"Japan Suffers Worst Nuclear Plant Accident" The Environment News Service reports, "Japan's worst nuclear accident exposed 19 people to radiation at a uranium processing plant Thursday and may have triggered continuing 'abnormal reactions,' media and a government spokesman said. Fourteen workers and five residents were injured after a possible 'criticality incident' involving 35 pounds of uranium at the plant about 90 miles northeast of Tokyo."
"Don't Blame Cars for Smog, AAA Says" The Environment News Service reports, "Federal regulators should refocus efforts to cut air pollution away from automobiles, the motorists’ advocacy group AAA said today. Smog from motor vehicles has declined much faster than pollution from other sources, and AAA says its time to give drivers and automakers a break - and concentrate on power plants and factories instead."
"Inspired by butterflies, Kucinich seeks labels for altered foods" The Cleveland Plain-Dealer reports, "[Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) from Cleveland is drafting a bill that would require food companies that use genetically modified substances to put labels on their boxes, cans, bottles, jars and wrappers. Though purported health hazards from such products are widely debated, the labels would warn consumers and let them make up their own minds.
Similar labels already are required in Europe, where several varieties of genetically altered food are banned. Kucinich, who shops in health food stores and eats no meat or dairy products, is formulating a letter to send colleagues about genetically modified products, and plans to introduce his bill later this year. 'I always thought Frankenstein was a book or a movie, not a food,' said Kucinich, who fears the new crop strains might endanger the environment or produce substances that are poisonous or cause allergies. 'These foods have moved forward with the presumption that everything is fine, when there haven't been any long-term studies because they're so new.'"
commentary of the day I: "The global business of suing tobacco" Terry Corcoran writes in the Financial Post, "The march of science through the tobacco fields took another bizarre turn the other day with a report that claimed to show that non-smoking men have sex more often than smokers, and enjoyed it more... More likely, though, the report is another bit of propaganda from the anti-tobacco industry, a vast and lucrative global enterprise...A new book on tobacco suggests this long, costly war on smokers is doomed. In Slow Burn: The Great American Anti-smoking Scam, and Why It Will Fail, author Don Oakley argues that the legal and scientific foundation for the anti-tobacco industry is so unsound that it will lead to its own destruction." You can order Slow Burn at the Junkscience.com store.
scam of the day: "Non-smoking men have sex more often - and enjoy it more too" The National Post reports, "Non-smoking men have more sex and enjoy it more than smokers, say scientists from the American Institute of Andrology in Lexington, Ky. But lead researcher Panayiotis Zavos said in a presentation yesterday that scientists do not fully understand why." I guess the campaign to scare smokers with impotence failed.
commentary of the day II: "What's next target after tobacco? Food?" Walter Williams asks in the Deseret News, " But where does it end? Exercise reduces health-care costs; so do nutritious diets, eight hours of sleep, moderate alcohol consumption... you name it. Will a day come when Washington makes us exercise; legislates diet mandates and requires us to go to bed at a certain time?"
commentary of the day III: "Good intentions get punished" Ken Smith writes in the Washington Times, "This month a federal appeals court in Missouri ruled unanimously against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its head administrator, Carol Browner, in a civil case that could hardly illustrate Mr. Schoenbrod's point any better. Persons genuinely interested in environmental protection should be delighted. Those more interested in protecting the power of the environmental politburo are in for a big disappointment."
scare of the day: "New fears over GM crops" The BBC reports, "The government says it will review the distances it allows between genetically modified and other crops after tests showed GM pollen could travel as far as three miles."
government in the bedroom: "Baby in Parents' Bed in Danger? U.S. Says Yes, but Others Demur" The new York Times reports, "Parents should never sleep in the same bed with infants or toddlers under the age of 2, the Federal Consumer Product Safety Commission warned on Wednesday, because sleeping together poses a significant risk of accidental smothering or strangling... 'There is no way on this earth that a U.S. government official should make pronouncements about child-care practices based on a single study,' said Abraham B. Bergman, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington."
idea of the day: "Campaign for more research regulation" The BBC reports, "Two prestigious UK research journals are to unite in calling for beefed-up controls on the way medical research is carried out. Editorials in the British Medical Journal and the Lancet are expected to say the present system can be abused by research teams to hide disappointing results. It is thought that the campaign will call for a compulsory central register of all research projects."
"Counting down" The New Scientist reports, "This month, somewhere in the world--it could be in a London maternity ward, but more likely in a São Paolo favela or a Calcutta slum--the 6-billionth member of the human race will be born. The UN will officially recognise his or her birthday on 12 October. Only 12 years have passed since we hit the 5-billion mark, so the event has been greeted with portentous warnings of a "population time bomb" and a "demographic disaster". But delve behind the words of the doom-mongers, say some demographers, and you'll find evidence that in the not-too-distant future, the world population may actually start to shrink."
"Forget rainforests" The New Scientist reports, "Rising levels of greenhouse gases have led to faster tree growth in arid regions. The discovery boosts the case for planting forests in dry areas to combat the effects of global warming."
"Racism/obesity link postulated " Reuters reports, "Those who experience racism and who internalize their anger about it may be more prone to abdominal obesity, and thus to diseases associated with obesity, suggest preliminary study results published in the Journal of the National Medical Association."
September 29, 1999
Harvard crapola (or is it crappola?) of the day: "A Global Wakeup Call from Harvard" The director of Harvard University's Environmental Values and Public Policy Program says, nothing but a fundamental reordering of our institutions and belief systems will stave off environmental and social devastation from which we will not be able to recover.
junk journalism of the day: "Tug-o-War: Cancer Kids vs Water Pollution" The Environment New Service reports on kids' cancer and the environment. Click here for my earlier Investor's Business Daily op-ed that summarizes what we know about kids' cancer and the environment.
"Mayors Speak Locally, Act Globally Against Climate Change" The Environment New Service reports, "Hundreds of mayors and locally elected officials from across the U.S. are announcing their concerns today about the impact of global warming on their communities. In a statement to Congress and the White House, the bi-partisan group calls for increased federal efforts to reduce global warming pollution."
panic of the day II: "Killer NY virus 'could spread south'" The BBC reports, "Health experts are warning that a fatal mosquito-borne virus that has struck New York could spread across the western hemisphere."
messy controversy of the day: "Battle over phthalates heats up" CNN reports, "A critique (PDF file) was released last week disputing claims made by a group headed by former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop that phthalates - chemicals used to soften plastics in vinyl medical products and toys - are safe... The allegation by [Health Care Without Harm] of poor science follows recent accusations that Dr. Koop accepted undisclosed kickbacks from companies advertising on his Internet web site, DrKoop.com." While I believe DrKoop.com should really be named DrKoop.con, if Dr. Ted Schettler, the anti-chemical author of the "critique," had a web site, it would most certainly be named DrKook.com.
Click here for the American Council on Science and Health's response to the critique.
Click here for my take on Health Care Without Harm -- or is that Health Scare Without Shame?"
misplaced priority of the day: "Smoking leading preventable cause of death in Americas, officials say" The Associated Press reports, "Smoking has emerged as the leading preventable cause of death in the Americas, but some tobacco-growing nations and companies are preventing an aggressive response, according to a report presented to the hemisphere's top health officials Tuesday." If you smoke real hard and for a real long time, your life expectancy might be reduced, on average, by six years or so. This is hardly a public health crisis, especially since smoking is a voluntary activity. If the public health community really wanted to accomplish something with the limited resources available, it would shift its attention to making sure infants, particularly those in the third world, make it through their first year of life.
commentary of the day I: "Where there is smoke..." The Washington Times editorializes, "Attention press flacks, advertising executives and publishers. Have you put out a press release or published an ad in defense of a politically incorrect industry? Have you, on behalf of that industry, used your First Amendment freedoms to criticize a government official? If so, the Justice Department may have a few questions for you. You may be guilty of racketeering."
commentary of the day II: "Another Tobacco Lawsuit (Yawn)" Holman Jenkins writes in the Wall Street Journal, "Contrary to anything you might read, piling up lawsuits on tobacco companies doesn't do anything to stop smoking. Banning their advertising doesn't stop people from smoking cigarettes either... Somebody at Justice has a sense of humor. Surveys as far back as 1974 have shown that 99% of seven-year-olds understand the dangers of smoking."
"Monsanto works on plastic, gene activists opposed" Reuters reports, "Biotechnology giant Monsanto Co confirmed on Tuesday that its engineers could produce plastic from genetically modified plants, but campaigners remained opposed to any use of the technology in agriculture."
"Monsanto says it won't develop plants to plastic" Reuters reports, "Life sciences company Monsanto Co., which has developed genetically modified plants that could produce biodegradable plastic, said Tuesday it still has no plans to bring the technology to market."
"Scientists sow seeds for plastic plants " The Guardian reports, "It sounds like a classic April fool joke: the prospect of fields of plants growing plastic leaves and seeds to turn into credit cards, nappy liners or compact discs. And the inventors of this extraordinary new technology are the company that environmentalists love to hate - Monsanto."
"EPA tightening pollution rules for big rigs" The Associated Press reports, "The Environmental Protection Agency is rolling out new rules for tougher emission standards and cleaner burning diesel fuel to reduce pollution from heavy-duty trucks, according to interest groups briefed on the proposal."
"A positive perspective on population growth" Mitzi Perdue comments, "'Population growth is slowing down much more rapidly than demographers thought would be possible,' he says. The good news, according to Engelman, is that it's happening, not through coercion, but because people throughout the world are choosing smaller families."
"Cargill favours voluntary labelling of GMO food" Reuters reports, " Cargill Inc, expecting a long, hard fight to persuade consumers to accept genetically modified
organisms (GMO), favours labelling to identify the new crops, chairman Ernest Micek said on Monday."
"Prince's aide revives row over GM food " The News Unlimited reports, "An adviser to the Prince of Wales will re-ignite the row between St James's Palace and Tony Blair over genetically modified foods today when he condemns the government's handling of the issue."
"Interneuron settlement is rejected by judge" The Wall Street Journal reports, "Injecting uncertainty into the effort to settle the diet-pill litigation, a federal judge
rejected a proposed class-action settlement involving Interneuron Pharmaceuticals Inc., the small company that developed the diet pill Redux. The decision, by U.S. District Judge Louis Bechtle in Philadelphia, comes as a much bigger defendant, American Home Products Corp., is negotiating an estimated $4 billion settlement of diet-pill lawsuits pending against it."
"EU urges wider monitoring of dioxin in animal feed" Reuters reports, "European Food Safety Commissioner David Byrne said on Monday Belgium's dioxin crisis had highlighted the need to monitor levels of the cancer-causing chemicals in animal feed across the European Union."
"EU says no hormone beef studies before mid-2000" Reuters reports, "The European Commission said on Wednesday its studies into the safety of hormone-treated beef would not be finished before the middle of next year, prolonging a trade spat with the United States which has left $117
million of sanctions on EU gourmet foods."
future 'racketeer' of the day: "Coffee's future lies in young drinkers" Reuters reports, " U.S. coffee consumption, already down 50 percent per capita from 30 years ago, could fall to a 'critical low' unless young people start drinking more, a leading industry representative said on Sunday." So let's review: (1) the public health Gestapo doesn't approve of coffee (too much caffeine, they say); (2) the coffee industry needs young consumers; and (3) similar circumstances earned the tobacco industry 116 charges of racketeering" from the federal government. Watch out, Juan Valdez!
"Taxpayer Group: Feds' New Tobacco Suit Will Bloat Government, Not Shrink Taxpayer Burdens" "As the U.S. Justice Department today announced a massive federal lawsuit against tobacco companies in order to "recover" money for taxpayers "injured" by smokers' "costs," a study by the non-partisan National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) should serve as an important warning: Far from reducing tax or health care burdens, settlement funds from similar state-level lawsuits are already lining lawyers' pockets and pumping up pork-barrelers."
anti-chemical politics of the day: EPA to reduce 'toxics' in Great Lakes EPA announces, "To protect public health and help restore the Great Lakes, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol M. Browner today proposed to significantly reduce direct discharges of the most toxic chemicals into the Great Lakes. The chemicals, referred to as
"bioaccumulative chemicals of concern" (BCCs), include mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, dioxin, chlordane, DDT and mirex. 'Today's announcement is vitally important to protect the health of Great Lakes residents. The risks posed to human health and to the Great Lakes themselves by these toxic pollutants are simply too high to ignore,' said Browner. "We need to take more aggressive steps to protect our children, ourselves, and our environment from these harmful chemicals.'"
"GOP Environmental Riders Complicate Agency Funding" The Washinton Post reports, "Congressional Republicans are pressing a new round of confrontation with the White House over environmental protections, adding one more large complication to the already difficult task of finishing work on the annual spending bills."
"AHP settlement seeks 15-year payment plan" Reuters reports, "Drugmaker American Home Products Corp (NYSE:AHP - news) and lawyers for people allegedly injured by its diet pill cocktail are focusing on the company's offer to spread settlement payments over up to 15 years, the Wall Street Journal reported in Monday's online edition."
"Seeds of Doubt" Here's the transcript from a recent Australian television show attempting to sow "seeds of doubt" about biotechnology.
"Monsanto in talks with 'greens' over GM crops" The Telegraph reports, "The American bio-technology company Monsanto is in talks with environmental groups over genetic modification..., looking at ways to meet the concerns of environmentalists over GM food." Reuters reports the enviros as saying, "We believe Monsanto is open to a full rethink of what it is doing." If Monsanto wants to meet the concerns of the enviros, all it need do is go out of business. Monsanto has brilliant scientists, but really stupid management. It's been trying to appease the enviros for years -- to no avail. This type of management decision, along with Monsanto's generally inept PR have given biotech a black eye. If I were a Monsanto shareholder, I'd be screaming bloody murder at the next shareholders' meeting. Monsanto is losing money and its stock hovers near the 52-week low. Now management wants to negotiate with the enemy. Sheesh! :
"UK Protesters Dressed As Cows Tell Blair: No GM" Reuters reports, "Hundreds of protesters opposed to genetically modified foods marched to the annual conference of Britain's ruling Labor party Sunday dressed as cows and chickens, with one message for the government -- 'say no to GM.'"
commentary of the day I: "A Case of Fraud" About the federal tobacco lawsuit, the Detroit News comments, "This administration is using the court system to extract money from the industry that it couldn’t obtain politically. Who are the real racketeers here?"
commentary of the day II: "Warning Signs" "The hottest weekly commentary to be found on the Internet, pulling no punches as Alan Caruba points out environmental lies and liars, political pandering, food police nutcases, animal rights lunatics, and the entire managerie of mis-information and dis-information."
