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Rock Stars’ Activism Could Be Put to Better Use

Bob Geldof’s Live 8 concerts scheduled for July 2 will spotlight the problem of global poverty ahead of the July 6-8 G8 summit in Scotland.

But like Geldof’s 1985 Live Aid concert, Live 8 it is a noble idea that, unfortunately, isn’t likely to make any significant or lasting progress toward reducing poverty in Africa.

What Africa needs is genuine economic development that can be sustained over time, a goal that has been continually thwarted by the environmental policies forced upon developing nations by groups such as Greenpeace — an organization publicly supported by many of the Live 8 performers.

One necessary step toward economic growth in Africa, for example, is eradicating the continent’s crippling famine and perpetual epidemics of disease. Yet, Greenpeace’s successful campaign against the use of pesticides such as DDT has resulted in millions of deaths from diseases like malaria that pesticides could have prevented.

If Geldof and the other Live 8 performers really wanted to help Africans, they would rock-and-rail at their Greenpeace friends rather than at the G8 leaders.

Live 8 consists of rock concerts in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Toronto and Philadelphia and features dozens of mega-stars including U2, Elton John, Sting, Paul McCartney, and Madonna.

Geldof’s vision is that the Live 8 shows will enable “ordinary people” to “show [the G8] that enough is enough” and to “demand from the 8 world leaders at G8 an end to poverty.”

“The G8 leaders have it within their power to alter history,” says the Live 8 Web site. “By doubling aid, fully canceling debt, and delivering trade justice for Africa, the G8 could change the future for millions of men, women and children,” it states.

Despite the rhetoric, it’s not at all clear how staging pop concerts to pressure G8 leaders on policy options of debatable merit will solve Africa’s problems.

But many Live 8 performers — including Geldof, U2’s Bono, Sting and Elton John, to name a few, have long and close associations with Greenpeace, from participating in protests to providing much-needed financial support. Greenpeace often uses rock stars and other celebrities in an effort to mainstream its anti-development, anti-technology — and, consequently, anti-Africa — agenda.

Millions of lives could be saved and economic development could be helped along if the Live 8’s rock stars pressured Greenpeace to end its senseless campaigns against the insecticide DDT and biotechnology.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency banned DDT use in the U.S. in 1972, the ban and its tenuous rationale was never intended to be applied outside the U.S. Environmental groups, including Greenpeace, nevertheless exported the ban, making control of malaria-bearing mosquitoes in poor countries essentially impossible. Every year, the ban helps cause hundreds of millions of cases of malaria and tens of millions of resulting deaths in Africa and other parts of the developing world.

Greenpeace is now trying to formalize a worldwide ban of DDT by pressing for the United Nations’ treaty on so-called “persistent organic pollutants” (POPs). Although the treaty is careful not to ban DDT outright, it makes DDT more difficult to use and so operates as a practical ban.

“The POPs treaty could virtually eliminate the use of DDT, perhaps the most affordable and effective pesticide and repellant in existence,” said Richard Tren of Africa Fighting Malaria, a nonprofit health advocacy group.

The World Health Organization estimates that the deaths and illness caused each year by malaria cuts the gross domestic product (GDP) of African nations by 1.3 percent and costs them $12 billion in economic losses. The Greenpeace-supported POPs treaty will only guarantee that such health and economic devastation continues.

While discussing the African malaria problem at the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, in January, U2’s Bono said that “no one should die from a mosquito bite.” Indeed. And now it’s time for Bono to put his influence with Greenpeace where his microphone is.

Greenpeace also campaigns against the use of agricultural biotechnology, including “Golden Rice,” which could help with the severe Vitamin A deficiency that afflicts hundreds of millions in Africa and Asia — including 500,000 children who lose their eyesight each year.

Scientists developed Golden Rice using the gene that makes daffodils yellow. The gene makes the rice rich in beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A.

But as pointed out by Greenpeace co-founder and former President Patrick Moore, now a vociferous critic of the activist group: “Greenpeace activists threaten to rip the biotech rice out of the fields if farmers dare to plant it. They have done everything they can to discredit the scientists and the technology.

“A commercial variety is now available for planting, but it will be at least five years before Golden Rice will be able to work its way through the Byzantine regulatory system that has been set up as a result of the activists’ campaign of misinformation and speculation, ” Moore said. “So the risk of not allowing farmers in Africa and Asia to grow Golden Rice is that another 2.5 million children will probably go blind.”

Twenty years ago, Geldof’s Live Aid concert raised $100 million for Africa, but he acknowledges on the Live 8 Web site that “poverty, famine and disease are still major problems in Africa.” That result isn’t surprising. Although the $100 million raised by Live Aid sounds like a lot of money, given the scope of the problem in Africa, it was a futile drop in the bucket.

Perhaps Geldof, Bono, Sting and other celebrities could make a dent in that problem by pressuring Greenpeace to stop its mindless campaign against DDT and agricultural biotech.


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Global Warming Heats Up in Senate

Global warming is a hot issue in Congress right now, but not just because of pressure from the usual suspects in the radical eco-activist movement. Instead, a few businesses are leading the charge — which happens to be calculated to fill their coffers at the public’s expense.

Though Americans already have successfully dodged the global warming bullet twice — the Senate rejected the international treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol by a vote of 95-0 in 1997 and President Bush pulled the U.S. out of the treaty in 2001 — there are three bills in the Senate that supporters are trying to attach to the energy legislation moving through Congress.

The bill that looks like it has the most support — but not yet enough to pass at the time of this column — was introduced by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M. It favors nuclear power, mandates limits on emissions of greenhouse gases, and would make consumers financially responsible for emissions in excess of permitted levels.

Bingaman’s bill was developed from the recommendations of a group calling itself the National Commission on Energy Policy — a somewhat misleading name since it has none of the federal government backing that its name implies. The NCEP, in fact, was established by a group of left-leaning private foundations, including the Pew Charitable Trusts, the MacArthur Foundation and the Packard Foundation.

These foundations have supported global warming alarmism for some time and so their support of emission caps is hardly unexpected. The NCEP, however, is co-chaired by John Rowe, the chairman of Exelon Corporation, the largest operator of U.S. nuclear power plants.

While it’s understandable that Exelon supports increased use of nuclear power, what seems far less above-board is the company’s effort through NCEP and the Bingaman bill to tax its competitors — producers and users of oil, natural gas and coal — thereby making consumers pay higher prices for energy.

Under the Bingaman bill, for example, power plants and industrial facilities whose emissions of carbon dioxide exceed allowances (to be determined in the future by government bureaucrats) would be forced to purchase “extra” allowances from the federal government at a cost of $7 per ton of carbon dioxide released.

For a coal-burning utility company like American Electric Power, which emits more than 220 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, the cost of extra allowances could be substantial and would most likely be passed on to consumers.

The Bingaman bill would make nuclear-generated electricity from the likes of Exelon more competitive price-wise with coal-generated electricity from the likes of AEP.

This might make sense if there were some tangible and worthwhile benefits to be derived from favoring nuclear power over coal, but in terms of global warming at least, there don’t seem to be any.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Marlo Lewis estimates that the Bingman bill would cost $331 billion in lost productivity between 2010 and 2025 while perhaps avoiding an insignificant 0.008 degrees Celsius of potential global warming by 2050 — a projection in line with JunkScience.com estimates that the Kyoto Protocol has cost about $49 billion since its inception in February 2005 while possibly averting about 0.0005 degrees Celsius of warming by the year 2050.

