January 30, 2007

Planned U.S. Biological Work Illegal, Expert Says


Operations planned for a new laboratory at Fort Detrick in Maryland would violate a federal law against the development of biological weapons, the author of the legislation charged last week (see GSN, Jan. 23).

The U.S. Army is replacing its Military Institute of Infectious Diseases with a new laboratory that would be a component of a biodefense campus operated by several agencies, the Associated Press reported. The laboratory is intended to continue research that is only meant for defense against biological threats, according to the Army.

However, University of Illinois international law professor Francis Boyle said the Fort Detrick work “will include acquiring, growing, modifying, storing, packaging and dispersing classical, emerging and genetically engineered pathogens.” Those activities, as well as planned study of the properties of pathogens when weaponized, “are unmistakable hallmarks of an offensive weapons program,” Boyle wrote in comments submitted to Fort Detrick as part of its environmental impact assessment of the new facility.

Boyle authored the Biological Weapons Antiterrorism Act of 1989, which President George H.W. Bush signed in 1990. The professor is a longtime opponent of U.S. biodefense and nuclear weapons programs, AP reported.

In 2004, USAMRIID Commander Col. George Korch Jr. acknowledged that research at Fort Detrick might include genetic engineering of organisms in order to make them more lethal. The intent would be only to ensure that U.S. biodefenses would provide protection against even the deadliest diseases, he said. Korch cited as examples of possible work the aerosolization of germs and developing new methods of pathogen delivery.

The laboratory’s work would follow federal law and the international Biological Weapons Convention, according to Army officials. Development, production and stockpiling of pathogen samples is allowed under the national and international rules for defense and protection purposes, they said (David Dishneau, Associated Press/WTOP, Jan. 30).

WHO Board Defers Date to Destroy Smallpox


The Executive Board of the World Health Organization last week reaffirmed the institution’s goal of destroying the last known stocks of smallpox virus, but recommended deferring a decision on the destruction date until at least 2010 (see GSN, May 30, 2006).

The only known samples of lethal strain, known as variola virus, are held in two laboratories in the United States and Russia, where they have been kept since the last case of smallpox infection was documented in 1978. The World Health Organization has repeatedly decided that these samples should be destroyed, but growing concerns about bioterrorism have led some scientists to urge keeping the samples to use for defensive study.

In a draft resolution passed Saturday, the WHO board recommended continuing study of the retention issue with the goal of reaching a consensus of WHO members in three or four years. The draft resolution is set to be reviewed by the World Health Assembly later this year.

The board “strongly reaffirms the decisions of previous Health Assemblies that the remaining stocks of variola virus should be destroyed,” the draft resolution says.

The draft resolution also calls on WHO officials to conduct a “major review” of smallpox research to help a future assembly “reach global consensus on the timing of the destruction of the existing variola virus stocks.” The recommended date of the decision, however, was not agreed by the board, which included 2010 and 2011 as possible years in bracketed text in the draft resolution (Greg Webb, Global Security Newswire, Jan. 30).

Meanwhile, the Australian National University plans an opening ceremony tomorrow for a new national biosecurity center that will study smallpox, among other deadly

January 29, 2007

Twenty Paramedics Sent Home (Canada)

Jordan Press

The number of paramedics in the city is down dramatically after approximately 20 were sent home without pay for not having obtained a flu shot.

The move has forced management to take over for those taken off duty; part-time workers have been called in; and remaining full-time workers are being offered more overtime to compensate for the loss of bodies. "And they've already had problems staffing the vehicles," said Terry Baker, president of OPSEU Local 462, which represents about 120 paramedics in the area.

"The scenario it creates is it could .limit the amount of vehicles needed for emergency coverage." The County of Frontenac, which oversees ambulance operations for this region keeps nine vehicles on the road during the day and five at night.

Each ambulance has two paramedics assigned to it. There are 62 full-time paramedics and about 40 part-time staff. There are also 22 volunteers on Wolfe Island. Paramedics who didn't get a flu shot were sent home without pay after thepublic health unit declared an influenza outbreak last week.

On Thursday, Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington Public Health declared an influenza outbreak at Providence Continuing Care Centre's Mental HealthServices site. At last count, there were three linked cases of the flu, said medical officer of health Dr. Ian Gemmill. The outbreak was the first of the season and the first declared outbreak in recent years.

"We've been very lucky. We had two years of no declared outbreaks inKingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington," said Paul Charbonneau, the county's chief of paramedic services. Paramedics were given three options: get the flu shot, take an antiviral such as Tamiflu, or stay home for the duration of the outbreak without pay. "So those options were presented," Charbonneau said. "What choices they decided to make I can't discuss."

Some paramedics don't take the flu shot because they are allergic to it, Baker said. There are also concerns about taking Tamiflu because of potential side-effects from the antiviral drug, he said. "And the drug plan will not cover it. The employee would have to pay for the medication on their own." At first, four paramedics from the day shift were sent home and two from the night shift were told to not come to work, Baker said. More were sent homeover the ensuing days.

By law, paramedics don't have to get the flu shot. In 2002, the province pushed for legislation that would have forced personnel to get the flu shot, but backed down after a strong union response. Instead, wording was put in place that didn't require a flu shot, but required some action in the event an influenza outbreak was declared. No other medical profession is required to have a flu shot, Baker said. Local paramedics are upset over the situation, he said, adding the union is prepared to take action next year to make its point. "What we have come to the conclusion on is that next fall no paramedic get the flu shot, period. And then what's management going to do?" Baker said.

"We all entered the job to take care of the sick, ill and injured, but at some point you've got to make a stand." Gemmill said all medical professionals should get the flu shot for health and legal reasons. "This is the ambulance policy and we support them 100 per cent," Gemmill said.

Lawmakers erred when they singled out paramedics for mandatory vaccinations five years ago, Gemmill said. The vaccine is safe and helps prevent spread of the disease, he said. Lastweek, workers from the public health unit spoke with paramedics about the shot, Gemmill said. He said he, too, has problems with Tamiflu, but not the same ones as the union. The antiviral drug shouldn't be used in lieu of the flu shot, but tocontrol outbreaks, he said. Using it otherwise would encourage resistance, Gemmill said.

The situation also comes as the county and the union representing paramedics are close to ratifying a new contract - the first one for emergency workers in three years. Members of OPSEU Local 462 have been without a contract since the province downloaded ambulance service to the county three years ago. On the weekend, the two sides met from 8 a.m. Saturday to 5 a.m. yesterday to reach an agreement. The union wanted wording in place regarding flu shots and influenza outbreaks. Nothing, however, was resolved on that point, Baker said.

Nonetheless, Baker said the union's bargaining unit will recommend the deal to members at a general meeting next month.

January 27, 2007

Bioterrorism Alerts Induce Anxiety and may Pose Health Risk, Einstein Study Finds


In the wake of September 11, 2001, the government and the media have periodically alerted the American people to potential threats of bioterrorism. Now, a team of researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University has found that such messages measurably raise anxiety levels, which could pose adverse health effects. And, based on their findings - reported in the current issue of the International Quarterly of Community Health Education - the researchers suggest that a comprehensive independent review of such messages is long overdue.

"Unlike public health messages that portray dire scenarios to try to scare people into quitting smoking or using seatbelts, similar bioterrorism scenarios do not lead to any measurable beneficial behavior change," notes senior author Dr. Hillel Cohen, associate professor of epidemiology and population health at Einstein.

He adds, "Public health programs, which these alerts fall under, and other health interventions are typically evaluated by weighing efficacy and safety. If a public health program can induce stress and anxiety in the population, these should be considered potentially adverse effects that need evaluation."

Dr. Cohen and his collaborators from the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, also of Yeshiva University, conducted their study with volunteers recruited from students enrolled at both Einstein and Ferkauf. Potential participants were asked if they would participate in a research study involving the perception of a public health message and its relation to anxiety.

