Thursday, February 18, 2010

This is what disrupting a public meeting looks like

US Ambassador to Israel, Michael Oren is booed, heckled, and disrupted repeatedly as he attempts to give a speech at UC Irvine in Southern California on February 8, 2010. --video courtesy Stand With Us

by Becky Johnson
February 18, 2010

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- This is what disrupting a public meeting looks like. I ought to know a thing or two about disrupting a public meeting having been the photographer who captured Robert Norse's "disruption" of a Santa Cruz City Council meeting when he made a fleeting hand gesture, a "Nazi" Salute when he objected to the Mayor's shutting off of oral communications without allowing the last speaker to speak.

On February 8th, The Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, was the invited speaker at an event held at UC Irvine. A large group of people who appeared to be the Muslim Student Union, attended the event. At various intervals, one person from their group would stand up and start yelling at Ambassador Oren. The MSA members would loudly cheer and clap when they did this. No sooner had one disrupter been escorted from the auditorium, another would stand up and yell.

These people and this group INTENDED to disrupt the event, and the message Ambassador Oren came to say. Their interference made it impossible to proceed in a normal fashion. It was impossible to conduct ordinary business with the disruption ongoing. The disruption was sustained. And this tactic of disruption and intimidation of political opponents and Jews is reminiscent of the Brownshirts in Germany which gave Hitler his rise to power.

The heart of democracy is persuasion. We are a diverse nation, which in turn, is connected and interwined with other nationalities. To remain a democracy, and to accomodate diverse voices, bullying tactics like those used by the MSU at UC Irvine must not be tolerated!

Friday, February 12, 2010

BS Alert:--The 'third-hand smoke' hoax

NOTE TO READER: This study has been spread around the world by such notables as Brian Williams of NBC, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, and of course, the anti-tobacco forces which are out to treat those who smoke as pariah's, this time with a study by Dr. Hugo Destaillats who was awarded $704,901.00 by TRDRP and the taxpaying smokers of California to prepare this travesty of science.

---Becky Johnson, editor

BS Alert: The ‘third-hand smoke' hoax

February 10, 8:23 PM
from: Louisville Public Policy Examiner
by Thomas McAdam

found online at:

(Graphic: McAdam/

What’s that you say? You’ve never even heard of the horrors of “third-hand smoke?” Well, we here at the Louisville Public Policy Examiner like to keep our readers on the cutting edge of pseudoscience, so that they may demonstrate their newly-acquired erudition at Sierra Club meetings and Metro Health Department seminars. Worse than DDT, Radon, and Trans-Fats combined, third-hand smoke—or, THS—may well prove to be the greatest scientific scare of the century. Not since the Great Cranberry Scare of 1959 has junk science been ratcheted up to such a hysterical level.

It all started in January of 2009, with a silly little article in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. A consumer telephone poll about beliefs surrounding the health risks of smoking, that had been conducted in 2005, had asked 1,500 people if they agreed with the statements:

  • “Breathing air in a car today where people smoked yesterday can harm the health of babies and children.”
  • “Breathing air in a room where people smoked yesterday can harm the health of babies and children.”


Those surveyed who stated they agreed or agreed strongly were categorized as believing third-hand smoke harmed the health of babies and children. Predictably, respondents who self-identified themselves as smokers, tended to minimize any perceived harm; while non-smokers were more likely to assume some harm from THS. Only 65 percent of nonsmokers and 43 percent of smokers agreed with the statements, which researchers interpreted as acknowledgement of the risks of third-hand smoke.

The survey results were cited in the article as “evidence” that third-hand smoke had been “identified as a health danger.” This article in Pediatrics was not a clinical study, so it provided no original research that THS is an actual medical or scientific observable or definable entity, or that it has ever been shown to harm babies or children… or how such a thing might scientifically even be plausible.

