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OpenMarket: February 2007

  • Yet Another Reason to Ignore Fishy Federal Advisories

    February 16, 2007

    In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency issued warnings to pregnant women. They said that trace levels of methyl mercury in fish could harm developing babies' nervous systems. CEI warned the public that this was fishy advice—based largely junkscience. The EPA-FDA recommendations are particularly bad because they discourage consumption of a very healthy food choice.

    Today's Washington Post offers yet another wrinkle to this story. It reports that women who ate more than EPA's recommended maximum levels of fish during pregnancy gave birth to children with better developed nervous systems and higher IQs than women who ate less fish. If the researchers in this study are...

  • Death for scams -- don't tell the AGs

    February 16, 2007
    I couldn't resist this article in the Washington Times today — “Chinese ant scammer gets death.” Seems a Chinese entrepreneur was selling ant kits to investors in a phony ant-breeding scheme. According to the article he charged 10,000 investors $1300 each for the kits, which normally sold for $25. The Chinese use ants for medicinal use. Curious about ants and medicine, I found an abstract on NIH's website that notes:
    Chinese ant extract preparations (CAEP) are a Chinese traditional medicine which is mainly used as a health food or drink for the treatment of rheumatism, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic hepatitis, sexual hypofunction, and antiaging in China....
  • Can the Brazilian ethanol "miracle" work on 34th street?

    February 15, 2007

    It's been called the Brazilian “miracle” — and Brazil's ethanol program has been touted as a model for the U.S. and other countries to follow.

    In a new CEI Issue Analysis, “The Brazilian Sugarcane Ethanol Experience,” Brazilian economist Marcus Renato S. Xavier explores the underpinnings of the “miracle” and points out what would be required in terms of huge and continuing taxpayer subsidies and government mandates.

    If ethanol were truly key in displacing oil imports, the Brazilian ethanol program also shows that biofuels should not be considered a panacea for the world's energy challenges. Brazil's ethanol infrastructure model required huge taxpayer subsidies over decades before it could become viable. The ethanol program became uneconomical when petroleum prices fell in the late 1990s. Even today, during a...

  • Thou Shalt Play All of Grand Theft Auto

    February 15, 2007
    Yesterday, CNET Reported the following:
    Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) on Tuesday reintroduced the Truth in Video Game Rating Act, first proposed last September. It calls for requiring video game rating organizations to play all games "in their entirety" before issuing labels and prohibiting game developers from withholding any "hidden" game content from raters. It would also punish ratings groups that "grossly mischaracterize" any game's content.
    CNET's Anne Broache goes on to explain that one of the primary motivations for this revision of the ratings system is that ...
  • Skip the Green Fuzzy Feeling

    February 15, 2007
    The New York Times reports today that many consumers are turning to “green” cleaning products. If people are willing to pay more for these products—that's their choice. But the only thing they are like to get is a warm fuzzy feeling. There is no evidence that these so-called “green” are any healthier or better for the environment. According to a University of California, Berkeley study produced in 2006, some household cleaners might, in theory, pose a health risks. But everything in life poses risks—including the so-called green products. William W. Nazaroff, Berkeley researchers to led the report, told the New York Times: “I haven't seen any good evidence supporting the idea that something that is being sold as green is really good for the people who are using the products … There are good...
  • Your goals are China in your hand

    February 15, 2007
    Well, I never. China admits it failed to meet any of its environmental goals for 2006:
    China's environmental watchdog admitted Monday the country had failed to reach any of its pollution control goals for 2006 and had fallen further behind as the economy picked up speed. The State Environmental Protection Agency said the faster-than-expected economic growth meant that sulfur dioxide emissions increased by nearly 463,000 tons, or 1.8 percent, over the previous year, according to a report on its Web site.
    This is the exploding economy that will surpass the US as the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases by 2009.
  • Will free trade be a victim of "fair" trade?

    February 15, 2007

    Inserting more stringent labor provisions into U.S. free trade agreements was a major focus at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing yesterday. Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and other Democratic policymakers pushed U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab to ensure that trade pacts include enforceable labor standards based on core international standards.

    Legislators on both sides also blamed trade for the loss of U.S. jobs and called for more worker security.

    The day before (February 13, 2007), Congressional leaders, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and the Chairman and members of Ways and Means, sent a letter to President Bush urging him to take strong action to deal with the...

  • Greenpeace - climate obstructionists!

    February 15, 2007
    If global warming is the greatest and most urgent threat facing the planet, you'd think Greenpeace would be happy when a government takes steps to drastically reduce CO2 emissions, wouldn't you? You'd be wrong:
    A [British] High Court judge has ordered a rethink of the government's nuclear power plans, after a legal challenge by environmental campaigners Greenpeace.... Greenpeace said the ministers should "go back to the drawing board".
    Yes, Greenpeace is happy to delay moves to reduce CO2 emissions. Isn't this the only planet we've got?
  • The Net Neutrality ScareTicker

    February 15, 2007
    Gotta love the Net Neutrality ScareTicker: "It has been... 1548 days 12 hours 40 minutes ... without a "net neutrality" problem. Watch it live and up-to-the-second at http://www.netneutralityscareticker.com/. The Internet has somehow managed to get by without centrally managed price and entry regulation.
  • USDA projects an ethanol future -- Feed and food costs to rise

    February 14, 2007
    Each year the U.S. Department of Agriculture releases 10-year commodity projections to provide figures for the budget and to estimate the cost of farm programs. The latest report, “USDA Agricultural Long-term Projections to 2016,” was released February 2007 and includes some interesting projections about expected increases in feed costs and consumer prices with a shift to more corn grown for ethanol production. There are also implications for exports, as more corn is used domestically for ethanol. Here are some of the USDA projections:
    -- Farm-origin expenses rise less than the general inflation rate. Feed expenses rise the most as demand for corn for use in the production of ethanol competes with feed demand and pushes corn prices higher.
    ...

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