Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Del Washington Post:

Blowing Smoke About Tobacco

By Philip Alcabes

"Tobacco: deadly in any form or disguise" is the slogan of the World Health Organization's World No Tobacco Day tomorrow. The claim is false: Tobacco is not deadly; the harm is in the smoke. A policy that confuses innocuous tobacco with harmful smoke is responsible for millions of avoidable deaths each year worldwide.

Cigarette smoke is a deadly delivery device for a benign but habit-forming product: nicotine. Nicotine isn't especially dangerous -- about like caffeine. Good policy toward tobacco use would reduce the grave harm of smoking by replacing cigarettes with non-smoked forms of nicotine for the addicts. They might use nicotine safely forever, if harmless delivery systems were widely available.

Instead, nicotine abstinence is the policymakers' only approach to tobacco. Like other abstinence campaigns (alcohol prohibition, sexual abstinence before marriage, just saying "no" to drugs), this one is both moralistic and ineffective.

The human cost of the nicotine-abstinence policy is doleful. More than 430,000 U.S. deaths each year -- one out of every five -- can be attributed to smoking. This is 10 times our death rate from car crashes, 30 times the rate from AIDS -- an unprecedented toll that is a testament to the inadequacy of 40 years of quit-smoking policy.

The surgeon general reported smoking to be a health hazard back in 1964, but the net effect of smoking-cessation messages since then is that between 4 and 5 percent of smokers quit each year. Of the approximately 14 million Americans who try to quit smoking every year, only 2 million succeed. That failure leaves 45 million to 60 million American smokers, more than one-fifth of American adults. Most of them smoke regularly. Another million or so start smoking each year. In fact, of all the Americans alive today who ever smoked regularly, half are smoking now.

Obviously, nicotine use is a popular and tenacious habit. Equally obviously, tobacco policy is a failure. Surveys show that a majority of current smokers would like good alternatives to smoking as ways of getting nicotine. But we will not tell nicotine users that there are safe ways to continue to use the legal drug they crave. Apparently, our policymakers would rather see those people get sick and die.

Alternative nicotine delivery could be easy. Nicotine replacement therapy could work long-term. Gum and the patch are already available, but not to everyone. Also, they are still approved only for short-term use and can deliver only small doses -- inadequate for heavy users.

Smokeless tobacco would work. It comes in several forms. One is chewing tobacco, made famous by cowboys and ballplayers. But other forms are handier, less messy and far less dangerous than smoking. Yet health officials label smokeless tobacco as "not a safe alternative to smoking," despite much evidence that it is quite safe. Indeed, current policy is so wedded to nicotine abstinence that officials will lie to discourage widespread use of smokeless tobacco as a way of delivering the drug.

As Carl V. Phillips, an epidemiologist at the University of Alberta, has shown, evidence points to a low risk of health hazards stemming from smokeless-tobacco use. That includes virtually no evidence of risk of oral cancer. Phillips's calculations show that total mortality from "smokeless" is about a hundreth of that from smoking.

And then there's what many smokers nowadays really do: Mix periods of abstinence (encouraged by smoke-free workplaces and restaurants) with periods of light smoking. Mixing light or occasional smoking with other nicotine-delivery products might be even safer -- but it can't be studied as a possible alternative because current funding goes only to research on how to quit smoking, not on finding a safe level of smoking.

How shameful that the United States is willing to allow almost a half-million Americans to die each year, and that the World Health Organization is prepared to allow up to 5 million annual deaths worldwide -- all because of a delivery device -- cigarette smoke -- whose hazards are well known and largely avoidable.

Where's the usually progressive public-health establishment on this? We are generally not given to telling people, "Stop doing what you are doing." We prefer health promotion in the form of seat belts, motorcycle helmets, condoms, syringe exchange, ingredient labels, and warning labels, rather than forcing people to quit their habits. But with tobacco we have jettisoned our tolerance and thrown all our support to nicotine abstinence.

We cannot ignore tobacco in its one deadly "disguise": cigarette smoke. Neither should we ignore a deadly nicotine-abstinence crusade disguised as tobacco control.

The writer, an epidemiologist, is on the faculty of the School of Health Sciences of Hunter College at the City University of New York.

Dia mundial sin tabaco

Tucuman sera Calabasas?

Officials in California Town
Say Smoking Ban Is Working

Ten weeks after they enacted the most draconian smoking ban in the nation, city officials in Calabasas, Calif., say the rules are having the desired impact -- reducing exposure to the secondhand smoke that can accumulate when smokers congregate outdoors and near building entrances.

No citations have been issued over the rule, which bans all smoking outdoors except in designated areas. And business leaders are cooperating, with the city approving 16 permits so far for businesses wanting to have smoking areas designated nearby, the officials say.

"The response we have heard thus far is mostly positive," said Stephanie Warren, chairman of the Calabasas Chamber of Commerce. "Most of our members are for anything that maintains our standard of living."

Some smokers are bridling: Robert Best, California state coordinator for the Smokers Club Inc., an international smokers-rights coalition, says his group is waging a grass-roots boycott. Mr. Best says so far close to 100 commuters who drive through Calabasas, about 10 miles west of Los Angeles, have signed on and suspended dining or shopping there in protest.

Smokers' rights groups contend that no scientific or medical data indicate that curbs on outdoor smoking are effective or necessary. "We all know that smoke dissipates," says Mr. Best.

The tobacco industry also isn't enthusiastic about the initiative. "Complete bans on outdoor smoking go too far," said Jennifer Golisch, a spokeswoman for Philip Morris USA, part of Altria Group Inc. the world's largest cigarette maker by sales. "Smoking should be permitted outdoors except in very particular circumstances, such as outdoor areas primarily designed for children." Ms. Golisch said Altria, whose brands include Marlboro, didn't get involved in the Calabasas ordinance.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that second-hand smoke indoors causes respiratory illness in millions of children annually and may contribute to as many as 3,000 deaths from lung cancer and 62,000 deaths from heart disease among adults each year.

Studies also show that while smokers develop habits that allow them to cough and free their lungs of inhaled tobacco, nonsmokers are less aware of the volume of smoke in the atmosphere and unconsciously breathe in secondhand smoke at higher degrees than smokers.

But researchers haven't been able to pinpoint at what level a concentration of smoke outdoors increases a person's risk of disease, says Derek Raghavan, director of the Cleveland Clinic/Taussig Cancer Center in Ohio. Studies haven't indicated how many smokers could, during a given time period, accumulate a concentration of smoke that might endanger a nonsmoker's health.

The lack of hard data hasn't stopped lawmakers from banning smoking to accommodate nonsmoker comfort inside public and private places or to reduce litter from cigarette buds on the streets, parks or on beaches.

Thirty-one states ban smoking indoors at work places, and 12 prohibit smoking in public places, including restaurants, bars, clubs and some casinos. California, the first state to ban smoking inside public places, also leads the nation in outdoor restrictions.

More than a dozen cities and towns along the California coast prohibit smoking on beaches, with varying degrees of enforcement. And earlier this year, California declared secondhand smoke to be a toxic air pollutant. That means that, as with other designated toxins, such as vehicle exhaust and industrial air pollutants, the California Environmental Protection Agency must work with the state, local governments or industries to reduce public exposure. It's unclear what measures the state will take, but the process of coming up with a strategy to reduce nonsmoker risk could take two or three years.

"So far it's really had the desired effect," says Barry Groveman, the former Calabasas mayor who pushed for the legislation, and who now sits on the city council. He said officials elsewhere in California and in other states have contacted Calabasas to study the effect of the ordinance.

De "La Gaceta":

El humo se muda a las veredas

En la provincia, la ley que prohíbe fumar en casi todos los lugares, salvo en las casas y calles, entrará en vigor a fines de junio. Veda en los boliches.

Tucumán tiene una idea que no huele a tabaco. Será una de las primeras tierras argentinas en cercar a los fumadores. El Gobierno está dándole los últimos ajustes al reglamento de ley que prohíbe encender cigarrillos en lugares públicos cerrados y que se implementará a partir de julio.

El cerco a los adictos es tan grande que abarca a sitios estatales y privados. Nadie podrá hacer pitadas en oficinas, escuelas, hospitales, comisarías, bibliotecas, teatros, cines, bancos y demás. Tampoco podrán cubrirse de humo los boliches, los pubs, las peñas y hasta los drugstores.

A los fumadores desobedientes no se los castigará. Sí se multará, en cambio, a los responsables de los lugares en los que algún antojadizo encienda el pucho transgresor. Las sanciones van desde apercibimientos y clausuras de locales hasta multas.

Sin embargo, y pese a la inminente entrada en vigencia de la ley, los tucumanos han demostrado su escepticismo. La mayoría pone en duda la eficacia de la norma y tiene la sensación de que no será respetada ni por las autoridades, ni por los com
erciantes. Según dos encuestas realizadas por LA GACETA (de las que participaron 1.936 lectores), la entrada en vigencia de la ley no disminuirá la cantidad de fumadores (67 %). Además, otra mayoría opina que no tiene efecto la campaña.

Y, como un abono para este presentimiento, a 11 meses de haber sido aprobada por la Legislatura, el Poder Ejecutivo aún no la reglamentó. El 31 de mayo de 2005, los legisladores votaron a favor, por unanimidad, la norma que prohíbe encender cigarrillos en lugares públicos cerrados. En aquel momento, se decidió que comience a regir un año después de su promulgación, que se concretó a fines de junio.

Pero la ley todavía no fue reglamentada. El secretario general de la Gobernación, Francisco Sassi Colombres, asegura que están trabajando en eso y que en los próximos días podría estar listo. “Calculo que esta semana que comienza estará terminado el reglamento. El borrador fue elaborado”, precisa.

