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ROBERT MacNEIL: Good evening. In his first major speech as Soviet leader, Konstantin Chernenko says Washington seeks world domination, but the White House takes a positive view. As President Gemayel prepares to scrap his agreement with Israel to satisfy Syria, is the Congress to blame for the collapse of U.S. hopes in Lebanon? We examine that charge by Secretary of State George Shultz. Jim Lehrer is off; Judy Woodruff is in Washington. Judy?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Also on the NewsHour there were some sparks today on Capitol Hill. Attorney General-designate Edwin Meese faced sharp questions about a deal to sell his house.
EDWIN MEESE: Senator, it was absolutely a legitimate business deal.
WOODRUFF: From the medical beat, new questions about cancer. Are we experiencing a cancer epidemic or an epidemic of fear about cancer? And, finally, we report on a town and its opera company, both very proud of themselves and their leading lady.
ANTON COPPOLA: Tulsa Opera is a wonderful place to be at this moment because we're going to be witnessing and we're going to be privy to a very auspicious moment in operatic history. Congress and Lebanon
WOODRUFF: The new leader of the Soviet Union today accused the United States of seeking world domination, and called on the U.S. to transform its conciliatory words into deeds. Konstantin Chernenko, who became head of the Communist Party last month after the death of Yuri Andropov, was speaking at a Kremlin rally. Chernenko said the past few years had seen a dramatic intensification of aggressive policies by the U.S. He cited the invasion of Lebanon, the occupation of Grenada and the undeclared war against Nicaragua. He also said the U.S. had created obstacles to talks on curbing nuclear weapons. Most of the speech, however, focused on domestic issues, and at one point Chernenko said, "If the Soviet people want to live well, they must work better." He promised to continue his predecessor's crackdown against official corruption and shirkers in the workplace.
Here in Washington the White House chose to view the speech as a sign of hope for detente. Presidential spokesman Larry Speakes said, "There is no reason to change our opinion that there is a reasonable opportunity for dialogue." But in a speech this afternoon Secretary of State Shultz had a more pessimistic view of U.S. -Soviet relations.
GEORGE SHULTZ, Secretary of State: Our relationships with the Soviet Union are said to be in very bad shape. The evidence for that is that they say so [laughter], that there are much diminished number of vodka toasts consumed as a result of meetings these days, and there is no important agreement with the Soviet Union that you can point to. And the combination of these things and the sort of rhetoric that we saw, for example, in Mr. Gromyko's speech in Stockholm recently or in Moscow the other day have been designed and have created a certain tension.
WOODRUFF: The State Department announced today that it has denied a visa to the Soviet Union's attache and advance man for the Los Angeles summer Olympics because he has been identified as a secret agent. One State Department source said the attache, Oleg Yermishkin, was a fairly high-ranking KGB official. Yermishkin was to have arrived in Los Angeles yesterday. State Department spokesman John Hughes, however, said this doesn't mean that Soviet athletes will also be denied entry into the United States.
There were conflicting reports out of Lebanon today about what President Gemayel plans to do. One top Lebanese official who didn't want his name used told reporters that Syria is not insisting that Lebanon immediately cancel its peace agreement with Israel, that instead it is allowing Gemayel to consult with Washington and Israel and to call new peace talks in Geneva. The official also said that Syrian President Assad was trying to arrange an immediate ceasefire for Lebanon. Other Lebanese officials insisted that the Israeli troop withdrawal agreement would definitely be canceled. But the senior official who briefed reporters denied that and said a reconciliation conference would be held next week in Switzerland to work out constitutional reforms and give Moslems an equal share of power in the government. That official also said that a national coalition cabinet would be named after the peace talks end. These reports came after Gemayel spent two days in Damascus talking with President Assad. The ceasefire was to have begun Friday evening, but fighting was reported after dark along the Green Line dividing Moslem West Beirut from the Christian East, and at least one civilian was reported killed and 20 wounded in fighting in Beirut's downtown area.
As we reported last night, the French government has indicated that it now plans to pull its peacekeeping force out of Beirut after holding out longer than the Americans, the British or the Italians. We have a report on what those French troops have been up against by Don Murray of the Canadian Broadcasting Company.
DON MURRAY, CBC [voice-over]: The last Marines chugged out to sea in their amphibious vehicles, leaving Lebanon behind, and in their wake, so did half the world's media. But the French remained -- 1,200 soldiers patrolling perhaps the most exposed position of all.The contingent's headquarters sits in the no-man's land astride the so-called Green Line where every day Christian and Muslim militias engage in intense gun battles. While the British, Italians and Americans were busy pulling out the French contingent worked to open a slender line of communications between the two warring halves of Beirut. Each day between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. traffic and people now flow back and forth across the museum crossing, the only breech in the Green Line.
As Paris announced the imminent French withdrawal, its troops were working to reinforce the fortifications around the contingent's headquarters. More barbed wire and a bulldozer to close the road close to the camp. This week the shadowy Islamic Jihad telephoned a threat to attack French soldiers if they weren't out of Beirut within seven days. In 17 months 85 French soldiers have been killed here. The contingent was taking no chances.
MacNEIL: The Democratic leader in the Senate, Robert Byrd of Virginia, today accused Secretary of State George Shultz of self-deception and delusion in blaming Congress for the failure of U.S. policy in Lebanon. In a speech on the Senate floor, Byrd called remarks by Shultz yesterday "another example of this administration's attempt to rewrite history to find a scapegoat for a failed policy." Shultz made headlines today with a broadside he delivered yesterday at a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing Shultz said Congress must share the blame for the failure of administration policy in Lebanon because of the sharp and extensive debate over the Marines' presence there. Shultz said, "Our own debate here totally took the rug out from under our diplomatic effort." He said the constant public debate in the Congress made it impossible to conduct sensible policy in Lebanon. Senator Byrd said today that argument exhibits a distaste for the democratic system which is not worthy of the secretary of state.
