Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Truth About Bottled Water

The Truth About Bottled Water

By David Zinczenko, with Matt Goulding - Posted on Tue, Jul 21, 2009, 1:35 pm PDT Imagine you’ve just been given a choice: You have to drink from one of two containers. One container is a cup from your own kitchen, and it contains a product that has passed strict state, federal and local guidelines for cleanliness and quality. Oh, and it’s free. The second container comes from a manufacturing plant somewhere, and its contents—while seemingly identical to your first choice—have not been subjected to the same strict national and local standards. It costs approximately four times more than gasoline. These products both look and taste nearly identical.

Which do you choose?

If you chose beverage A, congratulations: You just saved yourself a whole lot of money, and, perhaps, even contaminants, too. But if you picked beverage B, then you’ll be spending hundreds of unnecessary dollars on bottled water this year. Sure, bottled water is convenient, trendy, and may well be just as pure as what comes out of your tap. But it’s hardly a smart investment for your pocketbook, your body or our planet. Eat This, Not That! decided to take a closer look at what’s behind the pristine images and elegant-sounding names printed on those bottles.

You may actually be drinking tap water.
Case in point: Dasani, a Coca-Cola product. Despite its exotic-sounding name, Dasani is simply purified tap water that’s had minerals added back in. For example, if your Dasani water was bottled at the Coca-Cola Bottling Company in Philadelphia, you’re drinking Philly tap water. But it’s not the only brand of water that relies on city pipes to provide its product. About 25 percent of all bottled water is taken from municipal water sources, including Pepsi’s Aquafina.

Bottled water isn’t always pure.
Scan the labels of the leading brands and you see variations on the words “pure” and “natural” and “pristine” over and over again. And when a Cornell University marketing class studied consumer perceptions of bottled water, they found that people thought it was cleaner, with less bacteria. But that may not actually be true. For example, in a 4-year review that included the testing of 1,000 bottles of water, the Natural Resources Defense Council—one the country’s most ardent environmental crusaders—found that “about 22 percent of the brands we tested contained, in at least one sample, chemical contaminants at levels above strict state health limits.”

It’s not clear where the plastic container ends and the drink begins.
Turns out, when certain plastics are heated at a high temperature, chemicals from the plastics may leach into container’s contents. So there’s been a flurry of speculation recently as to whether the amounts of these chemicals are actually harmful, and whether this is even a concern when it comes to water bottles—which aren’t likely to be placed in boiling water or even a microwave. While the jury is still out on realistic health ramifications, it seems that, yes, small amounts of chemicals from PET water bottles such as antimony—a semi-metal that’s thought to be toxic in large doses—can accumulate the longer bottled water is stored in a hot environment. Which, of course, is probably a good reason to avoid storing bottled water in your garage for six months—or better yet, to just reach for tap instead.

Our country’s high demand for oil isn’t just due to long commutes.
Most water bottles are composed of a plastic called polyethylene terepthalate (PET). Now, to make PET, you need crude oil. Specifically, 17 million barrels of oil are used in the production of PET water bottles ever year, estimate University of Louisville scientists. No wonder the per ounce cost of bottled water rivals that of gasoline. What’s more, 86 percent of 30 billion PET water bottles sold annually are tossed in the trash, instead of being recycled, according to data from the Container Recycling Institute. That’s a lot of waste—waste that will outlive you, your children, and your children’s children. You see, PET bottles take 400 to 1000 years to degrade. Which begs the question: If our current rate of consumption continues, where will we put all of this discarded plastic?

Another Bull's-Eye For Missile Defense


By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Wednesday, August 05, 2009 4:20 PM PT

SDI: If you missed the news, which isn't hard given how poorly these things are covered, our "unproven" missile defense proved itself again last week, when a U.S. warship downed a simulated North Korean missile in flight.

Read More: Military & Defense

The test, conducted in Hawaiian waters by the Navy and the Department of Defense's Missile Defense Agency (MDA), was the 23rd firing by ships equipped with the Aegis ballistic missile defense system. It was the 19th success, including the shoot-down of a dead U.S. spy satellite last year.

A short-range ballistic missile simulating a missile like North Korea's Nodongs or Scuds was fired from the Pacific Missile Test Range on the island of Kauai. In position to intercept was the Aegis destroyer Hopper, which fired a Standard Missile-3 to shoot it down about 100 miles above the Pacific in an exercise dubbed "Stellar Avenger."

