Monday, July 14, 2008


Talk about disturbing images, both real and imagined.


Sunday, July 13, 2008


Malaria continues to kill many hundreds of thousands of Africans every year despite the supposed best efforts of the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the United States Agency for International Development. According to the CDC in 2000 malaria killed an estimated 742,000 African children under the age of five. Like young children, pregnant women are also especially vulnerable. It is tragic that so many Africans die of a disease that is both treatable and preventable.

Now I'm no malaria expert and don't claim to know exactly what steps individual African countries should take to bring malaria under control; such decisions are best made by governments in consultation with experts. So long as an anti-malaria program produces results I really couldn't care less if it relies on drug treatment, bed nets, indoor residual spraying (with DDT, malathion, Icon or others), some combination of the above, integrated vector management or whatever.

The Ugandan government, supported by technical and financial support from USAID, evaluated the situation and decided to implement an indoor residual spraying program using DDT as the most cost effective way to control malaria. The program was in trouble almost immediately:
Marck van Esch, manager of Bo Weevil, an exporter of organic cotton, told The EastAfrican that the spraying has been improperly done, and the chemical will inevitably spill over into the environment, and consequently into organic produce.

"We have visual evidence from Oyam and Apac districts already with our lawyers. It shows the spray on the walls and roofs of the grass-thatched mud houses, as well as on farm-tools, bicycles and the produce as well, in the same room. Under such conditions, we shall definitely have contaminated produce," Mr Esch said.

He said the investment in the area is worth about $4 million, with some 27,000 farmer households focused on production of value-added cotton, sesame and dried chilli. "We now cannot take produce from Oyam and Apac for the next season, because we know it is contaminated. We have started to invest in Ethiopia, because the investment climate in Uganda is a great disappointment," Mr Esch added.
Thus all cotton from areas where DDT was sprayed inside homes is assumed to be contaminated and cannot be sold at an organic premium. According to BoWeevil Ugandan cotton is certified organic by Ecocert International applying European regulation for organic agriculture (2092/91), which states in part:
The inspection body or authority must make a full physical inspection, at least once a year, of all operators. The inspection body or authority may take samples for testing of products not authorised under this Regulation or for checking production techniques not in conformity with this Regulation. Samples may also be taken and analysed for detecting possible contamination by unauthorised products. However, such analysis must be carried out where the use of unauthorised products is suspected. An inspection report must be drawn up after each visit, countersigned by the responsible person of the unit or his representative.
So it seems that Ecocert is obliged to visit the individual farmers to test their cotton for DDT contamination. Even if Ecocert isn't contractually obliged to test for possible contamination at the producer level BoWeevil isn't doing the right thing in refusing to buy any of the cotton because some of it is "known" to be contaminated. It really is important to find out if the cotton is contaminated and, if so, how it became contaminated so the government knows if it's made a mess of the spraying program.

Tim Lambert has posted on this without doing any research, his only concern being that my earlier post on this subject made him look foolish – Glenn Reynolds and I maybe scored a few points off him. He is wrong – shock! horror! – in assuming:
So if there were DDT residues in the cotton, it was because DDT was illegally diverted to agricultural use.
No, if the cotton is contaminated, it's because it came into contact with DDT when it was stored indoor areas sprayed with DDT.

Lambert also claims the EU enthusiastically supports DDT use in Africa conveniently ignoring the following:
The head of the Economic, Trade and Social sectors desk at the EU delegation to Uganda, Tom Vens told The EastAfrican that the EU had warned the government against the use of DDT, which scientists claim, can cause cancer among humans if ingested.

"We have advised the government that they are taking a risk if they go ahead with this DDT use, he said. "We, however, leave it to the government, of course, to decide. But nothing will happen, at least on the official side, if they decide to use DDT in strict compliance with the Stockholm Convention," he said.

The Stockholm Convention is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants.