For more Democratic Congressional reaction we have Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. How do you respond to that charge by Secretary Shultz?
Sen. CHRISTOPHER DODD: Well, I find it interesting, to say the very least. I mean, to suggest somehow that by debating the issue in the halls of Congress we had contributed to the failure of the policy -- the policy was bad. A debate doesn't destroy a policy if the policy is sound. And I'm surprised that the secretary is still trying to deflect what I think most people have come to conclude, and that was a bad idea to put the Marines in there is the first place. Heated debate inside the administration, in fact, over that decision. And it was not a debate in Congress over whether or not it was a wise policy that contributed to, I think, their "redeployment," as the administration calls it.
MacNEIL: Now, was the debate over the policy in Congress or was it over the casualties or potential further casualties to the Marines?
Sen. DODD: No, it was the debate and the debate started in the summer of '82 when the decision was made to send the Marines in in the first place to help remove the PLO from Beirut. Then the Marines went back in in September of '82, and from that point forward there was extended debate, of course debate that went on heavily last fall when the President asked the Congress to support an 18-month commitment of U.S. Marines. We had only seen a few deaths at that particular point, some in the summer of '83. It was not until, of course, this winter, the tragic winter that we saw the tragic numbers of 243.So it was after that point. But the debate was heavy and extended all last fall over the question of whether or not it made any sense for us to be there in the first place.
MacNEIL: The White House at one point, Larry Speakes accused Democrats in Congress of playing politics with Lebanon. Are the Democrats -- is your party totally innocent of that charge?
Sen. DODD: Not at all. In fact, our sessions are not public, but the Democratic conference committee which meets every Tuesday, and we discussed week after week, of course, the question of Lebanon, and had good discussions about it. I never heard once, not on one single occasion did anyone raise the issue of the politics of the issue. You might expect that in a closed-door session, and I'm sure that there's not a Democrat who was there whowould argue with me over that, even some who agreed with the President. Never once did anyone say, "We can pin the President's ears back on this particular issue. It really was over the substance and the belief -- I think the general belief, because only two Democrats supported the 15-month or 18-month commitment of troops, the substance of the policy, which was bad ab initio.
MacNEIL: So you say the Democrats are innocent -- are totally innocent of that charge?
Sen. DODD: Totally innocent of that. I really believe that. I think that most Democrats realize that in this kind of an instance, a foreign policy issue where U.S. forces are committed, there is a general presumption, I think, to want to give the President the benefit of the doubt except when there is strong feeling that the policy is bad.
MacNEIL: But is there now in the Congress, as it's been said -- and notably by a Republican congressman -- a kind of Vietnam phobia, a predisposition against the use of military force, a presumption that that is wrong and has to be proved right?
Sen. DODD: There is certainly that problem, the old Mark Twain anecdote that a cat that jumps on a hot stove not only will not jump on a hot stove, won't jump on any stove at all in the future. And certainly if you exercise power without good thinking, sound thinking, if you inject U.S. forces in areas where there are certain questions to be raised about the soundness of that policy and then trouble occurs, as we saw in Lebanon, then the next time, in a legitimate case there is going to be a reluctance, not only in the Congress, but I think even among chief executives, future presidents of the country.
MacNEIL: Well, could that reluctance have reached the point, as Secretary Shultz may have been suggesting yesterday when he argued forcefully that the use of military power is a legitimate extension of U.S. foreign policy, could that have reached the point where good use of military force will be made impossible by congressional fear of it or questions about it?
Sen. DODD: I don't think it's impossible. I certainly think it does. He's correct to that extent. But this administration decided to commit troops to Lebanon, which is a bad decision. I don't think anyone really disagrees with that today. That will create a problem the next time a situation arises where the question of committing U.S. troops is raised. Let's assume that in that situation it might make some sense to do it. And I don't disagree with that. I agree with him that the use of power can be a legitimate extension of our foreign policy. But having made a mistake in Lebanon, having made a mistake in Vietnam, the failure of those policies then, I think, create that problem. Not the fact that we committed the troops. It was the failure of the policy in the beginning which I think creates the problem. That is the reason I think you have to be very judicious in the exercise of that power when you decide to commit troops. A superpower ought to act cautiously before we decide we're going to become involved militarily, and that, I think, is the basic problem.
MacNEIL: Well, thank you. Judy?
WOODRUFF: For a different perspective we turn to a man who's been on both sides of the issue, Edward Derwinksi, who now serves as counselor to the State Department. But formerly he spent 23 years as a Republican member of Congress when he served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Mr. Derwinski, how exactly did the congressional debate serve to pull the rug out from under U.S. interests, as Secretary Shultz said?
EDWARD DERWINSKI: Well, I happened to be with Ambassador Rumsfeld in Lebanon when the debate in Congress reached its peak, and at that time there were efforts being made to obtain the necessary cooperation from the Syrians so that a stable government could again function in Lebanon. And the fact is that Ambassador Rumsfeld was substantially undercut by the impression created that Congress was about to remove the support that it heretofore had given to our efforts in Lebanon.
WOODRUFF: Well, how do you know that specifically? Is there some evidence you can point to of that?
