Friday, January 31, 2003

Forwarded from the extropy list "Complaint about American Media"

Mike writes

> -----Original Message-----
On Behalf Of
> Sent: Thursday, January 30, 2003 11:25 AM
> Subject: IRAQ: Euro Multipolarity Shows Up
> My friend Dan L writes:
> This is interesting.
> Eight leaders of European countries call for unity between Europe and
> America in dealing with Iraq, in a full-page editorial in today's London
> Times.
> The countries are Spain, Portugal, Italy, Britain, Czech Republic, Hungary,
> Poland and Denmark.

Yes, I heard about this on a right-wing talk show this morning.
I also heard that Jordan and Turkey are supporting the U.S.
moves against Iraq, and that a poll showed that 77% of Americans
listening to Bush's speech agreed with his stand on Iraq.

But you can listen to radio all day long, tuning in to ABC News,
CBS News, or NBC news, and you'll hear none of this. On Bush's
speech, they repeated many times that "hardly anyone's views
were changed", giving the impression that it was not resonating
with the majority of listeners. You can also subscribe to the
on-line addition of the New York Times, as I have, and never
hear such news. Here are the NYT's headlines for today:

U.S. Set to Push for a U.N. Debate on War With Iraq -- The U.S. put
a reluctant Security Council on notice that the time for disarming
Iraq peacefully was coming to an end.

Bush Officials Debate Release of Iraq Secrets -- The potential intelligence
material at issue ranges from satellite photographs of suspected Iraqi
weapons sites to telephone intercepts.

U.S. Links Indonesian Troops to Deaths of 2 Americans -- Bush
administration officials have determined that Indonesian soldiers
carried out a deadly ambush that killed two Americans last August.

There are only two places where I may on a daily basis encounter
pro-American information at all: one is the aforementioned right-
wing talk shows, and the second is the Extropian list.

This pattern has been in evidence quite strongly the last six
months or so. Our news media sounds exactly if it were under
the total control of senate liberal Democrats.


I'm re-quoting the editorial Mike appended to his post,
in case anyone missed it. These days it is inconceivable
that the New York Times or the Washington Post would
print such a thing. Look at those signatures! Exactly
why won't you ever hear about this in the American media?


> Opinion
> The London Times
> January 30, 2003
> THE real bond between the United States and Europe is the values we share:
> democracy, individual freedom, human rights and the Rule of Law. These
> values crossed the Atlantic with those who sailed from Europe to help create
> the USA. Today they are under greater threat than ever.
> The attacks of 11 September showed just how far terrorists ‹ the enemies of
> our common values ‹ are prepared to go to destroy them. Those outrages were
> an attack on all of us. In standing firm in defence of these principles, the
> governments and people of the United States and Europe have amply
> demonstrated the strength of their convictions. Today more than ever, the
> transatlantic bond is a guarantee of our freedom.
> We in Europe have a relationship with the United States which has stood the
> test of time. Thanks in large part to American bravery, generosity and
> far-sightedness, Europe was set free from the two forms of tyranny that
> devastated our continent in the 20th century: Nazism and Communism. Thanks,
> too, to the continued cooperation between Europe and the United States we
> have managed to guarantee peace and freedom on our continent. The
> transatlantic relationship must not become a casualty of the current Iraqi
> regime¹s persistent attempts to threaten world security.
> In today¹s world, more than ever before, it is vital that we preserve that
> unity and cohesion. We know that success in the day-to-day battle against
> terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction demands
> unwavering determination and firm international cohesion on the part of all
> countries for whom freedom is precious.
> The Iraqi regime and its weapons of mass destruction represent a clear
> threat to world security. This danger has been explicitly recognised by the
> United Nations. All of us are bound by Security Council Resolution 1441,
> which was adopted unanimously. We Europeans have since reiterated our
> backing for Resolution 1441, our wish to pursue the UN route and our support
> for the Security Council, at the Prague Nato Summit and the Copenhagen
> European Council.
> In doing so, we sent a clear, firm and unequivocal message that we would rid
> the world of the danger posed by Saddam Hussein¹s weapons of mass
> destruction. We must remain united in insisting that his regime is disarmed.
> The solidarity, cohesion and determination of the international community
> are our best hope of achieving this peacefully. Our strength lies in unity.
> The combination of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism is a threat of
> incalculable consequences. It is one at which all of us should feel
> concerned. Resolution 1441 is Saddam Hussein¹s last chance to disarm using
> peaceful means. The opportunity to avoid greater confrontation rests with
> him. Sadly this week the UN weapons inspectors have confirmed that his
> long-established pattern of deception, denial and non-compliance with UN
> Security Council resolutions is continuing.
> Europe has no quarrel with the Iraqi people. Indeed, they are the first
> victims of Iraq¹s current brutal regime. Our goal is to safeguard world
> peace and security by ensuring that this regime gives up its weapons of mass
> destruction. Our governments have a common responsibility to face this
> threat. Failure to do so would be nothing less than negligent to our own
> citizens and to the wider world.
> The United Nations Charter charges the Security Council with the task of
> preserving international peace and security. To do so, the Security Council
> must maintain its credibility by ensuring full compliance with its
> resolutions. We cannot allow a dictator to systematically violate those
> Resolutions. If they are not complied with, the Security Council will lose
> its credibility and world peace will suffer as a result.
> We are confident that the Security Council will face up to its
> responsibilities.
> (signed)
> José María Aznar, Spain
> José Manuel Durão Barroso, Portugal
> Silvio Berlusconi, Italy
> Tony Blair, United Kingdom
> Václav Havel, Czech Republic
> Peter Medgyessy, Hungary
> Leszek Miller, Poland
> Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Denmark
18) Defective arguments
by Jacob Sullum

"At a time when juries hand down multibillion-dollar awards as if
they were "Employee of the Month" plaques, the real news may be
the seemingly rare occasions when courts take the side of
common sense. Three such cases in the last month or so offer
hope that sanity can be restored to product liability litigation."
11) Cities pay big in faulty lawsuits
Fox News

"People who get injured while committing a crime, or while failing to
commit suicide, and then sue their cities for damages are reaping
financial benefits at the public's expense. And legal critics say the
practice has got to stop. 'You have to wonder, what message does
this send on individual responsibility,' asks Walter Olson, a senior
fellow at the Manhattan Institute, 'if money is going not just to the
innocent bystanders but to the people who caused the accidents or
injuries in the first place?'" (01/30/03),2933,77111,00.html

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

(The following comes from the E-Skeptic mailing list, Michael Shermer,
publisher of skeptic magazine and a favorite author of mine answers the
question a friends poses to him, what benefits does being an atheist or
agnostic bring. - Mike)

Finding Meaning in a Contingent Universe

I am often asked by believers why I abandoned Christianity and how I found
meaning in the apparently meaningless universe presented by science. The
implication is that the scientific world-view is an existentially depressing
one. Without God, I am bluntly told, what's the point? If this is all there
is, there is no use. To the contrary. For me quite the opposite is true. The
conjuncture of losing my religion, finding science, and discovering glorious
contingency was remarkably empowering and liberating. It gave me a sense of
joy and freedom. Freedom to think for myself. Freedom to take responsibility
for my own actions. Freedom to construct my own meanings and my own
destinies. With the knowledge that this may be all there is, and that I can
trigger my own cascading changes, I was free to live life to its fullest.

This is not to say that those who are religious cannot share in these
freedoms. But for me, and not just for me, a world absent monsters, ghosts,
demons, and gods unfetters the mind to soar to new heights, to think
unthinkable thoughts, to imagine the unimaginable, to contemplate infinity
and eternity knowing that no one is looking back. The universe takes on a
whole new meaning when you know that your place in it was not foreordained,
that it was not designed for us, indeed, that it was not designed at all. If
we are nothing more than star stuff and bio mass, how special life becomes.
If the tape were played again and again without the appearance of our
species, how extraordinary becomes our existence, and, correspondingly, how
cherished. To share in the sublimity of knowledge generated by other human
minds, and perhaps even to make a tiny contribution toward that body of
knowledge that will be passed down through the ages, part of the cumulative
wisdom of a single species on a tiny planet orbiting an ordinary star on the
remote edge of a not-so-unusual galaxy, itself a member of a cluster of
galaxies millions of light years from nowhere, is sublime beyond words.

Since we are such a visual primate, perhaps images can help capture the
feeling. The Hubble Telescope Deep Field photograph revealing as never
before the rich density of galaxies in our neck of the universe, is as grand
a statement about the sacred as any medieval cathedral. How vast is the
cosmos. How contingent is our place. Yet out of this apparent insignificance
emerges a glorious contingency--the recognition that we did not have to be,
but here we are. In fact, compare this slice of the cosmos to two of the
most hallowed and sacrosanct structures on Earth--both medieval in age but
on opposite sides of the planet, literally and figuratively: Machu Picchu
and Chartres Cathedral. Machu Picchu captures the numina through an
interlocking relationship between nature and humanity that generated in me
an almost mystical connection across space and time with the ancients that
had once lived and loved atop this 8,000-foot precipice. This is the "lost
city" in so many ways. When I stood inside Chartres Cathedral with my soul
mate, lit candles, and promised each other our eternal love, it was a more
sacred moment than any I have experienced. Skeptics and scientists cannot
experience the numinous? Nonsense. You do not need a spiritual power to
experience the spiritual. You do not need to be mystical to appreciate the
mystery. Standing beneath a canopy of galaxies, atop a pillar of reworked
stone, or inside a transcept of holy light, my unencumbered soul was free to
love without constraint, free to use my senses to enjoy all the pleasures
and endure all the pains that come with such love. I was enfranchised for
life, emancipated from the bonds of restricting tradition, and unyoked from
the rules written for another time in another place for another people. I
was now free to try to live up to that exalted moniker--Homo sapiens--wise
man. - Article archives

Thursday, January 09, 2003

(All, this is a about Elizabeth Targ, a researcher who recently made news
attempting to test the affects of prayers on healing. This article tells
the story of her research, background, and her eventual death of the same
rare brain cancer she was studying. It is a deeply moving and sad article
which covers all spectrums of humanity, from faith, hope, happiness,
spirituality to science, reason, and logic. Preceeding is some comments
from a member of the extropy list. - Mike)

A Prayer Before Dying

"is about experiments by Elizabeth Targ, daughter of well known
parapsychologist Russell Targ, which seemed to show that prayer could induce
healing. The first page may be annoying to those of us with a skeptical
bent, but if you read on the article goes in an entirely different
direction, with some astonishing revelations as it develops.