El funcionario explica que la norma establece que el Sistema Provincial de Salud será la institución encargada de hacer los controles. Pero debido a que los empleados no están capacitados para hacer ese trabajo, se están haciendo tratativas con el Instituto Provincial de Lucha contra el Alcoholismo para que los inspectores del organismo trabajen en conjunto.

La presidenta de la comisión de Salud de la Legislatura, Beatriz Avila, indica que la iniciativa se inspira en legislaciones similares vigentes en otros países. “Esta nueva norma implica la modificación de una ley provincial anterior”, añade.

“Pese al pesimismo de la gente, yo soy optimista. La norma no prohíbe fumar, sino que regula ese hecho. El objetivo es proteger a los fumadores pasivos y mejorar la calidad de vida. Ignoro si con esto disminuirá la cantidad de fumadores, pero sí creo que aumentará la cantidad de espacios sanos”, reflexiona Avila.

¿El rito sobrevivirá?
En el idioma de los tucumanos, la expresión “vamos a tomar un café” juega de comodín. Sirve como convocatoria para revivir un amor o para cerrar un negocio. Aunque cambian las excusas, la mayoría mantiene ese espacio de complicidades, que acompaña con un cigarrillo. Pero en poco más de un mes, la borra del café será el único testigo de las tertulias de los restaurantes.

Por eso, quienes más se resistieron a aceptar la disposición fueron los comerciantes. “Se pierde facturación, porque mucha gente va a los cafés a fumar un cigarrillo. Es una costumbre muy tucumana. Pero, de todos modos, vamos a aceptar la norma”, afirma el presidente de la Unión de Hoteleros, Bares y afines, Humberto Neme.

“El cigarrillo es el compañero del café y de la sobremesa... pero las cosas tendrán que cambiar”, reconoce el empresario.
“Las sanciones serán importantes, por lo que no creo que ningún local se arriesgue a no cumplirlas. El problema será convencer a los clientes”, advierte Neme.

La entrada en vigencia será todo un desafío para los organismos que tendrán que controlar su aplicación, teniendo en cuenta que la prohibición abarca también a los boliches, un ámbito donde no será fácil hacerla cumplir.

Templo pagano, púlpito de Cupido, monumento a los excesos, el mundo del boliche es uno de los sitios más difícil de imaginar sin puchos. “Elevamos una propuesta a los autores de la ley, en la que se sugería que se habilitarán en los locales bailables piezas cerradas con extractores de aire, para los fumadores. Insistiremos con esa idea”, señala el presidente de la Cámara de Propietarios de Discotecas y Afines de Tucumán, Rodolfo Di Pinto.

“Ya tenemos que lidiar con el problema de explicarle a un tipo de 30 años que tiene que volver a su casa a las 4 de la madrugada, y ahora se suma esto también. Vamos a implementar una campaña con tarjetas, videos y carteles para evitar que los clientes fumen. Además, deberemos instruir al personal de seguridad ”, finaliza.

En 1989, la Asamblea Mundial de la Salud designó al 31 de mayo el Día Mundial sin Tabaco. Mientras crece la guerra global, la provincia también cerca a los fumadores.


Dip into summer
Provence's aioli monstre feast gets the California treatment -- what a wonderful, garlicky start to the alfresco season.
By Russ Parsons

May 31, 2006

WE ate dinner on the back porch four times last week — only partly because I've been making aioli, though that probably could be considered reason enough.

Essentially, aioli is nothing more than raw garlic pounded with a little salt and a couple egg yolks into a sticky paste, with just enough olive oil beaten in to make it creamy. It is absolutely delicious, in an elemental, breathtaking sort of way that is perhaps best appreciated out of doors.

On its home turf in Provence, aioli is the quintessential summer sauce and the centerpiece of numerous street fairs which, as Richard Olney relates in "Simple French Food," often culminate in an orgiastic aioli monstre, "the entire population turning out to pile plates high with boiled salt cod, potatoes, carrots, green beans, artichokes, chick-peas, beets, hard-boiled eggs, snails, squid stew and huge globs of garlic mayonnaise, liberally moistened with the local rosé."

While everything Olney describes sounds quite delicious, there's a difference between Southern France and Southern California.

And that got me thinking: If I were to make a Californian monster aioli, what would it be like?

Delicious visions danced through my head: Meats, seafood, vegetables — what wouldn't go well with a really good aioli?

But before I could begin playing with any monster menus, I knew that I had a chore to attend to. I had to learn to make aioli — a really good aioli, that is.

I've been making aioli for years and every once in a while, when all the stars were in alignment, everything would work according to plan.

I'd pound the garlic to a paste in my big, Thai granite mortar and pestle. Then I'd use the pestle to smear in the egg yolks. Then I'd stir in the oil and lemon juice.

Voilà: a golden, creamy mayonnaise, sweet and pungent from garlic and with a slight fruitiness from the olive oil.

More often, though, about halfway through the process I'd wind up with something that looked like badly scrambled eggs. The mayonnaise had broken beyond repair, the eggs and the oil separating into a greasy mess.

When that happened, the only cure was the blender: Whip up a whole egg, then slowly pour the broken mayonnaise into it. This is a sure-fire fix, almost guaranteed.

The only problem is that the high speed of the blender beats in so much air that you wind up with an aioli that is pale and fluffy rather than golden and creamy. The flavor is pretty good, but it lacks the finesse of the handmade. (The same thing can happen if you whisk too vigorously.)

Analyzing recipes

MY first thought was that I must be using the wrong recipes. So I pulled out half a dozen of my most reliable cookbooks that include aioli. Then I made up a little spreadsheet and broke down the recipes into the amounts of garlic, egg, oil and lemon, then compared them.

What I found was that few of my favorite experts agree on anything.

Judy Rodgers, in "The Zuni Café Cookbook," makes aioli with only one or two cloves of garlic; Anne Willan, in "French Regional Cooking," uses six to eight to make the same amount of sauce.

Thomas Keller, in his "Bouchon" cookbook, uses confited garlic that has been roasted in olive oil, rather than raw. Some call for fruity olive oil, some call for mild. In the "Chez Panisse Café Cookbook," Alice Waters calls for a mixture.

Some add the lemon juice at the beginning, some at the end. Waters and Rodgers don't use lemon juice at all.

Because these are all very good cooks, clearly the secret to a good aioli isn't in some specific formula of ingredients. And if it isn't the ingredients, that means it must be the technique.

Suddenly, I remembered my pie crust days. I once spent an entire summer trying to learn how to make a great pie dough. Then somebody — I believe it was Nancy Silverton, then the pastry chef at Campanile, or Kim Sklar (her assistant then, now the pastry chef at Literati II) — pointed out that when I was rolling out the dough I was pushing down too much. If I'd keep my elbows tucked in, I'd stretch the dough rather than smash it. D'oh!

And after half a dozen tries making aioli, what I learned was similarly basic. My problem, it turned out, was not somebody else's recipe, but my own impatience. I was adding the oil too quickly.

Aioli, like mayonnaise, is an emulsion of two usually antagonistic ingredients: oil and water (from the garlic and the yolks). In creating any emulsion, the early stages are trickiest, when the union is at its most fragile.

Because of all that garlic, this is even truer of aioli than mayonnaise. While I can whip up a decent mayonnaise without much thought by beating in a thin stream of oil until it thickens, with aioli you really have to proceed a drop at a time at the beginning. This is a very shaky emulsion, and if you try to go too fast, whoops, you're back to the blender with another mess.

I found a few helpful tricks. First, the egg yolks should be at room temperature to absorb the oil most readily. Also, the addition of the oil is easier to control if you will transfer it to a measuring cup with a pour spout and then prop the cup against the lip of the mortar so you can drip it into the mixture slowly and smoothly.

And while you really need to pound the garlic to get it smooth, creating the egg yolk and oil emulsion requires gentler treatment: Stir the mixture, don't grind it.

In fact, I find switching pestles in mid-mayo is a help. The granite pestle that came with my mortar weighs more than 2 pounds, which is great for pounding, but after five or 10 minutes of stirring, gets a little ponderous. I've got a wooden pestle from Japan that weighs only a few ounces, and that is much better for stirring.

I also found that after always having added lemon juice to aioli, I now agree with the Bay Area contingent and leave it out. Try this sometime: Make a good aioli without lemon juice, and taste it. Then add a little lemon and taste it again. Keep repeating, adding a little more lemon each time.

I found that the first half-teaspoon of lemon juice seemed to improve the flavor, but as I added more lemon, the oil seemed to become harsher and harsher. After being sensitized to this, when I went back and made aioli again, even that meager half-teaspoon of lemon juice seemed to have the same effect.

Rather than adding lemon, I now follow Rodgers' advice and add a little water, which then allows me to add more oil. This balances the pungency of the garlic and reduces its burn without adding harshness. You wind up with an aioli that finishes sweet rather than bitter.

The texture of the aioli will stiffen as you add more olive oil to it. Remember that it should be a creamy mayonnaise consistency, so stop adding oil when you get to that point. If it starts to get at all rubbery, stir in a couple of drops of water and that should loosen it up.

Unfortunately, it seems to be impossible to quantify exactly how much oil to add for two egg yolks. The amount always seemed to vary, but whether this was because of differences in egg yolk size, speed of stirring or the downright temperamental nature of mayonnaise is hard to say. So the recipe is for a range. Pay attention to the texture and use your judgment.

Keep it fresh

THOUGH aioli tastes so good you may be tempted to try to keep it in the refrigerator as a staple, don't. After half a day or so, the garlic flavor begins to change, becoming metallic. If you do need to refrigerate it, let it only be for a couple of hours and then bring it back to room temperature before serving. It's the texture thing again — chilled, the olive oil thickens and stiffens the mayonnaise.

Having solved the riddle of aioli (the first chore of summer finished!), I moved on to playing with my monster menu.

