Archive for March 1, 2008


Does Athens want, need Homeland Security lab? 

By Ed Tant – OnlineAthens

“Why would a group of respected citizens, including business people, scientists, university administrators and politicians, attempt to recruit a Level 4 research facility that handles treacherous agents to our town? Simple: money.”

Do those words sound familiar? Were they spoken at the recent meeting here in Athens between concerned citizens and U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials who propose to build the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility right here in Athens, on a pastoral plot of land near the State Botanical Garden?

Actually, those words were written by Eddie Adelstein, an associate professor of pathology at the University of Missouri and an interim medical examiner in the state. His concerns were published in the Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune on May 22, 2007, before a location in that state was dropped from consideration as a possible NBAF site. Missouri is called the Show-Me State, and Adelstein showed an understandable skepticism when he called laboratories like NBAF, for which Athens-Clarke County remains on the short list, “a high-tech facility that belongs in a safer place.”

No final site for the lab has been selected yet, but opposition to the facility is growing in areas where it might be built. In this area, NBAF opponents have formed a group called Athens FAQ: For Athens Quality of Life (www.athensfaq.org) to question and, if possible, stop the building of the Homeland Security facility. Athens FAQ has an uphill struggle ahead, because building the lab in Athens is supported by many monied movers and shakers at the University of Georgia, in the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce and in the media in this city.

Still, the NBAF lab might not be built without a fight in often apathetic Athenstown. A Feb. 19 meeting between townspeople and backers of the NBAF facility from the university and Homeland Security drew some 500 concerned citizens, most of whom spoke out against the lab and peppered NBAF backers with much-needed questions about the facility. Although a Feb. 14 news release from the university promised that “(e)ach person approaching the microphone will be allowed one initial question and one follow-up question,” in reality follow-up questions were squelched at the Feb. 19 meeting.

The question I voiced at the meeting was, “Since the Bush administration has in the past altered and edited scientific reports that conflict with its agenda, led us into an Iraq war under dubious and ever-changing rationales, and pushed no-bid contracts for its corporate friends, how can the citizens of Athens and America be expected to trust a Homeland Security Department that is a creation of an untrustworthy administration?” I’m still waiting for an answer to that question. I’m not alone.

In our neighboring state of North Carolina last month, the Raleigh City Council voted unanimously to oppose construction of the NBAF in the nearby town of Butner, because of fears that it could contaminate a local reservoir. In January, the Granville (N.C.) County Commission withdrew its support because of growing opposition to the lab in the Tarheel State.

I was disappointed some years ago when an auto assembly plant that was eyeing Athens located instead in Alabama. Such a factory could have brought much-needed jobs to our area. I would not be disappointed to see Homeland Security and its NBAF lab locate far away from its proposed site here in Athens, where it might have a deleterious effect on the pristine beauty of the botanical garden, the river, Whitehall Forest and the rolling hills of the horse pasture where the lab would be built.

A letter printed in this newspaper on Feb. 22 used the hoary cliche of telling NBAF opponents to “love it or leave it.” Concerned citizens and longtime residents of this area are opposing the NBAF precisely because they do love Athens in spite of all its faults.

Before scenic farmland and forest are changed forever to construct a biohazard lab, let’s hope that the local powers-that-be will hearken to the admonition written by the poet William Wordsworth: “The World is too much with us; late and soon,/ Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;/ little we see in Nature that is ours;/ We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”

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Segment of an email from Frank S. in Raleigh.

“I just don’t understand. Why do people like you, do not believe the people representing the lab. There hasn’t been any reporting from reputable sources reporting accidents in labs, NONE.  They are safe. Period. The consortium would not say there has not been any accidents if there was proof that there had been”. 

Well, Frank thanks for the email. At first I thought you were kidding but after reading your email again I am, well, at a loss for words.

So all I can say is, Do you want to bet on that Frank? Here is your reputable source on lab accidents.

Note the sentence that says “100 accidents and missing shipments since 2003”. So please, Don’t shoot the messenger.  Oh and Frank, I hope you email the consortium with your next question. You know something like why aren’t you telling people in Butner and Granville County the truth?  Let me know if and when  you get an answer.

AP Previous Story – U.S. Mishandling Dirty Germs

WASHINGTON – American laboratories handling the world’s deadliest germs and toxins have experienced more than 100 accidents and missing shipments since 2003, and the number is increasing steadily as more labs across the country are approved to do the work.

No one died, and regulators said the public was never at risk during these incidents. But the documented cases reflect poorly on procedures and oversight at high-security labs, some of which work with organisms and poisons so dangerous that illnesses they cause have no cure. In some cases, labs have failed to report accidents as required by law.

