for the transportation industry. Medical experts will begin debating the issue Monday before the Canadian Transportation Agency in a case unprecedented in Canada. Calgary law professor Linda McKay-Panos, who launched the process in 1997 after having to pay Air Canada for 1.5 seats because of her size, does not want to discuss the case." (CP)

Those who wish to transport extra baggage have to pay for it, no?

"MMR worries 'unjustified'" - "A wide-ranging analysis of research into the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine suggests parents should not be worried about giving their child the jab. Experts looked at all the studies into the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine that have been carried out. Researchers from St George's Hospital, London and the Institute for Child Health said the worries about potential side-effects of the vaccine were unfounded." (BBC Online) | Children 'put at risk by single vaccines' (Independent) | Fears over single dose mumps vaccine (Telegraph) | MMR is safer than single injections, researchers say (The Times)

"Antibiotic warning for Australian travellers" - "Australian travellers are being warned against overusing antibiotics when travelling overseas. Research shows that many diseases have become resistant to antibiotics. Infectious disease specialist Dr Jon Iredell says that people often take antibiotics before they travel, mistakenly thinking that this will prevent an illness. He says the overuse of antibiotics has resulted in bacteria adapting through a process of natural selection." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Energy-efficient" housing a health hazard? "Toxic molds threaten dream houses" - "Mold occurs naturally in the environment and usually is not considered hazardous. But certain types produce toxins. The toxic molds need plenty of water, commonly found in roof, pipe or basement leaks, said Connie Morbach, vice president of Sanit-Air, an environmental testing company in Troy.

Toxic molds multiply on drywall, ceiling tile and other porous materials that have become more popular than plaster and brickwork in homes. Porous building material that has stayed wet for a week has a fungi and bacterial content similar to raw sewage, Morbach said.

To help avoid the problem, homeowners should check for signs of water leakage, especially in the basement, and immediately dry areas of moisture.

Adequate ventilation — including exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms — is also important, Morbach said.

Energy-efficient homes have compounded the problem by sealing people inside with the contaminants, she said." (Knight Ridder Newspapers)

Who will the mass-tort sharks try to bite this time? The 'gummint' for mandating "efficiency standards" or the enviro-flakes for perpetrating the myths that we needed to stifle building ventilation to "save the world's diminishing resources"? Stay tuned!

"Bangla scientist invents fuel-free power" - "DHAKA: A London-based Bangladeshi scientist claims to have developed an environmentally-friendly technology which he says could generate electricity without using fuel.

"The system will not require any external fuel and once started the plant will not require recurring costs," Abdul Khaleque, a natural scientist at the University of London, was quoted as saying by news agencies at a global journalists' conference on climate change, sea level rise and water management in Bangladesh on Saturday.

He said the installation cost of his plant would be one quarter of those of conventional ones and would not have any detrimental effect on the environment. Khaleque said the technology was based on "basic principles of science to multiply force or power." (AFP)

Wow! Energy being "created" now! Wonder if it's going to be financed by spinning straw into gold?

"Air fuel tax still on global agenda - Belgium" - "BRUSSELS - Global aviation's governing body should still consider taxing aircraft fuel despite the industry's current crisis, Belgium's transport ministry said last week.

A spokesman for Belgium's Green transport minister Isabelle Durant said the general assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) which begins in Montreal on Tuesday would touch on the subject of lifting air fuel's tax-free status." (Reuters)

"Scientists to Reconsider Fuel Efficiency Standards" - "WASHINGTON - The U.S. government's lead scientific advisory body said Friday it will reconsider a politically sensitive report on automobile fuel efficiency after automakers objected that scientists had overestimated their ability to improve gas mileage.

The National Academy of Sciences' report, released in July, was a key factor in the national debate over whether stricter mileage standards should be mandated to save millions of barrels of petroleum." (Reuters)

"Climate levy costs hit £100m" - "MANUFACTURING firms are facing extra costs of almost £100 million because of the government’s climate change levy, a new report claimed today. The first survey of the industry into the impact of the levy, conducted by Scottish Engineering (SE) in conjunction with the Engineering Employers’ Federation (EEF) and Oxford Economic Forecasting (OEF), confirmed millions of pounds in losses for the sector, which is already considered to be in recession.

The study showed that, based on the costs experienced by companies throughout the UK in the period April to June - the first three months of the levy - the net increase in costs will be £90 million per year. This cost for the firms, which are being disproportionately hit by the levy, is likely to pass £100 million through higher energy bills during the winter, SE said." (The Scotsman)

"Global warming hot topic as environment ministers meet" - "Global warming is tops on the agenda at a meeting of provincial environment ministers in Manitoba this weekend. This is the first meeting of Canadian environment ministers since the international negotiations on greenhouse gas emissions in Germany last summer. A recent report from the Manitoba Climate Change Task force will likely take centre stage. Manitoba Environment Minister Oscar Lathlin has already stated his province will implement protocols to reduce emissions -- instead of waiting for national and international meetings." (CP)

September 22-23, 2001

"What's Lurking in That Smoke?" - "Some public-health experts fear the World Trade Center's fireball and collapse released a toxic stew of potentially harmful particles." (Michelle Conlin, Business Week)

Just what no one needs, another dimwit scaremonger. Conlin hysterically appends:

The destruction of the World Trade Center towers unleashed a host of health risks:

Asbestos: While the EPA says most test samples near the site contain less than 1% asbestos, scientists warn even that amount is too high

Fact: asbestos is only known to be dangerous with significant exposure over sustained periods (years). The samples taken from the disaster aftermath indicate that there is only a small asbestos presence and that it is of the least hazardous type. Enhanced risk to the general populace - negligible, if any.

Toxic chemicals: Thousands of dangerous by-products resulted from all the materials that burned. These include known cancer-causing chemicals like PCBs, dioxins, and furans, which result when electrical equipment and plastics (PVCs) are burned

PCBs? Dr Renate Kimbrough raised a warning flag over PCBs on the strength of a high-dose rat feeding study in 1975 which seemed to indicate possible human risk. Observe how Kimbrough describes subsequent human-based studies:

Our study was the largest ever of workers occupationally exposed to PCBs. It includes all of the 7,075 men and women who worked for at least 90 days between 1946 and June 15, 1977, at the General Electric plants in Hudson Falls and Fort Edward.

There was no increase in deaths due to cancer or any other disease. The death rate due to all types of cancer was at or significantly below the expected level, based on national and regional averages.

Our study had an average follow-up time of 31 years; some employees were followed for as long as 50 years. If PCB exposure were to result in chronic health problems for these employees, I believe the problems would have been apparent during this long latency period. They were not.

The employees had more prolonged exposure to much higher PCB levels than would be expected in the general population. The Agency for Toxic substances and Disease Registry reports that the average blood level of PCBs in people who have been tested ranges from 4 to 8 parts per billion. Some of the GE workers in our study had levels 300 to 600 times higher.

Still, there was no association between PCB exposure and deaths from cancer or any other disease, including heart attacks and strokes.

The findings in our study should come as no surprise to much of the medical and scientific community because they are consistent with the finds of four other earlier studies conducted by other researchers of workers in the same plants.

These earlier studies were performed by the Mount Sinai Medical Center, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, and the Harvard School of Public Health, in conjunction with the New York State Department of Health.

Guess Conlin must have missed most things since the 70s.

As far as dioxin goes, the only known association, again with massive sustained exposure, is chloracne. The "cancer-causing" bit comes from MTD (Maximum Tolerated Dose) rodent studies again but even these are wildly inconsistent - for example, hamsters are 500 times less sensitive to dioxin than are cavies (guinea pigs) and humans appear to exhibit minimal sensitivity to environmental dioxin exposure. So how does it get such billing as "cancer-causing" dioxin? Considering the major default assumptions used by regulatory agencies, it's amazing that anything isn't so billed, observe:

Major Default Assumptions in Cancer Risk Assessment

  1. A substance that causes cancer in laboratory animals also causes cancer in humans.
  2. When both benign and malignant tumors are observed in laboratory animals, the benign tumors are counted with the malignant tumors.
  3. When data indicate a cancer risk exists, data that don't indicate a risk are ignored.
  4. Cancer effects observed at ultra-high doses are predictive of cancer risks at much lower doses.
  5. Estimates of human cancer risk are based on tests of the laboratory animal species most sensitive to cancer.
  6. Biological differences between humans an laboratory animals are ignored.
  7. A substance that causes cancer by one route of exposure causes cancer by all routes of exposure.
  8. There is no "safe" level of exposure to a cancer causing substance.
  9. The risk of health effects increases linearly with the dose.
  10. Estimates of exposure are assumed to be at the 95th percentile of exposure.

["Choices in Risk Assessment: The Role of Science Policy in the Environmental Risk Assessment Process," Regulatory Impact Analysis Project, 1994]

What does it all mean? Essentially, if we can cause tumors in any biological model in the laboratory, with any substance, at any dose, by any means of administration, then that substance is assumed cancer-causing in humans regardless of whether the same pathways or organs even exist in humans - even if other data show it not to be true.

Dust particles: Lodged in the lungs, these substances can result in everything from respiratory diseases to cancer

Dust can certainly be a hazard, particularly for those whose respiratory efficiency is already severely compromised. The cancer-causation bit may be another allusion to asbestos risk but, short of people being heavily exposed for a period of years, there seems little cause for concern on this point.

Conlin is obviously in desperate need of a copy of Junk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams by Steven J. Milloy, then again, she may not be able to read with any real comprehension. Click here to order your copy so you can tell her what's in it.

?!! "Mobile Phones May Do Harm by Speeding Up Brain" - "LONDON - Mobile phones may cause damage to health by speeding up the brain's response times, a British scientist told a conference on Friday." (Reuters)

Oh dear, I seem to meet so many people who really should use a mobile phone then.

"High calcium intake may increase risk of prostate cancer" - "According to a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the risk of prostate cancer in men may increase with calcium intake, especially from dairy products. As part of the Physicians' Health Study, Chan et al. investigated the connection between dairy product and calcium consumption and prostate cancer in a large group of male U.S. physicians. Compared with the men who consumed less than .5 serving of dairy products daily, men who consumed more than 2.5 servings had a 34% higher risk of developing prostate cancer.

The authors propose that dietary calcium increases prostate cancer risk by suppressing the production of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3, the most active form of vitamin D, which is thought to protect against this disease." (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)

Well... did they give any thought to the possibility that those doctors busiest stuffing their faces with cheesecake or however they're getting their dietary calcium might just not be getting out in the sun enough to produce adequate vitamin D?


"Drinking milk linked to lower breast cancer risk" - "NEW YORK, Sep 21 - While women may not be surprised to hear that drinking milk is good for their health, researchers in Norway now report that milk consumption appears to be associated with a lower risk of developing breast cancer before menopause. To assess the relationship between childhood and adult consumption of milk and breast cancer incidence, Dr. Anette Hjartaker of the University of Oslo and colleagues studied 48,844 premenopausal Norwegian women. Their findings are published in the September 15th issue of the International Journal of Cancer." (Reuters Health)

"Aussie children sick with diseases of affluence" - "AUSTRALIAN doctors are seeing increasing numbers of children with obesity-driven liver disease, describing the problem as a "disease of affluence". Senior pediatric gastroenterologist Dr Richard Couper said the disease, known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH, had been well-known in adults and was becoming more common in overweight children. "It's a significant problem," Dr Couper said. "Essentially, I think it's a disease of affluence. There's no doubt that ready availability of food, lack of exercise and dietary mix are contributors." (Canberra Sunday Times)

"Search for an obesity 'cure' fails" - "The quest for a quick-fix cure for obesity has hit a snag after a potential "anti-fat" drug was shown not to work. Although it reduced appetite, US trials showed a hormone called leptin failed to have any impact on weight loss. Leptin is a hormone released by the body's fat cells which regulates appetite, calorie intake and generally manage weight. Researchers writing in the American Journal of Nutrition said patients not taking leptin on average lost around a third more weight than those who did." (BBC Online)

"Traditional Inuit diet cuts heart disease risk: study" - "BEAUPORT, QUEBEC - The traditional marine diet eaten by older Inuit seems to protect them from cardiovascular disease (CVD), but younger Inuit are shifting their diets away from these foods and may not be getting the benefits.

A new study has verified the relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and CVD risk for Inuit. It concludes the the traditional diet is probably responsible for the low death rates from heart disease among Inuit." (CBC)

Hmm... do these traditional marine foods include whale and seal blubber... ?

Regardless, just be careful with this article because the journo can't tell their "H" from their "L," observe:

"Heart healthy omega-3 levels are associated with greater high-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol concentrations and lower levels of triacylglycerols."

You're not confused - High-Density Lipoprotein ("good" cholesterol) is still coded HDL (everywhere except this article) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is still considered "bad".

"Travellers told get vaccinated" - "Travellers who fail to get vaccinated could be contributing to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, a specialist said. John Iredell, an infectious diseases expert, said indiscriminate use of antibiotics could be eliminated if travellers planned far enough ahead for vaccinations. He said many of the 310 cases of hepatitis A, and 63 cases of typhoid reported nationally in the past eight months could have been prevented. Hepatitis A is a major hazard for day-care workers but may also be picked up by travellers in contact with contaminated food and water. Typhoid is just one example of bacteria that can cause dysentery, and it often affects migrants returning home who have lost their immunity. Dr Iredell will tell the Asia Pacific Digestive Week conference in Sydney next week that prevention is a major issue to reduce the use of antibiotics." (AAP)

"Scientists link soil particles to Parkinson's" - "Tiny specks of dirt have been pinpointed as causes of Parkinson's disease. Scientists have found that soil contains strains of bacteria linked to the incurable neurological illness.
Their research raises the prospect of creating vaccines to protect individuals from Parkinson's, which affects more than 120,000 Britons and whose sufferers include the Pope and the American film star Michael J. Fox.

'We are not saying every case of Parkinson's disease is caused by soil bacteria but our evidence suggests a fairly substantial number are triggered by them,' said microbiologist Professor Blaine Beaman of the University of California." (Observer)

"Japanese mad cow test positive - official" - "TOKYO, Sep 22 - Japan's farm ministry said on Saturday that UK tests carried out on a Japanese cow suspected of having mad cow disease had proved positive. This confirmed the first outbreak of the bovine brain-wasting disease in Asia. A ministry spokesman told Reuters that the British laboratory that carried out the tests had informed Tokyo of the positive result a few hours earlier. In a separate development, a farm in the Yamagata area north of Tokyo had been found to have given cattle meat-based feed that had originally been meant for poultry, the spokesman added." (Reuters)

"Salmon Runs in the Pacific Northwest; The Environmental Movement Owes Us Honest Assessments of Wildlife Problems" - "CHURCHVILLE, Va.--The states of Oregon and Washington are in the midst of the biggest salmon runs in 60 years. Never mind all the wailing you've heard about the salmon being endangered by logging, dams, irrigated farming and pollution. There are more salmon in Pacific Northwest rivers this year than almost anyone can remember.

The Portland Oregonian reports more salmon and steelhead have climbed Bonneville Dam's fish ladders than in any year since the dam was built in 1938, and the salmon run is still going. The Oregonian says that "The upswing is lifting the numbers of even the most imperiled wild stocks now protected by the federal Endangered Species Act." The run of endangered Snake River Chinook is up fivefold.

Two years ago, I wrote a harshly received column recommending that we not tear out the dams on the Snake River. I was strongly influenced by two fish researchers, who published studies on a 25-year cycle in the Pacific's eastward currents." (Dennis T. Avery, Hudson Institute)

MSNBC have decided to crank up the hysteria factor by refeaturing their "Terminal Planet" eco-doomism.

"Environmentalists call on European Commission to drop biofuels proposal" - "Europe’s largest network of environmental NGOs, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) has called on the European Commission to scrap its recent proposals to boost the consumption of biofuels for transport in Europe, saying that they could do far more harm than good.

The EEB made its surprise announcement in a letter to the EC, stating that recent proposals to boost the use of biofuels (see related story) could have dire consequences for biodiversity, and that they made no economic or ecological sense. It was also pointed out that environmental NGOs had not been consulted during the preparation work.

A major concern raised by the EEB was the potential loss of the land farmers get paid not to farm, known as set-aside, to intensive non-food crops on which a wider range of pesticides is permitted for use. The group believes this will mean that tax payers would be continuing to support intensive farming methods and the ecological value of set-aside would be lost." (Edie News)

Says it all doesn't it? Fossil fuels no good - "renewable" biofuels... no good either - same for horse and buggy (deprives "nature" of space growing forage for all that nasty, destructive transport). According to EEB, bugs and any other critters come before your needs, wants and desires.

"California enforces emissions standards for lawn and garden equipment" - "Californians who own lawn and garden equipment that emits more air pollution than state standards allow are trading those tools for cleaner ones this month.

The exchange is part of an overall settlement worth approximately $200,000 between John Deere Consumer Products Inc. and the California Environmental Protection Agency's Air Resources Board (ARB). ARB expects about one thousand older pieces of equipment to be exchanged.

John Deere agreed to the exchange and other remedies for air pollution caused by the company's sales of lawn and garden power equipment in California that did not meet the state's air-quality standards." (ENN)

"Bronzed Aussie" good - artificially bronzed Aussie bad? "When sun worship turns to illness" - "MEDICAL experts fear thousands of Australians could be suffering from a disorder where their self esteem depends on their suntan. Doctors worry that increasing popularity of solariums and tanning studios could be fuelling a condition known as "tanorexia." (Sunday Herald Sun)

"Agencies Track Antarctic Ozone Hole" - "WASHINGTON, September 21, 2001 - The hole in the Earth's ozone layer, which has made an appearance over the Antarctic every year since the early 1980s, is about the same size as those of recent years say scientists. Both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA are tracking the hole, which reached record proportions last year. The scientists say they are working with preliminary figures right now and should have a complete picture of the extent and intensity of the hole by early October." (EarthVision Environmental News)

Here's another one with no idea of their contemporary Earth history - it ain't a "hole" and, while the annual Antarctic Ozone Anomaly has certainly "made an appearance over the Antarctic every year since the early 1980s," it has done so on every occasion people have measured early spring stratospheric ozone in the region - beginning with the very first measurements in 1956. More below:

"Ozone hole still a threat" - "The Antarctic ozone hole has grown to a gigantic 25 million square kilometres, but is still short of last year's record, according to the World Meteorological Organisation. Scientists said it was too early to know whether the man-made phenomenon had peaked in mid-September 2000, and was now on the wane. If this year's hole grows no larger, then slightly less cold polar weather this spring may account for the reduced size." (Andrew Darby, The Age)

Ya gotta love 'em! It's a "man-made phenomenon" but, if it doesn't get so big, then it's because it wasn't so cold. Don't these twits even reread that which they churn out in their rush to push their "people bad, nature good" dogma?

This "man-made phenomenon" was first noted at Halley Bay (Antarctica) during the International Geophysical Year of 1956. The winter of 1958 does not seem to have been particularly cold by Antarctic standards (a critical factor in ozone destruction) and yet scientists at the French Antarctic Observatory at Dumont d'Urville reported ozone levels as low as 110DU in the spring of that year. Similar contemporary readings cause much angst and hand-wringing about "anthropogenic destruction of the ozone layer" - although similar readings were taken more than four decades ago and the situation appears "normal" (no significant change evident).

"2 held, 1 man sought, in CFC-smuggling case" - "KITAKYUSHU, Sept. 21, - Japanese police have arrested two men and are seeking another on suspicion of smuggling into Japan a banned type of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), the police and customs authorities said Friday." | Police arrest suspected CFC-smuggling accomplice (Kyodo)

Chalk up some more "criminals" created by the infamous Montreal Protocol, not to mention Ozone Al's cataract-ridden Patagonian sheep and "blind rabbits in our backyards" - what a farce.

And again: "New uncontrolled chemicals threaten ozone layer, says United Nations" - "The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has issued a warning that a range of new chemicals, used in products ranging from fire extinguishers to cleaning fluids, and not controlled by the Montreal Protocol, are appearing on the market to the concern of scientists." (Edie News)

We already know that the "hole" predates measurement of stratospheric ozone in the region and now we're seeing what it's really about - control. Via the Montreal Protocol, UNEP have begun seizing control of the chemical industry and wish to extend their control of it. Via UNFCCC, UNEP are attempting to seize control over energy production and supply on the strength of so-called anthropogenic global warming (alleged enhanced greenhouse effect).

Whether humans are having any effect at all is unknown, if we are it's unmeasurably small. Whether any changes effected would be positive or negative for the biosphere is also unknown and unknowable but, on balance, warming would be significantly better than cooling for virtually all life forms on the planet and, for everyone except winter/spring transition South Polar sunbathers (at -60°C and below!), the so-called "ozone hole" is completely irrelevant.

Terrorism comes in all forms. The disgusting September 11 assault on the USA has seen the formation of a global coalition to confront terrorism (about time) but is the insidious, junk science-fuelled assault on technology, progress and humanity itself any lesser threat? Chasing terrorism down every hole is the correct and long-overdue decision and an appropriate response to this heinous crime. While we are rooting out these evil misanthropists, let us not forget the other assaults being waged upon national sovereignty from bizarre religious perspectives. What assaults? Recall this quote:

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

This is the mindset that drives apparently baseless "ozone depletion" and "enhanced greenhouse" ("global warming") hysteria. It is an attack on the chemical industry and the energy production sector that sustains modern society. It is the mindset of the religious zealot, in this case Gaiaism (natur über alles).

Had it not been for mindless chemophobia, malaria could have been virtually eliminated in the 1970s by continuation of the DDT malarial vector control campaign. Instead, malaria is believed to have an annual toll of 2.7million human lives. This may not be dramatically presented in real time and full color with 24-hour news coverage in our living rooms but it is a real and horrendous toll nonetheless and it is due solely to the zealots who campaigned so effectively, and so falsely, to inhibit the use of one of the 5 greatest human health-aids of all time.

This is not even close to the full toll of mortality and morbidity exacted by extreme-greenism. Note, for example, their obstruction of dams for clean water reticulation and hydroelectric power in the Third World. The World Health Organisation estimated that in 1996 3.9 million children under the age of five died from diseases communicated by impure drinking water, mostly diarrhoea. Some 40 per cent of the world's population still uses either wood or dung for fuel instead of electricity but the indoor pollution from this is deadly, especially for women and children who spend most time in the home. According to the World Health Organisation, 5 million infants die every year in the Third World from respiratory diseases caused by breathing indoor smoke and rural smog. Basic pollution of this kind kills far more people than all First World environmental problems combined. One and a half billion people in the Third World suffer air quality that is recognised by the World Health Organisation as 'dangerously unsafe', a level of pollution almost unknown in the Western world. It isn't industrialisation, progress and globalisation that is killing these people but rather the lack of it. You can see more of the greens' annual body count here. Then add in the toll from starvation caused by inhibiting fertiliser aid and crop technology enhancement (biotech springs to mind) and you see that the big "G" greens exact an annual toll orders of magnitude greater than the atrocity of September 11.

Are actions such as these any lesser threat than the corrupted Islamic fundamentalism exhibited by and known as Wahhabism? (For those who may not be aware, Wahhabism is the most extreme form of Islamic fundamentalism. It first appeared in the nineteenth century and is most certainly not "pure" Islam. It is violent, it is intolerant, and it is fanatical beyond measure. Islam, traditional Islam if you will, is neither intolerant nor misogynistic.) Both Wahhabis and eco-fundamentalists are dedicated to the destruction of modern society, both are misologists dedicated to the return of humanity to less enlightened times. Wherein lies the difference? Save perhaps that the eco-extremists are far more deadly and work by stealth rather than seeking the spectacular event beloved of the Wahhabis, there seems none.

While we are motivated to expunge evil, shouldn't we ensure that we do a thorough job of it?

Lot of heavy breathing Down Under? "Response from rich nations on global warming demanded" - "Experts and journalists from 20 countries and development agencies yesterday at a global conference demanded effective responses from the developed nations to stave off the worst impact of global warming on the developing countries like Bangladesh.

... Although Bangladesh is responsible for only 0.5 per cent of such harmful contribution against Australia's 32.2 per cent and USA's 20.4 per cent, about 3,500 square kilometres of the coastal area is at the risk of inundation." (Daily Star)

I love these rubbery "statistics" - Australia has roughly 1/15th the population of the US and, according to the above, is "responsible" for 150% of "such harmful contribution" as is the US. It's a wonder there aren't a lot more of us.

In case you had any doubts about what drives the global warming farce:

Prof. Serajul Islam said the climate change is a man-made problem involving politics and economy. "We are victims of capitalist aggression, profit and individual pleasures."

Not only should we knock it off, it appears we mustn't pay for it and certainly shouldn't enjoy it - breathing that is, in case you were wondering.

"New climate indicator begs to differ" - "Queensland climatologists are working on a new indicator to replace the Southern Oscillation Index, or SOI. The Seasonal Pacific Ocean Temperature Analysis, or SPOTA 1, uses more indicators than the SOI, and is expected to be more accurate at predicting trends for seasonal rainfall. But before you get excited, Colin Paull from the Queensland Centre for Climate Applications says the two systems are giving conflicting forecasts for eastern Australia over the next three months. The SOI indicates dry conditions and SPOTA 1 says it will be wet." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Witmer Releases Ontario's Climate Change Progress Report" - "TORONTO, Sept. 21 - On the eve of the annual meeting of Canadian environment and energy ministers to discuss global warming, Ontario Environment Minister Elizabeth Witmer today released Ontario's progress report on climate change entitled Air Quality and Climate Change: Moving Forward." (CNW)

"Attack of the killer mimosa" - "Published 50 years ago, the Day of the Triffids looks more real than ever" says Paul Simons in The Guardian

"Black Isle GM trial must wait, say councillors" - "COUNCILLORS in the Highlands yesterday called for a genetically modified crop trial in the Black Isle to be halted until information is released on the possible health and environmental impact of the herbicide being used. They also called for a moratorium on all further GM trials until further consultation has taken place on the crops." (The Scotsman)

"StarLink stopped at Canadian border" - "Starting next week, corn from the United States must be certified as StarLink-free to enter Canada. As of Sept. 24, any whole grain corn crossing the border must be documented as being free of any trace of the genetically modified variety of feed corn called StarLink. If not, it will be sent back. ``Adequate documentation must accompany the shipment or that shipment will be turned around at the border,`` said Linda Webster, a spokesperson for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency." (Western Producer)

"Biotech report dismisses GMO conflict of interest" - "Critics of how the federal government handles biotechnology and food persistently argue that agriculture minister Lyle Vanclief is in a conflict of interest because he is responsible for both Agriculture Canada, which develops and promotes genetically modified varieties, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which monitors and inspects GM food for health and safety. When reviewing the way the government regulates GM and novel food, the Canadian biotechnology advisory committee found it had to deal with the allegation." (Western Producer)

September 21, 2001

"Asbestos Column Raised Awareness" - "Last week’s column, "Asbestos Could Have Saved WTC Lives," produced tremendous and polarized reader response.

Most readers appreciated the article for pointing out that overreaction to the health risks of asbestos may have hastened the collapse of the World Trade Center towers thereby preventing many from escape. Other readers offered a variety of criticisms ranging in theme from manners to myths." (Steve Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"Silicone implants back in style" - "OTTAWA - Silicone breast implants are back in demand in Canada after being pulled from the market in the early '90s and that has anti-silicone advocates worried.

The implants came under the microscope when women started becoming sick. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration asked implant manufacturers to prove the material was safe but they couldn't.

Since 1992, researchers have attempted to find out if silicone was making women sick. There has been no link found or risk connected to the material." (CBC)

"Bacteria becoming newly resistant to drugs" - "ATLANTA, Sep 20 - For the first time in the US, a bacterium important in causing pneumonia and other infections appears to be developing resistance to a powerful class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The bacterium, called Streptococcus pneumoniae, is the leading cause of the lung infection pneumonia, the infection of tissues surrounding the brain called meningitis, and ear infection in the US.

Bacteria can develop resistance to any antibiotic when physicians prescribe that antibiotic too often, when it is not needed, or when patients do not finish their prescribed course of antibiotics." (Reuters Health)

"C-reactive protein - a predictor of heart disease - is elevated in patients with periodontal disease" - "CHICAGO – Elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) explain one reason why periodontal disease could be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, according to a new study in the Journal of Periodontology.

Periodontal disease may cause oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream and trigger the liver to make proteins such as CRP that inflame arteries and clot blood, which can lead to heart attacks. CRP levels identify those patients whose inflammations systems respond most actively to stimuli." (American Academy of Periodontology)

"Elderly rarely die of 'old age': study" - "NEW YORK, Sep 20 - When the elderly die of no known cause they are often said to have died "of old age." But the results of a study in New Zealand suggest that even when people die in their 90s and 100s, there is usually a specific cause.

Combing through forensic autopsy reports on 319 individuals who were older than 90 when they died, researchers found that causes of death were established in nearly all cases. Only 5% of natural deaths were "written off" as being due to old age or "senile debility," according to a report in a recent issue of the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology.

"From these results it is clear that the very elderly succumb to disease; they do not often die of old age," write S. M. John and T. D. Koelmeyer of Auckland University School of Medicine." (Reuters Health)

So... they expected the very elderly to die in perfect health?