Mr. DERWINSKI: It was a thought that came up in every meeting I had with Lebanese officials of all types. It was an item that just dominated the news, and if you keep in mind that too often the debate in our Congress isn't understood as well as it should because what the members for the most part were engaging in at that time was classical Monday morning quarterbacking, but they were definitely pointing in the direction of rewriting the conditions of the resolution under which we were operating.
WOODRUFF: But do you have specific evidence that the Syrians held back because of this debate?
Mr. DERWINSKI: If you mean evidence in black and white, that isn't the way diplomacy is conducted. If you mean evidence from the standpoint of interpretation of their actions or lack of actions, lack of cooperation, I think you can make a very practical case that our efforts to produce the real peace we desired in Lebanon were hindered substantially by the congressional attitude.
WOODRUFF: What are you saying then that Congress should do? If there are real misgivings among members of Congress who are serious about this, about American policy, what should they do? Should they just sit back and say nothing?
Mr. DERWINSKI: Oh, no, not at all. After my years in Congress I appreciate more than anyone else the legitimate role of congressional interest and congressional involvement. However, I would have to say, in all due respect to the institution which I served for so long, the Congress does much better in analyzing what had happened. Congress never provides real leadership.What Congress does is lets any administration, Democrat or Republican, have the original responsibility. And then if the program is successful, Congress shares in the credit. If the program turns out to be debatable, Congress leads that charge.
WOODRUFF: Well, throughout all this Secretary Shultz has been saying that any reluctance on the part of the Congress or whatever to use military power is going to undercut American diplomacy. Why does the administration need a free hand when it comes to military power? Why shouldn't it be consulting --
Mr. DERWINSKI: It does consult.
WOODRUFF: -- and working closely with the Congress?
Mr. DERWINSKI: It does consult. There isn't anything contradictory in what Secretary Shultz said. The earlier point made in this program that there is still the Vietnam syndrome is really the key.Congress has instinctively attempted to look at every occasion in which a use of force is either utilized or perhaps prepared as a "new Vietnam," and that hasn't happened. Our use of force in Lebanon for a year and a half was in fact extremely successful. There were conditions over which we had no control that produced the tragedies of this past winter, but the original use of U.S. Marines had the almost complete support of the Congress. You remember, that was to help Mr. Arafat leave Beirut. And I do not recall -- and I was still serving in the Congress at the time. I do not recall any strong congressional objection to that particular rescue mission.
WOODRUFF: Thank you, Mr. Derwinski. Robin?
MacNEIL: You heard what the counselor said, Senator, that Mr. Rumsfeld was undercut, that you can make a practical case that the efforts were hindered by what Congress was doing.
Sen. DODD: Well, I've heard the same complaint about the news media and anyone else who may cast some light on some things the administration doesn't want to hear. And it's not just this administration. This can go back to the administration, I believe, of George Washington. Every single president since then has preferred it if Congress would just stay out of these matters altogether. "It's fine when you agree with us, but please don't ever disagree with us," and the same can be said, of course, of journalists as well, and we've seen that criticism raised in the past. We live in a democratic society. It is the role of Congress to debate these issues.The Constitution talks about not separate -- just separate branches of government, but shared responsibilities and shared powers. The right to engage military U.S. citizens in a war zone is not exclusively the right of the president. It is also the right of the Congress.
MacNEIL: But are you saying that Mr. Rumsfeld's efforts would have failed in any case and that the Syrians would have balked and refused to withdraw from Lebanon and insisted on what they're insisting on now whether Congress had had the debate or not?
Sen. DODD: I believe so. I think the policy was bad, and I think the administration's refusal to admit that is a shortcoming of theirs. Rather than admit that it was a bad policy, it just wasn't working, and that the Marines were not contributing to bringing peace and stability to Lebanon -- in fact were taking sides, had confusing roles -- and you need not listen to me as your witness. Listen to the officers and the people who were directly involved there. That was their criticism, and criticism of the people in the Defense Department, that it was a mistake to be involved there. That's the failure of the policy, not the debate in Congress.
MacNEIL: Mr. Derwinski?
Mr. DERWINSKI: We must keep in mind that this was a multinational operation. Remember that we entered into Lebanon welcomed by all the sectarian groups. Our French, Italian and British allies joined us in a very excellent demonstration of Western unity and cooperation. And I would have to emphasize the point that it was only after the tragic events of this last winter that the chorus of second-guessing really started. We had no control over a number of the factors, including the massive Soviet rearming of the Syrians, which in turn contributed to the foreign policy stubbornness of the Syrians. All those factors have to be reviewed --
MacNEIL: Are you going -- are you in the administration going as far as to say the policy would have worked if Congress had let it work?
Mr. DERWINSKI: No, I'm saying that the policy as it was originally presented was not only approved in the executive branch but had the support of Congress. It was done in effective coordination after proper consultation with allies, and it did in fact, for over a year, bring a period of some stability to Lebanon. There were factors out of our control, however, that led to the complications of the recent months.
MacNEIL: Are you going as far as I quoted your colleague, the minority leader, Senator Byrd, as to say that the administration is looking for a scapegoat in this?
Sen. DODD: Well, I think that's -- I think the majority -- the minority leader was being delicate in using the word scapegoat. I'll use it, but I think he's correct in the sense that to blame the Congress -- and my good friend Ed I must correct. The Senate debated the 18-month commitment in the fall, long before the tragic events of this winter.That was a very narrow vote in the United States Senate, a Republican-controlled Senate. And in the House of Representatives it was not overwhelming in terms of their agreement on that issue. There was extensive debate during those days, and the Senate of the United States did not pass a resolution before the redeployment of the forces. There was discussion on the floor. There was a lot of discussion about whether or not such a resolution ought to be introduced, but never was, in fact. It was only the House of Representatives which did that.
