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News and commentary in the Junkyard...

March 4, 2000

DISAPPOINTMENT of the day: "Court Upholds EPA In Fighting Dirty Air Crossing Boundaries" - "A federal appeals court yesterday confirmed the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to compel states to clamp down on power-plant emissions that contribute to dirty air drifting state to state. Many states, especially those in the Northeast, have long argued they cannot meet federal air quality standards unless pollution originating beyond their borders is sharply reduced," reports The Washington Post. Reuters coverage

This is a disappointing ruling:

ELECTORAL PANDERING of the day: "Bush and McCain Battle for Support on Tuesday in High-Stakes Territory" - "Mr. Bush flew to Long Island, the state's traditional center of Republican power, where he made a bid for support from women voters in a primary where polls show him in a tight battle with Mr. McCain. He appeared at a staged panel discussion of breast cancer, at the State University of New York at Stony Brook,... Mr. Bush's aides billed the event as a policy discussion on breast cancer, an issue that has been of particular concern on Long Island, where activists have suggested that environmental contaminants have caused high rates of the disease. Mr. Bush's campaign appearance was intended to underline a radio advertisement Mr. Bush has been broadcasting in the metropolitan area this week, portraying Mr. McCain as hostile to breast cancer research. As it turned out, Mr. Bush's forum was devoted less to policy and more to the campaign at hand. Mr. Bush did not offer any new proposals to deal with the issue. He wore a pink ribbon, a symbol of concern for the disease, and frequently had at his side the breast cancer research advocate Geri Barish, who narrates the advertisement attacking Mr. McCain," reports The New York Times.

It's not clear that there is anything special about Long Island in terms of breast cancer. The New York Times (Sep. 29, 1995) reported:
"...investigators are focusing on nongenetic factors to explain the high breast cancer rates on Long Island. One reason for this emphasis was offered by Dr. Marilie Gammon, a Columbia University statistician who is a principal investigator for a study, mandated by Congress and administered by the National Cancer Institute, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, to look into the Long Island cancer rates.

The breast cancer incidence among women in Nassau and Suffolk counties, Dr. Gammon said, is no higher than it is in other places where there are similar populations of affluent, educated white women. For unknown reasons, there is more breast cancer among such women than among black or Hispanic women, those who are poor or those who live in rural areas.

The Long Island rates look high because they are compared with the rates in New York State, which has many rural areas, and New York City, which has a high proportion of minority and poor women, Dr. Gammon said, adding, 'The fact is that Long Island women were savvy enough to figure out that they had high rates of breast cancer.' She said she and her colleagues hope to understand what it is about affluent, educated white women that makes them so susceptible to the disease. Long Island, for that reason, 'is a great place to go and study breast cancer,' she added."

I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out that the reason affluent white women appear to have more breast cancer is they have more frequent breast exams -- so they have more breast cancer detected and diagnosed.

RULES FOR FOOLS: "Tighter Rules for 'Organic' Food Eyed" - "As part of an effort to create the nation's first official definition of 'organic,' the Clinton administration has decided to propose a ban on genetically engineered grains in any food labeled organic, according to people who have been briefed on the rules. The guidelines would also ban pesticides on crops labeled organic, bar the use of sewage sludge as fertilizer, prohibit irradiation and tightly restrict the use of antibiotics in farm animals, according to advocates of tough standards who are familiar with the proposal," reports The Washington Post.

'Organic' foods are a huge scam -- over-priced goods sold to ignorant consumers.

"Turning the Tide on Cancer" - The Chcicago Tribune editorializes, "As with the War on Poverty, so many false hopes have been raised in the War on Cancer that there's a temptation to greet with cynicism announcements about new drugs and encouraging test results. Some skepticism is warranted. Nearly 30 years and 30 billion research dollars after Congress and President Richard Nixon launched this "war," half a million Americans still die each year from one or another of The Big C's insidious varieties. That's more deaths per capita than when the war was declared..."

After this brilliant beginning, The Chicago Tribune lapses into the same "The cure for cancer is within sight. We just need more research," stupor that has spent $30 billion with little to show for it. So far the main beneficiaries of the war on cancer have been the scientists who, by the way, are completely unaccountable for how they spend our money.