Yeah, hurray... "Pyre milk given all-clear" - "A warning about the safety of milk from farms surrounding foot-and-mouth pyres has been lifted by the Food Standards Agency. There had been fears that toxic chemicals drifting in smoke from the massive fires had been ingested by cattle on nearby farms, and passed into milk supplies. The agency has already given the all-clear to other forms of food produced in the areas surrounding the pyres." (BBC Online)

Imagine that, zero risk turns out to have involved zero risk. What a relief!

"EPA calling for new pollution controls" - "WASHINGTON - The government is planning new pollution controls on heavy machinery, yachts, snowmobiles, off-road motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles.

The goal is to reduce air pollutants and the smog that drifts from cities toward national parks, Environmental Protection Agency officials said Wednesday. The plan would add to manufacturers' costs, but the agency is considering ways to help lessen the impact." (AP)

"Doomsday is not nigh, according to the data" - "Pollution of the air by particulates is at its lowest level for the past 100 years" (Lewis Wolpert, Independent)

"Environment Secondary Says Book" - "Sep 19, 2001 -- A new book about the planet's well being, "The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World," is proving controversial. It asserts that there are widespread misconceptions about environmental issues.

The author, Bjorn Lomborg, believes exaggerated environmental concerns are diverting crucial resources from other, more important problems. His book includes data and statistics presented in 182 charts, graphs and tables to bolster his arguments." (United Press International via COMTEX)

"Forest planting genetically altered squirrels" - "Red squirrels in Cumbria have been genetically altered by the planting of a large conifer forest, scientists say. The Kielder forest provided a bridge between disconnected forest fragments, allowing an influx of new genes from other squirrels. As a result, the genetic composition of Cumbria's red squirrel population changed completely in the 1980s." (Ananova)

Apparently a "bad" thing, but:

"Most eastern North American reserves too small" - "As reserves become isolated by development, animals can die out in part because they can no longer move between populations. Because smaller isolated reserves are more likely to lose species, the question is how small is too small? New research suggests that most reserves in eastern North America are too small." (Society for Conservation Biology)

"New study shows that salmon 'feed' the very forests that nurture them" - "New research published in the September Issue of the peer-reviewed journal Ecology demonstrates the need for comprehensive methods of revitalizing depleted salmon stocks.

The study by scientists James M. Helfield and Robert J. Naiman of the University of Washington shows that the viability of salmon populations and terrestrial ecosystems are mutually dependent, and therefore calls into question traditional single-species approaches to fisheries management, endangered species legislation, and ecological restoration.

The findings come at a time when Pacific salmon have disappeared from or are in serious decline throughout most of their historical spawning range in North America." (Ecological Society of America)

All the more value in this then:

"PLF Applauds Federal Court’s Commonsense Judgment Requiring End to Salmon Farce; Court Strikes down Federal Agency’s Use of "Politicized" Science" - "Bellevue, Washington; September 13, 2001 — Pacific Legal Foundation today hailed a ruling from a federal judge affirming that hatchery-spawned salmon are biologically indistinguishable from naturally spawned, so-called "wild" salmon, and reversing the action by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) listing the Oregon Coast coho salmon as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

In its ruling today, the court called the NMFS listing of only the genetically indistinguishable "wild" salmon "arbitrary." The 21-page decision issued by Judge Michael Hogan, sitting in Eugene, states that, "the NMFS listing decision creates the unusual circumstance of two genetically identical coho salmon swimming side-by-side in the same stream, but only one receives ESA protection while the other does not." (Pacific Legal Foundation)

"Scientists: Future Atlantic Hurricane Picture Is Highly Complex" - "In a highly publicized article in the journal Science this summer, a team of meteorologists predicted that the current resurgence in North Atlantic hurricane activity will continue for at least the next 10 to 40 years.

That may indeed be the case, say two hurricane researchers at North Carolina State University. But it's only a small part of a complex tropical storm picture facing the U.S. Eastern Seaboard." (North Carolina State University News)

"Consumers demand GM meat labelling - study" - "Most consumers think that meat from animals fed with GM products should be labelled, according to new research. The study by the National Consumer Council (NCC) found that 80% of British consumers thought the meat should carry GM labelling. The research comes amid European Commission proposals to extend labelling to cover meat from animals fed with GM products." (Ananova)

"UK Food Adviser Says Europe GM Rules 'Unworkable'" - "LONDON - Britain's food watchdog questioned European Union draft legislation aimed at calming consumer fears over gene-spliced foods on Thursday and called on the UK government to push for watered down proposals.

The EU has asked governments to consider new draft rules on the labelling of genetically modified (GM) foods and ingredients derived from them to reassure European consumers, worried about food after a raft of health scares including ``mad cow'' disease." (Reuters)

"Retailer leads on GM-free range" - "In a first for Hong Kong, ParknShop has eliminated genetically modified (GM) ingredients from its 1,100 own-brand products. The move reflects increasing consumer demand for food not created in a test-tube. ParknShop marketing manager David Durnford said the firm had just completed the year-long programme on its product range and had gradually introduced the goods to the shelves." (South China Morning Post)

"Commercial GM sugar seen 10 years away - scientist" - "BRISBANE - Genetically modified (GM) sugar would not be commercially produced for at least another ten years because of the complexity of the cane, a leading world sugar biotechnologist told an international sugar conference.

But Professor Frikkie Botha from South Africa's University of Stellenbosch said that once one country began producing GM sugar, all other producers would follow." (Reuters)

September 20, 2001

"Childhood Sunburn Linked to Adult Skin Cancer Risk" - "LONDON - Scientists advised parents Wednesday to protect their children from the sun after they found new evidence suggesting childhood sunburn can lead to an increased risk of developing skin cancer later in life.

Using mice genetically engineered to produce human-like skin and tumors, researchers at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, found that young rodents exposed to high doses of ultraviolet (UV) rays developed melanoma -- the gravest form of skin cancer -- as adults." (Reuters)

Does this mean that anyone who got sunburned as a child is doomed to develop melanoma? In a word - no. What it does say is that mice engineered for predisposition to develop melanoma and exposed to strong UV as pups did, in fact, do as they were engineered to do. Getting sunburned is not a great idea but it is most certainly not a melanoma guarantee. This should not be written up for general public consumption as "Childhood Sunburn Linked to Adult Skin Cancer Risk" because it does no such thing.

"Sunscreen Antioxidants Could Protect From Skin Cancer" - "Sun-worshippers beware: Most sunscreen products offer inadequate protection against the harmful effects of the sun's ultraviolet radiation. But there is hope, says a University of Illinois researcher who developed a technique to peer into the skin and study how it is affected by ultraviolet radiation. The addition of antioxidants such as vitamins E or C can help prevent skin cancer and keep skin firm and young looking." (UniSci)

"Antioxidants fight smog damage" - "Taking antioxidant supplements could help reduce the effects of ozone pollution on lung health, say researchers. The supplements may help the body prevent damage from toxins and pollutants." (BBC Online)

Book review: "The Quest for Immortality" - "KEEP up the exercise, eat properly--and you may live a few days longer than an actuary would have predicted. That's the sensible and utterly unexciting prescription offered by Jay Olshanksy and Bruce Carnes.

The Quest for Immortality is, as you'll have guessed, a down-to-earth survey of the science of ageing. After years of publishing journal articles, these two University of Chicago researchers decided to explain ageing to the general public. And they are horribly thorough.

A lucid recounting follows of the vast achievements of medical science in the "first longevity revolution". This redistributed death from the young to the old, making cancer and heart disease, insignificant in the 18th century, the major health problems in today's industrial world But we do live longer these days." (New Scientist)

"Sweden Says Strong Chance First BSE Cases Found" - "STOCKHOLM - Sweden said on Wednesday there was a serious chance that two sick dairy cows found on a farm in the northwest were the country's first cases of mad cow disease.

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, has wreaked havoc on farms around Europe in the past year and forced mass-slaughter of beef livestock herds.

The brain-wasting disorder, which some scientists believe may cause people who eat meat from infected animals to fall prey to a human variant, has yet to be found in Sweden." (Reuters)

"UK opens BSE debate, well almost" - "For the first time today, government advisers on the BSE crisis in the UK met in public. They gave a biology lesson, revised estimates of human fatalities, queried the infection's source... and still kept some details secret. Members of the UK Government's Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) gathered this morning in a hotel on London's Park Lane, watched by 200 members of the public and a hungry press pack. The public had priority during an hour-long question session, forcing SEAC members to consider links between bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) and... head lice." (BioMedNet News)

"Drug Companies Warn AIDS Research Could Dry Up" - "GENEVA - Leaders of the international pharmaceutical industry warned on Wednesday that research and development into AIDS drugs could dry up if current global trading rules on patents were loosened." (Reuters)

Hmm... "What Will You Breathe Once the Oxygen Is Gone?" - "BRISBANE, Calif., Sept. 19 -- The Amazon is the world's largest rainforest region and a key element in worldwide oxygen manufacturing: true or false? An area the size of Belgium disappeared from the Amazon rainforest this past year: true or false? During AmazonQuest(TM), the latest up-close and student-directed investigation of historic and scientific world mysteries from Classroom Connect, K-12 students across the nation will explore the answers to these questions, and address other tough issues affecting this untamed and unique geographic area, the Amazon." (PRNewswire)

What are they teaching our children?

Good grief! "Tunnel proposed under Chinese wetlands" - "HONG KONG -- Hong Kong rail officials said Tuesday they want to build a tunnel under wetlands for a new train line after conservationists stopped plans to run the tracks above ground.

The government-owned Kowloon-Canton Railway Corp. had planned to build a new train line on a viaduct between Hong Kong and mainland China in Long Valley, home to four endangered bird species.

Environmental regulators refused a permit last year and the rail company lost its appeal in July.

Rail officials said Tuesday that the proposed 2.7-mile tunnel will raise the cost of the project by $180 million, to $1.28 billion. It will also delay the opening of the train line by two years, until about 2007." (AP)

"Changes In Climate System Affect Clarity Of Lakes" - "Annual differences in water temperature appear to be closely related to changes in the North Atlantic climate system.

The weather in Europe is affected by the so-called "North Atlantic Oscillation," much as El Niño drives oscillations on the southern part of the globe.

The difference in air pressure between Portugal and Iceland is used as an index for the state of the North Atlantic Oscillation. The winter value of this index has a remarkably strong predictive power for the temperature of lakes in the subsequent year." (UniSci)

Annual scare reinforcement: "New chemicals may deplete ozone" - "A range of new chemicals may potentially damage the ozone layer, studies have shown. These chemicals, many of which are replacements for chemicals banned under the Montreal Protocol of 1987, are used in products such as fire extinguishes and cleaning fluids.

Due to the banning of the chemicals the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) estimates that the ozone layer will recover by 2050. Concerns have arisen that the emergence of these new chemicals may set back the recovery." (Earth Times)

II: "Large Antarctic ozone hole forecast for 2001" - "Each year around this time, the ozone hole over the South Pole begins to widen as light from the Antarctic spring Sun triggers the chemistry of ozone destruction. This year's ozone hole is already larger than Antarctica, according to scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)." (ENN)

III: "Antarctic Ozone Hole Has Already Lost 25 Million Tons" - "Scientists at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) are tracking a developing ozone hole over the Antarctic using data from the GOME instrument aboard ESA's ERS-2 satellite.

Their maps and atmospheric profiles show that the hole appeared and began to grow in mid-August, and has now spread to cover an area of about 25 million km2, with nearly 25 million tons of ozone lost." (UniSci)

"Fed on ignorance" - "The slogan was once Meat is Murder, yet since the tragic death of little Areni Manuelyan, it is the vegan diet that is now on trial. Lost among the tragedy of the attack on America was the case of a nine-month-old British child who resembled a famine victim in the days before her death, after a short lifetime of raw fruit, mashed nuts and tomato juice. Initially charged with manslaughter, her parents finally pleaded guilty to child cruelty and escaped jail sentence after a judge deemed their behaviour misguided rather than evil." (The Scotsman)

"Killer Weed Becomes Focus of Biotech Debate" - "WASHINGTON, Sep 18 - Proponents and opponents of biotechnology are wrestling over a diminutive weed that has wreaked havoc on African agriculture.

Advocates of genetic engineering say the technology could eliminate the parasitic weed Striga - commonly known as 'witch weed' and 'buda', in the Swahili language - which has devastated crops in East Africa especially.

Their critics counter that the new method would be too expensive for poor farmers and that improving soil health would better control the weed, which grows to about 15 centimetres in height and ravages corn, millet, and sorghum - all regional staples.

Agricultural studies estimate that the weed destroys 40 percent of Africa's total cereals harvest - at a time when hunger, already widespread, is increasing." (IPS)

"The Biotech Boom: Creating frankenforests" - "Manipulating tree genes is nothing new. But instead of using the slow and inaccurate process of conventional breeding, which mixes all of the genes from two trees, scientists can now target individual genes and even insert genes from animals in order to create trees with extraordinary characteristics. Research is focused on developing trees with faster growth rates, lower levels of lignin (a polymer that must be removed to make paper and pulp), and resistance to pests and diseases." (Red Herring)

"Monsanto hopes for no trespassers on GM trial sites" - "Monsanto says it is hopeful there will be no future problems with trespassers at its genetically modified (GM) crop trial sites. The company has decided not to pursue its appeal against the release of details of past and present trial sites by the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Genetically Modified Food Is Safer Than Water" - "'More than two billion people have eaten genetically modified food in the past five years without becoming ill. Genetically modified food is less dangerous than stairs, bicycles or medicine. It's even safer than water. This is the assertion of the American experts C. S. Prakash, Professor at Tuskegee University, and Andrew Apel, editor for Agbiotech reporter. Prakash will be visiting Stockholm this week for various meetings, including with experts at the Ministry of Agriculture. The two experts are of the opinion that biotechnology allows for the environmentally friendly plants that provide rich and nutritious harvests in the developing world" (C.S. Prakash and Andrew Apel, Dagens Nyheter)

"Virus-Resistant Plum Trees -- Ready And Waiting" - "Three plum trees standing in Agricultural Research Service orchards could help prevent a nasty fruit virus from becoming established in the United States as it is in Europe and elsewhere.

The trees -- simply dubbed "C5" -- are virtually immune to all major strains of plum pox virus. Also known as sharka, plum pox virus deforms or blemishes plums, peaches, apricots and almonds, making the fruit unmarketable.

C5 was developed by ARS horticulturist Ralph Scorza. It looks very similar to its female parent, Bluebyrd, a commercial cultivar developed by Scorza through traditional breeding. And its fruit tastes the same. The difference is that C5 was given a gene that prevents plum pox virus from multiplying." (M2 Communications)

September 19, 2001

"OEHHA RECEIVES SCIENTIFIC REVIEW COMMITTEE'S CHROMIUM 6 REPORT" - "SACRAMENTO - A scientific panel of experts convened by the University of California has completed a review of health issues relating to the presence of chromium 6 in drinking water, and has forwarded its report to the California Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA).

The Chromate Toxicity Review Committee was formed at the request of OEHHA to provide guidance in the identification of an optimum drinking-water level, or public health goal (PHG), for chromium 6 in drinking water. The committee concluded that "we found no basis in either the epidemiological or animal data published in the literature for concluding that orally ingested Cr (VI) [chromium 6] is a carcinogen." (OEHHA release)

"Cancer death rates on the decline" - "OVERALL cancer death rates for men and women are declining in Australia, thanks largely to 50 years of improved diet, mass screening and a public education campaign that has led the world.

A review of cancer trends during the past 50 years released by the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria yesterday shows that in the past 20 years, cancer death rates have declined about 10 per cent for men and 6 per cent for women.

In the past 50 years, there have been dramatic improvements in survival for stomach cancer, Hodgkin's disease, testicular cancer and cervical cancer. Death rates for stomach cancer have dropped by 40 per cent in the past 50 years because of refrigeration and increased consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables." (The Australian)

Here we go again: "Flame retardant chemical found in people, fish, air" - "NEW YORK, Sep 18 - A class of chlorinated chemical compounds used as flame retardants in products ranging from seat cushions to computers have been found in human umbilical cord blood, fish and air. Dr. Ronald A. Hites of Indiana University in Bloomington presented preliminary research about the substances, called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society last month in Chicago, Illinois." (Reuters Health)

If we look hard enough we can find PBDEs in people and the environment - aren't we amazing! Are these compounds doing any harm? Not as far as anyone is aware. Should we be alarmed by this report? Nope! Preliminary discovery of trace amounts (parts per trillion in this case) of compounds with no known biological activity at these exposure levels adds up to, well, nothing really.

"Behavior therapies show promise against chronic fatigue syndrome, studies say" - "CHICAGO - Research on chronic fatigue syndrome points to behavior-based therapies, including exercise, as some of the most effective treatments, but data are deficient and scarce, a review suggests.

While evidence on medications is less conclusive than behavioral approaches, research into treatments has been hampered by a lack of consensus on what causes the disease and even who is afflicted with it, according to the review.

The review, which evaluated 44 studies from 1986 through last year, appears in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

A JAMA editorial said the review may be interpreted as confirming the bias that chronic fatigue syndrome is psychological in nature." (AP)

"Snack food fats may increase risk of eye disease" - "NEW YORK, Sep 18 - Decreasing one's intake of specific types of fat, rather than fats in general, may help to lower a person's risk of the eye disease known as age-related macular degeneration, according to recent study findings. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a currently untreatable disease that causes fuzziness, shadows or other distortions in the center of vision. Some fats, such as those found in processed foods, may increase an individual's risk of the eye condition, while other fats, such as the omega-3 fatty acids found in tuna, salmon and other coldwater fish, may decrease one's risk, lead study author Dr. Johanna M. Seddon of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary told Reuters Health." (Reuters Health)

"Winning the superbug war" - "The battle to develop antibiotics to treat "superbugs" is being won, says a leading expert. There has been a lot of concern over the rise of drug-resistant bacteria. Livermore, director of the Antibiotic Resistance Monitoring and Reference Laboratory, London, UK, says new drugs do offer hope. Speaking at the Public Health Laboratory Service Annual Scientific Conference in Warwick on Monday, he said it was important to keep ahead of the bacteria - which mutate to take account of new drugs developed to fight them." (BBC Online)

"How bacteria harden their "armor" - "DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke biochemists have identified a key chemical reaction by which some important virulent bacteria alter their outer coat to make it antibiotic-resistant. The scientists say that their finding could lead to drugs to block such protective alteration, preventing bacteria from developing resistance.

Antibiotic resistance is a major public health threat worldwide, with commonly used antibiotics proving less and less effective. According to the World Health Organization, the rapid rise of antibiotic resistance threatens to profoundly undermine the dramatic breakthroughs made in medical science over the past 50 years see http://www.who.int/emc/amr.html.

Duke University Medical Center biochemist Christian Raetz and his colleagues report their discovery in three papers scheduled for publication in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, and now posted on its Web site http://www.jbc.org/." (Duke University)

"Variant CJD may be more infectious: expert" - "NEW YORK, Sep 18 - Britain's Department of Health is greatly concerned that variant CJD may be more infectious than the agent responsible for sporadic CJD, a leading expert said on Tuesday.

Sporadic CJD, or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, is a very rare degenerative brain disorder mainly found in older people. Variant CJD (vCJD) is a form of the disease that is believed to be caused by eating meat from cows with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or "mad cow" disease. All of these diseases are caused by malformed protein particles called prions.

Professor Robert Will, director of the National CJD Surveillance Unit, said tests to find out if the tonsils, spleen, lymph nodes and appendix of vCJD victims were infected with prions had all proved positive, whereas tests on patients with sporadic disease were all negative." (Reuters Health)

"UK told to monitor 'mad cow' risk from Europe" - "LONDON, Sep 18 - Britain, blamed for causing and exporting "mad cow" disease, could re-import the brain-wasting illness from France and Germany, where the number of cases is set to jump, a government adviser said on Tuesday." (Reuters)

"Airline legroom rise backed" - "A major report into aircraft seat safety recommends that passengers should be given more space. It also calls for future seat designs to include measures to protect passengers against deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The report - part-funded by the UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) - looked more at changes in the average weight and height of passengers in the past few decades than the highly-publicised fears over so-called "traveller's thrombosis." | DVT to 'shape aircraft seat design' (BBC Online)

"Project would make ethanol from coal" - "BISMARCK, North Dakota -- Rather than corn or barley, North Dakota's newest ethanol project might rely on coal. Dakota Gasification Co., which runs the Great Plains synthetic fuels plant near Beulah, North Dakota, has applied for state research money to study whether lignite, a type of coal, can be used profitably to make ethanol. The process would use bacteria to convert lignite to ethanol, a widely used fuel additive." (AP)

Not quite the boondoggle the farm lobby's looking for.

"Human-Induced Destruction of Coral Reefs and Other Coastal Ecosystems" - "It seems like almost everything bad that occurs nowadays – such as extreme weather that brings floods, droughts, heat waves and hurricanes, or slight changes in longer-term climatic parameters that are claimed to have deleterious impacts on the health of plants, animals and humans – is blamed on global warming, which is blamed on the ongoing rise in the air’s CO2 content, which is blamed on the burning of fossil fuels.  In last week’s Editorial (12 September 2001), we addressed the recent precipitous decline in the health of some of the planet’s once-majestic coral reefs within this context, indicating that that unfortunate phenomenon is not a consequence of either the modest natural warming of the past century or the historical increase in the atmosphere’s CO2 concentration.  We also promised we would return to the subject and tell you what we believe to be the true cause of this sad state of aquatic affairs.  In fulfilling this promise, however, we must acknowledge that our opinions are not totally original with us.  Rather, they are heavily influenced by a most important paper published in the 27 July 2001 issue of Science (Jackson et al., 2001), which addresses, not just the health of coral reefs, but the well-being of all coastal ecosystems." | They’ve Looked at Clouds from Both Sides Now And they're seeing changes from top to bottom | New England Hurricanes (co2science.org)

"Task force studying climate change in Mba calls for $75 million fund" - "A task force studying climate change in Manitoba called for the creation of a $75-million fund to help government and business launch various projects. Lloyd Axworthy, the former federal cabinet minister who headed the eight-member task force, delivered the final report Monday. “The $75-million proposal, shared three ways, is a good way of demonstrating partnership between all levels of government,” he said." (CP)

"El Niño, La Niña Rearrange South Pole Sea Ice" - "Scientists have been mystified by observations that when sea ice on one side of the South Pole recedes, it advances farther out on the other side. New findings from NASA's Office of Polar Programs suggests for the first time that this is the result of El Niños and La Niñas driving changes in the subtropical jet stream, which then alter the path of storms that move sea ice around the South Pole." (NASA/GSFC)

"Satellites Spot Developing Antarctic Ozone "Hole" - "New satellite images show the depleted region of ozone known as the ozone "hole" that develops each year over Antarctica has reached about the same magnitude as those of the past several years. This year's preliminary satellite data show that as of early September, ozone hole area was in excess of 20 million square kilometers (8 million square miles), about twice the size of the contiguous United States. Last year the geographic area covered by the ozone hole was one of the largest on record and ozone depletion started earlier than usual. By early October, additional data will provide a more complete picture of the extent and intensity of this year's ozone hole over Antarctica." (NASA/GSFC)

"NASA CONFIRMS ARCTIC OZONE DEPLETION TRIGGER" - "NASA researchers using 22 years of satellite-derived data have confirmed a theory that the strength of "long waves," bands of atmospheric energy that circle the earth, regulate the temperatures in the upper atmosphere of the Arctic, and play a role in controlling ozone losses in the stratosphere. These findings will also help scientists predict stratospheric ozone loss in the future." (NASA/GSFC)

"Swiss to Ban Fertilizing with Sludge" - "BERN, Switzerland, September 17, 2001 - Switzerland is to end the disposal of sewage sludge through agricultural spreading by 2005, it emerged on Friday. The move will make it the first and only country in Europe to stop recycling sludge onto farms, with pressure still on across the EU for greater land spreading.

Bern says the step is being proposed due to a long-term decline in farmers' demand for sludge coupled with growing concerns over the pollutant content of wastewater residues, including recent detection of pharmaceutical compounds and synthetic hormones. The rising demand for organic and quality assured food products, where sludge is banned in production, is also a factor, it says." (ENS)

"EU calls for political leadership in GM debate" - "ALDEN-BIESEN, Belgium, Sep 18 - Europe's policymakers are being urged to take a lead in offering scientific facts about any potential benefits and risks of gene-modified (GM) organisms to consumers spooked by talk of Frankenstein foods. "Very often the debate on GMOs has generated more heat than light. We must ensure, as political leaders, that unbiased facts on biotechnology are placed before our citizens to see and understand," EU Food Safety Commissioner David Byrne said. European governments have had to tread a fine line between encouraging scientific progress and being sensitive to strong opposition from consumers stung by the devastation caused by "mad cow" disease and a series of other food scares." (Reuters)

"Indonesian Govt To Extend Permit For GMO Cotton Planting" - "JAKARTA-- The Indonesian government will extend a permit to plant genetically modified cotton called "Bollard" in south Sulawesi next year when the permit expires, Bungaran Saragih, Indonesia`s minister of agriculture told reporters in Jakarta Tuesday.

The government issued a decree on Feb. 7, 2001, to allow the planting of GMO cotton for one year in south Sulawesi province.

Bungaran said he would revoke any court orders to end the planting brought about by nongovernmental organizations." (Dow Jones Newswires)

September 18, 2001

"Did the Ban on Asbestos Lead to Loss of Life?" - "As the World Trade Center was being built in the late 1960's and early 1970's, scientists were learning that asbestos fibers in materials commonly used to fireproof steel beams could cause cancer in workers and bystanders who were intensively exposed to the fibers, especially around mines and manufacturing plants dealing with asbestos.

Anticipating a ban, the builders stopped using the materials by the time they reached the 40th floor of the north tower, the first one to go up.

Now some engineers and scientists — including at least one whose research supported an asbestos ban in New York City — are haunted by a troubling question: were the substitute materials as effective in protecting against fire as the asbestos-containing materials they replaced?" | Dust Is a Problem, but the Risk Seems Small | Defending Skyscrapers Against Terror (New York Times)

See also Asbestos Could Have Saved WTC Lives

Apparently not noticing that America and the world are preoccupied with real issues: "Organic Consumers to Leaflet & Protest at Starbucks Cafes in 300 Cities Sept. 17-23" - "... In 300 cities, local activists will leaflet and protest Starbucks policies, demanding that the company remove recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) and other genetically engineered ingredients from its brand-name beverages, baked goods, chocolates, and ice cream; start brewing and seriously promoting Fair Trade, shade-grown, and organic coffees as its "coffee of the day;"..." (PRNewswire)

"Acclaimed Anti-Gun 'History' a Fraud?" - "Frenzied anti-self-defense zealots hailed his book as proof that colonial Americans owned few guns and that the idea of a nation of well-armed citizens was a myth, and he won a prestigious award for his rooting out the truth about guns in early America. But new research indicates that in many instances historian Michael A. Bellesiles simply twisted the facts to fit his own agenda." (Phil Brennan, NewsMax.com)

"Hair dye linked to rheumatoid arthritis" - "Women who dye their hair for 20 years or more have almost double the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, say Swedish researchers. However, the cause of the increased risk is unclear. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, caused when immune cells attack the body's own tissue. Para-phenylenediamine, a key ingredient of many hair dyes, is known to trigger allergic skin rashes in some people. However the immune system cells that are over-activated in rheumatoid arthritis are not the same as those that are over-activated during an allergic response, points out Deborah Symmons, professor of rheumatology at Manchester University, UK." (New Scientist)

"Bad habit Britons reject longer life" - "Half of all UK people would rather die a year early than give up their cigarettes, booze and fatty food, a survey suggests. The research found that 41% of women and 45% of men would say no to reforming their unhealthy lifestyles, even if doing so would extend their lives by 12 months. Doctors are keen to stress the benefits of eating plenty of fruit and vegetables and giving up smoking. However, the survey suggests that young people in particular are not prepared to heed the health message." (BBC Online)

"Better Way Found For Teaching Statistical Concepts" - "As ordinary people confront the laws of probability, the odds of misinterpretation and false alarms rise. Two German psychologists have found a better way to teach basic statistical concepts, based on the way people naturally weigh the odds." (UniSci)

"Kentucky coroner confirms 2 cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease" - "COVINGTON, Ky. - The incidence of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is one in a million. But if the coroner in Campbell County, Ky., is correct, the Northern Kentucky area may be defying the odds.

Since March, Northern Kentucky has had two confirmed cases of CJD, a fatal brain disease associated with a tiny protein called prions. Tests are being performed on a third local person who died in August to determine if she succumbed also to the disease." (Scripps Howard News Service)

Probably won't be long before someone tries to a make big deal out of a statistical anomaly. Sigh...

"FEATURE - Intensive farming blamed for Europe's food crisis" - "LONDON - "It was the farmers' fault," Diane Buck whispered to her mother from the bed where she waged and lost a painful, prolonged battle against the human form of mad cow disease.

Her mother, Jan, sobs as she retells the story of Diane's death, but says she is not so sure whether Britain's much maligned farmers were to blame for her 28-year-old daughter's death from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).

