Thursday, April 19, 2018

Urine, Glyphosate & JAMA: Conflicts of Interest, Bordering on Fraud, Should Be Retracted

By Hank Campbell — April 5, 2018  @ American Council on Science and Health

In October 2017, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) added to the weight of evidence they care more about media attention than science by publishing a "Letter" claiming that glyphosate was detected in urine. Their media bait worked. For example, a journalist at TIME rewrote the press release and used Paul Mills, the lead author and adjunct at a California university for a quote, without bothering to use Google for five seconds and learn his degree came from Maharishi University of Management in Iowa, which teaches transcendental meditation and yoga and is not a legitimate school for anything scientific. (1)

To help TIME out with future articles, I wrote about other similarly cosmic papers by Mills they could cover (2) but that is not the point here. The point is that they dismiss conflicts of interest when the entire paper was rubbish - and that they engaged in conflicts of interest and used JAMA to sell their products are more weight of evidence they are suffering from an existential threat to their credibility.

Only recently did JAMA finally correct the record, burying it way over in one of the tabs.




There is some good news - the metrics. The letter has zero citations, so everyone saw it was nonsense. And it had only 2000 views, which means industry-funded groups like Organic Consumers Association and their poodles at US Right To Know and Russia Today read it and just about no one else. I could sneeze on my screen and get 2,000 readers.

If you click on the tab, here is how JAMA soft-pedals a CoI disclosure that would be a full-on retraction at a quality journal. Bold mine.
In the Research Letter entitled “Excretion of the Herbicide Glyphosate in Older Adults Between 1993 and 2016,”1 published in the October 24/31, 2017 issue of JAMA, the conflict of interest disclosure was incomplete. Dr Mills did not disclose that he established a citizen science crowdfunding site to raise funds for additional research that offers free glyphosate testing with a donation of $130, with tests being run by Health Research Institute (HRI) Laboratories and proceeds going to the University of California, San Diego. Dr Fagan only disclosed an affiliation with the nonprofit 501(c) (3) research organization HRI Laboratories, but not that he is founder, chairman of the board, and senior scientist of HRI Laboratories, which is conducting a citizen science research program in which individuals complete a lifestyle and diet survey, provide a urine sample, and partially cover the cost of testing of the urine sample for glyphosate ($99/sample). The Conflict of Interest Disclosure statement has been corrected online and a correction notice accompanies this letter. We apologize to readers.
It hasn't gotten better. JAMA also recently claimed that losing money shortens lifespan and they have shown no interest in the science of endocrine disruption, instead epidemiologically scaremongering chemicals like BPA despite numerous actual studies showing otherwise. Dr. Julianna LeMieux calls them Journal Of Alternative Medicine Atrocities.

All any reviewer had to do was Google the author names and then look at HRI and this is what they would have seen.


HRI home page.


The company does custom glyphosate testing. That is front group codespeak for 'we will manufacture a result for you.' And HRI was created by an anti-chemical activist. How could JAMA accept this Letter at all? How have they not retracted it, given the financial and ideological motivations of the authors?
What about the science? Even if their paper was real, and there are serious doubts now the "southern California cohort" was chosen without an agenda, it is basically an irrelevant result that only TIME readers would worry about. Independent labs that are not creating studies for authors writing articles to sell their testing services found no glyphosate in urine, but even if they did it wouldn't matter. Glyphosate cannot harm us. It is far less toxic in all ways than something like copper sulfate, which organic farmers absolutely drench crops in, and its toxicity is only for plants.

That JAMA article should not just come with a well-hidden edit showing the conflicts six months later, it should come with a warning label that no real science was involved.

NOTES:

(1) Yogic flying instructor Jeffrey Smith is also an alumnus. Here he is wowing naturopaths or whatever in 1996. If you believe this picture, Maharishi has just the degree for you.

(2) To save you a click:
Beta-andrenergic receptor sensitivity in subject practicing transcendental meditation - your heart will literally be more sensitive if you close your eyes and breathe.
Effects of Singing Bowl Sound Meditation on Mood, Tension, and Well-being - no comment needed.
Clinical Studies of Biofield Therapies: Summary, Methodological Challenges, and Recommendations - I wonder what kind of Kirlian photography pictures they got?
The Self-Directed Biological Transformation Initiative and Well-Being - bonus co-author and science legend Deepak Chopra!

Economic Policy Matters: The Example of Botswana vs. South Africa vs. Zimbabwe

March 29, 2018 by Dan Mitchell @ International Liberty

What’s the best argument against statism?

As a libertarian, my answer is that freedom is preferable to coercion. Freedom also ranks higher than prosperity. For instance, the government might be able to boost economic output by requiring people to work seven days a week, but such a policy would be odious and indefensible.

As an economist, I have a more utilitarian perspective. The best argument against statism is that it simply doesn’t work. Nations with bigger government and more intervention routinely under-perform compared to otherwise-similar countries with small government and free markets.

 
That’s why I often present my leftist friends with my two-question challenge. I ask them to name a country, anywhere on the planet and at any point in history, that either become rich with statist policies or has experienced superior levels of growth with statist policies.
 
They never have an answer. Or, to be more specific, they never have an accurate answer since Sweden (their reflex response) became rich when government was small and has stumbled ever since a large welfare state was imposed.

And if they are willing to have an extended discussion, my next step is to compare the long-run performance of market-friendly jurisdictions with statist jurisdictions. Whether we’re looking at Chile vs. Venezuela, North Korea vs. South Korea, or Hong Kong vs. Argentina, the results always show that economic liberty is the recipe for growth and prosperity.

When I ask them to show a statist nation with decades of good results, they don’t have an answer. Or, to be more specific, they never have an accurate answer since China (their reflex response) only started to grow once the economy was partially liberalized.