Dr. Jonathan P. Winickoff (pronounced “when-I-cough;” that’s really his name), the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, said in the Pediatrics article:

Everyone knows that second-hand smoke is bad, but they don’t know about this. We needed a term to describe these tobacco toxins that aren’t visible. Third-hand smoke is what one smells when a smoker gets in an elevator after going outside for a cigarette, or in a hotel room where people were smoking. Your nose isn’t lying, the stuff is so toxic that your brain is telling you: ’Get away.’


So, the clever wordsmith Dr. Winickoff sent press releases around to the usual suspects in the leftist press, and soon got a bite from Roni Rabin at the New York Times, who wrote a perfectly outrageous article titled, A New Cigarette Hazard: ‘Third-Hand Smoke.’

Rabin talks about “…the invisible yet toxic brew of gases and particles clinging to smokers’ hair and clothing, not to mention cushions and carpeting, that lingers long after second-hand smoke has cleared from a room. The residue includes heavy metals, carcinogens and even radioactive materials that young children can get on their hands and ingest, especially if they’re crawling or playing on the floor.” Mercy me! Those poor little tykes crawling about in all those carcinogens and radioactive materials! The horror!


Then, Ms. Rabin really jumps the shark: “Among the substances in third-hand smoke are hydrogen cyanide, used in chemical weapons; butane, which is used in lighter fluid; toluene, found in paint thinners; arsenic; lead; carbon monoxide; and even Polonium-210, the highly radioactive carcinogen that was used to murder former Russian spy Alexander V. Litvinenko in 2006. Eleven of the compounds are highly carcinogenic.”

For our Physics-challenged readers, we need to remind you that Polonium is a radioactive element discovered by Marie Curie and Pierre Curie in 1898 that is naturally occurring and widely distributed in small amounts across the earth’s crust. Your average diet naturally includes 1 to 10 picocuries (billionth of a curie) of Polonium-210 a day. Most (50-90%) leaves the body promptly in our stool and the rest decreases in our body with a half-time of 50 days. A smoker who smokes a pack of 20 cigarettes a day takes in about 0.72 picocuries of Polonium-210.

To put these numbers into perspective, that Russian spy, Litvinenko, is believed to have been exposed to 5,000,000,000 picocuries (5 millicuries). As is the fundamental principle of toxicology, the dose makes the poison. Ms. Rabin chose to make a lurid reference to Polonium-210 in a yellow-journalistic attempt to scare the hell out of her readers and start the junk-science ball rolling.

(Graphic: McAdam/

And roll it did. Within months, the neologism “third-hand smoke” was getting more than 3 million references in a Google search. (Interestingly, the term “fourth-hand smoke”—the theory that you can get cancer from simply watching a movie in which Humphrey Bogart is smoking—is now getting 56,600 Google references. Stay tuned.)

By the way, if you’re still worried that Junior’s crawling about in all that THS left in the living room from Uncle Albert’s pipe smoking will render him unto the same fate as the late Russian spy, you need to check out Michael J. McFadden’s computations in Reason Magazine:

It would take one quadrillion days (2.74 trillion years) for that child to absorb 5 millicuries. Unfortunately the universe is only 10 billion years old, so the child would have to lick floors for 274 cycles of our expanding universe to match our radioactive Russian. Of course since he'd normally excrete most of that polonium we'd have to refuse to change his diaper until the end of that period... not a very pleasant thought. And then there's that whole annoying fact that polonium's half-life is only 138 days, so we'd just have to ignore the laws of physics as well in order to justify the story's thesis…

Dr. Hugo Destaillats (Photo: Arizona State Univ.)

Money-hungry “scientists” across the land were quick to spot THS as a possible research goldmine. Dr. Hugo Destaillats, a chemist with the Indoor Environment Department of Berkeley Lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division, recently came out with a marvelous little “study,” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), in which he reports:

The burning of tobacco releases nicotine in the form of a vapor that adsorbs strongly onto indoor surfaces, such as walls, floors, carpeting, drapes and furniture. Nicotine can persist on those materials for days, weeks and even months. Our study shows that when this residual nicotine reacts with nitrous acid it forms carcinogenic tobacco-specific nitrosamines or TSNAs.