But she agrees with a growing number of Britons and other Europeans that it might be time to change their way of farming." (Reuters)

"Bloody Risks" - "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Red Cross plan to further tighten their rules on who can donate blood. Both aim to ensure the safety of our blood supply, but seem unable to balance competing risks. Blinded by fears that infection by the human version of mad cow disease, new variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease (nvCJD), might spread through blood, they have neglected the problem of a shrinking blood supply which their regulations exacerbate. In their rush to ensure blood safety, they risk leaving us no blood at all.

No trace of nvCJD has ever been found in the United States. But travelers to Western Europe just might have consumed contaminated beef, which just might cause nvCJD in humans, which just might be conveyed via their bloodstream into the American blood pool, which just might lead to infection in people who need transfusions." (Howard Fienberg, TechnoPolitics)

"Drug that 'cured' CJD to be tested on British sufferers" - "TESTS to assess whether a drug used to treat malaria could offer new hope to human sufferers of mad cow disease were announced by the Government yesterday. Patients will be recruited for treatment with quinacrine after it "cured" rodent cells infected with BSE and was tested on a British woman suffering from vCJD. Rachel Forber, 20, from Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside, was diagnosed with suspected vCJD in June." (Telegraph)

"Wealth of nations depends on Jack Frost, research finds" - "WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Why do the rich get richer and the poor stay poor? When it comes to nations, the answers may include frost, according to a study that for the first time links economic and new global climate data. Economists and co-authors William Masters of Purdue University and Margaret McMillan of Tufts University, say frost plays two important roles: It helps farmers increase agricultural productivity, and it helps people control disease, particularly malaria." (Purdue News)

And the current wealth differential has nothing to do with development funded by the wealth accumulated earlier by seafaring trading nations in past centuries? Trade allowed the generation of societal surplus beyond mere sustenance of the population and paid the taxes that funded infrastructure and scientific advancement. Alleviating poverty requires development and commerce (Duh!) and the current wealth base appears firmly rooted in trade and not frost.

"Australians the worst greenhouse polluters" - "Australians were the worst greenhouse gas polluters in the industrialised world, a new analysis shows. Each Australian is responsible for 27.6 tonnes of greenhouse gases, which are blamed for global warming, while each Indian is responsible for only about one tonne, the Australia Institute analysis showed.

Since 1995, Australia's emissions per person rose to 27.6 tonnes from 26.7, while the average for industrialised countries fell to 12.9 tonnes from 13.6. "Instead of being around double the average, Australia is now well in excess of twice as high," the institute's statement said. Average Australian greenhouse gas emissions were now 30 per cent higher than those of the average American, it said." (AAP)

Misanthropic technophobe Clive Hamilton and his (anti-?)Australia Institute say so? Well whoopee duck!

I haven't bothered to check this time but Clive's creative accounting usually includes potential emissions from all Australia's fossil fuel exports and the potential emissions from refining of mineral ore exports as "Australian emissions" (these are also included in consumer nation's accounts when hyping total global anthropogenic emissions but not when establishing Australia's "relative ranking"). Then, by cherry-picking the data, he gets his desired "dirty Australia" image.

"Manitoba task force on climate change says North American policy needed" - "A new report says Manitoba should take a lead role in the global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

But it says the province first must push for a joint North American policy on climate change.

The final report of the Manitoba Task Force on Climate Change, commissioned last spring to examine Manitoba's role in the problem of emissions controls and energy sources, is to be delivered Monday to Premier Gary Doer." (CP)

"Axworthy sees flaw in U.S. energy plan" - "Any continental-energy deal with the United States should be linked to reaching an agreement with Canada on reducing North American greenhouse-gas emissions, says former foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy.

Mr. Axworthy made the recommendation to press the United States on global warming in a report commissioned by the Manitoba government to be released today by Premier Gary Doer." (Globe and Mail)

"Way of life 'threatened' by climate change; Axworthy report" - "Though not as dramatic as terrorist attacks, climate change is as serious a threat to the future well-being of North America, says former foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy.

In a report to be presented today, the Manitoba Task Force on Climate Change, chaired by Mr. Axworthy, warns that global warming is already affecting Canadian agriculture, water supplies and transportation infrastructure in ways that will seriously impact the North American economy." (Ottawa Citizen)

"World Climate Report" Volume 7, Number 2, September 24, 2001 is available.

"Dawn of a New Ozone Hole" - "Each year around this time, the ozone hole begins to open as light from the springtime Sun triggers the chemistry of ozone destruction. It's an annual event. The hole widens in mid-August, then contracts again in December -- a cycle shaped by south polar weather." (Science@NASA)

"Purple potato may block blight" - "The organic food industry could be given a boost from a purple potato that is resistant to blight. Scientists at the University of Newcastle have discovered the variety does not need to be treated with fungicide to fight off the disease. This could help organic farmers who see crops worth millions of pounds destroyed by blight every year." (BBC Online)

"ITALY: Organic food sales set to quadruple by 2005 despite consumer ignorance" - "Italy expects sales of organic food to quadruple in the next four years, reflecting a boom in  a sector noted for its wild growth that is also causing concern.

A current study undertaken for Coldiretti, a major producer association, says consumption of organically produced food will gross a massive Lit10,000bn (US$4.8bn) in 2005, reaching 3.3% of entire food consumption compared to 0.8% at the moment.

The study, announced during a natural food convention ending over the weekend, also reported that in 2005 a total of 60% of organic products will be purchased in supermarkets (currently 27%), 33% in special organic food shops (now 67%) and 7% in special restaurants (6%t)." (just-food.com)

"Italian farming should be GM-free, minister says" - "Italian agriculture should avoid the use of gene technology, Farm Minister Giovanni Alemanno said on Friday. "I think that Italian agriculture should be exempt from gene technology...because the processing of high-quality foods needs to be GM-free," Alemanno told Reuters in an interview." (Reuters)

"Study Shows No Impact of GM Rice on Subjects" - "A team of scientists recently fed rice genetically modified with soybean glycinin to rats for four weeks. The rats were divided into three groups, each being fed on (I) only a commercial diet, (II) this diet plus control rice and (III) this diet plus rice genetically modified with glycinin. The rats were fed with 10 g/kg-weight of rice every day by oral administration. During the test period, the rats in every group grew well without marked differences in appearance, food intake, body weight, or cumulative body weight gain, the research report stated." (AgWeb.com)

"Development: Jamaica Pins Its Hopes on Transgenic Papaya" - "BROMPTON, Jamaica, Sep 17 - This farming area just inland from the south coast fishing town of Old Harbour appears to hold the answer to the decimation of Jamaica's papaya crop by the virulent Ring Spot disease.

Eight years after the disease began its devastation of farms - killing trees, putting farmers out of business - experts here are propagating a transgenic variety of papaya they say resists Ring Spot.

Scientist Paula Tennant says that come 2003, farmers can begin planting a new disease resistant variety that is now on its third field test and from which a seed bank is being developed." (IPS)

"China tightens quarantines, slowing soy imports" - "China has tightened quarantine regulations for imported grains, a move seen putting the brakes on further imports of soybeans ahead of the country's entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO), traders said on Monday. An official from China's quarantine bureau in the northeastern port of Dalian confirmed it was tightening supervision of imported grains, especially soybeans, to control imports of genetically modified (GM) foods, mainly soybeans." (Reuters)

September 17, 2001

"Government crackdown on bid to cut car use" - "Ministers are to put pressure on local authorities in a bid to reduce cancer-causing chemicals in vehicle exhaust fumes.

Michael Meacher was acting on the advice from health experts.

He added that the Government had been warned that breathing in particles over a long period, which can be caused by traffic and industry, can lead to premature death.

Although the exact number of people affected is unknown, experts suggest that cutting levels of fine particles by 5%, could lead to gains in life expectancy of between 3 and 6.5 months, if one million people are affected." (Ananova)

Interesting way of writing this up. What exactly does "gains in life expectancy of between 3 and 6.5 months, if one million people are affected" mean? Are they intimating a collective gain across 1 million people (i.e., an increase of around 7 to 17 seconds each) or are they intimating something collectively in the range 250,000 to 540,000 person-years per million population?

Here's how The Times wrote it up:

"Air pollution cuts 'will extend a million lives'" - "AIR pollution controls planned by the Government will extend the life of about one million people a year by six months, health experts have told ministers." (The Times)

Hmm... how's that again? An annual saving of a half-million person-years.

Actually, with wide degrees of uncertainty and a number of caveats, the COMEAP report suggests possible delays of 1 day or less to 1 month per death across the population of England and Wales over 105 years for people alive in the year 2000. Here's a quote:

The estimates range from 0.007 to 4.1 million life years gained over the rest of the lifetime of the population alive today. This range could be expressed as from a day or less to 1 month per person but it should be noted that the gains in life expectancy are unlikely to be evenly distributed across the population. For example, the estimate we considered most likely (0.2 to 0.5 million life years) could be expressed as 1.5 to 3.5 days (say 2.5 days) gained per person for all 52 million people; 5 days for 25 million people; nearly 2 months for 2.5 million people or 4.5 months for 1 million people or a mixture of these. We cannot distinguish these possibilities at present.

"Out-of-touch CAFE menu" - "Sometimes the health department just has to shut down an eatery until its cleans up its act. There's another little "cafe" that could do with the same treatment -- but unfortunately, the government owns the place.

This CAFE is the nickname for Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, the federal government's new-car fuel economy standards. With Congress considering whether to expand it, it might be better termed, "Congress Actively Forcing Efficiency." So what's the problem? CAFE kills and maims, needlessly and cruelly. It does so by forcing cars to be made smaller and lighter -- downsized -- in order to save gasoline. Unfortunately, while smaller and lighter might mean more fuel-efficient, it also means more dangerous in crashes. Dead car occupants are not healthy people." (Michael Glueck and Robert Cihak, Washington Times)

"Row over claim that wood floors are carpet beaters" - "CARPET manufacturers are planing to sue a pressure group and one of the world’s biggest wood floor makers after uncovering an alleged dirty tricks campaign.

They will also be seeking legal advice on the position of families who have swapped their carpets for wood flooring because of the claims that it was healthier.

Fitted carpets have been suffering from the fashion to “chuck out the chintz” promoted from by the Swedish home furnishing giant Ikea, but the £2 billion industry, which employs 50,000 people, claims it has been the victim of a campaign by the Healthy Flooring Network, which campaigns against the alleged health dangers of carpets.

The campaigners’ message appears to have had impressive results. An estimated 97 per cent of homes have fitted carpets, but last year sales of wood laminate flooring increased by 90 per cent.

But now the network has admitted that it has been funded by the environmental lobby group New Harbour, which received tens of thousands of pounds from Pergo, a leading Swedish wood flooring manufacturer." (The Times)

"Danger lurking in dashboards" - "Nowhere do lies and misrepresentation stand out in as bold relief as in the political arena. But how we forget." (Walter Williams, Washington Times)

Ooh, lookit! "Ozone depletion may spurt cataract cases" - "MADODARA: Many doctors in India and abroad have affirmed that incidences of cataracts, blinding, skin ailments, etc, have increased in recent years. Medical and environmental research has indicated that in many cases this rise is due to increase in UV radiation.

"Some virus like papiloma virus, HIV-1 and forms of skin cancer too are caused due to the harmful effect of UV radiation" said Manohar Moghe of MSU faculty of science, environmental sciences." (Times of India)

Who'd a guessed cervical cancer (from HPV infection) and HIV, inter alia, were due to ozone depletion? The question has been asked about the potential for exposure of the cervix to solar UV but I'm just not going there.

"Carbon caps lacking scientific support" - "Some day an enterprising journalist may tell us just how, just before last year's election, an unholy alliance of coal-burning (yes) electric utilities and environmental groups managed to insert a call for mandatory limits on carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants into the Bush platform.

Such a policy is so obviously at variance with his opposition to the Kyoto climate treaty that one suspects it was sneaked in last September while cooler heads were nodding. The power companies supporting CO2 caps proclaim that they were only looking for "regulatory certainty" -- an odd excuse for more regulation. It is not difficult to imagine other, less noble motives." (S. Fred Singer, Washington Times)

"Research shows El Nino likely to affect north coast summer" - "Scientists from Newcastle University say their research is showing eastern Australia is likely to come out of one of the driest winters in almost 80 years into an El Nino influenced summer.

Research leader Dr Stewart Franks says underpinning predictions of a return to El Nino conditions is that at the moment a large patch of warm ocean is forming in the eastern Pacific." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

Mmmaybe... but the latest SST graphic is showing the cool surface water pool along the South American west coast now extending to the Galapagos Islands and a distinctly La Niña-like pattern of a "cooler-than-normal" trough extending westwards into the tropical Pacific.

"Millions given winter flood warning" - "Millions of people in Britain's flood-risk areas must wake up now to the dangers of flooding this winter, the Environment Agency says today.

Although last autumn's deluge saw 10,000 houses and businesses inundated across England and Wales, and in some severely affected places families have still not been able to return to their homes, nearly 50 per cent of people living in flood-prone areas are oblivious to the risk and only one person in 10 takes any action to prepare, new research by the agency shows.

It estimates that up to five million people live in natural floodplains and could be affected if flood waters rise again this year, endangering two million homes and 185,000 businesses. Property, land and assets worth £200bn could be damaged.

The findings come as scientists confirm evidence of increasing winter rainfall and river-flow extremes over the past 40 years, the agency says. High tides during the coming week will be this autumn's first risk for many coastal areas." (Independent)

Remember back in the '60s when the UK was screaming drought and water shortage? Rainfall has been recovering since? What a surprise. Building on floodplains is not a good idea - because that's where floods occur. [Duh!] When will people wake up that climate is cyclical?

"EPA sets new deadline of Sept 21 for Bt corn comments" - "WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency has again extended the deadline for green groups, biotech foodmakers and others to comment on whether the agency should renew the registrations of Bt corn and cotton. The federal re-registration of the gene-spliced plants has become a key battle between foodmakers, who say Bt corn is safe, and green groups, who contend more research is needed into the long-term impacts on health and the environment." (Reuters)

"Study casts doubt on anti-GM lobby claim" - "GREEN lobbyists have been accused of distorting science to promote the case against genetically modified crops after research exposed one of their key claims as unfounded. The most comprehensive analysis yet of the effects of GM maize on the monarch butterfly, one of North America’s most spectacular species, found that the risk to the insect is negligible." (The Times)

"French activists destroy GM beet test crop" - "PARIS, Sept 15 - Some 40 activists destroyed a test crop of genetically modified animal feed in northern France on Saturday to protest against GM crops being cultivated in open fields alongside non-GM crops.

Activists, belonging to the left-wing Confederation Paysanne and the ecologist Greens Party, uprooted a crop of mangel-wurzel, a form of beet fed to animals, near Lille, while police watched." (Reuters)

September 15-16, 2001

Poor timing? - This week's FoxNews.com commentary, "Asbestos Could Have Saved WTC Lives", brought a lot of e-mail. Some readers were critical of the timing, questioning the "taste" of such an article so soon after the tragedy of September 11.

What spurred the article was the media's scaremongering about the "deadly" asbestos arising from the rubble of the World Trade Center. None who were critical of my commentary's timing were critical of the timing of the scaremongering. It's doubtful that dangerous exposures to asbestos are occurring. High-level exposures to certain types of asbestos fibers for lengthy periods (typically years, not days), particularly among smokers, are what significantly increase the risk of asbestos-related diseases. This is not the situation in New York City.

The e-mail also brought more facts to light.

Apparently, One World Trade Center was completely insulated with asbestos. But Two World Trade Center was insulated with asbestos only up to the 64th floor. One World Trade Center lasted almost 45 minutes longer than Two World Trade Center. It's possible -- no guarantees -- that more people might have gotten out of Two World Trade Center had it been fully asbestos-insulated. Nothing would have prevented the buildings from collapsing eventually given the heat generated by the combustion of jet fuel.

"Asbestos dust poses threat to rescue crews" - "NEW YORK - As rescuers worked through a jagged landscape of debris, a new threat emerged: the dust rising in plumes and covering everything near ground zero of the World Trade Center attack." howls The Boston Globe

"That's a major, major toxic soup" - "People are breathing in some nasty stuff in Manhattan this week, André Picard reports. The smouldering rubble is a vast aggregate of metal, concrete and glass, paints, solvents, office furniture, vehicles and decomposing bodies" whines André Picard in The Globe and Mail

"Safety of Breathing in Manhattan Still Uncertain" - "NEW YORK - Air-filter masks have become a disturbing new street fashion in New York amid growing concerns about potential health hazards posed by the acrid smoke billowing out of the World Trade Center wreckage since Tuesday's air attacks.

Experts warn that people with heart ailments and respiratory problems are at some danger and should stay inside and avoid prolonged exposure to dirty air.

But some of them say neither the air nor decomposing bodies buried beneath the ruins of the collapsed 110-story twin towers should pose a major health concern." (Reuters)

"Monitors Say Health Risk From Smoke Is Very Small" - "The persistent pall of smoke wafting from the remains of the World Trade Center poses a very small, and steadily diminishing, risk to the public, environmental officials and doctors said yesterday." (New York Times)

"Little Asbestos Found in New York Air Samples" - "NEW YORK, New York, September 13, 2001 - The levels of lead, asbestos and volatile organic compounds in air samples taken on Tuesday downwind from the collapsed World Trade Center buildings were "not detectable or not of concern," federal environment officials said today.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman said the agency is taking steps to ensure the safety of rescue workers and the public at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon disaster sites, and to protect the environment." (Environment News Service)

"Japan accidentally processes suspected mad cow into feed" - "TOKYO - The animal involved in what could be Asia's first case of mad cow disease was not destroyed as previously announced, but instead was processed into meat and bone meal, a government spokesman said Friday. Agriculture Ministry spokesman Toshimichi Kado said the investigation revealed that a meal plant and a feed mill in two different Japanese states were in possession of tons of meal that included processed meat and bones from the suspect 5-year-old Holstein milk cow." (AP)

"'Fruitarian' parents of dead baby escape jail" - "The parents of a baby girl who died of severe malnutrition after being fed a raw fruit and vegetable diet were allowed to go free yesterday when a judge said they had already been punished by the loss of their child in what was a "wholly exceptional and tragic case".

Julian Evans, defending her father, said: "This tragic family are all victims of the confusing ongoing debate about what is and what is not healthy to eat. There exists a confusing state of affairs as to what is healthy what is not in regard to our food and water.

Mr Evans said the parents believed they were doing the best for their daughter. They tried to protect her from harmful chemicals, additives and toxins that they believed polluted much of the produce found in supermarkets." (Independent)

"Panel finds no link between Vatican Radio, leukemia" - "ROME - Italy's health minister said Saturday that a study by an international panel found no connection between electromagnetic emissions from Vatican Radio transmitters in a town outside Rome and leukemia rates in the area.

Residents near the transmitter in Santa Maria di Galeria have said they suspect some local leukemia cases may be linked to the emissions from Vatican Radio, which broadcasts the pope's words around the world in 40 languages.

The report from the five-month study, conducted by investigators from Italy, Britain and Germany and released by Health Minister Girolamo Sirchia, found that leukemia rates in and around Santa Maria di Galeria were no higher than rates in Rome.

"On the basis of scientific knowledge, the report has found no evidence of a correlation between exposure to electromagnetic fields and the development of leukemia," Sirchia said." (AP)

"EU to Call for International Aviation Fuel Tax" - "LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE, Belgium - The European Union will call on the rest of the world to tax aviation fuel as a way of curbing the environmental impact of air travel, EU transport and environment ministers said on Saturday.

Despite the turmoil in the airline sector following terror attacks in the United States, EU ministers said they would push for air fuel to lose its tax-free status at a meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) this month.

The official who will represent the EU at the thrice-yearly meeting of global aviation's governing body, Belgian Transport Minister Isabelle Durant, said the European block was unanimous in wanting a global agreement on taxing air fuel or kerosene." (Reuters)

"EU: Parliament wants USA to reconsider its position on climate and approve COP 9 in 2003" - "Brussels - In a resolution on climate change, adopted by a large majority at the plenary session in Strasbourg, the European Parliament welcomed the agreement reached in July in Bonn (COP 6 B) between 180 countries, despite the opposition of the US. The EP regards this agreement as an essential instrument for implementing a world strategy against global warming and an important stage establishing an international and multilateral decision-making process for the environment. As well as sending out a message of hope to all citizens worried by globalisation, it also calls on those concerned, to keep pushing." (Agence Europe)

"Glacier-dammed lake draining into Kenai" - "Soldotna -- A glacier-dammed lake high in the Kenai Mountains is beginning to drain, but forecasters say the estimated influx of 42 billion gallons of water probably isn't enough to flood low-lying roads and homes around Kenai Lake.

Gauges downstream along Snow River show a recent spike in the river's water flow, and a pilot flying above the alpine lake abutting Snow Glacier said its ice-crusted surface has slumped 15 feet.

The peculiar and temporary lake, formed in a valley bordering Snow Glacier, drains every two to three years down the Snow River valley, which feeds Kenai Lake." (Anchorage Daily News)

Global warming? Yes, after a fashion - but not in the contemporary common usage sense. The globe has generally been warming since the depths of the last great glaciation and will hopefully continue to do so. The only other likelihood is descent into another ice age with catastrophic consequences for life on Earth.

"VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT September 12, 2001 Vol. 2, No. 37" - "Before the events of September 11th intervened, NBC News reporter Jim Avila reached deep into the recycling bin for a way to fill out a portion of the nightly news block. He chose what fast is becoming an annual end-of-summer, back-to-school news story about how glaciers are melting in Glacier National Park. "The temperature’s gone up an average 3½ degrees in the park during the last 110 years," Avila intoned." (GES)

"The State of the Planet" - "The State of the Planet, Wednesday 12 September's spiked-debate in collaboration with London's Royal Institution and Cambridge University Press, was supposed to be a debate of two halves - with 'Skeptical Environmentalist' Bjørn Lomborg pitted against Edward Goldsmith, founder of The Ecologist magazine. But the day beforehand, The Ecologist team decided, for reasons best known to themselves, to pull out of the debate because they were suddenly unhappy with arrangements made six weeks previously.

Their loss. The 300-plus audience proved itself more than capable of putting Lomborg through his paces - just as soon as he had finished taking us through his graphs." (Sp!ked)

No stopping ol' Lester though: "Environmental disasters loom, expert warns" - "SOUTH KINGSTOWN -- Rising sea levels and expanding deserts threaten mankind with disasters that could be far worse than the recent acts of terrorism in New York City, Lester R. Brown, a noted environmental forecaster, warned here yesterday.

"There is a potential for disaster that could make what happened in New York yesterday look small," Brown told several hundred students and faculty at the University of Rhode Island. "Civilization is being trapped between expanding deserts and rising sea levels -- two forces of our own creation." (Providence Journal)

"Consumers prefer genetically engineered sweet corn and potatoes in GM labelling study" - "HILLSBURGH, ON, Sept. 12 - For the second year in a row, customers at Birkbank Farms in Hillsburgh, Ontario can choose between genetically engineered (GE) and conventional varieties of sweet corn and potatoes: and once again, they're choosing GE by a margin of at least 3:2.

"This year, many of my customers are specifically asking for the Bt sweet corn because they like the idea that the corn is produced without insecticides," said farmer Jeff Wilson, the owner and operator of Birkbank Farms. "But more of them are concerned about whether the corn is bi-coloured than whether it is GE, with many asking for the non-existent peaches-and-cream variety, or for one colour." (CNW)

"Opponents call GMO threshold 'outrageous'" - "A committee studying labelling rules for genetically modified food has recommended a threshold of five percent GM content before GM labelling is required.

The proposal has been endorsed by a lobby group for the biotechnology industry and denounced by one of the strongest opponents of GM technology.

The Canadian public has until Oct. 17 to make views known to the Canadian General Standards Board, which organized the committee to design rules for voluntary labelling standards. The Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors has also supported the committee work." (Western Producer)

"GM debate takes a rational turn" - "An open forum on genetically modified crops would have - in fact has - drawn a bigger audience in a Highland village. But no-one is planting GM crop trials in an Edinburgh back yard.

As a result, an international conference - Plant Breeding - Sustaining the Future - lasted four days in Edinburgh without a single GM protester and an expert-panel open forum attracted about 200 people.

It seemed that most of those were seekers after answers and some reassurance about science rather than outright opponents.

As the keynote speaker on the opening day of the conference had suggested and hoped, the forum was a chance for plant breeders to put their case scientifically for the good points of genetic engineering and the potential benefits of GM crops.

It was also a chance for representatives of organic farming, the food industry, greens and the public to have a say. Most did." (The Scotsman)

"Farmer Rallies Kenyans Against Biotech Seeds" - "NAIROBI, Sep 13, 2001 -- A Canadian farmer who was sued by the giant biotech firm Monsanto has come to Kenya to campaign against the use of genetically modified crops.

Percy Schmeiser travelled to Nairobi this week to warn his Kenyan counterparts against growing GM crops, which he claims would take away their rights over their indigenous seeds, and impoverish them further.

"Some of the best seeds are developed by farmers," he told a seminar organized by the Green Belt movement, a non-governmental organization (NGO) in the Kenyan capital. "I don't want to see that freedom ever taken away from farmers anywhere in the world." (Inter Press Service via COMTEX)

Schmeiser had his day in court and was found to be a liar and a thief - and now he's the darling of the misanthropic anti-biotech brigade.

"Zimbabwe warns importers on genetically modified food" - "Harare - Zimbabwe's government has warned importers on bringing genetically modified food into the country without the permission of the state Biosafety Board, a board official said Thursday. "We have told importers, should you need clarification on importing food, please seek advice from the board," an official at the Research Council of Zimbabwe said. While the government has not banned importers from bringing genetically modified food into Zimbabwe, the official said they must receive permission from the Biosafety Board." (Sapa-AFP)

"Risky business" - "Risk. It's a short word, but one packed full of difficulty for we fallible humans.

West Nile virus, which has killed fewer than a dozen people in North America, gets more banner headlines than the flu, which every year kills hundreds. I casually climb in my car and drive 20 kilometres an hour over the speed limit, accepting the risk of crippling injury and/or speeding ticket, but I change my Air Transat tickets because they had a dead-stick landing with only minor injuries

Similarly, we panic over a lab experiment that seems to show Monarch butterflies are at risk from genetically modified corn -- an experiment that was immediately criticized for being badly designed and inconclusive." (Michael Smith, CNews Science)

"Key Plant Genome Goes Public On The Internet" - "Researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine, DuPont, and the University of Campinas in Brazil, with partial funding from the National Science Foundation, have sequenced the genome of an important organism, Agrobacterium, and made it freely available on the Internet.

This information is available at www.agrobacterium.org. Agrobacterium has the unique property of inserting small pieces of genetic material into a plant, animal or fungal cell that it colonizes. The bacterium has had great utility in molecular studies of botany, and has enabled scientists to study the effects of plant genes on various properties of plants such as growth rate, maturation, flower color, and yield.

The organism also serves as a useful tool to study a number of infectious human diseases in which the inciting organism injects material into a cell.

On a practical side, Agrobacterium is a basic tool for genetic engineering of foodstuffs to produce crops that are more nutritious, less allergenic and disease-, insect-, salt- and cold-resistant, and a whole host of other promising traits." (NewsRx.com)

"Byproducts of Biotech Corn; Farmer Suing Starlink's Maker for Effects of Scare" - "From his corn farm in Giles County, about an hour's drive south of Nashville, Bartt McCormack is helping to spread into Tennessee a legal fight against the maker of the genetically modified corn StarLink.

In the process, McCormack has raised a question that may confront farmers in Tennessee and around the country in years to come. As advances in biotechnology promise to bring enormous benefits to farmers, to what degree should the companies offering such initiatives be liable should things go wrong?

Although no hard numbers are available, those who follow the agriculture industry estimate a significant percentage of the crops grown in Tennessee, including corn, soybeans and cotton, have been genetically modified to make them more resistant to pests or for other beneficial purposes.

In most cases, the altered crops cause few disruptions, to the farmers who grow them and those who don't." (The Tennessean)

"County backs tighter laws on GM crops" - "A FIVE-YEAR freeze on growing genetically-modified crops is being championed by Warwickshire County Council. Shire Hall has joined more than 50 local authorities to lobby the government over the controversial practice. Councillors want a change in the law, making it a legal requirement for the public to be consulted before GM crop trials are held in their area." (Coventry Evening Telegraph)

September 14, 2001

"Asbestos Could Have Saved WTC Lives" - "Asbestos fibers in the air and rubble following the collapse of the World Trade Center is adding to fears in the aftermath of Tuesday’s terrorist attack. The true tragedy in the asbestos story, though, is the lives that might have been saved but for 1970s-era hysteria about asbestos." (Steven Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"STEEL GROUP TO INVESTIGATE WORLD TRADE CENTER COLLAPSE" - "CHICAGO, Illinois, September 13, 2001 - The American Institute of Steel Construction, Inc. (AISC) is forming a special task force to investigate the structural collapses of the World Trade Center buildings resulting from the terrorist attacks on Tuesday.

AISC is the technical institute responsible for developing and maintaining the standards for design and construction of steel buildings in the United States. Information developed by this task force will enable AISC to determine if modifications are needed in existing standards. The AISC has contacted the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the nation's leading structural engineering associations regarding the investigation.

