The Most Dubious News Stories of 1998

Why Everything You Believe Is So, Is Not

by Alan Caruba

As we’re fond of saying around here at the National Anxiety Center, the good news is that the bad news is wrong. A look back at 1998 reveals that much of what we were told turned out to be as bogus as “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky.”

That statement ranks right up there with the rantings and ravings of Al Gore, Jr. who, during 1998, proclaimed every natural event from forest fires to floods as proof that global warming was just around the corner. However, Nature did not want to cooperate with Gore because 1998 began with a horrendous ice storm that knocked out power from southeast Canada right down through New England and into New York State. Freezing rain fell for six days from January 4th through the 9th. The previous winter of 1996 saw New York and Washington, D.C. literally close down because of blizzard snow conditions.

A word to Al Gore. In the Winter it snows. In the Summer, it gets hot. It was a hot summer, however. No doubt about it. However, as Harvard astronomer, Dr. Sallie Baliunas explains, we have records of cyclical sunspot activity going back to the days of Galileo in the 1600’s. In general, every eleven years, there is a cycle of increased or decreased sunspot activity which has a direct impact on the Earth’s temperature. Not so-called greenhouse gases. There is no global warming trend in sight. And that’s the good news.

So many people were trying to convince other people that they could die at any second from just about everything, that 1998 did not lack for moronic behavior. In August, the U.S. Transportation department announced that peanuts on airplanes could actually kill someone and announced a ban. By September they were backing off when it became known that there wasn’t a single confirmed case of death by peanut. Meanwhile, the nutcases at the Center for Science in the Public Interest who had earlier tried to get Americans to give up movie popcorn, Mexican and Chinese food, announced in August that any food with the words “artificial color” posed a grave health threat. Proof? None. And the lunatics at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals asked General Mills to remove the picture of a champion bass fisherman from their Wheaties box because the poor fishies just suffer too much. And NASA may want to back off its endless babble about rocks from Mars because the escape velocity for anything to be blasted free from that planet would totally destroy it.

In March, the International Astronomical Union informed Americans that a mile-wide asteroid was speeding toward Earth. The next day, however, they were told that a recalculation by NASA had determined it would come no closer than 600,000 miles, about 2.5 times as far as the moon is from Earth. The Peter Principle that most such “experts” reach a point of significant incompetence is alive and well, but the headlines, the claims, the absurdities just keep coming.

Lost amidst the endless headlines that the Earth is doomed and everything you eat, drink or breath will kill were these nuggets. The 1998 World Health Report offered a very optimistic view of the 21st century noting, among other things, that global life expectancy has reached new heights. Maybe that’s because the Earth produces enough grain to provide everyone worldwide with 3,500 calories a day. When you add up all the meats and fish, fruits and root crops, the Earth produces at least 4.3 pounds of food per person per day!

According tot he U.S. National center for Health Statistics, life expectancy in American hit a new record high in 1998, 76.1 years! And the death rate in America dropped to the lowest level ever recorded. Even the number of transportation deaths declined. This year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease, is almost on the verge of disappearing.

But what about crime? Turns out, if you put more criminals in jail, the crime rate goes down. Amazing! The U.S. murder rate is at a 26-year low. While films and television feature murder all the time, the actual number of homicides plunged nearly 25 percent.

While a number of dramatic slayings occurred in school settings, FBI data demonstrated that arrests of youths for violence had declined sharply between 1994 and 1996. While schools may be safe, they’re still producing some of the worst educated youngsters ever. In 1998, the results of an international math and science survey revealed that U.S. high school seniors, even if they’re in advanced classes, ranked 19th out of 21 nations. Only Cyprus and South Africa performed worse than U.S. twelfth graders. Of those who made it into college, fully a quarter needed remedial courses just to read their textbooks!

Endangered What?

If you think every living thing on Earth is endangered, think again. Despite Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt’s endless babble about endangered species, the Endangered Species Act he so adores hasn’t recovered a single species in 25 years. Not one! An announcement in May that some two dozen species were “saved” was a typical Green deception because most should never have been listed among the supposed endangered 1,135 plants and animals on the list. Someone should remind Babbitt the 95 percent of all creatures that ever existed on Earth are now extinct because that’s the way Nature weeds them out. And talk about weeds, Babbitt, under federal investigation for a highly political, fund raising-related Indian casino decision, announced that the U.S. is being invaded by “noxious alien weeds”!

In August, the World Conservation Union announced that, of the 80,000 to 100,000 species of trees and plants once on the planet, nearly a hundred have become extinct and more than 8,600 are on the brink of disappearing. Such claims by Greens, as absurd as they may be, are increasingly commonplace. Keep an eye for a drumbeat of propaganda saying that development of any kind, including the need for new homes, is creating “suburban sprawl” that will require stringent control. The entire population of the U.S. lives on barely three percent of the landmass and the entire population of the world could live comfortably in the State of Texas.

Re-Inventing the Government?

Albert Gore, Jr. may be re-inventing the government, but he’s not doing a good job. In the last year of the Bush administration, total government spending was $1.4 trillion. In 1998, the Feds spent $1.7 trillion, $300 billion more. The proposed budget for 1999 submitted by President Clinton sought $150 billion in new or expanded spending.

The only spending that’s gone down in this new era of global terrorism is, you guessed it, defense. Can you name the nation which has, since 1990, eliminated 709,000 regular army soldiers? 293,000 reservists? Eight regular Army divisions? Two reserve Army divisions? Twenty Air Force and Navy air wings with approximately 2,000 combat aircraft? Thirteen ballistic missile submarines? Four aircraft carriers? And 121 surface ships and attack submarines? Here’s a hint: It’s the United States of America!

Meanwhile, under the 1990 Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires U.S. manufacturers to disclose the risk of chemical accidents at their facilities while putting this strategic information on the internet where any terrorist in the world can select which of the more than 66,000 U.S. plants would make the best target to cause the largest amount of death thanks to mandated estimates of how many people near each site would likely be injured or killed. The latest estimate of the annual cost of complying with all of the EPA laws and regulations is $150 billion. The number of regulations proposed or issued by the EPA has increased 20 percent since 1993. This isn’t protection, it’s extortion.

Overall, the EPA alone is responsible for one third of all the current federal laws and regulations. There are 3,000 federal criminal laws on the books and Americans run the risk of engaging in 10,000 activities that have been made into crimes by fine-print regulations written by bureaucrats. Fifty-five separate federal regulatory agencies have criminal enforcement powers. More and more federal employees are being armed.

Americans continue to be systematically propagandized about threats which originate from within their own government, the governments of nations unfriendly to the U.S., by national and international Green organizations, and organizations with global governance plans that put at risk the rights and protections of the U.S. Constitution currently enjoyed by Americans, along with the security of the nation as it approaches the 21st century.

Much of the news of 1998 wasn’t just dubious, it was and will remain dangerous.

Alan Caruba, a veteran business and science writer, is the founder, in 1990, of the National Anxiety Center, Maplewood, NJ, a clearinghouse for information about “scare campaigns.”

Tom DeWeese
[email protected]

Tom DeWeese is one of the nation’s leading advocates of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property rights, personal privacy, back-to-basics education and American sovereignty and independence.