In the end it is a sad, moving and revealing story of the collision between
science and the search for a justification of faith. It appears that Ms.
Targ's results have been widely misinterpreted, and this article will be an
important rebuttal for any future cases where her results are presented at
face value." - Hal

Excerpts -

"at the other end of the religious spectrum frequently interrupted Targ's
speeches at conferences, sometimes by shouting vitriol, sometimes by asking
accusatory questions. They would shadow her through restaurants, sit down at
her dinner table, lecture her on how the power of faith is not to be
subjected to the rigors of science, how God is not to be questioned. They
were afraid she might succeed, and reduce their god to a physics phenomenon.
They were equally afraid she might fail, and discover nothing's there."

- End Excerpt

A Prayer Before Dying

From -


By Po Bronson


In July 1995, back when AIDS was still a death sentence, psychiatrist
Elisabeth Targ and her co-researchers enrolled 20 patients with advanced
AIDS in a randomized, double-blind pilot study at the UC San Francisco
Medical Center. All patients received standard care, but psychic healers
prayed for the 10 in the treatment group. The healers lived an average of
1,500 miles away from the patients. None of the patients knew which group
they had been randomly assigned to, and thus whether they were being prayed
for. During the six-month study, four of the patients died - a typical
mortality rate. When the data was unblinded, the researchers learned that
the four who had died were in the control group.

All 10 who were prayed for were still alive.


A lot of studies had investigated the effect of prayer on healing, but they
were methodologically sloppy and their findings couldn't be replicated. In
July 1996, Targ began a confirmation study, one with a larger sample and a
more exacting protocol. It is widely acknowledged as the most scientifically
rigorous attempt ever to discover if prayer can heal.

By this time, triple-drug therapy for those with AIDS had begun, and quite
miraculously AIDS patients stopped dying. So rather than just measuring
mortality, the replication trial also tallied the occurrence of 23
AIDS-related illnesses that appeared during the six months of the study,
from ulcers to encephalitis.

Forty patients were recruited. They filled out questionnaires, had photos
taken, and signed consent forms that indicated they had a 50/50 chance of
being prayed for by faraway psychic healers. They were free to pray for
themselves and have family and friends pray for them as well - the trial
design assumed everyone would get a "baseline" amount of prayer from loved
ones. Their blood was drawn, and a computer matched them to a statistical
twin - a counterpart with a similar CD4+ level, age, and number of previous
AIDS-related complications. The computer randomly assigned one of each pair
to a control group and the other to a treatment group.

The photos of those in the treatment group were sent to 40 healing
practitioners, ranging from rabbis to Native American medicine men to
bioenergetic psychics. These healers performed their rituals one hour a day
for six consecutive days. Each week for 10 weeks they rotated, so each
test-group patient received distant healing from 10 practitioners. The
healers kept logs and were not paid. They never met the subjects in person.

The photos of the control group were kept in a locked drawer.

Six months later, the data was unblinded.


The research results showed that the subjects who were not prayed for spent
600 percent more days in the hospital. They contracted 300 percent as many
AIDS-related illnesses. That's a pretty sensationalistic way of saying those
who were prayed for were a lot less sick. Here's the somewhat
less-sensational way of framing the results: The control group spent a total
of 68 days in the hospital receiving treatment for 35 AIDS-related
illnesses. The treatment group spent only 10 days in the hospital for a mere
13 illnesses.

This begs all sorts of questions, which we will get to, but for the moment,
consider the following:

The chance of this occurring randomly is less than 1 in 20, meaning it is
statistically significant.

There was no placebo effect. For the patients, being less sick didn't
correlate with believing they were being prayed for by the psychic healers.
Not even close. Nearly 55 percent of both groups imagined or guessed or
believed they were being prayed for - and they did no better than the

Targ had a pedigree. She graduated from Stanford Medical School, did her
residency at UCLA, and, at the time of the study, was an assistant professor
of psychiatry at UCSF.

The study, while controversial, eventually passed the scrutiny of peer
review and was published by the Western Journal of Medicine.

Targ was news. She appeared on Good Morning America and Larry King Live and
was written about in Time. She instantly became a star in the New Age
community - not as famous as doctors Deepak Chopra, Andrew Weil, and Larry
Dossey, but more respected because of her scientific rigor.

Although few doctors have read the study or know its details, it has
achieved renown and is routinely cited - not as proof that prayer works,
exactly, but as evidence that there's some connection between spirituality
and healing.


Is the "prayer effect" even theoretically possible?

Are these psychic healers who I think they are?

How did a reputable doctor come to risk her reputation studying the

What could be more odds-defying than this?


Targ refused to speculate. Her position: Use the scientific method to find
out if an effect exists before trying to analyze how it works. For years, no
one knew how morphine or aspirin worked - just that they were effective. The
understanding came later.

She presented her data dozens of times at conferences but never offered a
hypothesis. She enjoyed its mystique, its unknowable nature. Even in
private, she almost never let herself be drawn into these discussions. Her
coauthor on the study, Fred Sicher, a psychologist, is an enthusiastic
believer in the prayer effect, and he would get into long arguments with
their biostatistician, Dan Moore, who took the role of skeptic. Targ never
joined in. Her boyfriend, Mark Comings, was a theoretical physicist. He felt
that an eight-dimensional universe could explain how a healer in Santa Fe
could influence a patient in San Francisco: In our ordinary
three-dimensional world, healer and patient appear far apart, but in one of
the as-yet-unmeasurable extra dimensions, they'd be in the same place. Targ
would shake him off - speculation wasn't for her. She had patients to care

Although other people invoked her work as proof of God, Targ thought of it
as proof of only one thing: that this should be studied more.


The usual wackos - but experienced wackos. On average, they had 17 years'
experience, and each had treated more than a hundred patients from a
distance. Many had graduated from a bioenergetic healing school on Long
Island run by Barbara Brennan, a former NASA physicist. They had a variety
of religious backgrounds, from Jewish to Christian to Buddhist to shamanist;
however, their method of prayer was not an appeal to a higher power. Rather
than ask God for help, the healers were directed to send positive healing
energy, to direct an intention for health and well-being to the subject. The
point was to test the ability of a person to affect another remotely, in a
one-to-one relationship.

Wackos at the other end of the religious spectrum frequently interrupted
Targ's speeches at conferences, sometimes by shouting vitriol, sometimes by
asking accusatory questions. They would shadow her through restaurants, sit
down at her dinner table, lecture her on how the power of faith is not to be
subjected to the rigors of science, how God is not to be questioned. They
were afraid she might succeed, and reduce their god to a physics phenomenon.
They were equally afraid she might fail, and discover nothing's there.


Here is a list of expert quotes from articles that have been written about

"Elisabeth is our hero. She's a wonderful, groundbreaking researcher." - Dr.
Mitchell Krucoff, Duke University

"Medical research has shown that people who believe in God or in prayer
generally fare better than those who don't. What remains unproven is whether
prayer itself makes a difference." - Dr. Herbert Benson, Harvard Medical

"Nobody would dispute that for a great many people, religion provides
comfort in times of distress, medical or otherwise. But there is no really
good, compelling evidence that there is a relationship between religious
involvement and health."

- Dr. Richard Sloan, Columbia University

Question 1: Based on these quotes, what would a reader of an ensuing article
likely conclude?
a) That most doctors think her research is a bogus waste of time and money.
b) That doctors are evenly divided but open-minded about the prayer effect.

Question 2: Which is closest to the truth, a or b?


"She had more permission to be psychic than anyone in history," proudly
offers her father, Russell Targ, who in the 1970s conducted CIA-funded
experiments in extrasensory perception at Stanford. Subjects in his lab
attempted to describe objects hidden inside boxes and tried to get better at
it through repetition, as if it was a learnable skill, like riding a
unicycle. During the Cold War, his psychics would sit in a chair and calm
their minds until they received visions and diagrams of certain military
bases in Russia.

Russell had an ESP machine, an early computer that asked subjects which of
four colors they thought would randomly appear onscreen. Targ began training
on the machine at age 10. When she played hide-and-seek with a girlfriend,
Targ would attempt to find her by means of clairvoyance. She was expected to
call out what was in her Christmas presents before opening them; if she
guessed incorrectly, her father teased her: "What's wrong with you?"

"I expected her to be intelligent, polite, and psychic," says Russell. He
was a force. He was famous. He had helped invent the laser while at
Lockheed. Her uncle was the world chess champion, Bobby Fischer. Greatness
was assumed.

And Targ was exceedingly bright. By the time she entered Palo Alto High
School, she'd already skipped two grades. At 12, she was helping a Stanford
researcher stick electrodes into monkey brains to examine hemispheric
specialization. That's also when she conducted her first human experiment:
demonstrating that left-handed people make more spelling errors than
right-handed people. At 13, she tested crayfish feeding reflexes. In high
school, she cofounded the debate team. "Truth through dialog" was her motto.

She graduated from high school at 15, in 1977. Fluent in Russian - as well
as French and German - she got a job in a psychology research department at
Stanford, translating studies from the Soviet Union. Since Russia was an
atheist country, parapsychology didn't carry the religious taboo it did
here, and she was exposed to a lot of it. In her first semester at Pomona
College, she conducted a study that took her father's favorite experiment -
attempting to describe objects hidden inside boxes - and subjected it to
double-blinded, randomized scientific rigor. This time, neither subject nor
experimenter knew what had been placed in the box. Her teacher hated it; she
transferred to Stanford.

To her best friend, Janice Boughton, Targ simply seemed open-minded,
influenced by those Russian studies she'd translated. "Parapsychology was
her hobby, as if she played the trombone."

During college, she would fool around with notions of being able to
manipulate events in the near future. She called it Associative Remote
Viewing. Hoping to be awarded grants for her research, she would associate
that grant with an ordinary object, such as a vase or a teddy bear; then she
and her friends would visualize this vase or teddy bear frequently,
believing that the visualization would make the desired outcome more likely.
She used a variation on this method when she got accepted to Stanford, and
later, when she and Comings were trying to find an affordable house in San

She also put a lot of stock in her own intuition and dreams. All through her
life, she had a recurring dream in which a birthday cake with 42 candles
appeared (once, it was 42 birthday cakes). Targ became convinced this was a
sign that she would die. At 42. Next year. 2003.

All of which raises the question: Does her backstory as an ESP hobbyist make
us regard her work with some suspicion? It has to - in the same way that her
Stanford Medical School degree affords her legitimacy. The whole point of
randomized, double-blind trials is to eliminate bias. On TV, Targ presented
herself as just another medical researcher, but if she spent her entire life
in search of the paranormal, it's not surprising that she eventually found
traces of it.


Targ originally chose to study AIDS because it was a "gnarly disease,"
medical science's greatest riddle.

During the AIDS pilot study, one of the patients developed brain cancer.
Amazingly, this patient did not die and eventually made a full recovery. As
it turned out, he had been in the treatment group - he had been prayed for.
Fred Sicher, Targ's coauthor, reminded her of this patient after a
confirmation study was completed. Although AIDS was no longer a death
sentence, brain cancer still was.

Could a healer 1,500 miles away really shrink a brain tumor?

