25 May 2001
1. SENATE: FREE AGENT SWITCHES SIDES.
Nothing else George W. did
as Texas' governor generated as much criticism as he got as owner
of the Dallas Rangers when he let Sammy Sosa be traded. Now it's
happened again. Senator James Jeffords became a free agent with
his reelection last fall, and this week he got a better offer
from another team. Jeffords, who opposes Bush's environmental
policies, will chair the Environment and Public Works Committee.
And Washington could become a very different town.
2. CELL PHONES AND CANCER: SO WHAT DOES THE GAO KNOW?
In an orgy
of budget cutting, Congress abolished its Office of Technology
Assessment in 1995
(WN 29 Sep 95).
So where does Congress go to
get answers to technical questions? Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CN)
and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) turned to the General Accounting
Office, the investigative arm of Congress, for a report on
possible health risks associated with cell phone use. In its
report, released on Tuesday, the GAO finds no evidence of adverse
health effects, BUT they conclude there is not yet enough data to
conclude cell phones pose no risk at all. Of course not! And
there never will be. You can't prove anything is risk free. A
problem may yet show up only at higher exposure, or after longer
incubation, or when cell phone radiation is combined with
caffeine, or.... Physicists ask to see a plausible mechanism.
3. PLACEBO EFFECT: IT WON'T SHRINK TUMORS OR CURE BALDNESS.
A Danish study challenges the widely accepted claim that just about
any disorder that afflicts people will show a positive response
to a sham treatment. This so-called "placebo effect" has been
widely hailed by proponents of mind-body medicine as evidence of
the mind's power to heal. It's more likely to be evidence of
self-deception. For any disorder that could be measured, such as
excess weight, the Danish study found the use of a placebo to be
no more effective than no treatment at all. The placebo myth may
result from a reduction in stress hormones in people who are
convinced the treatment will work. Stress hormones can make you
feel lousy. The release of the Danish study comes as the sale of
herbal medications is falling, following several negative trials.
4. SPACE STATION: SUPPOSE THEY'LL HAVE A TUPPERWARE PARTY ON ISS?
Even as NASA is trying to deal with the frivolous image of the
International Space Station left by space-tourist Dennis Tito,
Pizza Hut reportedly paid Russia's space agency $1M to deliver a
six-inch cheese and salami pizza to the orbiting boondoggle. The
delivery reportedly cost Pizza Hut $1M. At that rate, maybe NASA
should hire Pizza Hut to supply everything to the station.