The 116 participants (26 men and 90 women) randomly received one of two messages: either a potent bioterrorism message portraying a graphic account of a horrific case of bioterrorism, or a message more neutral in tone that presented bioterrorism as a risk that was minor relative to other public health challenges. Those receiving the more potent message became the 'experimental' group, while those receiving the more neutral message were considered the 'control' group. Anxiety was evaluated at the state and trait scores of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), while the Noncontingent Outcome Instrument also was used to measure pessimism regarding uncontrollable events, in order to identify the potential confounder of a general pessimistic outlook that could affect the STAI scores. In addition, knowledge of bioterrorism was measured using a general Knowledge Questionnaire designed specifically for the study. Participants underwent all three components of these measures both before and after reading the randomized messages.

While 'state anxiety' pre-intervention scores and pre-scores for 'trait anxiety' were similar for both groups, 'change-in-state' scores were sharply different. "We saw a statistically significant increase in the 'state anxiety' levels for the experimental group and a decrease of similar magnitude for the control group," says Dr. Cohen. "And while there was negligible change in 'trait scores' for the control group, we found a significant increase in anxiety in the experimental group. "

Alarms and warnings are purposely constructed to stimulate an arousal response," notes Dr. Cohen. "It is not surprising that alarms and warnings about potential dangers in general could also elevate anxiety and stress. Public health messages, like those to encourage quitting smoking or not driving after drinking, take advantage of this likely response in order to promote an aversion response to behaviors considered harmful. While risks and benefits are routinely weighed for medications and other health interventions, health related messages are simply assumed to be harmless. Our findings suggest this is not necessarily so. Therefore all health interventions including warnings about potential threats of bioterrorism should be evaluated by weighing the expected benefits against the potential risk of harm."

He adds, "With smoking, the behavior to be avoided is clear. With bioterrorism, it is not at all clear what behaviors the public is expected to avoid or adopt, or what benefits could be anticipated if behaviors were to change. Therefore, before utilizing this approach to public health in the future, a clearer evaluation of its efficacy and safety should be undertaken. Doing so could prevent potentially harmful warnings that do little more than raise anxiety among the general population without offering a beneficial action for the public to take."

Dr. Cohen's collaborators on the study were Dr. Charles Swencionis, associate clinical professor of epidemiology and population health and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Einstein, and Dr. Sandra Lightstone, of the Ferkauf School of Psychology.

January 26, 2007

Dangers Increasing in 21st Century, Chertoff Says


The world would face an irreversible change for the worse if terrorists are able to acquire weapons of mass destruction, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said today (see GSN, Dec. 29, 2006).

“What we face in the 21st century is the ability of even a single individual , and certainly a group, to leverage technology in a way to cause a type of destruction and a magnitude of destruction that would have been unthinkable a century ago,” he said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “And that is only going to get worse.

“You can’t put the genie back in the bottle once a weapon of mass destruction or a nuclear bomb gets into the hands of a terrorist,” Chertoff said. “You are not going to be able to reclaim that and it is going to transform the way in which we live” (Associated Press/New York Times, Jan. 25).

January 25, 2007

Scientists Tighten Security over Germ Terror Threat

Stewart Tendler and Daniel McGrory

New checks on stocks of 100 deadly virusesMI5 issues warning to universities and labs
Britain’s laboratories have been ordered to strengthen security on stocks of more than 100 deadly viruses and bacteria after an MI5 warning that Islamic terrorists are training in germ warfare. The biological agents include polio, rabies, tuberculosis and avian flu. Food poisoning bacteria such as E. coli and the sources of a number of rare tropical and Middle Eastern illnesses are also included.

Scientists and laboratory staff in universities, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies who deal with agents will have to be vetted by police, and their laboratories will be checked by government safety inspectors. Stock will have to be regularly audited. The crackdown comes after MI5 privately warned the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that al-Qaeda was actively recruiting scientists. Extremist groups are known to have targeted students, offering to fund courses in return for using their newly acquired expertise.

Last November Dame Eliza Man-ningham-Buller, the Director-General of MI5, gave warning that terror attacks in Britain could involve weapons of mass destruction.

She said that terrorists were seeking the means to mount a range of attacks using chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear devices. “We know that the aspiration is there, we know attempts to gather materials are there, we know that attempts to gather technologies are there,” she said.

Ayman al-Zawahri, al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, warned the the West in an internet video last night of a reprisal “far worse than anything it has seen” if Washington did not change its policies towards Muslim states.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in America, security at laboratories was stepped up amid new intelligence on the ambitions of al-Qaeda and its allies, and restrictions were placed on 47 agents under the Antiterrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.

Yesterday the Government announced that the list was being increased to 103, including 45 viruses, 21 bacteria, 2 fungi, 13 toxins and 18 animal pathogens.

Tony McNulty, the Home Office minister in charge of policing, said: “The terror threat is always changing and we must adapt to ensure it is combated effectively. As terrorists look for new ways to endanger life, we have to take action to be one step ahead.”

He said: “That is why we are extending the list of controlled substances to prevent terrorist groups using chemical or biological materials as terrorist weapons.”

The move comes after a review by a Whitehall committee known as the Salisbury Group, which includes MI5, police, scientists from Porton Down, Defra, the Health and Safety Executive and the Health Protection Agency.

The additions to the list include many of the bacteria and viruses that strike at animals, such as foot-and-mouth disease. These might not be harmful to humans but could be devastating to the economy, as was the foot-and-mouth outbreak in Britain in 2001.
Others such as Rift Valley fever normally infect animals but have spread to human populations and caused widespread illness and death as the illness did in Egypt in the 1970s.

Guanarito virus or Venezuelan haemorrhagic fever can be fatal in a third of cases, while Shigella boydii can cause dysentery.

John Wood, of the National Institute for Biological Standards and Controls, said scientists will have to show a valid reason for working with the agents. He said the changes mirrored controls in the US and would probably mean much stricter access to laboratories.

Alistair Hay, Professor of Environmental Toxicology at Leeds University, said that the measures were prudent. He said the introduction of the first controls had been accepted by the scientific community.

He said that in the 1980s a cult in Orgeon used a bacterium to spread food poisoning and sabotage elections that threatened them.

January 22, 2007

Democrats to destroy Burr's bioterrorism panel

Barbara Barrett, Rob Christensen and Bill Krueger, Staff Writers

The Senate subcommittee charged with overseeing the implementation of a bioterrorism law written by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr will be dissolved under the new Democratic leadership.

Burr, a Winston-Salem Republican, had been chairman of the Bioterrorism and Public Health Subcommittee of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
In that role, Burr helped usher in sweeping legislation that puts billions of dollars toward public health preparedness for bioterrorism and natural disasters. He also wrote legislation to create an agency for developing vaccines and countermeasures against biological, chemical and radiological threats.

In the minority, Burr would have been ranking member of the subcommittee.

But U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, chairman of the committee, plans to dissolve the subcommittee. He will bring its duties under the umbrella of the full committee.

Laura Caudell, a Burr spokeswoman, said Burr will work to ensure the legislation is fully implemented.

"He is going to remain committed to public health preparedness," she said.

January 21, 2007

No weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, but forced anthrax vaccinations are back anyway

Meryl Nass, M.D.
January 20, 2007

The bad news is that the Pentagon has begun giving mandatory anthrax
vaccinations to soldiers, despite the lack of a formal announcement.

In late October 2006, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health
Affairs, William Winkenwerder, M.D. (http://www.ha.osd.mil/ha/

winkenwerder-bio.cfm), announced that the mandatory anthrax vaccine
program was to be reinstated in about two months, after new policies
were issued. Although the policies are still pending, perhaps due to
the fact that a new Secretary of Defense began his tenure after the
announcement was made, the military has begun widespread
vaccinations, often during boot camp. Previously, vaccinations were
generally given to soldiers right before deploying, when they were
more seasoned.

