There's been so much going on lately that I haven't had a chance to get to everything that's called my name. So this will be a roundup of some of the things that have been on my mind, if not on my fingertips over the last while.
This Is London reported December 7, 2006 on a tornado that hit London.
Dave Bonner, of London Fire Brigade, said about 100 homes had been damaged in "freak weather", injuring six people in Kensal Rise.
So far, so good. But...
Dawn Butler, the Labour MP for Brent South, said she believed the tornado was a sign that climate change was having an effect.
She said: "This is a sign that we have to take it seriously and we have to look at how we live our lives. It is quite devastating."
Sorry, but one freak tornado does not mean there's climate change. When I lived in Spokane, there was a tornado that came near town, picked up six cows, and put them down in someone else's field (see chart here of all the Washington State tornados 1880 - 2000). In Los Angeles, I think in the 1970s, a tornado ripped the roof off the L.A. Exposition Center. It doesn't mean anything, except that it gives the environmental fanatics one more opportunity to pontificate.
Meanwhile, The Independent (UK) reported December 21, 2006, that some bears in Spain have stopped hibernating.
In a December in which bumblebees, butterflies and even swallows have been on the wing in Britain, European brown bears have been lumbering through the forests of Spain's Cantabrian mountains, when normally they would already be in their long, annual sleep.
"If the winter is mild, the female bears find it is energetically worthwhile to make the effort to stay awake and hunt for food," said Guillermo Palomero, the [Brown Bear Foundation (La Fundación Oso Pardo - FOP)] president and the co-ordinator of a national plan for bear conservation. This changed behaviour, he said, was probably a result of milder winters. "The high Cantabrian peaks freeze all winter, but our teams of observers have been able to follow the perfect outlines of tracks from a group of bears," he said.
So we've had mild winters in the Cantabrian mountains in Spain. Are bears anywhere else staying awake for the winter? If they are, it could be "global."
The behaviour change suggests that global warming is responsible for this revolution in ursine behaviour, says Juan Carlos García Cordón, a professor of geography at Santander's Cantabria University, and a climatology specialist.
"We cannot prove that non-hibernation is caused by global warming, but everything points in that direction."
Of course it points in that direction--when that's the only direction you look.
Jeff Jacoby's column in the December 26, 2006, Jewish World Review looks at the Global Warming/Global Cooling debate over the years.
Over the years, the alarmists have veered from an obsession with lethal global cooling around the turn of the 20th century to lethal global warming a generation later, back to cooling in the 1970s and now to warming once again. You don't have to be a scientist to realize that all these competing narratives of doom can't be true. Or to wonder whether any of them are.
"The whole aim of practical politics," wrote H.L. Mencken, "is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." Mencken was writing in 1920, but some things never change.
He gives some good examples of the different temperatures involved in the alarmist rhetoric.
This Is London reported December 21, 2006, that women's binge-drinking has doubled in the last decade.
In 1993 only nine per cent of women aged 16 to 24 years drank more than 21 units of alcohol a week, says the Health Survey for England trend tables released by the NHS Information Centre.
By 2002 this had jumped to 21 per cent, while other figures show the problem is worsening.
Safe drinking guidelines from the Department of Health recommend women have no more than 14 to 21 units of alcohol a week.
Girlfriend, this is a bad idea. I'd be willing to wager that date rape and surprise pregnancy have doubled at the same time. Plus, there's that nasty cirrhosis of the liver down the road...
USA Today reported December 22, 2006, that obesity and thinness may be related to certain microbes in the digestive system.
Two new studies show that there are different colonies of bacteria in the intestines of the obese than there are in the innards of the slim. The research, published in today's edition of the journal Nature, finds that the microbes in an overweight body are more efficient at extracting calories from food.
The bacteria inside us are a huge and mysterious part of life. "There are trillions of them, they outnumber the human cells in our bodies," Klein says. Meaning, Gordon quips, "you never eat alone."
News.com.au (Australia) reported December 26, 2006, that the parasite in cat doodee--the parasite that makes health professionals tell pregnant women not to clean the litter box--can have behavioral effects on humans.
Until recently [Toxoplasma gondii,] was thought to be an insignificant disease in healthy people, Sydney University of Technology infectious disease researcher Nicky Boulter said, but new research has revealed its mind-altering properties.
"Infected men have lower IQs, achieve a lower level of education and have shorter attention spans. They are also more likely to break rules and take risks, be more independent, more anti-social, suspicious, jealous and morose, and are deemed less attractive to women.
"On the other hand, infected women tend to be more outgoing, friendly, more promiscuous, and are considered more attractive to men compared with non-infected controls.
"In short, it can make men behave like alley cats and women behave like sex kittens''.
Men and women both, take heed...