As part of the exercise, the destroyer O'Kane simulated an engagement and the cruiser Lake Erie detected and tracked the target missile. An MDA statement said the Hopper then directed its interceptor to a "direct body to body hit, approximately two minutes after leaving the ship."

In February 2008, it helped Lake Erie using an SM-3 succeed in shooting down the National Reconnaissance Office's NROL-21 Radarsat, weighing 2.5 tons, before it could strike the earth with its deadly hydrazine fuel tank nearly full.

Aegis was conceived as part of a layered missile defense capable of intercepting a missile at all stages of flight — the boost or launch phase, in-flight and as its warhead descends toward its intended American target, whether it be a city or a military installation.

The big kahunas of missile defense are the ground-based interceptors based at Ft. Greely in Alaska and at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. According to the MDA, since 2001 there have been 37 successful hit-to-kill intercepts out of 47 attempts, an astounding 80% success rate.

Despite these successes and the rising threats from both North Korea and Iran, missile defense took a $1.4 billion hit in the Gates/Obama FY2010 budget, a decrease of about 15%. Several promising programs such as the airborne laser were put on the shelf. The number of ground-based interceptors at 30 is down from an intended 44.

After the proven success of both sea-based and land-based missile defense, former MDA Chief Gen. Trey Obering III said: "Our testing has shown not only can we hit a bullet with a bullet, we can hit a spot on a bullet with a bullet."

As North Korea improves its Taepodong 2 intercontinental ballistic missile, capable of reaching targets in Alaska and Hawaii, and as intelligence sources say Iran could put a nuclear bomb atop one of its Shahabs within a year, these systems will prove useful.

Also useful would've been a program stopped dead in the administration's budget cuts: the airborne laser program or ABL. It consists of a modified Boeing 747-400F equipped with a megawatt-class, high-energy Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser designed to destroy ballistic missiles in their very vulnerable boost phase.

According to the MDA, the ABL provides a unique capability "to detect, track and destroy ballistic missiles shortly after launch during the boost-phase. Its revolutionary use of directed energy makes it unique among the United States airborne weapons systems, with a potential to attack multiple targets at the speed of light with a range of several hundred kilometers."

It could be deployed on short notice anywhere in the world, whether it be patrolling off the Korean Peninsula or flying over the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. And it had one advantage over its cousins — it was reusable.

Instead of completing President Reagan's dream of a layered missile defense, we appear ready to barter pieces of it away, particularly ground-based interceptors and tracking radar sites in Poland and the Czech Republic in exchange for vague promises of Russian cooperation on Iran.

As the Iranian countdown begins, we will need more arrows in our quiver, not more quiver in our arrows.

Flying Miss Nancy


By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Wednesday, August 05, 2009 4:20 PM PT

Washington: The Democrat-controlled House wants to buy nearly $200 million worth of private jets so lawmakers and a few high-level bureaucrats can travel in style. We truly have an imperial Congress.

Read More: General Politics

Just last week Washington announced it would cut $100 million from the federal administrative budgets and acted like that was some big achievement. Now this week we learn that about the same time those cuts were made public, the House OK'd the purchase of the private jets.

The taxpayer money the House plans to spend is to be used to buy three Gulfstream G550s at roughly $65 million each. These are long-range business jets with large, palatial interiors and three temperature zones. Company literature says the "impeccably equipped cabin" of a G550 offers "best-in-class comforts" and can be configured "with up to four living areas."

"At Gulfstream," the company says, "we have anticipated your every need."

Sounds like just the sort of plane the House speaker, Senate majority leader and their extended entourages could enjoy on a nonstop junket to Asia — or merely for a quick turnaround to visit constituents in San Francisco or Las Vegas.

The notion that some lawmakers feel it beneath their dignity to travel with the masses on commercial jets is nothing new. But news of the House plan does bring to mind three salient facts, all of which the Democratic leadership hopes the public does not think of in relation to the jet purchase.

Congress isn't short of hypocrisy. Most of the Democrats and their environmentalist allies are reflexively opposed to private jet travel because of its excessive carbon footprint. Or, at least, they are opposed to private jet travel for others.

Neither does it recognize irony. CEOs of the Big Three automakers were excoriated for traveling in their private jets last year to testify in Washington.

And some have an outsized sense of privilege. In 2007, just a month into the new Democratic majority, Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked that taxpayers provide a jet that could make a nonstop flight to her Bay Area district. She reportedly wanted a luxury, stateroom-outfitted version of Boeing's 757-200 like those the vice president, first lady and Cabinet officials fly on.

And there was a lot of foot-stamping when the Bush White House said no.