 
I’m pontificating on this topic because a reader sent me this very stark contrast between market-friendly Botswana and the statist hellhole of Zimbabwe. I can’t vouch for the specific numbers, though it appears some of them are from the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom.
 
The obvious lesson is that good policy is producing vastly superior results in Botswana.

But I wanted independent confirmation since not everything one sees on the Internet is true (shocking!).
So I checked Human Progress, the invaluable data portal created by Marian Tupy, and downloaded more than 50 years of data for inflation-adjusted ($2010) per-capita GDP in Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.

The results, to put it mildly, are stunning. Botswana has enjoyed much faster growth than South Africa and Zimbabwe has suffered horrible stagnation.


South Africa’s anemic performance doesn’t surprise me.

And I guess the gap between Botswana and Zimbabwe shouldn’t surprise me, either. After all, Marian wrote about the difference between Botswana and Zimbabwe back in 2008.
How different, I thought, was Zimbabwe from Botswana, the latter of which is safe and increasingly prosperous. But what accounts for such striking differences between the two neighbors? It turns out that much of the difference stems from the degree of freedom that each populace enjoys.
Here’s some of what he wrote about Botswana.
As Robert Guest of The Economist noted in his 2004 book, The Shackled Continent, “In the last 35 years, Botswana’s economy has grown faster than any other in the world…” According to Scott Beaulier, an economist at Beloit College, “Khama adopted pro-market policies on a wide front. His new government promised low and stable taxes to mining companies, liberalized trade, increased personal freedoms, and kept marginal income tax rates low to deter tax evasion and corruption.” …Economic openness served Botswana well. Between 1966 and 2006, its average annual compound growth rate of GDP per capita was 7.22 percent — higher than China’s 6.99 percent. Its GDP per capita (adjusted for inflation and purchasing power parity) rose from $671 in 1966 to $10,813 in 2005.
And here are some of his observations about Zimbabwe.
…almost all of the country’s 4,000 white-owned farms were invaded by state-organized gangs. Some of the farmers who resisted the land seizures were murdered, while others fled abroad. …The agricultural sector soon collapsed, and with it most of Zimbabwe’s tax revenue and foreign currency reserves. …the government ordered the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to print more money, sparking the first hyperinflation of the 21st century. …Mugabe’s answer to the falling economy was to increase state patronage and the intensity of the looting.
Needless to say, nothing has changed in the decade since that article was published. Though hopefully Mugabe’s recent ouster may lead to better policy in Zimbabwe (it would be difficult to move in the wrong direction, though Venezuela is evidence that further deterioration is possible).
Let’s conclude with a video I shared three years ago, but it’s worth a second look since we’re considering Botswana’s comparative success.



By the way, none of this suggests Botswana is perfect. Indeed, it’s not even close.

According to the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World, it is ranked #50, which means it isn’t even in the top quartile. And its latest score of 7.37 (out of 10) is well below top-ranked Hong Kong’s score of 8.97.

But you don’t have to be fast to win a race. You simply need to be quicker than your competitors. And, on the continent of Africa, Botswana has the most economic freedom.

P.S. I fully expect South Africa to move in the wrong direction, at least in relative terms if not absolute terms.

P.P.S. If you liked the “story of two neighbors” comparison of Botswana and Zimbabwe at the beginning of this column, you’ll probably enjoy this comparison of Detroit and Hiroshima and this comparison of Hong Kong and Havana.

Vlad Unveils the Death Star

By J.R. Dunn April 18, 2018

It's always interesting when two apparently unrelated elements of the political world collide to shed light on a third, also seemingly unrelated element. That's what happened last weekend during the missile strikes against Assad's nerve-gas network.

For the past several months, speculation has been rampant in political and military circles concerning new superweapons developed by the Russian Federation, presumably for use against its Main Enemy, the U.S.

Information on these systems did not emerge by accident or by means of intelligence efforts. It was intentionally released by the Russians themselves, for purposes that would not be immediately evident to anyone unfamiliar with recent Russian (which is to say "Soviet") history..............Read more

My Take - When this first broke in the news some short time ago I actually chuckled and shook my head.  Why?  Putin's country is broke.  Advanced military systems are massively expensive. Massively expensive to develop and massively expensive to maintain which of course meant that if he actually had such weapons, which I doubted, he didn't have many.  So, if he insanely used them he would cease to exist within hours - he and his entire country, and he knows that. 

We have to get this - Putin isn't stupid. He's a liar, he's a thug, he's a thief, and he's most likey directly responsible for the murder of people who defected, he's a ex-KGB guy, but he's not stupid.  He's a blowhard, and he's attempting to keep a important seat at the international table and we need to get this - he's not going to attack anyone because he's got one goal - save himself! And attacking America - and that's who he's attempting to intimidate - is an act of suicide - and he knows that!

Levin: Connected media ‘hypocrites’ target Hannity for destruction

“Make no mistake about it. … They want Hannity out.”

April 17, 2018 by

LevinTV host Mark Levin began his radio show Tuesday evening discussing how the Stormy Daniels-obsessed media is betraying the American people in failing to talk about the big issues of the day. Instead, they’re targeting Fox News host Sean Hannity for destruction, he explained.

Levin pointed to the media’s incestous relationships and its hypocrisy in claiming that Hannity is in the wrong because he had conversations with and received legal advice from President Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen..

“When you watch all these people in the media, they have all kinds of political friends. They have all kinds of business friends. They have all kinds of lawyer friends,” the LevinTV host stated......To Read More.....

Remember Trump’s plan to cut $60 billion in spending? Mitch McConnell just killed it....Dead!

April 18, 2018 by

So much for the Trump plan to circumvent Democrats and cut spending.

