Oil-Backed Lawmakers Hold 'Unusual' Hearing on 'Behalf of Exxon'
By Deirdre Fulton
The Republican-led House Science Committee on Wednesday held an "unusual" hearing, alleged to have been "orchestrated on behalf of ExxonMobil" and criticized as an abuse of congressional power.
Environmentalists and elected officials alike decried the sideshow event, called by committee chair Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) in an attempt to justify subpoenas he recently issued to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and eight organizations and foundations regarding their investigations into whether Exxon deceived on the public and its investors on the issue of climate change. All of the entities that have been subpoenaed have refused to comply.
Members of Congress, including Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), spoke out in Washington, DC, on Wednesday against the House Science Committee's hearing. 350.org
Ahead of the hearing on Wednesday morning, climate action group 350.org noted that at least two of Smith's witnesses, law professors Ronald Rotunda and Elizabeth Price Foley, have significant ties to fossil fuel industry-funded groups such as the Heartland Institute and the Koch-funded Cato Institute.
What's more, 350.org and others pointed out, Smith himself has received hundreds of thousands in donations from the fossil fuel industry over the years—including $24,770 directly from ExxonMobil—"making oil and gas his most generous industry contributor throughout his career."
LIVE on #Periscope: Investigate Exxon, Not the American People. #ExxonKnew w/ Re. Ted W. Lieu https://t.co/fC5doyLdFK— Parachute TV (@Parachute TV)1473858315.0
That's why it's "no surprise he's willing to trample our First Amendment rights in his mad dash to their defense," 350.org executive director May Boeve said Wednesday. "The bottom line is that this hearing is nothing but Smith's attempt to distract us from the real issue: Exxon knew the truth about climate change and Exxon lied."
"This hearing, orchestrated on behalf of ExxonMobil, is a perversion of this important congressional procedure and a complete distraction," added Tamar Lawrence-Samuel of the group Corporate Accountability International.
"The only thing this hearing will prove is that Rep. Smith is capable of cherry-picking a panel of witnesses that validate his views," Lawrence-Samuel said. "Mr. Smith and his denialist colleagues on the House Science Committee are once again using our government to carry out the head-in-sand agenda of their Big Oil campaign funders and it needs to stop. It's time for Rep. Smith to end this charade and let AGs do what they were elected to do."
Watch the hearing below (starting at minute 26:00):
People were tweeting about the hearing and its implications under the hashtag #ExxonKnew, which itself grew out of dual investigations that showed the oil giant spent decades and millions of dollars misleading the public about the threat posed by global warming.
"But instead of investigating ExxonMobil's decades-long deception on climate change, Republicans in charge of the House Science Committee are attacking attorneys general and nonprofits who are trying to protect the public by holding ExxonMobil accountable for their fraud and deceit," Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) said on Wednesday. "The American people—who are facing the toll of climate change every single day—deserve leaders in Congress who believe in science. We deserve leaders who will protect the people, rather than ExxonMobil."
This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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