PBS News Hour Does 'Smart' Meters…Kinda

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“How Smart Are Smart Meters”
Reported by Spencer Michels, PBS News Hour

The eight-minute, fifty-second segment broadcast on 7-20-2012, included 3:42;25 of the industry point of view, 3:05;14 of activists’ point of view, and 48 seconds of exclusive EON footage assembled over the past 3 years. Our comments, a transcript snip, as well as viewer and reader comments are below. Here is a link to Spencer Michels’ blog. But first, if you haven’t seen it, take a look.

Watch Activists Want Smart Meters Gone, Say They’re Bad for Health on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

The ‘Dueling Studies’ Gambit
By Mary Beth Brangan

PBS News Hour reporter Spencer Michels fell into the deceptive trap cleverly laid by the industry pushing wireless technologies.

Spencer, who lives in Marin County, California, one of the main epicenters of the original pushback against the wireless ‘smart’ meter plan, told us he’s wanted to do a story on ‘smart’ meters for the last two years.

But he fell for the industry ‘dueling science studies’ confusion tactics and the lure to accept the word of so-called ‘authorities’ and ‘experts.’ (i.e. Every time an independent researcher does a study showing biological effects from RF exposure, the industry funded doubt machine underwrites a study to deliberately show opposite results through the way the study is constructed. This is not valid science, but unless one has the ability to read studies and spot the obvious flaws, a beginner to this issue can understandably be confused. This follows a pattern of deception mapped out by the cigarette companies that prevented cigarettes from being outlawed or even sanctioned against for over 50 years.)

News Hour reporter Spencer Michels interviews Valeri Hood (rt) and Mary Beth Brangan (back to camera)

We appreciate the opportunity to present some of our reasoning (albeit in a very simplified form) to the mainstream audience of PBS but hope that we have a chance to rebut the inaccuracies, spin and outright lies presented by the ‘experts’ and PG&E and to have our own experts interviewed on PBS News Hour in the future.

Some of the more glaring inaccuracies: 1) 56 cities and counties in California officially passed some kind of objection, ordinance or moratorium to the forced installation of wireless ‘smart’ meters – not 12 as reported by Michels. 2) The World Health Organization, the WHO, May 31, 2012 classified the RF used in ‘smart’ meters as a class 2B possible carcinogen. An outdated 2005 WHO statement was given by the so-called ‘expert’ Macari, and he even misrepresented that 2005 statement. 3) PG&E’s Helen Burt assured Michels that PG&E hasn’t sold anyone’s data gleaned from their meters. However, California Public Utility Commissioner Timothy Simon said in a public meeting that the CPUC hopes to sell the data to interested third parties. The reason they haven’t yet is that the system to do so hasn’t been completed. She also contended that only 30,000 customers want to opt out and that the rest are ‘engaged’ with the technology. We know that many, many thousands of customers have filed complaints and many more wanted to opt out but couldn’t afford the hefty fees to do so. We also know that PG&E lies about numbers that don’t favor them.

Though we linked to them in a previous blog edition, I want to repeat two especially good recent overview statements by our independent experts on RF who are truly concerned about the effects of RF pollution on public health so you can recognize the spin, lies and misinformation more clearly.

Dr. David Carpenter and a list of 41 respected international scientists:
Smart Meters: Correcting the Gross Misinformation

And the American Academy of Environmental Medicine July 2012 statement re RF health effects and ‘smart’ meters. In January they wrote a letter to the CPUC calling for a moratorium on ‘smart’ meter installation. Their July statement goes even farther.
Download the PDF here.

Fairly Unbalanced
By James Heddle
Longtime Bay Area-based News Hour producer Spencer Michels and his crew deserve credit and thanks for getting this issue on the mainstream airways, a goal Michels says he has been pushing for over the past two years. We understand the constraints in which he works and appreciate his team’s technical professionalism. They have mastered the form of News Hour reporting.