One may surmise that vaccinating soldiers with a controversial and
dangerous vaccine as soon as they begin active duty was carefully
calculated: the new recruits won’t have the opportunity to learn
about all the problems associated with this vaccine in advance of
their inoculations. By making no formal announcement of the
resumption of vaccinations, the Defense Department forestalled public
discussion of the program in the media, which would likely lead to
undesirable publicity, when the military is already enmeshed in a
very unpopular war and trying hard to “look good.”

Here are the facts about the vaccine:

1. FDA only approved the vaccine manufacturing plant in January 2002
under pressure from the administration, as a result of 9/11. The
renovated plant was still not able to produce sterile vaccine! The
compromise led to all vaccine batches being trucked to Washington
State, to be bottled by another company with cleaner procedures.

2. The recipe and method for making vaccine did not change since
1998, according to the manufacturer’s testimony to the Institute of
Medicine in 2001. Thus there is no reason to think this version of
the vaccine is any better than the old version.

3. Unfortunately, I am still contacted several times a week by
soldiers who received post-renovation anthrax vaccine, but became
sick with the same illnesses that were caused by older vaccine lots.
Although some lots of vaccine may be worse than others, please do not
assume that any lots are completely safe. The vaccine component(s)
causing the illnesses remains unknown.

4. Many studies of Gulf War veterans suggest anthrax vaccine caused
or contributed to chronic illness in those veterans. The only
studies that claim the vaccine is safe were performed by the Defense
Department. Most of those studies were supervised by the same
individual, Colonel John Grabenstein, who was the director of the
military’s vaccine program. Colonel Grabenstein claimed that NO
chronic illnesses resulted from anthrax vaccine. Yet on the anthrax
vaccine package insert, FDA explains why those military studies had
serious problems and cannot be relied upon.

5. Anthrax vaccine reactions are unfortunately very common. Most
soldiers who have been in the military for long know several people
who became ill and/or disabled shortly after receiving anthrax
inoculations. I estimate that 10% – 30% of all soldiers who have
been vaccinated have developed some medical problem as a result.
Some are minor, some severe. Many airmen have lost the ability to
continue flying (DNIF).

6. The most common side effects are new pains in muscles and
joints. Short-term memory loss and periods of confusion are also
common. Fatigue and problems sleeping usually accompany these
symptoms. Some people develop inflammatory bowel disease, with
severe, sometimes bloody diarrhea. Some develop other autoimmune
disorders, like lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, and reactive
arthritis. Rashes are common. There have been many cases of low
testosterone and rare hypogonadism. Thyroid disorders appear commonly.

You can download vaccine adverse event reporting system (VAERS)
reports since 1998 from the FDA website to see what kinds of medical
problems were experienced following anthrax inoculations, according
to the nearly 5,000 soldiers who have reported them to FDA.

You can read about a study of the anthrax vaccine VAERS reports by
independent researchers Mark and David Geier at:

7. Sometimes other vaccinations bring on recurrent symptoms.
Sometimes odors begin to trigger symptoms. Some people improve over
time; some stay the same; some worsen. A few have died. There is a
suspicion that thyroid cancer may be caused by the vaccine, and
breast or cervical cancers in females. Military statistics from the
Defense Medical Surveillance System Database indicate many more
hospitalizations for those problems after anthrax vaccination,
compared to before vaccination. See the military’s own statistics
at: http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10310&page=246

What can soldiers do when faced with the anthrax vaccine? It seems
we are in a legal gray area now. Personally, I would ask to be given
informed consent. I would ask for a copy of the vaccine label to
review, which can be found at: www.fda.gov/CBER/label/

No one has been court-martialed for refusal recently, and ASD
Winkenwerder did not say what punishments might be used against
vaccine refusers last October, when he announced the program was to
be restarted.

You are welcome to contact the Military Biodefense Vaccine Project
(http://www.military-biodefensevaccines.org/) and contact@military-
biodefensevaccines.org for a discussion of your personal situation
with a knowledgeable volunteer.

Meryl Nass, M.D.

January 19, 2007

Chemical weapons vaccine enters clinical trials

Chemical weapons vaccine enters clinical trials
By Mike Nagle

A vaccine that protects against the effects of nerve agents often used in chemical weapons is ready to be tested on human volunteers, according to developer Baxter Healthcare.

The ‘BioScavenger' vaccine could prevent and possibly treat the effects of exposure to organophosphorus nerve agents such as Sarin, Soman and VX. The Phase I clinical trial will be managed by the DynPort Vaccine Company (DVC), part of information technology service provider Computer Sciences.
“Confirming the safety of this product in humans is a crucial step toward an FDA-licensed chemical nerve agent prophylactic,” said Dr Robert House, chief scientific officer of DVC.

VX can kill within minutes at levels as low as 50mg. According to the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq, former dictator Saddam Hussein ordered missiles loaded with the nerve agent to be manufactured.

The molecules that make up organophosphorus nerve agents permanently attach themselves to enzymes in the blood and tissue, preventing those enzymes from working. This stops certain neurons from being able to return to their resting state and leads to a build up in neurotransmitter levels. Depending on where the agent is absorbed by the body, this can cause pain, nausea, loss of consciousness, convulsions and ultimately death.

The vaccine consists of plasma-derived butyrylcholinesterase, one of the enzymes attacked by nerve agents. By replacing the enzyme, the vaccine could prevent or lessen the effects of exposure.

DVC is conducting the trial as part of a contract awarded by the US Department of Defense Medical Identification and Treatment Systems (MITS). The trial will test the safety of the vaccine on 40 healthy volunteers aged between 18 and 55.

If the trials prove successful, Baxter Healthcare will hold the FDA license and have responsibility to supply stockpile orders.

Canadian Lab Recreates 1918 Flu Virus


The National Microbiology Laboratory in Canada has recreated the 1918 influenza virus that killed up to 50 million people, renewing fears that such research could be conducted for harmful purposes, the CanWest News Service reported today (see GSN, Oct. 6, 2005).

Research at the Winnipeg facility builds upon the 2005 U.S. recreation of the extinct virus.

“This is the second time 1918 influenza virus A has been reconstructed,” said Harvard University Medical School virologist Jens Kuhn. “Therefore, the study demonstrates that this, albeit difficult, task could be recreated anywhere, including in laboratories in hostile countries or terrorist groups who might not have public health at heart.”

Studying the 1918 virus could help improve researchers’ understanding of the lethality of some flus, Kuhn said and others said.

“You have to work with the devil somewhat to figure out what is going on,” said University of Ottawa virologist Earl Brown.

Kuhn said, though, that the Canadian research “raises some concerns.” There is no indication that international review and approval was given before experiments began, he said.

“Indirectly, this paper therefore legitimizes similar experiments in any laboratory of the world, with the risk of laboratory accidents or virus release into the environment increasing with every new laboratory undertaking them,” he said by e-mail.

The Canadian project received approval from the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Council on Animal Care, scientists said.

Researchers injected the virus into monkeys in order to study its virulence. Further experiments are planned, but the virus will not be allowed to leave the Biosafety Level 4 laboratory, scientists told the News Service (Margaret Munro, CanWest News Service, Jan. 19).

January 16, 2007

The Anti-Empire Report

The Anti-Empire Report
Johnny Got His Gun

In the past year Iran has issued several warnings to the United States about the consequences of an American or Israeli attack. One statement, issued in November by a high Iranian military official, declared: "If America attacks Iran, its 200,000 troops and 33 bases in the region will be extremely vulnerable, and both American politicians and military commanders are aware of it."[1]

Iran apparently believes that American leaders would be so deeply distressed by the prospect of their young men and women being endangered and possibly killed that they would forswear any reckless attacks on Iran. As if American leaders have been deeply stabbed by pain about throwing youthful American bodies into the bottomless snakepit called Iraq, or were restrained by fear of retaliation or by moral qualms while feeding 58,000 young lives to the Vietnam beast. As if American leaders, like all world leaders, have ever had such concerns.