Competing with the Bingaman bill is legislation introduced last year by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., which, like the Kyoto Protocol, would establish a national cap on industrial emissions of greenhouse gases. This Kyoto-in-disguise legislation would also establish a trading system under which industrial facilities could buy and sell greenhouse gas emissions allowances.

But even with its absurd provisions for trading hot air permits as if they were valuable commodities, McCain-Lieberman is a bill that only appeals to environmental activist groups. Even global warming-friendly oil company BP opposes the bill’s mandatory emissions caps, in favor of a third global warming proposal — a bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., that offers tax breaks to energy companies that voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But there is yet one more Senate bill — the Ratepayers Protection Act of 2005 — that would address global warming hysteria as the quintessential junk science phenomenon it is.

Some power companies, like Duke Energy and Cinergy, have embraced global warming-mania and are starting to take steps to address their carbon dioxide emissions, the costs of which will be passed on to ratepayers (consumers).

But the Ratepayers Protection Act, introduced by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., would ensure that the costs associated with voluntary actions taken by utilities under the guise of global warming are not passed on to consumers.

“As the need for those reductions is not grounded in science, it is important that those costs are not passed on to electricity consumers,” stated the bill’s media release. Sen. Inhofe’s bill would rightly make utility shareholders, not consumers, responsible for footing the bill of corporate management folly concerning global warming.

While it’s not likely that companies looking to profit from global warming alarmism will support the Ratepayer Protection Act, the rest of us should rally behind Sen. Inhofe rather than bear the costs of all this hot air scheming.


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Enviros, Homeland Security Threaten Drinking Water Safety

Chlorinated drinking water is generally regarded as one of the most important advances in public health. Yet the lifesaving practice of chlorination has never been in such jeopardy as it is now—thanks to an unfortunate alliance between junk science-fueled environmentalists and overzealous homeland security officials.

Chlorine has long been a target of environmentalists who view the element as a cornerstone of the chemical industry, which they loathe. Since the 1970s, they’ve been trying to alarm the public by goading the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization to issue scary reports about chlorinated drinking water posing a potential cancer risk.

Though no credible scientific data actually links chlorinated drinking water with increased cancer risk, the scare has had some terrible consequences.

During the Peruvian cholera outbreak in January-February 1991, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) directed health and water agencies to take measures to ensure all water distribution systems were chlorinated, a very effective technique for killing or inactivating the cholera pathogen.

But as recounted in a new paper authored by Fred Reiff, a Pan-American Health Organization official from 1981-1995, the PAHO encountered resistance to chlorination from local health officials in Peru and other countries. Press releases and reports from the EPA and WHO had raised concern that chlorination by-products may increase cancer risk.

“It was pointed out to all that when the cholera pathogen is present in the water supply, the risk of contracting the disease is immediate and that a resulting epidemic could cause thousands of deaths,” says Reiff.

“In contrast, the hypothetical health risk posed by [chlorination by-products] at levels in excess of those recommended by the WHO and the EPA was one extra death per 100,000 persons exposed for a period of 70 years. Unfortunately, some of those well-meaning, but ill-informed officials had to experience the immense proportional difference in risk before accepting this reality,” added Reiff.

The “reality” referred to by Reiff includes about 10,000 deaths and 1,000,000 cases of cholera during the epidemic.

Despite the Peruvian cholera tragedy and the fact that countries with the safest drinking water—that is chlorinated drinking water—tend to have lower childhood death rates, environmentalists are still pressing their campaign against chlorination. They have a new tactic, however—whipping up fears of terrorist attacks on water treatment facilities that disinfect water with chlorine gas. It’s a concern that’s been picked up by some in our ever-expanding homeland security industry.

A 2004 report by President Bush’s Homeland Security Council hypothesized a worse-case scenario of an explosive being set off near a tank of chlorine gas in a high-density area causing as many as 17,500 deaths, 10,000 severe injuries and 100,000 hospitalizations.

“The fact that any facility in a major urban area is still using chlorine gas is outrageous,” said Carol Andress of the activist group Environmental Defense, according to the May 29 Boston Globe.

A Greenpeace spokesman told the Boston Globe that if we only stopped transporting chlorine gas, the need to improve rail and truck security would be diminished.

Environmentalist-friendly politicians are also getting in on the act, according to the Globe. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Sen. James Jeffords, I-Vt., plan to introduce legislation to help cities pay the costs (up to $12.5 million per water treatment plant plus another $1.4 million per year) of switching from chlorine gas to alternatives like ozone or ultraviolet light technologies—all of which are less effective and cost more than chlorine gas.

But the mere presence of chlorine gas tanks isn’t likely to make a facility a terrorist target anyway.

Chlorine gas is heavier than air and, if released, would remain low, hug the ground, and disperse quickly. Because it’s visible, it’s easily avoided. Chlorine released via explosion would probably rise with the heat of the resulting fire and disperse harmlessly in the atmosphere.

The U.S. chemical industry has produced more than a billion tons of chlorine in the past 80 years. Not a single chlorine release within a facility has resulted in a single fatality outside a facility’s property line.

That’s not to say that a terrorist attack couldn’t cause some harm. Facilities where chlorine gas is stored and used certainly need to take reasonable steps to ensure their security.

But it’s not clear that such steps should entail risking the general safety of drinking water systems. We should also keep in mind that chlorination, which is the only drinking water disinfectant process that works from the treatment plant all the way to the tap, is one of our best defenses against a terrorist attack with biological pathogens on our drinking water systems.


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Greens Are the Real Energy Problem

It goes without saying that the global economy depends on the availability of affordable energy. Many place their hopes for abundant energy supplies in yet-to-be-imagined technologies.

But while researchers tinker with far-off possibilities, there’s something we should do right now to keep the energy flowing: break the radical environmentalists’ chokehold on national energy policy.

Regardless of form — whether oil, gas, coal or nuclear — the Green movement is blocking efforts to harness our accustomed energy sources while leading us down the primrose path of so-called “renewable energy.”

First, we’re not running out of oil.

“Notwithstanding the recent paucity of discoveries of new major oil fields, innovation has proved adequate to meet ever-rising demands for oil,“ wrote Alan Greenspan last October in “Middle East Economic Survey.”

“Gross additions to reserves have significantly exceeded the extraction of oil the reserves replaced,” added Greenspan. These new reserves don’t include unconventional oil sources, including the vast Canadian tar sands and Venezuelan heavy oil.

Nevertheless environmentalists are hindering efforts to obtain that oil — witness, for example, their fight against drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Environmentalists currently are whipping up Floridians against the offshore drilling provisions in the current energy bill in Congress, forcing Republican Sen. Mel Martinez to defy Senate leadership and kowtow to the activists.

“Any weakening of protections currently in place off Florida’s coasts is unacceptable,” says Martinez, echoing the anti-drilling position of environmental groups.

Green opposition to increased oil production is international in scope. Acting through such diverse groups as Amnesty International and Christian Brothers Investment Services, activists are harassing oil company BP about its $3.2 billion Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.