The mishaps include workers bitten or scratched by infected animals, skin cuts, needle sticks and more, according to a review by The Associated Press of confidential reports submitted to federal regulators. They describe accidents involving anthrax, bird flu virus, monkeypox and plague-causing bacteria at 44 labs in 24 states. More than two-dozen incidents were still under investigation.

The number of accidents has risen steadily. Through August, the most recent period covered in the reports obtained by the AP, labs reported 36 accidents and lost shipments during 2007 — nearly double the number reported during all of 2004.

Risk to public health
Research labs have worked for years to find cures and treatments for diseases. However, the expansion of the lab network has been dramatic since President Bush announced an upgrade of the nation’s bio-warfare defense program five years ago. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which funds much of the lab research and construction, was spending spent about $41 million on bio-defense labs in 2001. By last year, the spending had risen to $1.6 billion.

The number of labs approved by the government to handle the deadliest substances has nearly doubled to 409 since 2004. Labs are routinely inspected by federal regulators just once every three years, but accidents trigger interim inspections.

“It may be only a matter of time before our nation has a public health incident with potentially catastrophic results,” said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee. Stupak’s panel has been investigating the lab incidents and will conduct a hearing Thursday.

Lab accidents have affected the outside world: Britain’s health and safety agency concluded there was a “strong probability” a leaking pipe at a British lab manufacturing vaccines for foot-and-mouth disease was the source of an outbreak of the illness in livestock earlier this year. Britain was forced to suspend exports of livestock, meat and milk products and destroy livestock. The disease does not infect humans.

Bioterrorism concerns
Accidents aren’t the only concern. While medical experts consider it unlikely that a lab employee will become sick and infect others, these labs have strict rules to prevent anyone from stealing organisms or toxins and using them for bioterrorism.

The reports were so sensitive the Bush administration refused to release them under the Freedom of Information Act, citing an anti-bioterrorism law aimed at preventing terrorists from locating stockpiles of poisons and learning who handles them.

Among the previously undisclosed accidents:

  • In Rockville, Md., ferret No. 992, inoculated with bird flu virus, bit a technician at Bioqual Inc. on the right thumb in July. The worker was placed on home quarantine for five days and directed to wear a mask to protect others.
  • An Oklahoma State University lab in Stillwater in December could not account for a dead mouse inoculated with bacteria that causes joint pain, weakness, lymph node swelling and pneumonia. The rodent — one of 30 to be incinerated — was never found, but the lab said an employee “must have forgotten to remove the dead mouse from the cage” before the cage was sterilized.
  • In Albuquerque, N.M., an employee at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute was bitten on the left hand by an infected monkey in September 2006. The animal was ill from an infection of bacteria that causes plague. “When the gloves were removed, the skin appeared to be broken in 2 or 3 places,” the report said. The worker was referred to a doctor, but nothing more was disclosed.
  • In Fort Collins, Colo., a worker at a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention facility found, in January 2004, three broken vials of Russian spring-summer encephalitis virus. Wearing only a laboratory coat and gloves, he used tweezers to remove broken glass and moved the materials to a special container. The virus, a potential bio-warfare agent, could cause brain inflammation and is supposed to be handled in a lab requiring pressure suits that resemble space suits. The report did not say whether the worker became ill.

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The GOP and right wing media machine have reached new heights of douchebaggery (I’ve wanted to use that word for a while now) propaganda. With all of the Obama smears and slurs floating about I decided to come up with one for John McCain, so has anyone thought about this.
John McCain adopted a kid from Bangladesh. Bangladesh is a predominately Islamic country. So he has a Muslim in this family. Shouldn’t America be aware of this threat?

Of course I’m joking but that is a good example of something the wing-nuts within the GOP would say, isn’t it? They would say it loudly, often and have a breaking news segment on fox devoted to precisely that. Yes indeed folks, the days leading up to the 2008 elections will be submerged in new levels of political absurdities and we should all buy some taller boots. Cause it’s getting deep around here.

With that in mind consider this, was Dubya a Manchurian Candidate.

A Manchurian Candidate in the White House?

From CounterPunch by Dave Lindorff

 With a viral campaign underway via email, right-wing radio, and on the street suggesting that Barack Obama is a black “Manchurian Candidate,” secretly trained as a Muslim fanatic who will insinuate himself into the White House, thence to undermine all that we hold dear, perhaps it is time to look at the Manchurian Candidate we already have in the White House, who, together with his handler over in Blair House, has pretty much done all the damage already.

George Bush came to office in 2001 promising a new era of integrity, civility and “compassionate conservatism,” an era of humble American foreign policy, and a bi-partisan approach to government.