Targ learned all she could about a type of brain cancer called glioblastoma

In 2000, she applied to the National Institutes of Health's Center for
Complementary and Alternative Medicine for $1.5 million to cover two
150-patient trials - one on brain cancer, and another confirmation study on
AIDS. The NIH had never granted money to study distant healing. But people
with brain cancer were dying, and nothing seemed to work. Her grant was

The data from the trials will not be available for at least three years. Her
work is a linchpin in the history of scientific research; if these trials
find a prayer effect, it will open the door to much more. If they fail to
find one, this kind of research will retreat beyond the fringe.


Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most malignant of cancers. For those
with a grade-4 tumor, survival rates are uniformly poor. Only 2 percent live
more than three years. The average lifespan from diagnosis is 12 months -
and that's for patients who receive surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
Without intervention, patients live about six months.

GBM is one of the rarest cancers. In the US, about 7,000 people die from it
every year. (Far more develop cancer of the brain as a result of metastases
originating in some other organ, but that's different.)

With GBM, it's not the brain's neurons that are cancerous, it's the cells
that feed and physically support them - the neuroglial cells. The tumor can
double in size every 10 days.

It is the cancer we understand the very least. We have no clue what causes
it or who is likely to get it.

Chemotherapy offers scant hope. The most recent drug enlisted to fight brain
cancer is Temodar. In clinical trials, Temodar slowed the progression of
some GBM tumors, but its effect on life expectancy was insignificant.


Targ was 40. She'd always wanted a family. She and Comings made plans to get
married, in May 2002, and in March she took a leave from research to begin
in vitro fertilization treatments. After the first round of eggs were
implanted in her uterus, she began to notice that it was hard for her to
pronounce words containing the letter b; one morning, in the mirror, she
noticed that the left side of her face had gone slack. The usual line of
diagnosis would suspect a stroke - yet she felt fine. She'd never had a
physical malady - not even bad eyesight or a single cavity. Could it be a
symptom of the IVF? She went to the emergency room, not wanting to take
chances. They said it was nothing. It persisted. She was scared. They took
an MRI of her brain. "Call back for the results tomorrow." She called. They
asked her to come in. "Bring your boyfriend."

Targ could read the MRI herself. She'd become an expert. She knew exactly
what to look for, exactly what she was looking at.

A tumor.

In her brain, small star-shaped cells were dividing.

It was a coincidence of infinite implausibility.


The tumor appeared to be small and near the skull - it would be easy to
remove. Her doctor thought it might be diffuse astrocytoma, a survivable
type of brain cancer not as deadly as glioblastoma. Reason to hope! Spread
the word! But this is science, which always looks twice. She went back to
the hospital for a high-resolution MRI.

This MRI showed the tumor mass near the skull was connected by a tendril to
a larger lesion in the thalamus, several twisted layers down, which would be
impossible to remove without cutting Targ's brain in half. Her cancer was
upgraded from grade 2 to grade 4. Mitchel Berger, her surgeon, wanted to
operate immediately. Five days after the initial diagnosis, she was wheeled
into surgery at UCSF, where Berger spent six hours performing the
craniotomy. Much of the tumor could not be excised.

When she woke up, her close friends and family were crowded around her
bedside. They hugged her, stroked her, showed no fear. They told her not to
worry. Her fellow researchers joked that they would make her the poster girl
for their cause. Of course she would pull through. She was their leader.

Then Berger came in and told her that the tumor was, indeed, GBM. It would
take a miracle to keep her alive. He recommended she begin radiation
treatments. She considered it.

She went home, to the house she shared with Comings in Bernal Heights. Her
voice was two octaves higher - "like Marilyn Monroe on helium," she joked,
and so she rented a bunch of Marilyn Monroe movies. Otherwise, she seemed
miraculously fine. She responded to email and talked on the telephone in the
afternoons. Each morning, she followed a disciplined schedule to get her
energy flowing: 6 am, qigong; 7 am, yoga; 8 am, walk; 9 am, meditation.

One night, 10 days after the surgery, Targ came down to the living room,
where Comings was working. She sat in his lap and cried as she told him her
fear: "Knowing where this tumor is located, there's a good chance I will end
up with thalamic pain syndrome. It's the worst thing one can possibly get."

Two days later, the early symptoms began. Pain on her left side. Needing a
lot of assistance to walk, then needing a wheelchair. She could no longer
see the computer screen, let alone focus her eyes - indication the tumor had
reached the optic nerve, which runs through the thalamus. She went to the
hospital, and another MRI revealed that the tumor was spreading in great
long tentacles over the corpus callosum, from the right brain to the left.
Berger described it as "galloping," and he insisted she begin
five-day-a-week radiation immediately. This time she relented.


They tried. Word of Targ's illness had spread worldwide. Web sites kept
track of her progress and made it seem that she would survive. Healing
circles everywhere prayed for her. On Wednesday nights on a hill above
Silicon Valley, friends and followers gathered in prayer. Many had never met
Targ, but they knew her work and thought of her as their patron saint. They
had fought off death themselves, or they had lost loved ones, and had felt
the power of prayer in their own battles.

Her bedroom turned into a circus. Healers from everywhere showed up wanting
to help. It was rarely peaceful and quiet. There was Phillip Scott, a Lakota
sun dancer who burned sage; Nicolai Levashov, a Russian psychic who waved
his hands; Harriet Bienfield, an acupuncturist with rare Chinese herbs;
Desda Zuckerman, an energy worker who used techniques inspired by the
ancient methods of the Miwok peoples. The reverend Rosalyn Bruyere phoned
often, trying to get on Targ's schedule. And, of course, there was her
father, Russell, urging her to meditate, calm her mind, go to that place.

Targ tried. She didn't believe that any particular one of these healers had
the power to cure her, but she believed in the general notion that her life
was in the hands of a mystical force. She knew her medical doctors had
practically no chance of saving her life. We are optimistic beings - we
choose to live - and our hope has to vest in something.

In the future, there may be a breakthrough in screening procedures and
chemotherapy regimes so that brain cancer is somehow treatable. But that
future is no help today. To science, Targ is just a data point. On the value
of her life, on the possibility of saving it, science faded into a mute
bystander. So she put her faith in these healers, and some tried to take
advantage of it.

One was a man who claims to be the last existing Druid. Targ felt he really
had a gift. Now she needed him. But he was stuck in France, recently
deported. He offered to help if she would clear up his INS problems; then he
wanted Comings to get him a job at the NSA in counterterrorism. Then he
called again; this time, he offered to help for free, if Targ would convince
another family to pay him $250,000 to save their dying loved one.

Nicolai Levashov urged Targ not to have radiation. He argued that it was
killing her healthy brain cells. The radiation was painful; it left purple
burns on her scalp. She dreaded the late-morning sessions. Levashov insisted
he had been able to stop the cancer telepathically and isolate it inside a
membrane. An MRI showed the tentacles had retreated; this was almost
certainly due to the radiation, but Levashov claimed credit for it. His
words finally won her over. One morning, she woke up and announced, "That's
it. I'm not going to submit myself to the fire-breathing dragons." She
picked up the phone, called the radiology department, and told them, "I feel
like you're burning me at the stake!" She stopped going.

A week later, the pain worsened, and she checked herself into the hospital.
Now admitted, Targ would receive radiation whether she liked it or not. So
one morning, the orderly arrived at her room to wheel her to radiology. Targ
was wearing a Viking hat over a gold foil wig and waving a staff that had
once belonged to an African shaman. She pronounced, "I am going to slay the

The orderly didn't recognize her. "Who are you?"

"I am a psychiatrist on the staff of this hospital!" she stated proudly.

Why did she join the circus? As the cancer progressed, Targ felt
increasingly guilty that she was letting the movement down. Forget the year
and a half most people get. Her charts told her she had only months. To send
all the healers away would signal the end of hope.

So she let the circus go on, even though its zaniness brought chaos rather
than peace. She ate her miserable macrobiotic gruel, and she meditated as
best she could despite the excruciating pain. There was a poster on the wall
in her hospital room on how to go about adopting a baby. She read it in
tears, knowing even if she survived they would never let her adopt. So she
and Comings decided to get a puppy. And they had the wedding exactly as

On May 4, she and 150 of the Bay Area's parapsychology royalty converged in
Tiburon, on waterfront land owned by the Audubon Society. She could barely
walk down the aisle. She'd had a craniotomy and was missing her hair. Her
wedding dress had to be refit twice because she'd lost so much weight. The
left side of her face was not working properly. Yet she sat nobly and
beamed. When most people get married, there's a part of the ceremony about
always sticking together, for better or for worse. Targ's worse was already
upon her. There would be no honeymoon. Making a lifetime commitment in the
face of that tragedy left no eyes dry.

Back at the hospital, she wore her ring proudly.

She had one friend with whom she let her guard down, let herself be a normal
dying person. When her friend walked into the room, they would both burst
into tears.

"What are we going to do!?" they cried.

"I'm craving chocolate," Targ once confessed to her friend. "Sneak me some?"

"Why? Jesus, if you've only got four weeks, don't make it torture. Enjoy
what you can."

"I don't want them to know." She was supposed to be macrobiotic.

Her friend became angry. There was too much pressure on Targ to be that
poster girl. Targ didn't think of it that way. She was a doctor. She knew
her bounds: When someone is about to lose a loved one, never deny them their

Even if you are that loved one.


That her study had been unblinded and then "reblinded" to scour for data
that confirmed the thesis - and the Western Journal of Medicine did not know
this fact when it decided to publish.

Her famous study was not, as its reputation suggests, designed to measure
the number of AIDS-related illnesses. Targ and Fred Sicher had targeted
their study to measure mortality but were caught off-guard by triple-drug
anti-retroviral therapy, which became common practice one month into the
six-month trial. When biostatistician Dan Moore broke the randomization code
to unblind the data, it told them nothing - since only one patient had died,
the data was meaningless.

Moore brought Targ and Sicher into his office and showed him the data on his
computer. Moore thought this new triple-drug therapy was nothing short of a
medical miracle, the triumph of science. It was saving lives! But Targ and
Sicher didn't want to see it that way. Targ asked him to crunch the numbers
on the secondary scores - one a measure of HIV physical symptoms, the other
a measure of quality of life. These came out inconclusive; the treatment
group didn't score better than the control. Not what they wanted to find. In
dismay, Targ called her father. He calmed her down, told her to keep
looking. She had Moore run the mood state scores. These came out worse - the
treatment group was in more psychological stress than the control group.
Same for CD4+ counts. Targ flew down to Santa Fe to attend a conference at a
Buddhist retreat run by her godmother. When she called back to Moore's
office, Sicher answered. Moore was crunching the last data they had,
hospital stays and doctor visits. "Looks like we have statistical
significance!" Moore announced. Sicher told Targ, who turned and yelled out
to her friends and the conference.