Now, Dr. Hugo is not a medical doctor; he’s an Assistant Research Professor at Arizona State University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. His CV lists a Ph.D. in Chemistry (1998), from the Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina. His “study” did not involve any clinical trials with actual human beings (or even actual mice or rats). He and his student assistants simply applied tobacco smoke to sheets of cellulose as a model indoor material, and determined that TSNAs detected on cellulose surfaces were 10 times higher than those originally present in the sample. That is, after spraying the cellulose sheets with nitrous acid.

In the PNAS paper, Dr. Hugo suggests various ways to limit the impact of the third hand smoke health hazard, including, replacing nicotine-laden furnishings, carpets and wallboard. Presumably, this simple—albeit pricey—technique will also eradicate all residue and vestiges of Radon and Trans-Fats also. Unanswered, of course, is the question of whether you could have equal success in reducing TSNAs on your rugs and furniture by just refraining from spraying everything with nitrous acid in the first place.

(Illustration: Dr. Hugo Destaillats)

Before you jump to the conclusion that Dr. Hugo is some sort of moron, you need to know about California’s Proposition 99. In November 1988, California voters approved Prop. 99, “The Tobacco Tax and Health Protection Act”, which instituted a 25¢-per-pack cigarette surtax. Part of this tax revenue is deposited into a Research Account, to be appropriated for research on tobacco-related disease, by the TRDRP. For the bizarre little study we have outlined above, Dr. Hugo Destaillats was awarded $704,901.00 by TRDRP and the taxpaying smokers of California. Maybe Dr. Hugo’s not such a moron after all.

By the way, if you thought we just made up that reference to Humphrey Bogart a few paragraphs back, you need to check out Dr. Hugo’s research monograph: Indoor fate and transport of secondhand tobacco smoke. The Bogart photo you see above was lifted from that article.

God help us if the Louisville Metro Council finds out about THS. The city will never find enough landfill space for all those miles of carpet, wallboard, and tons of furnishings to be discarded when the Council bans THS. And Uncle Albert’s cardigan smoking sweater will have to be buried somewhere in the Yucca Mountains; encased in concrete. To protect future generations, you see.

Watch the video: Uncle Albert smoking…


List of Naturally Occurring Mutagens and Carcinogens Found in Foods and Beverages
(From Environment & Climate News, November 2002, the American Council on Science and Health)

Acetaldehyde (apples, bread, coffee, tomatoes)—mutagen and potent rodent carcinogen
Acrylamide (bread, rolls)—rodent and human neurotoxin; rodent carcinogen
Aflatoxin (nuts)—mutagen and potent rodent carcinogen; also a human carcinogen
Allyl isothiocyanate (arugula, broccoli, mustard)—mutagen and rodent carcinogen
Aniline (carrots)—rodent carcinogen
Benzaldehyde (apples, coffee, tomatoes)—rodent carcinogen
Benzene (butter, coffee, roast beef)—rodent carcinogen
Benzo(a)pyrene (bread, coffee, pumpkin pie, rolls, tea)—mutagen and rodent carcinogen
Benzofuran (coffee)—rodent carcinogen
Benzyl acetate (jasmine tea)—rodent carcinogen
Caffeic acid (apples, carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, coffee, grapes, lettuce, mangos, pears, potatoes)—rodent carcinogen
Catechol (coffee)—rodent carcinogen
Coumarin (cinnamon in pies)—rodent carcinogen
1,2,5,6-dibenz(a)anthracene (coffee)—rodent carcinogen
Estragole (apples, basil)—rodent carcinogen
Ethyl alcohol (bread, red wine, rolls)—rodent and human carcinogen
Ethyl acrylate (pineapple)—rodent carcinogen
Ethyl benzene (coffee)—rodent carcinogen
Ethyl carbamate (bread, rolls, red wine)—mutagen and rodent carcinogen
Furan and furan derivatives (bread, onions, celery, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, rolls, cranberry sauce, coffee)—many are mutagens
Furfural (bread, coffee, nuts, rolls, sweet potatoes)—furan derivative and rodent carcinogen
Heterocyclic amines (roast beef, turkey)—mutagens and rodent carcinogens
Hydrazines (mushrooms)—mutagens and rodent carcinogens
Hydrogen peroxide (coffee, tomatoes)—mutagen and rodent carcinogen
Hydroquinone (coffee)—rodent carcinogen
d-limonene (black pepper, mangos)—rodent carcinogen
4-methylcatechol (coffee)—rodent carcinogen
Methyl eugenol (basil, cinnamon and nutmeg in apple and pumpkin pies)—rodent carcinogen
Psoralens (celery, parsley)—mutagens; rodent and human carcinogens
Quercetin glycosides (apples, onions, tea, tomatoes)—mutagens and rodent carcinogens
Safrole (nutmeg in apple and pumpkin pies, black pepper)—rodent carcinogen