Let's have a short look at some modern American history, which may be instructive in this regard. A report of the US Congress in 1994 informed us that:

Approximately 60,000 military personnel were used as human subjects in the 1940s to test two chemical agents, mustard gas and lewisite [blister gas]. Most of these subjects were not informed of the nature of the experiments and never received medical followup after their participation in the research. Additionally, some of these human subjects were threatened with imprisonment at Fort Leavenworth if they discussed these experiments with anyone, including their wives, parents, and family doctors. For decades, the Pentagon denied that the research had taken place, resulting in decades of suffering for many veterans who became ill after the secret testing.[2] In the decades between the 1940s and 1990s, we find a remarkable variety of government programs, either formally, or in effect, using soldiers as guinea pigs -- marched to nuclear explosion sites, with pilots sent through the mushroom clouds; subjected to chemical and biological weapons experiments; radiation experiments; behavior modification experiments that washed their brains with LSD; widespread exposure to the highly toxic dioxin of Agent Orange in Korea and Vietnam ... the list goes on ... literally millions of experimental subjects, seldom given a choice or adequate information, often with disastrous effects to their physical and/or mental health, rarely with proper medical care or even monitoring.[3]

In the 1990s, many thousands of American soldiers came home from the Gulf War with unusual, debilitating ailments. Exposure to harmful chemical or biological agents was suspected, but the Pentagon denied that this had occurred. Years went by while the veterans suffered terribly: neurological problems, chronic fatigue, skin problems, scarred lungs, memory loss, muscle and joint pain, severe headaches, personality changes, passing out, and much more. Eventually, the Pentagon, inch by inch, was forced to move away from its denials and admit that, yes, chemical weapon depots had been bombed; then, yes, there probably were releases of deadly poisons; then, yes, American soldiers were indeed in the vicinity of these poisonous releases, 400 soldiers; then, it might have been 5,000; then, "a very large number", probably more than 15,000; then, finally, a precise number -- 20,867; then, "The Pentagon announced that a long-awaited computer model estimates that nearly 100,000 U.S. soldiers could have been exposed to trace amounts of sarin gas."[4]

If the Pentagon had been much more forthcoming from the outset about what it knew all along about these various substances and weapons, the soldiers might have had a proper diagnosis early on and received appropriate care sooner. The cost in terms of human suffering has been incalculable.

Soldiers have also been forced to take vaccines against anthrax and nerve gas not approved by the FDA as safe and effective; and punished, sometimes treated like criminals, if they refused. (During World War II, soldiers were forced to take a yellow fever vaccine, with the result that some 330,000 of them were infected with the hepatitis B virus.[5])

And through all the recent wars, countless American soldiers have been put in close proximity to the radioactive dust of exploded depleted uranium-tipped shells and missiles on the battlefield; depleted uranium has been associated with a long list of rare and terrible illnesses and birth defects. It poisons the air, the soil, the water, the lungs, the blood, and the genes. (The widespread dissemination of depleted uranium by American warfare -- from Serbia to Afghanistan to Iraq -- should be an international scandal and crisis, like AIDS, and would be in a world not so intimidated by the United States.)

The catalogue of Pentagon abuses of American soldiers goes on ... Troops serving in Iraq or their families have reported purchasing with their own funds bullet-proof vests, better armor for their vehicles, medical supplies, and global positioning devices, all for their own safety, which were not provided to them by the army ... Continuous complaints by servicewomen of sexual assault and rape at the hands of their male counterparts are routinely played down or ignored by the military brass ... Numerous injured and disabled vets from all wars have to engage in an ongoing struggle to get the medical care they were promised ... One should read "Army Acts to Curb Abuses of Injured Recruits" (New York Times, May 12, 2006) for accounts of the callous, bordering on sadistic, treatment of soldiers in bases in the United States ... Repeated tours of duty, which fracture family life and increase the chance not only of death or injury but of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).[6]

National Public Radio's "All Things Considered", on December 4, 2006 and other days, ran a series on· Army mistreatment of soldiers home from Iraq and suffering serious PTSD. At Colorado's Ft. Carson these afflicted soldiers are receiving a variety of abuse and punishment much more than the help they need, as officers harass and punish them for being emotionally "weak."

Keep the above in mind the next time you hear a president or a general speaking on Memorial Day about "honor" and "duty" and about how much we "owe to the brave young men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of freedom and democracy."

And read "Johnny Got His Gun" by Dalton Trumbo for the ultimate abuse of soldiers by leaders of nations.

The Conscience of our Leaders

After he ordered the bombing of Panama in December 1989, which killed anywhere from 500 to a few thousand totally innocent people, guilty of no harm to any American, the first President George Bush declared that his "heart goes out to the families of those who have died in Panama".[7]

When asked by a reporter: "Was it really worth it to send people to their death for this? To get Noriega?", Bush replied: "Every human life is precious, and yet I have to answer, yes, it has been worth it."[8]

Speaking in November 1990 of his imminent invasion of Iraq, Bush, Sr. said: "People say to me: 'How many lives? How many lives can you expend?' Each one is precious."[9]

While his killing of thousands of Iraqis was proceeding merrily along in 2003, the second President George Bush was moved to say: "We believe in the value and dignity of every human life."[10]

In December 2006, the White House spokesman for Bush, Jr., commenting about American deaths reaching 3,000 in Iraq, said President Bush "believes that every life is precious and grieves for each one that is lost."[11]

Both father and son are on record expressing their deep concern for God and prayer both before and during their mass slaughters. "I trust God speaks through me," said Bush the younger in 2004. "Without that, I couldn't do my job."[12]

After his devastation of Iraq and its people, Bush the elder said: "I think that, like a lot of others who had positions of responsibility in sending someone else's kids to war, we realize that in prayer what mattered is how it might have seemed to God."[13]

God, one surmises, might have asked George Bush, father and son, about the kids of Iraq. And the adults. And, in a testy, rather ungodlike manner, might have snapped: "So stop wasting all the precious lives already!"

In the famous exchange on TV in 1996 between Madeleine Albright and reporter Lesley Stahl, the latter was speaking of US sanctions against Iraq, and asked the then-US ambassador to the UN, and Secretary of State-to-be: "We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And -- and you know, is the price worth it?" Replied Albright: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price -- we think the price is worth it."[14]

Ten years later, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, continuing the fine tradition of female Secretaries of State and the equally noble heritage of the Bush family, declared that the current horror in Iraq is "worth the investment" in American lives and dollars.[15]

And don't forget that we can't pull out of Iraq now because it would dishonor the troops who haven't died yet.

The American media as the Berlin Wall

In December 1975, while East Timor, which lies at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago, was undergoing a process of decolonization from Portugal, a struggle for power took place. A movement of the left, Fretilin, prevailed and then declared East Timor's independence from Portugal. Nine days later, Indonesia invaded East Timor. The invasion was launched the day after US President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had left Indonesia after giving President Suharto permission to use American arms, which, under US law, could not be used for aggression. But Indonesia was Washington's most valuable ally in Southeast Asia and, in any event, the United States was not inclined to look kindly on any government of the left.

Indonesia soon achieved complete control over East Timor, with the help of the American arms and other military aid, as well as diplomatic support at the UN. Amnesty International estimated that by 1989, Indonesian troops had killed 200,000 people out of a population of between 600,000 and 700,000, a death rate which is probably one of the highest in the entire history of wars.[16]

Is it not remarkable that in the numerous articles in the American daily press following President Ford's death last month, there was not a single mention of his role in the East Timor massacre? A search of the extensive Lexis-Nexis and other media databases finds mention of this only in a few letters to the editor from readers; not a word even in the reports of any of the news agencies, like the Associated Press, which generally shy away from controversy less than the newspapers they serve; nor a single mention in the mainstream broadcast news programs.

Imagine if following the recent death of Augusto Pinochet the media made no mention of his overthrow of the Allende government in Chile, or the mass murder and torture which followed. Ironically, the recent articles about Ford also failed to mention his remark a year after Pinochet's coup. President Ford declared that what the United States had done in Chile was "in the best interest of the people in Chile and certainly in our own best interest."[17]

During the Cold War, the American government and media never missed an opportunity to point out the news events embarrassing to the Soviet Union which became non-events in the communist media.

