Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Keep fraudulent science out of our courtrooms

Courts should bar evidence that fails to meet basic standards of honesty, integrity and credibility

Paul Driessen                       

A California jury recently awarded $289 million in damages (later reduced to $78 million) to a former groundskeeper, who claimed the weed killer glyphosate caused his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Monsanto deliberately or negligently failed to warn him adequately about the chemical’s cancer risks.

The case is on appeal, and a second trial will soon begin before U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria, who himself has 620 more glyphosate cases on his docket. Overall, more than 9,300 additional cases are in the works against Monsanto and its new owner, Bayer – and personal injury mass-tort law firms are trolling for more alleged victims. “If you were ever exposed to glyphosate and now have cancer, you may be entitled to damages. Call us now,” their print, radio and television ads proclaim.

If the allegations are correct, compensatory and even punitive damage awards would be justified, though what might be “reasonable” damages is very much open to debate. However, reputable evidence strongly suggests that there is no connection between glyphosate use and lymphomas or other cancers.

In fact, the two cases and indeed the entire mega-litigation argument hinges on one study – and Judge Chhabria had to decide whether it would be admissible at the upcoming trial. Unfortunately, he ruled that plaintiff lawyers could introduce that study as evidence, despite the multiple deceptions surrounding it.

Many experts say the study is highly suspect, bordering on fraudulent, and should have been barred.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup weed killer. Introduced in 1974 and licensed in 130 countries, it is the world’s most widely used herbicide. Millions of homeowners use it regularly. Farmers employ it with “Roundup-Ready” corn, soybeans and other crops that are engineered to be resistant to it, so as to minimize weeding and tilling, preserve soil structure, and reduce erosion and water evaporation.

Farmers also like it, says cancer epidemiologist Geoffrey Kabat, “because it is environmentally benign and has low toxicity.” In fact, he says, “the acute toxicity of glyphosate is lower than that of table salt.”

Multiple studies by respected organizations worldwide have concluded that glyphosate is safe and non-carcinogenic. Reviewers include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, European Food Safety Authority, European Chemicals Agency, Food and Agriculture Organization, Germany’s Institute for Risk Assessment, Health Canada, Australia’s Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, and others

The U.S. Agricultural Health Study conducted by the U.S. National Cancer Institute followed the health of 54,000 farmers and commercial pesticide applicators for over two decades. It found no glyphosate-cancer link. The AHS is ongoing and is by far the most extensive such study ever done.

Only one agency, the France-based International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC), says otherwise. IARC does no research of its own. It simply reviews existing research and classifies chemicals as definitely, probably or possibly a cause of cancer in humans – often at extremely high doses that humans are extremely unlikely to encounter in the real world. Nor does the agency conduct “risk assessments” to determine exposure levels at which chemicals might actually have adverse effects on people.

In fact, some chemicals may cause cancer at extremely high doses, but be completely harmless at levels encountered in our daily lives. Other substances are harmful at high doses but beneficial or vital at very low doses; not having them in our bodies at certain low levels can cause severe health problems.

To date, IARC has studied over 900 substances – and found only one was “probably not carcinogenic.” Its antiquated approach lumps bacon, sausage, sunlight and plutonium together in its “definitely carcinogenic” category. Its list of “possible” carcinogens includes pickled vegetables and caffeic acid, which is found in coffee, tea, apples, blueberries, broccoli, kale, onions and other fruits and vegetables.

Glyphosate is listed as “probably” cancer-causing, along with creosote, inorganic lead compounds, malathion, many big-word chemicals, high-temperature frying, red meat and “very hot beverages”!

Groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson has said he somehow got “drenched” twice by glophosate. But in each case he failed to take a shower or wash the chemical off, follow other standard or specific detoxification procedures that anyone should follow for chemical accidents like this, or seek immediate medical attention (likewise standard procedure). Perhaps his legal team could make a plausible argument that getting drenched twice constituted the extremely high doses that IARC often cites as carcinogenic.

However, IARC’s secretive, sloppy, bungled – or even systematically and deliberately fraudulent – handling of its glyphosate review makes even that possibility little more than pseudo-evidence that should be barred from Johnson’s case, the Edwin Hardeman case, and all other glyphosate trials.

IARC supposedly based its 2015 glyphosate-causes-cancer finding on evidence from rodent studies. However, subsequent reviews by Dr. Kabat, National Cancer Institute statistician Robert Tarone, investigative journalists Kate Kelland and David Zaruk, and other investigators confirmed that the IARC process was tainted beyond repair from the very beginning.

