Sunday, August 09, 2009

Common Insect Repellent Affects Nervous System

Another harmful consequence of banning DDT. DDT is harmless to humans but is very good at eradicating mosquitoes. And other ways of dealing with mosquitoes are either less safe or less effective

One of the world's most common insect repellents acts on the central nervous system in the same way as some insecticides and nerve gases, according to a study released on Wednesday. Moderate use of the chemical compound, called deet, is most likely safe, the researchers say. But experiments on insects, as well as on enzymes extracted from mice and human neurons, showed for the first time that it can interfere with the proper functioning of the nervous system. The researchers say further studies are "urgently needed" to assess deet's potential toxicity to humans, especially when combined with other chemical compounds.

Their findings may also shed some light on the so-called "Gulf War Syndrome," the name given to a complex and variable mix of neurological symptoms reported by tens of thousands of U.S. military veterans who served in the first Gulf War against Iraq in 1990-1991.

Developed by U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists just after World War II, deet has been available as a bug repellent for more than five decades. Sold as lotions, creams and sprays in concentrations from five to 100 percent, it has been widely used not just by weekend campers but as a frontline barrier against malaria, dengue fever, and other mosquito-borne diseases. Some 200 million people use deet-based products every years, according to the study, published in the British-based open-access journal BMC Biology.

Scientists still don't know exactly how the compound works on blood-seeking insects. Some say it blocks the sensory neurons that would be titillated by a potential meal, while others hypothesize that bugs are simply put off by the smell. More surprising still, there is relatively little research on the effects of deet in humans.

"It has been used for many years, but there are recent studies now that show a potential toxicity," said Vincent Corbel, a researcher at the Institute for Development Research in Montpellier, France, and lead author of the study. "What we have done is identify a neurological target for this compound," he told AFP by phone.

In experiments, Corbel and a team of scientists co-led by Bruno Lapied of the University of Angers discovered that deet interferes with the normal breaking down of acetylcholine (ACh), the most common neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. It does so by blocking the enzyme that normally degrades ACh, acetylcholinesterase, or AChE. The result is a toxic build-up of ACh that ultimately prevents the transmission of signals across the neuron synapse, the study found. A class of insecticides called carbamates, as well as the nerve gas sarin, work in the same way, only the effects are stronger and last much longer.

Which is where the Gulf War Syndrome comes in. "Many of the pesticides used in the Gulf War, as well as PB and nerve agents, exert toxic effects on the brain and nervous system by altering levels of ACh," a U.S. government report issued last November concluded. PB, or pyridostigmine bromide, was widely used to protect against nerve gas exposure.

The 450-page report, entitled "Gulf War Illness and the Health of Gulf War Veterans," points to earlier evidence that overexposure to deet may be toxic for the nervous system, but fails to recognize its potential role as a booster for the more potent chemicals to which soldiers had been exposed. "For U.S. soldiers, the cocktail of high doses of PB and insect repellents to protect against mosquito bites may have caused symptoms, as both act on the central nervous system in the same way," said Corbel.

Fortunately, deet is "reversible," meaning its impact is short-lived. But further studies are needed to determine at what concentration it may become dangerous to people, especially small children and pregnant women, he added.


More Warmist dishonesty

Here is another tone-deaf incident involving the activist wing of the climate science community that has the effect of making the entire enterprise look corrupt. The short story is that a professor from Ohio State found an error in a paper on Antarctic temperature trends in Nature. He published his analysis of the error on the blog Climate Audit and sent a gracious note to the authors letting them know of his discovery.

What did the authors do? They turned around and submitted the correction to Nature as their own work, and then had it published under their own names without so much as an acknowledgment to the Ohio State professor who actually did the work and made the discovery of the error. In academia this sort of behavior is called plagiarism, pure and simple.

Knowing some of the authors, I sincerely doubt that they intended to plagiarize, but rather they could not bring themselves to rise above their pride to even acknowledge one of their "enemies." When will these guys learn that a little common decency goes a long way, even when extended to people that you disagree with? It is not the Ohio State professor whose reputation will be damaged by these events. It is the reputations of these scientists that will take a small hit in many academic circles, no doubt. More troubling for the climate science community, is that it colors the entire enterprise negatively, which is a shame because the field is populated by hard-working and decent folks.

