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September 2009


Not perfect, but better than what certain crix think, Surrogates takes a look at what happens when most of humanity lies around all day, and uses their "surries" to interact with the real world.

The short running time (88 minutes) doesn't allow several issues to be developed, and the pic may suffer from its stupid marketing campaign, which sells it as an action movie. Bruce Willis does some good here, operating in a dystopian future setting that looks too close to the present day.

What is it that they say about good intentions (in that the surries were originally invented to help disabled people)? Read my complete review.

Love Happens

I'm getting caught up here with linking to some of my Mike's Comments movie reviews.

Love Happens had some sweet moments, but it could have been much better than it was. Jen Aniston tries hard, but the script fails her. Cynics might ask why she keeps taking roles where the character is unlucky in love, but here art imitates life, I guess.

Check out my review.

Dealing with mercury the right way

That's the title of my latest HND piece, and the good guys here are Lafarge's Ravena, NY cement plant. One of the largest such plants in the country, it is also about the best in terms of mercury emissions, coming in at one percent or less of allowable levels.

For some reason, Erin Brockovich targeted this facility and town, while trolling for clients. Memo to Erin: Try researching the plant you pick on, before you give your dog and pony show. It might help if the plant in question is actually a polluter.

For those who never saw it, here is Walter Olson's masterful takedown of this incredible phony.

I don't even mention Erin in my HND piece, since she is completely irrelevant. In fact, John Reagan, my contact over at Lafarge, said that nothing seemed to come of her visit.

Ethylene oxide (EtO) techie stuff

Our newest Knowledge Base article gets into measurement ranges for EtO monitoring instrumentation. In so doing, we had to take a hard look at certain OSHA documents, as well as examine some literature references.

More often than you would think, references cited in a particular article don't necessarily support the contention being made. We link to a comprehensive report from 1989, and most of its content is still excellent. Too bad the authors who referenced it couldn't quote it properly.


Outside of bad reviews, there is no "curse of The Conqueror"

Go to virtually any film history website, search for "The Conqueror," released in 1956, and the odds are that there will be several paragraphs on how a disproportionate number of the cast and crew died from cancer. Most citations will then explain that this cancer was caused by their exposure to radioactive fallout on location near St. George, Utah—derived from atomic tests earlier in that decade.

An incredibly biased article from the November 10, 1980 issue of People magazine can probably be credited for re-igniting this baseless conspiracy theory. Here are a few indisputable facts that were strangely left out of the People piece:

1.     All the stars mentioned were heavy smokers, including John Wayne at five packs a day.

2.     91 of the 220 cast and crew members were said to have contracted cancer, but given the 40% lifetime rate for all individuals, this is hardly disproportionate. The People article quotes the late Robert Pendleton from the University of Utah saying that "30-some" cancers would be expected in a cohort that size, contrary to all data from the National Cancer Institute. The Pendleton quote appears in almost identical form on dozens of websites.

3.     The cancer mortality rate for Utah was then and continues to be one of the lowest in the country, with Washington County (containing St. George) among the lowest in the state.

While there is no science to support a cancer cluster here, politics eventually won out, and a program was set up to pay off anyone (usually $50,000) who got certain cancers and happened to live in the appropriate counties at the right time. Even if you believe that the fallout was a factor, radiogenic cancers typically do not take 40-50 years to manifest themselves. Yet, such "victims" were paid off just the same.

Given that well over $1 billion has been paid out by this program since 1990, this whole business may qualify as the most successful environmental fraud of all time.

Check out more details in my Health News Digest article.

Gerson Therapy: Cancer Hope Or Cancer Hype?

That's the title of my latest HND piece. Based on the indie movie the Beautiful Truth (2008), this long ago discredited "therapy" got a new lease on life.

Helmer Steve Kroschel exploited his young son to research Gerson's work, and that all by itself would have made a pretty boring movie, so he added a host of junk science perennials, including a jaw-droppingly stupid demonstration showing water vapor coming off teeth, that he misidentifies as mercury.

Also included are attacks on the evil pharmaceutical and ag industries.

Only two skeptics are shown on camera, and that takes up perhaps 30 seconds of screen time.

Missing from the film is anything about naturopathic doctor Steve Austin's takedown of the whole thing. Austin really did want to believe, but the facts got in the way.

Other sources claim that when asked to produce a SINGLE case whereby a Gerson patient was cured, who was not first the subject of conventional therapy, the clinic was unable to produce anything. This doesn't stop them from charging a young fortune for their treatment, however.

More background here.