Oh Georgia Straight, why do you publish such crap?

Sometimes I appreciate the local coverage that the Georgia Straight provides. They’re coverage of the Vancouver election is extensive, and they’ve provided pages for every school and parks board candidate so far to get their word out. Hell, they questioned Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts on whether she though George Bush should be arrested for torture.

But then they have a day when they put out a pair of articles like they did last Thursday.

Nuclear scary!

First, we have the ever-detestable Alex Roslin piping more fuel into Fukushima fallout fears with his latest attempt to find a conspiracy where none exists. Nearly all of Roslin’s writing for The Straight devolves into paranoid writings, where everything produced by science from vaccines to nanotechnology to nuclear energy is a vicious evil out to pollute our precious bodily fluids.

Roslin’s focus in this piece is that, after extensive digging, he’s found out the average radiation level in rainwater in Calgary in March. He seems to suggest a Health Canada conspiracy to cover up the average of 8.18 bq/L. Health Canada’s recommendation for drinking water is 6 bq/L. Note that we don’t generally drink ran water, rather we (at least in Calgary and anywhere near the mountains) drink purified glacial run-off. Roslin doesn’t seem to care about inconvenient truths though, and wants to make things sound quite dire.

He then refers to the average levels of radioactive-iodine in Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Ottawa, and while none of the averages exceed Canada’s guidelines,

…the level discovered in Ottawa did surpass the more stringent ceiling for drinking water used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is 54 times less than the six becquerels per litre of iodine-131 (a radioactive isotope) allowed in this country.

Nothing like the special pleading necessary to make his case. Note that he doesn’t discuss why the EPA levels are different than Health Canada’s, just that a difference exist and any radiation is evil… because it’s radioactive.

His fear-mongering goes on, focussing on the unconfirmed measurements of one SFU researcher, what Roslin considers insufficient drinking water measurements, some comments about Japan (which don’t relate to his initial thesis about Health Canada), and finishes by stating that “there’s no safe level of radiation” and calls for a phase out of all nuclear power (he doesn’t offer any alternatives though).

It’s typical fear-mongering, and it’s sadly par-for-the-course from The Georgia Straight.

Smart meters scary!

The second article is presented as “news” but is really more than free publicity for the kooky ideas of Finlandia Natural Pharmacy owner Harlan Lahti. In an homage to the famous Princess Bride quote “you keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means”, the article is titled B.C. Hydro’s smart meters rile the skeptics.

A quick search of Lahti reveals his Pharmacy’s website where he promotes enagic water ionizers, detoxification, natural flu preventions (i.e. anti-vaccination), and brainwave optimization. And that’s just what I found on the front page.

The bias of the article is so rich. It plays Lahti as the victim of evil government bureaucrats who swooped in and tried to force smart meters on his pharmacy. The hero of the story was lucky to avoid this dangerous health hazard by finding a substitute power meter he happened to have lying around.

How do we know these meters are dangerous? Because Magda Havas and the non-peer reviewed BioInitiative report said so. Here’s a snip to demonstrate the lack of real science behind Ms. Havas’ “research”

…these meters emit not only radio-frequency radiation but also what she calls “dirty electricity”. Together, she said, these two can cause a lot of health troubles.

There is only ONE kind of electricity – the movement of charges. There is no “clean” and “dirty” electricity, it’s all the same. Adjectives like “dirty” taint an argument with emotional biases. It’s not science.

Moving along though, the article contains just over 800 words, a mere 100 of which are dedicated to reality. I’ll even give them to you:

“On matters like this, B.C. Hydro relies on the health authorities,” [BC Hydro spokesperson Cindy] Verschoor told the Straight by phone about health concerns. “So we have been in contact with the provincial health authorities, and they have advised that smart meters are safe.”

Verschoor added that B.C. Hydro safety standards for radio frequencies surpass those in Europe. Online information provided by the Crown corporation cite as an example the “precautionary limit” of 4.5 microwatts per square centimetre in sensitive areas like schools and hospitals in Switzerland. B.C. Hydro smart meters emit less than two microwatts per square centimeter at the same distance of eight inches.

How’s that for reporting? One side gets an emotional story, several “experts” with little qualifications, while the reality-based community has to settle for two paragraphs quoted from a BC Hydro spokesperson. The “journalist” couldn’t even be bothered to call the BC or Canadian Health authorities for their positions. He doesn’t even go into any depth with how that tiny amount of radiation couldn’t even affect you if you slept on the meter.

I don’t have much more to say about this. I’ve covered Smart Meters before so I don’t feel like wasting more breathe here.

Conclusions

Apparently all it takes to get a quaky story in the Georgia Straight is to call them up and give a loose conspiracy theory suggesting modern technology, forced on you by the government, is damaging your health. You don’t even need any evidence.