MacNEIL: Mr. Derwinski, how do you respond to the charge by Senator Byrd, which Mr. Dodd has repeated, that you're looking for a scapegoat?
Mr. DERWINSKI: No, that isn't the point at all. I think we go back to the start of this debate. Secretary Shultz was making the point that this was one of the cases where, under the War Powers Resolution, the role of Congress was not necessarily helpful to the executive branch. We want cooperation. We would much rather have complete cooperation from the Congress in areas of foreign policy and in large measure we do receive it. But I would have to say, respectfully, as a former member of Congress, that the legislative branch performs far better in looking back over the event that had happened, does not really work hand in glove with the administration to formulate policy.
MacNEIL: All right, well, Counselor Derwinski, Senator Dodd, thank you.
Here are some other foreign news developments. In El Salvador leftist guerrillas cut power supplies to the northern part of San Salvador and engaged government troops in fierce fighting near the capital. The guerrillas blew up three electricity pylons 17 miles to the north, leaving parts of the city and neighboring provinces without electricity for several hours.
In Washington U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick said some administration officials believe there is evidence linking right-wing politician Roberto D'Aubuisson with Salvadoran death squads. D'Aubuisson is a leading candidate for president in the elections on March 25th.Today Ambassador Kirkpatrick told the Senate Appropriations Committee she had recently advised Republican senators, "I think it is necessary that you face the fact that some people in our government who have a commitment to democracy in El Salvador believe there is real but non-definitive evidence linking D'Aubuisson to death squads."
WOODRUFF: Presidential Counselor Edwin Meese got an apparently embarrassing surprise at his confirmation hearings to be attorney general today. In hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee Meese was confronted with a contradiction between his statement yesterday that he knew little about a deal to sell his home and a document introduced today. Ohio Democrat Howard Metzenbaum, in a surprise move, produced some notes handwritten by Meese in which he described a telephone conversation about the house sale which took place in 1982. The conversation was about a plan to sell the house to a man named Irv Howard in order to alleviate Meese's financial burden. Senator Metzenbaum pursued the questioning.
Sen. HOWARD METZENBAUM, (D) Ohio: I'm at a loss to under -- it almost looks as if you were structuring a deal. And weknow the Gavin Herbert[?] deal was put together by your friends, and then that was called off, and the question that I have is, was this a structured deal? And was it just put together for your benefit, and, as you well know, just a few months after Mr. Howard bought the property he sold it and lost something like $50,000. Now, I'm really trying to find out, was this a legitimate business deal or was this a structured deal?
EDWIN MEESE, Attorney General-designate: Senator, it was absolutely a legitimate business deal.
WOODRUFF: Mr. Meese spent some of his confirmation hearing explaining a controversial remark he had made, saying there are few hungry Americans. The comment provoked a spate of critical newspaper headlines last December. Today Senator Edward Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, asked Meese if he had changed his mind?
Sen. EDWARD KENNEDY, (D) Massachusetts: Do you believe that there are hungry children and that there are hungry Americans in our society and that this is a growing problem, given the various studies and information that's been made available?
Mr. MEESE: Senator --
Sen. KENNEDY: Would your view about this particular problem be different now from what it was when you made those statements?
Mr. MEESE: Well, it's somewhat different inasmuch as the task force on hunger, or on food assistance, which I referred to in that same statement that you quoted has rendered a report and has indicated some of the problems --
Sen. KENNEDY: What does your gut tell you, Mr. Meese? What does your gut tell you? Are there hungry Americans out there, and are you concerned about them? That's what I'm interested in.
Mr. MEESE: There are hungry Americans and I am concerned about them, and I think that the vast resources that we're devoting to this particular subject ought to be used as well as possible to make sure that no person who needs food assistance is without it.
WOODRUFF: The Meese confirmation hearing is now expected to continue next week. The Senate Judiciary Committee has yet to hear from some 30 witnesses who have asked to testify about Messes's nomination. Robin? Cancer: Fear Itself
MacNEIL: The federal government today announced tighter restraints on the use of the pesticide EDB in fumigating citrus fruits. Its use will be phased out completely by September 1st. EDB, short for ethylene dibromide, is a cause of cancer in laboratory animals. At a Washington news conference William Ruckelshaus, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, explained why he did not order an immediate suspension of EDB use.
WILLIAM RUCKELSHAUS, administrator, Environmental Protection Agency: Now, I'm not issuing an emergency suspension for EDB use on citrus for two reasons. First, the use of EDB on citrus in the United States has essentially ceased.There is one that we have discovered, one use of EDB in the shipment of citrus from Florida to Hawaii, but that's the only one we know currently that is being used domestically. Second, the agency has reached an agreement in principle with the parties in the EDB cancellation hearing under which all domestic use of EDB on citrus for the U.S. market would end by September 1st of this year. The fact that the domestic use of EDB has virtually ceased means that our sole remaining concern for American dietary exposure lies with imported citrus. Again I want to remind everyone what the risks are associated with exposure to EDB. They're chronic risks that accrue over a long period of time. It is our judgment that EDB does not present an acute short-termhealth risk.
MacNEIL: The Ralston Purina Company announced the withdrawal of 17,500 boxes of cereal distributed in 14 states because their EDB level exceeded federal guidelines. The Ralston Instant Whole Wheat Hot Cereal had EDB levels of up to four times the federal limit for such products, 150 parts per billion.