The recent increase in gasoline prices is only partially due to higher demand from developing countries like China and India. Price spikes have also been fueled by the failure of U.S. refining capability to keep pace with demand. No new gasoline refinery has opened since 1976 — thanks to unnecessarily strict government regulations and community opposition, both of which have been tirelessly orchestrated by the environmental movement.

There’s also plenty of natural gas to be had — if the Greens would let us have it.

As spotlighted recently by the Wall Street Journal editorial page, environmentalists “have successfully pushed moratoriums for most new offshore drilling of the fuel, have fought to keep the most gas-rich federal lands off-limits to exploration, and have used lawsuits to tie up those pieces that are accessible.”

The Greens are also obstructing the importation of liquefied natural gas by blocking the construction of new port facilities based on fears that they would be terrorist targets.

Coal is a cheap and abundant source of energy, but environmentalists are making its use more difficult with hysterical claims that coal burning releases “poisons” like mercury into the air. Environmentalists also oppose so-called “clean coal” technology on the grounds that, although less nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide are emitted, mercury emissions remain.

The reality of the matter is that the vast majority of mercury in the environment comes from natural sources; mercury emitted from coal burning power plants is not linked with detectable harm to human health or the environment.

As to nuclear power, environmentalist fear-mongering has ensured there’s been no new nuclear power plant construction since the 1970s. They’re trying to shut down nuke plants in operation by blocking the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility in the Nevada desert, forcing nuclear plants to temporarily store waste in limited, politically unpopular on-site facilities.

General Electric, producer of nuclear power technology, is hoping fears about global warming and energy supplies will interest the public and environmentalists in nuclear energy. No doubt GE hoped it was getting a Green ally in jointly announcing its recent “Ecomagination” initiative with the eco-activist World Resources Institute (WRI). Such hope is pretty naÃ


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PETA or Medical Research?

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals launched a campaign last week against a drug testing company for alleged violations of animal welfare laws.

It’s a smokescreen for animal rights extremists’ real agenda — a complete ban on the use of laboratory animals.

PETA claimed at a news conference last week that one of its staffers worked undercover at a biomedical research lab in Vienna, Va., run by Covance, Inc., allegedly videotaping technicians improperly handling monkeys.

Covance, which doesn’t have a history of violating animal welfare laws and regulations, responded in a statement that PETA’s undercover work was illegal and urged the media “not to leap to conclusions about the truthfulness of these allegations, or the authenticity of any videotape and what PETA alleges it depicts,” according to the Associated Press.

While the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has jurisdiction over the applicable animal welfare rules involved, sorts out fact from fiction, let’s not lose sight of the threat to us all posed by animal rights extremists.

PETA flat-out opposes the use of animals in medical research, claiming that “Even animal research that is carried out for “medical purposes’ tends to be irrelevant to human health.” This claim is ridiculous.

Not only has research with laboratory animals led to countless medical advances for people — including with respect to vaccines, drugs, smallpox, diabetes, heart disease, surgery, organ transplants and much more — but also for animals.

“For years, there was basically one way to treat sick pets: Put them to sleep. But today they can live happy, long lives,” says the Foundation for Biomedical Research, an organization “dedicated to improving human and animal health by promoting public understanding and support for the humane and responsible use of animals in medical and scientific research.”

The crusade by animal rights extremists against medical research stoops far below respectful, non-violent philosophical difference.

“Early one recent morning, the wife of a pharmaceutical executive was followed to her workplace, her car was broken into and her credit cards were stolen; later $20,000 in unauthorized charitable donations were billed on her cards,” reported the Washington Post earlier this month.

The Post article continued, “The [Animal Liberation Front] activists, who have asserted responsibility, once scrawled “Puppy Killer” in red paint on the executive’s house and have posted the couple’s phone, license plate and bank account numbers on the Internet, along with this threat: “If we find a dime of that money granted to those charities was taken back, we will strip you bare’.”

While PETA has not resorted to such tactics, it appears to condone the Animal Liberation Front’s. Here’s what PETA has to say about the ALF: “Throughout history, some people have felt the need to break the law to fight injustice. The Underground Railroad and the French Resistance are both examples of people breaking the law in order to answer to a higher morality.”

PETA may be willing to equate medical researchers with slaveholders and Nazis, but that’s quite a leap in logic and morality for most people.

Congress is getting involved in the issue. Last week, the Senate Environmental Public Works Committee held a hearing into acts of terrorism committed by the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front.

The FBI testified at the hearing that, “From January 1990 to June 2004, animal and environmental rights extremists have claimed credit for more than 1,200 criminal incidents, resulting in millions of dollars in damage and monetary loss.”

The threat may not be limited to property.

“While most animal rights and eco-extremists have refrained from violence targeting human life, the FBI has observed troubling signs that this is changing. We have seen an escalation in violent rhetoric and tactics. According to an FBI spokesman, this statement was recently made by one extremist:“If someone is killing, on a regular basis, thousands of animals, and if that person can only be stopped in one way by the use of violence, then it is certainly a morally justifiable solution.’”

Nevertheless, animal rights extremists seem to have at least one supporter — or at least someone willing to look the other way — in Congress.

Although ranking minority committee member Sen. James Jeffords, I-Vt., “strongly condemned the actions of the Animal Liberation Front,” he nevertheless submitted a statement at the hearing on behalf of PETA. Sen. Jeffords, however, must not be aware of PETA’s connections to the Animal Liberation Front.

During the 1990s, PETA made grants and loans totaling $70,990 in support of a self-described Animal Liberation Front member later convicted of committing arson at Michigan State University, according to the congressional testimony of David Martosko of the Center for Consumer Freedom. PETA also has advertised that its leader, Ingrid Newkirk, “speaks for the Animal Liberation Front,” testified Martosko.

Sen. Jeffords supports expanded medical research with embryonic stem cells — an effort that no doubt will require the use of laboratory animals. Someone ought to tell Sen. Jeffords that he can’t be for PETA and medical research.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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World’s First Global Thermometer

As the Northern Hemisphere enters the summer season and natural global warming occurs, it’s a good time to consider the concept of global temperature — perhaps the most talked about, but least understood, component of the global warming controversy.

Since 1988 when National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) researcher James Hansen launched global warming alarmism with his congressional testimony that manmade emissions of greenhouse gases were warming the Earth’s atmosphere, global warming has been a hot topic. The controversy only heightened with the advent of the so-called “hockey stick” graph that purports to show a dramatic rise in global temperature during the 20th century.

At JunkScience.com, we’re trying to shed light on the problem of relying on global temperature as an indicator of global warming by developing and displaying the world’s first (almost) real-time global thermometer.

We gather temperature readings from about 1,000 surface-based temperature stations around the globe, calculating an average temperature, which we call the “global mean temperature” (GMT).

We use “raw” temperature data that isn’t statistically massaged to account for seasonal variation or for the urban heat island effect — the phenomenon caused by the heat-retaining properties of concrete and asphalt in urban areas that is known to artificially increase local temperatures. We display the current GMT and maintain old GMTs to track weekly, monthly and, eventually, annual trends.

From what we can tell, our data track pretty well with the temperature estimates published by other climate researchers, which are available only weeks to months after the data are collected.

