How many WorldNet Daily hoaxes does it take to change a light bulb?

June 6, 2007

Earlier I pointed to a hoax article foisted by WorldNet Daily, claiming families would face exorbitant hazardous waste clean up costs if they broke a compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFLs).

Not only did WorldNet Daily never apologize to its readers, the paper is at it again, campaigning in favor of pollution and global warming, trying to scare people who switch to lights other-than-tungsten.

Hoaxmeister Joseph Farah uses an over-the-top, breathless tone: HEAT OF THE MOMENT
Light-bulb ban craze exceeds disposal plans
Facts about CFLs, heir to incandescents, downplayed in government-enviro push”

Could anyone take that seriously? As Dave Barry used to say, “I could not make this up,” the “danger” from CFLs shows up in serious discussion forums. This forum, inaptly titled “Straight Talk,” demonstrates that people really do believe such hoaxes, especially about things they know very little about, like mercury poisoning.

Folks, five will get you ten, if you told these people about massive mercury poisoning that really exists in the Hudson River, and warned them against eating fish caught there, they’d claim you were an alarmist tree-hugger and laugh it off — though the mercury levels and potential for health-damaging exposure are both significantly greater for fish caught in some rivers, like the Hudson, than they are for broken CFLs.

But just try to suggest a small way to work against global warming, and they’ll pull out that same mercury poisoning argument to justify doing nothing and letting pollution win.

A warning to these people to “use your head” goes completely unheeded, heads having been lost some time earlier.

Here’s an example of just how far Farah twists the facts in order to make his hoax case against CFLs. First, Farah all but calls CFLs a communist plot (he claims the move to use them started in Cuba, under Castro — a dubious claim at best, and funny any way you cut it). Then he points to a Swedish firm marketing the bulbs in the U.S. — them furriners can’t be trusted, Farah implies. The firm is IKEA — never mind they are fine examples of capitalism run rampant. Third, Farah cites an editorial in Waste News , but makes it appear the publication said something the opposite of what it said.

Here’s what Farah wrote:

Those who really care about this problem right now are those involved in the waste industry.

“Most agree more energy-efficient light bulbs can significantly curb air pollution, but fewer people are talking about how to deal with them at the end of their lives,” explained a page 1 story in the April 2 issue of Waste News. It goes on to explain “there is no plan to address air and water pollution concerns that could develop if consumers improperly dispose of the mercury-containing devices.”

Gee, that’s pretty dire. No plans at all for disposal? Are we getting a pig in a poke?

Waste News actually said the bulbs are a “significant” environmental improvement. They point out weaknesses in current recycling, but they stop way short of urging people not switch to CFLs — here, read for yourself, the conclusion Waste News draws is quite a bit at odds with Joseph Farah’s version.

Managing CFL endgame
Waste News, April 02, 2007

Compact fluorescent light bulbs are a hot environmental trend these days, and with good reason. They require substantially less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and last several times longer. Used on a large scale they can dramatically reduce our energy needs and therefore the pollution we create. With their longer life they’re ultimately an economical choice as well.

But CFL bulbs aren’t perfect. They contain mercury, albeit a small amount compared with mercury thermometers, automotive switches and the standard 4-foot fluorescent lamp. Still, there’s no large-scale plan in place to manage the end-of-life handling of these bulbs, and having the mercury end up in the environment certainly is undesirable.

Strong warnings about the need for proper disposal could dissuade customers from buying CFLs, which most people believe are far better environmentally even with their mercury – an element essential to their energy efficiency. Consumers also could get confused about what types of bulbs to throw away and pitch ones with higher mercury. Broken bulbs also pose multiple health risks to waste haulers. Meanwhile, more governments are moving to ban mercury from disposal.

Pressure will be on manufacturers to take responsibility for this. Sylvania is one lighting company that has started to do so, offering take-back programs that involve a fee for consumers. And several lighting companies have agreed to voluntarily limit the mercury content of lower wattage CFL bulbs.

Lighting producers need to continue on this course, and do so sooner rather than later, even though the issue may be years away because sales are still small and the bulbs’ long life makes wide-scale disposal relatively distant. But a sound plan for the products’ end will remove a potentially big obstacle to a significant environmental improvement.

Hello? I thought there were no plans to do anything, according to Waste News — but when I read the article, it says Sylvania already has a program and others are ready to go. Is there no standard of ethics at WorldNet Daily?

Update June 10: More information at these sites:

Update May 10, 2008: The Ellsworth, Maine, newspaper’s environmental reporter tells what should have happened, on his blog.


D-Day – fly your flag if you wish

June 6, 2007

Normandy landing, June 6, 1944, from an LST

D-Day landing taken by Chief Photographer’s Mate (CPHOM) Robert F. Sargent of the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Greatest Generation D-day landing

June 6, 2007, is the 63rd anniversary of D-Day, the massive invasion of Normandy by the U.S., Canada and Britain, Free France and Poland, to start the push toward final defeat of Germany in World War II (more formally known as the Battle of Normandy). Germany’s defeat would come ten months later.

The day is not formally listed by law as a day to fly the U.S. flag. Citizens may fly the flag on any day. Many veterans’ groups urge flying the flag today, especially in honor of the thousands who gave their lives in the invasion.