EDB is just one of many potential cancer threats in the environment that are considered in our next story by Charlayne Hunter-Gault. Charlayne?
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: As Robin said, EDB is just the latest in a long list of chemicals that have come to be associated in the public mind with cancer. Dioxin, asbestos, PCBs PBBs are just a few on that list. Many of them have produced cancer in laboratory animals, and while it's still an open question whether they also cause cancer in humans, that question haunts the chemical industry. Some scientists say the proliferation of industrial chemicals has led to a cancer epidemic in the United States. They cite the fact that since World War II the production of chemicals in this country has skyrocketed from about a billion pounds to almost 350 billion pounds today. Also now some 60,000 different chemicals are used in the United States and another 700 to 1,000 new ones are added every year. But other scientists claim there's no connection between the increase in chemical production and cancer. In fact, they point to a stabilization and in some cases a decline in cancer death rates.Since 1930 the death rates from breast and colon cancer have remained pretty much the same, with slight fluctuations. Deaths from stomach and uterine cancer, meanwhile, have dropped sharply over the last 50 years, though the reasons are unclear. Lung cancer is the only one that has shown a marked increase in deaths over the same period. According to government figures, most scientists though agree that the villain there is smoking. What divides the scientific community is how those cancer statistics are likely to change and why.We examine that debate with two scientists, beginning with the one who believes that the cancer is going to increase as a result of more chemicals in the environment. He is Dr. Samuel Epstein, a professor of occupational and environmental medicine at the University of Illinois. He is also the author of two books on the subject, The Politics of Cancer, and Hazardous Water in America. He joins us tonight from Chicago.
Dr. Epstein, you believe we're in the midst of a cancer epidemic. Why?
SAMUEL EPSTEIN: Well, the reasons I think are fairly clearcut. First of all, at the present moment one in every four of us get cancer, and one in every five of us will die from cancer. And cancer is in fact the only major killing disease which is on the increase. In fact, if you examine cancer rates over the last 10 years you will find there have been very major increases. First of all, the mortality rates from cancer have increased at about 1% per annum over the last 10 years, and incidence rates have increased at about 2% per annum. And I must stress, these are age-standardized rates which take into account increase in age structure of the population.
HUNTER-GAULT: Well, what about those statistics I just cited showing a decrease in the major cancers except for lung cancer?
Dr. EPSTEIN: Well, the figures, the latest figures from the National Cancer Institute, National Center for Health Statistics, show very clearly that indeed there has been a substantial increase in mortality over the last decade, and even a greater increase in incidence. The reasons why some people claim that there has not been an increase in cancer rates is based on a particular kind of statistical manipulation which excludes certain groups of the population. It excludes, first of all, blacks, for a variety of reasons which are not clear. We do know that blacks have the very highest cancer incidence and mortality rates. It also excludes people over the age of 65, people -- groups in whom, in fact, major increases have occurred. So that when I said to you before there had been a 1% increase in mortality and a 2% increase in incidence over the last 10 years, this substantially underestimates increased incidences in blacks -- which are twice that in whites -- and substantially underestimates increased incidence rates in people over the age 65, who bear the impact of exposure to carcinogens in our environment 20, 30, 40 years ago. And there is one other point I must emphasize, that these increased rates which I've given you again underestimate the impact of chemical carcinogens on workers. We do know, for instance, that in some working groups cancer rates are five to 10 times higher that of the general population. We also know that workers -- that about 10 or 11 million workers are exposed minimally to 11 high-volume industrial carcinogens and, furthermore, there have been federal estimates recently that past occupational exposures to as few as six carcinogens can be responsible for up to one third of all cancers in coming decades. So for all these reasons the facts show very clearly, a) that we are in a cancer epidemic now. Cancer rates are increasing and, furthermore, trends in production are increasing. For instance, in the '60s the production of synthetic organic chemicals in the '60s was only about half that of the '70s. And the final element of this argument is overwhelming information on the carcinogenizing of our environment, the increasing contamination of our air and our water and our food and the workplace.
HUNTER-GAULT: Well, let me ask you this. The cancers that have shown up that have been related and traced to the carcinogens that I mentioned before only showed up in animals. I mean, how do you make the leap to human beings?
Dr. EPSTEIN: We're dealing with two sets of arguments. One, I have just cited to you the human data showing that there have been major increases on an overall basis in the nation in cancer rates. That's number one. Two, these increases underestimate rates and trends in certain population groups. Over and above that, over and above the so-called epidemiological evidence for increased incidence of cancer, we have what's called animal or toxicological evidence to show that we are introducing into the environment a very wide range of chemical carcinogens. In many instances we don't have epidemiological data relating these individual carcinogens to human cancer. But I must stress that this is a difficult matter to do. You must recall that for tobacco it took four decades of intensive research to demonstrate associations between tobacco and lung cancer, and even then you won't have to deal with millions and millions of people. When you're dealing with smaller population groups with individual carcinogens for which there are not sharp differentials of exposures in the population, it's very difficult to obtain epidemiological evidence. But I must stress that for every carcinogen which has been found to be active in animals, with the possible exception of arsenicals, the same carcinogen has been found to be active in animal systems, and there's overwhelming scientific precedent and basis and regulatory basis for the belief that information derived from varied, well designed animal tests can be extrapolated to the human situation with a reasonable degree of confidence.
HUNTER-GAULT: All right, we'll come back. Judy?
