Letters From the May 21, 2018, Issue

Letters From the May 21, 2018, Issue

Crossed wires… Painfully prescient
… Misreading, misleading?…


Crossed Wires

I have warned my children and grandchildren for years about the insanely dangerous levels of electromagnetic frequency (EMF) allowed in the United States. I cringe when I see young people with cell phones glued to their faces. Kudos to The Nations Mark Hertsgaard and Mark Dowie for linking Big Wireless cover-ups to the same tactics used by Big Tobacco, Big Oil, and Big Government [“How Big Wireless Made Us Think That Cell Phones Are Safe,” April 23]. What I can’t fathom is why corporate executives in all sectors continue to put so many youth at risk. Are they all childless, or just heartless?

Marianne Buchanan
long beach, calif.

Thanks for the cover story about Big Wireless and the various “captured” (i.e., industry-lobbyist-infested) entities. Also deserving mention is the captured Congress that passed the Telecom Act of 1996 (which disallowed health and environmental considerations when regulating cell-tower siting), captured state legislatures, and, very sad to say, captured environmental organizations.

Microwave-weapons experts, well versed in the harmful effects of microwave technology, warn of a major public-health crisis, with threats to the integrity of our DNA. It is urgent that we unmask the disinformation about wireless technology, treat the addiction, get cell towers off school grounds, get wireless out of schools and public libraries, and mandate clear consumer warnings on devices such as cell phones, DECT cordless phones, and “smart” meters. Also urgent is defeating the Big Wireless push for 5G at the national, state, and local levels.​

B.A. Geary
tulsa, okla.

I’m a proud progressive who’s not a fan of wireless carriers. I spent many years supporting their technologies but was never comfortable with their business practices, accountability, or transparency. That being said, I take exception to The Nations article on Big Wireless, the premise of which seems to be that there is some insidious sickness being carried by cell-phone radio waves. That’s trash science, on a par with those who would deny climate change.

The air is full of radiation from disparate sources, and it is excessively selective to blame very weak cell-phone signals while ignoring everything else bombarding our body, starting with the sun. The authors offer several compelling stories. But if they want to make a persuasive case rather than depending on (anecdotal) information, why not compare cancer statistics over the last couple of decades? Cell phones have become ubiquitous over a relatively short period of time and provide a wealth of data to statistically determine cause-and-effect relationships. If one does such a comparison, they will find minor correlations with near-zero evidence of causation. We progressives have no problem identifying with worthwhile causes. This is not one of them.
Jon Crawfurd
gulfport, fla.

Mark Hertsgaard and Mark Dowie got much of the wireless story right. Unfortunately, they were seduced by George Carlo and bought into his world of alternative facts. Despite repeated warnings from me and others, they portrayed this industry huckster as a Jeffrey Wigand–type “insider.”

The real story is more interesting and, ironically, better fits their description of the industry playbook. Carlo and Tom Wheeler, the head of the industry lobby group CTIA, never planned to do any research. Carlo talks about commissioning 50 studies, but it was all pie in the sky. Twenty-five million dollars should have paid for a load of published scientific papers. They don’t exist. Carlo only changed sides when Wheeler later refused to give him more money.

Over the years that Carlo’s faux project was in operation, the number of cell-phone users grew from about 10 million to over 100 million. By then, everyone loved their phones and no one cared about possible health effects. Mission accomplished.

Louis Slesin
Editor, Microwave News

new york city

Dowie and Hertsgaard Reply

We thank all the readers who wrote letters about our article but will respond here only to the critics.

Jon Crawfurd appears not to have read our article very carefully. As would be clear to anyone whose mind wasn’t already made up, the evidence presented in our article was by no means merely anecdotal. For example, we noted that the vast majority of scientific studies of cell-phone radiation cataloged in the US government’s National Institutes of Health database have indeed found effects such as cancer and genetic damage. Moreover, after our article went to press, the scientific peer review of a major study by the NIH’s National Toxicology Program concluded there is “clear evidence” that cell-phone radiation causes cancer.

We remain grateful to Louis Slesin for the interviews he gave us, and we quoted his negative opinion about George Carlo in the article, but his accusation that we were “seduced” by Carlo is preposterous. Slesin doesn’t mention it, but readers deserve to know that Slesin has been an unremitting critic of Carlo’s since he first started writing about the scientist in the 1990s. Readers should also know that this piece underwent extensive legal review and fact-checking before publishing. To wit, Slesin claims here that the 50 scientific studies Carlo commissioned for the industry “don’t exist.” That is not true. In fact, those studies are referenced in a scientific paper that Carlo co-authored for the peer-reviewed journal Medscape in 2000, and they are summarized in the 703 combined pages of a two-volume study that Carlo also co-authored, Wireless Phones and Health: Scientific Progress.