Here is a copy of the letter from Professor Huston McCulloch of Ohio State to Nature complaining about the appropriation of his work and subsequent publication, without attribution:
Date: Thu, 06 Aug 2009 10:50:11 -0400
From: Hu McCulloch
Subject: Fwd: Comment on serial correlation in Steig et al 2009

August 7, 2009

Dr. Philip Campbell, Editor in Chief
Dr. Karl Ziemelis, Chief Physical Science Editor

Dear Drs. Campbell and Ziemelis:

On Feb. 26, 2009, I informally published, in a well-known and closely watched climate blog, a comment on the Jan. 22, 2009 Nature letter by Eric J. Steig et al., "Warming of the Antarctic ice-sheet." (vol. 456, pp. 459-62). In my comment, I pointed out that the confidence intervals they published made no compensation for serial correlation, and that when this is done, the results are substantially weaker than they reported, albeit not by enough to overturn them in the key case of West Antarctica. On Feb. 28, 2009, I called the authors' attention to my findings in the e-mail copied below.

In yesterday's issue of Nature, Steig et al. published a Corrigendum replicating my findings, with essentially the same results. However, they make no mention of my prior, well-distributed results, of which I had made them aware. Instead, they present my prior discovery as if it were their own.

According to your Editorial Policies, "Plagiarism is when an author attempts to pass off someone else's work as his or her own." There is no submission date published with the Corrigendum, but if it this was after Feb. 28, I would submit that this Corrigendum constitutes plagiarism as you define it.

I therefore request that you retract the Steig et al. Corrigendum and replace it with my e-mail to them, copied below. The e-mail provides the URL to my Feb. 26 Climate Audit post, "Steig 2009's Non-Correction for Serial Correlation."

Since your policy on corrections and comments is to publish them "if and only if the author provides compelling evidence that a major claim of the original paper was incorrect," and this error did not in itself overturn their key result, I did not submit my comment to Nature, and only published it informally instead. But since you have now published Steig et al.'s replication of my findings, they evidently are important enough for at least a mention in Nature.

Thank you in advance for your careful consideration.

Sincerely yours,

J. Huston McCulloch
Professor of Economics and Finance
Ohio State University


"Nature" is a Greenie publication so I am prophesying that they will find some excuse not to comply with Prof. McCulloch's entirely proper and reasonable request

I Accuse!

By Alan Caruba

In 1898, an article by the great French novelist, Emile Zola was published in L’Aurore. It was addressed to the President of France. Zola accused the military of having wrongly convicted Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish artillery officer, of treason, incarcerating him for years on Devil’s Island. The title of the article was “J’Accuse!” Zola’s courage has been an inspiration for writers ever since. It is in this spirit that I issue my own version of “I Accuse.”

I accuse the United Nations environmental program in general and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in particular of creating a huge hoax, “global warming”, in order to reduce energy use and to create a phony market for so-called “carbon credits,” based on the lie that carbon dioxide plays a role in the alleged warming process.

The Earth is not warming. It is cooling. Meteorologists, climatologists, and solar physicists agree that it has been cooling for at least a decade and predict the cooling will continue for several decades to come.

I accuse the President of the United States and politicians from both political parties for engaging in this deception for their own purposes, while ignoring the peril to the nation’s economy and future. Billions have been and continue to be misallocated to bogus “solutions” such as solar and wind power, the mandate for an ethanol mixture with gasoline, and the construction of a vast regulatory and grant-making apparatus based on the global warming hoax.

I accuse the Obama administration and those members of Congress of seeking to impose a “Cap-and-Trade” bill based entirely on the hoax. It would tax all energy use in America, thus increasing the cost of energy while further reducing the personal income and savings of all Americans. It would codify a bogus market for carbon credits.

I accuse all of the scientists who sought to justify global warming by deliberately publishing falsely documented studies or studies that purported to justify the hoax by attributing natural phenomena to global warming. I accuse them of engaging in such practices to advance their careers and for accepting government largess to further the hoax.