Speculation is underway about the cause of the collapses. Most engineers now believe the collapses occurred as a result of a combination of extraordinary events, including the initial aircraft impacts and explosions, which destroyed part of the structure, and the subsequent extreme fire, which weakened the remaining structure." (ENS)

"Fish near Paducah, Ky., gaseous diffusion plant analyzed for contamination" - "PADUCAH, Ky. — State environmental officials are analyzing data from a University of Kentucky scientist to decide if additional warnings should be issued about eating fish caught in streams near the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

A study of Big Bayou Creek, which runs through the plant property and empties into the Ohio River, found polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination that should trigger a warning about eating fish caught in the stream, said UK biologist Wesley Birge. He also thinks fish in the Ohio River may have high levels of PCB and metals contamination. He will begin studying fish caught in the Ohio below the plant this fall.

Separate studies conducted for the U.S. Department of Energy, which owns the plant, found similar levels of PCBs, according to Greg Cook, spokesman for Bechtel Jacobs, which manages environmental monitoring and cleanup of the plant. DOE said the PCB levels in Big Bayou Creek are below levels requiring a health warning and said the levels are decreasing and no warning should be issued." (Paducah Sun)

"Las Vegas dealers scrutinized for effects of second-hand smoke" - "Nevada researchers are about to invade the casinos of Las Vegas, not in search of jackpots but in search of nonsmoking dealers suffering the harmful effects of the indoor air pollutant second-hand smoke. Most workers no longer have to bear exposure to second-hand smoke on the job, but the casinos' focus on fun makes it unlikely that smokers will be asked to take it outside.

Researchers from the University of Nevada, Reno and the School of Medicine have been given the go-ahead from the National Institutes of Health to recruit 375 nonsmoking casino dealers in Las Vegas for a clinical study on the effects of second-hand smoke." (Environmental News Network)

"Low sperm count linked to organic solvents" - "Men repeatedly exposed to organic solvents are over twice as likely to have a low sperm count, reports a study in Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The higher the level of exposure the greater was the risk, with professional printers and painters and decorators most at risk, the study shows." (BMJ release)

At least, that appears to be the case with those attending fertility clinics. It's pretty difficult to draw conclusions from guesstimated exposures, especially when you try to categorise across employment histories - e.g., is the likely exposure over time the same for a decorator as an industrial spray-painter? Was their fertility normal prior to exposure? Is there some genetic anomaly that makes some people more likely to become printers or painters? (Certainly not suggesting that such propensity exists.) If it did, could that be a factor in fertility?

Kite flying is easy - drawing valid conclusions from guessed exposure to organic solvents (specifics unknown) and male fertility, is not.

"Research: U.S. boys also reaching puberty earlier than in past years" - "CHAPEL HILL –- U.S. boys appear to reach puberty earlier than in past decades, a new study suggests, but why that happens is not clear and neither are the health consequences. Researchers say possible effects on health are more likely to be negative than positive, however.

“We analyzed data from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which were collected in two phases between 1988 and 1994 on 2,114 boys aged 8 to 19 in this country,” said Dr. Marcia Herman-Giddens, a researcher affiliated with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “We found that all three groups -- white, African-American and Mexican-American boys -- were significantly taller and heavier for their age than boys in previous studies, which is consistent with earlier puberty.” (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Oh, so "environmental chemicals" stand accused of retarding and stunting male development (Greenpeace claimed you're only half the man your father was) and of advancing male puberty. Well that seems to cover all bases.

"Asthma increase could be caused by paracetamol use, study says" - "The results of the world’s largest asthma study seem to discount the notion that environmental allergens could account for the huge variation in asthma rates across Europe. The research, published in the September issue of the European Respiratory Journal (2001;18:598-611), identifies no single cause for the much higher rates of the disease in some countries but links paracetamol use with increased susceptibility to asthma." (BMJ)

"Worries persist over soot from dirty diesels; Highly effective particle filters seen as the solution" - "Most motorists agree these days that diesel engines are no longer noisy and sluggish but fears that emissions from compression-ignition motors are more harmful than their petrol-driven counterparts refuse to go away.

Clouds of black smoke are a thing of the past with modern diesel engines yet these still generate microscopic particles of soot that scientists strongly suspect of causing lung damage and even cancer.

Modern filters can neutralise most of these soot emissions but only now have they become so effective that they are being endorsed by the strictest environmental watchdogs." (Bangkok Post)

"WHO calls for closer monitoring of health risk from depleted uranium" - "The World Health Organization has set out a plan to improve health surveillance in Iraq and to investigate the possible risk to health of certain environmental risk factors, such as depleted uranium.

The WHO’s technical experts, who returned from Iraq earlier this month, together formulated four draft proposals for projects with Iraqi scientists. Two proposals deal with tightening the registration of cancers, congenital malformation, and renal disorders. A third proposal deals with implementing a plan for the control of cancer and other non-communicable diseases, and a fourth outlines a study into the potential health effects of environmental factors, including depleted uranium." (BMJ)

"The Week That Was" September 8, 2001 brought to you by SEPP

"Dutch CO2 output rises in 2000, more increases seen" - "AMSTERDAM - The Netherlands' carbon dioxide emissions rose by one percent in 2000, driven by higher energy use, and are likely to continue increasing, a Dutch government research body said." (Reuters)

Hmm... "Scientists fear new threat to butterflies from Bt corn" - "WASHINGTON - Four experts on biotech crops and monarch butterflies have urged the Environmental Protection Agency to renew Bt corn registrations for only one year and to investigate a new risk the plant may pose to the orange-and-black butterflies." (Reuters)

Losey seems to be developing something of a bee in his bonnet. Either that or monarchs in the belfry. John, the upshot of the studies would seem to be that it is the so-called issue that is dead - not the monarch.

"New Findings Stress Safety Of Bt Corn To Monarch Butterflies" - "New research has concluded that genetically engineered Bt field and sweet corn are safe for non-target pests -- specifically the Monarch butterfly. And in the case of genetically-engineered Bt sweet corn, the advantages for Monarchs seem to far outweigh the risks associated with spraying insecticides." (University of Guelph)

"European Commission's Proposed End To Moratorium Arouses Lively Debate" - " The European Union has not authorized a genetically engineered (GM) product since October 1998. In July 2001, the Commission adopted two proposals that reflect concepts presented in the White Paper and that are designed to end the de facto moratorium on GM product approval." (ISB News Report)

"Global Agriculture - Facing The Challenges" - "The first point is that we have to produce more, because today, in spite of the large food mountains there are also millions of hungry. The paradox of hunger in the midst of plenty, of food mountains and hungry mouths co-existing, is a very great shame, a national shame." (New Agriculturalist)

September 13, 2001

"vCJD warning 'misguided'" - "Claims that there has been a sustained rise in the number of vCJD victims are "misguided" says an expert. In fact, cases of the human form of mad cow disease have stabilised over the past year, says Dr Azra Ghani. She leads a team of statisticians which is trying to work out how many people may end up dying from the disease." (BBC Online)

"'Infectious diabetes' theory slammed" - "A scientist who says that infection cannot be ruled out as a cause of diabetes has been attacked by a leading charity. Professor Garth Cooper, from the University of Auckland, has been described as "irresponsible" by Diabetes UK. They, and other scientists, say there is no evidence that the disease can be passed from one person to another. Professor Garth Cooper says research raises the question of whether an infectious agent can cause diabetes in the same way that "rogue prions" may cause vCJD." (BBC Online)

"Common virus linked with childhood diabetes" - "GLASGOW, Sep 12 - Babies infected with a common virus are at increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes, according to new research presented here Tuesday. A team of researchers from the Universities of Turku, Tampere and Oulu in Finland who tracked newborns through their early years of life found infections with enterovirus were much more common among those who went on to develop diabetes than in healthy individuals. The findings, presented here at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, reinforce earlier evidence of a link uncovered by the same scientists." (Reuters Health)

"Nearly 20 percent of Americans are obese, survey says" - "CHICAGO - New figures show that nearly 40 million American adults are obese, continuing a decadelong climb despite health officials' efforts to encourage a sensible diet and plenty of exercise. "Far too many of us are not following this simple prescription," said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.

The 2000 national obesity average of 19.8 percent is up from 12 percent in 1991, according to a government survey. Twenty-two states had a rate last year of 20 percent or higher, while no state had a rate that high in 1991, the authors said in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association." (AP)

"Moderate drinking may not lengthen life: study" - "NEW YORK, Sep 12 - Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may not have the health benefits of long life that have been previously asserted, due to flaws in research methods, Japanese researchers report. "Our findings should caution researchers and the public to reconsider the existing evidence and the popular notion that moderate drinking is good for general health," study author Dr. Yoshitaka Tsubono of the Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine in Sendai, Japan, told Reuters Health. Several previous studies have demonstrated that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol seems to reduce mortality. However, the authors point out that those studies have a methodological flaw: they generally compare drinkers with nondrinkers, but fail to distinguish between those who never drank alcohol and those who quit drinking for health reasons." (Reuters Health)

"Researchers say regular aspirin use seems to prolong life" - "CHICAGO - People who regularly take aspirin to reduce their risk for heart attack may also be substantially extending their lives, new research suggests. The study of 6,174 adults with suspected heart disease found that regular aspirin users faced a 33 percent lower risk of dying during a follow-up period averaging three years than patients who didn't take aspirin." (AP)

"Bacterial infection again linked to stomach cancer" - "NEW YORK, Sep 12 - Infection with the ulcer-causing bacterium Helicobacter pylori greatly increases the risk of developing stomach cancer, researchers from Japan report. Many recent studies investigating the possible link between infection and stomach cancer have given conflicting results, with some showing an association and others not, according to Dr. Naomi Uemura from Kure Kyosai Hospital in Kure City, Japan, and associates." (Reuters Health)

"Doctors 'fuelling antibiotic resistance'" - "US doctors are prescribing antibiotics freely to people with sore throats - even though for most the treatment is completely inappropriate. The research was published on the same day that the World Health Organization issued a warning that humans are building up dangerous levels of resistance to modern antibiotics that could leave them vulnerable to killer diseases." (BBC Online)

"Longer flights tied to increased blood clot risk" - "NEW YORK, Sep 12 - People traveling long distances by air are more at risk of a blood clot forming and lodging in their lungs than are people traveling shorter distances, study findings suggest. While airline travel is considered to be a risk factor for developing these blood clots, researchers had not investigated whether the risk increases with longer flights. The findings, published in the Sept. 13 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, suggest that this is indeed the case." (Reuters Health)

"Fast-breeder reactor research the way forward" - "Japan should continue research work on the fast-breeder reactor to establish an efficient nuclear fuel-recycling system, says Kenji Yamaji, a professor at the University of Tokyo. The effort suffered a setback after an accident at the Monju prototype reactor in December 1995. Excerpts of an interview follow:" (Asahi Shimbun)

You can fool most of the people on some of the issues? "Large Majority of Public Now Believes in Global Warming and Supports International Agreements to Limit Greenhouse Gases" - "ROCHESTER, N.Y., Sept. 12 -- While most people believe the theory of global warming, and most people who have heard of the international agreements in Kyoto and Bonn to limit emissions of greenhouse gases approve of them, only a modest 46% to 42% plurality thinks the U.S. government was wrong not to accept them. The reason for this apparent paradox: most Republicans, by 64% to 22% believe the administration is right -- that the agreements are not based on sound research and would damage the U.S. economy. At the same time -- compounding the paradox -- a modest 54% to 40% majority of Republicans say they approve of these international agreements." (PRNewswire)

Et tu CSM? Et tu? "Winter gets a little greener up north" - "Vegetation is becoming denser across northern regions of the northern hemisphere as growing seasons lengthen. Chalk up another consequence of global warming." (Christian Science Monitor)

"17 Myth Busters" [PDF] - "With a large amount of help from James Ryan we have compiled the following list of 17 Myths busted by the Royal Commission." (New Zealand Life Sciences Network)

"Group wants to keep GM foods off P.E.I." - "CHARLOTTETOWN - A coalition of groups that want to make P.E.I. a genetically modified crop-free zone will get a chance to make its case with Premier Pat Binns Wednesday. The group, which includes the Council of Canadians, Oxfam and the National Farmers Union, will meet with the premier in Charlottetown." (CP)

"Costs of Identity Preservation Underestimated" - "Given time, world markets could adjust to predominantly identity-preserved (IP) grain production, said Dr. Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, University of Missouri agricultural economist. But government regulations, which may not take into account hidden costs of identity preservation, could put the global food supply system in "deep trouble." Dr. Kalaitzandonakes, along with other speakers, discussed the ramifications of marketing genetically modifed organisms (GMOs) - or "GMO-free" crops - at a conference cosponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service and the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology September 11, 2001, in Minneapolis, MN." (AgJournal)

"Biotechnology: Giving a voice to the developing world" - "With the world's population having surpassed six billion people and still growing, food production will need to double in less than two generations, using largely the same amount of land and water resources. Science's answer to this dilemma has come in the form of genetically modified crops- crops that can withstand drought, disease, salt, and pollution. Such crops will need to be grown in the developing world, where most of the population growth will occur. But so far the biotechnology debate has been between the US and Europe, with countries in the developing world being marginalized and excluded." (Earth Times)

"UK: Greenpeace renews call for Farm Scale Trials to be cancelled" - "Following the publication on Monday 10 September of a review by the Government's advisory body for the farm scale trials of GM crops, Greenpeace today renewed its call for the programme to be cancelled. The report identifies gaps in scientific research as well as political, ethical and commercial issues which need to be resolved before the commercial growing of GM crops in Britain should begin." (just-food.com)

"New Calls for Mandatory GM Food Labelling Play on Fear, Ignore Expert Opinion" - "TORONTO, Sept. 11 - According to a coalition of Ontario farm groups, today's call for renewed efforts to impose mandatory labelling on all genetically modified (GM) food products in Canada is little more than a last-ditch effort to revive a faltering campaign against the use of biotechnology in food production, and flies in the face of the recommendations of the two expert panels that have reported on the issue in the last year." (CNW)

September 12, 2001

"Study shows excessive, inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions for sore throats" - "Most adult patients who see their doctors for a sore throat receive a prescription for an antibiotic, despite the fact that antibiotic treatment may be appropriate for only 10 percent of such patients. And even though the inexpensive traditional antibiotics penicillin and erythromycin are the recommended treatment for sore throats that do require antibiotics, physicians often prescribe newer, more expensive "broad-spectrum" antibiotics. These findings from research conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) appear in the Sept. 12 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association.

The vast majority of sore throats are caused by viral infection, which antibiotics do not treat. Only in cases of bacterial infection -- commonly referred to as "strep throat" -- can antibiotics be useful. The current study, which analyzed physician practices from 1989 through 1999, supports previous research finding excessive antibiotic use in sore throats and is the first to delineate the trend to prescribe inappropriate classes of the medications." (Massachusetts General Hospital)

"Study: EPA underestimated arsenic danger" - "WASHINGTON -- A National Academy of Sciences report shows that the Environmental Protection Agency has greatly underestimated the cancer risks of arsenic in drinking water, according to EPA officials and other environmental experts familiar with the report." (AP) | Arsenic Standard for Water Is Too Lax, Study Concludes (New York Times)

"Headache - atmospheric radiation link explored" - "NEW YORK, Sep 11 - Researchers in Germany propose that a small minority of headache patients are susceptible to atmospheric electromagnetic pulses. The pulses, called "sferics," are of very short duration and low intensity and frequency. According to a team led by Dr. Harald Walach, of Uniklinikum Freiburg Institut fur Umweltmedizin und Krankenhaushygiene in Freiburg, sferics are generated by electric discharges, such as lightning, during meteorological events." (Reuters Health)

This is a joke, right? A study of 21 subjects, one of whom shows correlation between headaches and electro-atmospherics, therefore 5% of population-wide headaches are from this cause. Yep, it's a joke.

"Power plant pollution dispute heats up" - "Washington --- Environmental groups and the energy industry are battling today and Wednesday in private meetings with U.S. Senate staff members over attempts to improve air quality by restricting coal-burning utilities.

At stake in the increasingly complicated dispute are levels of pollutants in the nation's skies and standards for electricity-producing power plants that burn coal. Coal is a cheap, abundant energy source, but environmentalists say it is the main cause of hundreds of deaths each year from dirty air." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

"Politics Fuels Mandatory Gun Ownership Laws" - "Kennesaw, Ga., is a quiet suburb of Atlanta, where citizens are proud of their school system. Residents say it's a quiet place with an intimate feeling. And behind every door, in theory, is a loaded firearm awaiting anyone who dares to unlawfully enter a home.

In 1982, the Kennesaw City Council voted to put into effect an ordinance that requires the male head of the household to keep at the ready a firearm for the protection of his home and family.

The law has touched off controversies in a number of communities across the nation, some of which have chosen to follow Kennesaw's example, while others have not." (CNSNews.com)

Latest from the doomsters: "U.N. report: Coral reefs are shrinking fast" - "LONDON, England -- The world's coral reefs are far smaller than scientists thought and are shrinking fast under a deadly combination of pollution, climate change and dynamite fishing, according to a U.N. study released on Tuesday." (Reuters)

"Health Status of the World’s Coral Reefs" - "One of the reddest of red flags around which climate alarmists rally these days is the devastation the ongoing rise in the air’s CO2 concentration is predicted – by them, of course – to visit on coral reefs (see, for example, our Editorial of 1 January 1999).  They are particularly hard on global warming in this regard, which they claim is responsible for the bleaching of corals that has occurred in many parts of the world over the past few years.  Several new studies, however, suggest this unfortunate phenomenon is more likely the consequence of a number of other human actions and that it is not in any way related to the historical increase in the atmosphere’s CO2 content." | A Solar-Influenced Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm Period in Tropical Venezuela | Winter Storms in the Northern Hemisphere (1958-1999) | Winter Storms in the North Pacific Ocean (1948-1998) (co2science.org)

"Methyl Halides and Methane From Rice Help Global Warming" - "Emissions of methane and methyl halides from rice fields can expand the ozone hole, the Straits Times of Singapore reported last week. The growing of rice, the world's most important wetland food crop, may also contribute to global warming, according to U.S. scientists.

Researchers at the University of California-Irvine found that rice paddies emitted so-called hydrocarbons, which are partly responsible for global warming and expanding the ozone hole, according to a report in the journal Scientific American." (PlanetRice.net)

"Malaria 'could become endemic disease in UK'" - "Malaria could return to Britain as an endemic disease, scientists said yesterday when they announced a plan to produce a "risk map" showing which areas were most likely to suffer an outbreak. With millions of tourists visiting malaria-infected regions of the world, the risk of the disease making a comeback is further increased by global warming, which makes it easier for mosquitoes to breed in the UK." (Independent)

"Hard facts on 'renewable' energy" - "Imagine that you inherit a sizable chunk of money and, following your broker's advice, invest it in a particular stock, which promptly tanks. Undeterred, your broker recommends digging into your savings and plunging more into the same stock. You lose that, too. How long would it take before you (a) fired your broker and (b) stopped investing in that one stock? Probably not too long. But that's almost exactly what the United States has been doing with regard to so-called renewable energy sources over the last 21/2 decades." (Thomas Pearson, Washington Times)

"Organic 101 for 'Organic Harvest Month' in September" - "AUSTIN, Texas, Sept. 11 -- Nearly one-third of the U.S. population currently buys organically grown food, and sales are expected to more than double in the next four years -- making organic one of the hottest growth trends in the food industry today. With September designated as Organic Harvest Month, it's a great time to learn more about organic foods and how they differ from conventionally grown foods." (PRNewswire)

Hmm... funny they didn't mention things like catastrophically low productivity and associated huge agro-footprint displacing forests and wildlands (wildlife habitat) in their promo. They missed that bit about enormous expense for no known benefit too...

"Greenie Madness" - "THE Government's response to the royal commission on genetic modification next month could well prove to be the most pivotal decision of its term. It will signal not only whether a major scientific advance will have a future in New Zealand, but also whether it is serious in its pursuit of a knowledge economy.

Emanations from the Beehive are chilling on both scores. As with sustainable beech cropping on the West Coast, Prime Minister Helen Clark seems again to be leaning towards keeping the greenies, the alarmists and the Luddites pacified. She is hinting that the Government will rule out any conditional or commercial release of genetically modified crops or animals -- not because they are necessarily harmful, but because they are GM." (The Dominion)

"France's Chirac condemns GM crop protests" - "RENNES - President Jacques Chirac condemned yesterday the wave of genetically modified (GM) crop protests that have swept the French countryside, saying those responsible for tearing up fields should be punished." (Reuters)

September 11, 2001

"DOD ANNOUNCES STRICTER BLOOD DONATION STANDARDS" - "Dr. J. Jarrett Clinton, acting assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, announced today new blood donor criteria for the Department of Defense. "To ensure the health and safety of servicemembers and their families, we are adopting additional precautionary measures against the very small theoretical risk of the human form of 'mad cow' disease, " said Clinton." (DoD release)

See Steve Milloy's column: Bleeding N.Y.C. - For Profit

"No increased risk of brain cancer from electromagnetic fields" - "Exposure to electromagnetic fields does not increase the risk of developing a brain tumour, finds a study of electricity industry workers, reported in Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Researchers from the Institute of Occupational Health at the University of Birmingham assessed causes of death among just under 84,000 workers employed in generating or transmitting electricity in England and Wales. The period of study ran from 1973 until 1997." (BMJ Specialty Journals)

"British Charity Reports Surge in Asthma Cases" - "LONDON - A sharp rise has been reported in the number of asthma sufferers in the United Kingdom, with 1.7 million more people being treated for the problem than two years ago, according to a new survey." (Reuters)

"Asthma and Diet" - "A classic example of stretching to connect a statistical association with biological causation appeared in the August 2001 issue of the journal, Thorax. According to the report, the prevalence of asthma in children aged 3-5 years in two cities in Australia was about 20 percent among 1,000 children. Several factors were statistically associated with double the chance of being diagnosed with asthma and included allergies, a parent with asthma, having had a serious respiratory infection in the first 2 years of life, and a high intake of polyunsaturated fats. Breast feeding and having three or more older siblings decreased the risk.

Fortunately, some news stories quoted pediatricians who cautioned it was too early to make any dietary recommendations from this study. There have been many studies examining the potential role of diet in development of asthma, yet few studies agree.

HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Because breast feeding and intake of dietary fat can be modified more easily, these factors were singled out by the authors. In other words, these connections were no more important but modifiable. The authors suggested that high intake of polyunsaturated fat accounts for 17 percent of asthma cases and not breast-feeding for 16 percent of cases." (Nutrition News Focus)

"E.P.A. Finds Some Soot Is Bad, Other Soot Is Worse" - "As the Environmental Protection Agency moves to tighten restrictions on tiny particles of air pollution, new research shows that it may need to put even more stringent limits on soot from some industrial sources." (New York Times)

"Rural residents trail suburban, urban residents in health indicators, government report says" - "WASHINGTON - Americans living in small towns tend to smoke more, lose more teeth as they age and die sooner than suburban and many big-city residents, a government snapshot of the nation's health shows. Overall, Americans are healthier today than they were 25 years ago, and an annual report released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers some reasons: longer life expectancy, better infant survival, fewer smokers, less hypertension and lower cholesterol levels." (AP)

So much for "noxious" city air knocking everyone off...

From the chemophobia files: "Pesticides polluting P.E.I. air" - "CHARLOTTETOWN - A federal study has found the air on Prince Edward Island contains a toxic mix of pesticides, arising from chemicals sprayed by the province's potato farmers. The data was gathered by federal and provincial departments of environment during the summers of 1998 and 1999. It lists several chemicals used to kill insects, fungus and weeds in the air of several small towns near Summerside, 50 km west of Charlottetown." (CBC)

"Group stops aerial spraying in N.S." - "HALIFAX - The Nova Scotia government has cancelled aerial spraying of a pesticide in one county after a group of people set up a blockade." (CBC)

Hmm... "Low sperm count linked to organic solvents" - "Men repeatedly exposed to organic solvents are over twice as likely to have a low sperm count, reports a study in Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The higher the level of exposure the greater was the risk, with professional printers and painters and decorators most at risk, the study shows." (BMJ Specialty Journals)

"Dusting Off DDT's Image; Long-Maligned Pesticide May Be Regaining Favor" - "The much-reviled pesticide is back in vogue this Summer of the Bug. Mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus led to the death of a woman near downtown Atlanta, as well as birds across Georgia. People and horses succumb to Eastern equine encephalitis, another mosquito-borne killer. Insecticide-spewing trucks roam residential neighborhoods, reminders of DDT's glory days in the 1950s and '60s. Newly resurgent malaria ravages the Third World, prompting scientists, health workers and government officials to clamor for DDT. Magazines revisit the banned chemical and conclude that, maybe, DDT isn't that bad after all." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Pretty much a mixed bag this one, trots out all the Silent Spring mythology. Unequivocally, Rachel was wrong, see DDT FAQ and Facts Versus Fears: DDT. While you're about it, here's an example of the cost of that chemophobic nonsense.

"Group insists science books be thrown out" - "AUSTIN -- Newly drafted middle-school science textbooks contain errors and exhibit a pro-environment bias, more than two dozen speakers told the State Board of Education on Thursday. The criticisms focused on the proposed textbooks' discussions of global warming, acid rain and rain forest destruction. Many of the speakers were affiliated with Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, an advocacy and education organization dedicated to economic freedom.