‘Could have been worse,’ was Mary Beth’s immediate comment. ‘Hey, it got the issue out there,’ said a respected media analyst friend. ‘Just getting the discussion onto mainstream media is major.’

Ok. But, still. It reminded us of why we don’t have a television and never watch the PBS News Hour. Polished, superficial, formulaic and, well, lazy. Not what one would call ‘probing investigative journalism.’ But that, as the saying goes, is ‘what the traffic will bear.’

‘You know too much,’ Michels told Valeri and Mary Beth in the pre-recording discussion in Valeri’s Fairfax home. You’ve got to keep it succinct and simple. We know your arguments. We know their arguments. We’re just going to pair them off and that’s our report. Uh huh. That’s balanced journalism for you.

But – not surprisingly, given their roster of sponsors – the underlying News Hour pattern is clear…once you see it. Simple as A, B, C. In this case, it goes like this: (A) ‘smart meter’ opponents’ views are presented in simplified bites; (B) industry spokespeople ‘rebut’ them with unsubstantiated assertions; (C) however, activists don’t really get the chance to rebut the industry ‘rebuttals’ or challenge their assertions with actual, factual data.

The resulting take-away impression is this: the activists’ critique has been debunked on every point and the industry has all the answers. End of inquiry.

The link to the complete transcript is here.

Here’s my favorite egregiously erroneous statement from an alleged ‘expert,’ Dean of Engineering and Computer Science at the California State University, Sacramento, named Emir Jose Macari, who Michels says, ‘…was part of the California Council on Science and Technology, a team that reviewed the literature on electromagnetic emissions, including radio frequency waves, or RF, a study often cited by PG&E.’ [ None of the CCST committee were biologists or RF specialists nor did they consider any of the massive amount of science that was presented to them by experts whose studies show adverse health effects from RF radiation. They refused to even include it in their review, though it amounts to thousands of pages of peer-reviewed science that spans over 50 years and includes much gathered by the U.S. military! ]:

SPENCER MICHELS: Macari demonstrated for us how the emissions from a smart meter can be monitored. He says those emissions are very slight.

EMIR JOSE MACARI [holding an exotic-looking metering device the read-outs of which we can’t see next to a lone, unhooked up ‘smart’ meter in the middle of a sidewalk ]: So, I could also be measuring emissions on my cell phone.

SPENCER MICHELS: So, how does it compare?

EMIR JOSE MACARI: Well, this is so much higher.


EMIR JOSE MACARI: But — by 20 times higher than what a smart meter does.

No mention here of the facts that (a) cellphone exposures are voluntary, while ‘smart meter’ exposure is involuntary, imposed without consent by the utility; (b) cellphone exposures are intermittent depending on use, while ‘smart meters’ pulse continuously 24/7; cellphone exposures are localized to the head, while wireless meters give virtually continuous whole-body exposure. No mention of mesh networks – i.e., emissions from all surrounding neighborhood meters ‘chirping’ to each other other 9,600 to 190,000 times per day as they transmit data among themselves and to a collection point receiver.

As a result, residents are exposed to a constant pulsing field of microwaves in their home (and more if they have close neighbors) and outside as well from the interconnecting mesh network of RF signals. e) No mention of the situations of banks of multiple meters on apartments or businesses f) no mention of reflections of signals from hard surfaces and the resulting ‘hot spots’ where exposures are intensified g) no mention of the increase of RF exposure if people actually have ‘smart’chips in their appliances that are also pulsing signals within the home 24/7; h) no mention of how the ‘dirty electricity’ from the meters transformers the SMPS, gets into the household wiring and adds to the total field of pulsing VHF and RF microwaves, etc., etc.

Finally (i) no mention of the ‘hackability’ of wireless ‘smart’ meters and a regional or national energy grid based on them. [See, for example, Smart grid vulnerability could give hackers free electricity Because cooling systems at the country’s 104 nuclear reactors are dependent on power from the grid to keep running, such hackability makes them all vulnerable to accidental and maliciously caused meltdowns.