For more on this topic, check out John Bailar's New England Journal of Medicine commentary, "Cancer Undefeated."

March 3, 2000

PRESS CONFERENCE of the day: Greenpeace ducks Ben & Jerry's questions: Junkman shouted down at press conference - A senior Greenpeace staffer evaded questions from Steve Milloy about dioxin and Ben & Jerry's ice cream at a Greenpeace-sponsored press conference yesterday.

The presenters at the conference ranted and raved about how chemicals like dioxin were wreaking havoc with the public's health, particularly that of children and minorities.

During the Q&A at the end of the press conference, I placed a container of Ben & Jerry's ice cream on the table and asked Rick Hind, Greenpeace's Toxics Campaign Legislative Director, "If dioxin is so dangerous, why doesn't Greenpeace protest Ben & Jerry's ice cream?" After all, we measured the dioxin in Ben & Jerry's ice cream to be about 200 times greater than what the EPA says is 'safe.'"

Moreover, the amount of dioxin in a one pint container of Ben & Jerry's (320 picograms TEQ, according to our test) is eight times greater than the amount of dioxin in a cubic meter of smokestack emissions from the Waste Technologies Industries incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio -- the subject of the press conference's first presentation, made by activist Terry Swearingen.

But Hind wasn't interested in answering the merits of my question -- and he didn't. Instead, Hind said our Ben & Jerry's test had been discredited and I had no credibility. When I tried to respond by saying that we had two independent laboratories produce nearly identical results, I was shouted down and cut-off.

Swearingen -- East Liverpool, Ohio's would-be Joan of Arc (speaking of incineration) -- came up to me after the conference and said something to the effect that "Asking Ben & Jerry's to stop selling ice cream because it contains dioxin is like asking a woman to cut-off her breasts because they contain dioxin." Swearingen suffered a meltdown when I informed her that scientific studies have failed to link dioxins, and PCBs with breast cancer.

As I was leaving the press conference, Hind suggested that we should debate the dioxin controversy some time. [Rick: If you read this, you can reach me at milloy@cais.com to schedule a debate.]

Other Greenpeace staffers were not at all happy that I attended -- and they let me know it with verbal assaults. The person in charge of attendance-taking warned me that, next time, I should identify myself on the sign-up sheet. I guess signing "Steve Milloy" on the sheet wasn't good enough. They should be happy I came, though. My presence alone boosted the non-Greenpeace audience by 10-20 percent.

Greenpeacers are very proud when they interfere -- illegally -- with shipping, oil drilling and other industrial activities. But they don't like it when the tables are turned on them -- legally.

JUNK of the day: "Joint Effect of Diet and Environmental Tobacco Smoke on Risk of Lung Cancer Among Nonsmokers" - A brief study about diet, secondhand smoke and lung cancer risk in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (March 1) reports "These results add weight to the causal interpretation of the association between ETS and lung cancer..."

This study is a partial re-hash of last year's infamous IARC study on secondhand smoke. That study failed to report statistically significant associations between secondhand smoke and lung cancer. But the accompanying editorial claimed the study supported "the inescapable scientific conlusion that ETS is a low-level carcinogen."

This new study is more of the same. Only 3 of the 24 reported associations are significant. I can only imagine how many associations the researchers actually attempted, but didn't report. Nonsignificant associations -- particularly those that are weak and probably cherry-picked -- are meaningless.

COMMENTARY of the day I: "Scientists Embrace Food Biotechnology, But Some Food Companies Run for Cover" - Elizabeth Whelan writes, "American consumers are better served by corporate leaders who stick with science, instead of running for the tall grass the moment strident, ill-informed critics of food technology try to foment unfounded fears."

COMMENTARY of the day II: "Warning Signs" - Global warming, Ralph Nader and Earth Day are featured in Alan Caruba's weekly column.

BOOB JOB of the day: "Caution on breast implants" - The Boston Globe editorializes, "Through all the controversy about the safety of silicone-gel breast implants, little attention was paid to the alternative, saline implants. Lest anyone think this is because they have a clean bill of health, the Food and Drug Administration is hearing evidence this week of problems with these devices."