WOODRUFF: Not everyone agrees about the cancer threat posed by chemicals. One scientist who is more skeptical is Bruce Ames, chairman of the biochemistry department at the University of California at Berkeley. Professor Ames is a specialist on the role of natural chemicals and genetics in cancer.He joins us tonight from the studios of public television station KQED in San Francisco. Mr. Ames, do you agree with Dr. Epstein that we are in the middle of a cancer epidemic?
BRUCE AMES: No, I completely disagree. And I've spoken to all the top epidemiologists in the United States and Canada and England, and they all disagree that there's a cancer epidemic. So the figures you showed show that breast and colon cancer have been constant for years. There's an epidemic of lung cancer, which most people think is overwhelmingly due to tobacco, and then stomach cancer has been coming down for years, uterine cancer has been coming down for years, and liver cancer has been coming down for years. And if you look at -- Dr. Epstein all the time talks about the non-smokers. Well, they've just done a big study now in Texas and Louisiana, and if you look at thousands of lung cancer patients and ask how many never smoked, only 4% never smoked. So overwhelmingly the lung cancer is due to smoking. And, in addition, the studies he quotes on saying that there's a big increase in incidence were based on comparing two sets of data that had different assumptions and couldn't be really compared --
WOODRUFF: Well, what about --
Prof. AMES: -- and that's been demolished in a big study by Dahl and Peto.
WOODRUFF: All right. Well, what about the point about chemicals in the environment and the point that's been made that it's really too early to know with any assuredness that these chemicals aren't going to have an effect years down the line from now?
Prof. AMES: Well, there's no question that there's -- the whole modern chemical world has come in. We're making all -- we're making plastics and all sorts of things we didn't make before, and the reason I came into this field is I was worried about man-made chemicals and worried about damage to genes and damage causing cancer. And I've worked in the field for 20 years, and I think what's becoming apparent is that those of us who entered worrying about that didn't realize about nature and that the world is just filled with natural carcinogens, and the amounts of those are just enormously more than the man-made chemicals. So I'm much more optimistic about the effect of all these chemicals. Obviously you have to watch out for a worker who is breathing enormous amounts in, but when you're starting to measure one part per billion -- and we can do that now because of all of our new instruments, one part per billion is like one person in all of China. I mean, it's an incredibly tiny amount.
WOODRUFF: Well, for example, do you think that all this anxiety over EDB is just overdone?
Prof. AMES: Yes, I do. In fact, I testified in California to try and tighten up the amount that workers were allowed to breathe in. I thought they were breathing way too much in, and we got it lowered by 100-fold years ago. But yet one part per billion for people, I think, is nothing, because the workers were allowed to breathe in a million micrograms of EDB per day where we're talking about the new standards of one microgram per ounce of bread. There's just no -- one thing's an enormous dose and the other's a tiny amount that's negligible compared to all the other carcinogens in our environment.
WOODRUFF: Are you saying then that we really should do nothing about these toxic dump sites, for example, that we're worried about seeping into our water supply and other things like the chemicals, the food additives? I mean --
Prof. AMES: Oh, no. You don't want every chemical company dumping their wastes out the back door, but we have an enormous agency -- we have the EPA, which is spending more money in the EPA than all the cancer research in the country. I mean, we have gib government agencies looking after this, and there's new knowledge that's come in now that we can measure things in small amounts, we know more about carcinogens. So we're one of the healthiest countries in the world. Our life expectancy keeps on getting longer. So if you retire at age 65 now, a woman has a life expectancy almost to 85 and a man almost to 80. The United States is one of the healthiest countries in the world.We're doing well. Our research and biology is the glory of the world; we're learning about cancer. And everybody's worried about these incredibly tiny amounts.
WOODRUFF: All right, thank you for right now. Charlayne?
HUNTER-GAULT: Dr. Epstein, Dr. Ames says that all of the evidence that you cited has just really been demolished, that you're panicking.
Dr. EPSTEIN: Well, this is just not true. The epidemiological data which I cite are the only available federal data. The only real challenge to them has come from two British epidemiologists, Dahl and Peto, who arrived at their conclusions, as I say, by statistical manipulation of the kind I've indicated by excluding people over the age of 65, in whom maximal rates of increase have occurred, and also by excluding consideration of blacks. Now, before getting onto the question of smoking, the point -- the additional point I should mention is it's difficult to comprehend Dr. Ames' present position because as short age as two or three years ago he was writing, and I quote, "The enormous possible carcinogenic risks from inadequately tested industrial chemicals," he was warning in an article in Science recently, "against the steep increase in human cancer rates from industrial chemicals that may soon occur, especially as the 20- to 30-year lag time for chemical carcinogenesis in humans is almost over." Dr. Ames in writing has made a whole series of statements which are diametrically opposed to what he's saying now. But I don't want to dwell on that --
HUNTER-GAULT: Well, I know you might not want to dwell on that, but we do have to give Dr. Ames a chance to respond. Dr. Ames, you changed your mind?
Prof. AMES: Well, I think many of us came into the field because we were worried about new chemicals coming into the environment. I did. And we're one of the people who turned up Tris in children's clothing, and I fought companies on that, and we found hair dyes and I fought the companies on that. I don't consult for industry, but what's happened in the last five years has been a revolution in understanding, and one of the things is that up to recently people were just thinking about man-made chemicals as carcinogens. Practically every cancer test in the United States done by the NCI and NTP is done on man-made chemicals. But then in Japan, all over now, people are testing natural chemicals and they're finding just as many carcinogens. They're finding a very large number of carcinogens among natural chemicals and the amounts of these are just enormous relative to the man-mades. We're learning --
HUNTER-GAULT: But you're -- excuse me. You're not saying, though, that there are no chemical causes of these cancers, but that the causes have to be shared with natural carcinogens?
