Letters to the editor May 30

Letters to the editor May 30

Where is the evidence?

Last week’s lead article, “Israeli researchers ‘light-years ahead’ on studies of cellphone risks,” was shockingly misleading.  Many Chronicle readers might think that we are about to experience a cancer epidemic caused by the use of the latest smart phones.  But what is the evidence?  And are we supposed to be impressed because Israeli researchers are involved?

The “breaking news” Dr. Devra Davis cites on her organization’s Web page is one where she is the lead author and the studies it refers to do not demonstrate the cancer links she and her co-authors claim. Just check out the National Cancer Institute summary on this issue, available on its Web page, for a neutral opinion.  Moreover, Davis’ alarmist claims of harmful effects of radio frequency energy totally distort the physics involved.  Why then would the Chronicle feature bad science and epidemiology in its lead story?

Readers might still ask whether there might be a link between cell phone use and cancer?  The possibility remains, but it seems improbable. How strong is the evidence supporting a causal link?  Pretty weak.  Epidemiological studies go in both directions, and large prospective studies have yet to provide useful evidence. Should we be worried? Even if Chronicle readers are very heavy cell phone users there appears to be no science to suggest they change their behavior.

Finally, is there evidence of a giant conspiracy suppressing studies and evidence?  Not from what I see.  And there is certainly no “smoking gun” as Davis is quoted claiming in the Chronicle article.  

Perhaps the Chronicle should do some fact checking before publishing such misleading “scientific news,” even if there is a remote connection to Israel. Surely Chronicle readers deserve more accurate science reporting as well as timely local and international Jewish news.

Stephen E. Fienberg


(The author is Maurice Falk University Professor of Statistics and Social Science at Carnegie Mellon University and is a Chronicle board member.)

Bad solution

Many members of the Jewish community have been enriched through their roles in scouting.  No doubt many of them are distressed by the most recent development involving the Boy Scouts of America.

In seeking a Solomonic approach to its relationship with gay individuals, the organization has chosen to slice the baby in half.

By allowing gay children to be scouts, but severing the association between the organization and homosexual adults, a troubling question arises. Are adult homosexuals presumed to be pedophiles, or is a value judgment being made that the gay child develops into an adult that is not a worthy and equal human being? How is a young scout to have the desire to be a member of the organization with the knowledge that it will remove the member from participation upon reaching the age of maturity?

The organization has served to set up its own version of the convoluted, discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy, through which decent gay human beings that volunteered to risk their lives for their country were forced to live a lie, hiding who they are. It is instructive to note that former President Bill Clinton has expressed his regret over having signed the measure into law.

If the scouts want to eliminate from their ranks the adults that have done the most damage to the family and to our society, it should ban heterosexuals. It is from their ranks that the largest number of child and spousal abusers, unqualified parents, and broken and violent homes emanate.

Someday we will look upon discrimination and hatred toward gays with incredulity and amazement. That day cannot come soon enough.

Oren Spiegler

Upper St. Clair