On the Allied side, 29,000 U.S. soldiers, 5,000 Canadian soldiers, 11,000 United Kingdom soldiers,  died between June 6 and August 25, 1944, the formal end of the battle.  France lost more than 12,000 civilians in the fight for freedom, too.

  • Photo: Assault landing One of the first waves at Omaha Beach as photographed by Robert F. Sargent. The U.S. Coast Guard caption identifies the unit as Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division.

Classroom musical – “Hey, Teach!”

June 6, 2007

Prangstgrüp?

Have you ever wondered whether your misbehaving students were setting you up, perhaps with their cell-phone video cameras running?

Hope they have the grace, wit and production values of this group: Prangstgrüp (click on “Lecture Musical”)

Tip of the old scrub brush to neurocontrarian.

[Couldn’t get this video to embed — sorry.]


Creation Museum: Sad, beleaguered

June 6, 2007

For those of us who worry at every eruption of intentional ignorance, such as Ken Ham’s Creation Museum, the comments of BBC’s correspondent Justin Webb produce a little salve:

There is nothing remotely convincing about the Creation Museum and frankly if it poses the threat to American science that some American critics claim it does, that seems to me to be as much a commentary on the failings of the scientific establishment as it is on the creationists.

And a bit later:

At the Creation Museum, goggle-eyed children watch depictions of the Great Flood in which children and their mums and dads are consumed, because God is cross.

In a nation of kindly moderate people I am not sure this is the future.

I put my faith – in America.

Mencken’s hoax about bathtubs in the White House was innocent enough, but impossible to kill (yet). Ham’s hoax about science, at $27 million (U.S. reports) or $30 million, doesn’t have the grace of its perpetrator confessing the hoax and urging correction (yet).

Faith in America is reassuring, until one remembers P. T. Barnum’s faith that Americans include a “sucker born every minute,” and Tom Sawyer’s assessment of small town politics: ‘Ain’t we got every fool in town on our side? And ain’t that a big enough majority in any town?’


June 5, 1968: The day Bobby died

June 6, 2007

Jim Booth at Scholars and Rogues wrote about what the death of Bobby Kennedy meant to a 16-year old kid out to save the world from darkest North Carolina.

This is just the 39th anniversary of RFK’s death. Next year, 2008, will be the 40th, and will again feature an election in which the war-crippled lame duck president must be succeeded, and the early fields in both parties do not excite the incumbent party’s masses much.

But 1968 was a uniquely terrible year — we hope it was unique. One serious question is just how depressing will it be to hear the “40-years out” stories on the Pueblo crisis, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death, the riots, RFK’s death, the convention riots, the money-and-morale-and-morality sapping war (Vietnam, not Iraq — we hope), etc., etc.

And so Mr. Booth’s close is a potent challenge: To rededicate ourselves to the hopes we felt in the first half of 1968, to see the implementation of those hopes now, two generations later — despite the cynicism that wells up whenever we see anyone touted as a great hope of needed change in the country’s direction, or whenever great hopes are dashed to pieces, as they have been in Iraq.

And every June 5th I stop for a few moments and remember how I believed in what America could be once – try to get some of that belief back – and, to use an old Boomer chestnut, “keep on keeping on.”

And I ask Bobby to forgive me – and my generation – for failing to pick up his torch….


Internet search tips from Google, on posters

June 6, 2007

Have you tried out Google for Educators?

Google is a powerful search tool that is way under-utilized by most of us. Working with students, I constantly find they have difficulty using Google or any other search engine to cut out worthless material and focus on specific items they need for their research.

Google for Educators has several posters offering tips on searching to help out.  Click here for .pdf version of Book Search, from GoogleBook Search poster, from Google for Educators

You can download the posters as .pdf files in a format suited to 8.5 X 11 inch pages, or for 17 X 22 inch pages. The larger size can be printed on the color “blueprint” printers your school’s drafting classes have (This is a good opportunity to go make friends with the drafting instructor — you can use those machines for great maps, too.).  If your school lacks such printers, you’ll find commercial copy centers will reproduce them (we have Kinko’s here) — though my experience is it can sometimes be cheaper to have them treated as photos and processed at a local photo center (Ritz/Wolf’s/Inkley’s, etc.)

I particularly like the “Better Searches, Better Results” poster.

The Texas teacher evaluation forms encourage evaluation on stuff hanging on the walls fo the classroom — if you lack stuff to hang, especially stuff that helps students in times of need, Google offers several posters.  Make the most of it.

[Has anyone else noticed that, as important as visual displays are supposed to be, very few schools make arrangements for easy display of materials?]


Typewriter of the moment: Jack Kerouac

June 6, 2007

Jack Kerouac's typewriter, in Lowell, MA - Beat Museum on Wheels

Jack Kerouac’s typewriter, on display in Lowell, Massachusetts. Kerouac attended Lowell High School, and Lowell hosts an annual festival to Kerouac. Photo from the on-line photos of the Beat Museum on Wheels (image downloaded and linked on June 6, 2007)

Kerouac appears in almost all U.S. history texts for high schools, and is to cover the post-World War II poetry mentioned in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).

Poet and author Jack Kerouac was the “King of the Beats.” The Beats were a group of poets and authors who gave rise and verse to the “Beat Generation.” The word “beat” is short for “beatitude.” Not only do most high school kids struggle with this character from U.S. history — in what should be a very fun section — many high school teachers have only vague understanding of the whole Beat movement. Read the rest of this entry »


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