Peggy Venable, director of that group, said one 8th-grade textbook "selectively uses data to frighten students about global warming and to motivate them to action." "Many learned scientists and experts have differing opinions on global warming, endangered species, land management, and other topics in these texts," Venable said. "But rather than present an accurate picture of the different approaches to complex issues, these texts often depict the view that humans and the free enterprise system are driving forces behind our planet's destruction." (Houston Chronicle)

Book Review: "The Skeptical Environmentalist" - "Reading The Skeptical Environmentalist, the first thing we learn about Bjørn Lomborg is that he cares more for truth than appearances. In the opening paragraphs he associates himself with the late Julian Simon, a critic of environmentalist thinking who was reviled and ridiculed by his enemies. The second thing we learn is that, while Lomborg always considered himself an environmentalist, he hadn't really studied the issue until recently." (John Gillott, Sp!ked)

"Green envoy no expert on environment" - "OTTAWA - Canada's Ambassador for the Environment has a patronage job that earns him more than $150,000 a year, a $25,000 allowance for wining and dining, offices in Toronto and Ottawa, and a mandate to advise the government about all things green. But Gib Parent admits he really doesn't know very much about the environment." (Ottawa Citizen)

"Sprawl's benefit" - "THE WORD SPRAWL conjures images of interminable traffic jams, bulldozers wrecking farmland, cookie-cutter shopping centers, and endless suburban tract housing. But associate professor Matthew E. Kahn of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy has found a more positive impact - bigger, more affordable homes. Opponents of sprawl in Massachusetts need to pursue their efforts in a way that does not worsen the housing crisis." (Boston Globe editorial)

"The law vs. common sense" - "The D.C. Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services is in all kinds of hot water for disqualifying its pregnant female applicants. The stricture, it should go without saying, would have been considered unobjectionable and entirely reasonable not too very long ago. After all, it's hard enough for the average woman to lift and carry, say, a 200-pound man from a burning building. But a pregnant woman? And what of the risk to her unborn child – even assuming she is an unusually superb physical specimen capable of lifting and carrying a 200-pound man?" (Washington Times editorial)

Another one surrenders: "PETA Calls Off "Wicked Wendy's" Campaign" - "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) recently called off its “Wicked Wendy’s” Campaign, now that the fast-food giant confirmed it will meet the animal welfare standards that PETA negotiated with McDonald’s and Burger King. PETA had targeted Wendy’s restaurants with various “counter attack” protests where activists climbed atop order counters in the chain’s restaurants and promoted PETA’s message. The protests resulted in dozens of arrests at Wendy’s restaurants nationwide." (AgWeb.com)

"Party Animals" - "PETA partied hard in New York Saturday night, at an anniversary gala featuring deep thinkers like Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock. USA Today noted the all-veggie spread… but failed to note the party was sponsored by meat-centric restaurant chain Benihana - which serves steak in over 80 percent of its meals." (GuestChoice.com)

"No Such Thing As A Nanny-Free Lunch" - "The animal rights front group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is planting ideas in America's schools. Continuing to dispense dangerous animal rights orthodoxy masquerading as nutritional advice, the "physicians" denounced the National School Lunch Program, which provides balanced meals to 27 million students each day, for not substituting "plant protein" and "milk alternatives" for traditional school lunches. Among the program's crimes, according to PCRM: serving "beef, chicken, and cheese" - and providing choice. Ten of the 12 school districts PCRM surveyed offer vegetarian alternatives, but PCRM still chided the schools for not "routinely offering vegetarian fare." (GuestChoice.com)

"Protect Sharks? Recent Attacks Fuel Old Argument" - "To hear commercial fishermen tell it, fishing curbs are leaving sharks free to prey on bathers. Scientists see things another way. They now wonder if overfishing of prized shark species is letting unwanted killers like bull sharks, implicated in several recent attacks, thrive as never before." (New York Times)

"Jaws 5: Return of the commercial shark fishery" - "Shark attacks have been increasing since 1993 -- which is when the U.S. began mandating cuts in the number of sharks that could be caught for sport and profit." (Sean Paige, National Post)

Uh-huh... "Bonneville Environmental Foundation Launches Web Based CO2 Calculator" - "PORTLAND, Ore., Sept. 10 -- Individuals and small businesses can determine the amount of carbon dioxide associated with their energy and travel use on a new web site sponsored by the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. By entering data in the CO2 calculator at www.b-e-f.org, visitors to the BEF web site learn how much their specific actions create an environmental impact. They are offered the option of offsetting this impact with clean, natural renewable energy that is pollution free." (PRNewswire)

"Europe invites biotech debate" - "PARIS - Desperate to catch up with the United States on the cutting edge of biotech discovery, European governments face one major hurdle that has nothing to do with science or money: their voters. Europeans are increasingly skeptical about genetic engineering, whether it be the genetic modification of crops such as corn, or the cloning of human cells. And their doubts have had an impact: the European Union has approved no new genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for the past three years." (Christian Science Monitor)

"US scientist’s GM call" - "A LEADING American scientist yesterday welcomed the debate about genetically modified crops, but said that the scientific arguments in their favour must be put more forcefully. Describing much of the debate about genetic engineering and GM crops in the UK as "rubbish" and "trivialised", Professor Richard Flavell, chief scientific officer with the global grain business Ceres, said: "If there was no debate about GM crops and such things as the genome project to map plant genes it would be disappointing. But there is a debate and at least it tells the public that the subject is important and that the work can make a difference to the world." (The Scotsman)

"Monarch butterflies not seriously threatened by biotech corn, studies find" - "WASHINGTON - Monarch butterflies living in farm fields have almost nothing to fear from genetically engineered corn that makes its own insect killer, according to several studies begun after laboratory research raised worldwide concern about the biotech crop. The six studies are being published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The Environmental Protection Agency, which had already reviewed the data, is deciding whether to renew registrations for the two most-used varieties of the corn." (AP)

"Twist in GM corn debate" - "Fears that genetically engineered corn can harm butterflies were furthered on Monday, with the release of six environmental studies in the United States and Canada. Long-awaited results of field trials indicate that a type of genetically engineered corn is toxic to black swallowtail caterpillars. But the corn is being phased out in the United States." (BBC Online)

"Greenpeace Condemns European Patent for GM Fish" - "PARIS - Ecologist group Greenpeace condemned on Monday the granting of a European patent for a genetic tweak that can make salmon grow eight times larger than normal. Greenpeace France said the Munich-based European Patent Office (EPO) granted Canadian company Seabright Corporation a patent for a genetically modified Atlantic salmon and all other fish species carrying an additional gene for faster growth." (Reuters)

"Finnie welcomes GM crops report" - "A report which has dubbed GM crop trials in the UK as "seriously deficient" has been welcomed by Scotland's farming minister. Government advisers said the trials are "not an adequate basis" for deciding whether genetically modified crops should be grown commercially. They said the trials should continue, but they warned that the way they were introduced encouraged the belief that they were shrouded in secrecy. Ross Finnie, the Scottish Executive's rural development minister, said the report, by the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission (AEBC), is "hugely helpful." (BBC Online)

"Demonstrators label genetically modified foods a health issue" - "As customers arrived at a south-side Superstore to do their Saturday morning shopping, a handful of demonstrators told them to watch what they eat. As part of a national effort, Council of Canadians supporters handed out leaflets to educate the shoppers about genetically modified foods. "People should know what they're sticking in their mouths," said demonstrator Dave Parker, who wants genetically modified products stringently tested and labelled." (Edmonton Journal)

"Councils issued with GMO information kits" - "Councils across Australia are being sent information kits on gene technology and biotechnology to help them make more informed decisions. A survey by Commonwealth Government agency Biotechnology Australia showed 80 per cent of councils felt they did not have enough information about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), particularly when making decisions about whether to become GMO free." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"European Commission's Strategic Vision On Biotechnology" - "The Commission has just launched a new website, http://europa.eu.int/comm/biotechnology/introduction_en.html , as part of a consultation exercise leading up the the preparation of a "Strategic Vision" communication on the life sciences and biotechnology to be prepared by the end of this year. A Consultative Document COM(2001)454 has been published, at http://europa.eu.int/comm/biotechnology/pdf/doc_en.pdf , in English, French and German, and comments on this are invited, up to 16 November. This document will also be the basis of a major conference being held by the Commission on 27-28 September, in Brussels." (European Commission)

September 10, 2001

"Drug firms fund biased research, warn editors" - "The global pharmaceutical industry is accused today of manipulating scientific research to boost its commercial interests at the expense of patients. In a joint statement, a dozen of the world's leading medical journals have agreed to ban publication of research that they do not consider to be independent. They say drug companies who pay for research increasingly control the design of studies, how results are analysed and whether findings are published. Findings that are not in their interests are censored." (Independent)

See Medical Journals Hooked on Drug Money (Steve Milloy, FoxNews.com)

"Top-selling painkiller named as asthma suspect" - "Paracetamol, New Zealand's most commonly used drug, could be linked with asthma. The link has been suggested in a report on the biggest study of asthma yet undertaken.

European researchers found that paracetamol sales were high in English-speaking countries, and were associated with asthma symptoms, eczema and allergic eye problems in children, and asthma, eye and bronchial problems in adults." (New Zealand Herald)

Hmm... sales of English dictionaries were high in English-speaking countries, and were associated with asthma symptoms, eczema and allergic eye problems in children, and asthma, eye and bronchial problems in adults... The two statements are likely equally true and the second even has a biologically plausible mechanism (accumulation of allergens because people don't use their dictionaries enough). This brings us back to the old problem though, association ain't causation. There might be a clue here but it's a long way short of anything to get excited about.

"Julia Roberts Should Read This" - "Reports of cancer clusters have soared over the last few decades. Movies like "A Civil Action" and "Erin Brockovich" have laid the template of a murder mystery for news stories about cancer clusters: sympathetic victims, grisly murder weapons (cancers), and the hunt for a villain (e.g., industrial solvents)." (Howard Fienberg, TechnoPolitics)

FMD finger pointing: "Food lobby forced PM into u-turn on plan for vaccination" - "Nestlé, the world's largest food company, led a powerful business lobby which persuaded Tony Blair to halt an advanced plan to go ahead with vaccination against foot and mouth. The prime minister, with the backing of the Treasury and the support of scientists and ministers, believed that vaccination was the best option at the height of the crisis in April, but came under extreme pressure from parts of the food industry which feared a meltdown of exports." (Guardian)

"In-flight stroll may not stop DVT, says study" - "WALKING in the aisles of aircraft may fail to protect passengers from potentially fatal blood clots, a government study has found. At present, airlines advise passengers to get up and stretch their legs to avoid developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is associated with sitting immobile for long periods." (The Times)

Hey lookit! Honest Bill's a climate scientist now too: "Clinton Warns on Global Warming" - "SYDNEY, Australia - Former President Clinton warned Australians that global warming could cause some small Pacific nations to disappear beneath the ocean, creating a refugee crisis far worse than the one Australia has faced in the last two weeks. At a hospital fund-raising dinner in Sydney on Saturday, Clinton said hundreds of thousands of people around the world would become refugees if climate change isn't addressed. ``The science is unassailable. If the world keeps growing for the next 50 years warmer as it has for the last decade, you're going to see some of the small nations in the Pacific actually flooded,'' he said." (AP) [emphasis added]

Raise your hand if you'd buy a used climate prediction from this man ... OK Al, you can put your hand down now.

Letter of the moment: "No Atmospheric Warming" - "Why the shocked surprise (Marketplace, Aug. 29) when Exxon-Mobil CEO Lee Raymond questions the science behind global warming? Scientists themselves admit that the evidence is ambiguous: Surface thermometers report a warming trend, but weather satellites, providing the only true global data, show no atmospheric warming.

These negative satellite results are confirmed by balloon-borne radiosonde measurements and also by a variety of non-instrumental (proxy) data from tree rings, ice cores and ocean sediments.

Mr. Raymond is on a sound basis as well when he questions the effectiveness of the Kyoto Protocol. There is no dispute at all about the fact that even if punctiliously observed, it would have an imperceptible effect on future temperatures -- one-twentieth of a degree by 2050.

There are additional facts that caused the Senate to reject, without a single dissenting vote, a Kyoto-like accord in 1997 during the Clinton-Gore administration: Kyoto is unfair to the U.S. because it does not demand sacrifices from many giant nations such as China, India, Brazil and Mexico. And it would be extremely damaging, raising energy prices and costs-of-living to U.S. consumers. Estimates range up to $3,000 to $4,000 annually per household. Perhaps this is why for three years Mr. Clinton never submitted the Protocol to the Senate for ratification.

Nothing much has changed since 1997. As President Bush observed on rejecting Kyoto, the Protocol is "fatally flawed." (Wall Street Journal letter to the editor by S. Fred Singer, President, Science & Environmental Policy Project, professor emeritus of environmental sciences, University of Virginia, and former director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service.)

"Model Not So Super" - "In a paper titled `Devil in the Detail' in Science (v.293, 7 Sept 2001, p.1777), David Vaughan et al. report on an analysis of Antarctic temperatures, comparing them with the British HADCM3 climate model. The model comes out very badly when its predictions are matched with reality." (John L Daly, Still Waiting For Greenhouse)

"Climate shifts studied" - "Homer -- There's El Nino, the warming shift that hits the Pacific for a year or two. There's the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the temperature flip-flop that heats or cools the ocean every 20 to 40 years. And there's the general warming trend of global climate, the effects of which are more pronounced in the polar latitudes.

Scientists are still trying to understand how each of those mechanisms work. But they're going to have to understand how they all work in tandem to make accurate predictions about future climate change and its impacts on everything from salmon runs to sea lion survival.

Oceanographers, biologists and other scientists will try putting some of the pieces together in Homer next weekend at a conference exploring environmental changes and their effects on Kachemak Bay and the North Pacific." (Anchorage Daily News)

"NZ should not rush into Kyoto climate pact - CHH" - "WELLINGTON - Forestry company Carter Holt Harvey Ltd has warned that a New Zealand government push to ratify the Kyoto pact on climate change was premature and may have a significantly negative impact for New Zealand." (Reuters)

"Human cost of winter floods has been ignored, say health experts" - "... Climate change is expected to cause more frequent and more severe storms but insurers have declared that they will only cover homes and businesses for two years unless standards of flood protection are increased. "The autumn 2000 floods served as a wake-up call for how the defence of people and property should be delivered in the 21st century. With or without climate change there will be a next time," Sir John will say [at the the Environmental Health Conference "Climate change, floods and health" in Bournemouth]." (Independent)

"How accusations of racism ended the plan to map the genetic diversity of mankind" - "It was an attempt to preserve the marvellous genetic diversity of the human species. It would shed light on our evolutionary past and open new avenues to treat many of today's most intractable diseases. That was the dream. The reality is that 10 years after its inception, the Human Genome Diversity Project has all but disintegrated, having fallen victim to accusations of racism and commercial exploitation." (Independent)

"GM crop trials 'flawed'" - "The UK's field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops are seriously deficient, the government's advisers say. They say the trials, known as farm-scale evaluations (FSEs), are "not an adequate basis" for deciding whether the crops should be grown commercially. The advisers believe the trials should continue, provided they meet certain conditions. But they say the way the trials were introduced encouraged the belief that they were shrouded in secrecy." (BBC Online) | GM trials 'do not justify mass plantings' (Independent) | 'Secrecy' over GM crop trials attacked by Labour advisers (Telegraph) | Ministers rebuked over GM trials (The Times)

"French GM critics urge Jospin to ban GM crops" - "PARIS - French radical farmers asked Prime Minister Lionel Jospin to ban open-field testing of genetically modified (GM) crops and called a meeting on the weekend to hack down yet another GM test field in France." (Reuters)

"Philippine farmers ravage GM corn test site" - "SINGAPORE - Philippine farmers ravaged a test field for genetically modified (GM) corn in Mindanao in the first attack of its kind in Asia, an official from U.S. biotechnology giant Monsanto Co said last week.

Charles Martin, corporate communications official from Monsanto, told Reuters some 300 farmers uprooted Bt corn, which contains the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) proteins and is resistant against the corn borer pest.

The farmers from outside the region of Pampakan were paid for the attack last week by non-governmental organisations of communist farmers and labour unions, which had tried to prevent Monsanto from planting the Bt corn, he said." (Reuters)

"Farmers need more information about GMOs" - "Farmers should be provided with more information to allow them to make informed choices with regard to the introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) into their production systems, according to a new report from the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC). The report, titled “Genetically Modified Plants - Farm and Resource Management Issues”, has made 12 key recommendations with regard to the management of GMOs as they are introduced into Australian agriculture." (RIRDC)

September 9, 2001

"Toxic fumes in aircraft spur inquiry" - "An inquiry is to be launched into fears that tens of thousands of air passengers and cabin crew are being poisoned each year by a cocktail of toxic chemicals. The move follows the release of a government-sponsored report recommending a full investigation into the potential scandal as a 'top priority'.

The inquiry will examine the contamination levels in aircraft cabins from toxic organophosphate (OP) chemicals, amid increasing reports of pilots being knocked out by fumes and experts warning that this could cause a major air disaster. Trade unions last week claimed that research proving a link between chemical leaks and adverse health effects could trigger a mass legal action that would cost the aviation industry millions of pounds." (Observer)

"Earpiece for mobile 'cuts out radiation'" - "A REVOLUTIONARY mobile telephone earpiece will be launched this week with the promise to users that it eliminates the risk of exposure to radiation." (Telegraph)

What risk?

"New health alert as E-coli hits half of cattle herds" - "THE potentially lethal stomach bug E-coli 0157 has spread to nearly half of English cattle herds and could soon be as big a threat to human health and British agriculture as BSE and foot and mouth, a senior government adviser has warned.

Hugh Pennington, professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University and a specialist in food hygiene, said the government should introduce a policy of "zero tolerance" towards the bug, which is already thought to be causing about 1,500 reported cases of severe food poisoning each year and several times that number in unreported cases." (Sunday Tmes)

"Livestock drugs may cause bacteria in people" - "OTTAWA -- Millions of North American farm animals are on drugs, and scientific evidence suggests the result could be a bad trip for human beings. Scientists say the use of antibiotics in chickens, swine and cattle could contribute to the spread of antibiotic resistance, the development of tough microbes that can't be killed by antibiotics. Many antibiotics are losing their effectiveness as target bacteria evolve resistance to them. The problem has been blamed on overprescribing by doctors; now the contribution of large-scale livestock operations is emerging as a significant issue." (CP)

Scientists say? Well, actually... no. This comes from UCS, who apparently don't realise that silly season is technically over.

"Our unhealthy obsession with being squeaky-clean" - "Sir William Stewart is worried about bugs. Aren't we all? But his credentials are better than most. He was the government's chief scientist and he made the opening speech to the British science fair. He warned that global travel brings with it the increased globalisation of bugs and our door is "open to diseases from abroad" as never before." (John Humphrys, Sunday Times)

"News flash from animal-rights Nannies: meat will kill you!" - "The latest stretch of logic from the Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM) involves an attempt to blame meat and other animal products for as many American deaths as possible. In a short article for the "vegsource" web site, FARM makes the claim that "in 1999, 1.29 million, or 54%, of all U.S. deaths were attributed to diseases for which consumption of animal products represents a substantial risk factor."

To get this startling number, the radical animal-rights group FARM blames non plant diets for every death which an unnamed group of "physicians" says is meat-related. Who are these physicians, anyway? And why didn't they notice an August 21 report in the Annals of Internal Medicine which blamed veggie sprouts (not meat) for more than half of food-borne illnesses? According to the American Council on Science and Health, the study's authors were able to trace "specific sprouts…back to the farms that had grown them," and found "contaminated" plants still growing and ready for sale.

It's no surprise that radical animal-rights activists play fast and loose with statistics in order to grab headlines and generate financial contributions. One of PETA's many web sites claims that "America's meat-based diet costs this country billions of dollars in health care costs." Another Nanny group, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), made news this week when it announced that chicken and beef deserve "Biohazard" labels." (GuestChoice.com)

"Deadly dust 'brought foot and mouth here'" - "Britain's foot and mouth epidemic may have been caused by a cloud of infected dust blown from the Sahara, say scientists. They have linked the outbreak - which started on 20 February - to a massive plume of sand that swirled out of northern Africa several days earlier." (Observer)

If true, and there's no apparent reason yet to doubt it, what does this suggest about preventative vaccination?

"On the brink of a medical breakthrough" - "Malaria can be beaten. That's the prognosis of Melbourne scientist Louis Schofield. In the heady 1980s, when eager researchers claimed a vaccine was five years away, Dr Schofield would roll his eyes. Now, he has joined the ranks of the new optimists." (The Age)

Book review: "Pollution put in its proper perspective" - "I once worked on a newspaper where we had a fretful colleague nicknamed "Dr Death". He was the environmental correspondent, and the high point of editorial conference was his sepulchral announcement of yet another threat to the human race, animal species, soil, rainforests, oceans, the atmosphere, the planet. His tales of descending asteroids, killer mosquitoes, plummeting sperm counts and prions lurking in everything from beefburgers to mother's milk were regularly front-page news. Whatever else one might conclude about these dire predictions, they kept readers gripped and Dr Death employed. But were they balanced? Were they even accurate?" (John Cornell, The Sunday Times)

"Organic marketers breathe new life into mad-cow scare campaign" - "With the launch of Organic Style magazine, Rodale Press has given organic food marketers a new way to demonize traditional food choices and capture a greater American market share. This new glossy magazine is using the black-marketing threat of mad cow disease in order to drive business to the supposedly “safer” alternatives offered by Rodale (which holds a considerable stake in the organic foods industry), and its advertisers.

The inaugural issue of Organic Style includes a feature article about mad cow disease, which quotes the same cast of activist characters that we told you about in our groundbreaking report Mad Cow: A New American Scare Campaign (including Thomas Pringle, his protégé Michael Greger, and Public Citizen’s Peter Lurie). The article’s author plugs organic foods whenever possible, insisting that “your safest strategy for all cuts [of beef] is to buy organic.”

Can’t find Organic Style on your local newsstand? Never fear: Rodale has set up a web site for the magazine, complete with mad-cow fear-mongering, a claim that pesticides (a big organic no-no) might cause mad cow disease, and links to Michael Greger’s “mad cow” web page at the Organic Consumers Association. Rodale’s bottom line is right out of the Nanny Culture’s black marketing handbook: “[T]housands of Europeans, and perhaps even Americans, may already unknowingly harbor the disease. Your best protection may be organic beef.” (GuestChoice.com)

"ACT Greenpeace activist faces US jail after protest" - "TWO Australian Greenpeace activists, who face up to six years in a United States jail if convicted, will learn this week if they can return home to Australia before their trial." (Canberra Times)

On behalf of Australia I'd like to appeal to America's courts for leniency and understanding. Please, please don't send the damn fools back here - have mercy on us and you keep 'em! -- B.H.

"EU calls on Britain to cut fuel tax" - "THE European commission will this week reignite controversy over the high cost of motoring in Britain by demanding a 10% cut in the price of petrol. The proposal to reduce fuel tax will put the commission on a collision course with Gordon Brown, the chancellor, who presides over the highest rate of tax on petrol in the European Union." (Sunday Times)

Uh-huh... the EU obviously obsessed with "greenhouse emissions" - kind of...

"NOAA UPDATES WHAT DEFINES NORMAL TEMPERATURE" - "September 6, 2001 — Normal temperatures and precipitation levels for your area may have changed as NOAA's National Climatic Data Center releases new ‘normal' data for about 8,000 weather stations. The data defines the normal temperature at locations across the United States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and U.S. Pacific Islands. These data are used as a benchmark for weather forecasters to calculate day-to-day temperature and rainfall departures from typical levels and are also used by business, government and industry for planning, design and operations.

The new figures, based from 1971 to 2000, are computed every ten years by NCDC in Asheville, N.C. The new normal temperature and precipitation levels will replace those from 1961 to 1990 and includes data for 1,275 more weather stations than the previous edition. NOAA's National Weather Service will begin using the new figures for daily and monthly climate reports in January 2002." (NOAA News)

"Britain blooms as globe gets warmer" - "BRITAIN is growing greener as rising temperatures make trees bushier and autumns later, according to satellite data from Nasa, the American space agency. Despite fears that Europe could eventually become arid and semi-barren, new research shows that climate change has so far only encouraged the growth of trees and other vegetation. The study, to be published this week, shows that Britain and the rest of northern Europe have become 12% "greener" since 1981." (Sunday Times)

"Greening Earth" - "A new study (Zhou & Myeni, J. Geophys. Res., 106(D17): 20069-20083), combines a triumph of technology with a failure to analyse the cause of the effect they so thoroughly observed, a failure so elementary that it raises questions as to what use is `peer review' when neither the authors nor the `peers' could not see the obvious flaws in their attribution argument." (Still Waiting For Greenhouse)

"Kawaguchi asks U.S. to provide Kyoto alternative" - "WASHINGTON Environment Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said Friday that she has asked the United States to present an alternative to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to curb global warming by the time of the next U.N. climate conference in late October." (Kyodo)

"The Rule of Lawyers" - "The latest antics of the Green lobby is to turn to the legal system to achieve what Kyoto failed to do - to force reductions in fossil fuel energy usage, not by the Rule of Law, but by the Rule of Lawyers." (Still Waiting For Greenhouse)

As a codicil to this piece, Miceal O'Ronain points out that Australia's Sydney Morning Herald apparently does not consider NYT's "All the news that's fit to print" all fit to print. Compare SMH's item, referenced in John Daly's item above, with the original from NYT. The conversion from $US to $AU is to be expected, as is the metrification of miles to kilometres to suit local vernacular - just what happened to the rest of the article when reprinted down under remains something of a mystery. Perhaps SMH thought it too risky to expose 'wild colonials' to the dissenting views that even NYT deemed part of the news "fit to print." Thanks to Miceal for highlighting the disparity.

"WHY NO HURRICANES?" - "September 7, 2001 — So far the 2001 Atlantic hurricane season has seen no hurricanes. What's up with that, you may have asked? Answer: It's only the bottom of the fifth inning, and the Atlantic is known for its comebacks. Or, it's only the opening minutes of the third quarter." (NOAA News)

But wait! There's more:

"ERIN BECOMES FIRST ATLANTIC HURRICANE OF 2001; GETTING BETTER ORGANIZED WHILE APPROACHING BERMUDA" - "September 8, 2001 — At 8 p.m. EDT, the center of Hurricane Erin was located near latitude 29.6 north, longitude 60.3 west or about 325 miles southeast of Bermuda. Erin is moving toward the north-northwest near 15 mph, and this general motion is expected to continue Saturday night with some decrease in forward speed on Sunday, according to NOAA's National Hurricane Center. On this track Erin should be nearing Bermuda on Sunday. The government of Bermuda has issued a hurricane warning for Bermuda." (NOAA News)

"No Glaciers in Glacier National Park?" - "Glaciers are melting, islands are drowning, wildlife is vanishing. Because of global warming, our most cherished vacation spots may soon cease to exist. And travelers are part of the problem." (Washington Post)

From Slick Willy: "Global warming 'will make refugee crisis worse'" - "Global warming would create a refugee crisis far worse than the one Australia has faced in the last two weeks, Bill Clinton has warned. Clinton told a fundraising dinner in Sydney that hundreds of thousands of people around the world would become refugees if climate change wasn't addressed." (Ananova)

"NOAA SETS THE EL NIÑO PREDICTION STRAIGHT" - "September 7, 2001 — NOAA researchers and scientists are presently monitoring the formation of a possible weak El Niño and predict that the United States could experience very weak-to-marginal impacts late winter to early spring 2002. The latest (September 2001) edition of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation Diagnostic Discussion, indicates the presence of some initial El Niño features in oceanic and atmospheric analyses. The researchers caution that at this early stage there is a great deal of uncertainty about the timing and intensity of the next El Niño." (NOAA News)

"New Research Fuels Debate Over Genetic Food Altering" - "New scientific studies on the impact of genetically engineered corn on monarch butterflies say the corn is having virtually no effect. The papers also make the provocative claim that earlier studies raising the question might have been flawed. But the debate is far from ended." | Data on Genetically Modified Corn Reports Say Threat to Monarch Butterflies Is 'Negligible (New York Times)

Here's one guaranteed to 'stir the possum': "GM corn set to stop man spreading his seed" - "Scientists have created the ultimate GM crop: contraceptive corn. Waiving fields of maize may one day save the world from overpopulation. The pregnancy prevention plants are the handiwork of the San Diego biotechnology company Epicyte, where researchers have discovered a rare class of human antibodies that attack sperm. By isolating the genes that regulate the manufacture of these antibodies, and by putting them in corn plants, the company has created tiny horticultural factories that make contraceptives." (Observer)

"Industry code to tackle GM contamination" - "NEW rules to ensure that genetically-modified food ingredients are kept out of the food chain have been drawn up by industry groups. Farmers, seed merchants, processors and retailers must ensure the strict segregation of non-GM from GM product. The products must not be transported on the same ship or lorry and must be stored separately. The rules apply mainly to soya and maize. Food industry chiefs in Britain have been in touch with officials in the European Commission and they hope that the code will be followed throughout Europe." (The Times)

But said "contamination" exists only in the fevered brows of misanthropes and fear profiteers. What a pointless exercise.

"GM volunteer canola causes havoc" - "BIRSAY, Sask. – Ken Howell`s fields are now ``mostly clear`` of genetically modified canola, but the Saskatchewan farmer says questions raised by the uninvited guests have yet to be answered. GM canola showed up on Howell`s herbicide-fallowed land this year, even though he said he took the necessary precautions to keep it off his 960 acre farm at Birsay." (Western Producer)

"Agriculture CWB Continues GMO Debate" - "The debate on genetically modified wheat moves into a higher gear in Winnipeg Sept. 24. Vic Schapansky of Lethbridge, area representative for southern Alberta for the Canadian Wheat Board, said Thursday representatives from 20 major Prairie farm organizations have been invited to the special meeting." (Lethbridge Herald)

"Regional Officials Object To Pending EPA Biotechnology Rules" - "EPA regional officials are pressing agency headquarters to suspend an upcoming rule governing the use and registration of genetically modified crops, arguing that a lack of enforceable provisions will cripple the federal government's ability to ensure the crops are not used inappropriately, sources close to the issue say." (Inside Washington)

September 8, 2001

Sigh... Here we go again: "Ozone Hole is Back and Big" - "Remember the ozone hole? Last year it closed by November but scientists report it's back and for the second year in a row, it appears to be reaching record size. Cold weather, giant areas of low and high pressure, high levels of human-made gases and approaching spring in the Antarctic have again provided the right mix of conditions to broaden a yawning gap of the protective layer of ozone in the stratosphere." (ABCNews.com)

It is frequently alleged that the "ozone hole" (actually a seasonal thinning of stratospheric ozone in the South Polar region and not a "hole" at all) was "discovered" in the late 1980s, subsequent to significant use of anthropogenic chlorinated fluorocarbons in 1970s and 1980s. This is simply not true.

Atmospheric ozone is measured in Dobson Units, named for the Oxford academic Gordon Miller Bourne Dobson (1889-1976), one of the pioneers of atmospheric ozone research and inventor of the Dobson Spectrophotometer, used to measure atmospheric ozone from the ground. During the International Geophysical Year of 1956 there was a significant increase in the number of these devices in use around the globe and the Halley Bay (Antarctica) anomaly was discovered. Yes, that's 1956. There was a significantly different perspective then because interest was focussed on the November increase  - now called a "recovery" - in stratospheric ozone levels over Antarctica with the collapse of the South Polar Vortex.

In a paper titled "Forty Years' Research on Atmospheric Ozone at Oxford: A History" (Applied Optics, March 1968), Dobson described an ozone monitoring program that began at Halley Bay in 1956.

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

Although South Polar temperatures do not appear to have been quite as low in 1957-58 as they have in recent years (a critical factor in ozone destruction) Rigaud and Leroy [Annales Geophysicae (November, 1990)] reported levels as low as 110DU observed at the French Antarctic Observatory at Dumont d'Urville [opposite side of the South Pole from Halley Bay] in the spring of '58. The South Polar Vortex, where ozone destruction is greatest, was reportedly centred over Dumont d'Urville that year, which suggests any observed differences may be well within the bounds of normal variability.

Note that these measurements were taken prior to any significant use of the dreaded CFCs - now activist- and media-associated with "ozone depletion." Just how yet-to-be-produced anthropogenic chlorinated and brominated gases created this "hole" even before people were paying serious attention to the conceptual ozone layer remains unexplained.

You can see a collation of EP/TOMS graphics here that demonstrate just how volatile is the conceptual ozone layer - static it is not. Nonetheless, each year we have the now-obligatory "biggest, baddest, meanest" so-called "ozone hole" stories spewing forth to reinforce the public fear factor, boost newspaper circulations and electronic media ratings - not to mention activist group fundraising and support of tottering bureaucracies created to "save" us from "threats" that apparently never existed to begin with.

And the value of this annual hysteria to the environment? Absolutely zip. Its value to the public? Absolutely zip. Why do we tolerate this crap? God only knows!

