I used to scoff at how Ayn Rand turned the word "humanitarian" in the Fountainhead into a term of derision. I didn't think it was justified to assume anyone adopting the humanitarian title had to be evil. Surely, for example, Andrew Carnegie with his philanthropy and opposition to war could be considered a positive humanitarian?
But maybe she was on to something. At least as far as Greenpeace is concerned:
According to the World Health Organization between 250,000 to 500,000 children become blind every year due to vitamin A deficiency, half of whom die within a year of becoming blind. Millions of other people suffer from various debilitating conditions due to the lack of this essential nutrient.
Golden Rice is a genetically modified form of rice that, unlike conventional rice, contains beta-Carotene in the rice kernel. Beta-Carotene is converted to vitamin A in humans and is important for eyesight, the immune system, and general good health. Swiss scientist and humanitarian Dr. Ingo Potrykus and his colleagues developed Golden Rice in 1998. It has been demonstrated in numerous studies that golden rice can eliminate vitamin A deficiency.
Greenpeace and its allies have successfully blocked the introduction of golden rice for over a decade, claiming it may have “environmental and health risks” without ever elaborating on what those risks might be. After years of effort the Golden Rice Humanitarian Project, led by Dr. Potrykus, The Rockefeller Foundation and others were unable to break through the political opposition to golden rice that was generated directly by Greenpeace and its followers.
To their credit, Bill and Melinda Gates are giving it another try.
The old saying goes, "where there is smoke, there's fire." I think we all are at least subconciously suceptible to thinking this way vis a vis the cancer risks in the media. We hear so much about these risks that, even if the claims seem absurd, we worry if there isn't something there. After all, if the media is concerned, surely the balance of evidence must be at least close - there is probably a small risk or increase in mortality.
Not so. Take cell phones. We have heard for decades concern about cancer risk from cell phones. But they are not even close to dangerous, missing danger levels by something like 5 and a half orders of magnitude.
Cell phones do not cause cancer. They do not even theoretically cause cancer. Why? Because they simply do not produce the type of electromagnetic radiation that is capable of causing cancer. Michael Shermer explains, using basic physics:
...known carcinogens such as x-rays, gamma rays and UV rays have energies greater than 480 kilojoules per mole (kJ/mole), which is enough to break chemical bonds... A cell phone generates radiation of less than 0.001 kJ/mole. That is 480,000 times weaker than UV rays...
If the radiation from cell phones cannot break chemical bonds, then it is not possible for cell phones to cause cancer, no matter what the World Health Organization thinks. And just to put the "possible carcinogen" terminology into perspective, the WHO also considers coffee to be a possible carcinogen. Additionally, it appears that politics and ideology may have trumped science in the WHO's controversial decision.
The NY Post has a very good editorial on the health care bills (HT: Q&O). Too much good stuff to excerpt, it includes even more crazy provisions in the House and Senate bills I had not seen yet (its like a scavenger hunt as people go through the 1000 pages, or maybe more like searching for landmines).
But since the bill doesn't even start taking effect until 2013 (except for the higher taxes, which come earlier, of course), we have to really really rush and make sure its approved before the August recess (and before critics are able to actually read the thing - no chance those in Congress will read it, ever). Also, its such a burning problem, it just must be solved now, as evidenced by...
The most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll (June 21) finds that 83 percent of Americans are very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the quality of their health care, and 81 percent are similarly satisfied with their health insurance.
They have good reason to be. If you're diagnosed with cancer, you have a better chance of surviving it in the United States than anywhere else, according to the Concord Five Continent Study. And the World Health Organization ranked the United States No. 1 out of 191 countries for being responsive to patients' needs, including providing timely treatments and a choice of doctors.
I have written a number of times, the fact that we spend more on health care is not a bug, its a feature. We are the wealthiest nation on earth, and there is only so much we can spend on food, clothing, shelter, plasma TV's and other necessities. We choose to spend a lot of that extra money on our health and longevity. Why is that a bad decision?