Balkan War syndrome? "Fears about toxic dirt ignored: soldier" The Globe and Mail reports, "A Canadian Forces medical specialist says that soon after he arrived in Croatia in 1994, he became worried that peacekeepers were being exposed to toxic substances, but his concerns were ignored by his superiors in Ottawa."
junk of the day II: "Sex good for stroke prevention" ABC News reports, "The launch of National Stroke Week in Melbourne has revealed research citing the importance of sex in the prevention of stroke... 'We've been able to show that men who report frequent orgasms have a risk of stroke that's about half that of men who don't report to having any orgasms,' said Prof Ebrahim." What's probably going on is healthier men have better sex lives, rather than sex making men healthy.
"Ecosystem: Game of high stakes in a world being bled dry; Who should foot the bill for preserving our ecosystem?" The Financial Times reports, "Everything from trees to tigers seems to be under threat. But the pessimism may be overdone, according to a team of scientists from the Universities of Cambridge and Sheffield writing in today's Nature, the scientific journal. They argue that the cost of preserving the diversity of life on earth is much less than is commonly thought. 'In our view, conserving the planet's biodiversity would cost less than a quarter of the amount governments currently spend on environmentally harmful subsidies, recently estimated at $1,450bn a year,' they say."
"Unnatural Disasters: How Humans Are Behind the Weather Weirdness" The Village Voice reports, "Hurricanes. Mosquitos. E. coli. Drought. Coincidence? Some scientists don't think so. Rather, they say, the dried, drenched, and infested summer of '99 may be a perfect example of how pollution is changing our climate— and the climate, in turn, is affecting our health."
"False alarm of cancer map that misleads" The Telegraph reports, "Statistics on breast cancer survival rates that were made public last week, have been criticised for creating panic and alarm among thousands of women. The 1990 figures, issued by the Department of Health and turned into a "survival map" by a national newspaper, suggest that many more sufferers will die than is the case, according to experts."
commentary of the day I: "The Great Plutonium Scare" The Detroit News reports, "Sault Ste. Marie officials are going into high gear to prevent the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) from shipping radioactive plutonium across Michigan. Their opposition is based on visceral fear -- not reason: The plutonium poses less danger to the health of the environment and humans than ordinary gasoline."
commentary of the day II: "6 Billion People: The Good News" Stephen Chapman writes in the Chicago Tribune, "If you're not feeling crowded now, you soon will be. There has been widespread lamentation that the world's population is about to reach 6 billion, an event scheduled for Oct. 12."
"World population boom" The foreign editor of the Denver Rocky Mountain News wrings his hands about the world's population hitting 6 billion.
junk commentary of the day: "Bigger fines, fewer teen smokers" Not unexpectedly, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorializes in favor of the federal lawsuit against the tobacco industry.
"Rocky Flats' crucial phase" The Denver Post comments, "The demolition slated for Oct. 18 at Rocky Flats - the mothballed nuclear bomb factory near Golden - thus represents an enormous milestone in cleaning up atomic wastes around the globe. If the project succeeds, there is hope that many nations will be able to safely mop up their Cold War legacies. If it fails, nuclear cleanup efforts everywhere could be set back for years."
"How Inquiry Into Tobacco Lost Its Steam" The New York Times reports, "After five years and millions of dollars, the Justice Department's criminal investigation of the tobacco industry boiled down to this: one misdemeanor charge against an obscure biotechnology company."
"Dutchman Challenging Big Tobacco" The Associated Press reports, "In the first Dutch challenge to Big Tobacco, a man suffering from chronic emphysema after
smoking for 41 years is suing R.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris and two other tobacco companies, claiming additives in cigarettes ruined his health."
"Tobacco industry lauds dismissal of rights suit" Reuters reports, "U.S. tobacco companies said on Friday that a dismissal of a civil rights group's lawsuit claiming
the tobacco industry targeted the black community with menthol cigarettes confirms that the charges were meritless."
"Black group seen appealing tobacco ruling" Reuters reports, "A civil rights group that sued to stop the tobacco industry from marketing menthol cigarettes to blacks will likely appeal a federal judge's decision to dismiss the case, an attorney said on Friday."
"US tobacco lawyer sees prolonged lawsuit fight" Reuters reports, "U.S. tobacco companies are prepared for a lengthy battle against the Justice Department's
multibillion dollar lawsuit against them, a Philip Morris Cos. Inc. (NYSE:MO - news) lawyer said on Thursday."
"Reno to work with Congress on tobacco suit funding" Reuters reports, "U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno said on Thursday that she would work with the Republican-controlled Congress to get the $20 million requested to fund the massive lawsuit against the tobacco industry."
tobacco spin-off of the day: "Physicians Advise Feds to Go After `Big Meat' Next" "Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) applauds the U.S. Justice Department for filing a lawsuit against "Big Tobacco," but recommends it also begin preparing a case against major meat producers and
retailers. "Meat consumption is just as dangerous to public health as tobacco use," says Neal D. Barnard, M.D., PCRM president."
"Biotech industry says gene maize research flawed" Reuters reports, "Europe's biotechnology industry said on Wednesday a recent study suggesting pollen from genetically modified (GM) maize killed caterpillars was flawed and had distorted the debate about gene crops."
scare of the day II: "UN has a problem: Members may soon start to disappear" The Independent reports, "The entire coastline of the Republic of the Marshalls, a group of 34 coral islands in the west central Pacific, is under attack from rising sea levels and storms of increasing ferocity as the phenomenon of global warming intensifies."
'urban heat island effect' of the day: "Phoenix feels the heat from growth" The Associated Press reports, "Research shows that the average summer nighttime temperature
in Phoenix has jumped 10 degrees in the last 40 years," -- and it ain't because of greenhouse gas emissions.
"U.S. denies any plan for biotech food labels" Reuters reports, "Clinton administration officials on Friday quickly shot down a suggestion the United States will offer a proposal in upcoming world trade talks for labeling food products made from genetically modified crops."
"Non-breast milk in infancy increases asthma risk" Reuters reports, "Introducing milk other than breast milk to infants younger than 4 months old increases the risk of asthma and atopy (a predisposition to certain allergies), according to a report." But EPA administrator Carol Browner told me it was air pollution.
verdict of the day: "Judge dismisses blacks' tobacco lawsuit" The Associated Press reports, "A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that accused the tobacco industry of violating the civil rights of blacks by specifically trying to sell them menthol cigarettes."
commentary of the day I: "How not to regulate tobacco" The Chicago Tribune editorializes, "Let's see if we've got this right. The federal government pays subsidies to tobacco farmers. It collects taxes on tobacco products. For fully a generation it has required cigarette makers to post a health warning on each pack. And now, this same government is suing the tobacco industry, charging that
it conspired to defraud and mislead the American public. A question: Can you sue the government for fraud?"
commentary of the day II: "The wrong way on tobacco" The New York Post comments, "Earlier this year, Attorney General Janet Reno told Congress that the Justice Department "does not have an independent cause of action" against the tobacco companies. Now, apparently under orders from President Clinton, she's suddenly discovered one."
commentary of the day III: "The evils of a smoking government" Andrew Glass writes in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "Any chance government's suit will take note that from Civil War times until 1956, federal law required the military to provide nearly free supplies of tobacco to enlisted personnel? More years passed until the military removed cigarettes from the food rations that soldiers receive in the field. As you might expect, current government tobacco subsidies also go unmentioned in the lawsuit."
"The Tobacco Suit" About the federal lawsuit against the tobacco industry, the Washington Post comments, "... merit is of course the issue; the government's action faces some formidable legal obstacles that could make it short-lived."
scare of the day: "Experts fear unknown CS spray risks" The BBC reports, "People with a range of health problems could be adversely affected by CS spray [used by police to disable potential attackers], according to an independent report."
junk commentary of the day I: "Protecting Planet Isn't Partisan" In this attack on congressional Republicans for not mindlessly supporting every piece of environmental legislation, the Los Angeles Times comments, " Scientists agree that the thinning of the Earth's protective ozone layer--a portion of the upper atmosphere that filters out harmful ultraviolet rays--is afflicting more and more people with maladies ranging from weak immune systems to skin cancer." What scientists? Where's the data? There isn't a single study that credibly links so-called ozone depletion with adverse health effects in humans. Check out this article.
junk commentary of the day II: "A timely boost to research on carbon sequestration" Nature reports (Sep. 24), "The US Department of Energy (DoE) is investigating whether the sequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide in oceanic or terrestrial ecosystems might be an effective way of reducing global warming. The department has given $9 million for three years to two research centres -- one each to study the ocean and land -- involving scientists from various institutions. Nature goes on to editorializes that "Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is as important as controlling emissions. Basic and applied research need to be pursued in the face of political obstacles." Unfortunately for this editorial, no one knows the impact of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. There is no simple relationship between carbon dioxide levels and climate change. If you get Nature and read the editorial, e-mail your comments to Nature.
"French rail company ordered to pay anti-smoking groups" The Associated Press reports, "A French court ordered the national train company on Thursday to pay damages to two anti-smoking groups, ruling that a Lyon train station had not sufficiently told travelers to put out their cigarettes."
"The nanny state" Walter Williams writes, "Worrying about bacteria, New Jersey banned restaurants from serving eggs sunny side up. The ban has since been lifted."
Alcohol consumption and mortality Swedish researchers report in the British Medical Journal, "To a considerable extent, the increased mortality with high alcohol consumption was due to the strong association between drinking and smoking and the high risk associated with smoking." This result should be kept in mind by the Department of Justice as it pursues the bogus claim that the federal government shells out $20 billion per year in health care costs caused by smoking -- a claim calculated by comparing health care costs of smokers vs. nonsmokers, forgetting smokers tend to drink more, eat worse diets, not exercise, etc.
"Canada 'buying' oxygen to fight global warming" The Associated Press reports, "In a bid to scrub its environmental scorecard - if not its own skies - Canada signed a controversial deal last week to "buy" oxygen from the Latin American nation of Honduras. It's a controversial move that pushes the envelope of the traditional "debt for nature" swap."
"Pollution hits poor hardest" The BBC reports, "If green policies are ever going to work, they must be designed with social justice at their heart, says a report by environmental campaigners."
"Cautious warning on 'safer' Pill" The BBC reports, "Third-generation contraceptive pills - generally thought to be safer than their predecessors - carry a higher risk of causing deadly blood clots than second generation ones, doctors have said. However, they said the increased risk is small and the finding should be treated with caution as it was based on a relatively small study." Click for the BMJstudy and editorial.
"Smoking linked to gall bladder carcinoma" -- well, maybe not.
Reuters reports, "Female gender, a history of gallstone symptoms and a history of smoking are risk factors for gall bladder carcinoma, US researchers report in the August issue of Digestive Diseases and Sciences... Dr. Wayne W. LaMorte, from the Boston University Medical School in Massachusetts, and multicenter colleagues retrospectively compared 68 gall bladder carcinoma patients with a control group of 272 patients with cholelithiasis... The odds ratios for gall bladder carcinoma among women and former smokers were 8.3 and 4.8, respectively, relative to controls. The latter figure was of 'borderline statistical significance,' Dr. LaMorte's team cautions in the journal."
link of the day: Feds: dissent on smoking = racketeering Wally Olson writes at Overlawyered.com, "Is it the most cynical act yet of the Clinton presidency, or the most incompetent act yet of Janet Reno's tenure as Attorney General? You be the judge. Yesterday, the ironically named Department of Justice -- which not long ago was accurately warning higher-ups that there wasn't a strong enough legal basis to file a federal lawsuit against tobacco companies -- proceeded to file one anyway..."
'must read' of the day I: Complaint in U.S. v. Philip Morris, et al. Here's the Department of Justice's complaint against the tobaco industry for the lawsuit filed yesterday. Click here for the appendix to the complaint. It's pretty funny -- and scary. The Department of Justice claims that the tobacco industry violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt organizations ("RICO") act because, among other reasons, it placed advertisements in newspapers, disputed the U.S. Surgeon General in press releases and employees made phone calls to one another about smoking and disease.