At the time of this column, the GMT — according to our calculations — is roughly 62 degrees Fahrenheit. So what does that mean exactly?

We’re not really sure. First, global temperature is a contrived concept. There is no magical point in the Earth’s atmosphere to place a thermometer and take the planet’s temperature. Moreover, if you live in a polar or tropical region (or almost anywhere for that matter), a GMT of 62 degrees F is patently meaningless — what matters is what’s going on outside where you are.

Our GMT is based on surface records. But if you look at a map of weather stations around the globe, you’ll readily see the built-in bias of temperature readings from surface-based weather stations.

The overwhelming majority of surface-based weather stations are land-based — relatively few temperature readings come from ocean-based facilities, resulting in a major upward bias in available temperature data since about 75 percent of the Earth’s surface is water.

An additional bias arises from the fact that there is more land mass and, therefore, more surface temperature stations in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern Hemisphere.

There’s an even further bias introduced by the tendency of land-based weather stations to be located in more heavily populated areas, which are subject to the urban heat island effect. Relatively speaking, not many temperature readings come from the wilds of northern and central Asia or eastern Africa, for example.

There are alternatives to the JunkScience.com-calculated GMT — none, however, are available in real-time.

The National Climactic Data Center collects temperature data from about 3,000 surface-based weather stations. But researchers often try to statistically adjust these data to account for the urban heat island effect, which produces results that are more statistical mysteries than true averages of global surface temperature readings.

Other researchers calculate GMTs from data collected by satellites and weather balloons. These data measure atmospheric temperatures from all around the Earth and don’t suffer from the same biases as the surface temperature data. It’s important to note that without the upward bias inherent to the surface temperature data, the satellite/balloon temperature measurements show no significant increase since data collection began 30 years ago.

Global warming alarmism is largely based on the notion that global temperatures have increased since the 19th century industrial revolution due to manmade emissions of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide. The infamous hockey stick graph tries to dramatize the alleged increase in temperature by going back 1,000 years.

But the pre-20th century GMTs in the hockey stick graph for the most part don’t come from thermometer readings. Instead they are guesstimates of GMTS based on geographically and temporally scattered data scavenged from tree rings, ice cores and other dubious proxies for thermometers.

Whether calculated in real-time or two months after-the-fact, surface-based calculations of GMT are inherently and impossibly biased. In this light, the hockey stick’s GMTs over the last 1,000 years are near worthless — yet it is this very data that are being used to drive global warming hysteria.

We hope that the JunkScience.com global thermometer will help demystify the flawed science that has led to the present state of climate clamoring. Remember, just 30 years ago, early climate alarmists were actually fretting about global cooling.

It’s shocking that our government may commit us to potentially harmful energy and policies — like the international global warming treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol or the legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., — based on such an elusive, if not meaningless, concept as global temperature.


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PETA Gets to Your Kids

Radical animal-rights activists may be the last people you’d think would be planning school lessons for your children. Well, think again.

Through its innocuous-sounding “educational” programming arm known as TeachKind, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has found a way to reach school children starting as young as kindergarten with its extremist agenda. The opportunity for PETA to gets its message into the classroom has been paved, at least in part, by various laws on the books in at least 12 states mandating humane education in public schools — thus creating a demand for curricula centered on teaching children about the humane treatment of animals.

Naturally, PETA is only too happy to provide ready-made lesson plans, videos and handouts to already overworked teachers.

“Kids who hurt animals may be on a dangerous path that will only get worse if it is not corrected. Psychiatrists, FBI profilers and law enforcement officials have repeatedly documented that kids who abuse animals rarely stop there,” TeachKind warns.

Its fact sheet, entitled “Animal Abuse and Human Abuse: Partners in Crime,” points out that “violent acts toward animals have long been recognized as indicators of a dangerous psychopathy that does not confine itself to animals,” and goes on to detail how many notorious school shooters, including Columbine’s Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, were known to mutilate animals prior to their attacks on humans.

Indeed, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) published by the American Psychiatric Association, participation in animal torture is one of the early warning signs of a severe emotional disturbance in a child, ranking alongside fire-setting as a strong indicator of future criminal behavior as well as the likelihood of psychopathy in adulthood.

While there’s no question that the small number of children who torture animals are quite disturbed and that all children should be taught how wrong such behavior is, it’s quite another matter for PETA to capitalize on this issue as an opportunity to indoctrinate children with PETA’s own radical, catch-all definition of what constitutes “animal cruelty.” And that’s precisely what PETA is doing through TeachKind.

As its Web site prominently touts the animal cruelty-psychopathy connection with quotes from FBI criminalists and others, a closer inspection reveals that the bulk of TeachKind’s educational efforts are actually crafted so as to make children believe that everyday behaviors, such as eating a diet that contains meat or animal products, are unmistakably, unequivocally acts of animal cruelty.

PETA’s frightening of young children by equating, or even associating, truly disturbed behavior such as mutilation of a family pet with common everyday practices such as eating hamburgers amounts to nothing less than ideological child abuse.

PETA even accuses schools across America of being major perpetrators of animal cruelty. They oppose basic learning methods widely practiced throughout our educational system such as insect collection, field trips to zoos or aquariums, and dissection in the classroom.

“Hearing a lot about violence in schools? You can do something to help. Cut out dissection!” announces their Web-based anti-dissection campaign, which even mentions how a young Jeffrey Dahmer “became fascinated with blood and guts” as a result of participating in a biology assignment involving dissection. With this assertion, PETA is inviting impressionable young minds to believe that all it takes is one experience with a dissection assignment to walk away a psychopathic serial killer.

In addition to encouraging kids to refuse to participate in dissection assignments, the campaign even coaches kids on the exact wording to use in their formal written objections so as to “provide the basis for a possible legal case.”

A significant portion of TeachKind’s curriculum is devoted to persuading children to adopt a vegetarian diet as a way to avoid participating in “animal cruelty.” PETA’s Web-based materials provide the warped logic that if farmers treated a cat or a dog the way they treat livestock, they would “be prosecuted for animal cruelty and locked up” — once again stressing the theme of hypothetical criminality for those who eat meat.

PETA even tries to scare kids away from drinking milk, a food so controversial that it occupies its very own wedge on the latest FDA food pyramid for optimal nutrition. A series of trading cards called “Don’t Be a Milk Sucker” available from its Web site, features cartoon characters suffering a host of illnesses PETA attributes to milk consumption such as ear infections, obesity, acne, and even diabetes!

Nor does milk consumption escape PETA’s definition as a distinctly cruel act against animals. We meet “Milk-Stealing Ming,” who is depicted with his mouth directly attached to an unhappy cow’s udder, alongside a “wanted poster” describing his crimes and exclaiming, “cows make milk for their babies, not for maniacs like Ming.”

If we are to take at face value PETA’s irresponsible suggestion that “animal cruelty” — as defined by their radical, catch-all parameters — is a reliable indicator of psychopathic tendencies, I suppose it’s just a matter of time before we all read about Milk-Stealing Ming’s future adult crime sprees in the headlines.