Shortly after the Republican majority in Congress betrayed fiscal conservatism and President Donald Trump signed into law a $1.3 trillion increase in spending that funded Democratic priorities and did not fund conservative priorities, some still held out hope for spending cuts. Amid backlash from the conservative base, House Republicans talked up a plan to use an obscure budget law to pass a rescissions package that would cut non-defense spending by as much as $60 billion. The Trump administration signaled the president was on board, and Senate Majority Leader McConnell, R-Ky., said he was open to a “discussion” on it.

While some conservatives got their hopes up, I raised a few points about why conservatives should be skeptical, namely:................

The problem is McConnell. The problem is McConnell doesn’t want to cut spending. The problem is McConnell wants to shield big-government Republicans from taking a tough vote. The problem is McConnell keeps supporting big-government Republicans in primaries over conservative candidates because they’ll vote for him as leader. The problem is McConnell would rather keep his “deal” with the Democrats — the very same Democrats who are historically obstructing the business of the Senate — than keep the fiscally conservative promises in the Republican Party platform.
And the problem is the Republican senators continue to give deference to a majority leader who is not a conservative............To Read More.....

It Appears David Hogg's 15 Minutes Of Fame Are Over As He Calls For Another Boycott

Hogg's attempt at pushing for a boycott of Fox News host Laura Ingraham backfired on him and now he's attempting to bully two more companies.


Little David Hogg's fifteen minutes of fame seem to be pretty much over.  Sure, he is still a very loud and foul-mouthed little boy and active on social media, but his rants and attacks on companies and Laura Ingraham have backfired on him big time, and his latest call for boycotting Vanguard and BlackRock, two of the world’s biggest investors in gunmakers, seems like it is going down the same impotent road.

Hogg's attempt at pushing for a boycott of Fox News host Laura Ingraham backfired on him.  Chris Menahan pointed out:.........To Read More....

There's No Such Thing as a Comspiracy!

Of course the only real conspiracy is a vast right wing conspiracy.  And there's no Deep State! 
Now, since that's out of the way we need to move on as there's nothing to see there.  Right?

Image result for Lisa Page

Comey, Clinton, McCabe and Lynch Officially Referred For Criminal Investigation

Apr 18, 2018 Katie Pavlich

Eleven House Republicans have sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray officially referring Hillary Clinton, fired FBI Director James Comey, fired Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch for criminal investigation.

FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who were caught sending hundreds of anti-Trump text messages during the Clinton investigation, have also been referred for criminal investigation. U.S. Attorney John Huber, who was tapped by Sessions a few weeks ago to investigate the FBI's handling of the Clinton email probe, was copied on the request.

“Because we believe that those in positions of high authority should be treated the same as every other American, we want to be sure that the potential violations of law outlined below are vetted appropriately,” lawmakers wrote..........To Read More.....

My Take - Make sure to watch the video.  Make no mistake about this - these clowns are all going to start selling each other down the river to save themselves.  But remember - there's no such thing as a conspiricy unless it's a vast right wing conspiracy. 


 

The Left’s Campaign to Distort History and Condemn White People

David Horowitz’s Twitter feed was besieged after he pointed out the obvious.

The Enemy in Our Schools

Should an anti-American Marxist set the history curriculum for American schools?
 
 
 
Editor's note: To order the Freedom Center's new pamphlet, "Leftist Indoctrination in Our K-12 Public Schools," CLICK HERE or to learn more about the Freedom Centers Stop K-12 Indoctrination campaign, CLICK HERE.
 
“If you’ve read Marx, there’s really no reason to read Howard Zinn,” notes author Daniel Flynn, but many have read Zinn’s million-selling A People’s History of the United States. As Rutgers history professor David Greenberg notes in a 2013 New Republic article headlined “Agit-Prof,” Zinn’s famous book is “a pretty lousy piece of work.” Even so, it gets great reviews within a circle of Marxist academics such as Eric Foner, leftist rockers such as Rage Against the Machine, and actors such as Matt Damon, who in Good Will Hunting tells his psychiatrist that A People’s History will “knock you on your ass.”............... Zinn’s handlers set about transforming the rotting corpse of his work into the keystone of America’s history curriculum.  wrote Daniel Greenfield in 2012. “His neo-Communist propaganda is being wedged deeper and deeper into the educational system, because teaching kids to hate America is the new education.”
 
As Greenfield learned, students have eNotes to explain Zinn and there are teaching editions for college and high school. An “entire spin-off industry” was busy adapting Zinn’s vision for lower grades, with works such as A Young People’s History and “a plethora of lesson materials is offered to teachers through the Zinn Education Project.”.............as Greenfield noted, leftist historian Eugene Genovese called Zinn’s book “incoherent left-wing sloganizing.”............Government monopoly education is a collective farm of ignorance, mediocrity and failure.........To Read More......

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Starbucks and the Race-Hustlers

By M. Catharine Evans April 18, 2018

Another day, another boycott of Starbucks.  The coffee company has been singled out for everything from its "no firearms in the store" request to its support of redefining marriage to its declaration it would hire 10,000 "refugees" in response to President Trump's immigration agenda.

Unfortunately for Starbucks, its politically correct, feel-good social justice policies have hit a snag.

The corporation's liberal-leaning initiatives are not enough to keep Black Lives Matter agitators at bay. Two unnamed black men, arrested for trespassing at a Philadelphia Starbucks last week, are the latest martyrs for the cause. Calls for a boycott of Starbucks ensued soon after a video of the arrest went viral.

The stars aligned for the race-hustlers, as a published author and proponent of the "implicit bias" and "white privilege" theories, according to her 2016 Facebook posts, just happened to be sitting in the same Starbucks as police arrived.