Note: We would be remiss if we didn’t give some credit to brother Merlyn Seeley, our Louisville Natural Health Examiner: Study shows third hand smoke just as bad for you

Watch the video: Third Hand Smoke Hysteria on NBC Today Show

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Thirdhand Smoke Scam

NOTE TO READER: You really have to read these studies. The proof is in the pudding. A lot of what they claim in the title is not there in the studies. This is one of the less convincing studies in that the data appear to have been collected properly, but the conclusions are off the chart. Chris Snowdon explains why. ---Becky Johnson, editor

The thirdhand smoke scam

by Christopher Snowden
Feb 11 2010

found online at:

Now that the thirdhand smoke story has been reported around the globe, it's time to look at the study which led to headlines such as:

Third-hand smoke causes cancer, study shows risks to babies and toddlers

This is not your average piece of epidemiological number-crunching. It involved some real lab work which, when written down, is largely unintelligible to the layman*. Journalists rarely bother to read scientific studies at the best of times, but what chance do they have with paragraphs like this?

Laboratory experiments using cellulose as a model indoor material yielded a > 10-fold increase of surface-bound TSNAs when sorbed secondhand smoke was exposed to 60 ppbv HONO for 3 hours. In both cases we identified 1-(N-methyl-N-nitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridinyl)-4-butanal, a TSNA absent in freshly emitted tobacco smoke, as the major product. The potent carcinogens 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridinyl)-1-butanone and N-nitroso nornicotine were also detected. Time-course measurements revealed fast TSNA formation, with up to 0.4% conversion of nicotine.

And that's from the abstract - the bit that summarises the study for the casual reader. So what does it actually say?

To put it in something close to simple terms, the experiment involved putting nitrous acid (HONO) in contact with nicotine. The nicotine had been absorbed into surfaces (hence 'thirdhand smoke'). In the real-life experiment, this surface was the glove compartment of a truck driven by a heavy smoker (presumably the cabin of a truck was chosen because it is the smallest space a smoker might work in). In the other experiments, they used cellulose substrates.

The aim was to see if the reaction created tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs), specifically NNK, NNA and NNN, some of which are believed to be carcinogenic.

The scientists found no trace of NNN in any experiment. In the glove compartment, they found levels of NNK that were barely above the detectable level (less than 1 ngcm-2). Even in extreme experimental situations, in which cellulose substrates were exposed to pure nicotine vapour, NNK levels failed to reach 5 ngcm-2.

They found somewhat larger measurements of NNA (20 ngcm-2 in extreme experimental conditions) but levels were much lower in the real-life conditions of the truck (1 ngcm-2). This was all rather academic anyway because, as the authors admit:

"NNA carcinogenicity has not been reported."