Later that week, Moore met with an AIDS physician at California Pacific
Medical Center. This doctor thought distant healing was bogus but agreed to
give advice. He remarked that the length of hospital stays wasn't very
meaningful. Patients with health insurance tend to stay in hospitals longer
than uninsured ones. He pointed Moore to an important AIDS paper that had
been recently published. It defined the 23 illnesses associated with AIDS.
He told Moore they ought to have been measuring the occurrence of these
illnesses all along. Moore took this list to Targ and Sicher. There was only
one problem. They hadn't collected this data.

They gathered the medical charts and gave them to their assistant to black
out the names of the patients. This done, Targ and Sicher began poring over
the charts again, noting the data they hadn't previously collected. Since
Sicher had interviewed many of these patients (up to three times), Moore
worried Sicher could recognize them just by the dates they came to the
hospital and what they were treated for. Sicher admitted he could (there
were only 40). He had also seen which group each patient was assigned to,
treatment or control, but he swore he didn't remember and maintained he was
therefore impartial. (Sicher remembers this differently. He insists he
couldn't recognize the patients from their charts and never knew which group
each was in.) Targ told her boyfriend she was worried about Sicher's
impartiality, but she took him at his word, even though Sicher was an ardent
believer in distant healing, by his own frequent admission. He had put up
the money himself for the pilot study ($7,500), had paid for the blood
tests. He had a vested interest in the outcome.

This isn't what science means by double-blind. The data may all be
legitimate, but it's not good form. Statisticians call this the
sharpshooter's fallacy - spraying bullets randomly, then drawing a target
circle around a cluster. When Targ and Sicher wrote the paper that made her
famous, they let the reader assume that all along their study had been
designed to measure the 23 AIDS-related illnesses - even though they're
careful never to say so. They never mentioned that this was the last in a
long list of endpoints they looked at, or that it was data collected after
an unblinding.

I learned all this from Dan Moore and confirmed it with Mark Comings. Moore
seemed unaware how explosive his version of the story was. "I was always
troubled over the sifting it took for the data to hold together," he said.
"I think Fred and Elisabeth missed the real story, which was the difference
between medical science and alternative medicine. Triple-drug therapy was
literally saving lives. We were only looking at secondary things."

With this information, I reread the paper with an awe for how carefully they
chose their words. Only with the benefit of this hindsight do holes emerge,
ones that had been clouded by the scientific language and statistical

David Spiegel, who runs the PsychoSocial Research Lab at Stanford, was the
primary reviewer of Targ's paper for the Western Journal of Medicine. Targ's
work, he said, deserved its reputation as the best-designed study measuring
distant healing. Then I told him about the procedural flaws.

"I'm even more troubled by the multiple endpoints than the unblinding," he
said with increasing concern. "It's a little post hoc. Normally, we accept
the standard that a finding must have less than a 1-in-20 chance of randomly
occurring. When you're on your third or fourth attempt, it's much more
likely a 1-in-20 event will occur, so the standard has to be higher. You
divide the alpha by the number of attempts, thus 1 in 60, 1 in 80, et
cetera. There was no indication of this recast standard."

Spiegel continued: "It does change her work considerably. It puts it into
more of an exploratory study, rather than a confirmatory study. It would be
wrong to say it'd been proven."


Age was a confounding variable. Most of the 20 participants were in their
mid-twenties to early thirties, but four were older. Three in their late
thirties, and one in his sixties. Those oldest four patients died. They were
all in the control group.

In other words, the study provided fairly convincing evidence that if you
had AIDS back in the mid-1990s, the older you were the more likely you were
to die.


Not at all, because people who devote themselves to the thin line between
life and death don't just measure "healing" as saving a physical body. Those
who've watched a lot of people die learn to find their victories in good
deaths. Your body might be dying, but you can still repair your
relationships, old emotional wounds. You can restore parts of your
personality that you had let wither. You can become a better person, even as
your body goes.

Targ was one of the first people to know that she would die quickly.
Gradually, people around her came to accept this. Even those who had never
met her became fairly sure something was up, because there were no more
encouraging updates posted on the Web site that tracked her recovery.

And they continued to pray - to heal her soul - so that she might die with
the kind of peaceful bliss and tranquility she desired. Even if she couldn't
live, they wanted her to die rightly, to be a poster girl for the right kind
of death. At peace, not in pain. In the arms of those who loved her, not in
the cold clutches of hospital care. To let go freely, to embrace the other
side when she was ready.

More generosity: They all wanted to be a part of her death, and she gave
this to them.

They moved Targ from her hospital to a farm in Portola Valley that had been
important to her mother. She stopped the radiation.

When she was suffering, she would telephone her godmother, Joan Halifax, a
Buddhist priest, and receive ministry.

With a few weeks to go, she was troubled by her inability to meditate. She
cried out to a friend, "My mind hasn't quieted!"

A week later, she could only communicate through hand squeezes and eye
blinks. She'd tapered off her pain medication but was not in pain. It was
possible that her pain center was being affected by the cancer. It was also
possible that her soul was becoming detached from her body, getting ready to

"Do you know it's me?" her friend Adrianne Mohr asked.

Two squeezes. Yes.

"Is it busy inside your head?"

One squeeze. No.

"What's going on? Is it getting spacious?"

Two squeezes.

"Are you there again?"

Two squeezes.

"Babe, you're there."

Two squeezes.

She'd always preferred situations that couldn't be explained - she liked the
mystery. Targ's research was designed not to find answers but to force us to
behold the inexplicable, to admit our limits of narrative. And in her death,
she succeeded grandly. She gave us an incomprehensible mind-bender - how can
it be only coincidence that a doctor who did not believe in coincidences was
afflicted by the very cancer she was studying?


Targ's colleagues are seeing her work to completion. The brain cancer study
has been taken over by Andrew Freinkel, and her third AIDS study by John
Astin. Both doctors are sympathetic to the cause and are still enrolling
patients at California Pacific.


With complementary medicine, the usual assumption is "If it helps, great -
it can't hurt."

But it can. Consider the Russian psychic Nicolai Levashov. He urged Targ to
cease radiation treatment and then convinced Comings that the cancer was no
longer killing her; it was the necrotic cancer tissue, Levashov insisted,
that was poisoning her body. It had to be cut out or she would die. Comings
wasted the last month of his wife's life on a wild goose chase, desperately
calling every brain surgeon in the country, begging them to perform this
surgery. In her final week, he made an appeal to the tumor board at
Stanford. He gave them her MRIs and medical charts. The board met on
Thursday; they made a decision but didn't call until the next morning.

"We're sorry," he was told. "We've looked carefully at it. We disagree with
what you've been told. The tumor growth is killing her. We can't do the

"You're too late anyway," he returned. "She died last night."


The time for miracles had run out on Elisabeth Targ. It was a scary moment
for the uninitiated, her lungs suddenly gasping for air, trying to hang on,
hyperventilating, nearly barking, spasming for more than half an hour. But
this literal last gasp is how most die, and Comings knew this, so as he held
her in his arms he felt relieved that she would soon be free of the illusion
that is this world.

He didn't call the coroner right away. He laid her body out on her bed, and
the next morning, friends gathered around her and circled in prayer. They
took photographs. It helped them, somehow, to see her resting in peace, and
they wanted a picture to remind them later, when they would inevitably
struggle with the tragedy of a life cut short. The aura of mystery that
always surrounded Targ did not end at her death. She died at 11:11 pm,
exactly 111 days after she was diagnosed. The meaning of that numeric
alliteration was just beyond their reach, but it titillated, as Targ's work
always had. And then talk turned to those dreams of birthday cakes with 42
candles. Elisabeth Targ died two weeks short of her 41st birthday. Not
evidence of anything, but too close to just ignore, too close not to ponder. - Article archives

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

(All, for those who interact with me on a regular basis you will likely be
familiar with one of my leading projects, mentioned in a previous email.
For the past two years I have been designing and building a motorcycle. I
have submitted a provisional patent application for a particular aspect of
the design, which I am building the full vehicle to test. All of this has
required hard work and long hours of dedicated time consuming effort. I
have devoted countless hours to studying these subjects and developing my
ideas. But dont see this as an attempt to impress, instead I want to
emphasize that I am an average person of average potential. There is
nothing I was born with that makes me capable of working on this project
that others do not have, in fact the only thing I want people to recognize
when hearing of my efforts is that it is something they can accomplish as
well, that they see in me what they could do if they put the effort into it.
My only successfull 'convert' so far has been my cousin, Jason. After
relaying some of my ideas to him in my usual excited difficult to follow
manner, he had this to say in an email to me. "I am intruiged to hear you
talk about your ideas because I have seen myself in them. I have always
wondered where I get this overwhelming desire to improve my surroundings. A
nagging drive to do things that may seem odd to others all for the sake of
efficency or advanced practicality has haunted me. This might be hard to
understand, but it comes down to this, you have inspired me to push even
harder with my own ideas. The only thing that is difficult is keeping up
with the effort, and remaining motivated." That is, indeed, the most
difficult aspect for me as well...

In that regard, I have read 'Atlas Shrugged' by philosopher Ayn Rand twice,
it is, perhaps, the single most motivational book I have read, in fact, as
this article mentions, Americans rank it as the second most motivational
book in history (behind the Bible). This book has taught me the value of
achieving through hard work, and the prosperity and the raising of standards
of livings that can come for all people from the concentrated effort of
individuals. It has taught me the value of productive effort, and the
instrinsic moral validity of acheiving. 'Atlas Shrugged' has been an
essential inspiration to me (many many thanks to list member who bought this
book as a gift for me) and has served to re-inspire me anytime I feel
inadequate or reach a set back in accomplishing my goals. As superficial as
it sounds, I could not have done any of what I have done without this book.

Atlas Shrugged was written as a culmination of Ayn Rand's ideas, Ayn Rand
grew up in Russia during the height of Soviet attrocities, she saw families
have red stickers smacked on their door sentancing them to starvation 'for
the good of the state' While she saw families and friends escorted to labor
camps, many to die, American and western intellectuals were espousing the
virtues of communism and socialism. She visited distant relatives in
America as a young woman and relished in the freedom found in America. She
fell in love with the actor Frank O'Conner, who encompossed her ideal of a
perfect man. She married and gained her citinzship in the only country in
the world founded on freedom. She developed her philosophy and ideas
throughout her life, and has served as the most influentional modern day
philosopher, developing on the class of philosophy started by Aristotle who
planted the seeds of science, logic, and individualism. Rand as her lifes
work attempted to create a system of morality that was based on a objective
principles, as opposed to subjective values. This would lead to questions
of morality being solved as assuradly as questions of pure science can be,
such as how fast a rock falls when dropped. Reading Atlas Shrugged has not
only motivated me, it has helped me to define my own ethical principles.