IARC’s glyphosate review was proposed by U.S. government statistician Christopher Portier, who also helped design the study and served as special advisor to the IARC “working group” that evaluated the chemical. He did so while also being paid as an advisor to the anti-chemical Environmental Defense Fund. Then, just days after IARC issued its ruling, Portier signed a contract to receive $160,000 for serving as a litigation consultant for two law firms that were preparing to sue Monsanto on behalf of “glyphosate cancer victims.” Portier and IARC tried to cover up these blatant conflicts of interest.

Tarone discovered that, during its deliberations, the IARC panel highlighted certain positive results from rodent studies it relied on – while ignoring contradictory results from the same studies. Overall, the data do not support the agency’s claim that glyphosate is carcinogenic, he determined.

Kelland found ten instances where “a negative conclusion about glyphosate leading to tumors was either deleted or replaced with a neutral or positive one” between draft and final versions of the IARC report. Portier himself admitted the animal studies subgroup report concluding “limited evidence” of carcinogenicity somehow got upgraded to “sufficient evidence” for the final report.

Just as disturbing, the chair of IARC’s glyphosate Working Group was also a senior investigator for the AHS pesticide and herbicide analysis. He knew the AHS results clearly exonerated glyphosate as a carcinogen. However, he did not inform the Group about those results, on the spurious ground that they had not yet been published. He later admitted that the study would likely have altered IARC’s decision.

Kabat says “IARC had to cherry-pick the results from two mouse studies in order to make its tortured case that the animal evidence supported a conclusion of carcinogenicity.” IARC also did not have access to the 2017 National Cancer Institute study and apparently ignored the 2015 AHS analysis.

The 1993 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals requires that, in cases like these glyphosate cancer claims, plaintiffs must prove to the presiding judge’s satisfaction that the scientific evidence they intend to present is relevant and reliable. It must have been tested and/or peer-reviewed against accepted standards, must be accepted in the applicable scientific community, and must meet basic standards of honesty, integrity and credibility.

IARC’s claim that glyphosate is carcinogenic is such an outlier, so beneath scientific norms, so tainted by conflicts of interest and misconduct, so unrelated to actual chemical risks – indeed so deceptive and borderline fraudulent – that it should never have been admitted as evidence in any glyphosate trial.

It is bad enough that these cancer trials are driven by emotional appeals to jurors’ largely misplaced fears of chemicals and minimal knowledge of chemicals, chemical risks, medicine and cancer. It is far worse when our courts let these lawsuits also be driven by the scientific misconduct of one agency, IARC.

If the lower courts cannot or will not rein in these abuses, the Supreme Court will have to revisit Daubert.

Via email

Here’s What You Need To Know About the Great ‘Polar Vortex’ of 2019

More than 220 Americans experienced the coldest weather in decades over the past few days as a “polar vortex” bought Arctic air rushing south, forcing schools and factories to close, grounding flights and stopping mail deliveries.

The cold became deadly in many parts of the eastern U.S., resulting in at least 23 dead amid the subzero temperatures. Natural gas systems strained to keep the heat on in parts of Michigan and Minnesota.

It was so cold Hell literally froze over. The Michigan town of Hell shut down because of the cold, forcing residents to go to their local “warming center,” which happened to be a saloon. The joke was not lost on local residents, who heartily embraced it, according to WTHR.

Grand Forks, North Dakota  recorded eight consecutive hours of negative 65-degree wind chill, Accuweather reported. Chicago hit a low of negative 23 degrees — the coldest weather they’ve seen since the 1980s.

Wind chill hit negative 77 degrees Fahrenheit in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, Tuesday evening. The state also saw the lowest actual temperature recorded during the Arctic blast — negative 56 degrees in Cotton on Thursday morning.

Minneapolis was 28 degrees below zero Wednesday morning, the coldest temperature since 1996. The night before, Minneapolis went 14 consecutive hours with wind chill under 50 degrees, Accuweather noted.

“Cold weather is sort of the fabric of this region,” Kenny Blumenfeld, a senior climatologist at Minnesota’s State Climatologist Office, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Living through brutal cold is sort of “like bragging rights,” Blumenfeld said in an interview. “This one is a little bit of a throwback to the olden days when we used to have more of these,” he said.

And that’s what the observational data shows — a decrease in extreme cold, in particular in middle America and the Northeast. Scientists say extreme cold snaps will become less frequent if temperatures rise.

However, many in the media sought to tie the extreme cold to man-made global warming. Reporters put out a slew of stories — virtually all interviewing the same two scientists — to push the theory.