Man shall never fly

The Cold War is still with us. Because the ideological conflict that was the basis for it has not gone away. Because it can't go away. As long as capitalism exists, as long as it puts profit before people, as it must, as long as it puts profit before the environment, as it must, those on the receiving end of its sharp pointed stick must look for a better way.

Thus it is that when Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced a few days ago that he plans to nationalize telephone and electric utility companies to accelerate his "socialist revolution", the spokesperson for Capitalism Central, White House press secretary Tony Snow, was quick to the attack: "Nationalization has a long and inglorious history of failure around the world," Snow declared. "We support the Venezuelan people and think this is an unhappy day for them."[18]

Snow presumably buys into the belief that capitalism defeated socialism in the Cold War. A victory for a superior idea. The boys of Capital chortle in their martinis about the death of socialism. The word has been banned from polite conversation. And they hope that no one will notice that every socialist experiment of any significance in the past century has either been corrupted, subverted, perverted, or destabilized ... or crushed, overthrown, bombed, or invaded ... or otherwise had life made impossible for it, by the United States. Not one socialist government or movement -- from the Russian Revolution to Cuba, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the FMLN in Salvador, from Communist China to Grenada, Chile and Vietnam -- not one was permitted to rise or fall solely on its own merits; not one was left secure enough to drop its guard against the all-powerful enemy abroad and freely and fully relax control at home. Even many plain old social democracies -- such as in Guatemala, Iran, British Guiana, Serbia and Haiti, which were not in love with capitalism and were looking for another path -- even these too were made to bite the dust by Uncle Sam.

It's as if the Wright brothers' first experiments with flying machines all failed because the automobile interests sabotaged each test flight. And then the good and god-fearing folk of America looked upon this, took notice of the consequences, nodded their collective heads wisely, and intoned solemnly: Man shall never fly.

Tony Snow would have us believe that the government is no match for the private sector in efficiently getting large and important things done. But is that really true? Let's clear our minds for a moment, push our upbringing to one side, and remember that the American government has landed men on the moon, created great dams, marvelous national parks, an interstate highway system, the peace corps, built up an incredible military machine (ignoring for the moment what it's used for), student loans, social security, Medicare, insurance for bank deposits, protection of pension funds against corporate misuse, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, the Smithsonian, the G.I. Bill, and much, much more. In short, the government has been quite good at doing what it wanted to do, or what labor and other movements have made it do, like establishing worker health and safety standards and requiring food manufacturers to list detailed information about ingredients.

When George W. took office one of his chief goals was to examine whether jobs done by federal employees could be performed more efficiently by private contractors. Bush called it his top management priority. By the end of 2005, 50,000 government jobs had been studied. And federal workers had won the job competitions more than 80 percent of the time.[19]

We have to remind the American people of what they've instinctively learned but tend to forget when faced with statements like that of Tony Snow -- that they don't want more government, or less government; they don't want big government, or small government; they want government on their side.

And by the way, Tony, the great majority of the population in the last years of the Soviet Union had a much better quality of life, including a longer life, under their "failed nationalized" economy, than they have had under unbridled capitalism.

None of the above, of course, will deter The World's Only Superpower from continuing its jihad to impose capitalist fundamentalism upon the world.

Unwelcome guests at the table of the respectable folk

Sen. Joseph Biden, Democrat from Delaware, the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has announced four weeks of hearings focused on every aspect of US policy in Iraq. He really wants to get to the bottom of things, find out how and why things went so wrong, who are the ones responsible, hold them accountable, and what can be done now. The committee will hear the testimony of top political, economic and intelligence experts, foreign diplomats, and former and current senior US officials, like Condoleezza Rice, Brent Scowcroft, Samuel Berger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright and George Shultz.[20] All the usual suspects.

But why not call upon some unusual suspects? Why do congressional committees and committees appointed by the White House typically not call experts who dissent from the official explanations? Why not hear from people who had the wisdom to protest the invasion of Iraq and condemn it in writing before it even began? People who called the war illegal and immoral, said we should never start it, and predicted much of the horrible outcome. Surely they may have some insights and analyses that will not be heard from the mouths of the usual suspects.

Likewise, why didn't the September 11 Committee, or any of the congressional committees dealing with the terrorist attack, call upon any of the numerous 9-11 experts who have done extensive research and who question various aspects of the official story?
Traditionally, of course, such committees have been formed to put a damper on dissident questioning of official stories, to ridicule them as "conspiracy theorists", not to give the dissidents a larger audience.

WILLIAM BLUM’S Speaking engagements: January 25 -- Flagstaff, AZ; March 9 -- Venice, CA; March 10 -- Irvine, CA; March 17 or 18 -- Columbus, OH.

See www.killinghope.org for the details

[1] Fars News Agency, November 21, 2006[2] Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, "Is Military Research Hazardous to Veterans' Health? Lessons Spanning Half a Century", December 8, 1994, p.5
[3] Ibid., passim
[4] Washington Post, October 2 and 23, 1996 and July 31, 1997 for the estimated numbers of affected soldiers.
[5] "Journal of the American Medical Association", September 1, 1999, p.822
[6] Washington Post, December 20, 2006, p.19
[7] New York Times, December 22, 1989, p.17
[8] New York Times, December 22, 1989, p.16
[9] Los Angeles Times, December 1, 1990, p.1
[10] Washington Post, May 28, 2003
[11] Washington Post, January 1, 2007, p.1
[12] Washington Post, July 20, 2004, p.15, statement attributed to President Bush in the Lancaster (Pa.) New Era newspaper from a private meeting with Amish families on July 9. The White House later said Bush said no such thing. Yes, we know how the Amish lie.
[13] Los Angeles Times, June 7, 1991, p.1
[14] CBS "60 Minutes", May 12, 1996
[15] Associated Press, December 22, 2006
[16] National Security Archive -- www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/ Search ; William Blum, Rogue State, p.188-9
[17] New York Times, September 17, 1974, p.22
[18] Washington Post, January 10, 2007, p.7
[19] Washington Post, March 23, 2006, p.21
[20] Washington Post, January 5, 2007

William Blum is the author of: Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2 Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower; West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir; Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire. Portions of the books can be read, and copies purchased, at www.killinghope.org Previous Anti-Empire Reports can be read at this website.

January 15, 2007

Project BioShield Fails to Motivate Biotechs to Protect America


H.S. Ayoub submits: The anthrax letters that contaminated the U.S. Postal Office system, and the traces of ricin found in congressional buildings, had added to the mass hysteria that began on that dark day in September. Pressed by the public, President Bush had no choice but to initiate a plan for protecting Americans against the deadly biological attacks.

The Project BioShield Act was unanimously approved by the Senate, and signed by President Bush in 2004. One of the key measures of the act was to secure a funding source for the government to purchase “next-generation” vaccines and counter measures to biological agents that could be used in terrorist attacks. Almost $6 billion were allocated for purchasing products from biotech companies over a 10 year period.

As many of the common vaccines were still not improved upon since the 60’s and 70’s, Project BioShield was supposed to spur on a flurry of biotech research in an effort to establish a stockpile of vaccinations and medications using 21st century technology. This has yet to happen as biotech companies were given little motivation to increase research into the field.

Bearing the Financial Burden

The problem is with the way the government wants to ‘fund’ research. The $6 billion were not exactly intended to fund research into new vaccines. Rather, the government would purchase vaccines after the research had proven them safe and effective. So for little biotech companies to reap the rewards of a contract, they would have to put up funding from internal sources, carry out the research to prove the effectiveness and the safety of the vaccines, and only then would the government pay out the cash. This focuses the financial risk squarely on the companies themselves, as the government can cancel any contract under the Termination for Convenience clause.