Melissa DePino filmed the arrest in an eight-minute video, and before long, BLM activists were blocking the entrance to the establishment............The men were asked to leave three times by the police and refused.  Why didn't they just order a cup of coffee?  Most restaurants do not allow patrons to take up space without ordering something............Krasner, like Starbucks, thinks he can have a rational dialogue about his "unconscious bias" with a bunch of radical hoodlums like BLM.  When will these liberals ever learn?.............Read more

My Take - I haven't posted anything about this until now for a reason.  It was obvious to the most casual observer this was a set up and I wanted more information to come out before I said that. 
 
I've been to Starbucks and I was told I couldn't use the bathroom until I purchased something, so I did, and they gave me the key.  See, that's not so hard, but noooooo, these two guys come into a business with limited seating and refuse to buy anything, sit around for some time, don't tell anyone they're there to meet someone,  want to use the bathroom without purchasing anything, and then refuse to leave when asked to either buy something or leave. 

Now we find the only name coming out of this affair is the activist who just happened to be sitting there to take a video of this "event', and make no mistake about it - this was an event - a staged event. 

There's absolutely no reason why Starbucks should have dropped charges, made apologies, closed thousands of stores to have training sessions on how to treat blacks, or whomever is the victim of the day, and there's no reason why the names of these two guys haven't been released. 

I have a suggestion.  I'm going to ban my use of Starbucks!  Why?  I don't like the way I have to stand in line when people can use a app on their cell phone to get their order in ahead of time and have it waiting for them when they get there, and if I understand it correctly - they pay online.  They never have to stand in line at all.  Well, it's clear this is absolutely discriminatory against old people who don't have those kinds of phones or apps or know how to use them and have to stand in line with their arthritis.

UNFAIR BAIS!!!!!!!!!

DISCRIMINATION AGAINST THE AGED AND THE TECHNOLOGICALLY ILLITERATE!!!!!

Okay, let's get signs made up and start protests at their front door preventing those with apps from entering.   Whadda ya think? Good idea?  Nah, that would make us look insane, so why are these loons treated differently? 

Cartoon of the Day!

Editor's Note:  Originally this appeared in an American Council on Science and Health commentary entitled, "Let’s Defeat The Trial Lawyers’ War Against Science!"  However, it seems to me it fits many scenarios where the powerful can feed at societies table like hogs in a trough. Whether it's in government, industry or some other part of the private sector, and they fatten while society tightens the belt.   As one writer notes:  There's no bad government or good government, here's only limited government or unlimited government.  It's a different way of looking at things, but since I've read that statement it's changed my perspective.  It's foundational thinking.  Admittedly, you have to give it some thought, but it seems to me that statement is what I call "One of the Basics".   RK

Mitchell’s Golden Rule

October 30, 2011 by Dan Mitchell @ International Liberty
 
A couple of weeks ago, I proposed a “Golden Rule of Fiscal Policy” that was probably a bit too wordy.

Good fiscal policy exists when the private sector grows faster than the public sector, while fiscal ruin is inevitable if government spending grows faster than the productive part of the economy.
 
In some recent speeches, I’ve been experimenting with how to discuss this concept, and I’ve decided to be more concise.


I’ve also decided to be self-aggrandizing and call this Mitchell’s Golden Rule.

In some sense, this Golden Rule is a way of trying to help people understand why it is important to limit the growth of federal spending. And based on my recent speeches, it appears that linking government growth and private sector growth is very helpful.

Especially when I point out that the fiscal crises in nations such as Greece are the result of the opposite approach – letting the public sector grow faster than the productive sector of the economy.
Another advantage of the Golden Rule is that it doesn’t matter whether a nation has a budget deficit or a budget surplus. As I’ve explained on several occasions, the fiscal problem in most nations is that government is too big. Deficits and debt are just a symptom of that problem.

Following the Golden Rule doesn’t prohibit tax increases, but it certainly means they will be far less likely. Simply stated, tax revenues tend to track economic performance. So if the private sector is growing faster than the government, that means tax revenues will be growing faster than government spending. So why raise tax rates?

————————–

P.S. Regular readers know that I’ve already tried to create a legacy with the not-so-famous Mitchell’s Law, which points out that politicians often propose to expand government to ostensibly solve the messes created by previous expansions of government.

But there’s nothing new about Mitchell’s Law. Great economists such as Mises wrote about how one misguided government intervention often becomes the excuse for another foolish government intervention. I simply coined a phrase in hopes of helping to popularize the notion that one government mistake is often a precursor for another government mistake.

I’m not aware, however, of anybody that has stated that the key to good fiscal policy is restraining government spending so it grows slower than the private sector. Hence, my narcissistic decision to label this concept Mitchell’s Golden Rule.

 

Liquidating Federal Assets A Promising Tool for Ending the U.S. Debt Crisis



The national debt may be the biggest problem in decades that federal policymakers have failed to confront. Its importance is measurable not only in dollars—almost $20 trillion ($61,552 per capita)—but also in the grave threat it poses to the American financial system and therefore to the health and well-being of private businesses and households. A default on a scheduled federal debt payment, caused by the government’s lack of funds necessary to service its debt obligations, could spark a fire sale on U.S. Treasury securities, prompt a sharp fall in the value of the dollar, and launch a rapid “flight to quality” as investors and dollar holders flee to the perceived safety of other nations’ bonds and currencies—all culminating in a U.S. financial meltdown.

This worst-case scenario is not the only concern. Even if the Treasury has overdraft protection in the form of the Federal Reserve, the large debt servicing requirements exact a heavy toll on public services and economic growth.

This Executive Summary examines the potential for vastly improving the U.S. government’s fiscal position by using a method seldom utilized for the purposes of federal debt-reduction: the sale of federal assets..............To Read More....