"A cause for concern - but not yet for alarm" - "The report of a sharp increase in the number of cases of vCJD, the human form of "mad cow disease", is a cause for concern, but not – yet – for alarm. The word "sharp" in this instance means a 20 per cent jump between 1999 and 2000. It sounds huge, but the actual figure remains small. The number of new cases confirmed so far this year is 15. Altogether, there have been 100 recorded deaths from vCJD since the disease was identified six years ago." (Independent)

For a little perspective here, each year 30-60 people are struck by lightning in the U.K., so the risk of being struck by lightning in that region appears several times higher than contracting vCJD. I'm not aware of any studies having been done on the number of U.K. residents who won't eat beef out of terror of the possibility that beef consumption may be causal in vCJD (this is the favoured hypothesis although a biologically plausible mechanism remains undiscovered) but who will venture forth during an electric storm. My guess is that there'd be more than a few simply due to the distortion of relative risk perception generated by hysterical coverage of "Mad Cow" compared with the "Oh, bad luck" coverage of perceived-rare lightning "victims." U.K. risk of being struck by lightning in any given year 1:1-2 million; apparent risk of contracting vCJD in any given year about 1:3.6 million. Think about it. See also: "Health Check: I think I'm sick, therefore I am" (Jeremy Laurance, Independent)

"Childhood Vaccination Remains of Paramount Importance and Widespread Benefit" - "New York, New York—Sept. 2001. A national panel of public health scientists has declared that childhood vaccinations are safe and has urged Americans to continue to protect their children's health by immunizing them against common childhood diseases.

Their report, The Promise of Vaccines: The Science and the Controversy, is an in-depth review of issues and controversies related to childhood vaccinations. Published by the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), it documents the widespread public health benefits of childhood immunization. Its author, David R. Smith, M.D., is a pediatrician and president of the University of Texas Tech Health Science Center." (ACSH)

"Group Sues Starbucks, Says Ephedrine Found in Tea" - "LOS ANGELES - A California public interest group has sued Starbucks Corp., claiming that America's largest coffee retailer secretly spikes its Tazo Chai Tea with ephedrine, an herbal stimulant banned in food by U.S. regulators.

Seattle-based Starbucks strongly denied the allegation on Friday as it celebrated its 30th anniversary, promising a vigorous court fight.

The Council for Education and Research on Toxics claimed in its Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit that Starbucks has been putting ephedrine, which has been linked to deaths, heart attacks, strokes and other health problems, in its tea at least since 1996.

Audrey Lincoff, a Starbucks spokeswoman, said in a statement that while the company does not comment on pending litigation it wanted to "confirm for our customers that ephedrine has never been used as an ingredient in Tazo's Chai Tea or any other Tazo product." (Reuters)

Had to happen. As soon as Starbucks yielded to the fruit-loop brigade over rBST milk they displayed themselves as a soft target likely to yield or settle rather than defend themselves. Now every anti-chemical, anti-technology extortion group on the planet views them as a potential cash cow. The lesson is to never yield to scaremongers and fear profiteers.

Just because something's called a study doesn't make it a good study: "Scholar Sets Off Gastronomic False Alarm" - "When Jean-Claude Baker, the owner of Chez Josephine, got the letter, he was, he said, "devastated." It was a restaurateur's nightmare: a patron celebrating his wedding anniversary — a Columbia professor no less — said he had been sickened." (New York Times)

"Cellphone Health Risk Needs More Research - WHO" - "HELSINKI - A link between mobile phone usage and cancer can not be dismissed without further research, an official at a World Health Organization (WHO) agency said on Friday. "More research is needed," Elisabeth Cardis, Chief of Radiation and Cancer at the WHO's International Agency for Research in Cancer, told a conference in Helsinki.

The explosive growth in mobile phone usage, particularly in Europe and the United States, has increased the public debate over possible health risks linked to mobile phones.

While a few studies claim there is a connection, most authoritative studies have not been able to conclude that regular mobile phone usage could damage a person's brain. "Based on current epidemiological evidence, there is no evidence of a strong association between RF (radio frequency) exposure and cancer," said Cardis, referring to radio waves emitted from devices like mobile phones. "One can't rule out that there is a risk, but if there is a risk to mobile phone users it would be very small." (Reuters)

"Men's diets risk their hearts" - "Men are more likely to die from heart disease because they lead more unhealthy lifestyles, say researchers. It has been widely thought that women are less prone to heart disease because they are protected by the female sex hormone oestrogen. Oestrogen is thought to improve cholesterol levels, and help to widen the walls of the arteries, putting less strain on the heart. But this theory has been rejected by research published in the British Medical Journal, which studied trends in heart disease in many different countries over the last eight decades." (BBC Online) | BMJ abstract

Hmm... Belinda Linden, medical spokeswoman for the British Heart Foundation said:

"It is rather ambitious for this study to draw specific conclusions about gender differences in coronary heart disease between men and women based on trends across 50 countries over 77 years - the study has many uncontrolled cultural, economic and dietary variations. In any long-term research we also need to understand more about other risk factors effecting different risk levels between individuals."

Couldn't have said it better.

"Folic acid 'does not cause miscarriage'" - "Pregnant women taking folic acid tablets are not at an increased risk of miscarriage, say scientists. Health experts recommend women take folic acid before and during pregnancy to reduce the risk of their unborn child developing spinal cord defects, such as spina bifida. Each year neural tube defects affect more than 2,000 babies and spina bifida alone accounts for around one in 10 of all birth defects. Taking folic acid can help prevent this. But a previous study had suggested that women were at a 16% greater risk of miscarriage if they took the supplement." (BBC Online)

"Main Cause Of Asthma Is The Environment, Study Says" - "The prevalence of asthma and allergy continues to increase practically everywhere, and the main cause is the environment. That's the striking conclusion of a just-completed worldwide survey.

"In actual fact," Christer Janson points out, "out of many possible candidates, few stand out for certain. What we do know is that it cannot be just one environmental factor. There must be several involved and of course they interact with the genetic factors."

"All we can say for sure at this stage," Janson continues, "is that one of the factors that increases the risk of asthma in adults is occupational exposure to biological and mineral dust."

The ECRHS has also looked into the potential role of major allergens in the development of asthma. What emerged was a link not so much with seasonal allergens as with those that people live with continually, such as dust mites and pet hair." (UniSci)

"Fresh calls for farm virus vaccination" - "A leading expert in foot-and-mouth disease has added his weight to calls to vaccinate animals in the UK against the virus. Professor Fred Brown, who helped the government tackle the last serious outbreak of the disease in 1967, will back the move in a speech at the British Association Science Festival in Glasgow.

He said: "Vaccination does work - just look at the record when they vaccinated in Europe. The number of outbreaks has dropped dramatically. It would cut down the virus load. Even if a vaccinated animal became infected the amount of virus produced would be much, much lower and there would be less virus to disseminate."

Professor Brown said there were tests to distinguish animals with the disease from those that had been vaccinated. He said: "I would have gone for it just as soon as it was clear that the disease was not under control." (BBC Online)

"International 'vaccine debate needed'" - "Britain should initiate an international debate on the use of vaccination to prevent another "inevitable" foot-and-mouth epidemic, scientists said on Friday. The disease could be eradicated globally if all countries adopted a vaccination policy, said Professor Fred Brown, who helped the UK government tackle the last serious outbreak of the disease in 1967." (BBC Online) | Unity over foot and mouth jabs (Telegraph)

"Veggies urge 'Farm Aid' boycott" - "A vegetarian pressure group has called on bands and pop fans to boycott the Farm Aid concert due to be held in Cardiff. Viva! has written to the acts, including Toploader and Coldplay, asking them not to play the gig at the Millennium Stadium on 27 October. The organisation has objected to compensation payouts given to disease-hit farmers, whom the concert is expected to raise £500,000 for funds for." | Big names snub Farm Aid (BBC Online)

"End of the world is nigh, scientists insist" - "Researchers review the possible causes of catastrophe and warn that the planet will inevitably be struck by a giant asteroid." (Guardian)

"Whose water is it, anyway?" - "San Ysidro, N.M., is a rural hamlet of just a couple of hundred people, at the edge of the Jemez Mountains about 40 miles northwest of Albuquerque. It has what sounds like a nightmarish problem: arsenic in its drinking water.

Now, people in San Ysidro are no fonder than anyone else of ingesting hazardous substances. They've spent large sums of money to reduce the arsenic they encounter, going so far as to install individual filters in every home. Even with this treatment, which has pushed individual water bills to a minimum of $44 per month, the water still has small amounts of arsenic.

There is nothing to stop the locals from electing to pay even more to make their water cleaner still. Unfortunately, it would be hugely expensive, and it's not at all certain that it would increase their life expectancy, improve their health or brighten their smiles. The people of San Ysidro have decided arsenic is not their biggest concern.

But never mind what they want. If the Environmental Protection Agency and environmental lobby groups have their way, this town, and thousands of others, will have to go to far greater lengths to solve a problem that doesn't strike residents as especially urgent." (Steve Chapman, Washington Times)

"Enviro-Group Finances Caught on 'Web'" - "If you've ever wondered from where environmental activists get their money, you're not alone, and a Washington, D.C. think tank is drawing a map to help follow the money. The Capital Research Center (CRC) is preparing for its Monday launch of Green-Watch.com, an online database and information service that monitors "about 500 or so different environmental groups, focusing on their funding - where their money's coming from and what they're doing with it," said CRC Director of Communications Andrew Walker." (CNSNews.com)

Good one guys! Obviously thoroughly researched: "US newspaper's scathing Tampa attack blunders PM's name" - "One of the United States' most influential newspapers has attacked Australia's handling of the Afghan asylum dispute but repeatedly got the Prime Minister's name wrong in the process. The Los Angeles Times today attacked John Howard for his stance on the Afghan refugees but it was the newspaper that was left apologising and embarrassed." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.) [LAT has since corrected the article] - For a little perspective see Michael Duffy's piece Outraged elite all lost at sea.

"Experts baffled by lack of hurricanes" - "MIAMI -- Where are the hurricanes? The 2001 Atlantic hurricane season -- which runs from June through November -- has yet to have a hurricane. "We're all dressed up and have no place to go," said Hugh Willoughby, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's hurricane research division. "None of the things we looked at before the season told us that it should be this suppressed."

The last time a hurricane season got this far along without a hurricane was 1984, when Diana formed on Sept. 10. In a typical year, at least two hurricanes would have developed by now, including one with wind whistling at more than 110 mph. The experts had forecast a particularly active hurricane season this year.

So what happened? "We have no idea, and you can quote me on that. At the moment, we have no explanation," said Lixion Avila, a top forecaster at the National Hurricane Center in Miami." (AP)

One season maketh not a trend. This is not exactly what the global doom and gloom industry would be looking for in the run up to CoP7 though. "Global warming is causing more extreme weather events - except now" just doesn't have the same media impact somehow.

"Scientists: El Nino may return" - "WASHINGTON -- Federal climate experts say a weak version of the El Nino climate phenomenon may be forming in the Pacific Ocean. If the process continues, the United States could experience mild impacts in late winter or early next spring, according to forecasters at the Climate Prediction Center." (AP)

Yeah, well maybe... the sea surface temperature chart shows a significant pool of cool water adjacent to South America though and a suspiciously La Niña-like intrusion of cooler surface water extending westwards into the equatorial Pacific. We'll wait and see.

"U.S. EPA head says little on Kyoto alternative" - "WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Whitman failed to mention a U.S. alternative to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to curb global warming at a meeting with her Japanese counterpart on Thursday, Japanese government sources said. In a meeting with visiting Japanese Environment Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi, Whitman only said that President George W. Bush will make a final decision and she cannot say anything at this stage about the prospects of an alternative plan, the sources said." (Kyodo)

Back to this again: "Ski season 'shortened by changes in climate'" - "Tour operators are poised to pull out of some of Europe's most popular ski resorts due to increasingly unreliable snowfall caused by climate change, an industry report says." (Independent)

"Unearthing the truth about organic food" - "The Soil Association finally admitted in August 2001 that the 'perception that organic food "is better for you" appears to have been largely based on intuition rather than conclusive evidence'." (Alex Avery and Dennis Avery, Sp!ked)

"Starlink ghost seen chasing Asia away from US corn" - "SINGAPORE, Sept 7 - Gene-spliced Starlink corn, the subject of a massive food recall last year, continues to haunt some Asian consumers who have little intention to switch back to U.S. maize any time soon, industry officials say. Though U.S. grains officials say the probability of Starlink contamination in the new crop is very very small, starch makers in Japan or South Korea are unfazed. They say they do not want to take any risk, with consumers in their countries now more averse than ever to any genetically modified organisms (GMOs), not only Starlink." (Reuters)

"Data on Genetically Modified Corn Reports Say Threat to Monarch Butterflies Is 'Negligible'" - "Genetically modified corn poses a "negligible" risk to monarch butterflies, according to a package of six papers that will soon be published in a scientific journal. The papers, the most comprehensive peer-reviewed publications on this issue, could lay to rest one of the biggest controversies over genetically modified crops. "I don't think there's a need to consider monarchs at risk due to this technology," said Mark K. Sears, a professor of environmental biology at the University of Guelth in Ontario, a lead author on one of the papers. (sic)

Drafts of the papers were released late yesterday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and will be published next week, ahead of an Oct. 1 release that had been planned. The early release came because the Environmental Protection Agency is scrambling to defuse criticism that it has been planning to renew the permits for these genetically modified crops even though the data on the butterfly impact had not yet been widely released to the public." (New York Times)

"High Court bid by biotech firm" - "Biotech company Aventis has appeared at the High Court in London to stop the UK Government forcing it to disclose the risks of genetically modified crop trials. UK ministers want the company to reveal the health and environmental impacts of a chemical used in its experimental crop growing programme. However, the company is seeking a judicial review. Several trials are taking place throughout Britain, including a number in the north of Scotland. Clive Rainbird, a spokesman for Aventis, said the firm was fighting the order on the grounds of commercial confidentiality. "The reason why Aventis and the whole of the crop protection industry were very worried about this because the information the Pesticides Safety Directorate was willing to give out was very commercially sensitive," he said." (BBC Online)

September 6-7, 2001

"The Dirty Business of Sowing Mammography Doubt" - "The University of North Carolina just announced that it received a $26 million grant from the National Cancer Institute "to save women's lives." Beyond the rhetoric, though, the grant to compare new and conventional mammogram technology likely will be a waste of taxpayer money. What taxpayers may be unwittingly underwriting instead is an effort by a Johnny-come-lately manufacturer of the new technology to thwart the head starts of others." (Steve Milloy, FoxNews.com)

Dopey doings of the day: "EU Lawmakers Vote Broad Fire Retardant Ban" - "STRASBOURG, France, September 6, 2001 - The European Parliament Wednesday took an unexpectedly tough stance on the future of three brominated flame retardants. Members of the European Parliament approved a European Commission proposal to ban penta-BDE. They voted to extend it to cover two other substances, octa-BDE and deca-BDE, against the Commission's advice and furious opposition from industry which claims the chemicals are crucial to the control of fires." (ENS)

Health Scare Without Shame at it again: "FDA FINDS UNSAFE LEVELS OF PHTHALATES LEACHING FROM SOME PVC MEDICAL DEVICES; Health Care Without Harm calls on health care providers to take action to limit patients’ exposure" - "Sept. 5, 2001 -- Today the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some medical products made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) may expose patients to unsafe amounts of the toxic chemical di-2-ethylhexyl-phthalate (DEHP). The agency released the findings in its long-awaited safety assessment on DEHP, which is used to soften PVC medical devices such as bags and tubing used to administer fluids, medication, blood, oxygen, and nutritional formulas to patients." (HCWH)

Actually, I think they're talking about Consumer Update; DEHP in Plastic Medical Devices, which states:

It is possible that the effects observed in animal studies could occur in humans. However, there are no human studies to date that show such effects. DEHP-containing devices have been used on newborn babies for many years without apparent ill effects, although studies have not been conducted which would rule out effects on humans. ... The FDA believes the greatest concern would be for very young male infants who are critically ill and have prolonged exposure to multiple devices containing DEHP. ... In contrast, there is little concern for adults receiving intravenous solutions or undergoing peritoneal dialysis.

In fact there is zero demonstrated human harm from these products and disappearingly small such possibility.

"The Statistical Shark" - "A simple truth of human existence is that it is vastly easier to amplify fear than it is to assuage it. Consider the shark attacks that have occurred in Florida, Virginia and North Carolina this summer. The temptation is to call them not merely shark attacks but "a spate of shark attacks" or "a wave of shark attacks," or even "a summer of shark attacks." The temptation is also to say that they have "culminated" in the fatal attacks, separated by only two days, on David Peltier, a 10-year-old boy, in Virginia Beach and Sergei Zaloukaev, a 27-year-old graduate student, on the Outer Banks.

These words imply that there is something more than coincidence at work, and it is that something more, as well as the sharks themselves, that we tend to worry about. What that language teaches us to fear is being caught up in a trend of shark attacks rather than being the victim of an isolated incident." (New York Times)

"Jeremy Laurance: Don't give in to this misguided crusade by middle-class parents" - "What is it about MMR? Another survey, this time by the Today programme on Radio 4, has once again shown widespread public alarm about the triple vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella (german measles). Two-thirds of those polled, according to the BBC, think that parents should have the choice of three single vaccines for their children, if that is what they want.

Extraordinary, is it not, that Britain's middle classes have whipped themselves into such a frenzy over MMR? Given all the threats to life and limb to which children are exposed – tobacco and roads are the two that top my list – it is remarkable that parents are prepared to devote so much time to minimising what is already an infinitesimally small risk from a single childhood vaccination." (Independent)

"Creosote Contaminates Louisiana Community for Generations" - "BOSSIER CITY, Louisiana, September 5, 2001 - A cancer scientist calls it a gold mine for research, a former resident calls it death row, and lawyers have made millions off of it. A small neighborhood in Bossier City, Louisiana has some of the highest levels of chemical contamination, cancers and birth defects ever documented in the United States, according to National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists." (ENS)

"Probe finds no toxins risk from Taranaki company" - "An investigation in Taranaki has cleared a chemical company of claims of dumping toxic wastes. The Taranaki Regional Council said yesterday that its probe into claims of inappropriate disposals of agrichemical wastes from the Ivon Watkins Dow plant years ago had found no evidence of environmental risk at any of the 36 separate sites investigated. "The extensive investigation also found no evidence of any new drumsites," the council said.

Environmental groups have claimed repeatedly that the New Plymouth company, now Dow AgroSciences, had dumped truckloads of drums of toxic waste in and around the the city between 1960 and 1980. The groups also claimed the "dumping" had caused health problems and deformities. Last month a Taranaki District Health Board investigation into residents living near the chemical plant in New Plymouth found no evidence of high rates of illness." (New Zealand Herald)

"Humans a Major Evolutionary Force" - "WASHINGTON - No longer just the product of evolution, humans have become one of the planet's major forces driving it. The impact of technology has increased so much in recent years that ``humans may be world's dominant evolutionary force,'' said Harvard biologist Stephen R. Palumbi." (AP)

"vCJD 'on upward trend' in UK" - "An important change in the rising trend of vCJD cases in Britain has occurred, moving from a "flat-line" situation to an upward trend over the past year. A total of 106 cases of the fatal brain disease have now been identified, but the new analysis will raise concerns that the number of new cases is accelerating. Existing predictions for the eventual scale of the tragedy range from a few hundred to 140,000. However, James Ironside, at the vCJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh, said on Thursday: "This obviously influences the future predictions of the final numbers but, because of the great uncertainties about the incubation period and not knowing whether all [people] are susceptible, it is impossible to say with any certainty what future numbers will be." (New Scientist)

"New laws demanded on DVT" - "The European Parliament demanded yesterday that airlines give passengers warning information before travel on the risk of contracting potentially fatal blood clots on long-haul flights. An overwhelming majority of MEPs backed plans for new laws that will also force Europe's airlines to offer travellers the lowest available fares, compensation for delays and league tables on performance. The Strasbourg Parliament said airlines should provide briefings before take-off including information on the threat of blood clots. They also want advice on preventive measures, such as taking aspirin, to be sent with tickets." (Independent)

"Pig, Human Viruses Triggered 1918 Flu Pandemic - Researchers" - "WASHINGTON - The genetic union of pig and human influenza viruses triggered one of the most deadly disease outbreaks in human history, the 1918 "Spanish" flu pandemic, according to researchers who warned that another flu outbreak is inevitable." (Reuters)

I've been chipped (several times, and rightly) for not hammering this piece at first posting, so here's a comment from Mike Fumento that about covers it:

Sorry, but apparently when Science isn't pumping out nonsense like Devra Lee Davis' lately, it's pumping out worthlessness. ALL of the influenza strains we get every year are essentially human-pig chimeras. We give the flu to the pigs where it goes into what's been called a "mixing bowl." Numerous strains pop out of that mixing bowl and infect waterfowl. These then transmit it back to humans and every year the CDC and other health organizations make a vaccine against the three strains most likely to hit us. As to another flu outbreak being inevitable, well duh! We have an outbreak each year and as they point out a pandemic ever few decades. The hype is that we could have another like that of 1918-19, but because of vaccinations, antivirals, antibiotics to treat subsequent infections, and better health technology all around, that is not going to happen. See my WSJournal piece, "Chicken Little Gets the Flu."

Moron feature of the day I: "Animal rights group blocks road near Shell plant" - "LONDON - Dozens of animal rights demonstrators gathered outside a Shell refinery in northern England yesterday in protest at the company's involvement with drugs-testing laboratory Huntindgon Life Sciences." (Reuters)

II: "Anti-milk ad campaign 'will continue'" - "Animal rights campaigners have vowed to go on with an anti-milk campaign targeted at children, despite an Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) judgement against them." (BBC Online)

"PETA, Sharks, and A Cure for Cancer" - "I keep waiting for someone who holds a high, public office to speak up. I keep waiting for anyone in the mainstream media to address this abomination. I keep waiting for some public outrage that will ultimately expose PETA as vicious enemies of the human race, but it never seems to come.

No one ever seems to draw any insight as to the objectives of this group of neo-Nazis, whose co-founder, Ingrid Newkirk, once said, "Six million people died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses." Beyond their disgusting way of advocating vegetarianism, there is a greater threat to humankind posed by PETA and the Animal Liberation Front. These are animal rights activists who oppose the use of animals for any kind of medical research." (Tom DeWeese, CNSNews.com)

"Obesity fears if children cut milk" - "An Otago Medical School study highlights the risks facing children with inadequate calcium. One of the study authors, Professor Ailsa Goulding, said a trend towards replacing cows' milk with soft drinks could have contributed to the high obesity rate shown. Professor Goulding, with other university researchers Ruth Black, Ianthe Jones and Sheila Williams, showed that children who chronically avoided drinking milk were more likely to be obese and shorter, and to suffer broken bones." (New Zealand Herald)

"Fish the anti-depression dish" - "Eating more fish may help pull New Zealanders, the sufferers of one of the highest rates of major depression in the world, out of their funk, according to new research by dieticians. Some foods may be an effective antidote for depression and other psychiatric illness, says a Crop and Food Research scientist, Dr Karen Silvers. New Zealand has one of the world's lowest levels of per capita fish consumption." (New Zealand Herald)

Maybe New Zealanders are depressed about eating their favourite sheep. Maybe they're depressed about their lousy economy. And maybe they're depressed that Australia seems disinclined to adopt them as another state despite provision in the constitution to do so (it's rumoured the they're soon going to apply to become the new suburb "Sydney East" as a workaround). While it is likely that inability to afford some of the wonderful fish found in waters surrounding those isles could dampen their mood somewhat, the statement "New Zealanders are less happy because they eat less fish" is drawing a very long bow.

Global warming hand-wringing, hyperbole and the odd article of value:

"Nations face pollution suits" - "ENVIRONMENTAL groups are threatening to sue the governments of America, Britain and other countries accused of causing pollution, on behalf of millions of people affected by global warming." (Telegraph)

"Big freeze for Britain?" - "Britain could be in for a big freeze, with the climate ending up more like northern Canada, say scientists studying the world's oceans. They have found evidence that the flow of cold water from the Arctic has decreased by 20% since 1950. If the trend continues, the supply of warm water to northern Europe will decline, bringing a big chill." (BBC Online) | N.Europe Set for Canada-Style Cold Snap (Reuters) | Britain faces a climate as cold as Canada's (The Times)

"Rapid Antarctic warming puzzle" - "UK scientists say parts of Antarctica have recently been warming much faster than most of the rest of the Earth. They believe the warming is probably without parallel for nearly two thousand years. They suggest three possible mechanisms which may account for what is happening. But they say they cannot identify a cause with certainty, nor can they predict whether the warming will continue." (BBC Online)

Uh-huh... "Coral reefs 'face total destruction within 50 years'" - "Most of the coral reefs of the world's oceans will disappear within 30 to 50 years, a marine biologist warned yesterday. Rupert Ormond, director of the university marine biological station at Millport in Scotland, told the British Association science festival in Glasgow that global warming would raise ocean temperatures to levels that would bleach the great reefs of the Pacific and Indian oceans, the Caribbean and the Red Sea." (Guardian)

So tell us Rupert, what will be the ocean temperature next year? Tough call? Not near as tough as 30-50 years hence.

"Beefy butterfly warns of unpredictable climate change effects" - "A beefed-up butterfly is among the changing creatures sounding a warning that the effect of climate change on the distribution of wildlife is extremely difficult to predict. "The dynamics of expanding margins are not just ecological but can be evolutionary," says Chris Thomas, an ecologist at the University of Leeds, UK. He has shown that creatures whose geographical range is expanding can also evolve due to selection pressures. This means predictions of where the species may migrate to based only simple variables like temperature are over-simplistic and close to guesses." (New Scientist)

"Greening Earth Mops Up Carbon Dioxide" - "WASHINGTON, DC, September 5, 2001 - Over the past 21 years, parts of the northern hemisphere have become much greener than they used to be. Researchers using satellite data have confirmed that plant life above 40 degrees north latitude - in areas like New York, Madrid, Ankara and Beijing - has been growing more vigorously since 1981 due to rising temperatures and the buildup of greenhouse gases. The area of vegetation has not extended, but the existing vegetation has increased in density, marking an unexpected effect of global climate change." (ENS) | Greener plant life in Europe (The Times)

Unexpected? By whom? There's a good reason commercial greenhouses artificially enrich CO2 levels (Tip: it isn't to inhibit plant growth). Parenthetically, atmospheric CO2 enrichment and "global climate change" are not interchangeable terms but increased atmospheric CO2 and enhanced plant growth have been associated for quite a while.

"VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT; September 6, 2001 Vol. 2, No. 36" - "For several years, Greening Earth Society’s speechifiers, and print and online publications, have reported that human-induced changes in the atmosphere tend to warm the highest latitudes, mainly in winter. We’ve explained how this results in a longer growing season (the time between the last frost of spring and the first frost in the fall) with a "greening of planet Earth" as the consequence. You know the story; you’ve seen the videos. But how often have you read about this in the mainstream press? It will be interesting to see what kind of coverage the September 16th edition of the Journal of Geophysical Research receives for its pre-released-to-the-media study by Jan Bogaert and four co-authors. The researchers have discovered a profound greening (their term, not ours) of much of the earth north of 40° latitude, in the last 20 years. The cause? Global warming." (GES)

"In global warming war, plowshares are swords" - "LEXINGTON, Ill -- With 800 acres of corn and soybeans as his pulpit, Jim Kinsella has long preached the gospel of no-till farming--abandoning the plow to grow crops with little disruption of the soil. Farmers used to snicker at him, dismissing his ilk as conservation do-gooders. But Kinsella's time may have come. Strange as it sounds, leaving America's farmland unplowed is now seen as a way to fight global warming." (Chicago Tribune)

"Green Alert August 31, 2001 Vol. 1, No. 5" - "Despite increasing interest in the topic among farm-state Senators and Representatives, a recent article in Soil & Tillage Research by R.F. Follet (2001) points out how environmentalists, urban politicians, policy makers and people, generally, are "insufficiently aware" of the potential for soils to sequester large quantities of carbon. This would mitigate the potential for carbon dioxide to induce global warming. Follett believes all that is needed to turn this potential into reality is for farmers and ranchers to adopt certain management strategies. Could it really be that easy to forestall global warming?" (GES)

"University of Illinois Scientist Investigates Global Climate Change" - "URBANA, Ill.--In his high-tech laboratory, Lane Rayburn looks for answers to troubling global questions. Rayburn worries about climate-change forecasts and the effect those changes could have on American agriculture. His quest: to develop lines of corn that could help reverse atmospheric trends but also fit into farmers' customary systems." (Knight Ridder/Tribune)

"VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT; August 27, 2001 Vol. 2, No. 34" - "For years, you’ve read the headlines and news stories. Global warming has been linked to all manner of bad craziness. Earlier this month it was mutant spiders in Khazakhstan. Usually it’s something more mundane, such as more extreme weather – or even less extreme weather. Folks have tried to link El Niño to global warming. They’ve given species extinction a go, alongside all sorts pestilence and strife. In our experience, a brief examination of the researchers’ "so-called" data analysis usually disproves the connection. Such debunking affords us a good measure of fun. But, it’s summertime and the living is easy. We thought it might be amusing (and instructional) to see if we could devise our own far-fetched notion before someone beats us to it." (GES)

"Greens Going Nuclear" - "The environmental movement has traditionally viewed nuclear energy as anathema to a healthy planet. But a growing number in today's environmental movement are expanding what it means to be green by supporting nuclear energy. Some highly regarded environmentalists are looking to nuclear power to help solve what they see as the Earth's greatest ecological threat - the theory of global warming caused by humans." (CNSNews.com)

"VIRTUAL CLIMATE ALERT; September 5, 2001 Vol. 2, No. 35" - "With a by-now-obligatory nod to Bob Dylan, "The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind" when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the level assigned to the U.S. under provisions of the Kyoto Protocol (seven percent below 1990 levels). Or so a puff piece in the August 24th Science magazine’s "Policy Forum" alleges. The authors are Stanford University’s Mark Jacobson and Gilbert Masters. They claim that here in the United States, where over half of our electricity comes from coal-fired power plants, electricity derived from large-scale wind power is now sufficiently cheap that it represents a viable alternative to coal – that is if one is willing to wait twenty years to recoup the $800 billion dollar cost of installing 225,000 wind turbines straddling a land area over twice the size of New Jersey, and if we can figure out where to get the electricity when the wind doesn’t blow (or blows too hard)." (GES)

Biotech items:

"Is Opposition To GM Crops Science Or Politics?" - "An investigation into the arguments that GM crops pose a particular threat." (Anthony Trewavas and Christopher Leaver, EMBO Reports)

"Report details biotech plants, animals on horizon" - "WASHINGTON - A new generation of genetically engineered products, ranging from blue roses to anti-HIV spinach, is being developed to benefit consumers, the nonprofit Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology said yesterday. The group said it had reviewed dozens of new gene-spliced plant and animal products being tested in laboratories to broaden a continuing public debate over the risks and benefits of biotechnology. The image of U.S. biotech foods suffered during the past year because of the recall of many brands of taco shells, snack chips and other food accidentally contaminated with a corn variety known as StarLink." (Reuters)

"Weird food-gene combos defy imagination" - "Biotechnology researchers, heading off into uncharted worlds, may one day produce bacteria that detect land mines, fish that sniff out pollutants, and spider silk made from goat's milk. These are among the dozens of products biotech companies are developing, says a report out Thursday from the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology." (USA Today)

"EPA Concludes Bt Corn Relatively Harmless to Monarch" - " Corn growers everywhere are hopeful this week’s EPA report on the effects of Bt corn on Monarch butterflies puts to rest a two-year old controversy stemming from a Cornell University study. Originally, researchers at Cornell believed Bt pollen was a threat to the Monarchs, but according to an EPA report released this week, there is little risk to Monarchs from Bt corn.