Over the course of a week, I experimented with all sorts of meats, fish and vegetables. Basically what I found is that there are few things that can't be improved by a good garlic mayonnaise.

A couple of items would have been perfectly in place in Provence: I love hard-boiled eggs with aioli, and also steamed tiny potatoes (though I couldn't resist dusting mine with a little smoky Spanish pimentón).

The same with fat asparagus spears and green beans. Remember to cook them just to the point that they're beginning to soften but still a little crisp — that's the best texture for a creamy sauce like aioli.

Arrange all of these vegetables on a platter with a few hard-boiled eggs scattered among them. And feel free to eat them with your fingers, dipping them into the fragrant mayonnaise. Aioli is not a sauce for politesse.

Other dishes were slight twists on tradition. The French aren't real big on grilling, but we Californians certainly are. And I found there's nothing that brings out the sweetness in aioli like a whiff of wood smoke.

After blanching artichokes just long enough to cook them through, I grilled them briefly over oak to add just a hint of Central Coast tang. I also served aioli with grilled flank steak, crusty on the outside and still juicy and rare in the center.

What to drink? I tried several wines, white and red, and found the only thing that really worked was ice-cold rosé, but boy, did it ever sing.

The combination of sweetness and acidity was absolutely perfect. This was true of both the wonderfully complex Sinskey Vin Gris of Pinot Noir — my house rosé — and the relatively simple Bonny Doon Big House Pink.

Make an evening of it lingering in your backyard: the honeyed perfume of Southern California summer twilight, the lingering smoke of food grilled over a wood fire, the sweet berry scent of a good rosé, and underlying it all, the heady scents of garlic and olive oil. A monster meal, indeed.



Total time: 20 minutes

Servings: Makes 3/4 to 1 cup

Note: This recipe is very flexible. You can use a strong, peppery oil if you like, but I prefer a milder Provençal style. Add lemon at your discretion, as little or as much as you like. You can even make it more garlicky by adding more minced garlic at the beginning.

5 to 6 teaspoons minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 egg yolks, at room temperature (if necessary, warm briefly in a cup of hot tap


3/4 to 1 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice


1. Place the minced garlic in a heavy mortar along with the salt. Pound with a pestle into a smooth, sticky paste. Using the pestle to stir, beat in the egg yolks and stir until the mixture is smooth and lemon colored, about 30 seconds.

2. Begin to beat in the olive oil, adding just a drop at a time, stirring constantly until the oil is emulsified with the egg yolks. Do not attempt to rush the process by adding the oil too fast. After you've added about one-fourth cup this way, you can increase the flow to a thin stream. If at any time you see oil begin to gather separately from the yolks, immediately stop adding oil while continuing to stir. Very shortly the mixture should come back together.

3. When you have added about one-half cup of oil and the aioli is quite thick, stir in one-half teaspoon lukewarm water, then begin adding the oil again, starting again with a drop at a time.

4. When you've worked in about three-fourths cup oil, stop and taste the sauce. The texture should be creamy, not stiff and sticky. If it is too firm, stir in a little more water up to 1 teaspoon total. The flavor should be very garlicky but sweet, with a balance of garlic and olive oil flavor. If it's still a little too garlicky, stir in a little more oil. Add more salt if necessary and the lemon juice if that is to your taste. (If the sauce breaks and the oil and yolks separate and won't come back together, it can be easily fixed. Add a whole egg to a blender and purée it until smooth. Pour the broken aioli mixture into a measuring cup and, with the blender running, slowly add it to the blender. When it is completely incorporated, slowly add more oil with the blender running until you have the texture and flavor you prefer.)

5. Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to use, but allow it to return to room temperature before serving. Aioli should be made no more than a couple of hours in advance.

Each tablespoon: 112 calories; 0 protein; 0 carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 12 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 26 mg. cholesterol; 37 mg. sodium.


Steamed potatoes with pimentón

Total time: 20 minutes

Servings: 4 to 6

1 1/2 pounds small potatoes

1 tablespoon oil

Salt (about 1/2 teaspoon)

1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la vera

Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)

1. Cut the potatoes into walnut-sized pieces. Steam over rapidly boiling water until tender, about 15 minutes.

2. Transfer to a work bowl and toss with the oil, salt to taste and pimentón. Add the lemon juice and toss again. Transfer to a bowl and serve.

Each of 6 servings: 107 calories; 2 grams protein; 20 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 2 grams fat; 0 saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 203 mg. sodium.


Hard-boiled eggs

Total time: 15 minutes, plus 1 hour cooling time

Servings: 6

6 eggs

Place the eggs in a saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a rolling boil and cook 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let stand until the water is lukewarm, about 1 hour. Remove the shells and cut in half lengthwise.

Each serving: 78 calories; 6 grams protein; 1 gram carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 5 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 212 mg. cholesterol; 62 mg. sodium.


Grilled flank steak

Total time: 15 minutes, plus marinating time and time to prepare the grill

Servings: 4 to 6

1 (2-pound) flank steak

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil

1/4 pound wood chips (preferably oak or hickory)

1. At least an hour before cooking, unwrap the flank steak. Liberally season with salt and pepper on both sides. Rub it lightly with oil. Wrap it in plastic wrap and return it to the refrigerator.

2. Place the wood chips in a bowl, cover with water and soak at least 30 minutes. Light a fire and when it is medium-hot (when you can hold your hand at grill level to a count of three), add the wood chips. Let them flame up and die down.

3. Over the hottest part of the flame, sear the flank steak on one side, about 3 minutes, then turn and sear on the other, another 3 minutes. Move the steak to a slightly cooler part of the grill and cook another 3 minutes on each side, to medium-rare. Remove to a platter and let stand about 5 minutes.

4. Carve the flank steak on a deep bias, laying your knife almost flat against the cutting board to get the thinnest, widest cuts.

Each of 6 servings: 250 calories; 30 grams protein; 0 grams carbohydrates; 0 grams fiber; 13 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 59 mg. cholesterol; 448 mg. sodium.


Grilled artichokes

Total time: 55 minutes

Servings: 4

1 lemon

4 medium artichokes

1 tablespoon salt

1/4 pound wood chips (preferably oak or hickory)

Olive oil

1. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into a large saucepan with 6 cups of water. Add the lemon halves to the water.

2. Trim the artichokes to hearts, leaving the stems intact. Begin by holding the artichoke in your left hand with the stem facing toward you and the tip facing away. Slowly turn the artichoke against the sharp edge of the knife while making an abbreviated sawing motion. (It's easier to control if you use the base of the knife rather than the tip.) You will begin to cut through the tough outer leaves; when you can discern the natural cone shape of the artichoke, adjust the knife to follow it. Keep trimming just like this until you've cut away enough of the tough leaves so that you see only light green at the base. Cut away the top half-inch or so of the tip of the artichoke and dip the artichoke into the lemon water to keep the cut surfaces from discoloring. With a paring knife, trim away the very tip of the stem, then peel the stem and base of the artichoke, going from the tip to where the base meets the leaves. You'll have to do this at least five or six times to make it all the way around the artichoke. When you're done, there should be no dark green tough spots left, only pale green and ivory.

3. Dip each artichoke in lemon water to prevent browning, then cut in half lengthwise. If there is a hairy choke in the center of the heart, remove it (a serrated grapefruit spoon is easiest; a teaspoon will work too). Put the cleaned halves in the lemon water and repeat for the remaining artichokes.

4. Add the salt to the soaking water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook just until the artichokes are tender at the heart, about 15 minutes. Remove the artichokes to a plate with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool and dry.

5. Place the wood chips in a bowl, cover with water and soak at least 30 minutes. Light a fire and when it is medium-hot (when you can hold your hand at grill level to a count of three), add the wood chips. Let them flame up and die down.

6. Brush the artichokes lightly with oil and place around the outside of the grill. Cover and cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Remove the lid, turn the artichokes and cook another 3 or 4 minutes, just until lightly bronzed on both sides. Watch carefully as they will go from golden to charred very quickly. Remove to a serving platter.

Each serving: 120 calories; 3 grams protein; 9 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 9 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 270 mg. sodium.

Boycotting Israel

Del WSJ:

Britain's largest academic union will vote Monday on a resolution recommending that its 67,000 members boycott Israeli scholars who refuse to dissociate themselves from their country's "apartheid policies" vis-à-vis the Palestinians. In this 21st century version of the Inquisition, Jews would be asked to abandon not their religion but, if they are Israelis, their state, to gain acceptance.

The proposal by the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education doesn't call for a direct boycott. Instead, it "invites" members to consider one. The union probably hopes that an informal boycott will protect it from possible discrimination lawsuits. But the moral responsibility for endorsing blacklists of Israeli academics remains. The union's plan to merge with the Association of University Teachers shortly after the conference would extend the reach of this gentlemen's agreement even further.

Turning Israeli scholars into untouchables goes against the very essence o f academic freedom. This argument helped overturn last year's boycott of two Israeli universities by the Association of University Teachers. In addition to academic freedom, there's another important issue at stake here. As Harvard President Larry Summers pointed out with respect to anti-Israel divestment campaigns on American campuses, such actions are anti-Semitic in effect if not intent.

Anti-Zionists usually reject that charge as a diversion to silence Israel's critics. But to claim that attacks on the world's only Jewish state can never sink to the level of anti-Semitism is to obfuscate two millennia of history. So how to differentiate legitimate criticism of Israel from that 2,000-year-old disease?

Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident and Israeli ex-minister, has devised a "3-D test." The first "D" is demonization. In earlier times, Jews were vilified as "Christ killers." Today's equivalent is the charge that Israelis act like Nazis. Calling Israel an apartheid state is this lie's twisted little brother. Demonization leads to the second "D," delegitimization. Just as Judaism was once deemed illegitimate, Israel is said to have no right to exist. And finally, there is a "D" for double standard. Even if all the inflated and imagined charges against Israel were true, why is it singled out? Why are there no boycott calls to stop China's occupation of Tibet, Russia's scorched earth policy in Chechnya or Sudan's genocide campaigns? The British resolution hits all three D's.

