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A shorter article derived from this "e-monograph" appears in the September/October 2003 issue of Skeptical Inquirer, with the title "Energy, Homeopathy, and Hypnosis in Santa Fe."

Todd Seavey is Director of Publications at the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH.org) and Editor of HealthFactsAndFears.com. His research for this project took place under the auspices of a Phillips Foundation journalism fellowship. The opinions expressed are entirely his own.

Table of contents

Introduction: A SYMPATHETIC LOOK AT VOODOO (SERIOUSLY)

Part...

DISPATCH: Hunger, Mercury, Alcohol, Smoke, and Toenails

Norman Borlaug's op-ed on the fight against hunger

ACSH trustee Dr. Norman Borlaug, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and professor of international agriculture at Texas A&M University, co-wrote an op-ed addressing the issue of world hunger. In the article, Dr. Borlaug and Peter McPherson acknowledge that short-term solutions include emergency food aid, but they heavily emphasized that "we also need a long-term vision of growth, and integrated investments that incorporate research, human and institutional capacity building, infrastructure, sound policy, markets, and governance."

Dr. Borlaug...

Current conservation policies often clash with public health initiatives in the developing world but they get little attention. There are real harms in advocating water and energy conservation over people.

We take sanitary practices for granted in wealthier countries but hygienic practices require water in quantity and uninterrupted power to supply that water and related sewage systems. Those really help countries that need it most yet those are two things that environmental groups and governments in Europe and North America often oppose. Reports from the World Health Organization and the World Bank have found that lack of water and energy affects 800 million people around the globe. Decentralized heating and cooking in homes in the urban areas of the developing world account...

How much do we really know about the origin and spread of the 1918 flu pandemic? Comparisons with other pandemics reveal patterns and lingering mysteries.

Watching the Animals

"The horses growing better, a cough and sore throat seized mankind." This was the news from Dublin toward the end of 1727, reported in Charles Creighton's monumental History of Epidemics in Britain -- Volume II -- From the Extinction of the Plague to the Present Time, Creighton's "present time" being 1894.

Matters had been much the same in 1688 as in 1727. A "short time before the general fever, a slight disease, but very universal, seized the horses too: in them it showed itself by a great defluxion of rheum from their noses." Creighton's source "was assured by a...

Risk Estimation:  It would come as a surprise to most people to learn that so-called quantitative cancer risk assessments do not actually quantify true risk.  The actuarial risk calculated by insurance companies (e.g., the risk of dying in an auto accident), is based on actual data on the incidence of disease-, disaster- or accident-related mortality.  However, actuarial data on disease incidence or mortality in humans resulting from very low exposures to chemicals in the environment simply do not exist.  Instead, data from occupational studies of more heavily exposed humans are used, where available.  However, epidemiological studies seldom have the quantitative exposure data needed for a quantitative risk assessment.  To create a surrogate for this missing low-...

Tragedies are great teachers, but unfortunately too many people draw the wrong lessons from them. Not too long ago, major tragedies were interpreted as some form of divine retribution for our sins. Now, geology (plate tectonics and volcanology), meteorology, other sciences offer hope for preventative and ameliorative actions.

A tragedy of the magnitude of the Indian Ocean tsunami brings out the best and the worst in the twenty-four-hour TV news cycle, the Internet, and massive print coverage. There is now room for interviews with experts on every aspect of the issue -- its causes, likely short- and long-term consequences, and the most effective means of delivering assistance. With the seemingly wall-to-wall coverage, we will inevitably hear from those who, like the doomsday...

Consumed is an anti-GMO movie that was just released on Netflix under Conspiracy Theory Movies. I recapped it here so that you don't have to watch it. You're welcome.

Scene 1: Danny Glover’s Organic Farm

The movie opens as Danny Glover walks around in a dark barn, feeding goats and a dog out of silver pails. Danny Glover is authentic with his pails. He also wears suspenders and carries a lantern because he is an authentic organic farmer who doesn’t…believe in flashlights? Headlights! Scary music. Someone has come to intimidate or run over Danny Glover but we don’t know yet because this is a thriller.

I still can’t believe anyone made a thriller about how we breed plants. They should have used mutagenesis because radiation has a lot more...

Dr. Norman Borlaug
Dr. Norman Borlaug

The greatest good is often that which is unnoticed and unknown. Not least among our blessings are the bad things that do not happen and are therefore invisible...

•"The Scariest Health Threat You've Never Heard Of: Autoimmune Disease," from the September 2008 issue of Glamour, quoted Jeff Stier saying, "People want to blame chemicals where they don't have another explanation for the cause of a disease. I think we need more psychologists rather than more toxicologists."

•The September 29, 2008 New York Sun piece "Salt Is Next on City's Hit List" quoted Dr. Gilbert Ross likening New York City's anti-salt plans to the trans fat ban.

•The Pediatric Pointers column by Dr. Carolyn Roy-Bornstein of the Haverhill Gazette on September 25, 2008 quoted ACSH's reassurances on phthalates, in a piece entitled "Plasticizers and Children's Health" ( http...

Genetically engineered (GE) crops, which have been commercially available for 25 years, have been widely misunderstood and under-appreciated, especially by certain news outlets. Arguably, the worst offender among the mainstream media has been the New York Times, whose manifold shortcomings in reportage and commentaries over many years are described here and here.

Perhaps some glimmer of enlightenment toward genetic engineering is belatedly emerging. We were somewhat encouraged recently by “Learning to...