In other words, the one TSNA they did manage to find in any quantity doesn't cause cancer.

There is nothing obviously wrong with the way the chemistry was done here. The paper simply shows that nitrous acid (HONO) molecules will react with absorbed nicotine (just as it would with free-floating nicotine) to produce TSNAs. The more HONO in the room, and the more nicotine on the surface, the more the reaction will occur (of course).

The problem (and it's a big problem) is that mixing nitrous acid with nicotine is an experiment with virtually no practical application. If your house or car is full of nitrous acid then you have more to worry about than it reacting with absorbed nicotine. As the authors point out near the top of the 2nd column, 1st page:

"The main indoor sources of HONO are direct emissions from unvented combustion appliances, smoking, and surface conversion of NO2 and NO."

NO2 and NO themselves are products of unregulated combustion. So you'll only be exposed to high concentrations of HONO if you're exposed to the products of combustion - ie. you're a peasant in a smoke-filled hut, you live in a very polluted city like New Delhi, or you are in fact smoking a cigarette. The combustion products themselves are carcinogens, and are present in much higher concentrations than the TSNAs. Any surface reaction is negligible. Your problem is the nitrous acid, not the TSNAs.

Is this kind of surface reaction likely to take place in the home? Not at all. Nitrous acid concentrations in the average Californian home are 4.6 parts per billion (ppb). This is 14 times lower than the 65 ppb concentrations used in this experiment (which indirectly compares with EPA limits for NO2 of 53 ppb). The chances of HONO and nicotine reacting to create detectable, let alone harmful, concentrations of TSNAs outside of a laboratory experiment are zilch.

In summary:

  • The researchers used concentrations of nitrous acid 14 times higher than would be found in a normal environment
  • Even at the unrealistic levels found in the experiment, there is no evidence that such doses are harmful to humans
  • The main TSNA produced is not a carcinogen
  • The weakest results were found in the real-life conditions, with measurements barely exceeding detectable levels in the smallest conceivable workplace of a heavy smoker
  • Any effect from the TSNAs is negligible compared to the effects of the nitrous acid itself

* And I thank my bio-chemist friend JPM for his assistance in making it intelligible to me.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Medical Marijuana and Jim Crow

Photo: Students at UCSC engage in massive civil disobedience in Porter Meadow on "Four-Twenty" April 20, 2008 at 4:20PM.

Medical marijuana and Jim Crow

February 2, 10:57 PM

by J. Craig Canada
Santa Cruz County Drug Policy Examiner

found online at:

Signs like this will be illegal in LA (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

The Jim Crow laws were state and local laws in the United States enacted between 1876 and 1965. They mandated de jure racial segregation in all public facilities, with a supposedly "separate but equal" status for black Americans. In reality, this led to treatment and accommodations that were usually inferior to those provided for white Americans, systematizing a number of economic, educational and social disadvantages.- Wikipedia

Across the country hate speech about marijuana and medical marijuana is not just fashionable, it is the law.

While prominent examples abound, perhaps the most glaring is the resurrection of Jim Crow in Los Angeles through regulations that essentially entrap every single dispensary in the city. These laws declare medical marijuana patients and providers to be undesirable and second-class citizens in every conceivable way, even to violating their 1st Amendment right to peaceably assemble through prohibiting "consumption on premises".

Santa Cruz could very well have been the leader in enshrining prejudice and intolerance into law with its ordinance, passed in 2000, that purported to regulate "medical marijuana association dispensaries".

What the ordinance did was to prevent any medical marijuana dispensary from opening for 5 years, until nearly 10 years after the passage of the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. It accomplished this primarily through zoning prohibitions which banished medical marijuana dispensaries to the fringes of town - to the "colored section" - and through draconian restrictions and an arduous approval process.