The idea is melting Arctic sea ice causes the circumpolar vortex to weaken and more easily spill freezing air into the midlatitudes. Many scientists, including state climatologists, don’t see the evidence to back it up.

“Tying the polar vortex to global warming is a bit of a stretch,” Dr. Adnan Akyüz, North Dakota’s state climatologist, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“Our winter are not as cold as they used to be 100 years ago,” Akyüz said. “Wintertime temperatures are increasing the fastest.”

Cold “benchmarks” have become less common, according to Akyüz. Extreme cold that used to happen every year has decreased to once a decade or so, he said. For example, the number of days at zero degrees or lower in Fargo have trended down since peaking in 1883.

North Dakota’s winters have warmed roughly 5 degrees over the last century, but, like much of the region, this is mostly warming of low temperatures readings taken in the early morning.

Blumenfeld said Minnesota’s winters were warming ten times faster than summer, but cautioned not to mistake that for the state getting “hotter.” Summertime highs haven’t changed much, he said, adding that some areas have summertime cooling trends.

“We’re still as hot as we’ve always been, just not as cold,” Blumenfeld said. “The climate we’ve had is always going to be in play.”

In fact, Minnesota is among a group of states to see summertime cooling trends, according to recent research that found agriculture operations actually cooled Midwest regions from 1950 to 2009.

A similar study released in 2018 also found seasonal cooling over the eastern U.S. between 1961 and 2015. The so-called “warming hole” appears over the southeastern U.S. in late winter and spring, but move to the Midwest in the summer and fall.

But don’t think Minnesota, North Dakota and other northern states aren’t cold anymore. “What this event really tells us is that we can still get very cold,” Akyuz said, adding the most recent polar vortex brought the coldest temperatures in roughly a decade.


House Democrats To Hold Global Warming Hearing After Massive Cold Front Sweeps Across Nation

Democrats in control of the House Energy and Commerce Committee set a date for the chamber’s first hearing on global warming in six years.

The hearing is scheduled for next week, February 6, after the coldest weather in decades for many parts of the U.S. is forecast to subside.

A “polar vortex” event brought record-cold to the Midwest and Great Plains, forcing factories to close, straining energy systems and leaving at least 11 dead.

Meteorologists forecast a rapid thaw in the coming days with temperatures rising 80 degrees Fahrenheit in Illinois and other areas.

Washington, D.C. is expected to see temperatures in the 50s when the climate hearing is scheduled.

Democrats want to make tackling global warming a central part of their 2019 agenda, and top committee chairs plan a series of hearings on the matter.

House energy and commerce Democrats will be the first to take up the climate crusade this year.

“Year after year, politicians have ignored this threat and denied the science. We can’t afford to let them stand in the way any longer,” Rep. Paul Tonko, a subcommittee chair who will head the hearing, said in a video statement released Wednesday night.

The hearing would focus on the “cost of inaction on climate pollution” and “how a just transition to a clean energy economy” would help the economy and environment, Tonko said.

“We are committed to taking action.” Tonko said. “We believe the science, we understand the urgency and we are committed to getting results.”

What also remains to be seen is if House Democrats take up calls for a “Green New Deal” being pushed by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and several 2020 hopefuls.

Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey are set to unveil “Green New Deal” legislation as soon as next week.


Natural Gas Shortage Hits Midwest Amid ‘Polar Vortex,’ Forces GM To Halt Work at 13 Plants

Midwest states are experiencing natural gas shortages amid subzero temperatures, including in Michigan where GM shuttered more than a dozen plants and told thousands of employees to work from home.

GM halted work at four assembly plants and nine supporting facilities Wednesday night after utility Consumer energy asked customers to help conserve natural gas, Automotive News reported.

GM also asked “about 20,000 employees at its Warren Tech Center and 4,000 at the Pontiac Propulsion campus to work from home through at least Friday,” according to Crain’s Detroit.

A “polar vortex” event brought record-cold, subzero temperatures into the Midwest Wednesday. The cold has persisted and led to a record-low negative 13 degrees Fahrenheit in Detroit Thursday morning.

Fiat Chrysler Ford Motor Co. also cut natural gas use and interrupted production schedules, AN reported. Fiat canceled a shift at two assembly plants and was considering canceling more to further reduce energy use.

Local news reports point to “a fire at a utility’s suburban Detroit facility” that forced Consumer Energy to ask customers to use less energy. CEO Patti Poppe told Detroit News that “localized planned curtailments” would be needed if energy isn’t reduced enough.