'must read' of the day II: Slow Burn: The Great American Antismoking Scam (And Why it Will Fail)Slow Burn is Don Oakley's great new book (600 pages, June 1999). Don is an author and a former editorial writer for Newspaper Enterprise Association in Cleveland, Ohio, and Scripps Howard News Service in Washington,D.C. You can buy the book through junkscience.com for $14.50 plus $2.50 postage and handling (U.S.). This price is cheaper than amazon.com. Click here to order the book. Click here for Barron's review of Slow Burn.
fantasy court filing of the day Answer to Complaint in U.S. v. Philip Morris, et al. How should the tobacco industry respond to the Department of Justice's allegations in the complaint and appendix (PDF files, Acrobat reader required) filed in federal court yesterday? I suggest the industry take a cue from Brig. Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe, who responded famously to the Nazi demand for the surrender of the American 101st Airbone Division defending the city of Bastogne, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944.
commentary of the day I "Tobacco Suit Is Latest Abuse of the Rule of Law" Robert Bork writes in the Wall Street Journal, "The Justice Department's complaint is only the most recent, and it will be by no means the last, effort to use litigation to bludgeon private firms in order to accomplish a prohibition that government could not muster the political support to legislate. Gun makers are beginning to face the same problem. Why not sue oil companies whose gasoline leads to traffic deaths, or fast-food chains whose products contribute to heart disease?" This New York Times editorial confirms Borks point that the Clinton Administartion is trying to accomplish through litigation what it could not do through legislation.
commentary of the day II "Uncle Sam joins in the shakedown" The Boston Herald comments, "It's preposterous to claim, as Attorney General Janet Reno did yesterday, that ``for the past 43 years the companies that manufacture and sell tobacco have waged an intentional and coordinated campaign of deceit'' that resulted in huge government expenditures through Medicare and other programs to treat the illnesses caused by tobacco (about $22 billion a year now). If a man claims the sun rises in the west, is anyone deceived?"
junk of the day I "Onions 'prevent brittle bones'" The BBC reports, "Onions, garlic and a range of other salad goods may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis - the crippling bone disease that affects one in three women, usually after the menopause. The claim comes from researchers at the University of Bern in Switzerland who conducted experiments on rats."
junk of the day II "Study links breast-feeding nutrition to IQ gains" The Associated Press reports, "At least 60 percent of the average intelligence gain seen in breast-fed infants comes from breast milk's nutritional value, according to a study released Wednesday... 'Our study confirms that breast-feeding is accompanied by about a five-points higher IQ than in bottle-fed infants,' Anderson said." I don't care what these researchers claim to have done. There's no scientific way to link up breastfeeding and IQ. There are too many factors that would need to be controlled, especially to identify such a small difference in IQ. Click here for Reuters coverage.
junk of the day III "Father-daughter relationship crucial to when girls enter puberty, researchers say" "One biological explanation is that girls whose fathers are not present in the home may be exposed to other adult males - stepfathers or their mothers' boyfriends - and that exposure to pheromones produced by unrelated adult males accelerates female pubertal development. The flip side of that theory is that girls who live with their biological fathers in a positive environment are exposed to his pheromones and are inhibited from puberty, perhaps as a natural incest avoidance mechanism." Pardon me, but I'll wait for the rat study; even that would be better than this ridiculous exercise in speculation by wannabe scientists (psychologists).
junk commentary of the day "Dark Clouds" Hand-wringing about global warming and vector-borne disease, Bob Herbert writes in the New York Times, "The threat to public health combined with the enormous economic costs of these extreme weather events would, if people were sensible, prompt us to develop environmental and energy policies designed to alleviate such problems."
"CJD cases 'could run into thousands'" The BBC reports, "Cases of CJD - the human form of BSE (mad cow disease) - could run into thousands, with the true scale of the problem not known for 15 years, the government's chief medical officer has said."
yawn of the day "Ozone hole opens again" The BBC reports, "The ozone hole that forms over the Antarctic each year between August and early October has reappeared." Click here for more info on ozone depletion hysteria.
"Fen-phen settlement likely to fall through, lawyers say" The Associated Press reports, "Paying for years of regular medical checkup for the people who took the diet drug fen-phen was supposed to be the hardest pill to swallow for American Home Products as part of its weight-loss medication quagmire. But that's proved the easy part in the drugmaker's settlement talks. Instead, the tentative national settlement is likely to break down over how much the company wants to pay patients allegedly injured by the once-popular drug cocktail, say attorneys close to the talks."
"Communications towers killing birds" "Bird scientists gathering at Cornell University last month for the annual American Ornithologists' Union (AOU) meeting looked ahead to fall migration time with renewed dread. Although birds have been hitting structures in North America for at least 100 years, there are now more tall towers than ever before -- especially for cellular phone and digital television transmission -- with even more on the drawing boards."
September 22, 1999
lawsuit of the day Complaint in U.S. v. Philip Morris, et al. Here's the Department of Justice's complaint against the tobaco industry for the lawsuit filed today. Click here for the appendix to the complaint. It's pretty funny -- and scary. The Department of Justice claims that the tobacco industry violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt organizations ("RICO") act because, among other reasons, it placed advertisements in newspapers, disputed the U.S. Surgeon General in a press release and employees made phone calls to one another about smoking and disease. And don't forget to order Slow Burn: The Great American Anti-Smoking Scam from the junkscience.com store at a price lower than Amazon.com's!
"Mobiles pose no health risk - MPs" The BBC reports, "Mobile phone use poses no health risks, but the government is not spending enough on crucial research, according to a report by MPs."
bogus statistic of the day Cost of smoking-related illness In its lawsuit to be filed against the tobacco industry, the federal government will contend that smoking-related illness costs taxpayers $25 billion per year. This statistic is estimated by comparing the health care costs of smokers against health care costs of nonsmokers. This comparison is bogus because it assumes smokers have higher health care costs solely becaue they smoke. But smokers tend to be of lower socio-economic status than nonsmokers and also tend to have unhealthier lifestyles -- i.e., smokers tend to drink more alcohol, eat lower quality diets, exercise less and lead more stressful lives. Also, since smokers tend not to live as long as nonsmokers, they may actually have lower total health care costs. A shorter life span reduces social security benefits. Finally, tobacco sales earn the federal government billions in tax revenues ($5.5 billion in 1998!). States earned another $7.6 billion in 1998. So smoking likely provides net economic benefits.
'mother of all battles' set to begin "U.S. Plans Massive Tobacco Civil Suit" The Washington Post reports, "The Justice Department plans to file a mammoth civil lawsuit against the major tobacco companies as early as today, alleging that cigarette smoking costs the federal government billions of dollars annually in health-related expenses and seeking to recover those funds on behalf of taxpayers, sources familiar with the matter said yesterday."
Genetically altered dung? The Associated Press reports, "Genetically altered cows could produce genetically altered manure and pollute groundwater with mutant cow dung, some Craig County [Virginia] residents fear. The concerns are being raised in response to Pharming Healthcare Inc.'s plan to locate in Craig a herd of 200 cows
capable of producing human proteins in milk. The proteins are used to make medicines. If the proteins are in the cows' milk, they could also end up in the cows' waste, said Craig County resident Patricia Smith, who opposes Pharming's plan... But Pharming President Otto Postma said residents have nothing to worry about because the cows are genetically
designed to excrete the proteins only in milk."
"Retreat on cancer; State data registry suffers from budget cuts" The Fresno Bee comments, "Twenty-seven years after President Nixon declared a national war against cancer, one important weapon in that fight - California's landmark database on cancer cases - is slowly falling apart. Budget cuts by Gov. Gray Davis are preventing the California Cancer Registry from maintaining adequate information on each new diagnosis of cancer in the state. The decision to veto $2.4 million in additional funds for this program will prevent the registry from capturing information that could reveal new insights into cancer treatment, insights that could save society, not to mention the state's general fund, millions of future dollars." But as this New England Journal of Medicine report points out, the war against cancer has largely been a bust -- a sinkhole into which tens of billion of dollars have been poured with little progress.
scare of the day I "CJD alert intensifies chaos over beef ban" The Daily Telegraph reports, "Government confusion over beef-on-the-bone intensified last night after England's chief medical officer warned ministers that, even if the ban was lifted, Britain could yet face a "human epidemic" caused by mad cow disease."
scare of the day II "Dioxin in meat is Europe's new food scare" The Independent reports, " Dangerous levels of cancer-causing dioxin exist in meat from all industrialised countries, the European Commission said yesterday, sparking a new scare over food safety."
"N.Y. disease outbreak called a global warning" CNN reports, "As New York health officials struggle to curb the spread of encephalitis among the city's residents, Physicians for Social Responsibility warns that outbreaks of this and other mosquito-borne diseases will be on the rise if global warming remains on its current path."
"Climate change and greenhouse gases: The scientific literature reviewed" "The American Geophysical Union's position statement on Climate Change and Greenhouse Gases was published in Eos on February 2, 1999. Like all such statements, it was intended primarily for nontechnical audiences; therefore, it was brief and did not include references to the published scientific literature upon which it was based. In response to requests for background information and data and as a resource for continuing study of this issue, the authors of the AGU position statement have prepared a thorough, documented analysis of the peer reviewed literature, which will be published in Eos on September 28. Their article, "Climate Change and Greenhouse Gases," was itself rigorously peer reviewed."
"World population to reach 6 billion next month" Reuters reports, "October 12th has been designated as "The Day of 6 Billion," when the world's population will reach that figure. At a press briefing Tuesday, the United Nations Population Fund announced its plans to slow population growth and to improve global health."
"Mercury reaches brain directly through nerves" Reuters reports, "Despite its inability to pass through the brain's protective barrier by way of the
blood circulation, studies in fish suggest that mercury, which is toxic to brain cells, can travel directly to the brain through nerves."
junk of the day "Whole grains lower risk of heart disease" Reuters reports, " Women who consume two to three servings of whole grains per day by eating foods such as whole wheat bread, oatmeal, or popcorn, reduce their risk of heart disease by almost 30%, report researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts." But as faithful readers of junkscience.com know, a 30 percent decline is to small to be reliably detected through epidemiology -- especially when the data comes from that perpetual junk machine, the Nurses Health Study.
"EPA reconsidering decision to bury radioactive soil in Denver" The Associated Press reports, "Back in 1991, the Environmental Protection Agency thought a creative idea for entombing contaminated soil at the old Shattuck Chemical Co. plant had literally laid the problem to rest. Now that decision may come back to haunt the agency."
Bradley to speak at APHA convention Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley will speak at the 1999 American Public Health Association convention. The APHA bills Bradley as having "stood up for gun control and battled against tobacco interests" during his tenure in the Senate.
"Lawyers in Fla.'s Big Tobacco Reap $50 Mil" The Law News Network reports, "The opposition has ended to a $349 million settlement in a suit two Miami attorneys brought against the tobacco industry on behalf of airline flight attendants exposed to onboard smoke."
short-lived victory of the day Florida Court Will Reconsider Ruling That Favors Tobacco Firms in Lawsuit The Wall Street Journal reports, "A Florida state appeals court reopened the threat of huge punitive damages against tobacco companies in a class-action lawsuit by saying it will reconsider a ruling it made two weeks ago. The earlier decision had been considered an important victory for cigarette makers. Florida's Third District Court of Appeal on Friday vacated its Sept. 3 order requiring that smokers' claims for punitive as well as compensatory damages in the suit be heard individually. The court said it will hear oral arguments on the issue Sept. 30. If the judges change their stance, the so-called Engle case filed against the country's top five tobacco companies could again pose a significant danger to cigarette makers. "In the absence of another favorable ruling for the industry, Engle once again becomes threatening," said Martin Feldman, a tobacco-industry analyst at Salomon Smith Barney in New York."
junk commentary of the day "Stronger storms are on the horizon" NRDC's Daniel Lashof writes in the San Jose Mercury News, "In response to warnings that a massive storm was bearing down on us, governments and citizens responded swiftly. Damage from Floyd was minimized by a combination of precautionary action and good luck. Though the time frame is years rather than days, we have been put on notice of the threat from global warming. We can't count on our luck holding. It is time to respond and begin reducing global-warming pollution."
"For the Clintons: Toxic Reports and T-Shirts" The New York Times reports, "The welcome-to-the-neighborhood gifts for the President and Hillary Rodham Clinton include a handsome 76-page report listing the toxic spills and other environmental hazards within one mile of their dream house."
"Environmentalists, GOP Headed for Showdown" The Los Angeles Times reports, "Environmentalists are bracing for a fierce end-of-session battle with congressional Republicans over a spate of GOP proposals aimed at limiting enforcement of some environmental regulations, including several affecting California."
"Accuracy for Gene Tests Unregulated" The Los Angeles Times reports, "A gene test concluded Nancy Seeger was at greatly increased risk of getting breast and ovarian cancer, so the Illinois woman, who had watched cancer kill her mother and aunt, had her ovaries removed. Eight months later, Seeger got more devastating news: The company that tested her genes had made a mistake -she didn't have the cancerous genetic defect after all."
"Tyson poultry to irradiate some foods to neutralize bacteria" The Associate Press reports, "The nation's biggest poultry producer plans to test-market irradiated foods to consumers, joining a move to embrace a decades-old food safety process that astronauts have used but that has never been widely accepted on Earth."
scare of the day "Toxin warning on oily fish" The BBC reports, "Oily fish contains low levels of deadly poisons and should not be eaten more than once a week, the government has said."
commentary of the day "Barkers at pleasure beach side shows " About the media hype surrounding the mosquitoes in New York and Hurricane Floyd, Alistair Cooke writes, "The price, I think, that we've had to pay for the finest work of Woodward and Bernstein is two generations of morons who fancied themselves as reporters. Enough!"
myth-busting of the day "MSG's link to asthma questioned" Reuters reports, " People with asthma may have no reason to "hold the MSG" next time they dine at a Chinese restaurant, according to new research that suggests monosodium glutamate (MSG), an additive found in many Chinese foods, does not trigger asthma attacks."
"Is medical supply recycling risky?" MSNBC reports, "Reuse of supplies is a growing practice in medicine and involves all sorts of supposedly disposable items, from angioplasty balloons to surgical sutures. But is it safe?"
meeting of the day Scientists to share 'actual knowledge' According to the journal Emerging and Infectious Diseases (July-August 1999), there will be an international symposium titled "Antibiotic Resistance in Bacteria of Animal Origin" held at the Institut Pasteur, Paris, France, on November 29-30, 1999. According to EID, "This international symposium, organized as part of a European Concerted Action, will gather scientists from diverse disciplines (microbiology, epidemiology, ecology) to share data and actual knowledge on antibiotic resistance, especially in the veterinary field." [emphasis added] I guess this means the alarmists from the Center for Science in the Public Interest won't be in attendance?
"Scots and Welsh block beef on bone" The Times reports, "English consumers are being prevented from buying beef on the bone because of unexpected opposition from medical chiefs in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales."
Time features EPA whistleblower "Fight over sludge starts to get dirty" Time reports Congress will be asking EPA administrator Carol Browner about agency efforts to threaten and harass opponents of its sludge rule, including prominent EPA whistleblower David Lewis. The sludge rule permits the use of municipal waste in agriculture. A letter to Browner from Reps. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) and James Sensenbrenner (R-PA), and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) inquires about EPA senior scientist Alan Rubin's "threatening and harassing" phone calls to anti-sludge activists, efforts to silence a waste treatment company executive, and efforts to discredit EPA scientist David Lewis. Rubin,who sent one activist a note that read "Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee," denied the charges saying he regularly sends communications to EPA opponents, not to harass or threaten, but to inform.
junk of the day "Environmental Chemical Exposures and Risk of Herpes Zoster" A study in the October issue of Environmental Health Perspectives reports its results "support the plausibility of an association between exposure to the Aberdeen pesticides dumps site and immune suppression and the potential use of herpes zoster as a marker of immune suppression in studies of environmental chemical exposures." I don't see how, though. Telephone interviews were used to ascertain health history and "exposure" to chemicals. The results reported for the small number of cases identified aren't statistically significant.