I accuse the academic community for permitting their publications and research programs to be corrupted by the global warming hoax and for lending the prestige of their institutions to its advancement.

I accuse those elements of the nation’s and the world’s media for advancing the global warming hoax in the face of increasing evidence that it is not occurring. It cannot occur at a time when solar activity is decreasing, thus reducing the radiation responsible for much of the Earth’s warming.

I accuse those media that continue to advance the global warming hoax via print and electronic broadcasting. I accuse all print and electronic journalists of failing their responsibility to investigate the bogus science put forth and for deliberately disparaging those scientists and others who disputed it, calling them “deniers.”

I accuse the U.S. Department of Education for the corruption of the nation’s school curriculums, using them to spread the hoax and indoctrinate thousands of students passing through the system with the belief that global warming exists. I accuse every publisher of school texts that advances this hoax.

I accuse former Vice President Gore of advancing the greatest hoax of the modern era and those who joined with him, awarded him honors, and sought to enrich themselves by doing so.

I accuse all the “environmental” organizations such as the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, and all others that have spent millions to advance the hoax to advance their collective and individual agendas.

I accuse the Environmental Protection Agency of falsely asserting that carbon dioxide is a “pollutant” that must be regulated when it is essential to all life on the planet. It is vital for all plant life and plays no role in climate change except to react to it.

I accuse the EPA, Department of Energy, and Department of the Interior, in collusion with many “Green” organizations, of thwarting the construction of coal-fired and nuclear plants to generate the energy necessary to the growth and expansion of the nation’s economy, general welfare, and security.

Lastly, I applaud those many courageous scientists from various disciplines and all others who have stepped forth to denounce the global warming theory with the presentation of legitimate science. The entire world is in their debt.


Defend green jobs! Smash ungreen jobs!

Environmentalists are defending jobs at the ‘good’ Vestas wind-turbine factory while ignoring the sacking of workers at ‘evil’ Thomas Cook

Currently the dictionary defines double standards as ‘a set of principles permitting greater opportunity or liberty to one than to another’. If any dictionary in the future wanted to illustrate or illuminate that definition, it could do worse than point to environmentalists’ sudden interest in the politics of industrial strife. In Ireland and Britain over the past couple of weeks there have been two dramatic and principled occupations of workplaces by workers threatened with redundancy, yet where one has been widely promoted in the media by green-leaning commentators, the other has been ignored, meaning that its organisers could be hassled, arrested and charged by the cops with little controversy.

Environmentalists have used their not inconsiderable clout in public debate to turn the occupation of the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight into a cause célèbre. When the owners of Vestas announced in July that they were moving abroad, thus making 600 people on the Isle of Wight redundant, 25 Vestas workers occupied the factory and many more protested outside in solidarity. They are effusively supported by greens, who have never much cared about workplace politics in the past. Climate change activists have set up camp outside Vestas; they’ve erected banners saying: ‘Save Vestas, Save Jobs, Save the Planet.’ One commentator says no one should underestimate ‘the importance of the occupation’, which has ‘strengthened the alliance between workers and environmentalists’. Another even compares the Vestas workers – who might ‘save the planet’ – to those earlier generations of Brits who took on ‘Germany’s industrial war machine’ (1).

Meanwhile, another workers’ occupation has been ignored. There has been no environmentalist solidarity, no endless publication of op-eds about its ‘importance’. On Friday last week, the staff of the Dublin outlet of the travel agents Thomas Cook were told that their shop was closing with immediate effect, after the workers and their union had the temerity to organise a public protest against the threat of redundancy. In defence of their jobs, 28 Thomas Cook employees occupied the shop on Grafton Street. But after drumming up little sympathy in mainstream Irish and British media and political circles – but managing to win backing from everyday shoppers and passers-by – the workers were arrested in a dawn raid on Tuesday. Gardai smashed their way into Thomas Cook at 5am, took the arm-linked workers out one by one, and drove them to court where they were charged with contempt for ignoring an earlier judgement telling them to leave the shop (2).

