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“One Bird-flu Over the Coockoo’s Nest”

On 21 December 2011 the world became a more dangerous place.
My co-author, Dr. Frank Malinoski has this to say: On that date we learned that a science article was to be censored (see NYTimes article here). Historic and unprecedented, yes. And Tony Fauci, head of the US NIH is quoted as saying that some would ask why the research, to create a form of Bird Flu that would be highly contagious, was done in the first place. Now THAT should have been the headline and THAT is why we are in more danger today.
We could debate the ethics of censorship and the well intentioned efforts of the NIH staff who funded the research and the scientific prowess of the investigators in the Netherlands and at the University of Wisconsin but the bottom line is this: As a result of this work the US is now in possession of the means to make a biological weapon more deadly than nature itself has done thusfar. I’m not saying that somewhere in the bowels of government there is a secret organization that wants such weapons, but remember it was not long ago that Vice President Dick Cheney convinced the government to hang on to its stocks of smallpox virus “just in case” we needed to study smallpox again (even though it’s been absent from the general population for 40 years). To me, the only thing that distinguishes this work from the illegal biological weapons activity of the former Soviet Union (and many other clandestine programs around the world by the way) is the “openness” of the disclosure, at least until the work was censored….
And the real question for scientists and their conscience is why there is a need to do this type of research? It is not sufficient to say “because we can”. It is not sufficient to say “because nature may do it some time in the future and we need to know what nature will do.” There are so many other important and deadly diseases causing harm NOW. What we need are solutions to treatment and prevention of those diseases, not “improvements” in any bug’s ability to cause disease.
And I’m afraid these scientists will now be faced with reflecting on what Einstein said a few months before his death as he contemplated his contributions to the construction of the atomic bomb, “Perhaps I can be forgiven”.

Ebony Book Club Event

Judith and her Crescent Veil co-author Dr. Frank Malinoski spent a wonderful evening recently with the members of Wilmington’s Ebony Book Club.  What wonderful and insightful discussions around Crescent Veil, my motivation for writing, and the history of biological weapons.  The fellowship, friendship, and dinner were awesome. I can’t wait to share the sequel with this great group of readers and thinkers.

Crescent Veil Sequel In Progress

For fans of Wayne, Matt, Richard and the crew.  Yes, they are off on another adventure.  This time uncovering a deeper conspiracy right here under our noses (or should I say feet) in the US.  And if you ask why it took so long, well, writing “on the edge” of reality, we had to scrap the idea of explaining where the anthrax letters originated when the accused USAMRIID scientist, Dr. Bruce Ivins, committed suicide and the FBI declared “case closed.” Don’t worry, like the National Academy of Sciences, we don’t think that case is really closed, we just found a new trail (and yes there will be caves for those who remember Wayne’s previous exploits) and even a bit of the mystical when the sequel resurfaces.  We haven’t decided on a title yet…Any ideas?  We may have a contest.  Let us know!

Rats, human body parts, catapults, blankets, umbrellas and your local restaurant have what in common?

Simply put, they all have been used in dispersing biological weapons.

At the “Battle of Tortona” in Italy in 1155, Barbarossa had human body parts dropped into the wells of his enemy to contaminate their water supplies.

Catapults were used to send dead and infected bodies of plaque victims over castle walls to infect the inhabitants under siege. In 1346-47 the Mongols used this tactic successfully at the city of Kaffa (in Crimea), forcing the Germans to flee.

During the French & Indian Wars in the USA 1763, blankets from patients that carried the smallpox virus were given to American Indians by British troops to infect and kill them.

In 1940 the Japanese took rats that were infested with plaque carrying fleas and set them loose in China causing epidemics.

In 1978 while living in London, a needle on the tip of an umbrella was used as a weapon to assassinate Georgi Markov. The neelde injected a pellet laced with lethal ricin toxin in to the diplomat.

And in 1984 a radical group in Oregon state laced the salad bar of a local restaurant with salmonella in order to make the population sick so they couldn’t vote against their candidates in a local election.

And then there are the anthrax letters of September 2001…..

Bring Back the Cold War

If there ever was a time to long for, the days of the “Red Phone” and Reagan squaring off against Gorbachev, to borrow a slogan from the first Reagan campaign, “the time is now.”

The world has certainly become a more dangerous place since the Soviet walls “came crumbling down” and the Cold War has been replaced by “hot zones.”

While the Soviet Union’s crimes against its own people deserve to be in the past, the Soviet Union offered some glue to the collective of anti-democratic and anti-American sentiment out there. It was a glue that kept some of the Soviet allies in check. As that glue dissolved, it seems that so did the check over countries like Iraq, Korea, and Iran.

There was a macabre but considerable comfort in the guaranteed mutual destruction of the globe that would have come if the EU or US were too aggressive against one of the Soviet allies or vise versa.

The time when our nation could defend its boarders by targeting missiles at command and control centers thousands of miles away in Moscow is a thing of the past. Now terrorist cells have brought destruction to our soil and those missiles and their plans are twirling aimlessly like an unanchored road sign spinning in a wild wind.

We only have to look at the unfolding of the fight against insurgents in Iraq to know that there were no effective plans to defend ourselves or fight an unconventional war. Perhaps there will never be an effective war plan against the resentment we face in Iraq—certainly not one that we can all agree on.

Thus, as we face nations that pose “threats” similar to those posed by Iraq, like Iran, we have to have the courage to admit that we are in uncharted waters in fighting such opposition.

What options do we have? We could sacrifice more lives while we experiment with tactics against these unconventional opponents, we must consider other options. Or, we could reach out with true global peace initiatives that seek to ensure the sovereignty of each nation. This might mean that a new bloc emerges in the Middle East and we enter a new Cold War. But, there would be new parameters, and while the bloc sorts its internal politics, we would strengthen our defenses at home. Can we cool off the current wave of escalating violence? If we don’t try we won’t know.

If you have trouble sleeping, don’t read this.

In the summer of 1991, after the first Gulf War, the first inspections of Iraqi WMD began. Amazingly, on the first biological weapons inspection, the Iraqi representatives, led by the infamous Dr. Taha, announced that they had, indeed, a program to develop biological weapons. Their rationale at the time was that they did it because they suspected other countries around them, including Israel, had similar weapons. Basically, they said they were in a BW arms race.

They made 2 other statements that were equally amazing:

First, they stated that they did not have a defensive program, meaning that they were not interested in developing vaccines and antidotes to protect their own troop, soldiers, and laboratory workers. Their interest was only in having the weapons and if people in Iraq died because of accidents or an attack from outside, so what.

Secondly, they stated that the allied bombings carried out in January of 1991 destroyed all of their production and testing facilities. We know for a fact that this last statement was a lie as later inspections would find other facilities not bombed and stockpiles of bombs that were filled with BW agents, among them anthrax. Those stockpiles were eliminated but there are 2 things to consider before we state that Iraq is BW “germ free”:

  1. These dangerous germs are invisible to the naked eye and stocks can be stored in containers that fit in your pocket, so how can we be sure the country is free of these stocks?
  2. The main thing that separates offensive BW work form legitimate infectious disease work is the intent of the user, so how do we get in the head of the scientists that remain in Iraq and convince ourselves that their intentions are good?