The EU official, however, said that they would have no control over the consumer organisations in Europe which could pressure supermarkets to stop selling agricultural products from Uganda.
Sure, go ahead and use DDT but don't be surprised if consumers boycott your products.

Best of all, Lambert seeks support in linking to idiotic nonsense from Ed "water is carcinogenic" Darrell.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


The next generation Toyota Prius will feature solar powered electrics, sort of:
"It's more of a symbolic gesture," said the source, who asked not to be identified. "It's very difficult to power much more than that with solar energy."
For those wanting more than symbolic solar power there's the ultra-sleek Venturi.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


The push for British school canteens to serve more nutritious food has produced unintended but not unexpected consequences:
Supermarkets, newsagents and takeaways were far more popular than the school canteen, with 80 per cent of children using them regularly.
Worries that school kids are way too fat and getting fatter has prompted the government to propose an innovative solution:
The children's minister, Kevin Brennan, has called for secondary pupils under the age of 16 to be locked in school grounds at lunchtime to stop them from stocking up on sweets, fizzy drinks and takeaways.
Students will respond by stocking up on fattening teeth-rotting goodies on the way to school. Stand by for demands that something be done about the soaring incidence of back problems amongst kiddies lugging around backpacks full of junk food. Not only that, just think of the money to be made and the crime opportunities associated with selling black market food to classmates. Gone will be "give me your lunch money", replaced by "give me your lollies".


ABC Australia's Brendan Trembath reports from the US:
The surging cost of crude has had a devastating impact in a country where the car is such an ingrained part of the culture.
So, how has expensive fuel impacted American drivers? A rash of armed fuel siphonings? Perhaps an upsurge in tanker hijackings? Nope, Americans are driving way less, with the number taking to the road over the 4th of July weekend down by a staggering "more than one per cent from last year". Considering the massive vehicles they drive, that should save at least a couple of billion tons of carbon emissions.

Saturday, July 05, 2008


Sasha's a living doll.


If this report is to be believed, enlightened Europeans are refusing to buy Ugandan cotton not because it's contaminated but rather because Ugandans dared to use DDT indoors, well away from any fields of cotton:
Over 11,000 farmers in Apac and Oyam districts of Uganda are now stuck with cotton after it was rejected by buyers from the Dutch firm BoWeevil due to DDT spraying in the area.

Marck Van Esch, the managing director of BoWeevil, told local press, “DDT is a problem in any food commodity to the Western world. There is a zero tolerance there for DDT products,” he said. BoWeevil promotes and certifies organic cotton through agricultural projects in places like Turkey and Uganda where its Ugandan organic cotton is certified by Ecocert International and complies with the stringent NOP certification so it can exported to the USA.

Government officials started DDT spraying in the Oyam and Apac districts of Uganda in April, but were recently halted by the Kampala High Court after a petition, filed by nine groups of produce farmers, traders and conservationists. Van Esch said if the Ministry of Health continues spraying DDT where they have their programmes, they will close down their businesses and industries. “Many export commodities will not be able to find Western markets any more. The consequences will be enormous and disastrous,” he told All Africa. “Although we think that there are better alternatives than DDT. Eventually more people will die of poverty.
So, if Ugandans want to reduce malaria's death toll they better not use DDT. This prohibition is directly attributable to the environmental movement's patron saint, Rachel Carson:
The use of the DDT has been highly controversial ever since Rachel Carson published her seminal book ‘Silent Spring’ in 1962, which catalogued the environmental impacts of the indiscriminate spraying of DDT in the USA.
Self-proclaimed DDT expert Tim Lambert was wrong, of course, to claim Europeans did not threaten trade sanctions against DDT users.

Update: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking. So far, only one source is reporting this story; it will be interesting to see how it develops. Are Ugandans being punished for daring to use DDT to save their own lives or is the cotton perhaps contaminated and, if so, what is the level of contamination and exactly how did a chemical sprayed in minute quantities and only indoors escape into the environment in large enough quantity to contaminate the cotton?

