The Week That Was
October 11, 2003

1. New on the Web: OUR ASSOCIATE TED ROCKWELL BRINGS COMMONSENSE TO THE DISCUSSION OF "DIRTY BOMBS." His article in the Washington Post is likely to make an impact on the overblown public fears about nuclear radiation.
See also three articles on nuclear terrorism on New on the Web at






2. Construction of a "dirty bomb" presents a formidable problem for terrorists
Letter to Editor, Wash Times (published on June 13, 2002)

With all the current concern about "dirty bombs," here are a few things that should be kept in mind, based on simple calculations:

First, it's the explosion that kills, not the radioactivity. Although prolonged exposure can make you sick, you may not want to stick around long enough for that to happen.

Second, assembling the radioactive material is almost sure to kill any terrorist. After all, a square mile of contamination needs to be compressed into less than a few cubic feet. That's a several million-fold concentration. And the stuff would get so hot; it would melt most containers.

There are ways to get around such technical difficulties, but they are not easy. Then again, terrorists can spread radioactivity more slowly - without using a bomb to disperse it - and achieve almost the same psychological effects.

S Fred Singer
Science & Environmental Policy Project
3. Indoor Air Pollution Is Killing Millions, UN-WHO Reports
United Nations Foundation UN WIRE September 4, 2002

"Indoor stoves burning coal, wood or cow dung, which are used by more than half the world's households to cook or heat, have been linked to the premature deaths of 2.1 million women and children each year, according to the World Health Organization. The stoves, which are often used without adequate ventilation or chimneys, produce indoor air pollution with high concentrations of carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and carcinogens such as benzene.
Maged Younes, a WHO toxicologist, said pinpointing precisely how many of the 2.1 million premature deaths a year are caused exclusively by indoor air pollution is difficult since other factors, such as outdoor air pollution and poor nutrition, might also contribute to the deaths. However, studies have repeatedly shown that children are much more prone to chest infections, coughs, colds and middle-ear infections if exposed to indoor smoke.
"The No. 1 killer of children under the age of 5 is pneumonia, an acute respiratory illness," said Yasmin von Schirnding, an epidemiologist with the WHO.
One study in Tanzania found that children younger than 5 who died of respiratory infection were almost three times more likely to have slept in a room with an open stove than healthy children of the same age.
Researchers have also linked stillbirths, low birth weight, blindness and suppressed immune systems of newborns to indoor smoke exposure and carbon-monoxide poisoning.
The whole news release, see <>
SEPP Comment: Developed countries also suffer from poor indoor air quality yet concentrate all their control efforts on making the ambient outdoor air superclean. But susceptible populations, esp. the elderly, spend almost all of their time indoors. This comment applies esp. to the PM 2.5 problem (discussed below)
4. PM- 2.5 Problems Just Hot Air

The problem posed by airborne particulate matter (PM) -- especially those particles 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter (PM 2.5) that are emitted from motor vehicle tailpipe and power-plant emissions -- has been greatly overstated.

Ben Lieberman disagrees with the claim by the Environmental Protection Agency that the aggregate benefits from fighting PM 2.5 save $96 to $113 billion per year. The magnitude of these alleged benefits stands in stark contrast with the scant evidence supporting them:

EPA's PM 2.5 crusade is largely based on two epidemiological studies, the Harvard Six Cities Study and American Cancer Society Study. But both studies have serious flaws and exemplify why it is risky to base policy on epidemiological evidence alone.

According to Lieberman:

o Neither study singles out PM 2.5 as the clear culprit, as sulfur dioxide and other pollutants whose concentrations are correlated with PM 2.5 have an equal or greater effect on mortality.

o Also, the results are highly inconsistent in that the PM 2.5/mortality connection exists for some subsets of the population under study, but is completely absent for others; this suggests that so-called confounders-- extraneous factors like diet, exercise, and smoking behavior -- are really behind the findings.

Both studies attempted to control for most (but not all) possible confounders, but doing so is quite difficult and the results indicate a failure to clearly isolate a significant PM 2.5 effect. Despite these deficiencies, the Harvard Six Cities and American Cancer Society Studies have become the "official science" relied upon by EPA in claiming massive benefits from its PM 2.5 agenda, says Lieberman.

Source: Ben Lieberman, "Are Small Particles Such a Big Problem?"
Competitive Enterprise Institute, September 26, 2003.

For text

5. EPA Nominee Suggests White House Will Continue Strict EPA Oversight:

Gov. Michael Leavitt (R-Utah), the Bush administration's nominee to head EPA, said at his contentious confirmation hearing that he expects the White House to overrule his recommendations on certain controversial environmental policies, citing the fact that it was President Bush and not Leavitt who was elected to make those decisions.

His statement signals that more tensions between the White House and EPA over environmental policy-making will likely come, Inside EPA reported. Leavitt said he expects he will be trusted to run EPA and not consult the White House on most policy decisions. However, Leavitt said when he did have to elevate key issues to the White House for consideration, he planned to inform the administration of his position on the issues but also understood that Bush "was the one who was elected" and would therefore make the final decision.

Leavitt appears likely to win confirmation and so far no major problems with his nomination have been raised. However, a number of environmental groups are launching a campaign to criticize and in some cases oppose Leavitt's nomination, citing his Utah environmental record, which they say is problematic.


6. Arctic Ice Shelf Moving Away From Bush, Democrats Say:
But General Clark Caught in Ice Chunk Gaffe

The Ward Ice Shelf, the largest ice shelf in the Arctic, has fractured and
is "rapidly moving away" from President George W. Bush, Democrats said today.

"The Ward Ice Shelf is doing exactly what the American people are doing:
rejecting the failed policies of this administration," Presidential
candidate and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean told a crowd of
enthusiastic supporters in Davenport, Iowa today.

Senator John Kerry (D-MA), campaigning in New Hampshire, echoed Mr. Dean's words somewhat, saying, "The Ward Ice Shelf does not want another four years of George Bush and Dick Cheney," but then added, "Howard Dean sucks, too."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan accused the Democrats of
"opportunism" and claimed that many Presidents have experienced some
fracturing of arctic ice shelves at this point in their first terms and
have still gone on to win reelection.

While most Democrats were quick to capitalize on the massive ice shelf's
meltdown, retired General Wesley Clark found himself caught in yet another gaffe, struggling to explain conflicting statements he made about the Ward Ice Shelf.

After General Clark told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he was "vehemently
opposed" to the fracturing of the enormous ice chunk, Mr. Blitzer
referenced a statement made by General Clark last March in which the
former NATO commander said, "I don't give a tinker's damn whether the Ward Ice Shelf breaks up or not, and anyone who does must be smoking weed or something."

With General Clark's poll numbers taking a hit from his latest gaffe, the
Ward Ice Shelf has emerged as the leading Democratic contender, beating
President Bush by seven percentage points in the latest poll.



Go to the Week That Was Index