EPA said while there is a small chance that one in 100,000 monarch caterpillars could be affected by toxic corn pollen, their research suggests even those larvae will mature into healthy butterflies." (AgWeb.com)

"US Dow Agro Seeks To Market GM Corn To Asia" - "SINGAPORE -- U.S. based Dow AgroSciences LLC, one of the world's biggest pest control companies, is developing a new genetically engineered type of corn which it wants to market not only in the U.S. but in major corn consuming countries in Asia as well." (Dow Jones Newswires)

"Genetically Modified Trees Resist Plum Pox Virus" - "A genetically modified plum tree, dubbed "C5," is basically immune to the plum pox virus. "We've shown that it is resistant to all major strains of the virus that we've tested," says Ralph Scorza, horticulturist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS). But, although the fruit quality of C5 is good enough for commercial use, it's not clear when plum pox-resistant trees will be released to growers." (Ag Journal)

September 5, 2001

"'Green Bombs' Set for Battlefields of the Future?" - "GLASGOW, Scotland - NATO troops could one day be firing ``green weapons'' that are just as deadly to people as their conventional counterparts but not as harmful to the environment, a scientist said Tuesday." (Reuters) | 'Greener' missiles on the drawing board (BBC Online) | Military seeking a greener, gentler explosive (Independent)

Blow people to hell - OK... just don't disturb the butterflies.

"Study suggests children should be prescribed fewer antibiotics" - "WAUSAU, Wis. - A study published Tuesday found that educating doctors and parents about the risks of using antibiotics for common infections in children can reduce such prescriptions by up to 20 percent. Investigators at the Marshfield Clinic conducted the study in five northern Wisconsin counties to address the growing issue of some respiratory infections becoming resistant to antibiotics, such as amoxicillin. Antibiotics are often prescribed inappropriately for coughs and colds, said Dr. Edward Belongia, the study's primary researcher." (AP)

"Chernobyl victim not recognised" - "Erfurt - The first person legally recognised in Germany as a victim of the Chernobyl nuclear power station disaster in Ukraine has had that recognition withdrawn by a court in Erfurt. Klaus Neukirch, who died in July 1999 of cancer, worked in East Germany in 1986 helping clean trucks returning from Ukraine and contaminated with radioactivity.

A court in Nordhausen in 1998 recognised his illness as being due to the work he did. But the Erfurt court held on Wednesday that the level of radiation that he had been exposed to was in fact much lower than previously stated, because of a doctor's calculating error. Fresh expert evidence showed that he had in fact been exposed to less than one microsievert, according to the presiding judge Guenter Becker." (AFP)

"Mobile phone users 'at greater risk of brain tumour'" - "People who used mobile phones for two hours a day in the 1980s and early 1990s have a "significantly raised" risk of developing a brain tumour, a Swedish scientist has found.

The study by Lennart Hardell, a cancer specialist at Orebro University in Sweden, is a landmark piece of research in the debate over whether the microwave radiation put out by mobile phone handsets can cause cancer. It is due to be published later this year." (Independent) | Mobile telephones in new brain tumour alert (Telegraph) | Study highlights tumour risk of mobile phones (The Times)

However: Professor Hardell said it was not possible to extend his results directly to modern phones, which emit about 10 times less power than the older analogue ones.

"Kids mobile phone ads 'irresponsible'" - "Advertising campaigns to encourage children to buy mobile phones are "irresponsible" according to Sir William Stewart, who led a working group investigating mobile phone hazards. Speaking at the British Association Science Festival in Glasgow, he said mobile phones should be more expensive to discourage children from using them. "I would be supportive of mobile phones costing more to discourage kids' use," said Sir William, the president of the British Association." (BBC Online)

"Smokers less productive than non-smokers: Study" - "PARIS: Smokers who claim that a cigarette helps them work better are given the lie by a study which shows they not only need to take more time off for sickness but also are less productive than non-smokers. The study covered 300 booking clerks at a large US airline, comprising 100 current smokers, 100 former smokers and 100 others who had never smoked at all." (AFP)

Don't misunderstand me, I don't think that inhaling smoke from any source is a dazzlingly good idea. Having said that, the immediately apparent problem with this "study" is that people into self gratification (who enjoy smoking, for example) may simply take more "sickies" because they want to spend the time at the beach, are hung over... Failure to report for work does not quantify their health status but may reflect their work ethic (or virtually anything else, for that matter).

"Air on planes blamed for spreading diseases" - "Viral infections are easily spread on aircraft because of poor air quality, a leading scientist warned yesterday. He said many airlines were operating with oxygen concentrations below the legal requirements for workplaces and that was spreading diseases including tuberculosis and viral infections such as the common cold, influenza, measles, mumps and chicken pox." (Independent)

"High cholesterol level may be good for the heart" - "LUCKNOW: To all those avid cholesterol watchers, here is some consolation. The latest medical reports say cholesterol may not be all that harmful to the human heart and brain. Two specific studies carried by internationally acclaimed medical journals - The Lancet and Neurology, demolish the belief that cholesterol concentration should be kept low to lessen the risk of cardio-vascular diseases or strokes, with the experts claiming that a higher level could actually be good in certain cases." (Times of India)

"Strange bedfellows; Bush's environmental policies spur a Greenpeace revival" - "Greenpeace went into an eclipse [in the 1990s]. It made some choices that cost it its old base of support and it got hurt with its relationship with [the] press and members," said Denis Hayes, one of the founders of Earth Day. Many critics during that time charged Greenpeace with becoming as large and as opaque as many of the industries it attacked, causing the public to lose its interest in the organization's underlying environmental message." (Boston Globe)

"Dematerializing the Economy; We're doing more with less. That's good for planet Earth." - "Since 1977 the value of the U.S. economy has doubled, yet the amount of physical stuff it took to supply all the needs and wants of Americans fell from 1.18 trillion pounds to 1.08 trillion pounds. Even more astonishing: the "weight" of the economy fell while U.S. population grew by some 55 million people.

This is no small matter. Economic growth using less physical resources was not supposed to be possible, according to the infamous 1972 Club of Rome report, The Limits To Growth. That document, still referenced in all sorts of economic and environmentalist debates, saw economic growth as dependent upon ever greater amounts of material resources. The production of those resources, went the argument, would eventually lead to a depleted planet and then a massive population die-off. The report concluded that humanity must accept "a state of global equilibrium" in which there was no economic growth." (Ronald Bailey, Reason)

"Indian minister envisages 'TV contraception'" - "NEW DELHI, Sep 04 - If only India's lesser privileged, procreating masses could stay glued to their TV sets at night, the country might not produce so many babies. So said India's health minister, Dr. C. P. Thakur, in answer to apprehensions by members of Parliament about the country's growing population." (Reuters Health)

"Lesson Plans, Designed by Activists, Target Impressionable Students" - "What school children learn about America's natural resources and the environment may come from a teacher who is simply "going by the book." And that's a problem, said one policy expert, who believes that teachers are tools in a propaganda campaign being waged by environmental activists. "Environmental dogma has invaded the classroom," said policy expert Jeff Stier, the associate director of the American Council on Science and Health. "What's so troubling," Stier commented, "is that it (propaganda) starts popping up in textbooks and it appears in the curriculum, especially at the elementary school levels." (CNSNews.com)

"SHELDON RICHMAN: DDT can save lives, but Rachel Carson's ink has killed" - "For all our preoccupation with ridding society of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, little thought is given to the most dangerous and mind-altering substance of all: ink.

Do you doubters need proof? Take Rachel Carson's famous book, "Silent Spring."

In 1963 Carson wrote a book claiming that the insecticide DDT was damaging the ability of birds to reproduce. In truth, she misrepresented the research of James DeWitt, whose work, reported in 1956, did not indicate that pheasants and quail were less likely to hatch their eggs when fed lots of DDT. She also charged that DDT caused liver cancer in human beings. Again, there was no evidence for that. DDT has actually been found to reduce tumors in animals. That was reported, among other places, in a National Cancer Institute journal in 1975." (Scripps Howard News Service) | DDT FAQ | Malaria Toll

"Whitehall 'failed to learn from BSE crisis'" - "The Government's handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis has shown it has failed to learn vital lessons from the £26m BSE inquiry, a senior scientist who was on the panel said yesterday. "There's a danger that the inquiry report will become a hugely expensive doorstop," Professor Malcolm Ferguson-Smith told the British Association conference in Glasgow." (Independent) | Ministers ignore report on BSE (The Times)

"Animal rights milk row stays on boil" - "AN ANIMAL rights group is to continue its campaign of anti-milk propaganda, despite a ruling from the Advertising Standards Authority. The watchdog asked People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals yesterday to halt its “irresponsible” campaign to stop children drinking milk because the move was “likely to cause . . . undue fear and distress”. But Peta plans to hand out cards to schoolchildren claiming that milk will make them fat and spotty. The watchdog upheld a complaint from the National Farmers’ Union, the Dairy Council and the Royal Agricultural Society of England." (The Times)

"Animal Rights Group Pulls Be-Kind-To-Sharks Ad" - "MIAMI - An animal rights group is pulling an ad campaign urging sympathy for sharks following two fatal shark attacks along the U.S. Atlantic Coast this weekend. The campaign was to feature a billboard emblazoned ``Would You Give Your Right Arm to Know Why Sharks Attack, Could it be Revenge? Go Vegetarian, PETA.''

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) said in a statement on Tuesday it had planned to unveil the billboard next week in Pensacola, the Florida Gulf Coast city near where a shark ripped off the arm of an 8-year-old boy last month.

The boy, Jessie Arbogast, was mauled as he played in the sea in the first of a series of well-publicized shark attacks this summer. His arm was later retrieved from the shark's mouth and reattached but the boy, who nearly died, remains in a delicate condition. This weekend 10-year-old David Peltier was killed by a shark at a beach close to PETA's headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia. A 27-year-old man was killed swimming off North Carolina's Outer Banks barrier islands and his companion was severely injured." (Reuters)

"Scientists Say Frenzy Over Shark Attacks Is Unwarranted" - "With a summer season framed by a shark attack on a boy in Florida two days after the Fourth of July and the death of a man on Labor Day on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the danger from sharks could easily be seen as rising dramatically. This is being seen as the "Summer of the Shark," as Time magazine puts it in a July 30 cover story bristling with images of razor-sharp teeth." (New York Times)

"The Distempered Brain Strikes Again!"

The World ran Mad, and each distempered Brain,
Did Strange and different Frenzies entertain.

When we borrowed this couplet from Mrs. Aphra Behn (1688) to introduce our Editorial of 10 January 2001, we assumed it would be a one-time event.  How wrong we were!  The times – with all due respect to a once-young Bob Dylan – seem never to change, especially when it comes to human foibles, as evidenced by the recent Policy Forum article by Cifuentes et al. in the 17 August 2001 issue of Science.  Entitled "Hidden Health Benefits of Greenhouse Gas Mitigation," the article strives to convince us we should immediately begin to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels, not because carbon dioxide – one of the two major end-products of the combustion process (the other being water vapor) – negatively impacts the well-being of any life-form on the planet, but because certain of the pollutant by-products of the burning of fossil fuels are claimed to adversely affect human health." | Have Most Greenhouse Studies Underestimated the Positive Effects of Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment on Plant Growth? | Alaskan Glaciers Advance and Retreat with Changes in Holocene Climate | Historic Hurricane Periodicities in Northwest Florida (co2science.org)

Pre-CoP7 hand-wringing of the day I: "Global Warming May Further Disease Spread: Report" - "NEW YORK - Climate change associated with global warming is already increasing the spread of infectious diseases, researchers at the New York University School of Medicine maintain. They predict that worldwide climate shifts will create growing threats to public health if not reversed." (Reuters Health)

II: "Greener Earth means good news and bad" - "WASHINGTON -- Parts of Earth's Northern Hemisphere have become much greener over the past 21 years, a trend scientists attribute to rising temperatures, according to a recently released study. Researchers using satellite data confirmed that plant life found above 40 degrees north latitude -- a line that stretches across New York to Madrid to Beijing -- is growing more vigorously, and the growing season has been extended by an average of two weeks per year in some parts of the world." (CNN) [this is from a pre-release for the September 16 issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research - Atmospheres, published by the AGU]

Growing seasons as much as two weeks longer - compared with when? "In England, farmers have seen their growing season decline by about two weeks since 1950, with a resultant over-all loss in grain production estimated at up to 100,000 tons annually." ["The Cooling World", Newsweek, April 28, 1975, Pg. 64.] So, which is "normal," the shorter seasons apparent during the global cooling scare or the current season length, which is remarkably similar to that around 1950?

Here's a few more quotes from the era of dreaded cooling:

"The threat of a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery for mankind." - Nigel Calder, International Wildlife, June 1975.

"There are ominous signs that the earth's weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production - with serious political implications for just about every nation on earth. The drop in food production could begin quite soon... The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it." - "The Cooling World", Newsweek, April 28, 1975

"The rapid cooling of the earth since World War II is also in accord with the increased air pollution associated with industrialization, and an exploding population." - Reid Bryson, "Environmental Roulette", 1971; "Global Ecology; Readings towards a rational strategy for Man", 1971

And, well before it was fashionable:

"Certain signs, some of them visible to the layman as well as the scientist, indicate that we have been watching an ice age approach for some time without realizing what we are seeing... Scientists predict that it will cause great snows which the world has not seen since the last ice age thousands of years ago." - Betty Friedan, "The coming Ice Age", Harper's Magazine, Sept, 1958.

"Companies told to exploit oil fields or give them up" - "The UK government on Tuesday threatened the biggest shake-up to the structure of the North Sea oil industry in its 30-year history by telling companies to use or surrender unexploited fields to new operators." (Financial Times)

Hmm... curious way the Brits have of reducing all that nasty fossil fuel about the place - develop and extract North Sea deposits or relinquish to someone who will... This from the very same Blair government flatulently espousing "greenhouse emission" controls. So, fossil fuels good... except when Americans use them?

"EU to challenge German green power aid - magazine" - "FRANKFURT - European Union Competition Commissioner Mario Monti is due to launch action against German subsidy laws for so-called green energies, according to an article in Focus magazine." (Reuters)

Good grief! "The Way We Eat" - "Food has always had its price, but for more than 40 years that price has been going up, when, from looking in shop windows, you may have understandably thought that it was falling. The true cost of food has now reached a point a growing number of people believe is far too high, and bringing it down will be one of the great challenges of the 21st century.

That cost is not in immediate cash. There is no doubt that a chicken, say, or a bunch of grapes, are now far cheaper to buy in relative terms – at least in the rich West – than they were in 1960. The cost is in the collateral damage of the very methods of food production that have made the grapes and the chicken cheap: in the pollution of water, the enervation of soil, the destruction of wildlife, the harm to animal welfare and the threat to human health caused by modern industrial agriculture." (Michael McCarthy, Independent)

Really Mike? How much "better" would things be if we mandated FAT CAT do you suppose? Be much room left for wildlife do you think? And, if we did (if we somehow could) use such "natural" and purportedly "kinder" agriculture (shame about the decimation of any and all remaining wildlands and wildlife habitat, but...), would watercourses and the inshore marine environment fare any better? What about all that excess phosphorus that builds up from FAT CAT? Bit of a problem that. Not to worry though, there'd likely be no significant life left in the waterways after every scrap of land had been converted to such significantly lower productivity cropping or the massively increased area of forage required (for the animals to provide all that lovely "natural" fertiliser) anyway. How are you going to feed the people of the world with crap agriculture Mike? Wouldn't you like to see everyone fed and wildlife preserved too? Yes? Might want to think about higher intensity and higher productivity farming then, eh Mike?

"Big Rise in Hunger Projected for Africa; Report Stresses Need for Massive Investment" - "BANANA HILL, Kenya--Stephen Waithaka, who farms two acres of the rich volcanic soil on the foothills below Mount Kenya, brings in two crops of corn a year, but lives in constant fear of not having enough. "In the last five seasons we did not sell anything, because we did not have rain," Waithaka said of a crop that drought has reduced by half. "We still had enough for ourselves. I fear others did not."

The fear is well founded. A comprehensive study of whether the world will have enough to eat 20 years from now concludes that Africa, at least, probably will not. The report by the International Food Policy Research Institute, a Washington think tank, predicts rising hunger on the continent, which is notorious for periodic famines and struggles to feed itself even in normal times.

The study concludes that without massive investment in irrigation, roads to take the harvest to market and crop research, Africa might have 49 million malnourished children by 2020, a rise of 50 percent. At the same time, the rest of the world, including India and China, will be better nourished than it is today, the report predicts." (Washington Post)

"GM drug helps angina patients to grow blood vessels" - "PATIENTS with angina have grown new blood vessels, making their symptoms almost disappear, after treatment with a genetically modified drug. A year after the treatment, patients went from taking 40 pills a day to none, had very few bouts of chest pain and their fitness greatly increased. The study, announced yesterday at the European Society of Cardiology in Stockholm, is the first to show that this kind of genetic treatment works over the long term. It may save the lives of patients with severe heart disease who are not suitable for conventional treatments." (The Times)

"Altered Corn Surfaced Earlier" - "The government and the company that developed genetically modified StarLink corn had at least some indication that the corn might be entering the human food supply more than half a year before environmental advocates discovered it in taco shells, according to a government document." (New York Times) | Green group:1999 survey showed StarLink in US food (Reuters)

"Modification part of balanced chain" - "KERRY, Ireland - Plant genetically modified, or GM, crops anywhere in Europe and in a trice you will have a crowd of protesters at your gate waving ''Frankenfood'' placards and lying down in front of tractors.

The furor over genetically modified foods has been stronger in Ireland than in the United States, where nearly three-quarters of the world's genetically modified crops have been planted with less hubbub.

The idealism of the European GM protesters is admirable, but for all their black-and-white certainty about what is to be avoided, they have not yet articulated an environment-friendly program for feeding the billions of people on the planet, or the billions more who are on the way." (Boston Globe)

"GM protesters favoured" - "Ideological pressure groups are getting too much say in the genetically-modified crops debate said a Scottish scientist at the science festival in Glasgow. By obscuring the distinction between ideology and science to confuse the public, said Professor Joyce Tait, organisations such as the organic-farming Soil Association were effectively dictating terms.

Professor Tait, director of the Scottish universities’ policy research and advice network - which provides science-based advice to a range of clients including the Scottish parliament - said: "It is a strange irony that the Soil Association has been able to dictate terms to government regulators to a greater extent than any other trade association, including the agrochemical industry, has ever achieved - yet it still keeps its public image as the underdog." (The Scotsman)

"French farmers consider suing GM crop activists" - "PARIS - Maize growers' group AGPM said this week it was considering filing a complaint against the activists campaigning to rid the French countryside of genetically modified crop tests. "The aggressors should be sued," AGPM President Christophe Terrain said at a news conference. "We have asked our lawyers to look at how it would be possible for us to file a complaint. Too much is too much." (Reuters)

"INTERVIEW - Asia's sensitivity over GMO worries US soy trade" - "KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia - The growing sensitivity of some Asian nations towards gene-altered soybeans and China's new genetically modified organisms (GMO) rules are increasingly causing concern among the U.S. soy trade, an American Soybean Association (ASA) official said yesterday." (Reuters)

"Farmer groups denounce uprooting of Bt corn" - "Several Mindanao-based farmer organizations condemn the illegal uprooting of the Bt corn plants in Barangay Maltana, Tampakan, South Cotabato. The said uprooting which took place last August 29 was apparently lead by the non-government organization Kilusang Mambubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) by about 300 people comprising of churchmen, students, farmers and members of the civil society. The local government that has already made a resolution allowing the field trial of Bt corn also denounced the said act.

The statement came from the South Cotabato Provincial Agricultural & Fisheries Council, the Koronadal City Agricultural & Fisheries Council, the Federation of Irrigators Association of SOCSARGEN, the General Santos City Agricultural & Fisheries Council, the Gen. Santos Sarangani Fruit Cooperative, and the Mindanao Mango Industry Development Foundation." (SEARCA Biotech Info Center)

September 4, 2001

Here's one that's definitely PC (physically correct that is, not that other thing) "Women may be rotten to the corps, military researcher finds" - "Sending women into frontline fighting units will reduce the armed forces' efficiency, increase costs and could prove "little short of criminal", a study by a British military authority has found. In a warning to the Ministry of Defence, the research uncovered widespread evidence that female soldiers undermined the battlefield effectiveness of troops.  The study - by Martin Van Creveld, a specialist in international conflict, who lectures regularly at army staff colleges - examined the integration of women into armies in Israel, Europe and the United States." (Telegraph via Sydney Morning Herald)

"Gun suits running" - "The "gun made me do it" people in New York state and California have experienced a big setback. The top state courts said gun makers cannot be held liable for death and injuries because of their marketing practices. This is good news for the National Rifle Association and bad news for the dozens of lawsuits across the nation against gun manufacturers. The idea that a company can be sued because someone misused its product is absurd." (Dick Boland, Washington Post)

Springtime in Australia and the hormones are rising: "Group warns of 'gender-bender' sewage danger" - "A cocktail of hormones, steroids and antibiotics is passing through peoples' bowels and through the NSW sewage system untreated, a peak environment group has warned. The "gender-bending" compounds and chemicals from substances such as birth control pills were not being detected or treated by the state's sewage treatment plants (STPs), according to a report by the Nature Conservation Council of NSW (NCC)." (AAP)

"Antibiotics ease risk of repeat heart attacks" - "PATIENTS given antibiotics immediately after suffering a heart attack or severe chest pains had 40 per cent fewer repeat attacks over the next year, according to new research. The study shows for the first time that bacteria and even viruses may play an important part in the development of arterial disease." (Telegraph)

"Eating Chocolate Is Healthy, Doctors Say" - "GLASGOW, Scotland - Good news for chocoholics. The treat favored by millions not only tastes delicious but is healthy for you, American researchers said on Monday. Chocolate contains compounds called flavonoids that can help maintain a healthy heart and good circulation and reduce blood clotting -- which can cause heart attacks and strokes." (Reuters)

But wait! There's more:

"Chocolate may foil flight thrombosis" - "A BAR of chocolate before a long-haul flight may help to protect against “economy-class syndrome”, according to American scientists. Chocolate is one of the richest dietary sources of chemicals that control a key clotting agent in the blood and is likely to reduce the risk of deep-vein thrombosis. A study at the University of California-Davis showed that a mug of cocoa or a bar of chocolate have a similar beneficial effect on the blood as a low dose of aspirin, which doctors already recommend to patients at risk of developing the disease." (The Times)

"Foot and mouth epidemic is world's worst" - "AS the 2,000th case of foot and mouth was confirmed yesterday, the Government admitted that it had failed to meet its target of slaughtering all cases within 24 hours of being reported by farmers." (Telegraph)

Hmm... 2,000 incidents, 3.8 million animals slaughtered to waste. Wonder if they're still so dead-set against preventative vaccination.

"UPDATE - UK Ofgem says green energy may need help" - "LONDON - Britain's energy regulator Ofgem has warned the government it needs to consider extra subsidies for green electricity companies if it is to meet its targets on cutting emissions. Ofgem said sliding electricity prices under a new power market launched earlier this year meant ministers may need to give more support to renewable energy schemes which are key to the government's bid to slash emissions of greenhouse gases." (Reuters)

Do you suppose they'll ever notice that current non-hydro "renewables" just can't cut it when it comes to the reliable delivery of electricity when people need it? Wind farms can't tell how strongly the wind will be blowing, if at all, at peak load time a week from Thursday and yet they seem upset that no one will commit to take power they may or may not have and then pay premium rates for the privilege of wondering whether they'll be supplied or not. Big surprise!

"Norwegian turns greenhouse gas to fish fodder - paper" - "OSLO - A Norwegian scientist may have found a way to turn climate gases thought to cause global warming into fish fodder, a daily newspaper said yesterday. Dagens Naeringsliv reported that professor Olav Kvalheim at the University of Bergen had come across a method to utilise emissions such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) to grow algae which could be fed to farm fish." (Reuters)

Pre-CoP7 could, might, maybe, unless, if (but it's bound to be bad anyway) piece of the day: "N. Pacific CO2 absorption down as much as 10%: Japan team" - "TOKYO, Sept. - The volume of carbon dioxide (CO2) absorbed by the North Pacific has fallen as much as 10% over the past 15 years as the rate of water circulation from upper to lower levels has continuously dropped, according to a team of Japanese researchers. Published in the latest edition of U.S. academic journal Geophysical Research Letters, dated Saturday, the finding is thought to be the result of higher sea temperatures caused by global warming or natural climate change, the team said. Oceans are able to absorb CO2 produced by industrial and other human activities. The discovery is the first of its kind, it said, adding that such a rapid decrease in the ocean's absorptive capacity may also be happening in other sea areas." (Kyodo) | Global warming could disturb Ocean's ecosystem (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Canada falling behind in northern research" - "MAYO, YUKON - The western Arctic is heating up. It's also getting more rain and snow. These changes in the weather are just what scientists are predicting for parts of the North." (CBC)

Yes, the western Arctic appears to be warming but they omitted to mention that the eastern Arctic appears to be cooling at least as much. The net result of summing positive and negative values of similar magnitude is zero and so it is unsurprising that the Arctic temperature trend can not be detected.

"Gene variation linked to allergies" - "NEW YORK, Sep 03 - By analyzing the genes of people with a rare skin disease, UK researchers may have identified a gene involved in more common allergies. Dr. William O.C.M. Cookson and colleagues at the University of Oxford studied 338 children with Netherton disease, a rare, inherited skin disorder that causes allergic reactions. Many of the children had atopic dermatitis, asthma or both. Atopic dermatitis is an allergic condition marked by patches of itchy, scaly skin. Cookson and his colleagues zeroed in on SPINK5, the gene that causes Netherton disease. They found that a change in the sequence of the gene was linked to common allergic diseases such as allergic dermatitis." (Reuters Health)

"INTERVIEW: Robert Goldberg: Seeds of Contention" - "UCLA molecular biologist Robert B. Goldberg wants to understand in plants what stem-cell researchers want to understand in humans: How the undifferentiated molecules of a seed develop from nearly identical dabs into highly specialized plant parts. A decade ago, his pioneering process for turning off a plant's ability to pollinate led to new, higher-yielding hybrids. Now, Goldberg's lab, in partnership with other university researchers, is poring over plant DNA in a quest to find the genes necessary to assemble seeds from the raw material of life. He spoke recently about why his own research--and that of human geneticists--is controversial." (LA Times)

"USDA attache outlines Canadian GMO labeling effort" - "WASHINGTON - The US Agriculture Department's attache in Ottawa released the following report, dated August 27, on a Canadian plan to establish guidelines for labeling foods as to whether they contain genetically modified material. Attache reports are not official USDA data." (Reuters)

"GM food fears rank below road safety" - "Australians rank concern over genetically modified food below road safety but would not drink milk from a GM cow, a new survey has found. The survey, of 120 Sydney grocery buyers, ranked gene modification 11th out of 15 separate issues of concern. When asked about food quality, people ranked GM lower than diseases which can be passed on to humans, antibiotics in meat and pesticide residue on fruit and vegetables. The survey also found consumers were erratic in their attitudes towards GM foods, saying they would not drink milk from a modified cow but would happily consume milk modified to reduce cholesterol." (AAP)

"Chickens lose modified feed" - "WELLINGTON: New Zealand's biggest chicken supplier Tegel, will stop feeding its fowls genetically modified soya feed. However, consumers will be no healthier, according to a leading doctor.