LETTER-TO-THE-EDITOR of the day: Stott on Greenpeace ambush - Philip Stott writes in The Times, "The ambushing by Greenpeace UK of a ship (report, February 28) carrying a cargo which looks to the future represents a self-indulgence that can no longer be tolerated."

"U.S. should eliminate gasoline additive MTBE - EPA" - "The Environmental Protection Agency said on Thursday that gasoline additive MTBE poses a significant risk to the nation's drinking water supply and should be reduced or eliminated as quickly as possible," reports Reuters.

"Study links vitamin C pills with faster clogging of the arteries" - "A new study raises the disturbing possibility that taking vitamin C pills may speed up hardening of the arteries. Researchers called their discovery a surprise and cautioned that more experiments are needed to know for sure whether megadoses of the vitamin actually are harmful," reports CNN.

"Compound might prevent or delay 'mad cow' disease" - "A new class of compounds might be used to treat and even prevent "mad cow" disease and related diseases, U.S. government researchers said on Thursday," reports Reuters.

"Case of mad cow disease prompts firing of 110 at Danish slaughterhouse" - "Danish Crown, Denmark's largest slaughterhouse, said Thursday it has fired 110 employees because of the drop in demand for its meat following a mad cow disease scare. One Danish-born cow was destroyed in late January because it had the disease, authorities said Monday. They protectively recalled some meat products. Neighboring Norway, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have barred imports of Danish meat, and some Swedish supermarket chains voluntarily pulled the meat from their shelves," reports the AP.

March 2, 2000

MEDIA OMISSION of the day: IARC: IV-bag plasticizer should not be regulated as a carcinogen - A major component of polyvinyl IV-bags, di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), was declared "not classifiable" as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) on February 22. The "not classifiable" rating is bureaucrat-ese for, "There's no evidence that DEHP causes cancer in humans." But don't bother looking for more information in other news media. Despite earlier fearmongering about DEHP, there is not a single news report of this significant down-grading -- anywhere.

Remember these headlines from last year?
  • "Vinyl is too dangerous," Toronto Star, 3/12/99
  • "Vinyl IV Bags to Give Way to Safer Alternatives," Medical Industry Today, 4/8/99
  • "Groups assert IV bags pose danger to multiple organs," Chicago Tribune, 6/21/99
  • "Bad Medicine: The Dangers of Vinyl Hospital Supplies," E, 7/1/99
  • "'Health danger' from hospital PVC drip bags," South China Morning Post, 10/21/99

Junkscience.com readers were warned a year ago that this Greenpeace/Health Care Without Harm scare had no scientific basis.

CONSUMERDISTORTS.COM of the day: "Science, Precaution and Food Safety: How Can We Do Better?" - Consumers Union's Ed Groth blathers on about use of the precautionary principle in making food safety decisions.

STUDY of the day: "No picnic for the birds: Examining the effects of human activity on bald eagles " - "Researchers Robert Steidl of the University of Arizona and Robert Anthony of Oregon State University wanted to assess the effects that increased recreation in wilderness areas would have on the populations of eagles living along the Gulkana National Wild River in south central Alaska. The results of their work provide staggering numbers; humans camped near nests caused a pronounced change in the way adult eagles spent their time. Adult eagles decreased some activities by as much as 59% per day when humans were nearby. In addition, the percentage of time that they left their nesting area unattended increased by 24 percent."

Human encroachment probably played a large part in the great bird declines that are usually attributed to DDT. As pointed out in "100 Things You Should Know About DDT," stress from noise, fear or excitement and disease is associated with egg shell thinning. [Scott, HM et al.. 1944. (Physiological stress thins shells) Poultry Science 23:446-453; Draper, MH & PE Lake. 1967. Effects of stress and defensive responses. In Environmental Control in Poultry Production, Oliver and Boyd, London; Reid, BL. 1971. (Effects of stress on laying birds) Farm Technology, Fall 1971; Sykes, AH. 1955 (Adrenaline excess inhibits shell formation) Poultry Science 34: 622-628]

UNABOMBER COMMENTARY of the day: "Just say no to biotech business" - The Guardian's George Monbiot writes another anti-biotechnology column, concluding that "Genetic engineering has become one of the great tests of Tony Blair's premiership. If he flunks it, he will validate his reputation as the corporate prime minister, who treats the electorate with contempt."