VaxGen (VXGN) is a perfect example of how the project could prove to be a financial disaster for a little biotech. The company won a $1 billion contract to provide a stockpile of 75 million doses of anthrax vaccine for the government. But after securing funding, and increasing its staff and research efforts, VaxGen received the bad news; the Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS] canceled the contract. This of course had a devastating effect, and forced the company to cut half of its staff and replace the CEO shortly after.

Many argue that even if a biotech company finally secures the monetary funding, the government 'promised' it would look forward to little future revenue. Under Project BioShield, the government makes a one time purchase of vaccinations and does not enter into a long term contract. So companies who had seen a surge of revenue could suddenly find themselves with nothing.

This could mean that companies will be forced to look elsewhere, most likely to other nations, such as Europe and Asia. Cangene [CNJ.TO] of Canada, for example, won two contracts under the project, to deliver anthrax and botulism counter measures. The total contracts would be worth almost $600 million. The company expects to deliver the products later in 2007. But Cangene is not relying on just those two contracts. Expecting the sudden falloff in revenue, the company is already in talks to deliver to countries outside of North America.

Buying Drugs Overseas

Another possibility would see outside companies selling vaccines to Americans. Cipla is a generic drug company in India, looking to enter the U.S. and other Western nations very soon. While it intends on selling generic versions of anti-depression drugs as its entry point into the U.S. market, it does have a large stockpile of generic anti-anthrax drugs on hand.

It is very conceivable that if Project BioShield fails to deliver on its promise, Americans could look to foreign nations to deliver the goods. During times of great desperation, such as a national bioterrorist attack, patriotism could possibly fall behind capitalism. This could prove harmful as unregulated drugs would make their way into the U.S. market.

Critics also argue that companies are not flocking to the program because of weak liability coverage. Until concrete and detailed indemnification guidelines are outlined, companies will be too cautious to enter a program designed to provide drugs and vaccinations to be used under unique emergency conditions.

Renewed Government Effort

So far, under BioShield, only nine contacts are currently active, and the U.S. continues to have a less than ideal stockpile of vaccines and medications against terrorist attacks using biological agents. In an effort to improve the performance of the project and to motivate more companies to get involved, President Bush signed into law the formation of a new regulatory division, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority [BARDA].

BARDA was formed to provide $1 billion as funding for the research and development of vaccines and treatments under Project BioShield. The government will help with the cost of establishing domestic manufacturing facilities. It will also provide liability coverage to those companies whose products will be used during biological attacks and are not yet licensed with the Food and Drug Administration [FDA]. In order for a company to be sued, the DHHS would have to find clear evidence of intentional misconduct. BARDA will also allow funding for the development of experimental animal models for testing of drugs against disease conditions that are too dangerous for humans.

Time will tell if BARDA will give the biotech industry enough motivation to protect America.

Fact, fiction or bioterror drill? How to cook up a ricin scare


Take one reservoir, two tons ricin mash, stir vigorously
By George Smith, Dick Destiny → More by this author

We Yanks love to be scared. The more scared we can be, the better. The Effect of Bioterrorism Messages on Anxiety Levels, a recent article in a peer-reviewed health quarterly, put a point to it. Those covering the science of terror beat in the United States have known for a bit that the mainstream media's uncritical transmission of expert hectoring on doom has had the proper effect.

Epidemiologist Hillel Cohen and two colleagues performed a small study in which graduate students were advised of the gravity of bioterror through excerpts from Richard Preston's The Cobra Event (review) or another warning (see Can bioterrorism warnings make you sick?). Unsurprisingly, those who read the material based on Preston were more scared of bioterror.

Preston, for those who don't recall, is the non-fiction/fiction writer equivalent of the grindhouse movie director. (Gentle fans, please hold the hate mail.) He turned the relatively rare and terrible hemorrhagic diseases caused by the Ebola and Marburg viruses into an infotainment franchise. Preston never met a virus that didn't cause ichors to spurt. The Cobra Event was his fictional treatment, continuing the flogging of a favorite riff.

For it the bioterror weapon was a custom-made virus that destroys you with a fatal case of Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome, an exceedingly rare and ugly genetic disorder. Preston's bioterror casualties bit off their lips, chewed fingers, plucked out eyes, squirted fluids and mewled like kittens with their tails caught in a door. Unbelievable and disturbed, it was a bestseller, good stuff for President Bill Clinton who apparently felt it was one appropriate example among a number of justifications upon which to gin up fear.

The Cobra Event was a fantasy - but anything delivered via the news, no matter how fantastical, is legitimate. If a feat is impossible, it's not an obstacle. American emergency responders and terror experts drill for things that can't happen on a regular basis.

Before the New Year, one such drill ran in State College, Pennsylvania, based on the idea that ricin would be put in the water in time for a collegiate game of pigskin. Readers should know States College's Beaver Stadium holds over 100,000. On Saturdays in season, State College becomes the third largest city in Pennsylvania. A terrorist team striking it with something like ricin, through the water, would have to envision contaminating a water supply of some goodly size.

We can do some figures on the back of an envelope to show the how impractical it is, even if we toss out the reality that Penn State football fans bring most of their beverages, like bottled and canned beer, in their SUVS and RVs.

We start with the work of Porton Down whose scientists conveniently worked out the science of terrorist ricin-making during the trial of Kamel Bourgass. Bourgass's ricin recipe, they determined, starting from five grams of castor seed, would not be a fatal dose, but would cause nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Now assume you want to hit a water supply serving 150,000 people. How should that five grams be apportioned to sicken the public? Per cup or per pint? Keep in mind an awful lot of water will go down the toilet and into the drain during showers. One has to aim big. Assuming the low ball estimate of 150,000 pints, Biochemical Ali needs, at the very least, 750 kilograms of castor mash, or about 1650 pounds. Make it a ton to allow for modest losses in milling.

This means you must install a castor mill where none exists and then figure out how to get a dumptruck of bean mash evenly distributed within a central water supply. The bean mash is also filled with a certain amount of insolubles. These will turn to a gluey glop when they hit water, necessitating stirring - hoo boy (!), a lot of stirring, a godlike amount of agitation. It's not salt.

So much for that plan! Now one understands the attraction of car bombs.

Moving on to polonium, you mistakenly thought the Litvinenko assassination was a British affair. Wrong, it's about us.

Starting with the New York Times and traveling subsequently through the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post, each major newspaper did a big feature on how terrorists could use polonium. A new terror weapon was invented, the smoky bomb, to replace the obsolete dirty bomb. A smoky bomb, as told by the New York Times op-ed page, is a dirty bomb with the new flavor, polonium. Every one of the newspaper articles used the similar sources, most notably Peter D. Zimmerman, who has campaigned to more tightly regulate polonium.

"Radiation safety experts calculate that a single gram of polonium could sicken 100 million people, killing half," wrote the Los Angeles Times. A smoky bomb "particularly in a crowded, enclosed space, could cause numerous fatalities and sow widespread panic," wrote the Post. Poloniumize pure American water and food and "the consequences could be even more dire."

Are there hints of smoky bomb or polonium in the water threats? Unimportant. The commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission claimed that American's shouldn't tremble over it but was ignored. He was not with the program. ®

George Smith is a Senior Fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, a defense affairs think tank and public information group. At Dick Destiny, he blogs his way through chemical, biological and nuclear terror hysteria, often by way of the contents of neighborhood hardware stores.