Prof. AMES: Right. That overwhelmingly the causes of cancer are smoking, which is 30% of the cancer and 25% of the heart disease. We know there's an epidemic of lung cancer due to smoking. And then I think it's just the aging process. So cancer is the degenerative disease of old age.It goes very sharply up with age.
HUNTER-GAULT: But not -- but you don't accept the notion that those figures are skewed because of groups being excluded?
Prof. AMES: No. No, I don't think there's any evidence for that at all. And then we're learning that in our food there's a tremendous variety of things. For example, I pointed out that every plant in nature has to defend itself against all those insects, and every --
HUNTER-GAULT: All right, I think I got -- excuse me. I think I get your point on that, and before I lose it I want to ask Dr. Ames [sic] his response to the whole idea that the natural carcinogens are a far greater danger and account for more of the cancers, plus smoking, of course, than the ones that concern you.
Dr. EPSTEIN: Well, I'm sorry. Is that question addressed to me?
Dr. EPSTEIN: Yes, well, first of all, we have lived with a wide range of carcinogens in our food stuffs since time immemorial. The problem which we're discussing now is the incremental addition into the environment of a very, very wide range of new carcinogens which are synthetic carcinogens for the most part, whose introduction into the environment has been attended by these very sharp increase in cancer rates and trends which are increasing evermore in the future. Now, as far as smoking is concerned, I should point out that while indeed smoking is certainly a major cause of lung cancer, chronic disease, disability and death, there's equally no question that the role of smoking has been grossly exaggerated to divert attention away from the role of occupational carcinogens, which also produce lung cancer. For instance, about 20%, up to 20% of lung cancers occur in non-smokers, and the rate of increase of lung cancer in non-smokers has increased more than double in the last two decades. In addition to that, blacks, for instance, they start smoking later in life, they smoke less than whites, but they have more than about a 40- to 50-percent greater increase in lung cancer. In various occupational groups you have a five- to tenfold increase in lung cancer rates, irrespective whether you standaridize for smoking or not. There clearly is evidence that a very wide range of occupational carcinogens will induce lung cancer, and in fact a government report in 1978 estimated that past exposure to as few as six carcinogens could result for up to 30,000 lung cancer deaths a year, 25% of all lung cancer rates. So clearly, in addition to smoking we are faced with a very wide range of potent synthetic and industrial carcinogens which are contaminating our air, our water and our food and the workplace. And in fact I should point out that apart from Dr. Ames' 180-degree switch on this matter, a few years ago he was calling for a ban on Tris, the flame retardant, and one of the reasons why he was calling for the ban on this is because it was contaminated with EDB. We have seen a total switch in Dr. Ames' position and an insistence a few years ago that policy should be influenced by his thoughts then, and now he has this bee in his bonnet about diet, for which we have lived with time immemorial, which clearly could have been associated with preindustrial cancer, and he has the strange -- he takes the strange position that his shifts in personal position should in fact be influenced -- should in fact be mirrored in public policy.
HUNTER-GAULT: Well, Dr. Epstein --
Dr. EPSTEIN: Which is somewhat strange.
HUNTER-GAULT: I'm sorry. I have to take the strange position and thank you very much and thank Dr. Ames, and perhaps we'll get another crack at this at another time. Thank you both for being with us. Robin?
MacNEIL: Here are some economic and business notes.
The Commerce Department said that factory orders for new manufactured goods rose 1.2% in January. The statistic was helped by a surge in orders for steel. The government reported that sales of new houses fell in January by 8% compared with December, but the January figures were 16% better than a year ago.
Another government study looked at the unemployment picture for the whole of 1983, the year when the economy was largely recovering from recession. It found that 18 states and the District of Columbia still had an average unemployment rate of 10% or more, one more state in that range than in 1982. While the overall rate of joblessness was declining, unemployment rose in nine states and the District of Columbia last year.
The stock market had a better day today. The Dow Jones average of 30 industrial stocks rose 12.04 points to close at 1171.48.
[Video postcard -- Buck Meadows, California]
WOODRUFF: Turning now to a final look at today's top stories. The new leader of the Soviet Union made his first major speech since taking power last month. Konstantin Chernenko said the U.S. has put obstacles in the way of nuclear arms talks. There was a quiet reaction from Washington. A Reagan administration spokesman said there is still a chance for dialogue with the Soviets.
In Beirut details were released today about a deal between Lebanon's President Gemayel and Syria's President Assad. There's a call for a ceasefire and a new round of talks in Geneva.
From the Iran-iraq war there were reports of more fighting and heavy casualties and a new warning. Iran says the U.S. would make a historic mistake if it intervenes in the Gulf war. The U.S. has pledged to keep the oil-important Strait of Hormuz open to shipping.
It was another day on the witness stand for Attorney General-designate Edwin Meese. At his confirmation hearings Meese defended his personal finances and explained his plans for the Justice Department.
And one last note: politics' gain may be literature's loss. At least that's the hope of would-be President and would-be novelist Gary Hart. The Washington Post reported today that the Democratic presidential candidate is writing a spy novel with a Republican senator, William Cohen of Maine. But Cohen says they may never finish the book if his co-author gets elected and goes downtown.
Robin? Tulsa Opera
MacNEIL: We close tonight with a story from the opera world. An important new production opens tomorrow night. Although the opera's lyrics are in Italian, the production has a distinctively American flavor. Kwame Holman caught up with the production during a full dress rehearsal this week.
