Why mobile phones are NOT a health hazard

If phones are linked to cancer, we’d expect to see a marked uptick in cancer with uptake. Yet we do not. American mobile phone penetration increased from almost nothing in 1992 to practically 100% by 2008 and there is zero indication glioma rates have increased, a finding replicated by numerous other studies.


An article we published last week about links between mobiles and cancer proved highly controversial. Here a cancer expert and physicist argues that it misrepresented the research and that fears are ill-founded

• Last week’s article: The inconvenient truth about cancer and mobile phones

Last week the Observer published an article by Mark Hertsgaard and Mark Dowie on a disturbing topic – the idea that telecoms giants might collude to suppress evidence that wireless technology causes cancer. The feature was well written, ostensibly well researched, and deeply concerning. Its powerful narrative tapped into rich themes; our deep-seated fears about cancer, corporate greed, and technology’s potentially noxious influence on our health. It spread rapidly across social media – facilitated by the very object on which it cast doubt.

Yet as enthralling as Hertsgaard and Dowie’s narrative might be, it is strewn with rudimentary errors and dubious inferences. As a physicist working in cancer research, I found the authors’ penchant for amplifying claims far beyond that which the evidence allows troubling. And as a scientist deeply invested in public understanding of science, I’ve seen first-hand the damage that scaremongering can do to societal health. While it is tempting to rage into the void, perhaps this episode can serve as a case study in how public understanding of science can be mangled, and what warning signs we might look out for.

Continue reading…

‘A danger to humanity’: Activists block Hungarian PM’s convoy at Yad Vashem

“I am here because I believe Orbán has no reason to be in Yad Vashem,” said Veronica Cohen, a Holocaust survivor born in Hungary. “Because of his anti-humanistic attitude, because of his incitement against refugees. We were once refugees, we are in a sense a nation of refugees, and it is our duty to protect them. He is a danger to humanity.”

“Unfortunately the prime minister of Israel also has very little respect for human life. The new laws passed recently are leading us toward fascism,” Cohen added, as she held a sign reading “Never Again.”

Dozens of demonstrators, including Holocaust survivors and descendants of survivors, block Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s convoy outside Israeli Holocaust museum. ‘He is a danger to humanity.’

By Oren Ziv

Dozens of demonstrators blocked Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s motorcade as he left Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum, in Jerusalem Thursday, as part of his official visit to the country. The demonstrators were protesting Orbán’s anti-Semitism, as well as his iron-fisted policies toward asylum seekers in his country.


The demonstrators held signs in both Hebrew and Hungarian and yelled the word “shame” while blocking the convoy as it tried to leave the museum. Within minutes the crowd was dispersed by Shin Bet agents and police officers, with the protesters continuing to chant as Orbán planted a tree in The Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations, dedicated to non-Jews who aided Jews during the Holocaust.

Orbán has been waging an anti-Semitic campaign against billionaire George Soros, himself a Hungarian Jew, and has enacted harsh policies against refugees, including by building detention camps and a separation barrier on Hungary’s borders.

“I am here because I believe Orbán has no reason to be in Yad Vashem,” said Veronica Cohen, a Holocaust survivor born in Hungary. “Because of his anti-humanistic attitude, because of his incitement against refugees. We were once refugees, we are in a sense a nation of refugees, and it is our duty to protect them. He is a danger to humanity.”

“Unfortunately the prime minister of Israel also has very little respect for human life. The new laws passed recently are leading us toward fascism,” Cohen added, as she held a sign reading “Never Again.”

“We are protesting against this shameful visit,” said Attorney Eitay Mack, one of the organizers of the action. “Orbán is carrying out an anti-Semitic and racist campaign in Hungary against George Soros. The heads of the Jewish community in Hungary have called it dangerous.”

Mack also spoke about policies that Yad Vashem can enact regarding visits by racist leaders. “Every dictator, every murderer who wants to buy weapons from Israel must come and lay a wreath at Yad Vashem. We saw the head of the junta in Myanmar come here for a visit, only to carry out a genocidal campaign months later. We saw the prime minister of Kenya, who is suspected of crimes against humanity. Yad Vashem has turned into an institution that whitewashes the crimes of these regimes — as long as they do business with Israel.”

Yael Weiss-Reind, whose family was murdered in Hungary during the Holocaust, said that Yad Vashem was granting legitimacy to these regimes when it “accepts leaders who carry out policies and ideologies that are very similar to what we saw decades ago.”

“My family is from Hungary,” she says, “my grandfather was murdered in Auschwitz, and the prime minister of Hungary, who is being welcomed here with respect, has previously expressed his admiration for the leader who helped carry out the annihilation of 564,000 Jews. I am disgusted by the fact that the State of Israel is hosting him.”

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

Don’t fear the rise of designer babies, gene editing is about curing disease | Kenan Malik

No! It is about making money and possibly – oops – causing disease unintended, as well as furthering ideas of dead Nazis! If we had given in to such hysteria over IVF, Louise Brown would never have been born

‘Designer babies on horizon”, ran the headlines. Last week, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, an independent body advising on policy, published a report on genome editing and human reproduction.

New scientific techniques, such as CRISPR-Cas9 – molecular “scissors” that allow scientists to snip the genome at specific points – have transformed genetics in recent years and raised questions about what is practically possible and ethically acceptable. Despite the lurid headlines, they are not ushering in a new world of designer babies.