Anti-Semitism, along with anti-Americanism, is the glue that links the radical left with those who deserve its highest condemnation: misogynist, racist, illiberal theocrats from the Middle East. And so the academics' resolution condemns not only Israel but also the British government's "outrageous bias" against Hamas. The only thing that's outrageous here is what passes as intellectual discourse these days.

Bien dicho

En lo de Luis:

Editorial de La Nación de hoy.

Me produce una enorme frustración seguir perdiendo el tiempo con estos temas, que deberían haber quedado superados hace años, en lugar de dedicar nuestras energías a solucionar alguno de los gravísimos problemas del país. Pero bueno, así son las cosas en Argentina.

Debo admitir que me sorprende muy gratamente que por lo menos en algún medio argentino se pueda encontrar algo de racionalidad, moderación y sentido común. ¿Nos estaremos dando cuenta de que la mierda es mierda por más que te la vendan en frasco de dulce de leche?:

Memoria y pacificación

El desafiante mensaje emitido anteayer por el presidente Néstor Kirchner a quienes lo escuchaban en el acto central del Día del Ejército fue innecesario y contraproducente. Probablemente mal asesorado, el primer mandatario parece creer que, día tras día, necesita reafirmar su autoridad ante las Fuerzas Armadas con gestos no exentos de agresividad. No advierte que, de esta manera, sólo despierta un gratuito resentimiento entre oficiales comprometidos con las instituciones de la República, al tiempo que siembra desconcierto y dudas en la sociedad acerca del grado de ese compromiso democrático de los uniformados.

Expresar ante la formación castrense reunida en el Colegio Militar, durante los festejos por el Día del Ejército, "No tengo miedo, ni les tengo miedo", sólo puede dejarle la sensación a cualquier observador objetivo de que se está ante un grupo de sediciosos.

Nada resulta más alejado de la realidad. Al margen de muy aisladas reivindicaciones de un terrorismo de Estado que, en rigor, se inició durante el gobierno de María Estela Martínez de Perón y se profundizó con el régimen militar de 1976, debería destacarse que las Fuerzas Armadas han sido el sector que más avanzó en los últimos años en la autocrítica tan imprescindible frente a nuestro trágico pasado. Autocrítica que ni la clase política ni otros sectores de la sociedad -incluida la prensa- han hecho con la misma valentía. Y qué decir de quienes, habiendo integrado organizaciones guerrilleras que sembraron el terror, hoy todavía se jactan de haber diseminado el odio y la muerte.

El 1º de junio de 1970 un grupo de terroristas, que dos días antes había emergido al conocimiento público asumiendo con el nombre de Montoneros la responsabilidad del secuestro del general Pedro Eugenio Aramburu, hacía conocer su "ejecución".

A un día de cumplirse 36 años de aquel suceso, debemos lamentarnos de que los odios, errores y desvíos morales que motivaron a quienes cometieron aquel asesinato interfieran nuevamente en la búsqueda de nuestra convivencia social.

Con el pretexto de la memoria y la justicia, se han resucitado divisiones y se están exacerbando pasiones desde las más altas esferas del Gobierno, haciendo esa memoria parcial y convirtiendo la justicia en venganza. Se han anulado las leyes de obediencia debida y punto final y sus efectos, con carácter retroactivo, pero se exime a los crímenes del terrorismo de las organizaciones guerrilleras de la calificación de delitos de lesa humanidad. Y no se les reconoce oficialmente a las víctimas de la subversión siquiera la posibilidad del homenaje. Miembros de organizaciones subversivas gozan de la libertad lograda por indultos y amnistías, ocupan en ciertos casos cargos públicos y, además, se constituyen en jueces y censores.

Se han desandado los avances logrados en anteriores gobiernos democráticos y se está transitando un camino opuesto al que recorren los países que han sabido superar los errores trágicos de su historia.

Se torna imprescindible volver a transitar por el camino de la reconciliación nacional. Es de esperar que el recuerdo del asesinato de Aramburu sirva para recapacitar sobre el carácter siempre perverso de toda violencia. Y que también contribuya a una visión más equilibrada de la escalada terrorista de uno y otro sector, que sucedió a aquel asesinato. Este equilibrio exige que se reconozcan las culpas de ambos lados. Sólo así se podrá transformar el odio en la búsqueda del amor y de la paz que nuestro país tanto necesita.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Cuidado Chavez...

Una buena parte de los encuestados por el San Francisco Chronicle te ve como una salida facil para bajar el precio del combustible...

The $10,000 Light Bulb …

Or, why it's so hard to measure inflation.

By Tim Harford

If you are lucky enough to visit the spectacular Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria, your eye may be caught by one of Pieter Bruegel's most famous works, "Peasant Wedding." The painting depicts a feast table packed with peasants fully absorbed with the task of eating and drinking while a vast stretcher of tempting pies is carried past.

It seems that the lives of our 16th-century forebears were not always cripplingly harsh. Economists, being economists, wish to know just how poor or how prosperous life used to be. We do have historical information about how much money people earned, but that is no use unless we know how much things used to cost. So economists calculate something called the inflation rate, which is an attempt to adjust for the effect of increasing prices.

But which increasing prices? Flipping through the Montgomery Ward mail-order catalog, which began publication in 1893, economic historian J. Bradford DeLong calculates that a simple bicycle cost 260 hours' wages for the typical worker in 1895 and just 7.2 hours' wages in 2000. But silver spoons actually cost more hours of labor today than in 1895. Your personal inflation rate depends on whether you are spending your money on bicycles or spoons.

The official inflation rate tries to compare the price of a typical bundle of goods today with that of a typical bundle of goods in the past. But we do not consume the same goods today as we did in the past. How many Walkmans in an iPod? The question has no sensible answer, but an answer, nevertheless, is codified in the official inflation rate.

You can be forgiven for thinking that this is an irrelevant intellectual game. You will not, of course, be thinking that if your pension or salary is linked to the inflation rate.

In recent years, received wisdom among economists has been that the inflation rate has been overstated because of unmeasured improvements in quality. Home computers have not only become cheaper but dramatically better, and failure to fully adjust for the quality improvements would overestimate the inflation rate and underestimate how much better off we are compared with previous generations.

A highly influential paper by Yale economist William Nordhaus made the point forcefully. He studied not commodities like bicycles or spoons but a service: light. By tracking lighting technology from campfires to oil lamps to today's energy-saving light bulbs, he estimated that the real price of light had fallen 10,000-fold in 100 years. Partly because of Nordhaus' work, many economists believe that the official statistics on wages underestimate how much richer we have become.

Light and computers are getting better at a rate unmeasured by inflation figures, but perhaps those figures err on the other side for different products. Economic historian Robert Gordon thinks that the focus on high-tech goods has distracted attention from two very important products for which inflation is higher than the official figures show. Women's clothes, for example, command high prices at the beginning of every season, before finishing the season in the bargain bin and being replaced by new fashions, once more at high prices. It would be easy for a statistical analysis to mistake that pattern for a year-in, year-out dramatic fall in the price of women's clothes. My wife testifies that they are not as cheap as I seem to think. Gordon, a little more scientifically, used detailed listings from catalogs to measure both price and quality of clothes.

Many economists still think that inflation is overestimated and we have therefore been getting richer faster than the official statistics show. But Gordon must have a point: If we have been getting rich that quickly, then our ancestors were impossibly poor. Gordon calculated that if the recent estimates of price bias are projected backward, Bruegel's peasant household would have had an income of less than $6 a year and been able to afford less than an ounce of potatoes a day back in 1569. That would have made for a different picture.

Interesante articulo del WP: The Tempest

By Joel Achenbach
Washington Post, Sunday, May 28, 2006

As evidence mounts that humans are causing dangerous changes in Earth's climate, a handful of skeptics are providing some serious blowback

IT SHOULD BE GLORIOUS TO BE BILL GRAY, professor emeritus. He is often called the World's Most Famous Hurricane Expert. He's the guy who, every year, predicts the number of hurricanes that will form during the coming tropical storm season. He works on a country road leading into the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, in the atmospheric science department of Colorado State University. He's mentored dozens of scientists. By rights, Bill Gray should be in deep clover, enjoying retirement, pausing only to collect the occasional lifetime achievement award.

He's a towering figure in his profession and in person. He's 6 feet 5 inches tall, handsome, with blue eyes and white hair combed straight back. He's still lanky, like the baseball player he used to be back at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington in the 1940s. When he wears a suit, a dark shirt and tinted sunglasses, you can imagine him as a casino owner or a Hollywood mogul. In a room jammed with scientists, you'd probably notice him first.

He's loud. His laugh is gale force. His personality threatens to spill into the hallway and onto the chaparral. He can be very charming.

But he's also angry. He's outraged.

He recently had a public shouting match with one of his former students. It went on for 45 minutes.

He was supposed to debate another scientist at a weather conference, but the organizer found him to be too obstreperous, and disinvited him.

Much of his government funding has dried up. He has had to put his own money, more than $100,000, into keeping his research going. He feels intellectually abandoned. If none of his colleagues comes to his funeral, he says, that'll be evidence that he had the courage to say what they were afraid to admit.

Which is this: Global warming is a hoax.

"I am of the opinion that this is one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated on the American people," he says when I visit him in his office on a sunny spring afternoon.

He has testified about this to the United States Senate. He has written magazine articles, given speeches, done everything he could to get the message out. His scientific position relies heavily on what is known as the Argument From Authority. He's the authority.

"I've been in meteorology over 50 years. I've worked damn hard, and I've been around. My feeling is some of us older guys who've been around have not been asked about this. It's sort of a baby boomer, yuppie thing."

