Toxic Sludge Might Not Be Good for You

In Canada, "a leading toxicologist has called for an urgent study on the potential health hazards posed by biosolids -- or human sewage sludge -- that is being spread on farming fields in Northumberland County." The sludge is offered as a free fertilizer by the local water and waste treatment plant. About 120,000 tons of sludge are spread on 6,000 acres of farmland in Ontario. Toxicologist Dr.


Industry Funding Makes for Weird Science

A study in the September 2007 issue of the journal Ecological Complexity claims that concerns of global warming's impact on polar bears are "highly premature." But the study wasn't peer reviewed, and it was funded by ExxonMobil.


AT&T's Wisconsin Network Finds Broad Support for Video "Choice"

phoneIt's no secret that polls are used to shape public opinion at least as much as they're used to measure it. The website of one major U.S. polling firm, the Mellman Group, boasts its "extensive experience developing effective communications strategies that lead people to choose our client's product or service, join their organization, hold their opinion, or vote as we would like."

Polling was used as a perception management tactic in the national debate over the children's health insurance program known as SCHIP. As President Bush prepared to veto an SCHIP reauthorization bill, Republican strategists worried about the impact on their party. Republican pollster David Winston came up with a solution: present the party's opposition as an attempt to "'put poor kids first' rather than expand coverage to adults, illegal immigrants and those already with insurance," reported the Wall Street Journal. "Independents favored that message 47%-38%." The veto went ahead, with the "poor kids first" theme figuring prominently in Republican talking points and briefing materials, such as the White House's "Five Key Myths About President Bush's Support for SCHIP Reauthorization."

Polls are also frequently employed as part of a "bandwagon" strategy: most people support (or oppose) this, so you should support (or oppose) this, too. Last year, a poll purported to show strong opposition to "net neutrality," the principle that networks should provide access to any data, without discrimination. But the poll questions were highly leading, asking participants whether they preferred "new TV and video choice" and "lower prices for cable TV," or "barring high speed internet providers from offering specialized services." The poll was funded by Verizon Communications, which opposes net neutrality.

Another telecom-related poll was unveiled last month at a press conference in Madison, Wisconsin. According to a press release (PDF) put out by the newly-formed Wisconsin Video Choice Coalition, "Wisconsin residents across demographic, geographic and party lines overwhelmingly support a state bill that would encourage competition to cable TV."

By all accounts, the legislation in question is controversial. Why, then, did the poll find such strong support for it?

Only the Convenient Facts, Ma'am

Congressional testimony that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Julie Gerberding gave "about the impact of climate change and health was significantly edited by the White House," reports AP. "A CDC official familiar with both versions said Gerberding's draft 'was eviscerated,' cut from 14 pages to four," by the White House Office of Management and Budget.


Chemical Reaction

Andrea Gawrylewski reports that an email from an "ACS insider," who insisted on anonymity, alleges that bonuses paid to executives of the American Chemical Society are tied to the profits of the publishing division and that this is why the society is opposing open-access publishing.


Taking Consumers to the Cleaners

The Hygiene Council, a "think tank" created and funded by the cleaning products company Reckitt Benckiser, touts the need for "good hygiene practice" in the "home and community." Ruth Pollard reports that the council "is pushing products that contain the expensive -- and potentially damaging -- antibacterial additive,


Teflon Lies Stick to DuPont

"On Jan. 11, 2005, DuPont publicists invited reporters to the company's Washington Works plant south of Parkersburg (W. Va.) for a major announcement," reports the Charleston Gazette. DuPont claimed that a new study proved "there are no known human health effects associated with exposure to PFOA," also known as C8, a chemical used in Teflon and other nonstick products. DuPont promoted the study "as having the seal of approval from ...


Retail Research Is Hurting Science

Cartoon doctor"The biggest threat to science," writes Jennifer Washburn, is "the decline of government support ... and the growing dominance of private spending over American research." In 1965, the U.S. government funded more than 60 percent of research, while in 2006, 65 percent of research was privately funded.


Well-Connected Skeptics Behind UK Attack on Global Warming Film

Snapshot from viral videoThe school governor who challenged the screening of Al Gore's climate change documentary in secondary schools was funded by a Scottish quarrying magnate who established a controversial lobbying group to attack environmentalists' claims about



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