Two recession-related occupations, carried out by risk-taking workers willing to put their liberty on the line to defend their own and each others’ jobs, yet only one is championed as ‘important’ by the environmentalist lobby. Why? It isn’t because the Thomas Cook protest is taking place in Ireland rather than in the British, but equally far-flung, territory of the Isle of Wight; numerous Irish protests have been supported in Britian in recent years. More fundamentally it is because, where the Vestas workers are seen as ‘clean’ and thus worthy of support, the Thomas Cook workers are seen as ‘dirty’ and thus eminently ignorable; where, in the hyperbolic, fact-lite view of green activists, the Vestas workers are ‘saving the planet’ by building wind turbines, the likes of the Thomas Cook workers are ‘destroying the planet’ by facilitating unnecessary cheap-flight holidays abroad for undesirable people who have little regard for foreign cultures and plant-life. These double standards illustrate the coercive element in the widespread demand for ‘green jobs’ as a solution to the recession: a new workers’ divide is being created, in which only those with ‘green jobs’ will be accorded respect and support while those with ‘ungreen jobs’ will be left out in the cold.

Environmentalists’ sudden interest in workers’ rights when the Vestas dispute unfolded was always unconvincing. Normally greens implicitly campaign for people to be thrown out of work. Their demonisation of ‘dirty industries’ has helped to make the workers in those industries vulnerable to redundancy by cynical companies and corporations that frequently dress up downsizing and cost-cutting as an environmentalist measure. In recent years greens have demanded the closure of the Drax power station in North Yorkshire (‘Drax the Destroyer’, they call it), which as well as providing electricity to millions of homes also directly employs 700 people. Greens want Kingsnorth power station in Kent closed down, too, and have protested against the construction of ‘Kingsnorth 2’. Kingsnorth employs around 240 workers and Kingsnorth 2 would provide jobs for 3,000 construction workers. Most loudly, greens have demanded the scrapping of plans for a Third Runway at Heathrow – a project that would create a whopping 65,000 jobs (3).

None of those workers matters, however, because they are ‘dirty’ workers, whose livelihoods are ‘destroying the planet’. It is striking that in their defence of the Vestas occupiers, environmentalists simultaneously denounced the government for continuing to invest in airport expansion and the creation of power-station jobs. The sentiment was: ‘How can you claim to be creating a low-carbon economy when you create unclean jobs in airports but will not subsidise clean jobs in wind-turbine construction?’

This is not about defending workers’ rights in principle and making a universal argument for providing everyone with gainful employment and a high wage; it isn’t even about making a calculated judgement about which industries are productive, and thus should remain open, and which industries are unproductive, and thus might be closed. Instead it is about creating a new moral divide, based on shrill language about Nazi-style threats to the future of our planet, between worthy workers and unworthy workers, between the green and the ungreen, between the good and the bad. Indeed, as one green-leaning writer said in support of the Vestas dispute, this is ‘not just about action to save jobs at a time when unemployment is continuing to rise steeply… Rather it is about the necessity to save jobs which are critical to the wider good for society.’ (4) In short, it is not jobs per se that matter; it is not people’s ability to earn a living and provide for themselves and their families that is important; it is only ‘good’ jobs that should be defended, which are seen as being ‘good’, not on the basis of people’s needs or even industrial productivity, but on the basis of very influential environmentalists’ massively overblown fear of the future in which individuals building wind turbines are seen as ‘saving the planet’ while individuals booking holidays for people are considered the devil incarnate.

Indeed, it is not at all surprising that environmentalists are ignoring the Thomas Cook workers. In smashing into the Thomas Cook shop and taking the workers out so that they can officially be made redundant, the Irish police are only doing what environmentalists themselves have tried to do in recent years. The youthful aristocrats of Plane Stupid – who have cheered the ‘industrial disobedience and workers’ solidarity’ at Vestas (5) – have tried on numerous occasions to shut down Thomas Cook outlets. They have put bicycle locks on the front doors of Thomas Cook shops, alongside posters saying ‘CLOSED for a total rethink’, and have argued that the likes of Thomas Cook workers are helping to destroy the planet by facilitating ‘stag and hen nights [in] Eastern European destinations chosen not for their architecture or culture but because people can fly there for 99p and get loaded for a tenner’ (6). Greens want the state to subsidise ‘green jobs’ at Vestas, while the police action in Dublin can be seen as the logical armed-wing conclusion to greens’ desire to destroy ‘ungreen jobs’ elsewhere.