This kind of institutional resistance to the will of the people has spread like a California wildfire, until now we have Los Angeles resurrecting Jim Crow by prohibiting medical marijuana dispensaries within 1,000 feet of a school, public park, public library, religious institution, licensed child care facility, youth center, substance abuse rehabilitation center, or any other medical marijuana collective(s), as well as abutting or across the street from a residence. It banishes them to the "colored" section of town, as pioneered by Santa Cruz way back in 2,000.

Now, ten years later, the Santa Cruz City Council has declared a public health and safety emergency because the Planning Commission received two completed applications and two requests for applications to open medical marijuana dispensaries.

Talk about paranoid.

One of the best replies I've seen to the inflammatory and prejudiced reporting concerning medical marijuana dispensaries was from Marc Whitehill of Boulder Creek Collective.

Boulder Creek is a funky mountain town about 10 miles north of Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is world famous as the home of The Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) and occupies the position in the popular mind of Compassion Central, USA.

It is not.

On 16 Jan 2010 the Santa Cruz Sentinel published an article with the blaring headline "New Boulder Creek pot shop tests community will, county law". Most people wouldn't think twice about that headline, but Marc Whitehill found it defamatory and did an excellent job of stating why. In a comment to the article he began his objections with the following:

The article title, "New Boulder Creek pot shop tests community will, county law" is unnecessarily inflammatory. It is not our intent to test anybody and we are not a "pot shop."

Mr. Whitehill is absolutely correct. It is hate-speech and it is inflammatory; yellow journalism pure and simple, and typical of not just Santa Cruz but pretty much everywhere else.

In the same article, Santa Cruz County Supervisor Neal Coonerty is quoted as stating, "First, we have the basic question of do we want to have them at all. Then there's how do we regulate them." One would think "do we want to have them at all" was definitively and resoundingly answered in 1996 when over 73% of Santa Cruz County voted for Proposition 215.

There's a couple of things to note about all this, the first being that Boulder Creek isn't in Coonerty's district. Next it should be noted that Coonerty has been a career politician in the area for a long time, elected to the city council in 1990 and then to mayor in 1993. His son Ryan Coonerty followed on the city council in 2004 and is currently on the city council.

During its hearings on medical marijuana dispensaries the City of Santa Cruz Planning Commission first whined "It's so new," completely oblivious to the fact that Proposition 215 was passed fifteen years ago and that it was now ten years since the city first enacted ordinances regulating "medical marijuana dispensary associations". Then, upon displaying a disturbing ignorance of medical marijuana (not to mention a blatant prejudice against it along with absolutely no consideration of the needs of patients) they refused to listen to anything Valerie Corral of WAMM had to say.

When the Santa Cruz City Planning Commission voted 7-2 to recommend approval of the moratorium and to limit the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city to the two existing, one of the excuses it used was that 50% of the clients of these dispensaries were from the County of Santa Cruz but not the city.

The Planning Commission also decided that there was no incentive for patients to drive to San Francisco. Evidently the Planning Commission doesn't know, or care, what $150/ounce less means to a patient subsisting on Social Security Disability.

Prior to these meetings regarding a moratorium and limit on medical marijuana dispensaries by the City Council and Planning Commission, the City enacted a smoking ban including the sidewalks and parking lots of city hall. This was obviously intended to prevent medical marijuana patients who need to medicate every couple of hours from participating at the meetings.

The Planning Commission voted 7-2 to approve a moratorium and limit the number of dispensaries in town to the two existing. On 26 Jan 10, the Santa Cruz city council voted to extend the moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries and production houses a second time, for 4 months and 15 days.

Of the two applications to open a dispensary that were completed and submitted, one has been withdrawn. It appears the extension of the moratorium was deemed necessary, in part, to discourage Stuart Kriege, the remaining applicant. It is not known if he has been paying rent on space since June, when the moratorium was initiated. An article published in The Santa Cruz Sentinel on 31 Jan 10 regarding the extension of the moratorium noted that Kriege refused to be interviewed by them.

He must have read the hatchet job they did on Boulder Creek Collective.