"Uproar over tainted scrap metal: Idea is to recycle radioactive products" The San Francisco Examiner reports, "It is stuff that nobody wants: thousands of tons of slightly radioactive scrap metal that is piling up for disposal at nuclear reactors and laboratories in California and around the nation. However, under a scenario being discussed by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, this tainted byproduct may eventually be headed for American households -- in the form of thousands of consumer products made from recycled metals."
threat of the day "Nice restaurant you got here. Hate to see anything bad happen to it." The Guest Choice Network, a restaurant association, reports, "With all the tact of a mob enforcer, John Banzhaf, head of the alarmist group, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), recently wrote to leading restaurateurs asking them to 'reconsider' allowing people to smoke in their restaurants or face 'a real possibility [of] a lawsuit.'"
commentary of the day I "The New Profiteers Of the Tobacco War" Jonathan Turley writes in the Wall Street Journal, "Six countries claim that they were shocked--shocked!--to learn that tobacco could be harmful to their citizens. This epiphany appears to have occurred shortly after U.S. tobacco companies agreed to fork over $200 billion to the states in the tobacco settlement."
commentary of the day II "Regulatory Risks" The Detroit News comments, "In a case of critical importance to Detroit, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether compliance with federal safety standards protects automakers from liability lawsuits . Beyond the complex legal issues presented, the case demonstrates why government regulation often fails to protect the public."
"Have we got a climate catastrophe just for you!" John Daly writes in the New Australian, "No matter where you live in the world, the Greenhouse Industry modellers have tailored the impacts of the global warming theory to provide everyone with their own custom-made climate catastrophe."
"'Climate change cancels debt'" The BBC reports, "A United Kingdom charity says the developed world owes far more, because of its environmental profligacy, to the poor countries than the debts they have run up by borrowing from governments and banks."
'crying wolf' of the day "Plant losses threaten world's food supplies" The BBC reports, "[Worldwatch says] the world is losing plant species at a rate which threatens its ability to grow enough food, and to exploit other plant-based products on which hundreds of millions of people depend." Does the Worldwatch alarm bell ever stop?
"Confusion over GM rules in restaurants" The Independent reports, "Out of the 20 restaurants surveyed by The Independent, one-third were not aware of the government regulations that require them to identify dishes containing GM soya or maize. All but two said they did not plan to modify their menus."
study of the day Childhood cancer and ionizing radiation A new study in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention (September 1999) reports a 287 percent increase in childhood lymphomas associated with maternal occupational exposure to ionizing radiation during pregnancy. The authors proclaim, "The strength of our study is its population basis and the large number of cases who were identified..." While the study includes a relatively large number of cases (2,358), the spotlighted result is only based on 7 cases. The authors had the good sense to base their conclusion on the other 2,351 cases: "The results suggest that, in Germany at present, exposures to ionizing radiation do not play a noticeable role in the development of childhood cancers."
'fish out of water' of the day "Just Who Is Full of Hot Air On Greenhouse Gas Emissions?" Barron's reports, "In something of a role reversal, it looks like business leaders are going to have to do some arm-twisting to get someone to regulate greenhouse gas emissions -- the ugly stuff that pollutes the air and causes global warming." Barron's should stick to reporting on the financial markets and leave science and public policy to others.
junk commentary of the day "Food for thought" On the heels of the new CDC report on food poisoning mortality and morbidity, the San Francisco Examiner comments in favor of more federal regulation of the food supply system adding "Food safety is a non-partisan issue if there ever was one. Public health inspectors don't fly black helicopters. They are not part of a conspiracy to confiscate guns or teach evolution in the schools." Perhaps. But it is unclear exactly how more, or even different regulation is going to reduce food poisoning -- unless the feds plan on stationing the Food Safety Police wherever food is stored, prepare and served, including homes.
commentary of the day "Warning Signs" "The hottest weekly commentary to be found on the Internet, pulling no punches as Alan Caruba points out environmental lies and liars, political pandering, food police nutcases, animal rights lunatics, and the entire managerie of mis-information and dis-information."
"Ministers admit to 'illegal' GM trials" The Independent reports, "Government trials of genetically modified crops were plunged into chaos yesterday when the Environment Minister Michael Meacher had to admit the latest series of plantings were illegal."
"Tassie's ozone fear" The Sunday Tasmanian reports, "Skin cancer has increased dramatically in Tasmania in the past 10 years, a new study shows, reflecting a national increase due to an alarming depletion of the ozone layer."
"Researchers Find Two Metabolites of Gasoline Additives in Humans" The Chemical Industry Institute of Technology reports, "Researchers in Sweden and the United States have identified two metabolites of the fuel oxygenate MTBE in humans. Other than tertiary butyl alcohol (TBA) these are believed to be the first metabolites of MTBE characterized in humans."
"Storm Cuts Path of Pollution: Runoff a Threat To Ecosystems" The Washington Post reports, "As Hurricane Floyd swept through the Chesapeake Bay, it washed as much pollution-laden sediment into creeks and rivers as normally lands over the course of a year, burying fragile oyster beds and threatening seagrasses vital for young fish and crabs, scientists say."
"A socially responsible car for the new millenium" "A socially responsible car that is safe, light-weight and environmentally friendly is being made possible through the development of advanced, high-strength steels and world class design innovation, according to Frank Walker speaking at the British Association Festival of Science in Sheffield today (17.09.99)."
"Hurricane forecast calls for continuing activity after Floyd" "Our forecast for this season is based on the future being like the past," Gray said. "Similar atmospheric and ocean patterns as this year occurred in 1950, 1955, 1961, 1964 and 1995. All these were very active seasons. If we don't get an active year in 1999, it means the atmosphere for some strange reason has stopped behaving as it has in the past. We don't expect that to happen." So if 1999 is like 1950, 49 years of greenhouse gas emissions have done what?
"Speed limit will be cut to 50mph" The Sunday Times reports, "The government is to reduce speed limits and crack down on drivers who break them in a new offensive against the car. Limits on rural roads are to be reduced from 60mph to
50mph, and a 20mph limit imposed more widely in urban areas."
September 18, 1999
meathead at drkoop.con "The hidden dangers of grilling" drkoop.con's nutrition expert-cum-meathead Sharon Howard writes in this ESPN article, "Just when you mastered the fine art of grilling that delicious steak, you hear in the latest news blast that you have been serving up a cancer risk to your friends and family." Ignorant of the scientific data on this issue, Howard advises readers to reduce red meat consumption. For starters, Howard may want to touch base with the American Council on Science and Health, a drkoop.con partner. Check out ACSH's media release "Science Panel Seeks to Calm Concerns About Well-Cooked Meats."
"Company, plaintiff settle $23 million fen-phen case" CNN reports, "A woman who blamed the diet drug combination fen-phen for her heart damage will settle her case against the manufacturer for a fraction of the $23.3 million a jury awarded her." Click here for my Wall Street Journal op-ed on this verdict.
gang rape of the day "Drugmaker Set to Settle Diet-Pill Lawsuits" The Washington Post reports, "American Home Products Corp. is set to pay roughly $4 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits by consumers who contend that they were injured by fen-phen, a once-popular diet pill combination, according to lawyers close to the matter." Thousands of plaintiffs with bogus claims get between $125,000 and $1.5 million each. Personal injury lawyers get hundreds of millions. AHP management saves its own ass. But shareholders pay the freight for this travesty of science and justice. Worse, personal injury lawyers will be encouraged to pillage shareholders of other corporations with meritless claims in the future. Click here for my Wall Street Journal op-ed on fen-phen.
junk commentary of the day I "The Food Poisoning Toll" Anytime there's news on food safety, the New York Times comes out with an editorial advocating a "streamlined" federal food safety agency. But who has ever heard of the federal government doing anything in a "streamlined" fashion? And how would a federal agency safeguard consumers from their own poor food handling tendencies?
"New study finds tobacco use down markedly in Sweden" The Associated Press reports, "Not even one in five Swedish adults smokes tobacco daily, making it the first and only country in the world to meet the World Health Organization's target for cutting smoking, a new study has found."
"British scientists develop vaccine against asthma" The Associated Press reports, "British scientists have developed an asthma vaccine which they say could lead to a once-in-a-lifetime injection against a condition which brings misery to millions of sufferers worldwide." But how does a 30 percent reduction in symptoms equate to a "single injection solution to the allergic disease"?
September 17, 1999
report of the day "Global Environment Outlook 2000" Here's the new United Nations report that warns time is running out to stop worldwide environmental damage and claims it is already too late to prevent irreversible harm to ecosystems like tropical forests.
article of the day "Study: Weed killer OK" My article in the Chicago Sun-Times that reports, "A highly publicized study by the National Cancer Institute erroneously linked a widely used agricultural and lawn chemical with cancer in dogs, according to Michigan State University researchers."
commentary of the day I "Spitzer, Smog and Mirrors" My op-ed in the New York Post about New York's plan to sue Midwestern power plants over smog.
commentary of the day II "Land of the Free, Home of Bad Weather" David Laskin writes in the Wall Street Journal, "We don't need global warming to account for what goes on overhead. Our weather is plenty crazy without it. Hurricane Floyd is neither a freak superstorm fueled by idling combustion engines nor an ominous symbol of the impending millennium. It's a natural signal that our summer is coming to an end."
commentary of the day III "Genetically Modified Confusion" The Washington Post editorializes, "The proper balance of safety testing between companies and the government is a legitimate area for further debate. So are companies' environmental safeguards. But the purpose of such debate should be to improve biotech research and enhance its acceptance, not stop it in its tracks."
"China: Government Clears the Air in Run-Up to 50th Anniversary of Communist Rule" The Los Angeles Times reports, "As China prepares for the 50th anniversary of Communist rule, the government has decreed a breath of fresh air for the festivities. To achieve this, the Communist leadership will shut down 25 of Beijing's largest soot-spewing factories from Sept. 21 through the Oct. 1 anniversary--and will also ban polluting vehicles and garbage burning. After the anniversary, Beijing will resume its No. 3 ranking on the World Health Organization's list of the 10 most polluted cities on Earth."
statistics of the day "76 million food poisonings a year" MSNBC reports, "Contaminated food may cause 76 million illnesses and 5,000 deaths in the United States every year, federal health officials said Thursday, using information from a new tracking system." Click here for the response from the National Food Processors Association. In its formal statements, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note these estimates reflect "better information," not change -- even though the estimates of food-related deaths are dropped by nearly 50% -- but then goes on to cite food imports, restaurants, and "processed foods involving more people and more preparation" as "new challenges," implying the problems are increasing.
"Diet-drug case reportedly near settlement" The Associated Press reports, "American Home Products Corp. is near a settlement of lawsuits over a diet drug linked to health problems, published reports said Thursday. The Star-Ledger of Newark said the settlement could exceed $5 billion, and would settle more than 4,100 lawsuits brought by patients who used Pondimin and Redux, a drug combination known as 'fen-phen.'"
"Clinton urges Congress to fund initiatives for ozone protection" The Associated Press reports, " Citing evidence that the hole in the ozone layer is shrinking, President Clinton on Thursday offered the Senate an amendment to a 1989 treaty on reducing ozone-damaging chemicals and urged Congress to fund initiatives to continue that progress."
junk of the day "Hunted deer 'suffer less than thought'" The BBC reports, "A scientific study of what happens to red deer when they are hunted has concluded that their suffering is less than many people believe."
"Oxford group will rethink the environment" The BBC reports, "The [Oxford Commission on Sustainable Commission] has set itself the task of developing an action plan for sustainable consumption, to be ready for the UN's Earth Summit 3 in 2002."
"Salt linked to osteoporosis" The BBC reports, "Reducing salt intake could delay the onset of the bone-wasting disease osteoporosis, say researchers." Doubtful. There are many with hypertension. If bone loss was related in any significant way, this would have been noticed long ago.
'to do' of the day "MVP voting: A surge" Marie Curie is still cleaning Rachel Carson's clock in Nando's 'MVP of the Century' voting. It may be a stupid contest, but let's not allow Carson's legacy of death to beat Curie.
political payola of the day "Sick Paducah Workers May Get Compensation" The Washington Post reports, "The Clinton administration today will propose spending tens of millions of dollars to compensate ailing workers at the government's Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in what is described as a step toward acknowledging abuses committed against thousands of men and women who helped build America's nuclear arsenal." Click here and here for more perspective on plutonium.
corporate boneheads of the day "American Home Products May Be Near Partial Settlement of Diet-Pill Litigation" The Wall Street Journal reports, "Plaintiffs' lawyers and American Home Products Corp. are in advanced talks to settle a big chunk of the diet-pill litigation, with some close to the situation predicting the company is within days of announcing a deal valued at about $3 billion." In addition to screwing shareholders -- already in the hole more than $10 billion -- this deal will just encourage personal injury lawyers to shakedown other deep-pocket businesses with meritless claims. Click here for my recent Wall Street Journal op-ed.
junk products of the day "Baby Sleep Products Questioned" The Washington Post reports, "A burst of new products is now appearing on store shelves, colorful pages of mail-order catalogues and Internet sites with bold claims that they can relieve one of new parents' worst fears: sudden infant death syndrome. The trend is alarming medical and safety experts, who say most of the products that claim to reduce SIDS have never been adequately tested and may actually heighten the risk."
inflated figure of the day "Obesity healthcare costs US more than $200 billion annually" Reuters reports, " Healthcare costs for obese adults in the US, who constitute 22% of the population, have risen to $238 billion this year, according to a study released this week at the American Obesity Association conference in Washington, DC." But the study suffers from at least one serious methodologic problem; the researchers assumed if someone is overweight and has one of 15 medical conditions, then obesity caused the condition. Don't the nonobese get breast cancer, too? Also, the study appears to have ignored that the obese, on average, die earlier than the nonobese, thereby lowering health care costs.
scare of the day II "'Excess pesticides' found in groceries" The BBC reports, "Fruit, vegetables and groceries have been sold in British supermarkets with residues of pesticides over the acceptable limit, a government report has revealed."