This creation of a bullshit, pernicious moral divide between good and bad workers is the worst response possible to a recession that is making millions of people unemployed. Neither the Vestas workers nor the Thomas Cook workers should be sacked.


We need planes, trains AND automobiles

Justifying high-speed rail as a way of stopping people from flying is a perverse anti-travel argument.

On Tuesday, the UK transport secretary, Andrew Adonis, announced plans to expand high-speed rail services in the UK. Yet his proposals seem to have less to do with allowing people to travel with greater speed and comfort, and more to do with getting people off planes. Perversely, the Labour government is promoting a transport initiative on anti-travel grounds.

‘For reasons of carbon reduction and wider environmental benefits, it is manifestly in the public interest that we systematically replace short-haul aviation with high-speed rail’, said Adonis. ‘But we would have to have, of course, the high-speed network before we can do it.’ By the end of this year, the government plans to have a published route for a rail line from London to the West Midlands, to be built by 2020 at an estimated cost of £7billion, with a framework in place to expand further north in the future. The high-speed link is part of a package announced in July by Adonis to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport by 14 per cent by 2018-2022.

Britain’s only current high-speed link, the 68-mile stretch from the Channel Tunnel on the south coast to St Pancras station in London, is hugely popular. Already, 80 per cent of non-car journeys from London to Paris and Brussels are by rail rather than air. Rail could soon add a major slice of travel to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Cologne and Frankfurt as high-speed links develop in Europe.

Unsurprisingly, the airlines aren’t keen on Adonis’s proposals. Ryanair boss and anti-green rent-a-quote, Michael O’Leary, was as blunt as ever. On the notion that extending high-speed rail could cut short-haul flights to Europe, he said: ‘It is insane. The only link you have is one highly priced tunnel. People are not going to travel to the UK regions, including the Lake District and Cornwall, on a train that only stops at Kent and London St Pancras.’ O’Leary was only slightly less dismissive of the idea of moving domestic travellers from planes to trains, describing it as a ‘valid alternative if you don’t mind the inefficiency and high cost of rail services’ and complaining that while domestic air passengers currently have to pay £20 in tax to travel from London to Glasgow (where planes have 80 per cent of the market), the government continues to ‘subsidise the shit out of the railways’.

Others were over the moon, if only metaphorically. One anti-flights campaign group said it was delighted by the plan to ‘wipe out the market for domestic flights’ in the UK, declaring that ‘no more Ryanair or Flybe is a good thing’ – even if the UK government is still keen to expand airports, too. It is true, as many commentators have pointed out, that people seem to prefer trains to planes in countries like Spain and France, where such high-speed links have almost wiped out domestic air travel in favour of the train. For example, journeys have doubled on the new Madrid to Malaga line in Spain, while the Paris to Lyon line is so popular that the French government has now got the headache of trying to expand the service from two lines to four. No wonder President Obama has plans to replicate such rail success in the US. Britain, however, is different.

Of course, a high-speed line to Birmingham would be nice, but it would not make a huge difference to journey times (it’s only 120 miles and it currently takes just 90 minutes) and it would have zero impact on air passenger numbers because very people fly such short distances. As transport commentator Christian Wolmar points out, even expanding the line to northern English cities like Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle wouldn’t help because air travel from London to those cities is still a small part of the domestic travel market, or is simply being used as a way of connecting to international flights at those local airports. Only by expanding the high-speed link to Scotland could such a link really make a major difference to journey times and the numbers of people flying - and that could cost £30billion. As Wolmar points out, while there are plenty of good reasons to improve our train network, the environmental case is not one of them.

A north-south line would be good, but it is no solution to Britain’s transport needs. The line would still leave some travel destinations – from Bristol, Exeter and Wales in the west, to Norwich in the east and Aberdeen in the far north – badly served. The likely upshot would be an even-greater concentration of business and population in the major cities of the Midlands and the north, while people elsewhere would look to new airports to enable them to get both to London and to cities further afield.

