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Volume 8, Issue 24: June 12, 2006

  1. "States of Fear: Science or Politics?" -- DVD Featuring Michael Crichton and a Panel of Scientists
  2. Law Enforcement against the Drug War
  3. Zarqawi's Death May Help Iraqi Insurgency
  4. The Battle for Latin America

1) "States of Fear: Science or Politics?" -- DVD Featuring Michael Crichton and a Panel of Scientists

Bad predictions happen: After the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear reactor meltdown, many estimated that the death toll would be in the tens of thousands. Fortunately, to date fewer than 60 deaths worldwide can be attributed to that disaster, according to the UN's Chernobyl Forum, although many more are expected. Similarly, in the 1960s some biologists predicted that overpopulation would kill 60 million Americans by the 1980s and that half of all species would become extinct by 2000, but, again, nothing resembling the predicted devastation has occurred. And remember how some alarmists hyped the Y2K "millennium bug"?

These and other bad predictions should prompt the public to demand better evidence than is usually offered by the prophets of doom and gloom, best-selling novelist Michael Crichton told an audience of about 600 at the Independent Institute's event, "States of Fear: Science or Politics?" (Nov. 15, 2005). A DVD of this event can now be ordered from the Independent Institute at

Following Crichton's informative and entertaining slide presentation, a panel of distinguished scientists gave additional examples -- and offered valuable insights -- about the extreme but dubious claims that often accompany public-policy debates: Biochemist and molecular biologist Bruce Ames argued that some stories about cancer not only exaggerate most cancer risks, they under-report the most prevalent causes of cancer. Astrophysicist Sallie Baliunas explained that even seemingly well-educated people made accusations of witchcraft when Europe suffered severe hail storms and the like during the Little Ice Age five hundred years ago. Atmospheric scientist William M. Gray critiqued some of the assumptions implicit in many climate models that predict significant global warming from increases in carbon dioxide. Finally, climatologist George H. Taylor recounted the discoveries of three important scientists (Alfred Wegner, J. Harlan Bretz, and Gilbert Walker) who were ridiculed by the scientific establishment before their research won acceptance.

To order a DVD of "States of Fear: Science or Politics?" (featuring Michael Crichton, Bruce Ames, Sallie Baliunas, William M. Gray, and George H. Taylor), see


2) Law Enforcement against the Drug War

On May 8 the representatives of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency visited their Canadian counterparts to discuss strategies for fighting the war on drugs. The wisdom of their campaign did not go unchallenged, reports Pierre Lemieux, a research fellow with the Independent Institute.

"On the same day, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (, an association of some 2,000 active or retired cops, held a counter-symposium in Montreal," writes Lemieux.

"LEAP wants an end to the war on drugs, which it believes is a failure. It has had a high cost, in terms of money (US$69 billion a year in the U.S., according to LEAP.) But also in terms of lost liberties: young lives broken by criminal records, prisons overflowing with drug offenders, people who steal or become prostitutes to buy artificially expensive street drugs, street violence generated by warring black-market dealers, searches, surveillance, border controls, RICO, money laundering laws and so on, and so forth."

See "Dissenters from the Drug War," by Pierre Lemieux (6/5/06)
"Los disidentes de la guerra contra las drogas"

To purchase DRUG WAR CRIMES: The Consequences of Prohibition, by Jeffrey A. Miron, see


3) Zarqawi's Death May Help Iraqi Insurgency

The death of Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in northern Iraq last week "has probably helped the larger Sunni insurgency, will do little to slow the escalating sectarian violence, and may even come as a relief to the al Qaeda leadership," according to Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace & Liberty.

Judging by a letter al Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, reportedly sent to Zarqawi, the masterminds behind 9/11 thought the Jordanian was too maniacal and counterproductive. However, in his latest op-ed, Eland argues that "by killing Zaraqwi, the U.S. government no longer has a well-known 'evil-doer' to rally lagging U.S. public support for the war and has made it more likely that the Iraqi guerrillas can retain Sunni popular support for their insurgency."

Thus, like the cheering that accompanied the killing of Saddam Hussein's two sons, the Bush administration's cheering about the demise of Zarqawi will likely be short-lived, concludes Eland.

See "Zarqawi's Death Is Likely a Plus for the Iraqi Insurgency," by Ivan Eland (6/12/06)
"La muerte de Zarqawi probablemente sea positiva para la insurgencia iraquí"

THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland

THE WAY OUT OF IRAQ: Decentralizing the Iraqi Government, by Ivan Eland

Center on Peace & Liberty (Ivan Eland, director)


4) The Battle for Latin America

Having aggressively consolidated power at home, Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president for nearly a decade, is now developing a new program to sell crude oil on favorable terms to politically favored municipalities in the resource-poor countries of Central America -- especially municipalities controlled by the leftist opposition in Nicaragua and El Salvador. While some view Chavez's new oil contracts as well-intentioned, others see it as part of an ongoing Machiavellian effort to build political support throughout Latin America, making many in the region uneasy, according to Carlos Sabino, an adjunct fellow with the Independent Institute's Center on Global Prosperity.

"After achieving an almost total consolidation of his power inside the country, this populist caudillo [strongman] has embarked on an adventure of continental expansionism that includes his open intervention in Bolivian affairs, his attempts to influence the elections in Peru and Mexico, his country's withdrawal from the Andean Pact, and the bitter criticism he has directed at the two nations that recently signed free-trade accords with the United States -- Peru and Colombia," writes Sabino in a recent op-ed.

Moreover, reports Sabino, Chavez has joined Fidel Castro in helping Bolivia's new president, Evo Morales, maintain power: "At present, there are hundreds of Venezuelan and Cuban advisers in Bolivia providing advice for the new president about a Constituent Assembly that will be set up in the near future. The advisers are manipulating the electoral patterns the same way they did in Venezuela to ensure their caudillo's perpetual rule."

In other Latin American news, former Peruvian president Alan Garcia has been re-elected to his country's highest office in an election that pitted the moderate populist against the not-so-moderate populist Ollanta Humala, an accused human-rights violator who led a military coup against Alberto Fujimori in 2000.

President Garcia brought hyperinflation, corruption, and abuses of power to Peru in the 1980s. As Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa explains, in 1990 thugs close to Garcia even planned an attack on the Vargas Llosa family (his father, prominent writer Mario Vargas Llosa was running against Garcia in that year's election). Nevertheless, because Garcia -- not Humala -- was the lesser of two evils in the 2006 election, Alvaro Vargas Llosa felt compelled to cast his vote for Garcia, who seems to have curbed his authoritarian tendencies compared to Humala, who was endorsed by Hugo Chavez.

"The disconnect between official institutions and social needs -- the legacy of too many caudillos and the absence of the rule of law -- has thrown many people into the hands of leaders who espouse nationalist ideologies," Vargas Llosa writes. "The challenge is to heal the rift, not to widen it as Humala was planning to do."

See "Venezuelan Expansionism," Carlos Sabino (6/6/06)
"El Expansionismo Venezolano"

"Andean Blues," by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (6/7/06)
"'Blues' andino"


LIBERTY FOR LATIN AMERICA: How to Undo Five-Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

Center on Global Prosperity (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, director)

Spanish-language Blog:
El Independent: El Blog del Centro Para la Prosperidad Global de The Independent Institute


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