"Hot crops: scientists look at global heat and agriculture" CNN reports, "Could Maine someday be the peach state instead of Georgia? Or could the climate of Central America one day turn sour for bananas? As states in the northeastern United States cope with the worst drought in more than a century, scientists are studying the possible effects of global warming on agriculture." It's too bad for these researchers that agricultural zones have been moving south, not north, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.
"Clinton Urges Effort to Halt Global Warming" The Los Angeles Times reports, "President Clinton called Wednesday for a new commitment to halt global warming, saying that unless humans reduce emissions of gases that cause temperatures to rise, the melting of polar icecaps will produce catastrophic consequences around the world."
"All bets are off" The New Scientist reports, "Climate scientists have ripped up their old forecasts of greenhouse gas emissions in the next century, warning that they could be much too optimistic--or too pessimistic. They say emissions in the year 2100 could be five times as high as today's, twice the level previously predicted. Or, just possibly, they could be slightly lower than today's. The biggest unknown is how technology to minimise emissions will develop."
junk reporting of the day "Designer-gene foods: Are they safe?" Francesca Lyman, MSNBC's resident airhead, writes about the recent Consumer Reports article scaring readers about agricultural biotechnology. If you're interested in genetically modified foods, get Fearing Food: Risk Health and Environment, the new book edited by Julian Morris (Institute of Economic Affairs) and Roger Bate (European Science and Environment Forum). Fearing Food features chapters by prominent experts on pesticides and biotechnology, including Bruce Ames, Dennis Avery and Michael A. Wilson. You can purchase the book through the junkscience.com store for $19.95 -- 20 percent less than through the publisher Butterworth-Heinemann.
chemical hero of the day "Deadly mosquitoes nearly annihilated" MSNBC reports, "Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announced that 90 percent of New York City’s mosquitoes have been killed by aerial and ground spraying, and that there are no new confirmed cases of people with St. Louis encephalitis since Monday."
"U.N. study links poverty, environmental woes in Africa" Agence France Presse reports, "Poverty and lack of expertise or money are aggravating Africa's environmental problems, ranging from deforestation and desertification to water supply and destruction of wildlife, according to a U.N. report published Wednesday."
consumer victory of the day I "Increased fuel efficiency standards rejected" The Associated Press reports, "The Senate rejected an attempt Wednesday to lift a five-year ban on government studies into whether fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks should be raised. The 55-40 vote to maintain the freeze was a victory for the auto industry."
consumer victory of the day II "Health insurer loses suit against Israeli cigarette maker" The Associated Press reports, "A judge rejected a health insurance company's lawsuit against a local cigarette manufacturer on Wednesday, ruling that a successful suit would subject just about any product to sanctions."
September 15, 1999
boneheads of the day "CMA Board Approves Children's Health Principles; Affirms Industry Commitment to Protect Children's Health" The chemical industry doesn't threaten children's health. The enviros don't care what industry says. The general public doesn't read PR Newswire. So what's the point of this media release? As long as industry acts guilty, it will be treated that way. Notice how this media release doesn't even mention how many children's lives are saved every year with the help of chemicals. The chemical industry's products are great; its PR is embarrassing.
warning of the day "UN warns of Earth crisis" The BBC reports, "The United Nations is warning that time is running out to stop worldwide environmental damage and says it is already too late to prevent irreversible harm to ecosystems like tropical forests."
lawsuit of the day "New York to Sue Coal-Using Power Plants" The New York Times reports, "New York State is opening a new legal front in its fight against pollution drifting from coal-burning power plants in upwind states with an announcement on Tuesday that it intends to sue 17 power plants to force them to clean up. This action would be the first by a state directly against individual companies owning power plants that send pollution in the air across state lines, Federal environmental officials and other experts say." But so-called "ozone transport" being a cause of pollution in the Northeast remains a myth, according to the EPA's science advisers.
junk of the day I "Research shows low lead in body can cause spontaneous abortion" "Medical scientists have known for decades that high levels of lead in the body often cause spontaneous abortions, but now a new study shows that lower lead levels can produce that result too." But what can really be proven by a study of 35 miscarriages among poor Mexican women?
junk of the day II "New USDA Study Shows Blueberries' Anti-Aging Potential" "According to a USDA study to be published in the September 15 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, a diet rich in blueberry extract reversed some loss of balance and coordination, and improved short-term memory in aging rats." 'Nuff said.
"Clinton offers satellite images of Antarctica to assist in global warming research" The Associated Press reports, "President Clinton, warning that global warming could bring cataclysmic consequences, announced the release Wednesday of classified satellite images of part of Antarctica to assist scientists in charting world climate changes." Since we've already given the Chinese our nuclear missile secrets, what more harm could be done by releasing classified photos of Antarctica to enviros?
"A Lesson from 'The Lost Squadron'" Robert Balling writes, "It’s a fantastic story of courage and enterprise. But why might Greening Earth Society take special interest in a story of vintage warplanes landing on Greenland’s icecap in July 1942 and being found fifty years later under 268 feet of snow and ice? Because, if those planes were sentient, they would find it hard to believe all these apocalyptic stories about melting icecaps that are a key ingredient of the greenhouse/global-warming debate."
"Mercury Showing Up in Midwest Rain" The San Francisco Examiner reports, " Rain contaminated with mercury from coal-fired electric plants is fouling Midwest lakes and rivers, according to a report released by several environmental groups."
Malathion'very safe', says CDC The Daily Environment Report reports (Sep. 15), "The decision to use malathion to control mosquito populations in a encephalitis outbreak in New York City was based on the pesticide's 'very good' safety record, city and federal officials said in defending a citywide spraying effort that began Sept. 9. 'This is a very safe chemical with a very good track record,' Roger Nasci, a Centers for Disease Control official advising the city, said at a Sept. 13 City Hall news conference. "To put new fears into the public eye when they're unwarranted is inappropriate.'"
"Wildlife retreats as climate warms" The BBC reports, "British conservation experts say climate change is already affecting plants, animals and birds, which are seeking to move beyond its reach." Good luck to them.
"Worry over GM food grows in US " The Guardian reports, "Americans are catching up with Europeans in their anxiety about genetically modified foods but still lag behind, according to a survey published yesterday."
September 14, 1999
Rachel Carson's legacy of death Malaria Clock posted on junkscience.com "100 Things You Need to Know About DDT" now features the "Malaria Clock," a counter of malaria infections and deaths since January 1, 1999.
"Danube pollution warning" The BBC reports, "The World Wide Fund for Nature says drinking water supplies in parts of Yugoslavia and neighbouring countries are at risk in the aftermath of the Balkan war."
commentary of the day "Bug Off" The New York Post editorializes, "Gotham has been waging chemical warfare on encephalitis-carrying mosquitoes for more than a week now - and, predictably, some folks out there are cheering for the bugs."
today's Gore-ing "Environmental Group Will Endorse Bradley" The Washington Post reports, "In a blow to his cherished reputation as a champion of the environment, Vice President Gore has lost the endorsement of the Friends of the Earth's political arm to his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, former senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey."
"Cigarette Sales Off 29% in State Since 50-Cent Tax Hike" The Los Angeles Times reports, "Figures released by the state Monday show that cigarette sales in California have declined sharply since January, when Proposition 10 increased the tobacco tax by a half-dollar per pack. Tax receipts show that the number of cigarette packs sold in California during the first six months of 1999 was 29% lower than the number sold during the same period last year." I guess Californians have taken their business elsewhere.
"Ads Raise Questions About Milk and Bones" The New York Times reports, "... in recent years, a vigorous campaign by vegetarian and animal protection groups, along with research suggesting that even a lifetime of milk drinking may not be sufficient to guard against bone disease, has put milk's advocates on the defensive and left consumers wondering who is right... Milk defenders argue that Dr. Feskanich's study was only one study, and that it was inconclusive because the researchers did not actually control the subjects' calcium intake but merely asked them about it."
study of the day I "Residential proximity to industry and adverse birth outcomes" A study in The Lancet (Sep. 11) reports, "We studied birth statistics in women living at varying proximity to major steel and petrochemical industries in Teesside, UK. We found no evidence to support the hypothesis that living close to these major industries led to adverse birth outcomes... Our data did not support a potentially causal role for local industrial pollution in adverse birth outcome in Teesside. This finding is unlikely to be artefact. The study period, size of population, and number of cases were large for studies examining the impact of air pollution in local areas. Errors in datasets, such as incomplete registration, would be more likely to lead to spurious associations than to no assocation in the direction hypothesised. One characteristic of our work is that our comparison populations were similar in socioeconomic characteristics. For a postulated association in which effects are subtle and epidemiology is near its limits,1 studies with negative findings must be offered for publication."
study of the day II Meta-analysis technique criticized in JAMA A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Sep. 15) throws cold water on the use of the statistical technique known as "meta-analysis." (Meta-analysis involves combining multiple statistically weak studies into a single, more statistically powerful study. It gained a great deal of notoriety when used by the Environmental Protection Agency in its controversial, and now overturned, 1992 risk assessment that concluded secondhand smoke was a human carcinogen.) The JAMA study reported that risk estimates were "exaggerated" by 35 percent when clinical trials with open outcome assessment (i.e., researchers knew which patients received drugs and which received placebos) were included in a meta-analysis. The researchers conclude, "... the lack of well-performed and adequately sized trials cannot be remedied by statistical analyses of small trials of questionable quality." An accompanying editorial notes, "If the quality of the component studies of a meta-analysis is poor, then a precise summary of those poor studies in unjustified... a meta-analysis may not only be deceptively precise, but may yield misleading results." So what does this say about the EPA meta-analysis of secondhand smoke? The studies combined by the EPA were case-control epidemiology studies -- a much more inferior study design than clinical trials.
junk of the day "Chlorinated drinking water and brain cancer" A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology (Sep. 15) reports a statistically signifiant association between chlorinated drinking water and brain cancer (glioma) in men consuming chlorinated drinking water for 40 or more years. The National Cancer Institute researchers conclude, "These observations deserve further attention, especially in view of increasing glioma rates." But the study, which included 375 brain cancer cases and 2,434 controls, relies on suspect "exposure" data. For 72 percent of the cases, drinking water consumption -- going back 40 years -- was estimated by next of kin. No association was reported for women. Also, their evidence of "increasing glioma rates"allegedly being due to "changes in exposure of etiologic agents" is also suspect given the lone study cited involved 80-year olds. Increased brain cancer rates among the elderly could EASILY be due to improved detection and reporting.
battle of the day: "Audubon Society taking on Enron windmill project to protect condors" Alternative energy meets endangered species. The Associated Press reports, "The battle to save the endangered California condor has hit another environmental snag: using windmills to generate power." Yes, I'm sure windmills are a viable way to reduce the burning of fossil fuels -- NOT!
"Cunningham hints at secret GM sites" The Daily Telegraph reports, "The locations of test sites for genetically-modified crops could be kept secret if protesters continue to destroy them, Jack Cunningham hinted yesterday. Mr Cunningham, the Minister for the Cabinet Office who oversees Government policy on GM crops, said that if tests could not continue openly because of the risk of destruction, 'then we shall have to consider alternatives'."
"Two leading researchers take issue with three recent studies on the effects of genetically engineered crops" "Two prominent entomologists, one from Cornell University, warn that three recent studies on the effects of genetically engineered crops have
distorted the debate about engineered crops and that this could have "profound consequences" for science and public policy. The article, 'False reports and the ears of men,' in the latest issue of Nature Biotechnology, is authored by Anthony M. Shelton, professor of entomology at Cornell's New York State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Richard T. Roush of the University of Adelaide, Australia. They urge that the public shouldnot be swayed 'by laboratory reports that, when looked at with a critical eye, may not have any reality in the field or even in the laboratory.'"
lawsuit of the day "GM foods groups face huge lawsuit" The Financial Times reports, "The world's biggest life science companies and grain processors will face a multi-billion dollar antitrust action to be launched in up to 30 countries later this year. The unprecedented lawsuits will claim that companies such as Monsanto, DuPont and Novartis are exploiting bioengineering techniques to gain a stranglehold on agricultural markets."
commentary of the day "Scientific mumbo-jumbo" Dale McFeatters writes, "In attempting to prove that gravity is a theory, not a law, the Kansas Board of Education fell
to its death from its 10th-floor headquarters."
"Elites Prosper at UN POPs meeting" Roger Bate writes about the UN convention on so-called "persistent organic pollutants" (POPs) and the efort to ban DDT worldwide. Bate says the methodology for this madness works as follows. First world countries agree on a precautionary principle-based text about chemicals that don't cause harm and no one really uses anymore. Third world countries and their delegates are then encouraged (read "bribed") to agree to the text. This results in an international POPs bureacracy. After the Convention becomes law, chemicals that are really useful will be added to the list." Roger Bate is the co-editor of Fearing Food: Risk Health and Environment, the new book featuring chapters by prominent experts on pesticides and biotechnology, including Bruce Ames, Dennis Avery and Michael A. Wilson. You can purchase the book through the junkscience.com store for $19.95 -- 20 percent less than through the publisher Butterworth-Heinemann.
"Health experts, manufacturers debate use of antibacterials" The Associated Press reports, "Antibacterial hand soaps provide extra protection against nasty germs like staph, E. coli and salmonella, but they aren't new, they don't sterilize hands and they aren't approved by the FDA. Nonetheless, consumers have made antibacterials a big business. Last year, retailers sold about $400 million worth of antibacterial hand soap."
"Banned pesticides still common in Latin America" The Associated Press reports, "Experts say that in the effort to push agricultural production to ever-higher levels, Latin-American nations have failed to create corresponding policies and programs necessary to safeguard workers and the environment from the harmful effects of pesticides."
"Pollution is down, so should laws go?" The Boston Globe reports, " From 1990 to 1997, Massachusetts manufacturers
reduced toxic releases to the land, air and water by 80 percent, part of a national trend as manufacturers become increasingly sophisticated and proactive in their approach to pollution control. Now, corporations say they deserve a break from some of the toxic chemical reports that are so often used against them."
