* Is mast safe? No guarantee - phone firm - New York-Cell phones prohibition in public performances - Advisory Panels Stacked, Scientists Warn - FTW URGENT BULLETIN (27/1/03)
Is mast safe? No guarantee - phone firm

January 25, 2003 14:09

A COMPANY behind plans to build a mobile phone mast yards from a nursery school today admitted it could not guarantee it would not be a health risk.

A spokesman for Hutchison 3G, which wants to build the 10- metre mast in School Lane, Sprowston, told the Evening News: I can't tell you one way or the other that it's 100 per cent safe.

It is the first time since the Evening News launched its Put Masts on Hold campaign that a company has admitted electromagnetic radiation from antenna might pose a health risk to people living nearby.

A petition is now being gathered by families whose homes are near the proposed site and by parents and staff at School Lane Pre-School which is just a few yards away.

Hutchison 3G was asked if it could allay people's fears about a phone mast being placed close to a school which teaches 100 youngsters aged from two-and-a-half to five. A spokesman said that while it would meet guidelines on radiation levels, he could not definitely say there would not be a health risk.

The reality is that you will never be able to say one way or another whether anything is 100 per cent safe, he said.

When there is uncertainty, you have to have standards in place. These standards are based on science and evidence. We work well within these standards.

Beverley Whitbread, chairwoman of School Lane Pre-School, said she would be organising a petition and would fight the application.

We are starting a big petition on Monday, she said. We are not going to stand for it because we don't understand what the health implications are.

Norwich North MP Ian Gibson said: It's absolutely diabolical and ought to be stopped. However, it's interesting that the companies are beginning to admit that there's a potential health hazard.

He called on people to attend a phone mast rally in London on March 8. The rally, organised by pressure group Mast Sanity, begins at midday in Hyde Park.

Hayley Ratcliffe, 23, from School Lane, said she was disgusted with the mast plans and was worried for the safety of her four- year-old daughter Roxie.

I got a letter from the council telling us about the mast, but other people on the road didn't know until we told them, she said.

A spokesman for the city council said: The city council has written to the immediate neighbours of the site as well as the parish council and Broadland District Council.

We have also placed a notice by the site and published the details of the application in the newspaper. All comments made about this application will be accepted up to the time of the planning meeting on February 6.

On Tuesday, the Green Party group will table radical amendments to a motion submitted by its Labour counterparts.

If passed at the full council meeting, the amendment would put pressure on the Government to allow planning committees to account for potential health risks from masts. Currently, objections cannot be lodged on health grounds alone.

Lisa Oldham, director of Mast Sanity, said: It is time for the Government to take notice of the concerns of local communities. This rally will demonstrate the real levels of concern.


Informant: Iris

and from the same informant:

New York-Cell phones prohibition in public performances

For times when cell phone silence is golden

December 26, 2002

New York City has struck a needed blow for cell phone etiquette. By an overwhelming 40-9 vote, the City Council approved an ordinance prohibiting the use of cell phones at public performances.

The ban will include concerts, movies, plays, lectures, dance performances, museums, libraries and galleries. Cell phone users will still be permitted to jabber at sporting events, where boorish behavior is already rather commonplace.

Critics say New York's cell phone restriction - which carries a $50 fine, not only for talking on or listening to a wireless phone, but also for having one ring in verboten places is unenforceable. But that's beside the point, say supporters of the ban. They expect it to be self-enforcing.

The cell phone ban is similar to the smoking ban California imposed several years ago. While the actual prospect of being arrested for smoking in a public place is remote, public vigilance deters would-be scofflaws from lighting up.

It remains to be seen if other municipalities will follow New York's lead in regulating cell phone use. So far it is the only large city in the nation to impose such a ban.

But with the proliferation of cell phones there are nearly 135 million wireless subscribers in the United States other cities just may consider reining in uncontrolled phone use.

What amazes is that cell phones are a rather recent innovation. Martin Cooper, a former general manager for the systems division at Motorola, is considered the inventor of the modern portable handset. He made the first call on a portable cell phone in 1973.