As we reported in a previous blog on the inaccuracies in the California Council on Science and Technology ‘report’, a chart from independent researcher Dan Hirsch of the Committee to Bridge the Gap tells the ‘whole-body’ story:

Comparison of Radio-Frequency Levels to the Whole Body from Various Sources in IJ W/cm2 over time (corrected by Daniel Hirsch, Committee to Bridge the Gap, & UCSC Nuclear Policy lecturer, for assumed duty cycle and whole body exposure extrapolated from EPRI/CCST SmartMeter estimated levels at 3 feet).

The viewer comments below point out some of the other inaccuracies in the PBS segment.

Adding dubious gravitas to the report, EON Co-Director Jim Heddle (rt.) makes a cameo appearance.

Data Makes Me Drowsy
News Hour producer Spencer Michels’ blog on this topic follows much the same pattern as the video piece. He concludes that there are boring-to-read studies on both sides. Its up to opponents to prove the meters pose risks. Proponents don’t have to prove the meters are safe. He ends his commentary with this plaintive lament:

“So what is a home owner or a cellphone user, to say nothing of a journalist, to make of these dueling scientific and almost [sic] scientific statements? You could read studies till you fall asleep (which wouldn’t take long) and you still wouldn’t know the answer. Harm from wireless signals — especially from smart meters — hasn’t been proven or dis-proven, [oh, really?] though those who object to wireless signals probably need to document more scientifically their ailments. The burden of proof, given the prevalence of wireless devices, seems to be on them. [This really is infuriating after he was given so much documentation that he found so boring that he didn’t look at it seriously. And why not have the burden to prove safety be on the government officials and industry operatives who are rolling out this humongous boondoggle without public discussion or impartial, independent testing?]

And that leaves us with one choice [only one?]: present as much evidence as possible in the space available [8 minutes]. Indicate the possible risk [in a simple-minded, superficial way], and the fact many [un- and mis-informed] people are taking that risk — if in fact it is a risk. And examine and evaluate who is making the studies, a tough, lengthy job [too much for a busy News Hour journalist with, according to him, virtually unlimited global research and telecom resources]. Then hope you won’t be assaulted by someone with more studies “proving” his point of view.” [ Yet this is exactly why industry funds studies designed to purposely get no results and thus to confuse. See Henry Lai’s and B. Blake Levitt’s refutation of the CCST report for example: https://www.smartmeterdangers.org/index.php/position-statements/180-henry-lai-smart-meters ]

Meta-studies of studies on this and other serious public health and safety issues involving corporate profits [see our blog Sowing Doubt, Reaping Profit ] indicate that industry-funded studies are designed to manufacture pseudo-uncertainty, while truly independent studies find serious and mounting evidence of biological and medical harm. The responsible, common-sense action would be to apply the precautionary principle, i.e., when in doubt, don’t.

Dr. Henry Lai’s most recent summary of current research includes studies funded by industry and non-industry sources. 80% of these studies demonstrate some kind of biological effect. Download PDF document: Recent studies (1995-2000) on the biological effects of radiofrequency and cell phone radiation.

As Christopher Ketcham reports in Warning: Your Cell Phone May Be Hazardous to Your Health

Industry-funded studies seem to reflect the result of corporate strong-arming. Lai reviewed 350 studies and found that about half showed bioeffects from EM radiation emitted by cell phones. But when he took into consideration the funding sources for those 350 studies, the results changed dramatically. Only 25 percent of the studies paid for by the industry showed effects, compared with 75 percent of those studies that were independently funded.

It is thus that the media masses are misled, mired in manufactured doubt and alleged ‘uncertainty.’ It has been the same story with pesticides, nuclear pollution, tobacco, asbestos, GMO and climate change, to mention just a few issues – until the evidence of harm is undeniable and it’s too late.