"Doctors clash over breast cancer drug" The BBC reports, "Doctors will clash over the benefits of giving the drug tamoxifen to all women at risk of breast cancer at the European Cancer Conference in Vienna on Monday."
"Restaurants set to miss GM deadline" The BBC reports, "More than half of the UK's food outlets are not aware of next week's deadline for labelling genetically-modified (GM) ingredients, according to a BBC survey."
"Greenpeace rejects 'secret GM sites'" The BBC reports, "Greenpeace has dismissed hints that the government may hide the locations of genetically-modified (GM) crop trials if protesters continue to attack them."
"UK damaged by campaign against GM crops" The BBC reports, "The campaign against genetically-modified (GM) foods is damaging the UK's future prosperity, says Sir Richard Sykes, Chairman of the biotechnology giant Glaxo-Wellcome and President of the British Association."
September 12, 1999
junk commentary of the day "20th century legacy looks like environmental genocide" Paul VanDevelder writes in the Seattle Times, "We know that Dr. Jane Lubchenco, a zoologist widely regarded as one of the 10 most influential scientists in the world, delivered the plenary address to the same International Botanical Congress in St. Louis earlier this month, and made history. Or were we on vacation? If you missed it, Lubchenco announced, with chilling clarity and stern scientific certainty, that biological life forms on planet Earth have entered End Game." Send your comments to the Seattle Times.
poll of the day "Many Americans worry about produce pesticides" Reuters reports, "According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, '77% of people believe that eating foods treated with pesticides increases cancer risk.' However, an Institute review of thousands of studies 'found no convincing evidence that eating foods containing trace amounts of chemicals including pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers changes cancer risk.'" Click here for the AICR report.
"Food War Claims Its Casualties; High-Tech Crop Fight Victimizes Farmers" The Washington Post reports, "As the crucial fall harvest season approaches, many U.S. farmers and other agricultural workers are in a near panic because of escalating uncertainty over genetically engineered crops. Farmers planted millions of acres of the high-tech crops this year. But foreign buyers are rejecting them in droves, despite aggressive U.S. marketing efforts and assurances of their safety." If you're interested in genetically modified foods, get Fearing Food: Risk Health and Environment, the new book edited by Julian Morris (Institute of Economic Affairs) and Roger Bate (European Science and Environment Forum). Fearing Food features chapters by prominent experts on pesticides and biotechnology, including Bruce Ames, Dennis Avery and Michael A. Wilson. You can purchase the book through the junkscience.com store for $19.95 -- 20 percent less than through the publisher Butterworth-Heinemann.
"Warmer UK faces wave of tropical ills" The Independent reports, "Ministers have ordered an investigation into the dangers of malaria and other tropical diseases spreading to Britain as the climate warms up."
"Frankenstein Foods?" Newsweek reports, "That's what Europeans are calling genetically modified crops that abound in America. Exporters have been forced to listen."
"Soft drinks help fund schools but fuel health debate" CNN reports, "... critics say educators who allow soda to be sold on school property -- to help pay for extra-curricular activities -- are jeopardizing the health of young people." Does a soda at lunch time really jeopardize anyone's health?
"Warning Signs" "The hottest weekly commentary to be found on the Internet, pulling no punches as Alan Caruba points out environmental lies and liars, political pandering, food police nutcases, animal rights lunatics, and the entire managerie of mis-information and dis-information."
"Underlying creationists' fight is a quest for meaning" Ellen Goodman writes in the Boston Globe, "We can't teach children religion in the schools. But we can teach them about religion - its role in American life, politics, history, and the search for meaning. That's the real place for a unit on creationism. Take it, if you must, from a witless crone."
September 11, 1999
moronic commentary of the day "More than a flea bite: The US only has itself to blame " The Guardian links the U.S. mosquito problem with global warming and then goes on to say,"Americans need to sit up and take notice; they are using up global resources to which they have no right. They may have the wealth to protect themselves from some of the effects of global warming, but much of the rest of the world which will be hit even harder, has not. The US is stockpiling an environmental debt to the world which will have terrible consequences on the lives of millions, from El Nino in Latin America, to famines in the Horn of Africa and floods in Bangladesh. A few deaths in Manhattan might drive this point home." But St. Louis encephalitis historically has appeared at the end of periods of drought. And Hurricane Dennis just put an end the recent East Coast drought. While the drought may be explained by atmospheric conditions, what caused the atmospheric conditions is not known. E-mail your comments to the Yank-bashing Guardian.
junk commentary of the day "An Inadequate Arsenal for the Insect Invasion" Mark Winston writes in the New York Times (where else?) that we should give up chemical pesticides in favor of other "non-chemical, biologically-based alternatives." Malathion, he writes " will probably kill most of New York's mosquitoes, [but] there is no doubt that at least some will survive the chemical onslaught. Those mosquitoes with a gene or genes imparting some resistance to malathion could survive and reproduce at a higher rate than other mosquitoes, producing future generations that are increasingly insecticide-tolerant." His solution? "There are pheromones that disrupt the mating of the boll weevil, an insect that eats cotton plants, as well as parasites that can kill fruit-eating flies." But Mark, what about the mosquitoes? What's your non-chemical, biologically-based alternative? Encephalitis? Malathion will take care of the mosquito problem for the foreseeable future. The chemical industry should be encouraged to improve on malathion and other insecticides to keep one-step ahead of the insect resistance problem. Send your comments to the New York Times.
commentary of the day "Food for thought" The Detroit News comments, "Use of genetically modified plants will reduce polluted water runoffs from farms."
scare of the day I "Climate disaster possible by 2100" The BBC reports, "A draft report by many of the world's leading climatologists says emissions of greenhouse gases could rise hugely over the next 100 years."
scare of the day II "Regular painkiller use linked to cancer" The BBC reports, "People who regularly take higher doses of painkillers like aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen are raising their risk of kidney cancer, according to research." Assuming this conclusion -- formed from on unverified self-reported data -- is correct, how many people take 60 aspirin or 100 ibuprofen per week?
scare of the day III "Planet Earth under pressure" The BBC reports, "The world lost about 30% of its natural wealth between 1970 and 1995, according to environmental organisation, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). According to the report, if these trends are to be reversed, drastic action will need to be taken, including a making a massive cut in the level of carbon dioxide emissions."
scare of the day IV "Acids in diet threaten to erode athletes' teeth" The Daily Telegraph reports, "Athletes are at an increased risk of a new form of dental damage which is causing loss of teeth, according to dentists... Erosion differs from decay as it is caused by acids from the diet dissolving tooth enamel and, in the worst cases, wearing teeth down to brittle stumps." Since this has onlyl been reported in the UK, perhaps the real problem has something to do with the Brits' infamous dental care system.
juris imprudence of the day "Judge rejects mistrial motions in Florida smokers' case" The Associated Press reports, "A judge rejected mistrial motions Friday and pushed back the damage phase of a landmark Florida smokers trial by a month to allow a possible rehearing of a recent appeals court ruling." The judge in the Engle trial is a joke. He's a potential member of the plaintiff class and he won't recuse himself. He must like being overturned by appellate courts. Of course, the judge is no more farcical than the lawsuit itself, where the named plaintiff is a physician.
wasted effort of the day "Anti-alcohol ads pitch 'Binge Beer'" The Associated Press reports, "It may be advertised in some of Friday's largest newspapers, but don't expect to pick up a bottle of "Binge Beer" at your local store. The full-page ads with a sarcastic tone are actually a tongue-in-cheek attempt to curb binge drinking among college students. They appear in Friday's editions of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and more than 100 other papers." You know, having attended college in America, I can't say that I knew too many kids who read the newspaper, much less paid attention to the full-page ads. I'm sure even fewer remember what they read on Friday nights -- especially after a couple of beers. Are college administrators still that out of touch with their students?
billion-dollar figure of the day "Depression costs US $44 billion in lost work productivity" Reuters reports, "Depression is a common problem among workers, costing the US $44 billion per year in lost productivity, according to a National Foundation for Brain Research survey of human resource professionals."
"Details of GM crop trial sites may be kept secret" The Daily Telegraph reports, "The Government may restrict information about new trial sites for genetically modified crops in an attempt to thwart sabotage attacks by 'green' pressure groups, it emerged yesterday." Click here for Guardian coverage.
"Blow to British biotech" The BBC reports, "The Wellcome Trust, the world's biggest charity, has cancelled plans for a major biotechnology business park near Cambridge, UK."
"Pathologists 'must think dirty' on baby deaths" The BBC reports, "A leading pathologist has provoked controversy by suggesting his colleagues should consider foul play when carrying out post mortems on babies who have died." This certainly would shake up SIDs epidemiology.
September 10, 1999
scare of the day "Teen marksmen may be at risk for lead poisoning" Reuters reports, "Lead poisoning is one of the last things most parents of teenagers worry about, but among those who are competitive marksmen, it may be a real risk." Click here for the New England Journal of Medicine letter.
"AQMD Focuses on Dangers of Diesel Exhaust" The Los Angeles Times reports, "Expanding its role into new territory, the Southland's air pollution agency is crafting a sweeping strategy to reduce the health threat people face from breathing diesel exhaust and other carcinogenic chemicals polluting the air."
"Death in the ocean: Are steelhead, salmon victims of global warming?" The Sacramento Bee editorializes, " A warming globe would produce more evaporation that eventually must return to Earth, falling over the ocean in the form of rain. More freshwater on the ocean's surface could prevent nutrients many feet below from reaching top levels, where exposure to sunlight produces the base ingredient of the ocean's food chain -- plankton. Less plankton would mean less ocean life." Click here for sanity from George Taylor, climatologist for the state of Oregon.
cell phone elbow? Worker's comp claim submitted for cell phone use From the Occ-Env-Med-L mail list (Sep. 9): "A civil engineer has submitted a claim for work-related epicondylitis to a Worker's Compensation Board. He alleges that use of his cell phone in his car, for 2-3 hours daily, requiring prolonged periods of elbow flexion and discomfort, has brought about this condition. He has submitted copies of his cell phone bills for the last year to document the number of hours he spends on his phone."
peacekeeper syndrome? "Toxic exposure believable, colonel says" The Globe and Mail reports, "The army officer looking into allegations that soldiers were exposed to toxic chemicals in Croatia says that what he has heard so far has led him to believe the claims."
scare of the week to come "Pesticide report to name and shame" The BBC reports, "Supermarkets that sell produce contaminated with pesticides are to be named in a government report next week."
junk of the day "Increased Summertime UV Radiation in New Zealand in Response to Ozone Loss" A new study in Science (Sep. 10) reports, "Long-term decreases in summertime ozone over Lauder, New Zealand (45°S), are shown to have led to substantial increases in peak ultraviolet (UV) radiation intensities. In the summer of 1998-99, the peak sunburning UV radiation was about 12 percent more than in the first years of the decade. Larger increases were seen for DNA-damaging UV radiation and plant-damaging UV radiation, whereas UV-A (315 to 400 nanometers) radiation, which is insensitive to ozone, showed no increase, in agreement with model calculations. These results provide strong evidence of human-induced increases in UV radiation, in a region where baseline levels of UV radiation were already relatively high." First, the authors appear to have cherry-picked the data on UV radiation intensities. Second, they have no evidence that any changes were "human-induced." Lastly, more extensive ground-based systems have failed to detect increases in UV radiation. Click here for a related story about an alleged rise in skin cancer in New Zealand. To the extent there has been a rise in skin cancer, it has not been tied scientifically to ozone depletion (let alone human-induced ozone depletion) and may be due to improved reporting and detection. Click here for Reuters coverage.
junk commentary of the day "Accepting commercial sponsorship" Lisa Bero writes in the British Medical Journal, "Overwhelming evidence exists that single source sponsorship is associated with outcomes favourable to the sponsor's product.2-4 Although most documentation of industry influence on research concerns the pharmaceutical and tobacco industries, other types of corporate sponsors are also known to influence research reports." But Bero only focuses on sponsorship by corporations. What about sponsorship by the federal government and activist groups? Don't these agendas influence research reports? Send your comments to the British Medical Journal.
"Incidence of malaria among children living near dams in northern Ethiopia: community based incidence survey" This study in the British medical Journal concludes there is increased malaria around dams in Ethiopia. Click here for the accompanying editorial that says "The high profile of environmental issues has awakened us to the ecological dangers of global warming, pollution, destruction of tropical rainforests, overpopulation, and damming of rivers. The adverse health effects of these environmental changes are often cited but have not been as well documented... Despite the weakness of a case-control design, the authors of this study have convincingly addressed in their study design the issue of confounders such as altitude, seasonality, and use of antimalarials... Thus governments and aid agencies need to make a policy commitment to minimise the adverse health risks of dam projects by adopting an integrated package of environmental management strategies for vector control and effective public health interventions as part of community development activities."
"Darwin gets a makeover" The BBC reports, "Biologist Steve Jones is a brave man. First, he selects Darwin's Origin of Species as the single most important book to have been written this millennium, then he attempts to rewrite it."
"Fraudbusters needed to curb dud research" The Guardian reports, "The editors of some of Britain's medical journals yesterday called for an independent body to be set up to counter fraud, plagiarism and other misconduct committed by doctors and scientists their eagerness for academic status. "
"GM crop trials 'are not tough enough'" The Daily Telegraph reports, "Gpvernment trials of genetically modified crops this autumn have left the head of Britain's first biotechnology company 'uneasy' because he suspected that they were not rigorous enough."
"GM backlash leaves US farmers wondering how to sell their crops" Nature reports (Sep. 9), "As the consumer movement against genetically modified (GM) foods spreads across Europe, Japan and elsewhere, maize (corn) and soybean farmers preparing for harvest in the United States face a shrinking export market, together with growing demands from food processors that they separate GM from conventional grains. While American farmers generally like the convenience of the built-in pesticides featured by GM crops, they are fearful that their harvest will fail to find a buyer."
September 9, 1999
commentary of the day "EPA proposals may harm Detroit " Ben Lieberman writes in the Detroit News, "Critics of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) contend that it cranks out costly regulations that provide only minimal benefits. These critics are wrong. In recent years, the EPA has shown a penchant for peddling expensive measures that not only fail to do much good but may actually harm the environment and public health. The agency’s latest counterproductive endeavor involves emissions from sport-utility vehicles (SUVs)."