It wasn't until 1982 that the Federal Communications Commission authorized commercial cell phone service. By 1985, 1 in 1,000 Americans had a mobile phone number. By 1995, it was 1 in 10. Today, it's 1 of 2.

That's why cell phones are so ubiquitous, as Union-Tribune business writers Jeff McDonald and Jennifer Davies chronicled in their recent series, "Talk Culture."

"They turn up," the reporters related, "at movies and malls, in airplanes and automobiles, on the street and in public dining rooms, pervasive and at the ready."

Of course, there's no stopping a technology whose time has come, as was learned more than a century ago with the advent of the telephone and, more recently, with the television and personal computer.

And much as the phone, the TV and the PC can be used as instruments for both good and bad, the same is the case with the cell phone. That's why it is understandable that lawmakers in New York City are taking measures to discourage inconsiderate, if not downright antisocial, public use of cell phones.


Advisory Panels Stacked, Scientists Warn

By J.R. Pegg

WASHINGTON, DC, January 23, 2003 (ENS) - American scientists are growing increasingly worried that the Bush administration is manipulating scientific advisory committees in order to further its political agenda.

The federal government relies on hundreds of these committees to provide agencies with unbiased advice based on the best science available as well as to peer review grant proposals for scientific research.

The Bush administration, many scientists fear, has distorted this process by putting committee members through political litmus tests, eliminating committees whose findings looked likely to disagree with its policies, and stacking committees with individuals who have a vested interest in steering conclusions to benefit effected industries.

"We've seen a consistent pattern of putting people in who will ensure that the administration hears what it wants to hear," said Dr. David Michaels, a research professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at George Washington University's School of Public Health. Addressing reporters at a press briefing today in Washington, Dr. Michaels said, "That doesn't help science, and it doesn't help the country."

The Bush administration says it is doing what every other administration has done in the past, but many scientists take issue with this defense.

"The Clinton administration did not do this," said Dr. Lynn Goldman, a pediatrician and professor at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. "They did not exclude people based on some sort of litmus test." Pediatrician Dr. Lynn Goldman was assistant administrator of the Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances of the U.S. EPA under the Clinton administration.

"These are not just the concerns of a few scientists or members of the public health community but of a broad array of people across the country," added Kelly O'Brien, associate executive director of public affairs for the American Public Health Association (APHA).

The role of these committees is not to tell the administration what they want to hear, Michaels argues, but to tell them what science has concluded about the issue under discussion.

"You hire political appointees to move your political agenda forward," he observes. "But the role of scientific advisory committees is quite different. It is to give advice to the agencies and to the public on what is the best science."

"This is a threat to the fundamental principles that we want to make decisions based on the best available science," Goldberg added.

Americans may be unfamiliar with the role of scientific advisory committees, but the impact of the advice they give is extensive. Rules and regulations that govern clean air, clean water, food safety and pesticide use, among others, have been devised with scientific advice from such committees.

The growing concern from American scientists comes from a slew of examples. Members of the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention were replaced last year with individuals with close ties to the lead industry, including Dr. William Banner, who has provided written testimony on behalf of lead industry defendants in a lawsuit in Rhode Island.

Banner is on record as believing that lead is only harmful in levels that are seven to 10 times higher than the current CDC blood lead levels. The CDC estimates some 890,000 U.S. children ages one to five have elevated levels of lead in their blood.

Fifteen of the 18 members of the Advisory Committee to the Director of the National Health Center for Environmental Health were replaced last year. This committee assesses the health impact of exposure to environmental chemicals. Among the new members is the former president of the Chemical Industry Institute for Toxicology.

Tommy Thompson, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), dissolved a committee charged with analyzing the federal system for protecting human research subjects. A committee tasked with giving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advice on oversight of the genetics testing industry was similarly disbanded.

A respected scientist nominated to serve on an HHS peer review study section, which is charged with reviewing research grant proposals submitted to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, was rejected for her support of an ergonomics rule overturned by the Bush administration last year.

A consultant to the Army Science Board was disapproved for full membership on the committee because, he was told, he contributed to Senator John McCain's campaign, an allegation that was false.

