Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for May 16th, 2009

The CIA is lying

Posted by Charles II on May 16, 2009

Jason Leopold, Truthout:

[C]laims that Democrats were fully briefed on the Bush administration’s torture program have been leveled as recently as last December by Vice President Dick Cheney and in books by former Bush officials such as John Yoo, the former deputy assistant attorney general at the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), who helped draft one of the four memos released last week.

But the veracity of those assertions have been called into question by former CIA official Mary O. McCarthy, who said senior agency officials lied to members of Congress during an intelligence briefing in 2005 when they said the agency did not violate treaties that bar, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of detainees during interrogations, according to a May 14, 2006, front-page story in The Washington Post.

“A CIA employee of two decades, McCarthy became convinced that ‘CIA people had lied’ in that briefing, as one of her friends said later, not only because the agency had conducted abusive interrogations but also because its policies authorized treatment that she considered cruel, inhumane or degrading,” The Washington Post reported.

“In addition to CIA misrepresentations at the session last summer, McCarthy told the friends, a senior agency official failed to provide a full account of the CIA’s detainee-treatment policy at a closed hearing of the House intelligence committee in February 2005, under questioning by Rep. Jane Harman (California), the senior Democrat,” The Washington Post reported.

Posted in CIA, torture | 9 Comments »

Moyers on consumer products

Posted by Charles II on May 16, 2009

Moyers also had on NYT writer Daniel Goleman with an interesting idea for pushing manufacturers to produce safer, greener products. Goleman recommended http://www.goodguide.com for general consumer products and http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com specifically for cosmetic products.

The idea is good, though the execution is far from optimal. From my brief scan of the two sites–the servers appear to be slammed, so it was tough going–GoodGuide is better done, but still leaves much to be desired. Here are a couple of examples:

1. Unlike GoodGuide, Cosmetics Database does not have a rating of product effectiveness. It’s nice to have green products, but if they don’t do the job, then they are not useful. Under the category of anti-dandruff shampoos, for example, most of Cosmetics Database’s top products have no recognized active ingredient. Brittanie’s Thyme LLC Lavender Rosemary Hair Wine, for example, is listed as an anti-dandruff shampoo. It contains, vinegar, rosemary, and vinegar, all very nice and green ingredients, but none of which–to the best of my knowledge– has been proven to stop dandruff.

2. The science needs review. One of the site, I think Cosmetics Database, makes the hair-curling claim that sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) are contaminated with 1, 4 dioxin. Dioxins are, of course, dangerous at the parts per trillion level. However, reading around the net, I find no credible confirmation of danger from SLE or SLES. I did find that 1,4 dioxane, a far less dangerous material, can form from chemicals residual in plastic containers (so the problem has nothing to do with SLS or SLES themselves). The American Cancer Society states that the claim that SLS and SLES are in any way carcinogenic is an urban legend, citing the Urban Legends website as follows: “All these Web sites are maintained by ‘independent distributors’ for various multi-level marketing companies hawking natural personal care products.” Greed goals could seriously undermine the green goals.

3. GoodGuide seems to wildly overuse the term “neurotoxin.” Granting a wide range of opinion about what could potentially be neurotoxic if, say, mainlined, I found a magnesium salt listed as neurotoxic. I don’t think so. I also wonder if the science on many ingredients is sound enough to declare them safe or not.

4. Cosmetics Database lists as “worrisome or downright dangerous” products made from animals. It’s important not to confuse issues. Ethical treatment of animals may be important, but it is not a consumer safety issue.

5. Rating the actual hazard of a product based solely on its ingredients is difficult. For example, pure sodium hydroxide is caustic (think of Easy Off), capable of dissolving skin and everything underneath it in very short order. But sodium hydroxide can be added to an acidic solution to bring the pH to neutral, producing harmless salt.

6. Similarly, it matters how much of an ingredient is found in a product and how it is presented to the body. This is the issue with the 1,4 dioxane that might be found in SLS and SLES. It’s at very low levels. Or, for example, saccharine is listed as a mildly carcinogenic compound in a shampoo. It’s only believed to be (very, very) mildly carcinogenic if consumed internally. So, should it even be considered? There are not many people who drink shampoo like diet soda.

7. I’d like to look under the hood of the product rating system. How many consumers are involved in the rating? How are raters chosen? Do they have conflicts of interest?

With all of these criticisms– serious enough that Moyers probably should have vetted this segment much more carefully– the idea of a website that allows consumers to shop based on ingredients is actually a very good one. There are ingredients that are unambiguously bad (like lead and mercury) which need to be forced out of the product world. There are other ingredients that cause problems, which could be exposed by effective consumer ratings. And, as always, people have a right to know what they are using, and what alternatives exist.

Posted in environment, health issues, science and medicine | 1 Comment »

Saturday Morning Pupperdog Blogging

Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 16, 2009

His name is Charlie and his human is a very sweet lady I met in beautiful downtown Lanesboro, Minnesota:

Charlie 051509

Woof!

Posted in Just for fun | Tagged: | Comments Off on Saturday Morning Pupperdog Blogging

 
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