These facts—documented, not alternative—helped inform our portrayal of Carlo as a scientist who started out on industry’s side but later publicly revealed information that was decidedly unwelcome in the industry. These facts may not fit Slesin’s preferred narrative of Carlo as a one-dimensional villain, but that is Slesin’s problem, not ours.

Mark Dowie
point reyes station, calif.

Mark Hertsgaard
san francisco

Painfully Prescient

A friend gave me The Nations March 14, 2016, issue, with a cover declaring “Donald Trump Is Dangerous.” I have kept it ever since. How prescient! At the time, he had not even become the Republican nominee.

I reread the article every so often in an effort to measure how far our country has fallen, how much further it has traveled down a negative path.
Mary R. Carter
washington, d.c.

Misreading, or Misleading? (From the web)

I was pleased to see a note acknowledging changes to James Carden’s April 16 article “Trump Just Launched Another Illegal Attack Against Syria.” However, The Nation continues to mislead readers on the topic of chemical weapons.

On April 4, 2017, the Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun was hit by a chemical attack killing over 80 people and injuring hundreds more. The US government accused the Assad regime and launched retaliatory missiles three days later. Human Rights Watch, the UN-appointed Independent International Commission of Inquiry, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical WeaponsUN Joint Investigative Mechanism each concluded that the Assad regime used sarin to attack Khan Shaykhun. After all this, it would be extraordinary if the US secretary of defense admitted “we do not have evidence” that the Assad regime used sarin during the Trump administration.

The Nations claim that Secretary Mattis made such an admission in a February 2018 press conference rests on an unsupportable reading of Mattis’s remarks. Mattis (referring to Khan Shaykhun) states that the Assad regime used sarin during the Trump administration. The “no evidence” comment (which contrary to The Nation’s claim was not made in response to reporters’ challenges) refers to a comment that Mattis makes immediately after his statement that the Assad regime had used sarin during the Trump administration: “And that gives us a lot of reason to suspect them. And now we have other reports from the battlefield from people who claim it’s been used.” This formulation implies the recent past, that is, after Khan Shaykhun. Reading Mattis’s remarks in their entirety leaves no doubt about the matter.

The Nation has chosen a contrived and unbelievable rather than straightforward reading of Mattis’s public remarks. In doing so, it misleads the public on a matter of the utmost gravity.

James Mayerfeld
Professor of Political Science
University of Washington

James Carden Replies

I would like to start by personally apologizing to readers and colleagues for the initial error, which was based on an inartful Newsweek report on Secretary Mattis’s statements. I thank Professor Mayerfeld for his thoughtful letter and fully agree that this is, as he says, “a matter of the utmost gravity.” After all, false claims by US government officials regarding the possession of WMD by Saddam Hussein drove the US into a needless and criminal war against Iraq, at the cost of well over 100,000 lives.

The professor sees an open-and-shut case with regard to Assad’s culpability for the chemical-weapons attack on Khan Shaykhun in jihadi-occupied Idlib province, citing the findings of Human Rights Watch and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. I’ll leave the question of whether Human Rights Watch possesses the scientific competency to investigate allegations of chemical-weapons use to readers. More troubling, the professor neglects to mention the fact the OPCW’s fact-finding mission was, according to an OPCW report released in June 2017, unable to conduct an on-site inspection in Khan Shaykhun “for security reasons.”

I fear I must depart company from Professor Mayerfeld when he claims I have chosen “a contrived and unbelievable rather than straightforward reading of Mattis’s public remarks” regarding the Assad regime’s culpability.

The full remarks can be found here and readers can judge for themselves. The quote I used was taken from the following exchange:

Q: Just make sure I heard you correctly, you’re saying you think it’s likely they have used it and you’re looking for the evidence? Is that what you said?

SEC. MATTIS: That’swe think that they did not carry out what they said they would do back whenin the previous administration, when they were caught using it. Obviously they didn’t, cause they used it again during our administration.

And that gives us a lot of reason to suspect them. And now we have other reports from the battlefield from people who claim it’s been used.

We do not have evidence of it. But we’re not refuting them; we’re looking for evidence of it. Since clearly we are usingwe are dealing with the Assad regime that has used denial and deceit to hide their outlaw actions, okay?

And moments later:

Q: So there’s credible evidence out there that both sarin and chlorine

SEC. MATTIS: No, I have not got the evidence, not specifically. I don’t have the evidence.

What I’m saying is that otherthat groups on the ground, NGOs, fighters on the ground have said that sarin has been used. So we are looking for evidence. I don’t have evidence, credible or uncredible.

As the good professor knows there is quite a bit of distance between the above assertions and actual evidence. And it is a distance that Mattis, in his remarks, was clearly unwilling to travel.

James Carden
washington, d.c.

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