KWAME HOLMAN [voice-over]: This is Donizetti's opera "Lucia di Lammermoor," but it is not the Metropolitan Opera in New York nor La Scala in Milan. This is Tulsa, Oklahoma, only the 56th largest city in the country, yet it supports one of the nation's best opera companies.Tulsa Opera audiences come from as far as 500 miles away to attend performances that have gained an international reputation as top quality presentations.
ED PURRINGTON, executive director, Tulsa Opera: Tulsa is only about 360,000 people. Few communities of that size support an opera company that does three operas a year and three performances of each.
HOLMAN [voice-over]: Ed Purrington is the executive director of Tulsa Opera. He is credited with much of its current success. In keeping with his artistic philosophy, Purrington hired an all-American cast, including lead soprano Erie Mills. Mills believes it is the people of Tulsa who make opera here unique.
ERIE MILLS, soprano: This enthusiasm just is there from the minute you land on the plane. In the airport they take such good care of you, and they're all excited for three weeks about the opening night. You know, "What's going to happen?" and "This is Tulsa, and it's happening here and isn't it exciting?" And you can't help but get caught up in that excitement.
HOLMAN [voice-over]: Opera fans here are homegrown. Many have never seen an opera anywhere else. They include oil company executives, refinery workers and farmers like Lloyd Smith.
LLOYD SMITH, farmer: From about 1953 on I suppose we've been regular patrons of Tulsa Opera, and we don't contribute much but we do something each year.
HOLMAN [voice-over]: Lloyd Smith saw his first opera in 1940 and still remembers his reaction.
Mr. SMITH: I just couldn't believe that people could do this. I had never seen a performance of anything that long, and here these people were not only acting but they were singing, keeping tune, going through the proper actions, all without being prompted or having to stop and repeat.
HOLMAN [voice-over]: Another Tulsa Opera fan is Barbara Shallenberger, a former Miss Tulsa who now works as a receptionist at an oil company.
BARBARA SHALLENBERGER, receptionist: Well, I think it's a miracle that Tulsa has an opera house that is one of the 10 top regional opera companies in the country.
HOLMAN [voice-over]: Barbara Shallenberger is one of many Tulsans who has become more than just a spectator. In "Lucia" she is a member of the chorus.
Ms. SHALLENBERGER: For me to be able to work with stars like Erie Mills, Jerry Hadley, directors like Rhoda Levine, it's worth a paying job for me. I'd rather have that than money.
Mr. PURRINGTON: We provide opportunities for creative people in the Tulsa area to become directly involved. Last season, for instance, we involved 668 people in the three operas.
HOLMAN [voice-over]: Another reason for the love affair between Tulsans and their opera is the Opera's commitment to developing future audiences. In the weeks leading up to each production, the company sponsors instruction in local schools. At Elliott Elementary School third-graders are taught the story and major arias of "Lucia" by teacher Virginia Torres. [children playing opera] Between rehearsals for her title role in "Lucis," Erie Mills went to the classroom to cheer the young people on.
For Erie Mills this production is a turning point in her career. Conductor Anton Coppola.
ANTON COPPOLA, conductor: The Tulsa Opera's production of "Lucia" is just not another production done by another regional opera company. This is a very special one and because of the fact that it's launching Erie Mills in the very, very important role of Lucia. I think that Tulsa Opera and Ed Purrington are being very courageous in charging a young, fairly unknown, fairly inexperienced soprano like Erie Mills with a major role such as Lucia.
HOLMAN [voice-over]: But Ed Purrington shrugs off the risks.
Mr. PURRINGTON: When you find a unique talent, you make a commitment to it.I think Erie Mills is just such a remarkable talent, and therefore building this whole production of "Lucia" around her I didn't feel was a gamble. I felt that is was a calculated risk, sure. I mean, putting on opera is a risk. But this was a well-calculated risk. I think she has all of the elements to be a brilliant Lucia. She's a fabulous artist.
HOLMAN [voice-over]: In the three years it has taken Ed Purrington to put this production together, the totally unknown soprano he engaged then has had great success in some of the world's larger opera centers. Mills' New York City Opera debut last season in "Candide" drew rave reviews, and next year she makes her debut starring at La Scala in Milan. But back in Granite City, Illinois, where she was born and the place she still calls home, opera certainly wasn't a high priority.
Ms. MILLS: First of all, I didn't know that I wanted to be an opera singer. In fact, I did not want to be an opera singer, because I thought of opera as being this rather low form, overblown art form where everybody's going around stabbing each other and dying and saying, "I love you," in 10 minutes and all that kind of stuff. I think it's very important for people in America to do their homework before they come to the opera because I can't tell you how many people say, "Oh, you're an opera singer. Oh, I hate opera." You know, "How many operas have you been to?" "Well, I have never been to any of them, but I know I wouldn't like it." And I said, "That's like me saying, you know, 'I hate football,' and then I say, 'I've never been to a game.'"
Mr. COPPOLA: Tulsa Opera is a wonderful place to be at this moment because we're going to be witnessing and we're going to be privy to a very auspicious moment in operatic history.
MacNEIL: As we said, tomorrow night is the big opening night for Erie Mills and for Tulsa. Good night, Judy.
WOODRUFF: My birthplace. Good night, Robin. That's our NewsHour for tonight. I'm Judy Woodruff, thank you and good night.
The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
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This episode of The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour covers the following headlines: the charge that Congress is to blame for dashing US hopes in Lebanon, new questions about a cancer epidemic fueled by paranoia, and a profile piece on the Tulsa Opera company.
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