But, hey. Let’s look on the bright side. Like our media analyst friend says, at least this mainstream media organization is showing that there’s an argument going on in the public sphere about the wireless ‘smart grid’ concept.

This week’s ‘smart meter’ segment was intended, according to Michels and Woodruff, to ‘balance’ another one, which aired the previous Friday. Take a look:

In Austin, Charged up About Smart Power

This is a gee-whiz promo piece on the Pecan Street ‘smart grid’ demonstration project in Austin, Texas – one of 130 similar projects currently going on in 44 states. Pecan Street is a model housing development built on what used to be an airport. Here’s a peek at what life in a ‘smart grid’ community is supposed to be like.

Watch In Austin, Charged up About Smart Power on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Some Comments from Our Network

From Elizabeth Kelly
Josh, I am so grateful to you, Mary Beth and Val for your incisive and heartfelt statements on this PBS show. The good news is that PBS covered this issue. The bad news is that their coverage of our side was weak and inaccurate. He who has the gold rules the world…

I just posted this statement to www.electromagneticsafety.org

On July 20, 2012, PBS NewsHour interviewed California activists opposed to smart meters. They also interviewed representatives of the California Public Utilities Commission, Pacific Gas and Electric Corporation and, an industry scientist. Somehow, they neglected to interview anyone from the American Academy of Environmental Medicine – https://www.aaemonline.org/
https://www.aaemonline.org/ (scroll down home page to find smart meter recommendations.) While we appreciate the interest PBS has shown by its coverage, we would have preferred equal time had been given to the point of view held by both sides of this complex issue and, more factual accuracy.

For example, more than 56 California cities and counties oppose smart meters, not a dozen; the World Health Organization classified radio-frequency radiation as a possible carcinogen in 2011, which belies the statement that “there is no proof of any evidence of harm”, the WHO report of 2005 said that electro-hypersensitivty was not a disease but a health condition, cause unknown: and, independent engineers have tested cell phone signals and compared them to smart meter signals and state that cell phone signals are not stronger than smart meter signals.

Smart meter signals carry a unique pulse modulated digital signature that creates an almost constant involuntary exposure condition for people in their homes. These transmissions are causing neurological problems in some people and domestic animals.

Smart meters were placed on the market without a premarket assessment to assure health and safety protections and do not carry an Underwriters Lab label, which would signify industry approval.

The 2005 Federal Energy Policy Act called for the utilities to invite customers to “opt in” to smart meters, signifying that Congress did not intend to make customers pay in order to “opt out.” Let the public debates continue.

from Melissa Levine
This morning I left a message at 703-998-2138 (Newshour contact)–Michael Getler.

I then reposted my comments and added an additional about possible censorship. Even though I sent in my first comment almost 24 hours ago–nothing’s been published. However, they have managed in that time to publish a comment from a J.V. Hodgson whose message to people who are concerned is basically–we live in a wi fi world–so tough luck.

I also viewed last week’s video on the smart grid. Judy Woodruff promised that this week’s story would show the other side. (So she is someone else to write)
They did publish for that story over 40 comments. One was Michelle’s (hers was one of the strongest). I am a bit suspicious that they sifted through those comments, also–as many seem a bit tame.

From Shane:

Oh, yeah, that was particularly obnoxious [the Michels comment re reading studies putting you to sleep]!!

I hadn’t planned on reading all 1006 pages of the Bioinitiative Report and the ICEMS monograph, [ “Non-Thermal Effects and Mechanisms of Interaction Between Electromagnetic Fields and Living Matter” ] but I DID because my/our health and my life/our lives are on the line.

What would have happened if people had found the literature on cigarettes, lead, asbestos, RBST, etc. only snooze-worthy?!

And they have the nerve to cal themselves journalists…what a travesty.

I think this merits contacting PBS directly at a higher level, though I’m not sure what department this would be.

One of our list members contacted KPFK back in November 2011 and said she would be canceling her membership/contributions if they did not at least respond to her request to cover SMs. The very next day she was contacted and an interview was set up with Cindy Sage. It was an effective strategy.