Atlas Shrugged is not meant as a pulitzer prize winning piece of fiction, it
is meant as a culminating representation of Ayn Rand's ideals. It details
the story of powerfull rail road executive Dagney Taggart and Steel producer
Hank Reardon fighting and overcoming tremendous odds where government
officials are manipulated as tools of competing industries to regulate
Taggart's rail road out of existence and prevent Rearden from marketing a
new form of steel that is stronger and cheaper than all other steel. A
systemetic propoganda campaign is launched by Rearden competitors, claiming
Rearden's steel will spontaneously fracture in an un-predictable manner, the
'State Science Institute' officially declares Rearden steel a hazard to the
publics health on dubious scientific data. When the leading competitor to
Rearden can never come through on steel orders for Dagney's rail, Dagney
circumvents the apathetic non-committel board of her railroad and proceeds
to build a desperately warranted track connecting a growing industrial base
in colorado to the rest of the US out of Rearden steel, despite the libel
propoganda. Rearden's competitors and detractors manipulate their
respective government stooges into threatening to outlaw Rearden steel, the
rail unions threaten to never ride on trains running on rearden rails. When
Rearden steel proves a success, Rearden's detractors manipulate their
government stooges again to limit the production by law to protect other
steel producers from being forced out of business by a superior product that
is cheaper, can be used to lay more rail, and can save lives. The rail
unions push through legislation limiting the number of trains that can be
run on the new rail and limiting their top speed, driving up all the prices
of all the goods moved out of the new industrial base in Colarodo.

A real world parrallel to Hank Rearden's steel can be seen in the previous
article I sent out, where in the late 60's the inventor of wet sprayed
Asbestos lamented that should the World Trade Centers ever catch fire above
the 60th floor (where litigation and the subsequent ban forced the builders
to stop using the insulation) the tower would collapse. Unfortunately his
prediction proved true, and wet sprayed asbestos has, despite repeated
tests, never been shown to be harmfull.

During this time in 'Atlas Shrugged' all nations of the world are becoming
'Peoples states' They are nationalizing all their industries and their
economies. This nationalization often rips the running of their industrial
bases out of the hands of the competent productive individuals that created
these industries through their own long hours, and placed them into the
hands of incompetent government officials who only got their power because
of their political influence. Productivity expectedly drops while prices
soar. Soon the world is seeing food shortages, energy shortages, and more
and more regulations attempting to combat previous regulations. During this
time the producers not forced out of their positions by nationalization see
their ability to create and produce limited at every step of they way, thier
productive efforts are looted and mooched 'for the good of the people'.
Schools, academia, and the media are teaching people that all opinions are
equally valid, that feelings can rule the world, that reality is a
misconception, that the government knows what is best, and that to be moral
you must sacrifice yourself to others.

During this time a man is working behind the scenes to combat the looters
and moochers whos actions will do nothing less than destroy civilization and
human progress. He is convincing the productive members of society to
abandon their posts, to not live under the moral code established by these
looters who are pushing the producers to work toward their own destruction.
He organizes a strike, the only one of its kind, where all the productive
members of the society remove their mind from their work, and let the
looters fend for themselves.

A real world parrallel to this nationalization and its competing strike can
be seen in Venezualla currently, where despotic Dictator Hugo Chavez
attempted to nationalize Venezuela's oil production, which amounts to 30% of
its gross national product. The executives and workers in the Oil trade
objected and people from all walks of life protested this tyranny, they went
on strike. The strikes have brought Venezuela's oil wells and refineries to
a standstill. Chavez' private militia opened fired into a crowd of
protestors, but fortunately the people of Venezuela were not so easily
defeated. They have rallied again with a vast general strike protesting
Chavez's rule. The protesters are making non-controversial demand: they
want a national referendum on Chavez's presidency — an attempt to oust the
would-be dictator through new elections. This international response to
this fight for freedom has been discouraging. The international community
has garned only vague morally non-committel responses, The Washington Post
condemned both sides, chiding Venezuela's workers that "national strikes are
no more the solution than martial law" — as if they are as guilty for
resisting dictatorship as Chavez is for imposing it.

The sad extent of this type of nationalization can be seen in full effect in
North Korea. Liberal Author Christopher Hitchens calls North Korea 'The
Worst of the Worst', it is the worst possible combination of absolute
despotism, totalitarianism, and state failure. It is a living example of
the nightmare portrayed in Orwells 1984 and predicted as a result of runaway
nationalization in Rand's Atlas Shrugged, he says of North Korea -

"All films, all books, all newspapers and all radio and television
broadcasts are about either the Father or the Son[Kim Jong Il]. Everybody is
a soldier. Everybody is an informer. Everybody is a unit. Everything is
propaganda...Children are drilled to think of Japanese and Americans, in
particular, as monstrous...The old justification for the Stalinist
forced-march system was that at least it led to development. But even in
Pyongyang, the capital city which is reserved for approved citizens, one can
see that this excuse doesn't work. Neither does anything else; the place is
stalled and hungry and subject to constant blackouts. There are no cars on
the streets; there is no construction except of tawdry shrines to the Holy
Family. A very small window of dollar bribery has opened up in recent years,
but there's nothing to buy and no black market. Corruption at the leadership
level is exorbitant, with palaces and limos and (a special obsession of Kim
Jong Il's) megalomaniacal movie projects...I saw people scavenging
individual grains from the fields and washing themselves in open sewers. On
the almost deserted roads, animals do a good deal of the hauling. Domestic
pets are nowhere to be seen. Perhaps most have been eaten, for the fact is
that North Korea is a famine stat...Nobody knows the death toll-the best
guess is between 1.5 and 2 million-but in addition a generation of
physically and mentally stunted children has been "fathered" by the "Dear
Leader." Well-attested rumors of cannibalism have filtered across the border
to China, where a Korean-speaking minority has lately been augmented by
refugees so desperate that they will risk shooting in order to brave the
river. A system where you can't live but you can't leave is the definition
of hell...deserted towns, empty factories, wandering and neglected children
and untilled fields...the country's once productive coal mines have been
allowed to flood, and that there are no pumps that can be brought to bear"
(from -

The latest estimates are that the state has killed 2 million people in the
recent famine. This would make it the worst state killing since Cambodia in
the 1970s. It would push the total killing by the communist regime since its
origin to about 4 million people, making communist North Korea the 6th
greatest killer since 1900. Compare North Korea with South Korea, which
started with similiar popuations and have nearly identical climates, land
area, people, and culture. Yet South Korea, which embraced capitalism and
democracy at the end of the Korean War is now the 11th largest economy in
the world, a bustling hub of progress and growth which recently hosted the
Olympics. North Korea, on the other hand, embraced massive statism, it is
the only full fledged communist state intact, its people are desperately
poor and millions have starved to death, while factories and fields remain
unused and empty it receives billions in international aide while
maintaining a standing army of 1 million with artillary constantly aimed at
South Korea's capital. A truly sad state of affiars.

I have only described events that take place in part I of this 1100 page
three part story. But dont think this book justifies the immoral behavior
of some modern execs, these morally vile individuals serve as some of the
main villians in the book, despised by the protagonists and the heroes as
fools, looters, and moochers. What follows is an article on the renewed
interest in Atlas Shrugged by business men, ceo's, entrpenuers et al.
published in USA Today. For those interested but pressed for time, you can
rent 'Atlas Shrugged' on tape in three ~11 tape parts from and listen to it on your commute... Enjoy - Mike)

Scandals lead execs to 'Atlas Shrugged'

By Del Jones, USA TODAY

In these post-Enron days of corporate scandal, some of the millions of
copies of Atlas Shrugged that have been sold over 45 years are being dusted
off by executives under siege by prosecutors, regulators, Congress,
employees, investors, a Republican president, even terrorists.

Executive headhunter Jeffrey Christian says many of his clients are
re-reading the 1,075-page novel to remind themselves that self-interest is
not only the right thing to do from an economic standpoint but is moral, as

CEOs put the book down knowing in their hearts that they are not the greedy
crooks they are portrayed to be in today's business headlines but are heroes
like the characters in Rand's novel. They strive to be real-life achievers
who do far more to lift the world's standard of living, cure disease and end
starvation than Mother Teresa and altruists who believe a full life requires
self-sacrifice and serving the needs of others.

Influential books

Top books that made a difference in people's lives:
1. The Bible*
2. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
3. The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
5. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

* - a large gap exists between the No. 1 book and the rest; based on 2,032
responses from Book-of-the-Month Club members,1991, in survey co-sponsored
by Library of Congress' Center for the Book

The Atlas Society, devoted to Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead and other
fiction by Ayn Rand, saw Web site visits suddenly double to 23,000 a month
this summer after holding steady for years at 10,000 to 12,000. Traffic
started creeping up in January and February as the Enron scandal blossomed.
The Objectivist Center, which focuses on the philosophy spawned by the
books, saw user visits rise 159% to 78,397 in August 2002 from 30,247 in
August 2001.

Book sales, while still remarkable for a novel published in 1957 and written
during the early years of the Cold War, have not seen a significant spike
this year, says publisher Penguin Putnam. But that does not count the used
copies recycled by those like 74-year-old real estate multimillionaire Leon
Trager of Potomac, Md. He says he visits used bookstores to buy copies of
Atlas Shrugged to give away.

Atlas Shrugged ranked No. 429 on June through August this year,
and some weeks it threatens to crack the Top 100 among more than 2 million
listed. A movie deal may be down the road, which would return it to its
best-seller days of the 1950s and early 1960s, when it was popular on
college campuses.

The book sells extremely well in pockets such as the Atlanta suburb of
Acworth, Ga., according to Acworth residents are far more likely
than the general population to own tax-sheltered annuities and subscribe to
Forbes magazine, according to market research company Claritas.

Rallying around Rand

Every month or so, a group of 15 or 20 Kansas City CEOs get together to
share advice and corporate war stories. It's nothing like a book club, but
membership requires a working knowledge of the novel.

These aren't executives who rose through the corporate bureaucracy but are
out of the Bill Gates mold and sit atop companies they built. The premise of
the book is that such innovators become so fed up with the "moochers" who
regulate, tax and otherwise feed off of those who achieve, that the
achievers go on strike. They withdraw their talents from the world,
threatening to send it back toward the Dark Ages.

After Enron, WorldCom, Tyco and other scandals that have created a public
backlash against industry and its captains, the Kansas City group has
fantasized of a modern-day strike of thinkers and creators, says Neal
Patterson, a group member and CEO of Cerner, a big health care information
technology company.

"We are the producers of society," says Will Koch, CEO of a development
company that owns the Holiday World & Splashin' Safari theme park in Santa
Claus, Ind. "We take resources that would be idle and put people to work."

Atlas Shrugged fans note that they despise illegal behavior. Fighting crime,
foreign invasion and protecting property rights are the legitimate functions
of government, and they welcome jail terms for white-collar criminals, says
Ed Snider, chairman of the Philadelphia sports teams Flyers and 76ers and an
Atlas Shrugged devotee. Indeed, Rand wrote, "Neither love nor fame nor cash
is a value if obtained by fraud."