Related stories

Clarins unveils anti-aging satellite defender (19 January 2007)
Frankenstein's cure for ageing - botulism (28 December 2006)
The Electro-pulse of Doom that threatens America (5 December 2006)
The myth of the home-bake terror nuke 'cookbooks' (10 November 2006)
US prepares for killer prayer bead WMD attack (3 November 2006)
Great WMD failures: Casey, the castor oil killer (18 October 2006)
Low-tech anthrax still deadly? FBI research widens suspect list (29 September 2006)
Amazing terror weapons: the imaginary suitcase nuke (31 July 2006)
Homebrew chemical terror bombs, hype or horror? (4 June 2006)
Clarke calls for ID cards after imagining huge poison terror ring (14 April 2005)

January 13, 2007

Opinion: If you suspect an anthrax vaccination

By Kelli M. Donley, Special to Stars and Stripes

To follow up on Stripes - recent articles [in which I'm quoted] on anthrax vaccinations ("Group fighting mandatory anthrax shots," Oct. 29, and "Anthrax vaccinations expected to resume in late January," Dec. 31-Jan. 1), I want to recommend several steps to any servicemember who, like me, thinks his or her health problems could be an adverse reaction to an anthrax vaccination:

- Visit the Military & Biodefense Vaccine Project (MBVP) Web site (www.military-biodefensevaccines.org/). These great people (former military) put me in touch with the Walter Reed Vaccine Healthcare Center, which is a special clinic devoted solely to treating servicemembers who have adverse reactions to vaccines. If you are interested in knowing more about my symptoms, MBVP has posted my television interviews so you can see how I walk and hear me talk. (FYI, my picture climbing into the F-16 is from a familiarization flight. I was a JAG, not a pilot.)

- Contact the healthcare center (www.vhcinfo.org/index.htm). Callers to the Department of Defense Vaccine Clinical Call Center, 1-866-210-6469, can remain anonymous. You can also be treated there - many servicemembers are sent or even transferred to Walter Reed, or placed back on active duty there for the sole purpose of receiving medical treatment for the problems they have after getting the vaccine.

I cannot thank the fine professionals at WRVHC enough! If it weren't for their intervention, medical review and recommendations for expert analysis, I wouldn't have gotten such a favorable outcome from the Medical Evaluation Board (MEB). Military VHCs are wholly dependent upon funding from Congress. I didn't know anything about VHCs until I talked, in April 2005, to one of the attorneys suing DOD to halt mandatory anthrax vaccinations. I hate to imagine the detriment to current servicemembers if the VHCs lack sufficient funding to complete their mission.

- Document, document, document! As for medical care, even when surrounded by experts, only YOU know YOU best. Do not let anybody talk you out of what you feel. Keep a daily health journal. Create a chronological time line of your onset of symptoms - stick to facts - the date; the event (injection/symptom/prescription/reaction, etc.); and your location (installation). This can help your medical providers - ask to have it put in your medical records. Keep searching for answers.

- Don't get stuck in a fight to get the military (or anyone) to admit the anthrax vaccine caused your problems (Would you smack a bear on the nose?). You do not need the military to admit any relationship between your condition and the vaccine (although it would provide an explanation), so long as your disability rating is at least 30 percent (which entitles you to retirement benefits - anything less gets you separation pay) and service connected/line of duty. To show service connected/line of duty, prove that you didn't have these specific health problems before entering the service, and that you have them now, during service.

- Look into other options. If you believe you are 100 percent disabled, you may also qualify for Social Security disability benefits. You can apply while you are on active duty. You will likely need an attorney experienced with both Social Security and the military to best help you. It may help your medical board results if Social Security had already approved you. I can't say for certain, since I was approved after I was medically retired, but it can't hurt.

- The MEB is not the end. To receive Department of Veterans Affairs or Social Security benefits, you have to file separate applications with those agencies. You will want to file with the VA to make a portion of your military disability pension nontaxable - it is taxable if you don't do this. There are numerous other benefits available to disabled vets that aren't well-publicized: you can usually keep your Servicemembers Group Life Insurance policy for two years, without paying premiums, but you have to apply within 120 days of separation from service and include your MEB findings (see form SGLV 8715 at www. insurance.va.gov/sglisite/forms/forms. htm#sgli_vgli). After two years, you can convert to Veterans Group Life Insurance. You may also be eligible for Traumatic Injury Protection under SGLI (see form GL.2005.261 at the previous Web site). You may also be able to conditionally discharge student loans due to permanent disability - check with the U.S. Department of Education.

In addition, different states have different benefits for disabled vets - check state veterans benefits when choosing where to live after active duty. Bottom line, you must seek out your entitlements. No one told me about most benefits, I found them.

- I would highly recommend you hire professionals to assist you because the agencies created to help you require so much paperwork that a disabled patient may grow tired and give up. Even though I am an attorney, I hired other attorneys to help me. It can be expensive, but this fight is for the rest of your life - you may be unemployable and you must fight to get what you are entitled to. Besides, legal fees you pay to ensure disability compensation are tax-deductible.

Ultimately, know that you are not alone. My faith in God, family and friends has gotten me through. My disease is Idiopathic Spinocerebellar Ataxia. For more information on Ataxia, please visit http://www.ataxia.org/.

Kelli M. Donley is a medically retired Air Force captain who lives in Oklahoma City. She believes her medical condition was a result of receiving doses of the anthrax vaccine.

January 9, 2007

U.S. Receives 10 Millions Doses of Smallpox Vaccine

Global Security Newswire

British vaccine maker Acambis announced yesterday that it has delivered 10 million doses of smallpox vaccine on schedule to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (see GSN, Sept. 13, 2006).

“Our team worked hard to deliver the vaccine in the form required by the government, so it is satisfying to have completed the process on time,” said Acambis Chief Executive Officer Gordon Cameron in a press release (Acambis release, Jan. 8).

January 8, 2007

Anthrax Attack Posed Greater Potential Threat Than Thought

Anthrax Attack Posed Greater Potential Threat Than Thought

A new study shows that more people were at risk of anthrax infection in the Oct. 2001 attack on U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle's office than previously known. The research is published in the January 15 issue of The Journal of Infectious Diseases, now available online. On the other hand, the study shows, prompt intervention with antibiotics and vaccination appeared to be highly effective against the disease.

In October of 2001, a letter containing spores of Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes the deadly disease anthrax, was opened in Daschle's office at the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, DC. Those in or near Daschle's office, judged likely to have been exposed to the spores, received antibiotics or a vaccine, as did others within or outside the building, and no deaths resulted from this act of bioterrorism. According to the new study of the event, however, people in areas assumed to be at minimal risk of exposure showed immune responses suggesting they had been exposed.

The researchers, Denise L. Doolan, PhD, MPH, Daniel A. Freilich, MD, and coworkers of the Naval Medical Research Center, Silver Spring, MD, and elsewhere, prospectively studied clinical outcomes and immune responses in 123 subjects including 83 people who were nearby when the letter containing the anthrax spores was opened; 20 who were outside the building and presumed to be unexposed; and, for comparison, six individuals vaccinated against B. anthracis, two confirmed to have had anthrax, and 12 with no known B. anthracis exposure.

The results: Immune responses occurred not only in subjects in or near the Daschle office but also in those elsewhere in the Hart building, or even outside the building; the extent of exposure was thus greater than predicted. No associations were seen between exposure levels and immune responses or symptoms, but the most-exposed subjects were the only ones to have high-magnitude responses. Low-level exposure did not appear to trigger an antibody response, but did induce a response by cells of the immune system, Intermediate exposure induced both. Finally, cellular immune responses declined with post-exposure use of antibiotics, suggesting that the intervention impeded spore germination and implying that it may reduce the incidence of both subclinical and clinical B. anthracis infection.

In an accompanying editorial, James L. Hadler, MD, MPH, of the Infectious Diseases Section of the Connecticut Department of Public Health, commented that the study by Doolan and coworkers is "one of the few studies of the immune response to high-level, naturally occurring anthrax exposure in humans, and may be the first to describe cell-mediated responses to this pathogen." Dr. Hadler said that the study's data suggest that cell-mediated responses in B. anthracis infection may be more sensitive than antibody responses, and he recommended that future studies of anthrax vaccines investigate cellular immunity's role in inhibiting the pathogen.