At least one of the three jets approved by the House will be sent to the Air Force's 201st Airlift Squadron, which, among other duties, shuttles members of Congress.

It seems Pelosi One might yet get off the ground.

10 Questions for Supporters of 'ObamaCare' by Dennis Prager


July 28, 2009

1. President Barack Obama repeatedly tells us that one reason national health care is needed is that we can no longer afford to pay for Medicare and Medicaid. But if Medicare and Medicaid are fiscally insolvent and gradually bankrupting our society, why is a government takeover of medical care for the rest of society a good idea? What large-scale government program has not eventually spiraled out of control, let alone stayed within its projected budget? Why should anyone believe that nationalizing health care would create the first major government program to "pay for itself," let alone get smaller rather than larger over time? Why not simply see how the Democrats can reform Medicare and Medicaid before nationalizing much of the rest of health care?

2. President Obama reiterated this past week that "no insurance company will be allowed to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition." This is an oft-repeated goal of the president's and the Democrats' health care plan. But if any individual can buy health insurance at any time, why would anyone buy health insurance while healthy? Why would I not simply wait until I got sick or injured to buy the insurance? If auto insurance were purchasable once one got into an accident, why would anyone purchase auto insurance before an accident? Will the Democrats next demand that life insurance companies sell life insurance to the terminally ill? The whole point of insurance is that the healthy buy it and thereby provide the funds to pay for the sick. Demanding that insurance companies provide insurance to everyone at any time spells the end of the concept of insurance. And if the answer is that the government will now make it illegal not to buy insurance, how will that be enforced? How will the government check on 300 million people?

3. Why do supporters of nationalized medicine so often substitute the word "care" for the word "insurance?" it is patently untrue that millions of Americans do not receive health care. Millions of Americans do not have health insurance but virtually every American (and non-American on American soil) receives health care.

4. No one denies that in order to come close to staying within its budget health care will be rationed. But what is the moral justification of having the state decide what medical care to ration?

5. According to Dr. David Gratzer, health care specialist at the Manhattan Institute, "While 20 years ago pharmaceuticals were largely developed in Europe, European price controls made drug development an American enterprise. Fifteen of the 20 top-selling drugs worldwide this year were birthed in the United States." Given how many lives -- in America and throughout the world – American pharmaceutical companies save, and given how expensive it is to develop any new drug, will the price controls on drugs envisaged in the Democrats' bill improve or impair Americans' health?

6. Do you really believe that private insurance could survive a "public option"? Or is this really a cover for the ideal of single-payer medical care? How could a private insurance company survive a "public option" given that private companies have to show a profit and government agencies do not have to – and given that a private enterprise must raise its own money to be solvent and a government option has access to others' money -- i.e., taxes?

7. Why will hospitals, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies do nearly as superb a job as they now do if their reimbursement from the government will be severely cut? Haven't the laws of human behavior and common sense been repealed here in arguing that while doctors, hospitals and drug companies will make significantly less money they will continue to provide the same level of uniquely excellent care?

8. Given how many needless procedures are ordered to avoid medical lawsuits and how much money doctors spend on medical malpractice insurance, shouldn't any meaningful "reform" of health care provide some remedy for frivolous malpractice lawsuits?

9. Given how weak the U.S. economy is, given how weak the U.S. dollar is, and given how much in debt the U.S. is in, why would anyone seek to have the U.S. spend another trillion dollars? Even if all the other questions here had legitimate answers, wouldn't the state of the U.S. economy alone argue against national health care at this time?

10. Contrary to the assertion of President Obama -- "we spend much more on health care than any other nation but aren't any healthier for it" -- we are healthier. We wait far less time for procedures and surgeries. Our life expectancy with virtually any major disease is longer. And if you do not count deaths from violent crime and automobile accidents, we also have the longest life expectancy. Do you think a government takeover of American medicine will enable this medical excellence to continue?

Dennis Prager is a radio show host, contributing columnist for, and author of 4 books including Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Dems' Plan Will Eliminate Health Insurance By Robert Tracinski


August 5, 2009

The goal of the Democrats' plan for health-care reform is coming more and more out into the open: they want to eliminate health insurance.

This has turned out to be the most passionate source of public opposition to the Obama health-care bill. People are terrified that they will be deprived of any choice or any control over their own health care if their only option is to depend on the government to pay their medical bills.