But instead of punishing the guilty, Rand-fan executives say, recent
scandals have unleashed an executive witch hunt.

"Business is an available scapegoat," says Frank Bond, founder of Holiday
Health Spas, now Bally's, and a developer and manager of real estate, an
industry that he says is overtaxed and "regulated to death."

If you want to attack a group of people and still be politically correct,
executives are about your last available target, says Bond, who has read the
book twice.

"They're going after all CEOs, capitalism itself," says John Aglialoro, CEO
of Cybex International, which makes exercise equipment.

Aglialoro paid $1 million for the movie rights to Atlas Shrugged and hopes
to seize on renewed interest to raise money over the next year to get the
movie independently produced.

It was nearly made into a six-hour TV miniseries by producer Al Ruddy, but
it fell apart as movie deals so often do, Aglialoro says. It was derailed
last year by a threatened actors strike.

A 1998 documentary about Rand's life was nominated for an Academy Award and
played to sold-out venues. Aglialoro says he will push diligently to get two
movies made from the book because the book itself is winning converts too
gradually. Objectivism needs to reach the masses, he says. The masses,
according to recent surveys, have recently started warming up more to big
government and less to big business.

"Our government is leaping forward trying to legislate morality, which is a
joke," says Patterson, who last year sent e-mail to Cerner managers warning
them that their cars were too seldom in the company parking lot before 8
a.m. and after 5 p.m.

Influencing lives

Atlas Shrugged reads like a mystery that takes readers from a steel mill to
high society and includes a strong female character in Dagny Taggart, a top
executive ahead of her time. Critics consider The Fountainhead to be Rand's
better work of literature.

But Atlas Shrugged is more point-blank with Rand's philosophy, and it's the
second-most-influential book of all time, a distant second to the Bible,
according to a survey of 5,000 Book-of-the-Month Club members taken a decade
ago for the Library of Congress. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, a
friend of Ayn (pronounced EYE-n) Rand's before her death in 1982, is among
its best-known proponents.

Greenspan declined comment for this story.

Rand, a Russian immigrant to the USA in 1926 at age 21, spent much of her
career as a screenwriter in Hollywood. She quit writing fiction after Atlas
Shrugged, spending the rest of her life promoting the objectivist

Many business leaders say Atlas Shrugged influenced their lives more than
anything else they have read. Joe Stafford, the 40-year-old CEO of supply
chain management company IC Solutions, said he was a liberal before reading
Rand at 23. Chip Joyce, the 31-year-old president of Ulla Bazant, a maker of
high-end women's apparel, says the book has been his "frame of reference."

Others see it as pie in the sky. "Ayn Rand creates a perfect capitalism,
which in my mind relies too heavily on individual integrity to work," says
Nicolas Boillot, president of ad agency Hart-Boillot. "There are those who
are looking for a quick buck and willing to compromise their integrity for a
price. Perfect capitalism is as attractive and impossible as perfect
communism. The greedy and lazy will ruin either system for the rest."

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, CEO of the Leadership Institute at Yale University, said
executives who take refuge in the capitalist utopia of Atlas Shrugged are
"reading themselves into a trance of defensive self-delusion."

Hershey's success unexplained

He says great American industrialists were in fact community-minded, going
back to the pioneer frontiersmen who circled their wagons and built barns
together. The philosophy of Atlas Shrugged does not explain successful CEOs
such as Milton Hershey, who during the Depression provided employees of his
chocolate company with free medical care and paid off the mortgages of every
church in town, Sonnenfeld says.

Rand should have written fewer screenplays and "watched more Frank Capra to
better understand the real values of her new adopted country," Sonnenfeld

At the same time, "Ayn Rand did not anticipate CEOs who would loot their
firms for hundreds of millions of dollars before bankrupting them,"
Sonnenfeld says.

But Atlas Shrugged disciples say fraud by executives pales next to the daily
drip-drip fraud of big government. For example, Koch finds the push for
federal regulation of amusement rides to be "wacky" and right out of Atlas
Shrugged, which he listened to twice on tape, back to back, a total of 31

He said a theme park in Indiana went out of business after an accident. That
provides a major incentive for safety, as do insurance premiums, Koch says.

Liberals oppose Rand's attack on welfare. But conservatives object to Rand's
embrace of atheism, says Robert Bidinotto, head of the Atlas Society.

A quasistrike of achievers

Atlas Shrugged devotees say America's wealth builders will never go on
strike the way Rand described, but they say a quasistrike is underway. "It's
not organized, but it's happening," Joyce says.

For example, since the Enron scandal, CEOs are refusing to sit on boards of
other companies, thereby withholding their business savvy from the market.
About 60% of executives are turning down offers to serve on boards vs. 25% a
year ago, Christian says.

Outplacement firms Challenger Gray & Christmas and Drake Beam Morin have
released fresh studies showing that CEOs are resigning and retiring as never

Anecdotes abound about physicians leaving the medical profession because
they can't afford malpractice insurance even though they have never been
sued, says Edward Hudgins, Washington director of the Objectivist Center.

Saudi Arabia has a huge oil resource, but its totalitarian system sidelines
its creative citizens to the point that the economy never grows, Bond says.

When Microsoft was being sued by the Justice Department, founder Gates
should have threatened to move the corporate headquarters up the road from
Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia, Hudgins says. The political fallout
would have forced the government to retreat, he says.

"Instead, literally two or three days later, Gates was talking to Bill
Clinton about the importance of charity," Hudgins says. Gates made a mistake
by seeking the moral permission of those who think business leaders should
be altruists, he says.

Enron-like corporate scandal isn't the only reason business leaders are
hunkering down with Atlas Shrugged.

They say the attack on the World Trade Center was an obvious attack on the
freedom that allows capitalism to flourish. "The terrorists picked their
target well," Hudgins says. - Article archives

(This is an excellent, disturbing and thought provoking article on,
essentially, the politicizing of science and the devastating effects it can
have. The Author argues that asbestos litigation, fueled by non-scientific
jurors determining, by vote, empirical questions of science, have led to the
anti-scientific and illogical ban of asbestos. Asbestos is one of the best
insulators around. The World Trade Centers were constructed with asbestos
insulated steel, which prevented the steel from heating in a fire. The
structural integrity of steel decreases as its temperature rises. However
the asbestos ban occured before the Trade Centers were completed, and the
second tower hit was left with the top half of the building insulation free.
That building collapsed in a mere 62 minutes after being struck. The North
tower, on the other hand, took 108 minutes to collapse, it lasted a full 68%
longer. Building 7, which was not hit, but was the only building of the
complex built entirely after the asbestos ban, also was the only building
which was not hit to collapse. If asbestos is proven to be carcinogenic,
then precautions should be taken in appropiate application and sealing. But
this anti-scientific over-reacting has caused more deaths than it has hoped
to prevent. Questions of a scientific nature should not ever be decided by
popular vote by a jury of my peers. As the Author notes "Like so much of
science today, politics and money distort the truth." This article is an
excellent read, well written and well argued, it dips into to political
history of the World Trade Center as well. - Mike)

Doctors for Disaster Preparedness

14- Litigation, junk science and the World Trade Center
Doctors for Disaster Preparedness
by Andrew Schlafly
"Many widely used foods are dangerous. Mistakes in
hospitals are dangerous. But we do not prohibit
something simply because it has risks associated with
it. Unjustified scientific demands to ban asbestos have
caused thousands of unnecessary deaths in fires,
including some deaths on 9/11." (07/27/02)

"Did Litigation and Junk Science Help Bring Down the World Trade Center?"
Andrew Schlafly, Esq., July 27, 2002, 20th annual meeting of the Doctors for
Disaster Preparedness, Colorado Springs (delivered speech varied slightly):
Thank you. It's a real pleasure to be here today.

I'm going to discuss 9/11 itself: in particular, the collapse of the World
Trade Center (WTC).

I live and work in the New York City (NYC) area. Many families in my
hometown lost a family member in the WTC. But most victims survived the
initial impact. The planes were not full, and some even on the floors of
impact survived. Many used their cell phones after impact to call their
family members and say they survived, and were in the process of evacuating
the building. But then the building collapsed.


On 9/11, I was scheduled to argue a case in federal court in Newark, New
Jersey, which had a clear view of the WTC. That hearing, like everything
else in the NYC area, was cancelled in the wake of the fateful news. At 8:45
am local time, a hijacked 767 commercial jet airplane rammed into One World
Trade Center, the North tower, fully loaded with fuel for a
trans-continental flight.

My immediate reaction was that the attack occurred too early for the office
building to be completely filled with workers. Unlike most places, Manhattan
is not in full swing until 9:30 am local time. NYC workers are late risers
and long commuters. Had the terrorists struck an hour later, the loss of
life would have been far greater.

We are all stunned by the second crash. 18 minutes after the initial impact,
at 9:03 am, a second jet crashed into Two World Trade Center, the South
tower. (As you know, additional terrorist crashes occurred at the Pentagon
at 9:43 am, and in rural Pennsylvania at 10:10 am.)

The initial impact into the WTC killed relatively few people. The planes
were not filled with passengers, and the floors were not filled with
workers. A few workers on the impacted floors even survived. It was the
premature collapse of the towers that caused the thousands of casualties.

The South tower, which had been hit second, was the first to collapse. It
fell at 10:05 am, a mere 62 minutes after being struck by the jetliner. The
North tower collapsed at 10:29 am, 104 minutes after being hit. Seven World
Trade Center, an adjacent 48-story building, totally collapsed around 5:20
pm despite never being hit.

The WTC was expressly designed to withstand the impact of a large commercial
jetliner having comparable weight and fuel capacity as the 9/11 aircraft.
Every architect of skyscrapers is familiar with the collision of the B-25
bomber into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building in heavy fog in
1945. That crash killed 14 people, but caused only $1M in damage. The
structure of the building easily survived the impact and the resultant fire.

Given the design parameters and the experience with the Empire State
Building, why did the WTC collapse so quickly on 9/11? And why did the North
Tower remaining standing 68% longer after impact than the South Tower did?

There is one more unanswered question: why did a 48-story tower in the same
complex, known as "building 7," later collapse even though it was not struck
by a jetliner nor hit with significant jet fuel?

The families of the victims of the WTC attack deserve honest answers. I live
in a commuter town in New Jersey, and many of the victims' families are in
my church and neighboring communities. These families are not likely to
receive honest answers from the ongoing $16 million government-funded
investigation. Like so much of science today, politics and money distort the
truth. Fortunately, we are not so constrained here.

History is illuminating here.

The World Trade Center was unique, but not by virtue of its height. Its
uniqueness was that it was built and owned by government for private,
commercial purposes. A brief review of the political and economic history of
the WTC sheds light on its fatal safety flaw.