The Green Party hailed the move as a victory for consumers opposed to genetic modification of their food. But in fact, it is a non-issue, Dr William Rolleston who heads the country's Life Sciences Network, which favours the development of biotechnology, said.

There has never been a known case of anybody getting sick from GM food, he said. But up to 9000 New Zealanders a year get violently ill from camphylobacteriosis – a form of serious gastroenteritis caused by the camphylobacter genus of bacteria – after eating chicken.

He said the company had been "bullied into making a decision which does nothing to reduce risk associated with eating its product. It's just indicative of the warped sense of values which has started to twist the debate about GM." (The Adelaide Advertiser)

"Universities Sign GM Research Pact" - "Scientists from the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan have pledged to further research on agricultural biotechnology, including the controversial area of genetic engineering in crops.

At a recent triangular conference at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, more than 50 scientists signed a declaration in support of continued work in the field. The signatories agreed that DNA technology could meet the growing demands for food supply in the developing world without posing new or heightened risks to the environment." (South China Morning Post)

"Sri Lanka's GM food ban delayed indefinitely - source" - "COLOMBO - Sri Lanka has postponed indefinitely plans to impose one of the world's toughest bans on genetically modified (GM) food, a senior health ministry official said yesterday." (Reuters)

"Anti-GM cause unites colourful crowd" - "They came dressed as butterflies, organic peas, insects and the grim reaper - celebrities and ordinary citizens in a rainbow coalition to say no to genetic modification. In one of the largest demonstrations seen in Auckland in recent years, a crowd estimated at up to 10,000 marched up Queen St on Saturday to send a message that New Zealanders do not want GM." (New Zealand Herald)

"India to test genetically-modified cotton" - "ENVIRONMENT concerns have forced Indian scientists to carry out further tests of genetically modified cotton before launching commercial cultivation. This season, around 100 hectares of land spread over six states are being brought under GM cotton to test out its higher yield benefits in comparison to domestic varieties, according to senior scientists.

While Indian varieties yield 300 to 350 kg cotton per hectare, the world average is 900 to 1,000 kg. The expectations are GM cotton will help Indian farmers raise their yield to around 1,000 to 1,200 kg per hectare.

Even as scientists have been advocating cultivation of GM plant and grain varieties to boost production, environmentalists have been protesting that such a step could spell disaster. ''Our concerns are shared with strong justification by farmers. Contrary to what scientists claim, GM plants like BT-Cotton is not a way of controlling pests but a way of spreading them,'' Vandana Shiva of Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology told IANS." (Economic Times)

"PHILIPPINES: Farmers' groups urge DA to abandon GM field trials" - "Farmers' groups have urged the Department of Agriculture to abandon plans to field-test GMOs in ten sites around the Philippines, over concerns about food security and ultimately rising production costs." (just-food.com)

September 3, 2001

Rant from your Australian substitute Junkman pro tempora:

"CHOGM protests funded by student fees" - "CHOGM protesters are using university union funds without the knowledge of fee-paying students. Up to $30,000 in union funds is being used to pay the travel costs of protesters from interstate to blockade the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Brisbane between October 6 and 9.

Federal Education Minister David Kemp slammed the funding, saying union officials had abused their positions. "These fees are compulsorily collected from students and it is a clear abuse of their position by the union officials to use this money for a political protest," Mr Kemp said. The funds come from fees of up to $300 a year, intended for on-campus services, representation, and activities such as concerts and orientation week festivities." (Courier-Mail)

This is intolerable! The misanthropic and highly antisocial professional ratbag element is being funded by the inexperienced and totally naïve controllers of compulsorily levied student union fees. Best case ever to scrap compulsory unionism and I've yet to meet anyone whose education benefited from any of the so-called "services" offered, certainly mine didn't. Straight from school, the average university student is devoid of life experience and, as such, they are the naïve tools and toys of extremists. In this and many other cases they are the toys of the extreme and probably certifiably psychotic Left. Regrettably, the academics who should be providing some balance and guidance to students have rarely emerged from their cloistered system and have little or no more life experience than those for whom they should provide responsible leadership.

Higher education should not be viewed as a right but rather a privilege available only to those who demonstrate the ability to profit from it, the necessary willingness to work for it and the willingness to pay for it, be that payment deferred or not. Why should those who qualify be forced to pay for the bubble-headed nonsense offered by student unions when they are ostensibly at these publicly funded facilities to earn their qualifications in some useful field of learning? While universities' refocussing course relevance on employability would certainly help the situation student unions are a no-value tax enterprise that provide nothing but distraction from what should be the sole task of students, i.e., successfully completing the courses we are all paying for - terminate with extreme prejudice! -- Barry Hearn

For a little background on the above: "Spring, season of red-green nuttiness" - "Is there anything to lift the spirits like the onset of spring? And anything more lovely than the colors of spring? Although not normally thought of as a nature-loving person, at this time of the year I am always inspired to write a column celebrating the multi-hued joys of the season - those rich colorations that William Blake calls the "bright pavilions" of spring.

Among my favorite colors of the season are the vivid reds. Reds are a highlight of any Australian spring, and this will be no exception. Look out for the reds at next month's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Brisbane. Almost all the reds who gathered in Melbourne last spring for the World Economic Forum meeting are expected to gather again, in startling formations and vivid patterns, for CHOGM." (Imre Salusinszky, The Age)

"Hyperactivity linked to anxiety in pregnancy" - "Women who worry a lot during pregnancy are at twice the risk of having a hyperactive child, a study has shown. One reason may be that anxiety reduces the blood flow to the womb and therefore to the baby, cutting the flow of oxygen and nutrients it receives. But the researchers, led by Vivette Glover, a professor of perinatal psychobiology at Imperial College, London, say it could also be that the women produce more of the stress hormone cortisol which crosses the placenta and affects their unborn babies." (Independent)

Really? So... media and activist groups constantly hyping ridiculous and extremely hypothetical risks are increasing the anxiety levels of pregnant women and thus, indirectly, cause hyperactivity in children. Fair enough. Can't wait to see the prospective cases brought by gold digging lawyers against media companies and heavily funded activist groups. Does falsely generating hysteria come under "toxic tort" I wonder? Could get most interesting.

Uh-oh! Coffee's out again this week: "Coffee is linked to heart disease" - "JUST one cup of coffee a day is enough to increase the risk of heart disease — and the first cup of the day is the most dangerous, according to researchers at the European Society of Cardiology in Stockholm. The study is the first to measure the effect of coffee on arteries, and found that one cup hardened the blood vessels for at least two hours, raising blood pressure and putting the heart under strain." (The Times)

"Western Experts Battle Heart Disease" - "STOCKHOLM, Sweden - As the West continues to gain ground in the war against heart disease, leading cardiologists are bringing the battle to developing nations that now account for 80 percent of the world's heart deaths. The World Heart Forum for Global Cardiovascular Prevention is collecting evidence on heart disease in poor countries and crafting worldwide strategies to tackle their emerging epidemics. ``Most people think that heart disease is a problem of the developed world,'' said Dr. Walinjom F. T. Muna, president of the Pan-African Society of Cardiology. ``That premise is becoming passé.'' (AP)

"Researchers get first images of rogue proteins suspected in mad cow disease" - "CLEVELAND -- Researchers have captured the first images of a type of human protein called prions, paired up in a way that might lead to mad cow and other diseases. The proteins are molecules that scientists had thought normally exist alone. Pictures taken by Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University scientists show a pair of prions linked." (AP)

"Iraq, WHO agree method for depleted uranium probe" - "BAGHDAD - A team from the World Health Organisation concluded last week initial talks with Iraq on the methodology to research a possible link between cancer and depleted uranium weapons used by Western forces in the Gulf War." (Reuters)

Yeah, great. Now we've got agreement between the World Hysteria Organisation and the enemy. Gives you a warm glow doesn't it?

"Lost birds blamed on phone mast" - "A PIGEON fancier yesterday blamed a mobile phone mast for the disappearance of 50 of his prized birds. David Blain said two-thirds of his racing pigeons had vanished since the mast was put up in a field beside his farm at Wilkieston, West Lothian. He believes that radiation from the mast has destroyed the birds’ ability to home." (The Times)

"Work 'harmful to health'" - "MORE than a third of Australian workers surveyed say that work is hazardous to their health. A study of 6,000 workers by Australian recruitment firm TMP Worldwide has revealed 35 per cent of employees say their job is harming their health." (AAP)

Here's the sad news guys, being an unemployed couch potato is significantly more hazardous to your health almost any known occupation.

"Australian myopia epidemic may be on the way: scientist" - "Australian scientists say a myopia epidemic in East Asia could be in its initial stages in Australia. Researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) say more than 90 per cent of the male population in Singapore now suffer from myopia, or short-sightedness, compared to just 20 per cent in the 1970s. The ANU's Ian Morgan says it is a trend that is now in its initial stages in Australia. Dr Morgan says urban living environments and intense education is to blame for deteriorating eye health." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"A Victory for Endangered Species" - "Last week's agreement between Interior Secretary Gale Norton and several conservation groups on ways to administer the Endangered Species Act more efficiently came as a pleasant surprise. However, the agreement should not obscure one basic fact: it would never have been necessary if, over the years, Congress had provided Interior with the resources it needed to enforce the act in a systematic, timely way." (New York Times)

Harrumph! Species have gone extinct since long before humanity arrived on the scene and likely will do so long after we depart. Some obscure niche-dwelling relic unable to adapt to changing conditions might die out? Shame - move on. All this has done is quieten down the whacko-brigade for a few days by yielding to them yet again. Well whoopee duck!

"EXCLUSIVE: The world is getting better" - "In the face of a litany of doomsday prognostications, evidence suggests something quite surprising is happening ..." (National Post)

"Keep ozone in its place to help protect life on Earth" - "... Gases from quieter eruptions, such as the current one at Kilauea, do not reach or affect stratospheric ozone." (Honolulu Star-Bulletin)

Fair enough... how do anthropogenic chlorine and/or bromine compounds get there then?

Uh-huh... "Marsh birds from southern Europe 'will colonise UK'" - "Wildlife spectacles once seen only in southern Europe are in prospect for the UK with several exotic marsh birds, members of the heron family, poised to colonise Britain.

The northerly advance across Europe in the nesting range of all four heron species is thought to be partly due to greater protection and habitat conservation, although climate change is also believed to be a prominent factor." (Independent)

"Building a Better Mosquito" - "For nearly a generation, the genetic engineering at James' lab and a few others around the world has been perhaps the best new hope for eradicating mosquito-borne diseases. When research to create a vaccine for malaria failed in the 1980s, it became the last in a long line of disappointments. Geneticists picked up the baton and, finally, they are drawing close.

Yet as scientists draw tantalizingly close, their obstacles have also taken sharper focus. The mosquito and the diseases it bears have a remarkable ability to develop resistance to human intervention. What's more, in the years since geneticists embarked on this endeavor, many people have developed a profound reluctance to release genetically altered life forms into the environment. In a paradox only a mad scientist could appreciate, at the very moment that genetic research is poised for a breakthrough, doubts about the wisdom of their methods are growing. And it's now possible that a miracle mosquito will be created but never released to work its magic." (LA Times)

September 1-2, 2001

"Group Airs Beef with Alleged Meat Contamination" - "An animal rights group wants the federal government to require "biohazard" labels on all meat and poultry products, something that may be intended to discourage people from eating meat. The group "Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine" this week filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, demanding that it declare feces a meat and poultry adulterant. The group has also proposed a label for meat and poultry products that prominently displays the word "biohazard." In smaller print, the label reads, "This product may be contaminated by feces and, therefore, hazardous to your health." (CNSNews.com)

Oh... then PCRM must be going to insist that organic veggies sport "biohazard" labels because they're grown using FAT (Fecal Agricultural Technology) CAT (Carbon Agricultural Technology).

Fully aware that denizens of this site are brimming with community spirit, and are extremely safety conscious, it is likely everyone will wish to assist PCRM with their obvious extension of this campaign against the FAT CATs. To facilitate your contacting your Senator and Representative demanding that organic vegetables carry a "biohazard" warning, here then are the lists of Senators of the 107th Congress by state and alphabetically and, the U.S. House of Representatives' web sites listed by name along with the "Write Your Representative" state and zip code lookup.

Don't be shy, they're your representatives and are paid, by you, to do your bidding. Write them today and demand that organic vegetables carry a "biohazard" warning - after all, it is for The Children™ and it is obviously where PCRM are heading. Let's give 'em a hand!

"Doctors Group Says Gun Study 'Doesn't Add Up'" - "A coalition of doctors supporting gun ownership is blasting a Johns Hopkins study that concludes that the licensing and registration of firearms makes it harder for criminals and juveniles to get guns. Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership (DRGO), a nationwide network of over 1,000 physicians and other health professionals who support the safe and lawful use of firearms, a project of the Claremont Institute, says the study doesn't add up." (CNSNews.com)

"Shots in the Dark; What do we really know about gun crime? Almost nothing." - "When I arrived at the inaugural meeting of the National Research Council’s Committee to Improve Research and Data on Firearms this Thursday, I was the only media representative on hand. No CNN. No New York Times. Not even the Washington Post. Too bad. The committee’s report, due in two years, could shape the gun debate for decades to come. More important, a few stunning admissions at the meeting reveal an important fact about the body of information on which America’s existing gun control laws are built --there isn’t any body of information." (Sam MacDonald, Reason)

"Leaked report links jet lag to blood clots" - "A LEAKED government report into deep vein thrombosis (DVT) has suggested for the first time that jet lag should be investigated as a contributing factor. The £75,000 study on DVT, which the transport department plans to publish in two weeks' time, also goes some way to contradict airline statements that there is insufficient evidence to link flying with the condition. The report concludes "there are plausible mechanisms whereby the aircraft cabin environment could increase the risk of DVT." (Sunday Times)

Banner headline stuff, with potentially alarming conclusions, "leaked" to the press two weeks prior to public perusal of the complete report. How very unusual. You know, the very same technique has been used by those with an agenda to subvert the public impression of the mundane to their desired hysterical perspective which then drowns out the subsequent release of facts. This has been done for fundraising or even ideological social engineering purposes all too frequently in the past. How odd that a similar "leak" should occur at the end of "silly season," when bored journos are beginning to look for a story upon which to sharpen their pencils and when very little is yet available and so there is little competing "news."

The moral of this little story? Don't react to the promos (you only get the action scenes and none of the plot), at least wait for the whole movie or, better yet, read the book when it hits print - there's bound to be a lot more in it than this little flag waver.

"Summer of Shark - More Soundbite Than Real Teeth?" - "MIAMI - The Summer of the Shark, in which two horrifying attacks provoked a frenzy of fear and loathing of the predator of the seas, has turned out to be no worse than previous years, shark experts say." (Reuters)

"Higher wages add up to better health: study" - "NEW YORK, Aug 31 - A new report suggests that, for some workers, a small hike in income could yield major health benefits. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, assessed the health benefits San Francisco city contract workers would gain if a proposed $11.00 per hour "living wage" was enacted. Currently, these workers make an average of $8.66 per hour. The term living wage refers to a wage that meets all basic sustenance requirements, including housing, food, child care and clothes, but does not include "extras" like going to the movies or eating out in restaurants, study co-author Dr. Rajiv Bhatia explained in an interview with Reuters Health." (Reuters Health)

Amazing! They've discovered that wealthier populations are healthier populations. How do they do it?

They're at it again: "McCartney backs animal rights group in school milk boycott" - "A RADICAL animal-rights group backed by Sir Paul McCartney is set to picket schools, telling children that milk will make them fat and spotty. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), which is opposed to dairy farming on moral grounds, intends to hand out 100,000 "Pokémon-style" cards to young children after they return to school this week. The cards will use cartoon characters such as Spotty Sue, Windy Wendy, Phlegmy Phil and Chubby Charlie to suggest that if children drink milk they can expect the same problems. One card says: "Milk might make people intolerant of you because many people who drink it suffer from - pardon us - wind!" (Sunday Times)

"A chocolate a day... dieticians tout benefits of chocolate consumption" - "Eating 50g of chocolate every day has tangible nutritional benefits, according to Perth-based dietician Glenn Cardwell. High in fats, calories and sugar, chocolate has never really been touted as the healthy snack option, but after ten years of nutrition research into the treat, Cardwell argues that it can be good for you. Good news for Australians, who rate ninth in the world in terms of overall chocolate consumption." (just-food.com)

Hmm... "Obesity may not be bad for heart failure patients" - "NEW YORK, Aug 31 - The link between obesity and an increased risk of heart failure and other cardiovascular illnesses is well known. But for people who already have heart failure, being obese or overweight may not be a disadvantage, researchers in California report." (Reuters Health)

"Families of autistic children sue vaccine makers" - "BOSTON - Two Massachusetts families are suing several vaccine makers, claiming the companies' use of a controversial preservative poisoned their children and caused their subsequent autism. In the lawsuit filed in Middlesex Superior Court, the families allege that the children "were poisoned with toxic mercury" in the preservative thimersol." (AP)

"European Chemicals Report Under Industry Fire" - "BRUSSELS, Belgium, August 30, 2001 - Europe's chemical industry has made its first official response to hard line proposals for tougher EU chemicals policies by Swedish Green Member of the European Parliament Inger Schörling. A delegation from industry association Cefic met with Schörling to present its concerns yesterday. Today it issued a public statement strongly condemning her recommendations." (ENS)

"CSIRO trial to monitor toxic air pollutants" - "Two hundred Australians will be fitted out with scientific equipment to measure everyday toxic air pollutants. It is part of a national study being carried out in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide. The volunteers will wear the monitoring devices for five days this month, and then again in summer." (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

"Road toll link to cannabis" - "SMOKING marijuana was as common as drinking among young drivers killed in car and motorbike accidents, new research says. A study of all drivers younger than 45 years killed on the Central Coast over four years found about 40 per cent had smoked cannabis hours before their fatal accident. A similar proportion had been drinking.

Overall, two in three of those killed on the roads were affected by alcohol, cannabis or both. The study, published in the Health Promotion Journal of Australia, examined the drug tests performed as part of autopsies, which include a test for past cannabis use as well as one indicating use within four hours of death. All the drivers who tested positive for past cannabis use also were positive for recent use." ([Sydney] Sunday Telegraph)

"Man-Made Changes Are Linked To Malaria Transmission" - "Guiyan Yan, Ph.D., assistant professor of biological sciences and an ecologist at the University at Buffalo, has received a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to determine how man-made environmental changes affect the transmission of malaria in Africa.

The first-ever study of its kind, the project will be used to develop methods of predicting malaria epidemics throughout Africa and to identify novel cost-effective malaria control strategies that can be used readily in Africa.

Malaria has long been a scourge -- particularly of children -- in the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, India and nearly all of sub-Saharan Africa. Each year, it kills between 1.5 million and 3 million people around the world and 95 percent of the deaths occur in infants and young children." (UniSci)

"Cancer menace on the rise" - "Scientists predict that by the year 2020 there will be 15 million new cases of cancer worldwide each year, and 10 million deaths. Statistics just released show that last year there were 10.1 million new cases of cancer, 6.2 million deaths and 22 million people living with the disease who had been diagnosed in the last five years. Experts predict the numbers will rise significantly over the next 20 years as the world's population continues to grow, and the average age rises. Older people are most at risk of cancer." (BBC Online) | 'Cancer will claim 10m lives a year by 2020' (Independent) | Cancer deaths 'to rise worldwide' (Telegraph)

Cancer is largely an affliction of advancing age but considering mortalities of those of advanced years who also have cancer as cancer mortalities is just not correct. As technically correct as such a direct mechanism may be, the bottom line is that these people are dying of old age.

What we are really looking at here is an epidemic of long life.

"Recycling scheme failure creates city waste crisis" - "Piles of rubbish are rotting in the streets in Manila after the failure of attempts to get residents to recycle their waste. Around 2,000 tonnes of the city's 6,000 tonnes of garbage a day is being left uncollected.

It is feared the amount of waste could lead to the outbreak of disease in the Philippines capital city. The build-up of rubbish began when residents were asked to start separating their waste last month. The problem has continued even though people were told their rubbish would not be collected unless they complied with the scheme." (Ananova)

It was always doomed to failure because recycling among general refuse is a totally false economy. Put in some decent incinerators and burn the damn stuff - it's both the most efficient and environmentally friendly course. If you really want to squeeze the last few dollars out of it then incorporate thermal electric power generation utilising heat from the refuse disposal, recover the metals from the ash and divert the remainder for cement making.

The only problem with setting up efficient and healthful solutions to what is rapidly becoming a disastrous situation have only ever been the ridiculous claims of fundraising so-called enviros (actually just misanthropists looking to fatten their income stream).

The `peas don't want this lot burned? Fine, ship it to their headquarters and let them deal with it. Dopey beggars!

"Neta effect sparks green power row" - "THE war of words between energy regulator Ofgem and the Government intensified yesterday as Ofgem advised its sponsoring ministry, the Department of Trade and Industry, to 'review' its environmental policy. As part of Ofgem's newly published review of the controversial Neta wholesale electricity market, the regulator admitted that it had hit wind power in particular. This comes amid increased Government enthusiasm for wind farms, a notoriously unreliable power source, as part of its ongoing renewable energy drive." (Telegraph)

"Scots draw battle lines over plans for wind farm" - "Controversial plans to build a wind farm on a remote hillside in north-east Scotland has provided a classic example of the difficulties surrounding the Government's plans to increase Britain's renewable energy sources. Accusations of foul play, misinformation, environmental destruction and dirty tricks have abounded in a fight over the siting of 21 turbines, each as large as a 30-storey block of flats, close to the A96 Aberdeen-Inverness road." (Independent)

"Ecological terrorism on the crest of a wave" - "The wave is due to come from a “highly unstable” volcano, Cumbre Vieja, in the Canary Islands. This mountain on La Palma is likely to break open under the pressure of an eruption. When it happens, according to the newly sensationalist Geophysical Research Letters, a slab of rock half the size of the Isle of Man will hit the water.

[Dr Simon Day] says of his tsunami that “it is not a question of if it will happen, only when it will happen”. But “when” is precisely the question that we expect hazard researchers to answer. Any fool can claim that the world will end. Wise men are paid to come up with a timetable. What are the odds on this year, next year or never in my lifetime? Dr Day let slip that his tsunami is “unlikely to happen in the next century” and that more research is needed. When I hear that dread phrase I see an academic with a grant application burning a hole in his pocket." (Simon Jenkins, The Times)

"A statistician with a mission" - "'There is very little rocket science in this book', states Professor Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World. Maybe not - but its publication in the UK has caused something of an explosion." (Tony Gilland, Sp!ked)

"Extinct arguments" - "I recently returned from Gujarat in India, where I carried out research on a wildlife sanctuary designed to protect animals. But the Shoolpaneshwar sanctuary was created around the homes of 40,000 local people who were not consulted, compensated or given any say in the sanctuary's management - and now, imprisoned in a wildlife sanctuary, the locals have lost all their rights." (Kirk Leech, Sp!ked)

"Back from the Brink; Cloning Endangered Species" - "Abstract: Now that efforts to clone an endangered species have succeeded, it's time to consider whether cloning can be used to bring a species back from the brink of extinction, or even beyond. In this article, Pamela Weintraub highlights recent efforts and controversies." (BioMedNet)

The Montreal Protocol is still effectively creating "criminals" "Kitakyushu customs impounds 36,000 cans of Freon gas" - "KITAKYUSHU, Aug. 30 - Customs authorities have impounded 36,000 cans of Freon 12 gas, which is banned in Japan for harming the ozone, that were illegally imported from China, sources close to the case said Thursday. Moji customs Officials have been questioning an automobile parts retailer in the Moji district of Kitakyushu, a port city in southern Japan, suspecting the retailer of importing the gas by filing false customs papers. This is the second criminal case in Japan involving the smuggle of Freon gas, which has been banned under international treaty. In July, customs officials at the New Tokyo International Airport at Narita, Chiba Prefecture seized a cargo of Freon 12 gas that was shipped from Thailand as oil lubricant by a Nagoya-based used-car dealer." (Kyodo)

"Bone risk for veiled women" - "Women who wear a veil because of religious dress codes are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency, which causes bone disease, screening shows. Eighty per cent of veiled and dark-skinned pregnant women attending a Melbourne antenatal clinic lacked vitamin D, researcher Ruth Morley said. "A study in Kuwait has previously shown that wearing a veil even in a country with lots of sunlight is a risk factor," Dr Morley said." (The Age)

"Gene test will identify sunbathers with cancer risk" - "TESTS to identify people at risk from skin cancer could one day be on sale alongside bottles of sunblock after Oxford University scientists identified a genetic variation responsible for melanoma. The disease is Britain's fastest-growing form of cancer, and malignant melanomas kill more than 1,000 people each year. However, skin cancer is also the easiest type of cancer to avoid: for most people the answer is to stay out of the sun." (Sunday Times)

Sigh... "Astronaut warns of Earth impact" - "The commander of the International Space Station (ISS) has expressed his concern to the BBC at the impact mankind is having on the Earth's environment. Commander Frank Culbertson - who has just begun a four-month tour on the ISS - told the Radio 4 Today programme he and fellow astronauts had witnessed signs of climatic change. "We see storms, we see droughts, we saw a dust storm a couple of days ago, in Turkey I think it was, and we have seen hurricanes," he said." (BBC Online) | Astronaut laments an ailing planet (Independent)

And this, naturally, has nothing to do with ENSO events, PDO and/or NAO status, the recently hyperactive sun or any of the other climatic cycles we are only now beginning to discover - climatic change must be people.

"Science Fiction" - "New Scientist magazine, a long-standing promoter of global warming, has now resorted to science fiction to scare a public already jaded by failed predictions. In an article titled `Climate Change Scenario', the reader is taken forward in time to the year 2091 to read a hypothetical interview with a `science historian and author' of that future time. Of course, the interview treats what are only the most outlandish and extreme of predictions today as accomplished facts by then. And, you guessed it, things turned out much worse than previously thought. Of course they did - in the warped world of environmental sciences and politics, things are always `much worse than previously feared'." | An Eerie Silence | Ski Australia! (John L Daly, Still Waiting For Greenhouse)

"Experts call for collaboration to address climate change" - "KITAKYUSHU, Aug. 31 - Climate experts ending a seminar in Kitakyushu, southwestern Japan, adopted a summary Friday stressing the need for further regional collaboration to address climate change." (Kyodo)

"Farm group cautiously gives nod to GM wheat" - "A crack has appeared in the wall of farmer opposition to genetically modified wheat. The Western Barley Growers Association has decided to cautiously support the introduction of Monsanto's Roundup Ready wheat, so long as the company fulfills the requirements it has set for itself. That makes the association the first farm group to support the introduction of GM wheat. No other farm group in Canada has thrown its support behind the crop, which many farm groups fear will wreck Canada's export wheat markets." (Western Producer)

"Celebrities strike a pose against GM" - "A photographic collection of New Zealanders protesting against genetic modification will be used to put pressure on the Government as it decides what to do about the controversial issue. Organiser Alannah Currie said the campaign had drawn together 85 celebrities, doctors, scientists, firefighters, drainlayers - "people who feel really strongly that they don't want genetically engineered crops." (New Zealand Herald)

"GM tomatoes with medicinal benefits" - "Scientists have developed an environmentally friendly genetically modified tomato which could pave the way to fruits and vegetables containing edible medicines. The tomato was created by altering its DNA, but a different kind of DNA from that normally targeted in GM experiments. Instead of tampering with the chromosomes in cell nuclei, the scientists inserted a new gene into loops of DNA found in chloroplasts - specialised plant cell bodies which generate energy from sunlight. Unlike chromosomal DNA, the DNA in chloroplasts is not transmitted in pollen. There is therefore no danger of windblown pollen spreading foreign genes to other crops and wild plants." (The Scotsman)

"French Police Prevent GM Crop Destruction" - "SIGALENS, France - Police in anti-riot gear prevented activists opposed to genetically modified (GM) crops from hacking down three fields of experimental maize on Saturday. It was the first time French police have stopped GM crop sites being ransacked since protesters began a campaign in late June to rip up bio-engineered plants. The police action came after Prime Minister Lionel Jospin publicly criticized the destruction of GM crop tests on Tuesday, describing the protests as illegal and urging activists to stop. ``When it's illegal, it's illegal. We said it nicely. They didn't understand, so now we're saying it less nicely,'' farm minister Jean Glavany told reporters on Saturday at a meeting of Jospin's Socialist party in the seaside resort of La Rochelle." (Reuters)

"Beast is unleashed - but what now?" - "An organiser of the big GE-free protest admits the movement is in disarray as it considers how it handles the potent political force it has unleashed." (Sunday Star-Times)