It is worth noting that the use of DDT was recently temporarily halted as of result of court action taken by cotton farmers, cotton buyers and environmentalists, who warned that crops might be contaminated. Being somewhat cynical, it immediately sprang to mind that slipping a small quantity of DDT into the cotton crop would be a good way to deter Africans using the dreaded chemical.

Update II: Seriously strange Ed Darrell, a Lambert acolyte and fellow educator, completely loses the plot in a post attacking me and Glenn Beck (aka Glenn Reynolds) for linking to me:
Instapundit screws up again (Uganda, cotton, DDT)

Instapundit loves to roil waters, but he’s low on content, and everytime I see it, low on accuracy, too.

This is the entirety of Glenn Beck’s post linking to the rabidly anti-Rachel Carson, RWDB with a rant about DDT that lacks several key points of accuracy:
THE HIGH COST OF fighting malaria.
Six words and he’s wrong already. That’s quite a skill to be dead wrong in six words.

Our friend, the other Beck, at RWDB, has a news report from Uganda, and rather than note it and check for accuracy, he uses it as a tee for numerous shots and mulligans against science, scientists, environmentalists, health care workers, the EU, and anyone else who inhabited his latest delerium.
The over 700-word post concluding:
What’s the real story?

Neither Beck seems to care. They get a dig at environmentalists, so what if Ugandans get malaria?
Darrell seems to have missed the start of the post where I note my doubts about the story: "If this report is to be believed..." I do not attack science, scientists, health care workers, the EU or environmentalists and merely reproduced the Carson comment from the original source.

It appears Darrell is doing some extended heavy duty celebrating over this 4th of July weekend.

Update III: New developments here.

Friday, July 04, 2008


Secular Jew Antony Loewenstein:
Hating Islam and Muslims has become legitimate and encouraged. Can we imagine Jews being treated in the same way?
Uh, yes.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Embattled politician John Della Bosca is pursued onto a train by reporters, who he refuses to talk to and this is how it's reported:
It is understood Mr Della Bosca refused to comment, and spent at least a part of the hour-long trip between Gosford and Central Station in Sydney inside a toilet.
Now there's some news for you.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


University of New South Wales computer scientist Tim Lambert was all hot for DDT back in May with four posts on the subject, promising on the 27th to do a follow-up revealing more on the sinister Roger Bate's connections to the even more sinister tobacco companies that want to poison the third world with DDT, or some such. Lambert hasn't yet delivered on his promise to post more on Bate but has taken the time to attempt to embarrass Jenifer Marohasy by faulting some of her utterances regarding Al Gore and global warming. Lambert has problems with this quote from Marohasy:
In [Al Gore's] movie, "An Inconvenient Truth", he actually talks about how hurricane records show an increase in number and intensity and he talks about hurricanes since 1975 but there's actually good data that goes back 100 years and if he'd gone back to the 1940s he would have seen that there were more intense hurricanes then. Then there was a bit of a lull and then from the 1970s there had been an increase in hurricane intensity. So he was cherry picking the data. This was Al Gore.
To which Lambert retorts:
This one is particularly easy to check -- you just have to watch the movie to see what Gore says about hurricanes. The closest he gets is (at 29 minutes in):
When the ocean gets warmer that causes stronger storms.
Having failed to purchase An Inconvenient Truth I don't have a copy at hand and can't check what's in the movie but the trailer repeatedly shows hurricane images with Gore saying:
Temperature increases are taking place all over the world and that's causing stronger storms.
The movie then presents images of hurricane Katrina with this flashing across the screen:
Gore is clearly linking global warming to increased hurricane strength and to hurricane Katrina as a particularly devastating storm.

Anyway, what makes this funny is when Lambert writes:
From past experience, I doubt that Marohasy will correct her false statements.
Lambert expects Marohasy to correct her "error" when he refuses to address his multiple errors (many of them intentional). Lambert has very high standards for other bloggers that he refuses to meet. Pathetic behaviour for a science blogger writing at