The problem for the government is that the low-carbon argument will always be trumped by the no-carbon argument. Any form of mechanised travel - even trains - will produce greenhouse gas emissions. So the logical conclusion of making climate change the top priority in transport policy is that it would be better if people didn’t travel at all. As one anti-flying activist put it: ‘Adonis and others were keen to explain that we’d still have to expand all the airports to cater for predicted growth in demand (which is generated by the expansion, but don’t let that spoil anything).’ This argument surely gets things the wrong way round, though, as if airport terminal buildings had a hypnotic effect on people, willing them to fly when they never wanted to before. People have always wanted to travel; new airports, train lines and motorways make it easier to do so. Nonetheless, if we put emissions reduction at the centre of transport policy, the logical conclusion is that it is best not to travel at all.

If our current transport technology creates environmental problems, we need to find solutions to those problems, not stop travelling. For example, while replacing petrol and diesel with biofuel could cause all sorts of problems in the short term with food supply, replacing the much smaller volumes of aircraft fuel with biofuels could be a practical, low-carbon solution. The plans for rail electrification could give us much greater flexibility about how to power trains: coal and gas for now, but nuclear, wind and solar in the future. The no-travel, no-carbon outlook is tantamount to societal suicide.

Obsessing about high-speed rail also misses the point that every form of transport has its strengths and weaknesses. There are all sorts of factors that people take into account when choosing if and how to travel, like cost, convenience, speed, comfort and flexibility. If you want to travel from city centre to city centre, trains are great for journeys of up to three hours. No check-in, no driving, just turn up and let the ‘train take the strain’. For longer journeys, the hassle of air travel is off-set by the speed (and, given the stupendous prices charged on Britain’s railways, flying is usually cheaper, too). For trips to less popular destinations, or where you need transport at the other end, the car is often the best choice.

So, to make Britain a truly mobile society, we need trains, planes and cars, and the best possible infrastructure for all three. And we need a government that is committed to the idea that mobility is a good thing rather than one that puts the brakes on our transport future.


Australia: Greenpeace skipper charged after blockade of coal loader

There should be more arrests of this kind. These guys think they are gods and the law is only for "the little people" to obey. Given the wishy-washy Queensland courts, however, he will do no jail time

POLICE have charged the captain of a Greenpeace ship following a blockade at a Queensland coal terminal. Police said officers boarded a vessel in Cairns, executed a warrant about 9am yesterday and arrested a 39-year-old man. He has been charged with two counts of unregulated high-risk activity and one count each of wilful damage. The man has been bailed to appear in Bowen Magistrates Court on August 11 over those charges.

He was also charged with failing to comply with a harbourmaster's direction, navigating a ship in a pilotage area without a pilot and operating a ship that endangers safety, police said in a statement. He has been ordered to appear at Mackay Magistrates Court on August 19 in relation to those charges, police said.

Greenpeace said the captain of its vessel the Esperanza had been arrested. A spokeswoman said more than 20 police officers were waiting for the vessel when it arrived in Cairns and the entire crew was detained for about four hours. She said the captain was arrested for taking part in a blockade of the Hay Point coal terminal for more than two days this week. The terminal, 38km south of Mackay, is one of the largest of its kind in Australia.

Greenpeace last week stopped operations at the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance terminal at Mackay for 36 hours. The protest was aimed to coincide with the Pacific Islands Forum held in Cairns, where forum leaders called for big emission cuts from Australia and New Zealand to save their homes from rising seas. Protesters said Australia was not taking sufficient action on climate change.



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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I so totally agree with your global warming information, but, regrettably, the French study on DEET isn't quite as you say it is. The above link does a far job of describing the problem. Also see the BBC article on it , quoting some of the really heavy hitters in the world of repellent information, and finally the Houston Chronicle science writer's blog on the entire alarmist scene.
Toxicology experts say the amount of DEET used in these experiments was 400 to 2000 times greater than what you would ever see using repellents. Contact me for more information if needed. I work for the DEET Education Program, Washington, DC. 800-789-3300