Gray believes in the obs. The observations. Direct measurements. Numerical models can't be trusted. Equation pushers with fancy computers aren't the equals of scientists who fly into hurricanes.

"Few people know what I know. I've been in the tropics, I've flown in airplanes into storms. I've done studies of convection, cloud clusters and how the moist process works. I don't think anybody in the world understands how the atmosphere functions better than me."

In just three, five, maybe eight years, he says, the world will begin to cool again.

We sit in his office for 2 1/2 hours, until the sun drops behind the mountains, and when we're done he offers to keep talking until midnight. He is almost desperate to be heard. His time is short. He is 76 years old. He is howling in a maelstrom.

Parallel Earths

Since the dawn of the industrial era, atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen steadily from about 280 to about 380 parts per million. In the past century, the average surface temperature of Earth has warmed about 1 degree Fahrenheit. Much of that warming has been in the past three decades. Regional effects can be more dramatic: The Arctic is melting at an alarming rate. Arctic sea ice is 40 percent thinner than it was in the 1970s. Glaciers in Greenland are speeding up as they slide toward the sea. A recent report shows Antarctica losing as much as 36 cubic miles of ice a year.

The permafrost is melting across broad swaths of Alaska, Canada and Siberia. Tree-devouring beetles, common in the American Southwest, are suddenly ravaging the evergreen forests of British Columbia. Coral reefs are bleaching, scalded by overheated tropical waters. There appear to have been more strong hurricanes and cyclones in recent decades, Category 3 and higher -- such as Katrina.

The 1990s were the warmest decade on record. The year 1998 set the all-time mark. This decade is on its way to setting a new standard, with a succession of scorchers. The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a global effort involving hundreds of climate scientists and the governments of 100 nations, projected in 2001 that, depending on the rate of greenhouse gas emissions and general climate sensitivities, the global average temperature would rise 2.5 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit between 1990 and 2100. Sea levels could rise just a few inches, or nearly three feet.

All of the above is part of the emerging, solidifying scientific consensus on global warming -- a consensus that raises the urgent political and economic issue of climate change. This isn't a theory anymore. This is happening now. Business as usual, many scientists say, could lead to a wildly destabilized climate for the first time since the dawn of human civilization.

But when you step into the realm of the skeptics, you find yourself on a parallel Earth.

It is a planet where global warming isn't happening -- or, if it is happening, isn't happening because of human beings. Or, if it is happening because of human beings, isn't going to be a big problem. And, even if it is a big problem, we can't realistically do anything about it other than adapt.

Certainly there's no consensus on global warming, they say. There is only abundant uncertainty. The IPCC process is a sham, a mechanism for turning vague scientific statements into headline-grabbing alarmism. Drastic actions such as mandated cuts in carbon emissions would be imprudent. Alternative sources of energy are fine, they say, but let's not be naive. We are an energy-intensive civilization. To obtain the kind of energy we need, we must burn fossil fuels. We must emit carbon. That's the real world.

Since the late 1980s, when oil, gas, coal, auto and chemical companies formed the Global Climate Coalition, industries have poured millions of dollars into a campaign to discredit the emerging global warming consensus. The coalition disbanded a few years ago (some members recast themselves as "green"), but the skeptic community remains rambunctious. Many skeptics work in think tanks, such as the George C. Marshall Institute or the National Center for Policy Analysis. They have the ear of powerful leaders in the White House and on Capitol Hill. The skeptics helped scuttle any possibility that the United States would ratify the Kyoto treaty that would have committed the nation to cuts in greenhouse gas emissions (conservatives object to the treaty for, among other things, not requiring reductions by developing nations such as China and India).

In the world of the skeptics you'll come across Richard Lindzen, an MIT climate scientist who has steadfastly maintained for years that clouds and water vapor will counteract the greenhouse emissions of human beings. You'll find S. Fred Singer, author of Hot Talk, Cold Science, who points to the positive side of the melting Arctic: "We spent 500 years looking for a Northwest Passage, and now we've got one." You'll quickly run across Pat Michaels, the University of Virginia climatologist and author of Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians and the Media . You might dip into, the online clearinghouse for anti-global-warming punditry. You'll meet the Cooler Heads Coalition and the Greening Earth Society.

The skeptics point to the global temperature graph for the past century. Notice how, after rising steadily in the early 20th century, in 1940 the temperature suddenly levels off. No -- it goes down! For the next 35 years! If the planet is getting steadily warmer due to Industrial Age greenhouse gases, why did it get cooler when industries began belching out carbon dioxide at full tilt at the start of World War II?

Now look at the ice in Antarctica: Getting thicker in places!

Sea level rise? It's actually dropping around certain islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans.

There are all these . . . anomalies.

The skeptics scoff at climate models. They're just computer programs. They have to interpret innumerable feedback loops, all the convective forces, the evaporation, the winds, the ocean currents, the changing albedo (reflectivity) of Earth's surface, on and on and on.

Bill Gray has a favorite diagram, taken from a 1985 climate model, showing little nodules in the center with such labels as "thermal inertia" and "net energy balance" and "latent heat flux" and "subsurface heat storage" and "absorbed heat radiation" and so on, and they are emitting arrows that curve and loop in all directions, bumping into yet more jargon, like "soil moisture" and "surface roughness" and "vertical wind" and "meltwater" and "volcanoes."

"It's a big can of worms!" Gray says. It's his favorite line.

The models can't even predict the weather in two weeks, much less 100 years, he says.

"They sit in this ivory tower, playing around, and they don't tell us if this is going to be a hot summer coming up. Why not? Because the models are no damn good!"

Gray says the recent rash of strong hurricanes is just part of a cycle. This is part of the broader skeptical message: Climate change is normal and natural. There was a Medieval Warm Period, for example, long before Exxon Mobil existed.

Sterling Burnett, a skeptic who is a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas, says that even if he's wrong about global warming, mandating cuts in carbon emissions would mean economic disaster for poor countries, and cost jobs in America: "I don't know any politician anywhere who is going to run on a platform of saying, 'I'm

going to put you out of work.'"

The skeptics don't have to win the argument, they just have to stay in the game, keep things stirred up and make sure the politicians don't pass any laws that have dangerous climate change as a premise. They're winning that battle. The Senate had hearings on climate change this spring but has put off action for now. The Bush administration is hoping for some kind of technological solution and won't commit itself to cuts in emissions.

The skeptics have a final trump in the argument: Climate change is actually good. Growing seasons will be longer. Plants like carbon dioxide. Trees devour it. This demonized molecule, CO2, isn't some kind of toxin or contaminant or pollutant -- it's fertilizer.

The Free Market Solution: Zoos
AL GORE IS ABOUT TO COME ON THE BIG SCREEN. Fred Smith is eagerly awaiting the moment. We're at a media

preview of "An Inconvenient Truth," the documentary on Gore and global warming (it debuts this week in Washington). Smith is not exactly a Gore groupie. He is the head of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a factory for global warming skepticism.

CEI has 28 people on staff, "half a platoon," Smith likes to say. They're in the persuasion business, fighting for the free market. They lobby against government regulations of all kinds. Smith writes articles with titles such as "Eco-Socialism: Threat to Liberty Around the World." These promoters of capitalism don't really operate a commercial enterprise; like any think tank, CEI relies on donations from individuals, foundations and corporations. The most generous sponsors of last year's annual dinner at the Capital Hilton were the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Exxon Mobil, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and Pfizer. Other contributors included General Motors, the American Petroleum Institute, the American Plastics Council, the Chlorine Chemistry Council and Arch Coal.

Smith is short, stocky, bearded. He talks extremely fast and sprinkles his remarks with free market jargon, climate change lingo, historical references and various mysterious words that seem to come from a secret conservatives-only code book.

As we wait for the movie to start, I ask him how he would define his political beliefs. "Classical liberal," he says. He explains that civilization is a means for allowing individuals to liberate their energies and their genius -- an emergence from primitive, tribal, collectivist social arrangements. When humans switch from collectivism to private property, he says, "you have greater freedom of ideas." This prompts the thought that the federal government owns way too much land in the West. Much of it should be privatized, he says.

Including national parks? I ask.

"Probably wouldn't touch it for political reasons," he says.

The movie begins: Images of a river. Lush foliage. Gore's voice, almost sultry, rhapsodizes about nature. Then we see him take a stage in an auditorium. He is in a suit and tie and looks very much like a candidate for political office.

"Maybe he is running," Smith says.

When Gore shows a big graph of rising CO2, Smith says, "That's a phony scale."

The film shows footage from Hurricane Katrina.

"It was a Category 3 hurricane," Smith says. Not the Cat 5, at landfall, you keep hearing about.

Gore reveals that insurance losses because of hurricanes have steadily climbed.

"That's just dishonest," Smith says. There are more beach houses and so on -- it's just an infrastructure issue.

Subsequent visits to the Competitive Enterprise Institute show Smith in his element. The think tank is a warren of offices lined with framed magazine advertisements from the 1950s and earlier. These are images of the Golden Age of American Commerce, when cars were like luxury liners and chemical companies bragged about their mosquito-annihilating concoctions.

"New Guinea is an island gripped in the vise of high, jagged mountain ranges . . . Choking entangling jungle is everywhere . . . In this appalling setting, aviation made an epic conquest." That's ad copy for the Socony-Vacuum oil company, later known as Mobil.

Smith loves this stuff. Those were the days! The message: Free enterprise brings people together and improves their lives. It was the Better Living Through Chemistry era. Smith points out an ad for Weyerhaeuser Timber showing clear-cut forests on a mountainside and two raccoons tussling with one another on the stump of a Douglas fir. Another photo, lower, shows a frame house. You can clearly see that cutting forests benefits people. Nowadays, environmentalists want the benefits without any of the pain. "It's all gain, no pain," Smith says.

We pass an asbestos ad.

