Monthly Archives: June 2011

Cell phones, saccharin, and cancer

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 31:  A man speaks on his mo...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

The New York Times reports today that a World Health Organization panel has found cell phones are “possibly carcinogenic.” The panel did no independent study itself, but reviewed a number of existing studies.

The headline in the Times read “Panel Adds to Debate Over the Cancer Risk of Cellphone Radiation,” and although it is buried on page 12, still sounds fairly scary. But, as usual with scientific studies and conclusions drawn from reviewing such studies, the scariness dissipates quite a bit.

The main reason for the WHO panel classifying cell phones as possibly carcinogenic was some data that showed a higher risk among heavy cell phone users of developing a rare type of brain tumor called a glioma. A 13 country study published last year, called Interphone, found no overall increased risk of developing cancer from using cell phones but it also reported that there was a 40% higher risk of developing gliomas among the heaviest cell phone users. It is also true that gliomas tend to be relatively rare and seem to be connected to chromosome instability, so one should not look at the percentage and think that there is a 40% chance one is going to develop glioma from using the cell phone too much.

These scientific reports always remind me of the days when saccharin, or Sweet ‘N Low, was the bogeyman. Thirty-four years ago this past March the Food and Drug Administration banned it based on scientific studies. Talk about over reaction. The amount of saccharin given to the lab animals has been compared to a normal adult drinking 800 diet sodas a day for a lifetime. (See post on by Elizabeth M. Whelan on March 9, 2007) Today, saccharin and Sweet ‘N Low are widely available and turned out not to be as evil as we were told them were.

So let’s not get too heated up about the WHO panel’s finding. Many scientific studies, when presented in the media, seem like the great and powerful Wizard of Oz, truly frightening, but in the end turn out to be like that “man behind the curtain” that we’re not supposed to pay any attention to.

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Raggedy Ann Meets Raggedy Andy in NY

The august New York Times has a home page photo of Sarah Palin visiting Donald Trump in New York City today. Is this supposed to be meaningful? Are these two titans of the political realm people we should be listening to? Do my fellow Americans feel joy or nausea when viewing this set piece?

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 31:  Former U.S. Vice presi...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Neither Trump nor Palin has ever impressed me as a deep thinker. I have not heard Sarah or the Donald propose a plan for how to extricate ourselves from two (or three, depending on how you’re counting) wars, or get us out of the economic horse latitudes, or, most importantly, improve our morale and the way we deal with each other. Rather, they are exploiters and purveyors of fear, offering their leadership skills to a frightened group of Americans who seem to be unable to accept change and growth. Trump and Palin try to elbow each other out of the way of the ‘mob’ of their supporters. And when was the last time you heard of any mob running across town to do something good?

The rhetoric employed by these two stuffed dolls is simply appalling. They worry about the existence of a birth certificate of a sitting president instead of helping to deal with the very real problems facing most of us. And the media, like the Grey Lady herself, continue to give them front page space. They are not entertaining or amusing; they are an embarrassment to our nation.

Imagine, if you will, a President Palin and Vice President Trump.  What might be their agenda? Bomb the hell out of (fill in the blank)? Invade Iran? Would this be a government to be proud of? I mean, we jettisoned old King George III, who was batty, and our founding fathers were aware that in a dynastic monarchy you’re going to get bad apples. They believed there was a better way.

But they also expected us, the electorate, to be more thoughtful. Roughly half of us feel roughly the opposite of roughly the other half. What are we doing to reach out to each other and find some common ground. Governing a nation is not a game where one team can change conditions for all of us when they have the ball. No one’s winning elections with 95% of the vote. Candidates who win elections have to think and act not only for their voters, but for the people who voted for the other side. These two lightweights can’t do that. And the media do us no service by continuing to highlight their comings, going, and tweets. Enough already!

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Filed under Conservatism, Politics, Republicans, Tea Party