What did we actually get?
Once in office, this chameleon president almost immediately set out to embroil the country in a major war in the Middle East against the nation of Iraq. The game plan was laid out at the president’s first National Security Council meeting, attended by Vice President Dick Cheney (the man holding Bush’s controller), Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neal (who later spilled the beans about the session).

Forget all the nonsense about Barack Obama being a closet Muslim. We already have our Manchurian Candidate in the White House, and he has largely accomplished what he was programmed to do: destroy the country.

The truth is this: If at the end of their second term, Bush and Cheney were to hop on a plane and fly off to a hideout in the mountains on the Afghan-Pakistan border, leaving a “Nya-nya!” note on the White House dining room table, few people would really be very surprised.

Read full article here

AP WASHINGTON – The Agriculture Department abruptly ordered congressional auditors to leave its headquarters and told its employees not to cooperate with them.

“You are hereby instructed not to meet with any member of the (Government Accountability Office) today, or until this matter is resolved,” Michael Watts, a top USDA attorney, wrote to employees Wednesday in an e-mail obtained by The Associated Press.

The auditors were seeking information for an ongoing audit on Agriculture’s office of civil rights and its handling of discrimination complaints. Specifically, they were investigating allegations that the department had previously provided false information for the audit.

J. Michael Kelly, Agriculture’s deputy general counsel, said the GAO investigators called the department Wednesday morning to say they were on their way to its headquarters and wanted to speak with a handful of specific employees.

The auditors refused to allow USDA lawyers to be present for the interviews, and after allowing one employee to talk, department officials stopped the interviews and told the investigators to leave the building, Kelly said.

“We are not interested in having our employees potentially put themselves at risk when they have not yet been advised of their rights and when we were not allowed to provide counsel,” Kelly said. “We also pointed out to them that while they hold themselves out to be criminal investigators, GAO is an arm of Congress and has no authority to investigate violations of criminal law.”

Kelly said the department has been cooperating with the auditors for a year but will not allow its employees to discuss the matter until it gets more information.

“We don’t have anything to hide,” Kelly said. “We have absolutely no understanding of why anybody at GAO believes there’s been any misrepresentation.”

A spokesman for GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, said the agency could not immediately comment on the matter.

John Boyd, a Virginia farmer who for years has criticized the Agriculture Department on civil rights issues, said the development shows that the department is not open about its handling of civil rights complaints.

“We think it’s appalling that the USDA would go this far to obstruct civil rights,” he said. “It’s obvious that they have something to hide.”

Although executive agencies frequently chafe at GAO’s findings, the agency has a reputation as an independent, nonpartisan investigative office.

The agency has clashed with the Bush administration, however, most notably in 2002 when it sued Vice President Dick Cheney to get the names of energy executives who met with a White House task force working on President Bush’s energy policy. The lawsuit marked the first time in the GAO’s nearly 90-year history that it had resorted to asking a federal judge to force a president or vice president or their aides to release documents.

The GAO lost the case.

Excellent segment on the Ride For Life, an event organized by GNAT to show community oppostion to the location of the National Bio Agro Defense Facility in Butner.  

Independent Voices Episode 44 on Blip TV.

“This episode of Independent Voices, your source for participatory, grassroots media, includes segments on Historic Thousands on Jones Street 2 (HKonJ2); MLK Jr. Day march against white supremacists in Jena, Louisiana; Granville Nonviolent Action Team horse against a DHS proposed bio-disease lab; protest against lax gun laws organized by Protest Easy Guns; and a photo montage of a Farm Labor Organizing Committee march on Reynolds Tobacco.”

Comcast Corp. was caught stacking an FCC hearing with paid (and apparently sleepy) seat-fillers. the hearing was investigating illegal activities of guess who? Comcast!.

The hearing was set up to investigate Comcast’s recent blocking of the Internet. But Comcast packed the room so that the public couldn’t get in to voice their support for Net Neutrality.

Save the Internet,  took pictures and recorded an interview that proves Comcast was taking seats from concerned citizens. Now, we need to make sure that the company doesn’t get away with this ever again. Go to the website and learn more about Net Neutrality and what you can do. Do it before it’s too late.  

rideforlifegnat-030.jpg 

Pictured above; Jan Harris and Bill McKellar (GNAT’s Spokesperson) both are key members of the Granville Nonviolent Action Team (GNAT), who have fought for the residents of Granville County for two decades, defeating two previous boondoggles. In 1988 it was the superconducting super collider and in 1990 it was the hazardous waste incinerator (Thermal-Chem).

