Friday, April 9, 2004
1. PRIVACY: G-MAIL EVEN COMES WITH A GIGABYTE OF FREE STORAGE.
If you like the SPAM you get these days, you’re going to love the “free” Web-based Gmail service being tested by Google. So what’s in it for Google? WN discounts the rumors that the Pentagon has simply privatized the “Total Information Awareness Program” (WN 20 Dec 02). But your private mail will be scanned to see what you’re involved in. Ads tailored to your interests can then be included with incoming mail. If you do use Gmail, WN recommends avoiding any mention of “length” or “enlarge”; you’re getting enough of those ads already.
2. DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS: IOM CALLS FOR CHANGES IN THE 1994 DSHEA.
Among the worst pieces of legislation ever enacted, the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act exempted suppliers of natural supplements from the need to prove safety, efficacy, or purity (WN 16 Aug 02). The FDA can take a supplement off the market if it’s found to be harmful, but has succeeded in doing so only one time, after a celebrity died (WN 2 Jan 04). In a new report, the Institute of Medicine urges that the law be changed to improve the process. But the supplement industry wields enormous power; a bill to expand the FDA’s authority is stalled in conference.
3. POLITICAL SCIENCE: MARBURGER ANSWERS CHARGE OF “MANIPULATION.”
Two months ago, a group of 60 very prominent scientists charged the administration with manipulating the science advisory process (WN 20 Feb 04). The response of the White House was to eject two advocates of stem cell research from the Council on Bioethics. John Marburger, OSTP Director, was given the task of belittling the statement of the scientists (WN 5 Mar 04). Last Friday, Marburger issued a detailed rebuttal of the scientists’ statement, but there will surely be a rebuttal to the rebuttal. On climate change, for example, the scientists charged that the Bush administration consistently sought to mislead the public on the scientific consensus that human activity has led to warming. In denying this, Marburger quotes the President’s Rose Garden speech in which he acknowledged that human activity has resulted in an increase in CO2 concentrations. But in fact, he refrained from making the connection between CO2 concentration and warming.
4. EXPLORATION: MISSION OF MARS EXPLORERS EXTENDED THREE MONTHS.
Another entrepreneur with too much disposable income, Greg Olsen, has signed up to be an ISS tourist. Olsen seems to confuse high-tech bungee jumping in low-Earth orbit with exploration. The real explorers, Spirit and Opportunity, 50 million miles away on Mars,are performing so well NASA has extended their tour of active duty 3 months. There have been no complaints from families.