"When I was a kid, this was called the miracle mineral," he says.

Although Smith can be rambling and digressive, he has a team of analysts who know the global warming topic inside and out and can quickly produce the latest nugget of potentially contradictory evidence (Greenland melted faster in the 1920s!). What rankles them most of all is the suggestion that global warming is a problem that must be fixed by the government, top down, through regulations. Let the free market work its genius, they say. Countries with thriving economies will, in the long run, be more adaptive to climate change and will find more technological solutions than countries that hamstring themselves by clamping down on greenhouse emissions.

Smith's office has a grand view of Farragut Square and the Washington Monument in the distance. A man named Chris Horner, general counsel of the Cooler Heads Coalition, joins us, as does, popping in and out, Marlo Lewis, a CEI policy analyst who works on climate change. They lapse several times into the Secret Code.

"Terrible toos," Horner says. I'm confused. He explains that it's shorthand for environmental doom and gloom.

"Terrible toos. Too many people, using too many resources."

Smith has a different equation: "Less people, less affluence, less technology: We call that death, poverty and ignorance."

They believe the rise of carbon dioxide may be a symptom of global warming, not the cause. Look at the chart Gore used:

Didn't it look like the warming comes before the CO2 increase?

Lewis says the snows of Kilimanjaro have been in retreat since the 1880s. The climate there is not getting warmer, it's getting drier. Just won't snow.

They see economic growth as an all-purpose cure for environmental problems. Rich societies are environmentally resilient; poor societies have dirty power plants and sooty huts. Government regulations aren't necessary. I ask Lewis if he thinks the Clean Air Act is a good idea. "It depends," he

answers. There follows a complicated riff from Smith about common law property rights and English fishermen suing upstream polluters in the 19th century.

Smith takes an abrupt detour into the issue of endangered species. The solution is to let the private sector handle it. They should be privatized, like pets or livestock. Dogs, cats, chickens, pigs: These creatures won't ever go extinct.

I want to make sure I understand what he is saying, so I begin to ask a question: "For endangered species, people should --"

"-- own them," Smith says.

But isn't there a difference between animals that live in zoos and animals that live in the wild?

"Yes and no," Smith says. " 'Zoo' is a pejorative term that PETA has turned into an animal slavery community. A zoo is nothing more than an elaborate ark."

What's unnatural, Smith says, is wilderness. The so-called wilderness of early America used to be inhabited by Indians, and they changed their environment. "They burned down trees, they burned forests, they ran buffaloes over cliffs. They were not dancing with wolves," he says. "Wilderness is the least natural part of this planet."

Human beings, in his view, are not apart from nature but very much of it, and thus whatever human beings do is natural. Environmentalists view human activity as a blemish, and animal activity as noble and good. If Manhattan had been built by termites, environmentalists would make it a World Heritage Site, Smith says. If the Grand Canyon had been the result of coal mining, he says, "Al Gore would say, 'This is horrible.'"

Horner talks about baselines used in climate trends. Why start in 1860? That was the end of the Little Ice Age. Of course the world has warmed since then. That's cheating with the baseline. At one point Horner refers to the "cooling" since 1998 -- a record-breaking year with a major El Niño event in the Pacific. He admits he is being disingenuous.

"We're playing the baseline game," Horner says.

And then -- I'm not even sure how it comes up -- Smith says we can solve the problem of gorillas being killed in Africa. They're caught in the middle of a civil war among African tribes. The solution: Evacuate them. Airlift them out, like soldiers caught behind enemy lines.

"We've got lots of land."

For the gorillas, he means.

"Build a Jurassic Park in Central


Horner says that perhaps we are getting off track.

And Then There's Hitler
LET US BE HONEST about the intellectual culture of America in general: It has become almost impossible to have an intelligent discussion about anything.

Everything is a war now. This is the age of lethal verbal combat, where even scientific issues involving measurements and molecules are somehow supernaturally polarizing. The controversy about global warming resides all too perfectly at the collision point of environmentalism and free market capitalism. It's bound to be not only politicized but twisted, mangled and beaten senseless in the process. The divisive nature of global warming isn't helped by the fact that the most powerful global-warming skeptic (at least by reputation) is President Bush, and the loudest warnings come from Al Gore.

Human beings may be large of brain, but they are social animals, too, like wolves, and are prone to behave in packs. So when something like climate change comes up, the first thing people want to know is, whose side are you on? All those climatic variables and uncertainties and probabilities and "forcings" and "feedback loops," those cans of worms that Bill Gray talks about, get boiled down to their essence. Are you with us or against us?

Somehow Hitler keeps popping into the discussion. Gore draws a parallel between fighting global warming and fighting the Nazis. Novelist Michael Crichton, in State of Fear , ends with an appendix comparing the theory of global warming to the theory of eugenics -- the belief, prominently promoted by Nazis, that the gene pool of the human species was degenerating due to higher reproductive rates of "inferior" people. Both, he contends, are examples of junk science, supported by intellectual elites who will later conveniently forget they signed on to such craziness.

And Gray has no governor on his rhetoric. At one point during our meeting in Colorado he blurts out, "Gore believed in global warming almost as much as Hitler believed there was something wrong with the Jews."

When I opine that he is incendiary, he answers: "Yes, I am incendiary. But the other side is just as incendiary. The etiquette of science has long ago been thrown out the window."

In a media-saturated world, it's hard to get anyone's attention without cranking the volume. Time magazine recently declared that Earth looks like a planet that is sick (cover headline: "Be Worried. Be Very Worried"). Vanity Fair published a "worst-case scenario" photo illustration of Manhattan drowned by an 80-foot sea-level rise, the skyscrapers poking up from what has become part of the Atlantic Ocean. That's not inconceivable over the course of many centuries, but the scientific consensus (IPCC, 2001) is that by 2100 sea level will have risen somewhere between three and 34 inches from its 1990 level.

The news media -- always infatuated with doom (were it not for the obvious ramifications for ratings and circulation, the media would love to cover the End of the World) -- struggle to resist the most calamitous-sounding climate scenarios. Consider the January 2005 survey of thousands of climate change models that showed a very wide range of possibilities. One model at the very extreme had a worst-case-scenario warming of 11 degrees Celsius -- which is nearly 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

"The world is likely to heat up by an average of 11ºC by the end of the century, the biggest-ever study of global warming showed yesterday," the London Evening Standard reported online. This would cause "a surge in sea levels threatening the lives of billions of people."

Wrong, but whatever.

The skeptics feed on alarmism. They love any sign that global warming is a case of mass hysteria. Someone like Myron Ebell, an analyst at CEI, freely admits that, as an advocate in a politicized battle, he tries to make "the best case against alarmism." Everyone, on both sides, is arguing like a lawyer these days, he says. "What is going on right now is a desperate last-ditch Battle of the Bulge type effort by the forces of darkness, which is relying heavily on the lockstep/groupthink scientific community."

The president's science adviser, John Marburger, thinks the politicized debate has made it almost impossible to talk sensibly about the issue. "There seems to be the general feeling that somehow the administration doesn't feel that climate change is happening," he says. "That's completely wrong." The administration just doesn't think the problem can be solved with the "magic wand" of regulation.

Marburger recently declined to go on "60 Minutes" to address allegations that

federal scientists were being muzzled and government reports rewritten by the White House to minimize concerns about global warming. "In general the public discourse on this has gotten completely off the track, and we're never going to straighten it out on '60 Minutes,'" Marburger says.

This issue forces Americans to sort through a great deal of science, technology and economics, all of it saturated in divisive politics. Many Americans haven't really tuned in. A Gallup poll in March showed that global warming is far down the list of concerns among Americans -- even when asked to rank their environmental worries. More Americans were worried about damage to the ozone layer. No doubt some people have the two issues confused. Both involve air, and emissions of some kind, and some worrisome global effect. But the ozone issue, while hardly solved, has at least been seriously addressed with a global ban on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

Climate change takes place on time scales of decades and centuries. In a 24-hour information society, it is hard to keep the year 2100 in mind. But these changes are happening at a geologically rapid pace. For roughly the past 10,000 years, since the end of the last Ice Age, human beings have enjoyed a relatively stable, comfortable "interglacial" period, during which they've invented everything from agriculture to moon rockets. Nomadic bands of hunters and gatherers have given way to more than 6 billion people, largely urbanized and energy-hungry. Pressure on ecosystems is immense. Biologists warn of a "sixth extinction" -- the sixth mass extinction of species since the rise of multicellular organisms about 600 million years ago. The most recent mass extinction, 65 million years ago, was apparently caused by a mountain-size object striking Earth. Human civilization, in this view, is like an asteroid hitting the planet.

The expansion of human civilization is an experiment on a global scale: What happens when a species obtains not only intelligence but technology? Do intelligent, technological species tend to survive for a long time -- or bring their environment crashing down around them?

The Hurricane Conference
BILL GRAY HAS THE HONOR of delivering the closing remarks at the National Hurricane Conference in Orlando. It's mid-April, and we're at a fancy hotel on International Drive, a main street for the tourist industry that has sprouted from the orange groves and cow pastures of central Florida. Gray seems to be everywhere, constantly talking, popping out to the terrace by the pool to give TV interviews, holding forth without any hint of fatigue. He has three media assistants following him around. They are working under contract for TCSDaily, a Web site that is a nexus of anti-global-warming arguments.

They set up two news conferences. At both events, Gray gives his standard arguments about global warming, bracketing a dispassionate discussion of the upcoming tropical storm season by his young protege, Phil Klotzbach. The two are a sight to behold: Gray, the white-haired titan, thunderous, outraged, and Klotzbach, red-haired, freckled, very calm, very mild, looking so much younger than his 25 years.

"I think there's a lot of foolishness going on," Gray says as he stands before a bank of 10 TV cameras and a couple of dozen journalists.