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GNAT’s  present day fight is of course the Nation Bio Agro Defense Facility (NBAF) and their byline for the current boondoggle is Stop the NBAF.  Here are two articles about GNAT (Granville Non-Violent Action Team)  from the N&O.  These days those GNAT’s are everywhere. I am sure there are some in NC  that wish they were “No- See- Ums”.

The Roots of the Oppostion   

 Buzzing GNAT could be Granville lab’s Undoing By Tim Simmons, Photos by Ethan Hyman

anthraxbacteria.jpg 

One of the key  issues surrounding the NBAF is the true purpose of the facility. The DHS continues to maintain the NBAF will not be used for the development biological weapons.  When questioned on whether or not the NBAF will produce biological weapons, their sole argument that bio-weapons will not be produced rest with the terminology found in a 36 year old treaty, the Biological  Weapons Convention  better known as the BWC.  One issue of importance that is  ignored is the fact that when the BWC was enacted certain technologies did not exist.

Genetic engineering research did not exist.  It can be used for both defensive and offensive research and within these research advancements lies the blurring of the terms put forth by the BWC.
Consider this from the National Bio Defense Analysis and Countermeasures Center. “The US Department of Homeland Security’s threat assessment targets Smallpox, Bubonic Plague, Botulism and Ebola”.
These are pathogens which may be “weaponized.” They are not agricultural diseases.  They are pathogens and toxins which have no known cure and cause human illness and death. That is why they are labled as BSL4  select agents.
Here is another quote from the presentation, “Department of Homeland Security labs will engage in acquiring, growing, modifying, storing, stabilizing, packaging and dispersing biological agents”.  
These activities by nature are dual use, both defensive and offensive.  There are many reasons to be critical of the NBAF.  From the  history of Plum Island to the lax reporting of accidents and safety violations of existing facilities but the most pressing question of bio- weapon proliferation has yet to be answered.
Presidential directive 9 is often mentioned as an outline for the “purpose” of the NBAF,  but one rarely mentioned directive may be more pertinent, Presidential Directive 10, “Biodefense for the 21st Century”. The term bioweapon is used throughtout the directive.
For you consideration, I have included links and excerpts of news articles and opinion pieces on the current policy issues surrounding the BWC. 
Explore and research further for yourself and you too will see just how deep the rabbit hole goes.
The United States is a signatory to nine multilateral treaties that it has either blatantly violated or gradually subverted. The Bush Administration is now outright rejecting a number of those treaties, and in doing so places global security in jeopardy as other nations feel entitled to do the same.
The rejected treaties include: The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the Treaty Banning Antipersonnel Mines, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), a protocol to create a compliance regime for the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM). The U.S. is also not complying with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Chemical Weapons Commission (CWC), the BWC, and the UN framework Convention on Climate Change.
U.S. actions have similarly led to a dangerous weakening of the Biological Weapons Convention. As recently as November 2002, Bush administration continued to quash negotiations on verification and enforcement measures needed to detect and prevent violations to the BWC. Then, the U.S. announced its intention to build and operate bio-warfare agent facilities at its two premier classified nuclear weapons laboratories, Lawrence Livermore in California and Los Alamos in New Mexico. The co-location of bio-warfare agent and nuclear weapons design capabilities is proceeding without Environmental Impact Statements, public hearings or proliferation reviews.
Many good resources for further study are available from non-governmental organizations and on the web. Tri-Valley CAREs’ site is http://www.trivalleycares.org. The “Rule of Power or Rule of Law?” report was written by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (www.ieer.org) and the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy (www.lcnp.org). In 2003, Apex Press released an expanded book-length version under the same title, with Nicole Deller, Arjun Makhijani and John Burroughs.

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This is exactly what I expected to happen. This story roots began with election law (voter caging) and the firings of the federal prosecutors who wouldn’t play ball with the GOP. It would be disastrous if the truth behind this scheme came out before the 2008 elections. Google: voter caging and see for yourself or see previous post on voter caging for more background on the investigation.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Michael Mukasey refused Friday to refer the House’s contempt citations against two of President Bush’s top aides to a federal grand jury. Mukasey said White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former presidential counsel Harriet Miers committed no crime.

As promised, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she has given the Judiciary Committee authority to file a lawsuit against Bolten and Miers in federal court.

“The House shall do so promptly,” she said in a statement.

Mukasey said Bolten and Miers were right in ignoring subpoenas to provide Congress with White House documents or testify about the firings of federal prosecutors.

“The department will not bring the congressional contempt citations before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute Mr. Bolten or Ms. Miers,” Mukasey wrote Pelosi.

 

Full story here.

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