Founded in 1904, The Journal of Infectious Diseases is the premier publication in the Western Hemisphere for original research on the pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment of infectious diseases; on the microbes that cause them; and on disorders of host immune mechanisms. Articles in JID include research results from microbiology, immunology, epidemiology, and related disciplines. JID is published under the auspices of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). Based in Alexandria, Va., IDSA is a professional society representing 8,300 physicians and scientists who specialize in infectious diseases. For more information, visit http://www.idsociety.org/.

Contact: Steve Baragona
Infectious Diseases Society of America

VaxGen is forced to put up the 'for sale' sign


The USA's VaxGen is looking for a buyer and has slashed its workforce by over 50% in the wake of the US government's decision to terminate a multi-million dollar deal with the firm to provide doses of anthrax vaccine.

The California-based firm said that it has retained the services of investment bank Lazard after noting that it is "actively pursuing avenues to enhance shareholder value through a strategic transaction." The firm's chief executive Lance Gordon has resigned and will be replaced by James Panek, who was executive vice president.

VaxGen is cutting its staff by about 51% or over 110 jobs and these restructuring measures will halve its monthly cash expenditures to less than $3 million, though the company will take a one-time cash restructuring cost of $3 million related to the changes.

All of this has come about as a result of the US Department of Health and Human Services' decision last month to cancel VaxGen's 'strategic national stockpile' contract for 75 million doses of its recombinant anthrax vaccine which would have been enough to inoculate 25 million Americans in the case of a biological attack. The deal, which would have been worth $877.5 million to the firm, was ended after the HHS refused to approve new studies of the experimental vaccine.

Mr Panek said that the company remains confident in the eventual success of the anthrax vaccine and believes "it has substantial value to companies with the resources and expertise to pursue its further development." VaxGen chairman Randall Caudill was also upbeat about the firm's prospects and said that "we are already in early-stage discussions with several potential strategic partners and intend to aggressively pursue our opportunities to develop and realise the full value of all our capabilities and assets."

He went on to claim that in addition to having $96.6 million in cash and equivalents at the end of 2006, "the company has a number of significant assets of potential value to an acquirer or merger partner."

January 6, 2007

VaxGen cuts workforce

VaxGen cuts workforce
By Steve Johnson, Mercury News

VaxGen, the tiny Bay Area biotechnology company that won and then lost a huge federal contract, Friday laid off 112 employees -- just more than half its workforce -- and its Chief Executive Lance Gordon resigned.

The layoffs came in the wake of the government's decision to terminate its $877.5 million anthrax-vaccine contract.

``It's a sad day for us,'' said Lance Ignon, spokesman for the Brisbane company. ``We've lost a lot of great people.''

Shares of VaxGen stock rose 26 cents, or 11.6 percent, to $2.51 at the close of trading on the Pink Sheets, a private listing service.

VaxGen's board replaced Gordon with James Panek, previously executive vice president, who joined VaxGen in 2002 after serving as senior vice president of Genentech's product operations. Gordon, VaxGen's chief executive since Sept. 19, 2001, will continue to serve the company as an adviser. It's unclear if Gordon will be paid in his new role.

As part of its restructuring, VaxGen also announced it has hired investment bank Lazard to help it explore possible mergers or other business deals with other companies.

``We are already in early stage discussions with several potential strategic partners,'' Chairman Randall Caudill said in a prepared statement that didn't identify the companies. In addition to the $96.6 million in cash, cash equivalents and short-term securities that VaxGen held as of Dec. 31, the statement said, ``The company has a number of significant assets of potential value to an acquirer or merger partner.''

Those assets include the company's vaccine manufacturing plant in South San Francisco as well as its anthrax vaccine, which was based on a formula created by military researchers.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services terminated the anthrax-vaccine contract Dec. 19, citing VaxGen's failure to meet a deadline for beginning a key test of the vaccine in people. Although VaxGen had done several earlier tests, the Food and Drug Administration refused to let it do more because the agency said the vaccine was unstable and might lose its potency, rendering the study results unreliable.

The contract issued to VaxGen in November 2004 was the first and the biggest under President Bush's Project BioShield anti-terrorism program. But VaxGen quickly ran into problems.

The vaccine's instability, which VaxGen first reported in March 2005, put the company more than a year behind schedule. In addition, VaxGen complained in May last year that federal officials arbitrarily changed the contract to impose costly new requirements for testing the vaccine. Although Health and Human Services officials denied adding requirements, the dispute soured VaxGen's relationship with the government.

In addition, some members of Congress criticized the contract award to VaxGen because the company had no commercial products, previously failed at making an AIDS vaccine and has been delisted from the Nasdaq Stock Market since 2004 because its financial records were not in order.

The government has a stockpile of an older anthrax vaccine. But that vaccine has been criticized for having unpleasant side effects and for requiring six doses, as opposed to the three that would have been required with VaxGen's vaccine.

Health and Human Services Department spokesman Bill Hall said bids will be sought soon from other companies interested in taking over the VaxGen contract.

``We plan to move swiftly to keep this effort moving toward a new anthrax vaccine,'' he said, though he noted that seeking new bids on the contract likely will delay further the vaccine's development. Under its revised contract, VaxGen was to have begun delivering the first of 75 million doses by late this year or sometime next year.

The most likely company to take over the contract is Avecia of England, which has been developing a genetically engineered vaccine similar to VaxGen's. Kevin Price, Avecia's senior vice president for vaccines, said his company probably could deliver some doses to the U.S. government ``in the next couple of years.'' But asked if Avecia could provide 75 million doses, he added, ``I guess I would have to put pen to paper on that.''
Contact Steve Johnson at sjohnson@mercurynews.com or (408) 920-5043.

Drugs Helped Prevent Anthrax Spread in 2001 Attack

Drugs Helped Prevent Anthrax Spread in 2001 Attack
Global Security Newswire

A new study has found that use of antibiotics and vaccinations helped prevent the spread of anthrax infection after a tainted letter was opened in a Senate office during the 2001 attacks, Bloomberg News reported Saturday (see GSN, Dec. 13, 2006).

The study, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, also reported that exposure to anthrax spores occurred over a wider area than thought after one letter showed up at the office of then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.

People in or near Daschle’s office had an immune response. However, the study also found a response in those in other parts of the Hart building and beyond.

Antibiotics or vaccinations were given to people who were likely to have been exposed to the anthrax spores. Others both in the Hart building and outside also received treatment (Bloomberg News/Arizona Daily Star, Jan. 6).

January 5, 2007

Biotech Firm Finishing Work on Anthrax Treatment

Biotech Firm Finishing Work on Anthrax Treatment
Global Security Newswire

A New Jersey biotechnology company could begin selling a new anthrax treatment to U.S. agencies before the end of 2007, the Associated Press reported yesterday (see GSN, Dec. 21, 2006).

Elusys Therapeutics Inc. has received almost $20 million over a period of years from the Defense Department and National Institutes of Health, according to company president and chief executive officer Elizabeth Posillico. It has used the funding to develop Anthim, a treatment for anthrax infection that binds antibodies to toxins, which are then consumed and eliminated from the body.

More than half of test rabbits and monkeys have survived after being exposed to anthrax and then treated within two days with Anthim, AP reported. The compound has also proven safe in testing on healthy humans.

Further animal testing is needed before the drug can be marketed, Posillico said (Linda Johnson, Associated Press/NorthJersey.com, Jan. 4).

January 4, 2007

Emergent Biosolutions initiated with "outperform" - update

Cowen & Co

NEW YORK, January 4 (newratings.com) - Analysts at Cowen & Co initiate coverage of Emergent Biosolutions (ticker: EBS) with an "outperform" rating.

In a research note published yesterday, the analysts mention that following the termination of VaxGen’s contract for a recombinant anthrax vaccine, Emergent Biosolutions is expected to be given a considerable portion of the $877 million contract by HHS within the forthcoming six-to-twelve months. Emergent Biosolutions is developing other biodefense and commercial vaccine products targeting anthrax and botulinum, the analysts say. There is significant upside to Emergent Biosolutions’ share price over the next 12 months due to newsflow related to the company’s biodefense products, Cowen & Co adds.