My Take - Since this is a blast from the past article let's take a look at my Wednesday, January 30, 2013 " Get Out of Debt Card!", which I think actually outlines this issue better.  Please enjoy.

Which Professions Smoke the Most Pot?

By Alex Berezow — April 12, 2018 @ American Council on Science and Health

The legalization of marijuana across the U.S. is beginning to reveal a treasure trove of information. Before, it was difficult to do research on the usage of pot because it was illegal, and people tend not to admit to doing things that are illegal.

However, with both the law and the public's attitude relaxing toward marijuana, people are opening up about their wacky tobaccy habits. The CDC took advantage of this and surveyed people aged 18 and over in Colorado, which legalized recreational pot in 2014.

The study population included only those respondents who (1) answered (either positively or negatively) whether they had ever consumed marijuana and (2) were currently employed or had been unemployed for less than one year. This whittled the study down to 10,169 respondents, who were then asked about current marijuana use (defined as at least once within the past 30 days) and occupation.

The results (shown without confidence intervals for clarity) are depicted below:



Source: CDC
 
In the chart, the blue bars represent the prevalence (as a percentage of the population) who currently uses marijuana in a given occupation. Food preparation/serving had the highest percentage of pot users, followed by arts/design/entertainment/sports/media. Perhaps slightly concerning, there is substantial use of marijuana among people who have jobs in which safety is a key concern. (These are marked by an asterisk *). For example, more than 16% of people in farming/fishing/forestry and construction/extraction admit to currently using marijuana.

Let's hope it's not while on the job. One study showed that fatal car accidents are higher by 12% on April 20, the unofficial "marijuana holiday."

The red bars show age-adjusted prevalence figures. In epidemiology, age-adjustment is a way to account for the fact that some groups (in this case, professions) have different proportions of young and old people. For instance, we would expect more young people (who are likelier to smoke pot) to be in jobs like food preparation/serving, while we would expect more older people (who are less likely to smoke pot) to be in jobs such as management.

Age-adjustment, therefore, pretends that all professions have the same proportion of young and old people. After performing this adjustment, the arts/design/entertainment/sports/media occupation group comes out as Colorado's top pot smokers. The least likely to use pot? Protective services.

That's probably a good thing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Comey the Cartoon


The RNC Fact Checks Comey's Interview

The Double Standards Industry

Paul Driessen Apr 14, 2018 @ Townhall

It’s a good thing environmentalists have double standards – or they wouldn’t have any standards at all.  
 
Empire State legislators worry that anything above the current 0.0001% methane in Earth’s atmosphere will cause catastrophic climate change, and that pipelines will disturb wildlife habitats. So they oppose fracking for natural gas in New York and pipelines that would import the clean fuel from Pennsylvania. 
 
But then they bribe or force rural and vacation area communities to accept dozens of towering wind turbines that impact thousands of acres, destroy scenic views, kill thousands of birds and bats annually, and affect the sleep and health of local residents – to generate pricey intermittent electricity that is sent on high voltage transmission lines to Albany, Manhattan and other distant cities. 
Meanwhile, developers are building a 600-mile pipeline to bring natural gas from West Virginia to North Carolina, to power generating plants that provide low-cost electricity almost 24/7/365. A portion of the 100-foot-wide pipeline right-of-way must go through forested areas, necessitating tree removal.
 
To protect migratory birds and endangered bats, state and federal officials generally require that tree cutting be prohibited between mid-March and mid-October. Because the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is behind schedule, the companies sought approval to continue felling trees until May 15, to avoid further delays that could increase costs by $150-350 million. The request was denied. 
Not surprisingly, the pipeline, logging and request to cut during migratory and mating season have put the developers, regulators and environmentalists at loggerheads. A 16-mile long segment through Virginia’s George Washington National Forest garnered particular attention. 

Although the short segment would affect just 200 of the GWNF’s 1.1 million acres, the Virginia Wilderness Committee claimed any tree cutting in the area would create an “industrial zone” and “severely degrade some of the best remaining natural landscapes” in the Eastern USA. The Southern Environmental Law Center called the entire project “risky” and “unnecessary.” The groups prefer to “keep fossil fuels in the ground” and force a rapid transition to solar and wind energy.
 
One has to wonder how they would react to the far greater environmental impacts their “green” energy future would bring. Will they be true to their convictions, or continue applying double standards?
 
For example, using sun power to replace just the electricity from Virginia’s nearly 24/7/365 Lake Anna Nuclear Generating Station would require nearly 20,000 acres of solar panels that would provide power just 20-30% of the time. The rest of the time, the commonwealth would need fossil fuel or battery backup power – or homes, businesses, hospitals, internet researchers and environmentalist offices would have to be happy with electricity when it’s available, instead of when they need it. 
 
That’s 100 times more land than needed for the pipeline, which will be underground and mostly invisible, whereas the highly visible solar panels would blanket former crop and habitat land for decades.
 
Natural gas and coal generate about 55 million megawatt-hours of Virginia’s annual electricity. Replacing that with wind power would require thousands of gigantic turbines, sprawling across a half-million acres of forest, farm and other lands. Backup battery arrays and transmission lines from wind farms to distant urban areas would require thousands of additional acres.
 
(This rough calculation recognizes that many turbines would have to be located in poor wind areas and would thus generate electricity only 15-20% of the time. It also assumes that two-thirds of windy day generation would charge batteries for seven straight windless days, and that each turbine requires 15 acres for blade sweep, operational airspace and access roads.)
 
The turbines, transmission lines and batteries would require millions of tons of concrete, steel, copper, neodymium, lithium, cobalt, petroleum-based composites and other raw materials; removing billions of tons of earth and rock to mine the ores; and burning prodigious amounts of fossil fuels in enormous smelters and factories to turn ores into finished components. 
 
