Friday, September 3, 2004
1. PLANETS: "... A NEW PLANET SWIMS INTO HIS KEN," JOHN KEATS.
Three planets swam into our ken this week, orbiting other stars. The news is that they are much smaller than previously discovered Jupiter-sized giants which are unlikely to harbor life. The most compelling quest in science is to find life to which we are not related. Our best hope had always been our neighbor Mars, but we were disappointed in 1976 when Viking 2 gave us a close-up look at the barren surface of Mars. Ironically, Viking had landed in the region called "the Utopian Plain." The search for life continues on Mars, then on to Jupiter's ocean-moons. Soon perhaps, the search can expand beyond the solar system.
2. NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION: TREATIES ARE VIOLATED WITH IMPUNITY.
Iran acknowledges that tons of raw uranium are being processed into uranium hexafluoride gas, which will then be centrifuged to produce enriched uranium. Only low-enriched uranium for use in electric power generation is sought, Iran claims. Uh huh, like this country that floats on an ocean of oil needs nuclear power. North Korea has been openly flaunting its nuclear weapons program (WN 16 Jan 04) and now South Korea, has admitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency that highly enriched uranium has been produced, but said it was done by rogue scientists without the government's knowledge. Sure. Meanwhile, the United States used the preemptive-strike justification to invade the only rogue country that wasn't close to making a bomb. The U.S. may now be spread too thin to be taken seriously.
3. DIETARY GUIDELINES: FOOD PYRAMID IS REFINED - REFINED SUGAR.
At a time when diabetes and obesity are growing health problems, new guidelines (WN 13 Aug 04) replace, "Avoid too much sugar," with "Choose carbohydrates wisely." Although public health advocates expressed satisfaction with the report, the New York Times thinks the report was deliberately obscure when it came to sugar. According to the Times, the food, drug and supplement industries have strong ties to a number of the panelists and probably influenced the outcome. Comments on the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee will be accepted until September 27, 2004. Even as the revised guidelines were made public, separate studies showed appalling increases in obesity and diabetes linked to consumption of sugar-sweetened sodas. Soft drinks contain high-fructose corn syrup, which raises blood sugar, drastically increasing insulin and putting stress on insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.