In the early 1960s, David Rockefeller was the preeminent real estate
developer in NYC and his brother Nelson was the governor of NY. David
Rockefeller had just completed the 60-story Chase Manhattan Bank Tower in
lower Manhattan in 1960, the first skyscraper there in a generation. He
needed more development to energize the neighborhood.

He established an organization, the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association
(DLMA) to float the idea of a $250M trade center in lower Manhattan. He
cleverly prodded the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to "study"
the proposal.

Those of us from the NYC area know the Port Authority well. It is a very
powerful government entity, established in 1921, which operates the bridges,
tunnels and airports around NYC. In some respects it has more power and
authority than NYC itself. It can seize property, dictate travel, and secure
credit. The Port Authority did not even have to comply with NYC building
codes. This is not an entity that ever should have built commercial towers
for private use.

Before the arrival of the Rockefellers, the Port Authority itself was
opposed to the idea of a WTC. Its Chairman Howard Cullman declared that the
proposed building was "primarily an extensive real estate operation" and
thus inappropriate for the "self-perpetuating public benefit corporation" of
the Port Authority.

Once Nelson Rockefeller became governor of New York, he installed four
loyalists on the board of the Port Authority, and its view changed. Despite
vociferous objections by small businessmen in the area, the Port Authority
endorsed the project. The NY Times editorial page insisted that "no project
has ever been more promising for New York." The Washington Post supported it
from afar. Gov. Nelson Rockefeller signed enabling legislation on March 27,
1962. Detractors said the twin towers should be named Nelson and David.

The construction was everything one might expect from a government project.
It was more expensive and took longer to build than a private counterpart.
The WTC was also less attractive, efficient and safe than privately built

The supporters of the WTC said its cost would be $350M, but by completion
more than a decade later its actual costs were at least double that. It lost
money through the 1970s and probably never recouped the value of its
investment and expenses. It took the dot-com boom of the 1990s, not world
trade, to push occupancy to high levels. Though sold to the public as
government-promoted export-import, only 5% of the WTC leases were held by
trade service and import-export tenants. The original plan for a brotherhood
of shipping concerns to do business out of one building turned out to be a
non-starter because these competitive shippers did not want share the same

In contrast, the Sears Tower cost in the neighborhood of only $150M - only
about one-fifth the cost of the WTC, even though they were built at around
the same time. The WTC took nearly a decade to be completed. The Sears Tower
was built in only 3 years.

In 1993, on a day that I was in New York, a terrorist detonated a bomb at
the WTC. Smoke filled the building and its vulnerability to fire or collapse
was exposed. Does anyone know how much it cost to restore it? Government
spent an outrageous $525M to clean up the mess, more than the
inflation-adjusted cost of building the Sears Tower from scratch. And, of
course, no asbestos fire-proofing was added to the WTC after the 1993
attack, despite its demonstrated vulnerability.

Why do government buildings often exceed reasonable costs? Ray Monti, a
construction manager on the WTC project, explained: "There's a natural
tendency in all government projects to want to convince others to authorize
you to proceed. One puts a favorable interpretation on the facts." He then
explained that the tendency is the opposite once the project gets started.
"Once I'm started, what are you going to do to me? Stop the building in the
middle?" Of course not - that would be a disaster for the politicians in

The original plans for the WTC called for 70 stories, which would have been
more in line with its surroundings. But the quest for media attention drove
its height to record-breaking levels. "Is that two buildings with fifty-five
stories each?" Nelson Rockefeller once asked the architect. "Oh no," he
replied. "One-hundred-ten stories apiece!" "My God!" Nelson gushed. "These
towers will make David's building [i.e., Chase Manhattan Bank Tower] look
like an out-house!"

The workmanship on the WTC was superb. Mohawk Indians traveled down from
Canada each week to work at the enormous heights required. According to a
book on the WTC by Rutgers Professor Angus Gillespie, the Indians were
remarkably fearless of heights and worked on every high steel and bridge
project in Canada, and later many in North America including the WTC. They
would walk a narrow beam high up in the air completely impervious to the

Professor Gillespie quoted a letter by a bridge company official in
connection with the construction of a bridge across the St. Lawrence River
by the Mohawk Indians: "As the work progressed, it became apparent to all
concerned that the Indians were very odd in that they did not have any fear
of heights. If not watched, they would climb up into the spans and walk
around up there as cool and collected as the toughest of our riveters, most
of whom at the period were old sailing ship men especially picked for their
experience in working aloft."

But while the workmanship was excellent, the design was not. Architectural
critics unanimously panned the WTC. Harper's magazine called it "The World's
Tallest Fiasco." The American Institute of Architects said that "the public
agency that built [the WTC] ran amok with both money and aesthetics." Paul
Goldberger, the prominent architectural critic for the NY Times, called the
WTC "so utterly banal as to be unworthy of the headquarters of a bank in
Omaha." The WTC committed the architectural error of ignoring its
surroundings, sticking out like a sore pair of thumbs. The adjacent
skyscrapers looked Lilliputian in comparison.

It was a government, one-size-fits-all approach. For example, there were
originally no light switches in the offices. The lights would typically
remain on unless shut off in unison. The floors were identical to each
other, and bland. Windows were narrow. The towers were little more than a
single shaft, straight up for 110 stories. It's a steel skyscraper version
of government buildings in Washington, D.C.

Its main flaw was its lack of safety. The decision to use mostly steel
(60/40) in the WTC made it vulnerable to fires. Concrete, which dominates
the Empire State Building (60/40) withstands fire far better than steel
does, and experts are confident that the Empire State Building would not
have collapsed after a 9/11-type of attack. Nor would the Sears Tower, which
uses 9 structurally separate tubes rather than merely one tube used by each
WTC tower. I used to visit the WTC frequently: one shaft, straight up.

The original design and construction of the WTC included fire-proofing of
the steel. The longstanding industry standard for steel skyscrapers was to
use spray-on asbestos in order to fire-proof the steel. Otherwise,
unprotected steel will warp, melt, sag and ultimately collapse when heated
to normal fire temperatures around 1100 to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit.

By mixing dry asbestos with water and spraying the mixture onto the steel
beams as well as the floors and ceilings, the asbestos adds resilient
strength and insulation against fire to the structure.

The spray contractor, Mario and DiBono, had taken one additional level of
precaution. In the first and last time for a NYC building, the contractor
guarded against the scattering of dried asbestos. The contractor even
planned elaborate procedures for cleanup and disposal of the asbestos.
Canvas was used to seal off the spraying of the asbestos from both interior
and exterior space.

The North Tower was built first, and asbestos was applied in this manner up
to its 64th floor. Then hysteria about asbestos broke loose.

At the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in uptown NYC, where my wife later
attended medical school, Dr. Irving J. Selikoff was director of the
environmental sciences laboratory. He declared that high concentrations of
asbestos cause cancer.

Well, high concentrations of many useful substances cause cancer. Sunlight
causes skin cancer, for example. We do not prohibit items simply because
they may be associated with cancer in high doses. Even useless substances,
like cigarettes, are not banned from the market simply because they cause

Moreover, Dr. Selikoff failed to adjust for tobacco use in his study.
Tobacco is known to cause lung cancer, more frequently than asbestos does.
It was a fatal defect not to separate out the smokers from the non-smokers
in the study, and describe the minuscule risk of asbestos exposure to

Environmental regulators, however, are anxious to flex their power
regardless of the facts. David Kessler of the FDA, for example, became
dictator-for-a-day by temporarily banning all breast implants, even though
countless studies showed no causation of cancer.

The Environmental Protection Agency seized upon Dr. Selikoff's asbestos work
and issued new regulations sharply restricting use of asbestos. The
regulations and hysteria abruptly halted the use of asbestos-sprayed
fireproofing in the WTC and elsewhere. The government then simply continued
to complete the project without the asbestos protection. The South Tower
received little to no asbestos. Building 7, completed in 1987, received no
asbestos protection against fire.

The inventor of the asbestos spray being used in the North Tower, Herbert
Levine, was despondent. Harvard physics professor emeritus Richard Wilson
heard Levine make the following prediction more than once: "If a fire breaks
out above the 64th floor [of the North Tower], that building will fall
down." The insulation was designed to protect the building from collapse for
four hours, which would have save many hundreds or thousands of trapped
occupants. Professor Wilson noted that "Levine's product has never been
shown to cause trouble to anybody."

Brooklyn College environmental scientist Arthur Langer, who once supported
Dr. Selikoff's claims, was quoted in the New York Times September 18 as
saying, "In retrospect, considering the recent events...I wonder if the
performance characteristics of the replacement material were as good." Dr.
Selikoff's successor at Mount Sinai, Dr. Philip Landrigan, conceded that the
quality of non-asbestos insulation is "a legitimate question."

After the collapse of the WTC, the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) tested the debris for toxins. There was astoundingly little
asbestos, and hence little protection against fire. 26/29 bulk samples had
less than 1% asbestos. The CDC then tested 3 samples taken from the pivotal
I-beams themselves. One was completely negative for asbestos, and the other
two had less than 1% asbestos. The air samples had less than 0.1 fiber per
cubic centimeter, the low federal threshold. (See CDC Morbidity and
Mortality Weekly Report, May 31, 2002, Vol. 51, No. 21, pages 453-55.).

Junk Science.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber. We are inhaling it now.
Urban air has asbestos fiber levels around 0.001 fibers per cubic centimeter
of air (f/cm3). San Francisco and many cities are built on rocks that
naturally contain asbestos. Asbestos has extraordinary resistance to heat,
mechanical stress and water. It is flexible and has low electrical
conductivity. It is also resistant to acids and alkalies, making it useful
in guarding against corrosion. It is composed of silicon, the building block
of integrated circuits, and oxygen, hydrogen and various metals. No other
material can rival its usefulness in buildings. Its resistance to fire and
stress made it a popular construction material from the 1930's until the

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) set a
permissible exposure limit of 10 fibers per cubic centimeter of air (10
f/cm3) in the 1970's, but due to litigation and pressure that exposure level
has been reduced to a current level of 0.1 f/cm3. Employees who are exposed
for more than thirty days above 0.1 f/cm3 each year are considered to be
asbestos workers and require medical exams (as well as other requirements).

Asbestosis is the most common disease resultant from exposure to asbestos.
But it is non-malignant. In advanced cases, it merely causes a dry cough.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer associated with exposure to asbestos.
It affects the thin membranes lining the abdomen and chest.

The CDC studied the number of deaths from asbestosis and mesothelioma in New
Hampshire over a 20 year period from 1963 through 1983. Only 13 died from
mesothelioma; 9 died from asbestosis. In sum, only about one person in New
Hampshire died per year from these asbestos-related diseases. Moreover, the
average age of those deaths were not much different from the average life
expectancy in the United States. In fact, those with asbestosis lived longer
than the average American life expectancy.