Most of that work will take place in Africa, China and other distant locations – out of sight, and out of mind for most Virginians, Americans and environmentalists. But as we are often admonished, we should act locally, think globally, and consider the horrendous environmental and health and safety conditions under which all these activities take place in those faraway lands.
 
Many turbines will be located on mountain ridges, where the winds blow best and most often. Ridge tops will be deforested, scenic vistas will be ruined, and turbines will slice and dice migratory birds, raptors and bats by the tens of thousands every year. Those that aren’t yet threatened or endangered soon will be.
 
The wind industry and many regulators and environmentalists consider those death tolls “incidental takings,” “acceptable” losses of “expendable” wildlife, essential for achieving the “climate-protecting” elimination of fossil fuels. The deaths are certainly not deliberate – so the December 2018 Interior Department decision to end the possibility of criminal prosecutions for them, under the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act, makes sense. 
However, when regulators allow industrial wind facilities in and near migratory routes, nesting areas and other places – where large numbers of eagles, hawks, falcons, geese, other birds and bats congregate – the number of deaths soars beyond “incidental” or “acceptable.” And as the number of US onshore wind turbines climbs from 40,000 a few years ago, to 52,000 today, to potentially millions under “keep oil, gas and coal in the ground” demands, the threat of decimation or extinction across wide areas skyrockets. 
 
Some say we should install future turbines offshore, in our coastal areas. Truly monstrous 3.5-megawatt turbines would certainly reduce the total number needed to replace substantial quantities of fossil fuel electricity. However, they would destroy scenic ocean vistas, decimate sea and shore bird populations (with carcasses conveniently sinking from sight), impair porpoise and whale sonar, interfere with radar and air traffic control, and create significant hazards for submarines and surface ships. 
 
Even worse, as wildlife biologist Jim Wiegand and other experts have noted, the wind industry has gone to great lengths to hide the actual death tolls. For example, they look only right under towers and blades (when carcasses and maimed birds can be catapulted hundreds of yards by blades that move at nearly 200 mph at their tips), canvass areas only once every few weeks (ensuring that scavengers eat the evidence), and make wind farms off limits to independent investigators.
 
The bird and bat killings may not be criminal, but the fraud and cover-ups certainly are.
 
The attitudes, regulations and penalties associated with wind turbines also stand in stark contrast to the inflexible, heavy-handed approach that environmentalists, regulators and courts typically apply to permit applications for drilling, pipelines, grazing and other activities where sage grouse and lesser prairie chickens are involved – or requests to cut trees until May 15, to finish a Virginia pipeline.  
The Fish & Wildlife Service, Center for Biological Diversity and Audubon Society go apoplectic in those circumstances. (Audubon was outraged that Interior decriminalized accidental deaths of birds in oilfield waste pits.) But their silence over the growing bird and bat slaughter by wind turbines has been deafening.
 
These attitudes and policies scream “double standards!” Indeed, consistent bird and bat protection policies would fairly and logically mean banning turbines in and near habitats, refuges and flyways – or shutting them down during mating, nesting and migratory seasons.
 
It’s time to rethink all these policies. Abundant, reliable, affordable energy makes our jobs, health, living standards and civilization possible. The way we’re going, environmentalists, regulators and judges will block oil, gas and coal today … nuclear and hydroelectric tomorrow … and wind and solar facilities the following week – sending us backward a century or more. It’s time to say, Enough!
 
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of books and articles on energy and environmental policy.  

Another Election Conspiracy Theory Bites the Dust

Posted by Daniel Greenfield  Sunday, April 15, 2018 0 Comments @ Sultan Knish Blog

In the middle of March, The Guardian, a British lefty tabloid, rolled out a fake scandal that has dominated the media. Its original article claimed that Christopher Wylie, a "whistleblower", had revealed how Cambridge Analytica, the company he had worked for, had helped Trump win by illegitimately harvesting large amounts of Facebook data and then exploiting it to target users.
The story has since fallen apart in every conceivable way that a story is capable of falling apart.
Obama’s people had also harvested data from Facebook friends. "We ingested the entire U.S. social graph," his media analytics guru had boasted. But so had everyone else. A platform operations manager at Facebook estimated that hundreds of thousands of developers had gotten access to friend data.
So much for The Guardian’s claim that, "information had been harvested on an unprecedented scale".
Free online services are part of a data marketplace. That’s the real business that Facebook is in. The story only blew up because it offered another conspiratorial explanation for President Trump’s victory.
Except it didn’t.
The Trump campaign had only used Cambridge Analytica's data during the primaries before switching to RNC data during the election. The fake news scandal had nothing to do with the actual election.
But that didn’t stop Mother Jones from running a story headlined, "Here (Was Once) a Photo of Cambridge Analytica’s CEO With the Russian Ambassador to the UK". The nebulous connections between the Trump campaign, Russia and Facebook data had become another red dot on the strange global map of lefty conspiracy theories struggling to explain President Trump’s victory.
The story just kept coming apart.
The Guardian had glamorized Wylie as a courageous whistleblower in numerous stories. The pink-haired “gay Canadian vegan” is described as agonizing over his role. He told British lawmakers, “Donald Trump makes it click in your head that this actually has a much wider impact. I don't think that military-style information operations is conducive for any democratic process.”
Except the “whistleblower’s” own company and had been pitching Trump’s future campaign manager back when Cambridge Analytica had been working with Ted Cruz.
The Guardian’s whistleblower had been discredited. Its extended series of stories had never delivered on their claim that there was anything extraordinary about the data collection or illegitimate about either Trump’s victory or Brexit: a special target of the British lefty tabloid. The primary and secondary stories had casually conflated the two, breathlessly reporting on the data collection tactics and leaving it to readers to assume that there was also something shocking or illegitimate in how the data was used.
But that hasn’t dissuaded the media from its obsessive coverage of another scandal of its own invention. And most of its previous Facebook conspiracy theories about Trump’s win were even shoddier.
The original post-election Facebook conspiracy theories blamed “fake news” sites. Dubious metrics were assembled claiming that fake news stories outperformed mainstream media articles. The numbers behind the metrics turned out to be bad, but that didn’t matter.  The purge of dissenting views from social media was underway. And conservative sites continue to be banned and shadowbanned over it.
Then there was the even more dubious claim that Russian Facebook ads had rigged the election. Again, ridiculous metrics were assembled which asserted that the ads had reached 126 million Americans. Even though the Russians had spent fairly little relative to either campaign and all of the dark money in the race. And the fact was that the majority of the ad engagement had actually happened after the election.
When Facebook's VP of Ad Product pointed this out, the media forced him to apologize for challenging its conspiracy theory. Again, bad numbers and media hysteria kept the conspiracy theory going.
This latest Facebook conspiracy theory seeks to address the problem with the two previous conspiracy theories. How could fake news sites and Russian ads be more effective than the Clinton campaign? The answer was filled in with gibberish about “psychological warfare tools”. Voters hadn’t just been tricked. They had been brainwashed into voting Trump with “sophisticated psychological and political profiles.”