BIOTECH ROUND-UP:

    "GM Conference Ends Divided" - "Scientists at an international conference in Scotland have said no significant effects have yet been detected on human health from eating GM foods," reports NewsRoom.

    "No evidence of harmful effects of GM food-OECD" - "Scientists at the first international conference on GM food said on Wednesday there is no medical evidence to date that genetically modified foods are not safe to eat -- but they called for more tests into their long-term effects," reports Reuters.

    "Euro Grain-GM feed labels needed to ease fears" - "Guidelines for the labelling of genetically modified animal feed in the European Union are needed to reassure nervous consumers as the debate over the safety of GM crops heats up, industry officials said," reports Reuters.

    "Superior crops or 'Frankenfood'?" - "Americans begin to reconsider blasé attitude toward genetically modified food," reports The Christian Science Monitor.

    "£25m biotechnology centres to study GMOs" - "Three biotechnology centres are to be built in Ireland at a cost of £25 million. They will carry out research in agriculture, including GM foods, under an investment programme to be implemented by Teagasc, the State's agricultural research body," reports The Irish Times.

    "Adviser Calls for International GM Foods Panel" - "Britain's chief scientific adviser called Tuesday for an international panel to keep the public informed about issues concerning genetically modified food and biotechnology. Sir Robert May told a meeting on the safety of GM food that the forum could be similar to the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that was set up to tackle the challenge of global warming," reports Reuters.

"Advisory board says some saline breast implants are safe enough to sell " - "Though saline-filled breast implants break open at 'alarmingly high' rates and require women to undergo repeated surgeries, at least one brand is safe enough to continue selling as long as women are properly warned of the risks, a government advisory board decided late Wednesday," reports the AP.

"US panel reviews safety of saline breast implants" - "Jennifer Gardner said on Wednesday her saline-filled breast implants gave her confidence after cancer surgery, while Patricia Faussett called them a nightmare that caused her a raft of health problems. The contrasting stories illustrated the testimony before a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel that is reviewing new data on the safety of saline-filled implants," reports Reuters.

"US adds charges to clean air lawsuits vs utilities" - "The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday announced new charges against 12 electric power plants owned by companies already being sued by the government for breaking the Clean Air Act law," reports Reuters.

One utility settled one of these lawsuits yesterday for $1 billion. I guess Attorney General Janet Reno-Corleone and Carol 'Luca Brasi' Browner are in the process of making the others an offer they can't refuse.

"Salt may hold clue to falling sperm counts-study" - "Iodised salt may be responsible for a decline in men's sperm counts in the western world since the 1950s, the journal New Scientist said on Wednesday," reports Reuters. Media release

What falling sperm counts?

"German sausage lovers risk BSE exposure - study" - "German boasts that their sausages are 'brain-free' may be wrong and expose consumers to mad cow disease, the journal New Scientist said on Wednesday," reports Reuters. New Scientist coverage

"Norway bans some Danish meat imports over mad cow" - "The Norwegian state food safety authority SNT said in a statement that the ban covered beef, mutton and goat meat. It did not say how long the measures would last," reports Reuters.

"Little ice age holds big climate clues" - "Chemical signals from two of the largest volcanic eruptions in human history have allowed scientists to refine the chronology of an ice core taken from a Wyoming glacier. The refined chronology indicates an abrupt end to the little ice age. 'Now that we have documented a quick climate change in the past, there is no reason not to believe it can occur in the future," said Paul Schuster, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Boulder, Colorado,' reports CNN.

Check the Archives for more stories.

By the Junkman...