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Obesity Hysteria Survives Despite Official Debunking

Obesity hysteria recently collapsed under its own weight. But the public health establishment, media and politicians are doing their best to revive it.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study in the April 20 Journal of the American Medical Association that estimated the net death toll attributable to obesity to be 25,814 people per year.

This, of course, was quite a downward revision from CDC’s March 2004 claim that obesity caused about 400,000 deaths per year, approaching the toll estimated for smoking. Readers of this column learned at the time that the 400,000-estimate was quite faulty and it’s rather refreshing to see the CDC admit that it was wrong.

But don’t expect the 93.5 percent reduction in the size of the scare to have any measurable impact on the obesity industry’s momentum.

When the new study was published, CDC chief Dr. Julia Gerberding told the Associated Press that the agency won’t scale back its anti-obesity campaign which, by the way, won’t mention the new reduced death toll estimate.

“There’s absolutely no question that obesity is a major public health concern of this country,” Gerberding insisted.

The translation, of course, is that CDC receives plenty of taxpayer funding to promote the obesity scare and it’s not giving it back.

In the wake of the new study, the Center for Consumer Freedom, a group “promoting personal responsibility and consumer choice,” took out full-page ads in several major daily newspapers depicting the “Obesity Epidemic” as shrinking over the last year to a “Problem,” then to a “Threat,” then to an “Issue,” and finally to just “Hype.”

Although the Washington Post was happy to take $100,000 or so from the Center to run the ad, the newspaper apparently wasn’t too happy about the message. Several days after the ad ran, the Post published a lengthy story on front-page of its Business section knocking the Center for Consumer Freedom as the tool of the restaurant industry.

Adding insult to injury a few days later, the Post then ran an editorial in which it ridiculed the Center for Consumer Freedom’s ad as a “scandal.”

“A group actually calling itself the Center for Consumer Freedom did buy $600,000 worth of advertising in The Post and elsewhere last week calling the links between obesity and mortality “hype’ fostered by the government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In principle, these advertisements are no less of a scandal: The high cost of diabetes and other obesity-related illnesses is not in dispute, any more than is the cost of tobacco-related illnesses. Obesity rates in the United States have more than doubled in the past 30 years and have tripled among children,” editorialized the Post.

Note how the Post actually tried the old trick of changing the subject, shifting the focus from the CDC’s bogus estimate of 400,000 deaths to perhaps equally dubious factoids about childhood obesity.

What’s really scandalous, though, is how the Post kept the Center’s money while simultaneously disparaging it.

Former President Clinton joined the obesity fray this week announcing a joint campaign with the American Heart Association to encourage children to have healthy diets and to be physically active—both worthy goals.

But President Clinton stepped into the realm of obesity hype when he stated, “The truth is that children born today could become part of the first generation in American history to live shorter lives than their parents because so many are eating too much of the wrong things and not exercising enough.”

The reality of the matter is actually quite different.

First, there is little evidence to support the notion that otherwise healthy adults have shorter lifespans simply because they may be overweight. In fact, the new CDC study reported that adults who are merely “overweight” actually live longer on average than adults who are of “normal weight.”

Next, there is absolutely no evidence to support the notion that, for otherwise healthy children, childhood weight determines or impacts longevity.

Perhaps worse than any weight problem that may or may not be occurring, is the problem of the obesity scare industry, consisting of government regulators, the media, politicians, and various nonprofit groups.

Regardless of the facts, these groups have a vested interest—mainly at taxpayer expense—in maintaining the fiction that Americans are eating themselves to death.

Perhaps many of us should eat less and exercise more. But we should also put the obesity industry on a steady diet of fewer taxpayer dollars and more truth-telling.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Time to End the Breast Implant Circus

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration convened an expert advisory panel to review and make recommendations on two silicone breast implants manufacturers’ applications to market two different silicone breast implantss.

The FDA advisory panel, whose recommendations aren’t binding on the agency’s decision-making process, voted 5-4 that manufacturer Inamed’s application was “not approvable”—not because Inamed’s silicone breast implants weren’t safe but because the data submitted by Inamed had limitations, including what the panel referred to as “inadequate performance” with respect to the rate of rupture of one model.

The panel then voted 7-2 that manufacturer Mentor’s application was “approvable with conditions,” including that plastic surgeons undergo a special training program, patients receive an education and informed consent materials, that a patient registry be established and that data on the devices continue to be collected.

The FDA panel’s votes on the applications, however, don’t come anywhere close to reflecting what the silicone breast implants controversy is really about.

Since the 1980s, personal injury lawyers have used meritless class action lawsuits to bludgeon silicone breast implants manufacturers and extract billions of dollars in settlements, resulting in about a billion dollars in fees for lawyers themselves. It’s been quite a travesty of justice since there’s no credible science to support the vast majority of the claims against the manufacturers.

As I have written previously in this column, numerous studies of silicone breast implants have failed to demonstrate any health risk other than what may reasonably be expected from the surgical implantation of a medical device. Silicone breast implants have not been linked with breast cancer or the variety of connective tissue diseases—such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis—that have been alleged in the lawsuits.

Despite the absence of science indicating that silicone breast implants cause the alleged harms, the trial lawyers were greatly aided by a bungling FDA that decided very publicly in 1992 to restrict silicone breast implants availability to U.S. women who elected to have reconstructive surgery follow mastectomy. Silicone breast implants have continued to be available without restriction to women in other countries.

The media compounded the FDA goof by reporting the agency action as a scary “ban”—and the lawyers were off to the races. Manufacturers were hit with thousands of lawsuits, eventually deciding to settle class action claims as a matter of business and not because there was a factual basis for genuine liability.

Certainly some women did have valid claims arising from typical surgical complications and expected but occasional device defects, but these claims represented only a small minority of the claimants.

Personal injury lawyers, who have worked through groups like NOW and the notorious Command Trust Network, dread FDA approval of silicone breast implants since it would go a long way toward ensuring that the silicone breast implants controversy goes down in history as little more than a trial lawyer stick-up.

To avoid that, groups like NOW sponsor witnesses at FDA meetings to allege that silicone breast implants harmed them. Anti-silicone breast implant activists also have a well-networked presence on Capitol Hill, where they lobby politicians to pressure FDA officials not to approve silicone breast implants. These tactics have worked in the past.

In October 2003, an FDA expert panel acted to approve Inamed’s silicone breast implants application, but in January 2004, harried FDA officials decided to require Inamed to develop and submit more data before final approval could be made.

The data were subsequently developed and resubmitted in August 2004 in preparation for the recent panel hearing.

With another FDA decision looming, NOW and its cronies curiously aren’t attacking silicone breast implants safety so much as they are attacking the FDA and the advisory panel process, alleging that FDA is biased, that insufficient data were considered by the FDA panel and challenging the panel’s composition.

The activists even allege that scientific experts weren’t invited to present data at the advisory panel—a bizarre allegation given that the FDA publicly announced that the panel would be convened and invited any and all experts to testify, which they did.

The activists seemingly will say and do anything to stop silicone breast implant approval, even if it’s the opposite of reality.

Silicone breast implants have been endlessly studied. Scientists and physicians know their track record. An expert panel has green-lighted their use. Failing to raise sufficient concerns about silicone breast implants safety, the activists have set their sights on the politically vulnerable FDA.