"'Stand Down' Ordered for Ky. Nuclear Facility" The Washington Post reports, "Energy Secretary Bill Richardson ordered a 24-hour "safety stand down" at the agency's Paducah, Ky., uranium plant yesterday after a preliminary probe uncovered lapses in programs designed to protect workers from harmful radiation."
criminal investigation of the day "FBI Looks Into the Approval Of American Home's Redux" The Wall Street Journal reports, "The Federal Bureau of Investigation is interviewing federal regulators about how American Home Products Corp. won the government's approval for a once-popular diet drug, people familiar with the matter said." Click here for my recent Wall Street Journal op-ed on the fen-phen fiasco. Click here for my 1996 article on Redux.
quote of the day "In addition, an epidemiologic association does not establish cause and effect." The quote is from an editorial about this New England Journal of Medicinestudy.
"Medical research hit by 60 frauds" The Independent (UK) reports, "More than 60 cases of scientific fraud have been detected in the past two years - putting patients at risk and under- mining public confidence in research, doctors reported yesterday. "
"Scientists To Present Research At UK Festival" Reuters reports, "Richard Sykes, chairman of Glaxo Wellcome Plc, who is president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, told a news conference the festival will also focus on the growing skepticism about scientific developments. 'This past year has seen an explosion of public anxiety about a wide range of issues including the safety of genetically modified food and crops, about BSE, cloning,mobile phone safety and even ways of viewing the total eclipse of the sun. Many of these subjects will be explored at next week's science festival in Sheffield,' he said."
"EU confirms to take Belgium to court over dioxin" Reuters reports, "The European Commission said on Wednesday it would press ahead with legal action against Belgium for belatedly informing the EU executive it suspected cancer-causing dioxins had entered the food chain."
"Traffic pollution found in nearby homes" Reuters reports, "Fumes from cars find their way into homes, and the closer the home is to a major highway, the more indoor pollution it contains, according to results of a new environmental study."
"Leaky Seas" The New Scientist reports the oceans are leaking into the Earth's mantle faster than they're being replenished, but not fast enough to prevent rising sea levels caused by the dreaded global warming. Click here for BBC coverage.
commentary of the day I "Better Genes for Better Living" Henry I. Miller writes in the Wall Street Journal, "Many people seem to feel that tinkering with genes is somehow different. New technology, especially unfamiliar technology that seems to disturb the
natural order of things, tends to elicit what George Orwell called "vague fears and horrible imaginings." Such apprehensions have a long history. Techno-skeptics predicted electrocution from the first telephones, believed Edward Jenner's early attempts at smallpox vaccination would create monsters growing from the site of injection, and doubted the possibility of matching blood for transfusions."
commentary of the day II "The Politics of Smog" The Detroit News editorializes, "Michigan should not allow the Environmental Protection Agency to impose new smog regulations on it that the agency may not even have the authority to promulgate."
the cost of fear I "U.S. grain merchants paying up for non-GMO crops" Reuters reports, "Grain merchants in the U.S. Midwestern Corn Belt said on Tuesday they have started paying a premium for export-bound soybeans and corn that have not been genetically altered, despite the higher storage and handling costs
lawsuit kick-off? "'Brain damage risk' from popular sports" Football helmet manufacturers watch out! The BBC reports, "... mental impairment among college students who play American football, or gridiron was found in a US study - with some athletes suffering long-term damage."
'oy vey' of the day "Sainsbury's goes green with G & T" The Daily Telegraph reports, "Organic gin and tonic, claimed to be the first of its kind, will be on sale in Sainsbury's next month. The supermarket chain, which will announce today that it is selling a record £2.5 million of organic products a week, will also celebrate what has become its fastest growing food and drink sector by launching organic vodka. The spirits, and their mixers, will be made from ingredients produced without artificial chemical pesticides and fertilisers." Compare this article with one from the last Sunday Times.
"New pesticide 'strangles' insects" The BBC reports, "Australian researchers are developing a new sort of pesticide which "strangles" insects by preventing them from shedding their shells as they grow." Hmmm... what sort of scare could the enviros start about this pesticide? Children exposed to this pesticide won't be able to take their underwear off?
"GM expert calls for tougher tests" The BBC reports, "A leading pro-GM scientist has called for safer tests in genetically modified crop trials. Dr. Andrew Chesson admitted that some current safety tests could allow harmful substances to enter the human food chain."
expert witness 'integrity' of the day: Fen-phen and birth defects A Massachusetts personal injury lawyer writes to fellow members of the American Trial Lawyers Association (ATLA): "I am currently looking into a Fen-Phen birth defect case wherein I have a well respected treating neonatologist who is willing to help provided I can point to other cases involving similar injuries and allegations." Hmmm... if the neonatologist truly is of the opinion that the diet drug combination fen-phen caused a birth defect then why does he need "cover" to encourage his testimony?
malathion: hero of the day "Spraying Expands to Fight Virus Borne by Mosquitoes" The New York Times reports, "City officials battling an outbreak of St. Louis encephalitis expanded their campaign of aerial pesticide spraying Monday to thousands of acres of Bronx parkland along the East River and Long Island Sound up to Westchester County." I guess the "integrated pest management" strategy advocated by enviros wouldn't work?
junk proposal of the day EPA proposes radiation protection standards for Yucca Mountain EPA has proposed to set a 25-millirem (mrem) annual limit for radiation exposures to the general public at the Yucca Mountain radioactive waste storage facility. The average annual background radiation exposure in the U.S. is about 360 millirems per year. The proposed EPA standard is within the natural variation of background radiation exposures across the U.S. If you were stand on the ground floor of at the EPA headquarters for one year, you would receive approximately 40 millirems of radiation from the concrete. Go figure why Yucca Mountain has to be safer than the EPA's on building. Besides, other than workers -- who are allowed to receive 5,000 mrems of exposure per year -- who's going to go to Yucca Mountain anyway?
'heart in the right place' of the day "Risky Business" The Detroit News is right to editorialize for requiring government agencies to make the scientific data underlying their regulations available to the public. But the statement "It is now widely accepted that EPA’s soot standard would have directly saved only 840 lives. And reductions in ground level-ozone, far from saving lives, would have produced 25 to 50 more deaths every year from skin cancer because of increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation," is without factual basis. There is no consensus that the soot standard would save any lives at all and there is no evidence that reducing smog would increase skin cancer incidence.
"It's official: safe sex means a one-night stand" About the new security guidelines drafted by the Department of Energy, which oversees all nuclear weapons development, dictate that 'close and continuing contact' with members of the opposite - or indeed same - sex from a list of 25 countries must be reported to security officers within five days, the Daily Telegraph (UK) reports, "Edward Curran, the department's director of counter-intelligence, said: 'You can ridicule it if you like, but we had to define what constitutes 'contacts' because the scientists said they couldn't do it for themselves.'" No problem.
'junk science in the making' of the day "How fit is your semen?" The Guardian reports, "Thousands of Scottish men will this week receive letters asking for a sperm sample and details of their lifestyle. They will also be asked to forward a questionnaire to their mothers asking for information about
their diet while they were pregnant." Uncontrolled data collection can only lead to the phenomenon of "garbage in, garabge out."
'conservative estimate' of the day "Towers, antennas silencing songbirds" USA Today reports (Sep. 2), "Scientists and federal officials are becoming increasingly concerned about the deaths of migrating birds that run headfirst into communications towers... Scientists say that a conservative estimate puts the number of birds killed in tower crashes at 4 million annually."
"Ozone Layer: CFC success clouds hidden dangers" Michael Peel writes in the Financial Times, "There are sufficient potential threats from global warming, aircraft and as yet unidentified ozone-depleting compounds to suggest that complacency is unwise."
September 6, 1999
"Doctors ask Congress to probe vaccine approval process" Reuters reports, "The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) on Thursday requested that Congress investigate the approval process for all vaccines after the rotavirus vaccine was shown to threaten the life of 15 infants who received the vaccine... AAPS has been studying the reportsc and has concluded that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) may have ignored or concealed data that showed the problems from the outset."
"King's highway" The Boston Globe reports on "toxic pollen" as a threat to Monarch butterflies. Perhaps the Globe reporter should have read this first.
"Charity warns against GM seeds" The BBC reports, "ActionAid says having these farmers buying seed each year would bolster seed companies' profits, and it fears that aggressive marketing could force the farmers onto 'an expensive treadmill of dependence on the firms' seeds and chemicals. This would mean increased costs and chemicals, but less biodiversity,' it says."
"Darwin's dangerous de-evolution" About the current debate on the teaching of evolution, Chet Raymo writes in the Boston Globe, "'Our school systems teach the children that they are nothing but glorified apes who have evolutionized out of some primordial soup of mud,' said House Republican Majority Whip Tom DeLay, by way of explaining the school massacre in Littleton, Colo... [but] I'm an evolutionist because I judge the evidence for the unity of life by common descent over billions of years to be overwhelming, not so that I can cheat on my wife or kick the cat with impunity. I live in no hope of heaven or fear of hell, but like most of my fellow Americans of all religious persuasions, I try to live a decent life. Folks like Tom DeLay just can't get it through their heads that a person can choose to live ethically because civilized life requires doing unto others as you would have them do unto you."
"Kids keep the faith amid evolution debate" Gersh Kuntzman writes in the New York Post, "In New York, the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools has been nonexistent. But even if creationism is not taught in school, its beliefs are espoused by students in the city's top schools, including Stuyvesant HS and the Bronx HS of Science."
"Chips, fries make up one-third of teens' veggies, study shows" The Associated Press reports, " Kids don't get fat just because they're couch potatoes, but because they load up on mountains of potatoes cooked the least healthy way, a researcher says." My non-tested hypothesis is the main reason kids may be overweight is they spend too much time playing Pokemon and not enough time running around outside.
junk of the day: "Creatine builds muscle, strength, study says" The Associated Press reports, "A new study gives biological support to athletes' perceptions that they get stronger when they take creatine." Aside from a June 1999 report from a panel of experts that concluded creatine is not the muscle builder and performance booster many athletes think it is, this study involved only 19 men. The group receiving creatine reported an extra 3 percent gain, on average, in lean body mass. As anyone who as ever lifted weights knows, there are many factors that affect muscle and strength development, including genetics, diet, rest, body type (mesomorph, ectomorph, endomorph), type of workout, weight, body proportions (long/short arms and legs, barrell chest, etc.) -- the list goes on and on. I find it hard to believe that all these factors were so tightly controlled that a 19-subject study can confidently identify a 3 percent difference attributable to creatine. This study shouldn't encourage anyone to shell out the high price asked for creatine supplements.
September 5, 1999
"Bitter Harvest: Seed firms to press on with gene research despite public concern about altered foods" Barron's reports, "Despite the recent backlash against genetically engineered crops, companies such as DuPont, Novartis and Monsanto are likely to press ahead with their efforts in this area -- and wisely so." If you're interested in genetically modified foods, get Fearing Food: Risk Health and Environment, the new book edited by Julian Morris (Institute of Economic Affairs) and Roger Bate (European Science and Environment Forum). Fearing Food features chapters by prominent experts on pesticides and biotechnology, including Bruce Ames, Dennis Avery and Michael A. Wilson. You can purchase the book through the junkscience.com store for $19.95 -- 20 percent less than through the publisher Butterworth-Heinemann.
"Poison risk is greater from organic foods, says scientist" The Sunday Times (UK) reports, "Organic food is 30 times more likely to poison you than conventional food, according to a leading scientist and top government adviser. Professor Alan Gray, acting chairman of the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, which advises the government on the safety of genetically modified (GM) crops and other "novel" organisms, said it was a "myth" that organic food was safer."
junk research of the day: "Lung cancer vaccine on trial" The Sunday Times (UK) reports, "Scinetists are developing a lung cancer vaccine that could protect smokers. A device similar to an asthma inhaler, to be used between cigarettes, could repair the destruction wrought by toxic chemicals." Since lung cancer may take 20 or more years to develop in smokers, are the researchers planning a 20-year clinical trial?
dr.koop.con of the day: "Hailed as a Surgeon General, Koop Criticized on Web Ethics" The New York Times reports, "During the eight years he held the post of U.S. surgeon general, Dr. C. Everett Koop became one of the country's most authoritative and recognizable public figures on the subject of health... DrKoop.com, has frequently blurred the line between its objective information and its advertising or promotional content, and that his ties to business have not been properly disclosed. Until recent days, for example, the Web site did not give notice of an arrangement that entitled the company and Koop himself to a commission on products and services sold because of the Web site. Koop gave up those commissions on Aug. 27."
commentary of the day: "States take the tobacco money and run" Joseph Perkins writes in the San Jose Mercury News, "That state and local governments are oh-so-willing to use their tobacco windfalls for purposes that have nothing to do with thinning the ranks of the nation's smokers -- particularly kids -- shows that the legal jihad against the tobacco industry really wasn't so much about protecting public health as it was about filling state coffers with tobacco money."
"Red Cross fury over no-smoking underpants" The Independent reports, "The Red Cross is diverting its attention from disaster relief to more intimate concerns: the use of its logo on a pair of Y-fronts. It has instructed its top lawyer to get its famous emblem removed from a picture of pair of underpants used in a sexual impotence campaign. Hundreds of postcards, featuring a large pair of Y-fronts with a red cross across their centre, have been distributed to British cinemas to highlight the fact that smoking causes male sexual impotence. But now the charity is demanding that the postcards be destroyed. It says the use of the Red Cross on the underpants postcard could threaten the lives of people on the battlefield..."
"GM bosses want to pull out of UK" The Independent reports, "Top executives of Monsanto, the world's leading biotechnology firm, are pressing the board to pull out of genetically modified crop trials in Britain, because public hostility is damaging its business..."
"31 Viagra users die" The BBC reports, "Thirty-one people have died after taking Viagra in the first year of the anti-impotence drug being available in the UK, doctors have reported. Viagra cannot be pinned down as the direct cause of the deaths, although the majority of them were related to heart problems..."