Continue reading…

‘I tended to the bodies’: attacked by the Philippine army

Villagers massacred amid conflict between indigenous community and coffee plantation

When the soldiers opened fire on Datal Bonglangon village, there was first confusion, then terror, then grief. But Marivic Danyan – one of the younger, quieter members of the community – decided to be strong. Reluctantly, heartbreakingly strong.

The young T’boli woman had been preparing lunch when her remote, indigenous community on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao was peppered with gunfire. One bullet ripped into the wooden wall beside her. Another pierced the corrugated tin roof.

I urge people not to buy coffee from this region. It has caused us so much suffering

Continue reading…

Ukrainian hunger striker ‘on edge of life and death’

Ukrainian prisoner Oleh Sentsov, on hunger strike for the last 68 days, is on the edge of life and death, his cousin Natalya Kaplan has told The Independent. 

“We don’t know how long his body will keep going, but we’ve been told he’s in a pre-death state,” she said. “It’s a miracle he has lasted this long.”

The filmmaker and pro-Ukrainian activist was detained in Crimea in 2014. A year later, he was controversially sentenced by military court to 20 years’ imprisonment.

The case against him was formally terrorism, but many believe the real reason was his active opposition to Russia’s annexation.

In May, he announced a hunger strike – the aim of which, he said, was not his own freedom, but that of several dozen Ukrainian political prisoners held in Russia. He told family and friends he was ready to go to the end.

Two weeks ago, Ms Kaplan travelled to the Russian far north, 2,000km away from Moscow, to see her cousin in prison. She said he had lost more than 15kg since beginning the hunger strike, and his health was “deteriorating rapidly”. 

Ukrainian filmmaker times hunger strike for World Cup

Approximately one week ago, Mr Sentsov was transferred to an intensive care unit following a heart seizure. No one is certain exactly when this happened, she said, since Mr Sentsov, in information isolation, is no longer sure of his calendar.

“He remembers that they tried to forcefeed him in hospital, but he resisted,” she said.

“They came up with a compromise, where he agreed to take two to three spoonfuls of nutritional mix to support his heart. After 68 days of starvation, he needs much more than this.” 

Lawyer Dmitry Dinze, who visited Mr Sentsov on Thursday, described his client as in “very pale, very bad shape”. He likened him to the gaunt, haunted leading character in Kashchei the Immortal, a Soviet-era film.

But he told The Independent he had no doubt that Mr Sentsov would continue his hunger strike – even though he might have “just a few weeks” left. 

We don’t know how long his body will keep going, but we’ve been told he’s in a pre-death state 

Natalya Kaplan, cousin 

There is little sense that Ukraine and Russia are close to agreement on a deal that would see Mr Sentsov released. After a slow start, the Ukrainian government is doing “all that it can” to free him, Mr Dinze said.

Several prominent figures inside Russia and beyond have filed petitions, urging Vladimir Putin to pardon the film director. 

On 22 June, his mother also wrote to the Russian president. “I will not try to persuade you about my son’s innocence, but I will simply say that he killed no one,” she wrote.

“His children are waiting for him. They will never be happy without a father.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he would look into the matter. But Mr Putin, who has insisted Mr Sentsov is a terrorist, has so far chosen not to respond directly. 

Russia tests ‘invincible’ hypersonic missile

In June, Mr Putin reportedly agreed with Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko that human rights ombudsmen would be allowed to visit prisoners in each others’ countries. 

On 26 June, Russian ombudsman Tamara Moskalkova travelled to Kiev and was granted access to Russian sailors being held by Ukraine. Ukrainian ombudsman Lyudmila Denisova flew to Russia in return.

But she spent over two weeks trying, unsuccessfully, to get access to Mr Sentsov.

Ms Denisova told The Independent that she saw “no sign” the Russian side was ready to agree to release Mr Sentsov.  

“We offered 36 people in exchange. We have not received one reply to our offer,” she said. 

“What is there to talk about? There is only one person who decides the question and that is Putin.”

This Is How Vladimir Putin Manufactures Conflict Between Nations

Saddening that so many playing into Putin’s hands.

As Helsinki’s one-on-one presidential summit looms, with foreign policy mavens fearing that Vladimir Putin will run circles around a clueless Donald Trump, it’s time to examine what makes the Kremlin’s Chekist-in-Chief tick. Our president’s troubling statement that Putin and his KGB background are “fine” at least focused attention where it needs to be, on the undeniable fact that a career in the Soviet secret police made the Russian strongman who he is.

The Chekist worldview that forms Putin’s mental furniture is cynical and cunning to a degree that naïve Westerners—and from the Kremlin point of view pretty much all Westerners are naïve and easily exploited—find difficult to believe. Westerners simply shut eyes and ears, since the reality is so unpleasant. The casual manner with which Kremlin spies ruthlessly exploit others for their own ends is not a nice story, given that their methods embrace violence and life-ruining measures as nonchalantly as Westerners order a cup of coffee.

The cornerstone of the Chekist worldview is provocation, what the Russians call provokatsiya. It’s not new, indeed it was honed into a secret weapon in the late Tsarist era, to be perfected under the Bolsheviks. I’ve tried to explain this alien concept to Westerners for years, and it really boils down to a basic, rather nasty concept:

Read the rest at The Observer …