Let’s hope for the sake of women who want to choose silicone breast implants—and for the rest of us who would like to see the silicone breast implants scare industry get the official black-eye it deserves—that the FDA staff has the courage this time to accept the advice of its experts and approve silicone breast implantss.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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California’s Bogus Baby Bottle Scare

Steve MilloyThe California State Assembly is about to consider legislation intended to frighten parents about the safety of baby bottles, teethers, pacifiers and other plastic toys.

Assemblywoman Wilma Chan, D-Oakland, has introduced a bill (AB319) that would ban the manufacture and sale of any toy or child care article intended for use by a child under three years of age if that product contains the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA).

AB319’s provisions claim that BPA is an “estrogen-mimicking endocrine disruptor chemical” that “has been shown to have hormone disrupting effects.” The bill echoes unfounded allegations from a 1990s-era, environmental activist-generated scare about chemicals in the environment supposedly interfering with hormonal processes to cause everything from cancer to infertility to attention deficit disorder.

So what is BPA and does it pose a risk to children’s health?

BPA has been used for more than 50 years to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins that are found in countless products, including food storage containers, CDs/DVDs, sports safety equipment, toys, and lifesaving medical devices to name a few. Everyone uses BPA and most of us have spent our entire lives with products made with it.

Not only does BPA have relatively low toxicity, but only minute traces of it may be detected in consumer products. BPA is excreted rapidly from the body within a day and it doesn’t build-up in tissues.

Typical human exposures to BPA are 100 times to 1,000 times lower than the levels permitted by government guidelines — rules that are set way below actual safety levels. Human exposure levels are typically more than one million times lower than levels shown to be safe in experiments involving multiple generations of laboratory animals.

Scientific review panels from the U.S., European Union and Japanese governments have reviewed the data on BPA and none have found that typical human exposures to BPA pose any detectable risk of harm.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration responded to a request from California Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian who asked whether BPA was safe for use in contact with food and beverages.

“Considering all the evidence, including measurements by FDA chemists of levels found in canned foods or migrating from baby bottles, FDA sees no reason at this time to ban or otherwise restrict the uses [of BPA] now in practice,” stated the FDA.

Fifty years of experience and a lot of scientific examination of BPA indicate it’s safe — so what’s behind the AB319 scare?

The short answer is the same folks who were behind the 1990s scare about so-called “endocrine disruptors.” They’re led by University of Missouri activist-researcher Frederick vom Saal who claims that BPA is a “phenomenally potent sex hormone” that acts like “birth control pills.”

But vom Saal has previously made scientific claims that are not only unsubstantiated, but incapable of being substantiated.

In 2001, for example, he claimed that his experiments on laboratory mice supposedly showed that very low doses of some chemicals — thousands of times lower than safety standards — increased prostate weight in male mice and advanced puberty in female mice.

No other laboratory was able to reproduce vom Saal’s work — and reproducibility of experimental data is a prerequisite for results to be considered “scientific.”

Vom Saal also guaranteed that his work would never be reproduced.

His experiments involved a unique strain of mice that he inbred in his laboratory for about 20 years. When the mice stopped producing the results he wanted, he killed them. Without the same strain of mouse, vom Saal’s experiments can’t be reproduced by others and his work can’t be thoroughly evaluated.

Vom Saal’s latest hijinks, conveniently timed for AB 319, are centered around his new claim that of 115 published studies on BPA, 94 of them reported significant effects in rats and mice, while 21 studies did not.

But vom Saal didn’t make this claim in a peer-reviewed scientific study, but rather in an opinion piece for the health-scare oriented journal Environmental Health Perspectives. In any event, scientific facts are not determined by simply counting the studies on the various sides of an issue without regard to their quality. Study quality is critical. A single high quality study — like those concerning BPA relied on by international scientific review bodies — can vanquish any number of poor quality ones.

The fact that there are 115 published studies on BPA indicates that there has been a lot of interest in BPA among researchers. But out of all that interest, only the suspicious vom Saal — closely associated with, and championed by the extreme anti-chemical activist movement — is trying to alarm the public about BPA.

Finally, there may also be commercial interests at stake with AB319. Earlier this year, vom Saal spoke against BPA at an event in the United Kingdom that was sponsored by a company selling plastic baby bottles “guaranteed to be free from bisphenol-A”.

The California Assembly ought to take all these facts into consideration before voting to scare the public about baby bottles.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
**Link to this article alone ** Posted under the categories(s): Steven Milloy Joel Johannesen on TwitterFollow Joel Johannesen on Twitter

Vaccine Disease Protections Outweigh Side Effects

Steve MilloyIt’s quite unusual for me to write follow-up columns, but I had such an overwhelming response to my recent column (“Vaccination-Autism Link Unproven”, Friday, April 01, 2005) regarding the disputed link between childhood vaccines and autism that I felt this was one of those rare occasions that merits immediate further comment.

Roughly 95 percent of my reader responses came from parents of autistic children angered by my column because they feel passionately that thimerosal— a mercury-based preservative used in vaccines for over 60 years — causes autism. The other five percent came mostly from medical professionals who applauded the column because, like me, they advocate the mainstream medical opinion that thimerosal-containing vaccines aren’t related to autism.

Although this debate has raged for years, and will likely rage for many more, a decisive turn for many in the medical community came with the 2004 release of a definitive report from the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine which reviewed several decades worth of studies concerning a possible link between thimerosal and autism.

In addition to stating that it saw no convincing evidence of such a link, the IOM panel went one step further and recommended that no further research funding be directed toward trying to find one. That unusual recommendation carried a lot of weight since IOM review panels are thought of by medical professionals as the “gold standard” of scientific peer review.

Naturally, I sympathize a great deal with the plight of those parents who wrote to me since autism remains one of the most mysterious and devastating conditions known to medicine — both for the children who suffer from it and for their caregivers.

I certainly respect their search for answers. Yet at the same time I want to express in the strongest possible terms how important it is that parents not allow this controversy to frighten them away from getting routine vaccinations for their children.

A survey published in the November 2000 issue of the medical journal Pediatrics reported that 25 percent of all parents have serious concerns about some or all of the vaccines required in the standard immunization schedule.

Bowing to that fear, states such as Colorado and Oregon even offer parents the opportunity to refuse to have their children participate in the routine vaccination schedule. As one might expect, in communities like Boulder, Colo., where some parents have opted out of vaccinating their children, diseases like whooping cough are making an alarming comeback.

It’s well-known that the failure to get children vaccinated can lead to disfiguring, disabling and even fatal diseases. But what parents may be less aware of is that opting out of the standard immunization schedule isn’t simply a matter of individual choice — it also has profound implications for public health around the world.

Epidemiologists refer to “herd immunity” as a population’s overall resistance to epidemics once that population achieves a 90 percent vaccination rate. Among a “herd” of 90 percent immune individuals, a non-immunized person enjoys a fairly low risk of contracting whatever deadly communicable diseases to which the “herd” is immune.

As the herd’s immunity falls below 90 percent, however, not only do the non-immunized individuals face a greater danger of becoming ill, but the greater availability of more non-immune persons provides the diseases with an “opportunity,” if you will, to replicate throughout the population in the form of various epidemics.