Except we’re still talking about ads here.

If being subjected to constant brainwashing, lies, spin and manipulation by trained experts could rig an election, every media outlet in American that doesn’t start with an F would have made Hillary president.
Even assuming that all the allegations made about the data collection were true (and there’s no reason to assume that), that has no bearing whatsoever on the legitimacy of either election or referendum. Facebook’s data privacy has nothing to do with Americans picking Trump and Brits choosing Brexit.
The various Facebook conspiracy theories, whether they involve Russian trolls, alleged fake news or this psychographic profiling, have one thing in common. They all seek to deny the agency of the voters.
A popular theme in British lefty tabloids after Brexit was profiling individuals who had voted Leave and now claimed to have been fooled into voting incorrectly. The latest Facebook fake news scandal hits all the same notes. Trump and Brexit voters didn’t really legitimately vote. Instead they were brainwashed by some sort of big data psychological weapon that persuaded the deplorables to do the wrong thing.
Like most conspiracy theories, it’s silly. But it’s also deeply dangerous.
When political elites start convincing themselves that democracy doesn’t work because they didn’t get the results they wanted, that’s much scarier than anything in Facebook’s data collection policies.
The political elites on both sides of the ocean have been talking themselves into the idea that free referendums and elections are a bad idea because the ordinary person is too easily manipulated.
Behind the rush to lock down Facebook, purge “fake news” from social media and push “fact checks” everywhere is a deep distrust of the individual. The utopian idealism of the elites conceals the cynical conviction that democracy is a hoax and most people are sheep who will do whatever they’re told.
That’s why the news media and the entertainment industry constantly tell us what to think.
All the assorted Facebook conspiracy theories converge around the paranoid notion that the only reason the elites badly lost with Trump and Brexit is that someone else did a better job of brainwashing their voters. The conspiracy theories range from Macedonian fake news sites to Russian trolls to a British data analytics company, but they all agree that there was an informational coup against their propaganda.
Projecting the source of the informational coup outward cloaks the lefty crackdowns in the garb of national security instead of domestic repression. Fighting foreign election interference sounds better than censoring the political opposition. Even if most dictatorships use the former to justify the latter.
Fake statistics and involved technical explanations give the conspiracy theories an air of credibility. But underneath them is the conviction that the only way to protect democracy, a frequent election conspiracy talking point, is to rig it by denying the voters their choice of information sources.
No one who thinks that voters can’t be trusted to make their own decisions believes in democracy. They only see the illusion of democracy as a useful tool for consensus building. The real thing frightens them.
The conspiracy theories fall apart when you examine them. Dig into the numbers and they don’t hold up. And none of them prove their central premise that the 2016 election was illegitimate. Like the Mueller investigation and most conspiracy theories, they go to all sorts of interesting places. But they never actually make the trip from A to B. Instead they’d like to tell you about Russian trolls, Canadian gay vegans, British intelligence agents, Macedonian websites, Japanese  servers and everything else.
They cast doubt, introduce elaborate theories and write longread reports that do everything but prove that the election was rigged, its results were illegitimate and that Americans really wanted Hillary.
Instead they make the case for censoring the internet and distrusting the voters. The conspiracy theory is always the conspiracy. And behind these conspiracy theories is a conspiracy against democracy.

Daniel Greenfield is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This article previously appeared at the Center's Front Page Magazine.

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Thank you for reading.

Who Will Lead IARC? The Most Likely Choices, and My Prediction

By Hank Campbell — April 13, 2018 @ American Council on Science and Health


Christopher Wild, Ph.D., has been the director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) since 2009 and during his tenure, the organization has been controversial. With recent rulings on bacon, coffee, and a mildly toxic pesticide, all of which have come down in defiance of every legitimate science body, there have been calls for Wild to resign or be fired from the once-respected body.

He has avoided being terminated but he leaves behind a group with a reputation far removed from the original IARC, whose first director, Dr. John Higginson, was so prestigious among the cancer community he was on the board of the American Council on Science and Health. Like the Council, the original IARC wanted to separate health threats from health scares. Under Wild, they use their press office to attack other agencies, to engage in activism, to brazenly claim they assess risk rather than determine a hazard for further study, and even to threaten pro-science groups who criticize them.