"Enzyme eases fear over GM superbug" The Daily Telegraph reports, "The beleaguered genetically modified crop industry has received good news with the development of a technique that enables scientists to create GM crops without using antibiotic resistance genes..."
September 4, 1999
commentary of the day I: "A cancer-cluster myth exploded" The New York Post comments, "More evidence has emerged to challenge the myth of the geographic 'cancer cluster,' a favorite tool of fear-mongering environmentalists."
commentary of the day II: "Science education: From order to chaos" Michael Mechanic writes in the San Francisco Examiner, "For years, with little success, Christian fundamentalists have used pseudoscience to argue that creationism should be reinstated as part of the public school science curriculum. Thwarted by the courts, they have embarked on a new tack: If the Bible must go, then so must Darwin..."
legal triumph of the day: "Big Tobacco Wins Ruling On Lump-Sum Damages" The Washington Post reports, "...in a two-paragraph ruling yesterday, a panel of appeals judges in Florida's Third District stated that damages must be considered one smoker at a time..."
lawsuit of the day: "Paducah Workers Sue Firms for Leaks" The Washington Post reports, "Workers at the Department of Energy's Paducah, Ky., uranium plant filed a $10 billion lawsuit against three government contractors yesterday, accusing them of deliberately exposing thousands of employees to hidden radioactive and toxic hazards over nearly half a century..."
junk of the day: Whole-grain diet reduces heart disease in women? Women who consumed the highest level of whole-grain products (a median of 2.5 servings per day) had 30 percent less coronary heart disease than women who consumed the least amount (a median of 0.13 servings per day), reports a study in the September issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. But results are based on the Nurses Heath Study, a perpetual junk science machine. All of the dietary data in the NHS has been self-reported and never verified. The reduction in risk is too small to be reliably detected by such data.
junk commentary of the day: "Indifferent to a Planet in Pain" Bill McKibben writes in the New York Times, "Ten years ago, global warming was a strong hypothesis. Now, after a decade of intensive research, scientists around the world have formed an ironclad consensus that we are heating the planet." Consensus? Ironclad? The Civil War ironclads Monitor and Merrimac rest at the bottom of the Atlantic -- that's where the notion of a consensus on global warming belongs, too. Send your comments to the New York Times.
'must read' of the day: "Fearing Food: Risk, Health and Environment" Fearing Food: Risk Health and Environment is a great new book edited by Julian Morris (Institute of Economic Affairs) and Roger Bate (European Science and Environment Forum). Fearing Food features chapters by prominent experts on pesticides and biotechnology, including Bruce Ames, Dennis Avery and Michael A. Wilson. You can purchase the book through the junkscience.com store for $19.95 -- 20 percent less than through the publisher Butterworth-Heinemann. Such a deal! If you're still afraid of e-commerce, you can phone in your order toll free at 1-800-266-8219.
junk of the day I: "Bottling it up could reduce fertility" The BBC reports, "A study, presented at a British Psychological Society conference in Leeds,... suggested that 'new men,', who find it easier to talk about their feelings, could be more likely to be fertile." Case closed.
commentary of the day: "Save malaria now" Ken Smith writes in the Washington Times (Sep. 2), "DDT, editorialized the British Medical Journal in 1969, 'has incontrovertibly been shown to prevent human illness on a scale hitherto achieved by no other public health measure entailing the use of a chemical.' Who now wants to save malaria from it?"
Theo Colburn-esque report of the day: "Marine diseases set to increase" The BBC reports, "Scientists believe that marine life is at growing risk from a range of diseases whose spread is being hastened by global warming and pollution." Like Theo Colburn's Our Stolen Future, this article in Science is a collection of anecdotes that have little to do with the pre-determined(?) conclusion. Here the scientists cite "... a number of well-documented cases such as seals infected with distemper by sled dogs, sardines infected with the herpes virus caught from imported frozen pilchards, and corals killed by a soil-borne fungus." What do these have to do with global warming and pollution?
"Crop trials seek to allay public fears" Nature (Sep. 2) reports, "Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) has announced plans for a five-year project to examine potential long-term risks of genetically modified (GM) crops to the environment. The move comes amid growing signs of consumer resistance to GM products in Japan.... Although MAFF officials predict that the risks of GM crops are negligible, they emphasize the importance of allaying public concern by tightening the safety regulations. In the wake of last month's decision by the government to label food products containing detectable GM ingredients... Japanese companies -- none of which has yet commercialized GM products -- are finding it hard to overcome the negative image of GM foods. Recent government decisions on GM organisms "are a real setback for Japan's GM industry," says Atsushi Suzuki, an adviser to Japan Tobacco, which is involved in the development of GM rice. Some companies are already retreating. Kirin Beer, one of Japan's largest breweries, last week announced it would abandon its research into GM tomatoes, and promised its beer would be GM-free by 2001." In a related news story, Nature reports, "The Australian government has decided to centralize regulation of genetically modified (GM) products in the hands of... the minister for health, rather than in the science or environment ministries. In a move seen as responding to public concerns about the health impact of GM products..."
"Breastfeeding can be effective birth control method" Reuters reports, "Breastfeeding for the first six months after delivery may be an effective form of birth control, according to a study of new mothers in seven countries." Are new motherssupposed to breastfeed and hope they're part of the 98 percent that don't get pregnant?
'politics over science' of the day (updated at 2:00 pm EST): "Anti-tobacco activists admit politics more important than science" Americans for Nonsmokers Rights refuses to correct or retract an article written by a prominent anti-tobacco "scientist," despite a plea from the scientist. ANR states it must put its "political credibility" ahead of the scientist's "scientific credibility." Check out this revealing e-mail exchange. Don't forget to thank ANR for its candor. And while we're on the topic of the anti-smoking industry, don't forget to order Don Oakley's great new book, Slow Burn: The Great American Antismoking Scam (And Why it Will Fail). It's available from the junkscience.com store at a lower price than amazon.com!
social phenomenon of the day: "Workers at risk of 'desk rage'" The BBC reports, "Stress at work is driving people to drink, insomnia and illness as long hours and growing workloads take their toll. And psychologists are reporting a new phenomenon of 'desk rage' with workers resorting to stand-up rows with their colleagues because of the pressure they face."
junk of the day: "Passive smoking and lung cancer in Chandigarh, India" This small case-control study in Lung Cancer [23(1999) 183-189] reports that childhood exposure to secondhand smoke was associated with a 290 percent increase in adult lung cancer. But the study is small (58 lung cancer cases), produced an unexpected result (other studies have not shown an association between childhood exposure to secondhand smoke and lung cancer) and is based on data of questionable quality (interviews with probable recall-biased lung cancer victims and no validation of smoking status). Also of note, 69 percent of the lung cancer cases had no employment history -- one can only imagine the implications of that for subject health and credibility. Lung Cancer might want to consider running old Blondie cartoon strips in place of this kind of junk.
scare of the day I: "Far from fragrant" The New Scientist reports, "Frequent use of aerosols and air fresheners in the home may make babies and pregnant women ill. British researchers say they have found evidence that chemicals in these products could be linked to headaches and depression in mothers, and to ear infections and diarrhoea in babies. " Click here for BBC coverage.
scare of the day II: "Back from the dead" The New Scientist reports, "Prehistoric viruses are lying dormant in the polar ice caps--and a bout of warm weather could release them into the atmosphere, sparking new epidemics. This chilling warning follows the discovery, for the first time, of an ancient virus in Arctic ice." Click here for BBC coverage.
scare of the day III: "Ozone hole has weakened since last year, U.N. says" The Associated Press reports, "The 'ozone hole' over the Antarctic is expected to grow this year, but it is weaker than last year because polar winds have eased, a U.N. expert said Wednesday." So I guess his job is safe for another year.
commentary of the day I: "Bombed by the Beeb" The Wall Street Journal takes the BBC to task for recent programming on global warming.
commentary of the day II: "A DDT ban would be deadly" Looraine Mooney writes in the Wall Street Journal, "The DDT-malaria issue is a stark illustration of the conflict between
the developed and developing world. For the sake of a possible environmental threat to birds of prey in the "civilized" world, millions ofpeople in developing countries are dying. This must stop. The U.N. delegates in Geneva should vote against banning DDT."
shakedown of the day: "Forest Service settles workers' suit alleging paint hazards" The Associated Press reports, " A worker-advocacy group announced it had settled a suit Wednesday against the U.S. Forest Service over the past use of oil-based paint that workers had blamed for giving them flu-like symptoms and placing them at greater risk of miscarriages... A federal health study completed last year concluded that hundreds of female employees at the Forest Service who worked with herbicides or special paint used to mark trees for logging were at an increased risk of miscarriage. But the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health study stopped short of blaming the paint for miscarriages or other health problems."
there's hope for Al Gore and George W. Bush: "Genetic engineering boosts intelligence" The BBC reports, "US researchers have genetically modified mice to be better at learning and remembering. Team leader Joe Tsien, a neurobiologist at Princeton University said simply: 'They're smarter.'" Click here for CNN coverage. Click here for MSNBC coverage.
"ADHD may be overdiagnosed, study says" CNN reports, "...the prevalence of children getting a dose of ADHD medication during the school day [in Virginia] was two to three times the national estimate of the disorder."
shattered(?) myth of the day I: "Life in the fast lane an illusion " The BBC reports, "Drivers caught in slow moving traffic often think that cars and lorries in the next lane are moving more quickly. In fact, scientists say, it is all an illusion."
shattered(?) myth of the day II: "Nothing to shout about" The New Scientist reports, "Forget wearing a footbal shirt and never mind screaming yourself silly: cheering makes absolutely no difference to the outcome of a complex sports event, says a researcher in Germany."
"New fix for carbon emissions" The BBC reports, "US scientists say they have found a method of combining carbon dioxide with ordinary minerals that could be a way of helping to tackle climate change." Note that the minerals will have to be mined -- the enviros will love that!
September 1, 1999
EPA memo of the day: "Cell phone alert" The Environmental Protection Agency warns its employees that cell phones should not be used near flammable liquids -- a scare that is a hoax. Click here for an earlier news release from the Canadian Wireless Telecommunciations Association.
personal injury lawyers' wetdream of the day: "Whiplash 'could cause Alzheimer's'" The BBC reports, "... a team at the University of Pennsylvania is claiming to have found the first physical evidence that even 'non-contact' injuries can trigger Alzheimer's." No longer will personal injury lawyers have to settle for whiplash damages on the order of thousands dollars. The spectre of Alzheimer's disease will make whiplash cases worth millions of dollars. Cha-ching! [music link]
junk of the day I: Maternal testosterone and daughters' smoking A study in the American Journal of Public Health (September) reports,"Prenatal testosterone exposure is a previously unrecognized risk factor for smoking among female offspring." This report is based on a study of 471 white women and their daughters (born in 1960-1963). The researchers hypothesize that "Prenatal exposure [to testosterone] may also lead to lifelong testosterone levels that may have other consequences such as higher novelty and sensation seeking..." But while the statistical correlations between second trimester maternal testoterone levels and daughters' smoking are reported to be statistically significant, the reported correlations are pretty small -- ranging from 0.12 to 0.18, where 0 indicates no correlation and 1.0 is a perfect correlation. No correlations were reported for first and third trimester maternal testosterone levels, even though data were collected. The authors also have no idea what biological mechanism might underly a relationship between prenatal testosterone exposure and daughters' smoking.
junk of the day II: Minimum drinking age and youth suicide A study in the American Journal of Public Health (September) reports,"[A minimum legal drinking age of 18] is associated with the rate of youth suicide We estimate that lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18 years of age in all states could increase the number of suicides in the 18- to 20-year old population by approximately 125 each year." An interesting conclusion given that the authors acknowledge in the text that, "...we were unable to determine whether those who drank more under less restrictive drinking-age laws were the same youths who committed suicide. Consequently, our conclusions... [cannot establish]... a causal relationship between these two variables."
perpetuated myth of the day: "Companion dogs as sentinels for the carcinogenic effects of pesticides" A review article in the current issue of the Journal of the Rachel Carson Council (1(1):1999) points to a 1991 study reporting that the lawn herbicide 2,4-D was associated with cancer in dogs [Hayes, HM. 1991. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 83:1226-1231]. They must have missed the news that, when the data from the Hayes study was re-analyzed -- after an 18-month battle to get the original data from the National Cancer Institute -- no association was reported. The re-analysis was published in the June 1999 issue of Veterinary and Human Toxicology.
commentary of the day I: "Candidatus no-backboneus" Phil Yost writes in the San Jose Mercury News, "Al Gore, the Harvard educated, practically-a-geek vice president, who worships at the altar of high tech and fears for the fate of the planet if we don't heed the warnings of science, at first said it's up to Kansas whether it wants to dump evolution from the curriculum."
commentary of the day II: "Recall food safety act" Ebere Akobundu asks in the Washington Times, "What are we accomplishing by attempting to make pesticides 'safer than safe'?"
commentary of the day III: "What do environmentalists want?" Dr. Ronald Knutson writees in the Daily Oklahoman, "I can appreciate that well- intentioned people would want to minimize the potential risks of pesticides, but I'm puzzled when the same people oppose a technology that would help accomplish this very goal."
anti-technology commentary of the day: "Why Genetically Altered Food Won't Conquer Hunger" Peter Rossett writes in the New York Times, "The real problems are poverty and inequality. Too many people are to poor to buy the food that is available or lack land on which to grow it themselves." But science and technology have proven to be great equaliziers in living standards and freedom. I'm confident that food biotechnology -- still in its early stages -- will yield great benefits to mankind. E-mail your response to the New York Times.
scare of the day: "Red meat may raise uterine fibroid risk" Reuters reports, "High dietary intake of red meats and ham appear to increase a woman's risk of developing benign uterine fibroid tumors, according to Italian researchers." But these paisans better think again before scaring women about their diets. Case-control epidemiology may be useful in identifying high risks of rare health effects (like the 1000 percent increase in lung cancer among long-term, heavy smokers), but not low risks (here only a reported 70 percent increase) of common health effects (fibroids in 20 percent of U.S. women). We won't even get in the reliability of unverified, self-reported dietary and health data.