Each epidemic, in turn, strikes hardest at those individuals least capable of defending themselves — the elderly, the newborn, the immuno-comprised, and, of course, pregnant women and their developing fetuses.

So the occurrence and recurrence of preventable diseases does not simply create a toll of individual suffering; there is also an incalculable toll on our public health system in the form of missed opportunities for disease eradication. Awful diseases like smallpox, polio, measles, and diphtheria have been eradicated or at least made exceedingly rare in the U.S. thanks to the public’s cooperation with the standardized vaccination schedule.

Parents who are unconvinced by the reassurances of the medical community and remain concerned about getting their children vaccinated should note that thimerosal-reduced and thimerosal-free vaccines began coming on the market in 1999—again, not because thimerosal is a proven risk, but to allay concerns over vaccine safety.

Many critics have argued, however, that traces of thimerosal (and/or mercury, one of its components) can still be found in many vaccines, so parents wishing to avoid such substances altogether should ask to see package inserts and discuss the issue with their health care provider.

But parents shouldn’t be discouraged from getting their children vaccinated. Vaccines can sometimes have side effects, some of them serious — although mainstream medical opinion holds that autism is not one of them — yet these side effects pale in comparison to a scenario of large-scale declining immunity and increasing epidemics in our society-at-large.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
**Link to this article alone ** Posted under the categories(s): Steven Milloy Joel Johannesen on TwitterFollow Joel Johannesen on Twitter

Vaccine Disease Protections Outweigh Side Effects

Steve MilloyIt’s quite unusual for me to write follow-up columns, but I had such an overwhelming response to my recent column regarding the disputed link between childhood vaccines and autism that I felt this was one of those rare occasions that merits immediate further comment.

Roughly 95 percent of my reader responses came from parents of autistic children angered by my column because they feel passionately that thimerosal— a mercury-based preservative used in vaccines for over 60 years — causes autism. The other five percent came mostly from medical professionals who applauded the column because, like me, they advocate the mainstream medical opinion that thimerosal-containing vaccines aren’t related to autism.

Although this debate has raged for years, and will likely rage for many more, a decisive turn for many in the medical community came with the 2004 release of a definitive report from the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine which reviewed several decades worth of studies concerning a possible link between thimerosal and autism.

In addition to stating that it saw no convincing evidence of such a link, the IOM panel went one step further and recommended that no further research funding be directed toward trying to find one. That unusual recommendation carried a lot of weight since IOM review panels are thought of by medical professionals as the “gold standard” of scientific peer review.

Naturally, I sympathize a great deal with the plight of those parents who wrote to me since autism remains one of the most mysterious and devastating conditions known to medicine — both for the children who suffer from it and for their caregivers.

I certainly respect their search for answers. Yet at the same time I want to express in the strongest possible terms how important it is that parents not allow this controversy to frighten them away from getting routine vaccinations for their children.

A survey published in the November 2000 issue of the medical journal Pediatrics reported that 25 percent of all parents have serious concerns about some or all of the vaccines required in the standard immunization schedule.

Bowing to that fear, states such as Colorado and Oregon even offer parents the opportunity to refuse to have their children participate in the routine vaccination schedule. As one might expect, in communities like Boulder, Colo., where some parents have opted out of vaccinating their children, diseases like whooping cough are making an alarming comeback.

It’s well-known that the failure to get children vaccinated can lead to disfiguring, disabling and even fatal diseases. But what parents may be less aware of is that opting out of the standard immunization schedule isn’t simply a matter of individual choice — it also has profound implications for public health around the world.

Epidemiologists refer to “herd immunity” as a population’s overall resistance to epidemics once that population achieves a 90 percent vaccination rate. Among a “herd” of 90 percent immune individuals, a non-immunized person enjoys a fairly low risk of contracting whatever deadly communicable diseases to which the “herd” is immune.

As the herd’s immunity falls below 90 percent, however, not only do the non-immunized individuals face a greater danger of becoming ill, but the greater availability of more non-immune persons provides the diseases with an “opportunity,” if you will, to replicate throughout the population in the form of various epidemics.

Each epidemic, in turn, strikes hardest at those individuals least capable of defending themselves — the elderly, the newborn, the immuno-comprised, and, of course, pregnant women and their developing fetuses.

So the occurrence and recurrence of preventable diseases does not simply create a toll of individual suffering; there is also an incalculable toll on our public health system in the form of missed opportunities for disease eradication. Awful diseases like smallpox, polio, measles, and diphtheria have been eradicated or at least made exceedingly rare in the U.S. thanks to the public’s cooperation with the standardized vaccination schedule.

Parents who are unconvinced by the reassurances of the medical community and remain concerned about getting their children vaccinated should note that thimerosal-reduced and thimerosal-free vaccines began coming on the market in 1999—again, not because thimerosal is a proven risk, but to allay concerns over vaccine safety.

Many critics have argued, however, that traces of thimerosal (and/or mercury, one of its components) can still be found in many vaccines, so parents wishing to avoid such substances altogether should ask to see package inserts and discuss the issue with their health care provider.

But parents shouldn’t be discouraged from getting their children vaccinated. Vaccines can sometimes have side effects, some of them serious — although mainstream medical opinion holds that autism is not one of them — yet these side effects pale in comparison to a scenario of large-scale declining immunity and increasing epidemics in our society-at-large.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
**Link to this article alone ** Posted under the categories(s): Steven Milloy Joel Johannesen on TwitterFollow Joel Johannesen on Twitter

Global Warming Tax

Steve MilloyDuke Energy, a leading U.S. electricity and gas utility, announced this week its support for a global warming tax — essentially a consumption tax on consumers of gasoline, oil, natural gas and coal. The tax is intended to reduce energy use and resulting emissions of greenhouse gases.

Duke calls it a “carbon tax,” but we might call it the “Greenpeace tax” in honor of the various radical environmental groups, like Greenpeace, pushing global warming hysteria and supporting such a tax. But we could also call it the “corporate appeasement tax” in honor of businesses like Duke Energy that are stumbling over themselves to curry favor with the Greens.

Duke’s announcement apparently is the idea of its Australian CEO, Paul Anderson, who explained it to Australian media in March as follows, “Every time somebody buys something at the store (they) pay a 10 per cent tax, based on how much carbon was in the fuel that they consumed.”

Duke prefers the “carbon tax” to other options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, such as those known as cap-and-trade and the Kyoto Protocol.

Under a cap-and-trade option, which is supported by some of Duke’s competitors, limits on greenhouse gas emissions are set by the government and emissions allowances are given to utilities. Utilities that emit lower amounts of greenhouse gases than allowed may then sell the “unused” portion of their allowances to utilities that have emitted more than they were allowed.

Duke doesn’t have much room for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, so it would have few “hot air” allowances to “trade” and would stand to gain little from the cap-and-trade option.

Duke flat-out opposes mandatory greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies like those of the Kyoto Protocol and the McCain-Lieberman legislative proposal because they are believed to be too radical in terms of emission reductions and economic impact.

Consequently, Duke sees an advantage to shifting the debate to a tax rather than a cap-and-trade or a Kyoto-like policy. The carbon tax would also spread costs to all industries and consumers rather than just utilities.