Wild will finally be gone, but undoing the damage he has done will take some time. As a result of his efforts, fellow activists have been placed inside and they have blocked out the world's top experts - from diesel to toxicology to pathology - because they will have consulted for industry. Meanwhile, they specifically exempted IARC insiders being paid by environmental groups from conflict of interest concerns. As you will see, one of the key people under consideration was not only being paid by an environmental group that raised millions campaigning against the herbicide IARC was evaluating, he signed a contract with a trial lawyer to be an expert witness against companies making the herbicide...before the IARC ruling was even released.

Next month, IARC is supposed to announce its new director, someone who will guide the organization for the next five years, and someone who will have to undo the damage Wild and his collaborators in the activist community have done to the reputation of scientific risk assessment.
Here is how I handicap the front-runners. Since this is a United Nations body (1), there is a lot more than science that goes into their decision, so I have tried to discuss those factors as well.
#1 - Dr. Joachim Schüz of Germany, received his Ph.D. in epidemiology from the University of Mainz.
  • Pros: He is an IARC insider. He is known to everyone in IARC as a reliable voice for the recent IARC approach to hazard assessment.
  • Cons: He is an IARC insider. They recognize they need to cast off the stigma of the Wild era and virtually his entire CV involves IARC. He is European. IARC has been at war with European scientists and agencies who have defied their recent claims. Except for the first director, IARC has always been led by a European and an organization in France always picking a European now looks too insular. 
#2 - Dr. Elisabete Weiderpass, now of Finland, received her PhD in epidemiology from Karolinska Institutet, and her M.D. in Brazil.
  • Pros: She has excellent credentials and IARC has never been led by a woman. You might think that shouldn't be an issue, but this is the U.N. They changed IPCC membership from being the world's most prominent climate voices to having geographical quotas so science is not always foremost. 
  • Cons: She is European, which hurts her almost as much as Schüz. She is married to Harri Vainio. While most of us believe that should never make a difference, we are in a world where the head of EPA can't even rent a bedroom in a property owned by the wife of an energy lobbyist without getting outrage from the New York Times. Vainio is very much part of the Old Guard at IARC, exactly the influence the agency wants to have less of starting in 2019, so this impacts her by association.
#3 - Dr. Chris Portier, now of Switzerland. Ph.D. in biostatistics from UNC Chapel Hill.
  • Pros: He is well-liked by the environmental community in the United States and Europe because of his advocacy work. He is American. Despite America being the world leaders in science, the dominant funder of IARC and the home of the U.N., Europeans have conscripted IARC as a French group and they want to be seen as more of an international body. He has extensive CDC and NIH experience.
  • Cons: Though Portier likely got the most nominations due to his outsized influence among the environmental community, he has a severe lack of credibility. He is the poster child for what has happened to the U.S. government's epidemiology work since Dr. Linda Birnbaum became the Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Like much of NIEHS now, he prefers statistical correlation over science. Ethical cloud. He lobbied IARC to declare any industry funding as reasons for exclusion from IARC voting while exempting his work for Environmental Defense Fund. He signed a contract with trial lawyers seeking to sue Monsanto over the herbicide glyphosate before the IARC finding was even released. Age. At 62, he is already at the age where the WHO expects mandatory retirement so he would need a waiver.
#4 - Dr. Shuji Ogino, now of the United States. M.D. from the University of Tokyo School of Medicine and Ph.D. in Pathology from the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Medicine.
  • Pros: He has excellent credentials and is Asian. The only place with fewer IARC directors than the United States is the entire eastern half of the world. He is a Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, arguably the most important epidemiology group on Earth, which would show the U.S. Congress, which has IARC in their crosshairs to eliminate and replace with something more modern, that they are serious about scientific reform. He is a pathologist, which steers the organization away from simply using statistical correlation to claim things cause cancer, even if the dose difference is five orders of magnitude, in defiance of common sense.
  • Cons: He is Asian and Europeans may want to diversify but not that much. They may prefer a European woman over an Asian man.
#5 - Dr. Sten Dillner of Sweden. M.D. and Ph.D. from Karolinska Institutet.
  • Pros: He has excellent credentials. He is a virologist, which steers the organization away from epidemiology and simply using statistical correlation to suggest causation, which has plagued them in the recent past.
  • Cons:  He is European. This may be the year that IARC uses the controversy created by Wild to opt for more diversity, and Europeans will have a harder time locking it up for their own once again.
#6 - Outside shots. In my discussions, Schuz and Portier are very unlikely because of their link to the IARC scandals but anything can happen. There are other "dark horse" candidates who are also well regarded epidemiologists and could get the nod: Dr. Anna Giuliano, Founding Director of the Center for Infection Research in Cancer at Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in Tampa; Dr. David Richardson, Director, Program in Occupational Epidemiology at UNC Chapel Hill; Dr. David Whiteman, Deputy Director at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane.

My prediction: Shuju Ogino. No one will go on the record, of course, but privately representatives from Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain recognize they need more diverse leadership than they can get out of Europe's current candidates, even though two of the Europeans are well-qualified. The wild card is the United States. India, Qater, Morocco and Brazil will likely follow the U.S. lead but while the U.S. State Department casts the vote, the recommendation will come from the National Cancer Institute. Chris Portier is radioactive in American government circles now but his old boss Linda Birnbaum is not, and she may be pressing for IARC to keep the status quo, which would mean she wants Elisabete Weiderpass. I am told Australia will vote for Ogino even though an Australian is on the list, because they won't want to lodge a protest vote.

Either the first vote will come down along predictable lines but then they will want to reach a consensus and Ogino will get the nod. Or the Old Guard will win and their safe choice,Weiderpass, will sail through without any resistance at all. It's IARC, which means it is more politics than science.

NOTE:

(1) The 25 voting countries are the founding members - Germany, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States of America - plus Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, India, Ireland, Japan, Morocco, Norway, the Netherlands, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.