From Maureen Homan

1. While ignoring the evidence and reports of people falling ill from the Smart Meter, CPUC employee claims the Smart Grid will prove “large economic benefit for most rate payers efficiencies in the long run”. The purpose of the CPUC is to “ensure that consumers have safe, reliable utility service at reasonable rates, protecting against fraud and promoting the health of California’s economy”. Key word: SAFE

2. So-called RF expert says “World Health Organization put out a report in 2005 saying there is no evidence of any harms to human beings from these technologies”. It seems that our “expert” forgot that the WHO changed their position on May 31, 2011 classifying RF radiation from cell phones (and Smart Meters) as a 2B level carcinogen. “The WHO/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use.” [ But the IARC decision also added that all devices operating in the same frequencies, like ‘smart’meters, are included in the Class 2B category as possible carcinogen. Ed. ]

3. Our RF expert is shown supposedly measuring emissions from a Smart Meter placed in the middle of a walkway. Is this for real? How is this Smart Meter showing a reading on this guy’s RF meter when the Smart Meter is NOT EVEN CONNECTED TO A POWER SOURCE!

4. The PGE employee Ms. Burt says “Our customers own their data. We do not own their data.” This is admission of unauthorized data theft by PGE.

5. Two separate systems have to be maintained according to Mr. Michels. Those using a Smart Meter pay for one system. However, those using the system that has been in place for the past 30 years have to pay for maintaining that system as well as the Smart Meter system. Those retaining a safe analog meter must pay for a Smart Meter and metering system that due to their health (such as pacemaker wearers) cannot use. Could this be discrimination?

The same PBS reporter [ Ray Suarez, who introduced the ] Smart Meter piece also wrote a piece 2 years ago on the Chinese hacking the internet. I just posted this on my Facebook wall:
PBS reporter does a report on cybersecurity and 2 years later on Smart Grid…with NO connecting the dots. No comments allowed at PBS.

Our entire utility metering and control system is currently being transitioned to a wireless IPv6 mesh network. In other words, our electricity, gas and water will be on a HACKABLE wireless network. 

The hub of this system starts in your home with a Smart Meter which is a transmitting computer complete with an upgradable Zigbee microchip, flash memory and 2 radio signals (one operating at 900 Mhz and one at 2.4 Ghz).

There are millions of data points that can be hacked and taken over by our enemies. Where were the microchips made? Who has access to the software code? Do we really think the Chinese haven’t considered hacking into our utilities? 

On July 20, 2012, this same PBS reporter did a report on Smart Meters and the Smart Grid. There was no mention of a “smart” grid’s security vulnerabilities and how former CIA Director Woolsey calls this a wireless smart grid “really really stupid”. 

Is the public really getting their monies worth at PBS (Public B.S.)?

China’s Internet ‘Hijacking’ Creates Worries for Security Experts

‘An 18-minute diversion of Internet traffic through China has raised security concerns around the world — especially for governments and people in critical infrastructure — and raises new concerns for online shoppers just ahead of Cyber Monday.

From Isis:
I know it’s hard to look at this in much positive light …. But as far as mainstream coverage goes (and PBS is more mainstream media than it’s not), this was actually very successful, I think. It could have been better, for sure, but it also could have been a lot worse, and frankly, I expected it to be. You all did really well, considering what you had to work with. Thanx for putting yourselves through the ordeal, and it was wonderful to see you all, virtually as it was.

As bad as it was, I think that ‘scientist’ who cited the 2005 WHO position kind of did us a favor. He made it so incredibly easy to make him look bad by citing the much more recent WHO position. Unfortunately I think most people only watch the broadcast and don’t go online to look at comments, but I think this glaring error should be used to put pressure on PBS to give us more air time to debunk the BS. I think all those contact options – comments, emails to the reporters/administrators, Facebook/Twitter, etc., should be utilized to their fullest….

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