A new member of the Food and Drug Administration's Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee, Dr. David Hager, helped the Christian Medical Association lobby for a safety review of a drug the committee approved two years ago. The announcement that Hager, who has very few research credits, had been put on the committee was released on Christmas Eve.

The trouble with this politicization of the process by which scientists advise the government, Michaels explained, is that they will directly impact the government's willingness to act. "I don't think there is really any danger of a committee coming out and making a statement so far out of the mainstream that it takes us in a different direction," he explained. "What these committees will do, and I think this is what the administration wants, is to essentially throw their hands up and say there is too much uncertainty. That sort of paralysis is dangerous."

The trust the public has in science, and in the scientific advice offered by the government for public health issues, could be gravely affected by these developments, said Dr. Martin Apple, president of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents.

"Public trust is like Humpty Dumpty," Apple said. "It is difficult to establish, easy to lose and nearly impossible to restore."

It is not that anyone expects scientific advisory committee members to be completely unbiased, Goldman said. Rather, it is critical that these committees are focused only on the science, leaving political, economic and religious bias out of the equation.

"If you attempt to predetermine the outcome of the scientific discussion by selecting certain people for science committees or by constructing a consensus before you bring the group together, then you are distorting the process," Goldman added. "For the past several months, again and again with this current administration, we've seen evidence of this occurring."

Goldman, who served as the assistant administrator for the Office of Prevention, Pesticide and Toxic Substances within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 1993 to 1998, has firsthand experience with the Bush administration's policy on scientific advisory committees. Goldman and two other experts on the effects of pesticides on children were invited to speak at an EPA funded conference that was scheduled for September 2002.

In July 2002, representatives from the pesticides industry wrote to the EPA to protest the conference and specifically the participation of Goldman and the other two scientists at the event. The EPA then rescheduled the conference for June 2003 and has not re invited any of the three.

The overarching concern, Goldman said, is the apparent influence of the pesticide industry on the EPA.

California Representative Henry Waxman, a Democrat, agreed and sent EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman a letter on December 20, 2002 asking for an explanation by January 6, 2003.

Waxman's spokesperson Karen Lightfoot told ENS that the Congressman has not received any response from the EPA.

In late October 2002, Waxman and 11 other members of Congress sent a letter to HHS Secretary Thompson, detailing concern with "a pattern of events suggesting that scientific decision making is being subverted by ideology and that scientific information that does not fit the administration's political agenda is being suppressed."

HHS did reply to Waxman and his colleagues, but their explanations did not satisfy the letter writers. A subsequent letter asking for more detailed information was sent on December 18, 2002.

Lightfoot said there has been no response to the December 18 letter, but added that Congressman Waxman will closely monitor "this trend of putting ideology before science."

Groups like the American Public Health Association, which has some 50,000 members, are calling on Congress to further explore just what the Bush administration is doing with scientific advisory committees. APHA drafted a series of recommendations, including the reevaluation of newly reconstituted advisory panels and the creation of criteria to guide the selection of members on public health advisory committees and peer review research committees at all levels of government - federal, state and local.

There is concern that if the process continues forward without serious review that many qualified scientists will decline to involve themselves with future committees.

"Scientists and the federal government in the United States have established an effective system of providing expert advice," Apple said. "But the best scientists are only willing to serve on such advisory groups when they believe that they are unbiased and will produce scientifically sound results. Once this currency is debased, the best scientists will decline to take the time out from their lives to participate, and the government will lose an irreplaceable resource." "This will cause severe and last damage to the national interest and should be actively prevented," Apple urged.

There is "no glory" for scientists to take part in the vast majority of scientific advisory committees, Michaels said. They are only compensated for travel and accommodations, and the work is often long and tedious.

"It is quite possible that these are isolated, anecdotal incidents," Goldman suggested. "But then why hasn't there been an attempt to rectify them?"

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2003. All Rights Reserved.

http://ens-news.com/ens/jan2003/2003-01-23-10.asp (excerpt)

Informant: Don Maisch


Michael C. Ruppert

January 24, 2003, 1930 PST (FTW) - Serious international developments are indicating that the first stages of the U.S. invasion of Iraq will begin unilaterally no later than next Wednesday and most likely as the President delivers his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday night.