Hurricanes aren't getting worse -- we're just in an uptick of a regular cycle. But the alarmists won't let anyone believe that.

"The world is boiling! It's getting worse and worse!" Gray shouts. "Hell is approaching."

He was a paperboy in Washington in the 1940s, he says. There were stories back then about global warming. But then it got cooler, for decades, and by the mid-1970s the story had changed, and scientists were warning of -- yes -- an Ice Age! Gray shows a slide of magazine covers in the mid-1970s (Science Digest, 1973; Newsweek, 1975) fretting about the Cooling World.

The core of Gray's argument is that the warming of the past decades is a natural cycle, driven by a global ocean circulation that manifests itself in the North Atlantic as the Gulf Stream. Warm water and cool water essentially rise and fall in a rhythm lasting decades. "I don't think this warming period of the last 30 years can keep on going," he says. "It may warm another three, five, eight years, and then it will start to cool."

Gray's crusade against global warming "hysteria" began in the early 1990s, when he saw enormous sums of federal research money going toward computer modeling rather than his kind of science, the old-fashioned stuff based on direct observation. Gray often cites the ascendancy of Gore to the vice presidency as the start of his own problems with federal funding. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) stopped giving him research grants. So did NASA. All the money was going to computer models. The field was going off on this wild tangent.

Numerical models can't predict the future, he says. They don't even pretend to predict the weather in the coming season -- "but they make predictions of 50 or 100 years from now and ask you to believe the Earth will get warmer."

The modelers are equation pushers.

"They haven't been down in the trenches, making forecasts and understanding stuff!"

The news media are self-interested.

"Media people are all out for Pulitzer Prizes!"

The IPCC is elitist.

"They don't talk to us! I've never been approached by the IPCC."

He spots a famous meteorologist in the back of the room. It's Neil Frank, former

director of the National Hurricane Center.

"Neil, have they ever approached you?"

"No," Frank answers.

A TV reporter asks Gray a key question: "What if you're wrong?"

"We can't do anything about it if I'm wrong. China and India are going to burn fossil fuels."

After Gray finishes, he gives more interviews. Frank, waiting in the wings, tells me he agrees with Gray.

"It's a hoax," he says. He says cutting carbon emissions would wind up hurting poor people. I ask if he thinks more CO2 in the air would be a good thing.

"Exactly! Maybe we're living in a carbon dioxide-starved world. We don't know."

Skeptics and Conspiracies
THE SKEPTICS DON'T AGREE with one another. They will privately distance themselves from other skeptics ("I think he's full of beans") while maintaining a certain public solidarity against the Forces of Fear. Pat Michaels, the U-Va. climatologist, doesn't even want to be called a skeptic.

"I believe in climate change caused by human beings," Michaels says. "What I'm skeptical about is the glib notion that it means the end of the world as we know it."

John Christy, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, says: "We're skeptical that the observations we see now are indicating catastrophic change. And we're skeptical of our capability to truly understand the climate system, how it works, and so on, and therefore predict its evolution."

Of all the skeptics, MIT's Richard Lindzen probably has the most credibility among mainstream scientists, who acknowledge that he's doing serious research on the subject. Lindzen contends that water vapor and clouds, which will increase in a warmer world because of higher rates of evaporation, create "negative feedbacks" that counter the warming trend. "The only reason the models get such a big response is that, in models, the most important greenhouse substances, which are water vapor and clouds, act to take anything man does and make it worse," he says. Observations show otherwise, he says.

Lindzen argues that the climate models can't be right, because we've already raised CO2 and methane dramatically, and the planet simply hasn't warmed that much. But Isaac Held, a NOAA modeler, says Lindzen is jumping the gun, because the greenhouse gases take time -- decades, centuries -- to have their full impact. Indeed, we've already made a "commitment" to warming. We couldn't stop global warming at this point if we closed every factory and curbed every car. The mainstream argument is that we could minimize the increase, and reduce the risk of a dangerous, unstable, white-knuckle climate change.

Held studied under Lindzen years ago and considers him a friend and a smart scientist -- but highly contrarian.

"There're people like [Lindzen] in every field of science. There are always people in the fringes. They're attracted to the fringe . . . It may be as simple as, how do you prove you're smarter than everyone else? You don't do that by being part of the consensus," Held says.

The most vocal partisans in the climate change debate often describe their opponents as part of a conspiracy, of sorts. Both sides think the other side has a monetary or political incentive to skew the data. But there are people in this battle who fervently believe in what they say. Bill Gray says he takes no fossil-fuel money. He's simply sick and tired of squishy-minded hand-wringing equation-pushing computer jocks who've never flown into a hurricane!

Gray has his own conspiracy theory. He has made a list of 15 reasons for the global warming hysteria. The list includes the need to come up with an enemy after the end of the Cold War, and the desire among scientists, government leaders and environmentalists to find a political cause that would enable them to "organize, propagandize, force conformity and exercise political influence. Big world government could best lead (and control) us to a better world!"

Gray admits that he has a dark take on human nature: "I have a demonic view on this."

The most notorious example of climate change conspiracy-mongering is in Crichton's State of Fear . The villain is the director of an environmental organization. He's in league with radical environmentalists who kill people at the drop of a hat as part of a plot to trigger natural disasters that will somehow advance the theory of global warming. The novel's fans include the president of the United States, who met with Crichton in the White House.

There's a certain kind of skeptic who has no patience for the official consensus, especially if it has the imprimatur of a government, or worse, the United Nations. They focus on ambiguities and mysteries and things that just don't add up. They say the Official Story can't possibly be true, because it doesn't explain the [insert inexplicable data point here]. They set a high standard for reality -- it must never be fuzzy around the edges.

"They argue not as scientists but as lawyers," says Pieter Tans, who runs a lab at NOAA in Boulder, Colo., where he examines bottles of air taken from monitoring stations all over the planet. "When they argue, they pick one piece of the fabric of evidence and blow it up all out of proportion . . . Their purpose is to confuse, so that the public gets the idea that there is a raging scientific debate. There is no raging scientific debate."

Some of the anomalies cited by the skeptics go away over time. Remember that graph showing the world's temperature leveling off and actually cooling from 1940 to 1975, even as the industrial economies of the planet were going full blast? The mainstream climate scientists think one factor may have been air pollution -- aerosols pumped out by smokestacks, dimming sunlight before it reached the surface. In the early 1970s, governments passed air pollution controls, such as the Clean Air Act, that required scrubbers on smokestacks. The skies cleared. And the temperature has been racing upward ever since.

What about the Medieval Warm Period? If human industry causes warming, why were the Vikings sailing around the North Atlantic to godforsaken places like Greenland and setting up farming communities 1,000 years ago? Many scientists answer that the Medieval Warm Period wasn't a global phenomenon. You can't draw global conclusions from the experience of the North Atlantic.

"There is this misperception that global change is a spatially uniform and smooth in time process," says Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist at MIT. "In fact that's not true. There's all kind of variability. You can find places in the world where the temperature has gone down for the past 50 years. When you're looking for a signal in a very noisy record you do as much averaging as possible."

So what about all those fears, back in the 1970s, of a coming Ice Age? It was a minor issue among serious climate scientists. One paper commonly cited by skeptics as an example of Ice Age doomsaying merely stated that, absent any human-driven global warming, an Ice Age might return in 20,000 years.

The most famous anomaly, long cited by skeptics, was the satellite data. It didn't show the warming of the lower atmosphere.

It flatly contradicted the surface measurements. Earlier this month, the U.S. Climate Change Science Program announced that a re-analysis of the data resolved most of the discrepancy. Anomaly gone. Arch-skeptic Fred Singer says there's still some inconsistency, but the advocates of the consensus view of global warming feel vindicated. ("Game over," one environmentalist told The Washington Post.)

Scientists are argumentative by nature. They're supposed to be. They're supposed to attempt to disprove the hypotheses and claims of their fellow scientists. Theories are hazed unmercifully. And when they emerge from that trial-by-skepticism, they are all the more respected.

Certain skeptics -- really, they're optimists -- have scored debate points by noting that prophesies of doom have often slammed into a wall of human resourcefulness. But you can't solve a problem if you spend decades failing to perceive it. Humans adapt best when worried.

Or at least not in denial.

Back in Orlando
Climate change is generating headlines almost daily -- (e.g., "Peril to Walrus Young Seen As Result of Melting Ice Shelf") -- but it is also abstruse in its specifics, so journalists rely on "experts" to tell them where the truth lies. Someone like Bill Gray seems to be a fully credentialed authority figure. But when you press him on his theory of how thermohaline circulation has caused recent warming of the planet and will soon cause cooling, he concedes that he hasn't published the idea in any peer-reviewed journal. He's working on it, he says.

The Web site Real Climate, run by a loose group of climate scientists, recently published a detailed refutation of Gray's theory, saying his claims about the ocean circulation lack evidence. The Web site criticized Gray for not adapting to the modern era of meteorology, "which demands hypotheses soundly grounded in quantitative and consistent physical formulations, not seat-of-the-pants flying."

The field has fully embraced numerical modeling, and Gray is increasingly on the fringe. His cranky skepticism has become a tired act among younger scientists. "It's sad," says Emanuel, who has vowed never again to debate Gray in public.

When I ask Gray who his intellectual soul mates are regarding global warming, he responds, "I have nobody really to talk to about this stuff."

That's not entirely true. He has many friends and colleagues, and the meteorologists tend to share his skeptical streak.

I ask if he has ever collaborated on a paper with Richard Lindzen. Gray says he hasn't. He looks a little pained.

"Lindzen, he's a hard guy to deal with," Gray says. "He doesn't think he can learn anything from me."

Which is correct. Lindzen says of Gray: "His knowledge of theory is frustratingly poor, but he knows more about hurricanes than anyone in the world. I regard him in his own peculiar way as a national resource."