In 1998, the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine reported no
increased risk of death from cancer because of prolonged exposure to
asbestos. Based on a thorough study of mines and mills that have the world's
greatest concentration of asbestos, the researchers concluded: "The
[Environmental Protection Agency] model overestimated the risk of
asbestos-induced lung cancer by at least a factor of 10."

Harvard University's Energy and Environmental Policy Center rank asbestos as
a comparative risk of premature death as follows:

Smoking 21.9%
Motor vehicles 1.6%
Frequent flying on airlines 0.73%
Coal mining accidents 0.44%
Indoor radon 0.4%
Lightning 0.003%
Asbestos in school buildings 0.001%
(cited in Access to Energy, Feb. 1990, vol. 17, no. 6)
The EPA not only exaggerated the effect of asbestos, it also ignored its
benefits in effectively banning it from buildings in the 1970s.

However, smoking does cause lung cancer, and hundreds of thousands of
smokers die each year from it. Had the law recognized and applied the
doctrine of intervening cause, then the frenzy over asbestos may have never
occurred. But the courts opened their gates to attorneys claiming that
smokers contracted their lung disease from exposure to asbestos. The issue
was presented to juries, beginning as early as the 1960s, and enormous
verdicts began rolling in.

No government-funded scientist is willing to defend asbestos. This enables
those profiting from asbestos to fan public fear to astounding levels. Just
this past week, the front-page headline in my local paper was that asbestos
was found in a public park. Well, asbestos occurs in nature and floats in
water. What's the big deal? An executive with an environmental group
demanded that "It's time to close this park. It's time to clean it up."


The direct economic cost of the 9/11 attack is estimated to be between $40
and $60 billion. That is an enormous figure, about ten times the insured
value of the buildings themselves.

As large as the 9/11 costs are, however, they pale in comparison to the
estimated costs of asbestos litigation. The Economist magazine recently put
the cost of asbestos litigation at $200 billion. That is probably a low

The Supreme Court has repeatedly implored Congress to save the courts from
having to handle asbestos lawsuits. But the usual victims of this litigation
are engineering companies that lack political muscle and are no match for
the political clout of the trial lawyers.

America's top asbestos producer, Johns Manville, was forced into bankruptcy
in 1982. By 1992, Lloyds of London was averaging nearing $3 billion a year
in losses, due mostly to asbestos claims.

Asbestos litigation has pushed at least 60 companies into bankruptcy since
2000, including Bethlehem Steel. Judgments are often imposed with little
regard for proof of wrongdoing or causation. Encouraged by porous legal
standards, asbestos attorneys have filed claims for more than 1.4 million
persons, against more than 1,400 companies. More than 90,000 new claims were
filed just last year. Only 6% of those claimants actually suffered from an
asbestos-related illness.

In 2000, the four major companies sent into bankruptcy by asbestos were
Armstrong World Industries (construction products), Babcock & Wilcox
(boilers), Burns and Roe (engineering and construction), and Pittsburgh
Corning (glass insulation). In 2001, asbestos litigation casualties included
the chemical and materials giant W.R. Grace (which did not even make
asbestos), the prominent construction materials company G.A.F., the gypsum
wallboard maker USG, and the auto-parts maker Federal-Mogul.

In the past eight months, Fortune 500 victims of the asbestos litigation
monster have seen sudden drops in their stock prices. Hit with a Texas-sized
verdict last December, Halliburton stock abruptly dropped 43 percent.

In February, a Manhattan jury awarded $53 million to the estate of a
deceased auto mechanic who allegedly died from exposure to asbestos in brake
linings. That decision jeopardizes the entire auto industry; full-page ads
for auto mechanics with lung cancer now run in New York newspapers.

As confirmed by an auto mechanic in attendance at this conference, the
performance behavior of asbestos in brakes is steady and predictable.
Asbestos brakes wear out very slowly, thereby alerting drivers when it
becomes necessary to replace them. But the same cannot be said for the
asbestos substitutes, which can degrade quickly based on heat and other
climatic conditions. Cars and trucks on our highways today are using
inadequate substitutes for asbestos in their brakes, thanks to 20,000
lawsuits against the big three auto makers over past asbestos use. By the
end of last year (2001), more than 3,500 lawsuits were being filed each
month against Ford, GM and DaimlerChrysler based on junk science and past
use of asbestos.

In March, a West Virginia jury ordered DuPont to pay $6.4 million to a bank
officer who died of mesothelioma. A bank officer?! How could he have been
exposed to asbestos? The banker was allegedly injured by fibers that might
have attached to the clothing of his father who worked with asbestos at

Some of the cases involve heavy, lifelong smokers who claim they have
asbestosis, an asbestos-related disease. Plaintiffs and defendants bring in
medical experts who testify to contrary diagnoses, and the jury is left to
decide, often against the corporate defendants.

Senior United States District Court Judge Charles R. Weiner observed:
"Today, given the volume of claims and the disappearance of any effective
injury requirement, defendants are paying those who are not really injured."

In February, 2,645 plaintiffs sued asbestos attorneys, claiming that "this
case arises from corruption within the asbestos personal injury bar."
Reports are that the majority of asbestos settlements enrich the attorneys,
rather than going to the allegedly harmed individuals.

On the Asbestos Network website, there is the following statement: "In the
workplace, there is no 'safe' level of exposure." This falsehood is music to
the ears of the asbestos bar. It promotes the mistaken view that anyone
exposed to asbestos in any way should be able to sue for damages. The
runaway litigation has distorted the science.

The US Supreme Court recently accepted for review the latest outrageous
example of asbestos litigation. A West Virginia state court awarded millions
of dollars to a few workers without evidence of physical or independently
corroborated emotional harm from exposure to asbestos, and without
apportioning damages based on relative culpability. Imagine that - millions
of dollars in damages without proven harm. Let's hope the Supreme Court
finally begins to curtail the abusive asbestos litigation. Better late than
never. (Norfolk & Western Railway Co. v. Ayers, Freeman et al.)

The asbestos panic has even become a political scandal for Vice President
Dick Cheney. He orchestrated a merger by his company, Halliburton, with a
company vulnerable to asbestos claims, Dresser Industries. The rampant
asbestos lawsuits subsequently weakened Halliburton's stock after the
acquisition. Piling fiction upon fiction, attorneys now argue that Cheney
should have done due diligence and learned that the runaway asbestos
litigation would infect and substantially weaken Halliburton.

All this for a substance that, in the words of Professor R.S. Mitchell of
the University of Colorado School of Medicine, does not even initiate
cancer: "Asbestos is regarded as a promoter, not an initiator, of lung


Tens of millions of dollars in government money are being spent on
investigations of the WTC collapse. Paid for by government, these studies
are designed to exonerate government. A researcher would risk his career and
future funding by asserting that government negligence or malfeasance
contributed to the WTC collapse. Don't expect to find anyone anxious to do

Also, do not expect the government to release its data in connection with
the WTC. When the conclusions of the government studies are announced, it is
unlikely that the underlying data will be released for scrutiny.

Silence by academic scientists about junk science is a growing problem. On
July 19th, The Christian Science Monitor reported on some high-profile
examples of scientific fraud. The article noted that some scientists "say
publicized cases of scientific misconduct are only the tip of the iceberg.
Surveys have indicated that scientists often are aware of misconduct in
their labs but fail to report it. Research also shows that small but
significant numbers of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows would be
willing to fudge or ignore data if it helped them land research grants or
publish a paper."

Asbestos hysteria falls in that category. There is enormous financial and
political motivation behind perpetuating the exaggerated fears. Nothing but
silence is on the other side.

Many government-funded scientists claimed in the aftermath of 9/11 that no
structure could have survived such an attack. That's plainly false. Steel
reinforced by concrete, as used by the Empire State Building, would have
almost certainly survived. Steel protected by asbestos would have survived
as a function of how much asbestos was used. This is demonstrated by the
ability of the partially asbestos-protected North Tower to stand 68% longer
after impact than the South Tower.

The tragic reality is that all buildings constructed after the asbestos ban
are vulnerable to premature collapse. Building 7 was a full block away from
the South Tower, and yet it collapsed later that day despite never being
hit. Why? Building 7 had none of the asbestos protection of older buildings.
The heat from fire makes it collapse like a pup tent, as will numerous
modern skyscraper-and-steel buildings. Many of the firefighters who die in
service each year are actually victims of premature collapses of buildings.

Are many of our modern skyscrapers fire traps because of the asbestos scam?
Maybe. WTC buildings 4, 5 and 6 were all built in the 1970s, and did not
collapse on 9/11. Building 7 was built in the 1980s and did collapse from
the heat.

Other apologists pretend it does not matter that the building collapsed,
because supposedly the persons trapped above impact could not have escaped
regardless. But that is also plainly false. Brian Clark was in his office on
the 84th floor of the South Tower when it was struck by the jet, and he
survived by escaping down an available staircase. His story is available
online at PBS's website ( The plane
struck his building 4-6 stories below him, at about the 78-80th floors. He
described many others around him who ended up dying in the collapse of the
building. In addition to Brian Clark, there were at least 15 others who did
survive despite being in the top floors of the South Tower. An entire
stairway to the higher floors provided a passageway for occupants to escape
long after impact. But the quick collapse of the building in a mere 62
minutes prevented many from surviving. Brian Clark lost many dozens of his
friends and colleagues.

Then there are those who claim that simply because asbestos does contribute
to lung cancer in some individuals, particularly smokers with high exposure
to asbestos fibers, it must be banned regardless of the consequences for
building fires like the one on 9/11. This is the most irresponsible claim of
all. The simple fact is that no one at the EPA or anyone else accurately
the costs of banning asbestos.

The United States has one of the highest fire death rates in the
industrialized world. It amounts to an average of 4,500 killed and 26,500
injured annually as a result of fire. 100 firefighters are killed each year
from duty-related incidents, often from premature collapses of buildings as
occurred on 9/11. Fires kill more Americans than all other natural disasters
combined. Direct property loss due to fires is estimated at $8.5 billion

Asbestos is the best defense against fire. There is no substitute. No other
material even approaches the strength and resistance of asbestos. It never
should have been banned from the WTC, and should not be banned from other
buildings either. Many deaths in routine fires are due to the building
collapsing. Asbestos would greatly reduce the numbers of those deaths.

We accept the common use of risky materials every day. Should we outlaw
sunbathing because it causes cancer? Require everyone to walk around in
space suits? Automobiles, to take another example, are far more dangerous
than asbestos. So are cigarettes. Many widely used foods are dangerous.
Mistakes in hospitals are dangerous. But we do not prohibit something simply
because it has risks associated with it.

Unjustified scientific demands to ban asbestos have caused thousands of
unnecessary deaths in fires, including some deaths on 9/11. We should again
never permit such bad science and their tragic consequences.

Thank you. - Article archives