Consumer Energy has a severe weather warning out for customers, warning the extreme cold “could cause outages.”

However, the utility reported only a few dozen people without power as of Thursday morning.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer also asked residents to turn down thermostats to 65 degrees Fahrenheit or less to conserve power.

Utility DTE Energy is also asking consumers to use less energy to ensure grid reliability. The utility said that while it’s own lines were performing well, “our system is connected to energy grids in other states and Canada that are experiencing issues due to the extreme weather.”

Michigan isn’t alone. Utility Xcel Energy asked customers in parts of Minnesota to reduce natural gas usage to prevent widespread outages. Customers have been asked to turn thermostats down to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Minnesota has suffered through wind chills in the negative 60 degrees Fahrenheit range beginning Wednesday. Minneapolis was negative 21 degrees Thursday morning, with an expected high of negative 1 degree.

CBS Minnesota reported that “more than 7,000 lost power in the metro Tuesday evening” due to equipment failures. Power has since been restored.


Don’t Buy The Carbon Dioxide Tax Myth – It Just Means More Government Control

The carbon dioxide tax is like the Hydra of myth. Every time some hero cut one of the Hydra’s heads off, two more sprang up in its place. The same is true for the carbon dioxide tax. Every time a version of the carbon dioxide tax is proposed, economists and other analysts deftly cut its head off, showing its promises of climate salvation and economic prosperity to be false, myths like the Hydra itself, yet two more versions of the tax arise.

Progressives and socialists embrace the carbon dioxide tax myth to promote more government control, their control, over the economy and peoples’ lives.

Sadly, a number of old mossback, Rockefeller Republicans have also embraced the myth of the carbon dioxide tax. The main attraction for them seems to be their belief they can create a revenue-neutral carbon dioxide tax. For them, it’s just a matter of political engineering. The problem is, the idea a carbon dioxide tax can be revenue neutral is just as much of a myth as that it will save the earth from climate doom (as if the earth needed saving, which the best science shows it doesn’t), or that it will increase jobs and boost the economy.

As my colleague James Taylor has persuasively written, no carbon dioxide tax is revenue neutral for the households being taxed. A carbon dioxide tax raises the price of coal, natural gas, and gasoline in an attempt to force consumers to purchase more expensive wind power, solar power, and electric vehicles. Although consumers will spend substantially more money on energy and energy-related bills, the wind and solar industries will pay no carbon dioxide taxes.

As Taylor points out, the tax revenue generated by a “successful” carbon dioxide tax — one that significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions — will decline sharply over time, leaving little money to return to the people. Thus, although the government would not receive much revenue to return to consumers from the tax, people, now paying substantially more for their energy bills, will face a dramatic decline in their discretionary household incomes.

Nor will the tax be revenue neutral for households with workers in the fossil fuel industry or related fields. The idea that all the oil field workers, coal miners, coal and natural gas power plant operators, and those working in chemical and plastics manufacturing will be able to smoothly transition to other jobs without a hitch is a myth as well: their household incomes will fall sharply in the short-term if not permanently. And even if they could simply snap their fingers and magically switch jobs, the jobs they would be taking installing and servicing solar panels and wind turbines simply don’t pay as well as the jobs they will be forced out of by the carbon dioxide tax.

Nor, in truth, could any carbon dioxide tax be truly neutral in terms of government revenue.

Even if Congress and the president keep their hands out of the till, not finding creative ways to spend whatever new revenue a carbon dioxide tax generates, and returns it through some scheme to the people being taxed, it’s simply a fact a good portion of the revenue generated by the tax will be diverted to the bureaucracies involved in collecting it and disbursing the tax checks. No government program is cost-free.

Just as with every other government program, there will be huge transaction costs for collecting, tracking, auditing and archiving taxes paid and revenues paid out. New employees will have to be hired, or existing federal government workers will have to divert their time from other responsibilities, to account for the carbon dioxide taxes to be paid, assure that they are paid, to police the program, and to send out the revenue checks and handle complaints when disputes arise.

These and other costs will eat up billions of dollars each year. Unless these costs are paid directly out of the carbon dioxide tax revenues — in which case all the revenues will not be returned to taxpayers as promised — then the government will have to impose other taxes or take on additional debt to pay for the program. So much for revenue neutrality.

Anyone who tells you paying a new tax will be good for you, especially a tax on fossil fuels that serve to power the economic prosperity we currently enjoy, is lying. In the meantime, hang onto your wallets and when the time comes, vote any and all policymakers who support carbon taxes out of office.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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