Astoundingly, the Democrats' answer to this has not been to reassure people that they will be allowed to keep their existing coverage—since this lie has proven too transparent to maintain—but instead to vilify the health-insurance companies. This is the line of attack the Democrats have chosen as they go into the August recess: private health-insurance companies are evil, and big government is here to save us from them.

According to the New York Times, President Obama is planning an "August offensive against the insurance industry." It is "a campaign of increasingly harsh rhetoric against the insurance industry" that is "intended to drive home the message that revamping the health care system will protect consumers by ending unpopular insurance industry practices, like refusing patients with pre-existing conditions."

That part about pre-existing conditions gives the game away. Health insurance companies refuse to cover pre-existing conditions for the same reason that you can't insure your automobile after you crash it. Insurance is a form of financing for the unexpected and unpredictable. It is not a mechanism to force somebody else to pick up the tab for expenses you have already incurred.

Do the Democrats even understand what insurance is? Over at Mother Jones, Kevin Drum muses that "Health insurance is a weird industry…. They don't do research, they don't perform surgeries, they don't change bedpans, and they don't make diagnoses. They're just middlemen. All they do is pay the bills…. But for some reason we're supposed to care about whether they continue to exist or not."

Get that? "All they do is pay the bills." Taking for granted the fact that someone else is going to somehow produce wealth and pay the bills, while you sit back and make petulant demands about how you want it to be done better and with fewer hassles—isn't that the whole leftist mentality in a nutshell?

Insurance is a form of financing. It is a contract under which a health-insurance company agrees to pay for medical bills that could run into the tens of thousands of dollars, if you are hit by a bus or are diagnosed with cancer, so that you don't have to pay for those bills out of your savings. For younger people, this means being able to pay for catastrophic care even if you haven't had time to build up tens of thousands of dollars in savings. For older people, this means not having your retirement savings or the equity in your home get wiped out by an unexpected illness.

So let's ask the question the left never asks: how is it possible for an insurance company to pay for these giant medical bills? What makes it possible is a whole set of statistical calculations. For every person who needs open-heart surgery or chemotherapy, there have to be a certain number of other people who are paying their premiums but haven't gotten seriously ill. If the insurance company has gotten its calculations right, the expenses for any one person's catastrophic care are balanced out by the premiums other people pay "just in case."

You can see how Obama's demands undermine this whole system. To ask insurance companies to cover a patient after the tumor is diagnosed is to ask them to take on a known expense. Combine that with another Obama demand: that insurance companies can't charge higher rates for those who are at higher risk of getting sick. So if insurance companies have to take on a known expense and can't charge a higher rate for it, how are they going to pay for it? By raising everyone else's rates, redistributing their wealth to the new freeloaders.

This isn't insurance, it's welfare. And that's the whole point.

The Democrats oppose health insurance because it based on the idea that people are independent individuals who should be expected—and have the right—to pay their own way. It is a system in which people decide what level of coverage they want and how much they are willing to pay for it, and insurance companies balance an individual's premiums against his health risks.

Paying your own way is a responsibility, often a very demanding one. But it is also a precious right that few people want to give up. He who pays the piper calls the tune, and when it comes to health care, our lives depend on being able to call the tune.

The left's preferred model, by contrast, is welfare. Don't be fooled by labels. The "public option" is not a form of insurance, because it is deliberately designed not to balance premiums against risk. Instead of choosing how much much coverage you are willing to pay for, everyone is forced into a plan designed by an Orwellian "Health Choices Commissioner." And when you get sick, you don't have a contract with a private company that you can enforce. You are dependent on benefits that are doled out uniformly to everyone by the government—no matter what your personal judgment about your health-care needs, and no matter how much you have paid into the system.

There are no independent individuals in this system. Instead, it is designed to make everyone dependent on the collective will of the government—which can decide to reduce your care when costs spiral and the Health Choices Commissioner decides that the treatment your doctor recommends is not really "cost-effective."

The current legislation is a big step in that direction. Government regulations and enormous government spending have already distorted the health-care market for decades, but this legislation is the coup de grace. Its whole point—even in the watered-down form favored by the "Blue Dog" Democrats—is to force insurance companies to act as if they are government welfare agencies. And when the insurance companies collapse under that artificial burden, the government will drop the pretense and have the welfare agencies, under the banner of the "public option," take over.

This is a war on health insurance. But it is more than that. The deeper issue is individualism versus collectivism. Will we be independent individuals with some control over our own fate—or will we be cogs in the collective, forced to be dependent on government for the most important needs of our lives?

Robert Tracinski writes daily commentary at He is the editor of The Intellectual Activist and