A Child's Tragedy: A Parent's Character
CNSNews.com, 2/28/00

‘Scare’ Tactics in Reprocessed Medical Device Debate
Chicago Sun-Times, 2/22/00

Unreasonable Precautions
The National Post, 2/7/00

The Case for Public Access to Federally Funded Research Data
Cato Institute, 2/2/00

Ben & Jerry's or Bay water?
The National Post, 1/29/00

FDA label rule lacks
scientific basis

Chicago Sun-Times, 1/25/00

Al Gore has high risk of heart attack, study indicates
Junkscience.com, 1/24/00
Salon.com, 2/1/00
Deseret News, 2/2/00

Junk Science of the Century: The DDT Ban
Junkscience.com, 1/1/00
The Wasatch Courier, 01/25/00

Lying for the Green Cause
New York Post, 12/16/99

The Greens' Ear-ie Ad
Washington Times, 12/10/99

Glickman Sticks His Neck Out
for Science

Farm Journal, December 1999

Still a secret
Washington Post, 12/4/99

Tobacco-izing telephones
New Australian, 11/29/99

"The Insider":Whistling Blowing or Sucking Wind?
Junkscience.com, 11/12/99

Study eases gene-altered corn fears
Chicago Sun-Times, 11/4/99

The Biotech Rumor Mill
Investor's Business Daily, 10/8/99

Modif ied crops cause concern
Chicago Sun-Times, 10/6/99

Study: Weed Killer O.K.
Chicago Sun-Times, 9/17/99

Spitzer, Smog and Mirrors
New York Post, 9/17/99

Falcon's Fall
San Francisco Examiner, 8/29/99

Tort Lawyers Getting Fat
Off Fen-Phen

Wall Street Journal, 8/10/99

No chemical threat found
Chicago Sun-Times, 8/6/99

Dressing up the butterflies
Washington Times, 7/20/99

Fist's forgotten facts
New Australian, 6/14/99

Saving secret science
New York Post, 5/24/99

Report gives new life to mobile
phone phobia

National Post, 5/19/99

Fisticuffs
New Australian, 4/19/99

Fear and ignorance followed
Three Mile Island

News Tribune, 3/28/99

Save plastic IV-bags so they can
save you

Washington Times,3/1/99

No, ordering pizza won't save your
life

New York Post, 2/21/99

ADM's phony greens push ethanol
as fuel additive

Las Vegas Review-Journal, 2/11/99

Ban hysteria, not gas additives
Investor's Business Daily,2/10/99

By any other name
Chemical and Eng. News, 2/8/99

Science 'adjusted' to fit EPA policy
Wall Street Journal, 1/19/99

Cancer study was flawed
Deseret News, 1/14/99

Film Overhypes Pollution's
Danger

Detroit Free Press, 12/28/98

Slamming Science, Hollywood Style
Investor's Business Daily, 12/24/98

A Civil Action deserves Oscar for
inaccuracy

Cincinnati Enquirer, 12/21/98

Misleading headline
Bangor Daily News, 12/12/98

No smoking gun
Science News, 12/05/98

Undercooked meat and journalism
pose dangers

Dayton Daily News, 11/29/98

Health risks
Chicago Tribune, 11/27/98

Cooking beef and cooking news
reports

Washington Times, 11/27/98

Tobacco: Who pays whom?
Science, 9/18/98

Diesel gets new scrutiny
Dayton Daily News, 9/8/98

No conclusive evidence on cancer
Bergen County Record, 9/1/98

Silencing Science in the Climate
Debate

Investor's Business Daily, 8/7/98

For the Feds, Fat is Where It's At
Investor's Business Daily, 6/10/98.

Breast Cancer Drugs Hold Out
Hope -- But Not Certainty

Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/23/98

An Empty Uniform
Wall Street Journal, 2/10/98

Politics and the Promise of
Biotechnology

Genetic Engineering News 2/1/98

Medical Privacy Should Not Mean
'Secret' Science

Epidemiology Monitor, Feb. 1998

A Diet Prescription for Trial
Lawyers

Investor's Business Daily, 11/24/97

EPA's Peer-review Perversion
Public Risk, October 1997

Junk Science: It's the Law
Investor's Business Daily, 8/25/97

Relax...You Might Not Be Doomed
Public Risk, February 1997

The EPA's Clean Air-ogance
Wall Street Journal, 1/7/97

The EPA's Chemical Jihad
Investor's Business Daily, 11/19/96

The EPA's Houdini Act
Wall Street Journal, 8/12/96

EPA's Power Grab
Investor's Business Daily, 5/7/96


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