Fortunately for now, however, the politics of global warming — established by President Bush, who pulled the U.S. out of the Kyoto Protocol in 2001 — make it unlikely that we will be saddled either by an economy-hurting carbon tax or the dubious trading of hot air.

But the Greens are working to change those politics, on a company-by-company basis.

In mid-March, six energy companies — Chevron-Texaco, Anadarko, Apache, Unocal, Marathon, and Tesoro — surrendered to activist demands to “take action” on global warming, including disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions; the setting of emission goals; and integrating global warming into core business strategies.

In exchange for these concessions, the activists withdrew their shareholder resolutions on these issues — resolutions which, even if they receive a majority of shareholder votes, are non-binding on management.

One of the early corporate capitulators on global warming, energy producer Cinergy, issued its annual report this week featuring a section entitled, “Global Warming: Connecting the Dots to Find Common Ground” — it’s disheartening evidence of how global warming hysteria has influenced corporate managers.

Global warming “must be dealt with holistically,” says Cinergy in New Age-speak more appropriate for a spa brochure. “We must act now,” warns Cinergy, even though “we may never know for sure [whether we will accomplish anything]. Cinergy quoted a retired college professor who echoed the company’s abandonment of science. “Humility is central to good science,” says the professor.

But science is about data, not humility — and the scientific debate continues to rage over whether humans are adversely affecting global climate. Just a few weeks ago, for example, the Wall Street Journal reported that a key computer model relied on by global warming believers, is seriously flawed, predicting global warming no matter what data are entered into it.

One activist investment manager recently told the Boston Globe that, “We now see a significant trend among a range of companies to address climate change. If we’re not at the tipping point, we’re coming close to it.”

The main roadblocks for the activists’ are large shareholders like Fidelity Investments who aren’t particularly interested at this time in shareholder activism. If they don’t like how a company operates, they tend look elsewhere to invest. “It’s not our job to become involved in the management of a company,” a Fidelity spokesman told the Globe.

But this is a short-sighted strategy at best.

If radical social activist investors continue to successfully pressure companies on global warming and other aspects of their radical political agendas, those investment alternatives that Fidelity and others look for will eventually disappear. Investors will have no choice but to invest in businesses hamstrung by the radical Green agenda.

Through our public political process, we’ve already rejected the economic disaster known as the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty whose provisions would impose $100 trillion in societal costs for a hypothetical reduction in average global temperature of 1 degree Centigrade.

Not accepting the verdict of the political process, the activists are moving to implement the Kyoto Protocol on a corporation-by-corporation basis, thus circumventing our democratic process.

It may not be Fidelity’s job to be involved with corporate management, but then this struggle is about more than the financial performance of individual companies — it’s about businesses being free to operate within the bounds of the law and based on sound science.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Vaccination-Autism Link Unproven

Steve MilloyRadio shock jock Don Imus is on a rampage about the vaccine preservative thimerosal allegedly causing autism.

A closer look at the facts, however, reveals that while thimerosal is safe, Imus unfortunately appears to be suffering from a case of Charlie McCarthy Syndrome, with his eco-crusader wife as the ventriloquist.

Since the beginning of March, Imus has been ranting about thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used to prevent contamination from fungi and bacteria in countless vaccines administered to adults and children since the 1930s.

But in 1999, frenzied and junk science-fueled activists goaded wobbly-kneed pharmaceutical companies, federal public health agencies and the American Academy of Pediatrics to agree to reduce or eliminate thimerosal from vaccines as a precautionary measure.

Thimerosal was so dangerous, you see, that no one noticed it during more than 60 years of regular use—that is, until the late-1990s, when the mercury-containing preservative was blamed by some parents for causing autism in their children.

Autism is a little-understood complex developmental disability that affects individuals in the areas of social interaction and communication. Symptoms of autism typically don’t become apparent until a child reaches 16-36 months in age and has trouble progressing from saying a few words to expressing more complex ideas.

Parents whose children “turn” autistic often erroneously associate the onset of autistic behavior with some contemporaneous event such as vaccination. Given that mercury can produce neurotoxic effects—although typically only at relatively high exposures associated with accidental poisoning—it’s easy to understand how the thimerosal scare came about. It’s less easy to understand, however, why the public health establishment caved in to this unfounded scare.

Many reputable medical organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, have examined the claims against thimerosal, and none have found scientific support for the scare. A study published in the September, 2004 medical journal Pediatrics, for example, examined 12 studies published between 1966 and 2004 that sought to find a potential link between thimerosal vaccines and autistic-type disorders.

“Studies do not demonstrate a link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autistic spectrum disorders,” concluded researchers from the Children’s Hospital and University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers further concluded that the range of blood mercury levels measured in children after vaccination is not in the known range of mercury toxicity. It’s the dose that makes the poison, after all.

The researchers also noted that, while several studies reported correlations between thimerosal and autistic disorders, they had “significant design flaws that invalidated their conclusions.”

Other researchers even reported in January 2004 that, “The discontinuation of thimerosal-containing vaccines in Denmark in 1992 was followed by an increase in the incidence of autism.”

Imus acknowledges the mainstream medical view that thimerosal is safe, but says he doesn’t care. He’s convinced that pharmaceutical companies are hiding the truth “to cover their rear-ends.” Imus is pressuring publicity-seeking politicians like Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.,—who has appeared on his radio program several times—to take action. In lighter moments, Imus jokes that thimerosal is to blame for his own sudden mood swings and irritability.

The force behind the 60-something Imus’ thimerosal tirade appears to be his 30-something wife, Deirdre, who is the founder and director of something called the Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology located in the Hackensack University Medical Center. The mission of Deirdre’s Center is to educate and take action “to identify and eliminate the carcinogens and environmental factors that assault and ravage our lives.”

Although there is no sound scientific evidence linking substances in the environment with childhood cancer — genetics and infective agents seem to be the most likely causes of childhood cancer, which, fortunately, is relatively rare — this doesn’t seem to bother Deirdre, whose bio describes her education, experience and expertise as “a graduate of Villanova University with a B.A. in International Relations. She ran track at Villanova and has since then completed several triathlons and has run the New York City Marathon twice, most recently in the time of 3 hours 31 minutes.”

Imus noted on his program that while Deirdre doesn’t claim to be an expert on thimerosal, she does know “an awful lot about it.” Right.

Her bio doesn’t mention where she might have gained that “awful lot” of knowledge, but it does point out that “Deirdre was recently featured as a ‘Woman of Substance and Style’ in Organic Style Magazine” and that the Imus ranch “was recently the cover feature in Architectural Digest and Deirdre takes particular pride in having designed and decorated a total of 17 buildings, including an authentic circa 1880’s western town and a 14,000 square foot hacienda.”

The Deirdre-and-Don show reminds me of the sad story of famous baby doctor Dr. Benjamin Spock, who severely damaged his credibility with the final version of his book “Baby and Child Care” published at the end of his life.

At the urging of his second wife, a political activist and health food advocate who he married when he was 73 and she was 32, Spock irresponsibly recommended that children be raised on a vegan vegetarian diet with no milk, eggs and meat after age 2.

I don’t really care if Imus wants to thrust his wife’s wacky anti-chemical agenda on his listeners, but the public shouldn’t to be scared about vaccine safety, and politicians and public health policy shouldn’t be influenced by such antics.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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