In Orlando, the national resource has the honor of closing the hurricane conference with a speech. He and Klotzbach go through their usual routine. Gray talks of global warming foolishness, untrusty numerical models, underappreciated ocean circulation, overly dramatized CO2 increases, the crazy complexity of the weather.

"It becomes an absolute can of worms!"

He seems to be running out of steam just a little bit. He's given so many interviews, he might have lost a little velocity on his fastball. But everyone claps at the end. He throws in a final few words:

"Don't believe everything you read in the paper! This whole business about global warming --"

But he steps from the mike, and his final words are inaudible.

In 20 years, he likes to say, the world will have cooled, and everyone will know he was right all along. When that happens, he says, he hopes someone will put flowers on his grave.

Adapting to Uncertainty
Let us say a word in praise of uncertainty. It is a concession to an interesting and complicated planet that is full of surprises. The fog of uncertainty surrounding climate change is routinely cited as a reason to wait before making cuts in greenhouse emissions. But if we wait for that fog to break, we'll wait forever.

Isaac Held, the NOAA climate modeler, is the first to admit that the models aren't perfect. "Clouds are hard," he says. The models on his computer screen are incomprehensible to the untrained eye. But Held argues that the models are conservative. For global warming to be less of a problem than is currently anticipated, all the uncertainties would have to break, preferentially, toward the benign side of things.

Moreover, we don't even know all the things that we don't know. James Hansen, the prominent NASA scientist, points out that the models don't realistically include ice sheets and the biosphere -- all the plants and animals on Earth. The global climate surely has more surprises for us.

"Our models were not predicting the ozone hole in 1980 when it was discovered," Held says. Scientists are haunted by the realization that if CFCs had been made with a slightly different type of chemistry, they'd have destroyed much of the ozone layer over the entire planet.

Hansen thinks we have less than 10 years to make drastic cuts in greenhouse emissions, lest we reach a "tipping point" at which the climate will be out of our control. Hansen may be a step ahead of the consensus -- but that doesn't mean he's wrong. In the brutally hot summer of 1988, Hansen testified before Congress that the signal of global warming could already be detected amid the noise of natural climate variation. Many of his colleagues scoffed. They thought he'd gotten ahead of the hard data. Judy Curry, a Georgia Tech climate scientist, says: "I thought he was playing politics. But, damn it, he was right."

Curry, who believes the skeptics have mounted a "brilliant disinformation campaign," thinks climate change is being held to a different standard than other societal threats. The skeptics want every uncertainty nailed down before any action is taken.

"Why is that standard being applied to greenhouse warming and not to other risks, like terrorism or military risks or avian flu?" she asks.

Mainstream climate scientists readily accept that there is natural variation in the system. For example, greenhouse gases alone can't melt the Arctic at the alarming rate that has been observed recently. Americans sorting through this issue may feel constrained by all the unknowns. Perhaps they need to adapt to uncertainty, to see uncertainty as the norm, and not as a sign of scientific failure.

Or as an excuse to do nothing.

Our Friend CO2
Ten years ago, Fred Smith says, the Competitive Enterprise Institute had contributions from companies across the board in the petroleum industry. It still gets money from Exxon Mobil, the biggest and most hard-line oil company on the climate change issue, but many of its donors have stopped sending checks.

"They've joined the club."

The club of believers in global warming.

The executives don't understand "resource economics." They lack faith in the free market to solve these issues. And they go to cocktail parties and find out that everyone thinks they're criminals.

"Or their kids come home from school and say, 'Daddy, why are you killing the planet?'"

Smith never sounds morose, though. He's peppy. He thinks his side is still winning the debate. Look at the polls: Americans don't care about global warming.

He'd like to get people believing once again in good old-fashioned industrial activity. CEI has created a new public-service TV spot. Smith and several colleagues gather round as we watch it on a computer monitor. The ad begins with images of people picnicking in Central Park on a beautiful day. A child is shown blowing the seeds of a dandelion. A woman's voice, confident, reassuring, says that all these people are creating something that's all around us:

"It's called carbon dioxide," she says, "CO2."

There's an image of an impoverished woman hacking the ground with a hand tool.

"The fuels that produce CO2 have freed us from a life of backbreaking labor."

We see kids jumping out of a minivan. There are politicians out there who want to label CO2 as a pollutant, the narrator says. We return to the child blowing the dandelion seeds.

"Carbon dioxide: They call it pollution. We call it life."

I'll Take My Avocado Medium Rare'

Coming to the grill this summer: peanuts, mangos and raisins, if marketers get their way


This memorial day, Joe Schoendorf, a venture capitalist based in Palo Alto, Calif., plans to feed a party of 12 with risotto grilled over applewood. To do it, he'll use a pan, just as he would on his stove. He'd also like to grill the family's recipe for almond cake, but his wife and daughter have nixed that plan.

As people across America usher in grilling season this weekend, some unlikely foods are battling for a place on your barbecue. Promoters of everything from avocados and sauerkraut to raisins and peanuts are trying to persuade backyard chefs that their stuff will taste great seared in the open air. They're paying chefs to promote their products as grill-worthy, sending recipes to local newspapers and staging demos at supermarkets.

It's all a challenge for backyard pit masters. Mangos are so easy to burn they can go from caramelized treat to carbonized mess in minutes. Try grilling an overly ripe avocado and you'll have green goop dripping through the grate. And there's the question of whether your guests really want sauerkraut in their barbecue.

In barbecue-obsessed America, where 7% of all home-cooked dinners are now at least in part prepared over the coals, according to market-research firm NPD Group, foods that are seen as good for grilling can rack up extra sales. But it's a bit harder right now for off-the-wall foods to make it onto the fire because prices for grilling staples are likely to be particularly attractive this summer. Beef wholesale prices are down about 8% from a year ago, according to industry-research service Cattle-Fax. Pork and chicken are cheaper too.

Which explains why a 40-foot-long trailer outfitted to look like a giant peanut and supplied with recipes for peanuts as a condiment for grilled foods, is parked at the Georgia Agrirama, an agricultural museum in Tifton, Ga. And this summer Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va., and SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla., San Diego and San Antonio will serve dishes like grilled salmon with peanut sauce from recipes from the peanut board. It's part of a $500,000 National Peanut Board campaign. Linking peanuts to grilling, says Mitch Head, a public-relations consultant for the board, is a way to counter the idea that they're good only as a snack at a baseball game or a sandwich spread.

For marketers like the peanut board, the hope is that foods seen as too exotic or ethnic (mangos and avocados), highfalutin' (duck and veal) or one-dimensional (pears and peanuts) will become all-American, down-home and versatile the minute they begin to sizzle over the briquettes.

The aim, of course, is to nab a sales spike in grilling season. In an analysis of 2005 retail sales, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, which promotes beef consumption, found that volume sales were highest during the weeks before Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day. Grilling "is really what moves our business" in the summer, says Gregg Doud, chief economist for the NCBA.

To win a piece of that business for pears and peanuts means persuading grill jockeys to continue pushing the envelope. Steven Raichlen's "The Barbecue! Bible," first published in 1998, includes recipes for everything from Catalan tomato bread to grilled bananas, and celebrity griller Bobby Flay has been flaming quail, nectarines and the like on the Food Network show Boy Meets Grill for three years.

In a sign of just how competitive the grilling scene is, some food marketers are hoping to persuade editors at local newspapers to run ready-to-print articles about the popularity of grilling their products. Much like the video news releases shown on local television stations, the stories are not paid advertising and their origins may or may not be identified.

One such article quotes chef Melissa Kelly as saying, "Incorporating exotic fruits such as mangos into savory dishes using a lean meat like pork is hotter than ever." The article was paid for by the National Mango Board and the National Pork Board. Ms. Kelly, who co-owns three Primo restaurants in Rockland, Maine, Orlando and Tucson, Ariz., is a paid consultant to the pork board, the board says. (Ms. Kelly didn't respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment.)

The boards, which are funded by mandatory assessments on sales, paid public-relations firm Fleishman-Hillard to prepare the article and Family Features Editorial Syndicate, in Mission, Kan., to distribute it free to midcirculation newspapers, magazines and Web sites.

Both companies say that, even though the material is paid for, it still provides useful information to consumers. "We create pieces that an editorial department would create," says Fleishman-Hillard vice president Kim Bedwell. "The recipes are tested and fit into today's trends." Family Features president Dena Strum Klein says her company requests that it and the sources that compiled the material, such as the commodity boards, be cited, although that is optional.

This summer, Family Features is also syndicating an article about cooking and grilling with raisins, paid for in part by the California Raisin Marketing Board; one about grilling with sauerkraut and Emmentaler cheese, courtesy of the German Agricultural Marketing Board; and another about grilling sandwiches, with recipes by celebrity chef Todd English, who was paid by the Grain Foods Foundation.

The goal of these efforts is clearly commercial, but grilling most foods does have culinary merit, says David Kamen, an associate professor at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., who teaches smoking and grilling. In addition to infusing food with smoky flavor, he says, "it's caramelizing sugars, it's browning proteins, it's rendering out fat, which makes for crispy exteriors." The only foods that don't work on the grill are lean, delicate items like flounder, sole and ripe tomatoes, Mr. Kamen says, because they tend to dry out or fall apart.

For avocado marketers, the Web site -- complete with a Guac-a-Burger videogame -- is part of an attempt to boost consumption in the face of record supply. There will be nearly a billion pounds of avocados on the market this year, up from 800 million last year, according to the California Avocado Commission, thanks to heavy rains in Southern California and import regulations that allow more fruit to enter from Mexico.

For the mango board, grilling addresses another issue: The board's executive director, William Watson, says the group decided to promote grilling with the fruit after a study determined that, while Asians and Hispanics know about mangos, many other Americans don't. Grilling, he says, is a way to put an all-American spin on mangos.