The Associated Press reported today, in a story little noticed by mainstream American press, that the Japanese government had today urged all Japanese citizens to leave Iraq as soon as possible. Japan has large numbers of its nationals working in Iraq in various trade and oil-related business ventures. According to a second report today on CNN Headline News the Japanese advisory was specific that all Japanese citizens should be out of the country by next Wednesday at the latest.

The Japanese alert was followed by a simultaneous advisory from the U.S. State Department issuing a worldwide alert to all Americans traveling overseas. According to another AP story, State Department officials tried to downplay the significance of the warning, "but officials were unable to say when the last such advisory had been issued." A worldwide alert for U.S. citizens is extremely rare and suggests that the administration is concerned about a global backlash against Americans
traveling overseas. Cautionary advisories are normally isolated to specific countries or geographic regions.

The invasion of Iraq will most likely commence with a massive aerial campaign in which the U.N. and many military analysts have predicted widespread collateral damage with heavy civilian casualties. One recent UN estimate suggested that the total Iraqi casualty count for the entire operation could exceed 500,000.

This decision should not be taken as a surprise. In recent weeks support for the obvious U.S. intentions, both worldwide and at home, has been declining rapidly. At the time this story was written a contemporaneous CNN poll showed that 62% of those responding believed that the United States should not attack Iraq without UN approval. Politically, the Bush administration has seen that this situation is not going to improve. Every delay in an attack to which the administration has already committed not only risks greater military, political and economic opposition but also increases the risk that U.S. ground forces will be engaged in desert fighting in hot summer weather. Recent moves by both the French and Russian governments to approve new trade and development agreements with the Hussein government might also weaken U.S. economic control in a post-Saddam regime.

With crude oil prices at two-year highs and with U.S. oil reserves at 27-year lows the signs of a crumbling U.S. economy made themselves felt again today with a more than 200 point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial average. The Bush administration has apparently decided to roll the dice now in a go-for-broke imperial conquest that has as its primary objective the immediate control of 11 per cent of the world's oil reserves.

In many previous stories FTW has documented how the Iraqi invasion is but the first in a series of sequential worldwide military campaigns to which the United States has committed. All of these are based upon globally dwindling oil supplies and the pending economic and human consequences of that reality. On January 21st, CNN Headline News acknowledged, for the first time, the reality of Peak Oil and accurately stated that "all the cheap oil there is has been found." The story also acknowledged that there was only enough oil left to sustain the planet for thirty to forty years and that what oil remained was going to become increasingly more expensive to produce and deliver.

It is likely that the resiliency of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, in his effort to resist U.S.-inspired strikes by wealthy Venezuelan industrialists, has had an impact on this decision by the Bush administration. Venezuela, which is the third largest foreign importer of oil to the U.S., has seen its U.S. deliveries cut to a fraction of normal levels in recent weeks. Within the last week oil analysts have been predicting shortages and price spikes similar to those of 1973-4 if U.S. oil stocks were not replenished quickly. The administration's apparent decision to launch the attacks against Iraq appears to be at least a partial acknowledgement that Chavez is successfully resisting U.S. pressure to oust him.

Chavez angered multinational investors and financiers recently by moving to increase the share of oil profits retained in Venezuela for the benefit of its people.

Today's announcements signal that the world is entering a period of danger not seen for forty years. That the announcements from the Japanese government and the State Department came on the same day that the Department of Homeland Security became active and its Secretary Tom Ridge was sworn in seems an unlikely coincidence. Previous reporting from FTW had indicated that even massive protests and non-violent global resistance would prove ineffective in preventing an Iraqi invasion. And our predictions that the Bush junta had prepared for all the worst-case scenarios, including domestic unrest and worldwide opposition appear to be vindicated.

The administration has clearly issued a statement to the world. "Screw you. We're going to play this game any way you want to play it. And we're ready for anything that comes."

Only time will tell if they are correct.


Informant: Gerd Ernst Zesar

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