Friday, October 31, 2003

Government funded scientist geneticially engineers lethal virus 

A scientist from St. Louis University in Missouri has used genetic engineering to create a form of mousepox that can kill even vaccinated mice and mice that have been treated with antiviral drugs.

Prof. R. Mark Buller, of the University's Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, told New Scientist that such research was necessary to explore what bioterrorists might do.

But that argument is actually an end-run around the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) of which the U.S. is a signatory. The BTWC allows research for defensive purposes, but not offensive purposes. The U.S. expands its own arsenal of bioweapons by saying, "There are terrorists out there who want to attack us with biological weapons. We have to do defensive research to find vaccines and antidotes. In order to find the vaccine or antidote, we have to know how the weapon works." So they create the weapon in the first place under the guise of looking for the vaccine or the antidote.

Buller's work involves a gene that creates IL-4, a natural immunosuppressant. He has also modified cowpox with this gene. The altered cowpox is soon to be to be tested on mice at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick, Maryland. Buller is confident that IL-4 is species specific, but can anyone be sure that what is species specific in nature will remain so when genetic engineering is involved?

According to the resume posted on the Internet, Professor Buller has been a special reviewer for the smallpox research program of the Centers for Disease Control. He has been associated in various ways with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, since 1982. In 2002, he was a member of an NIAID Blue-Ribbon Panel on Bioterrorism and its Implications on Biomedical Research.

The New Scientist article did not state which department of the U.S. Government is funding his research.

Viruses whose names end in pox, including smallpox, are all members of the orthopox virus family. Buller presented his research at a conference on Smallpox Biosecurity in Geneva, Switzerland in mid-October.

One must ask, are we safer from bioterrorism when government-funded scientists are genetically engineering new and more lethal viruses in their labs? Who watches the watchers?

Figures don't lie, but liars figure 

Whee . . . the recession, the depression, the whatever is over! Why the gross national product grew by 7.2 percent in the last quarter. Who says Bushnomics don't work? Cut taxes, pile up deficits, cut taxes, eliminate jobs, pile up more deficits, cut taxes eliminate more jobs and all is well, according to Bushmath and the TV newsies who yesterday were gushing over this miracle that, to hear them tell it, was brought about the by Bushies' economic policies and higher productivity, which means fewer were working longer and harder for less -- that is if there is any truth to the 7.2 percent figure and even if there isn't, you can bet that fewer were working longer and harder for less.

Dunno about you, folks, but I cringe when I hear the word productivity. It has become a dirty word to me when I think of what it means for the average wage slave.

Assuming that the figure holds and doesn't get quietly downsized as previous ones have, the Bush economic miracle is as phony as the bubble. Soon the bubble will burst, because there is no there there.

Sure Bush putting some extra bucks in the pockets of financially strapped parents with children helped. Helped with paying for all that back-to-school stuff. But that was a one-time boost for struggling parents. There might even have been a few bucks left over to buy some other necessities. But the third quarter also happens to be the time for big savings on 2003 model vehicles -- leftovers, as the car makers call them -- so you would expect an upsurge in car sales, especially with a zero interest rate or fat rebates. Add into that those who refinanced their mortgages to get lower interest rates plus some extra bucks to spend by cashing in their home equity, also first-time home buyers lured by rock bottom interest rates even though they could lose their jobs tomorrow. And let us not leave out of the equation the sales of war toys and other supplies needed to keep Bush's lovely wars going in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some economic miracle, eh?

Abraham Lincoln said, "You may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can't fool all of the people all the time." Since Mr. Lincoln did not live in our age of public relations and advertising propagandists that may have to be revised to "you may fool nearly all the people all the time," especially if you have a talent for playing with figures and cooking the books.

The great test in how much you can fool the people will come this holiday season. The propagandists are already beating the drum for you to buy, buy, buy, in order to fulfill their prophecy that this will be the best holiday sales season in eons. If that happens, I say it will be for one of two reasons: People realize we're headed for economic collapse and they are going to grab what they can while they can or you can fool nearly all the people all the time.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

US troops using Israeli military's brutal tactics 

It has been 18 days since Patrick Cockburn of the UK's Independent reported that US troops in Iraq bulldozed "ancient groves of date palms as well as orange and lemon trees in central Iraq as part of a new policy of collective punishment of farmers who do not give information about guerrillas attacking US troops."

This comes on top of all the other humiliations Iraqis have been subjected to at the hands of soldiers who neither understand their language or customs, but occupy their country. None of which are being reported on US television network news.

It is estimated that some 50 families in Dhuluaya, 50 miles north of Baghdad, lost their livelihoods.

Cockburn wrote, "'They made a sort of joke against us by playing jazz music while they were cutting down the trees,' said one man. Ambushes of US troops have taken place around Dhuluaya. But Sheikh Hussein Ali Saleh al-Jabouri, a member of a delegation that went to the nearby US base to ask for compensation for the loss of the fruit trees, said American officers described what had happened as 'a punishment of local people because "you know who is in the resistance and do not tell us."' What the Israelis had done by way of collective punishment of Palestinians was now happening in Iraq, Sheikh Hussein added."

Is this George W. Bush's way of getting Iraqis to love their American liberators?

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Smallpox vaccination program flops 

George W. Bush's smallpox vaccination program hasn't been officially pronounced dead, but USA Today is reporting that the program has basically ceased. The plan was to vaccinate 450,000 health care workers so that they could respond to a bioterror attack. A second phase of the program would have vaccinated up to 10 million police, firefighters and other first responders.

But the program met with a weak response from the beginning. There have been no cases of smallpox on the planet since a 1977 case in Somalia. The smallpox vaccine is the riskiest, with side effects ranging from rash and discomfort at the vaccination site to death. Health care workers complained that they would not be adequately compensated in the event of injury or death. Major hospitals across the nation refused to administer the vaccine to their staffs in the absence of any actual cases--the vaccine can be administered up to four days after exposure--given the risk that the vaccine's live vaccinia virus, a cousin of smallpox, could be accidentally passed on to patients.

After reports in April of heart problems associated with the vaccination only a few health workers a week volunteered for the shot.

The CDC will now fold the program into a broader antibioterrorism plan. The Department of Homeland Security is claiming that enough first responders have been vaccinated to deal with a smallpox outbreak.

But the bottom line is that savvy health care workers refused to be panicked into taking a risky vaccine that could have harmed themselves or their patients. Smallpox is a difficult virus to weaponize and deliver. If there is an outbreak, look to state terrorism, not the usual bogeymen in caves.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Greenpeace is a target of Ashcroft's prosecutors 

In Attorney General John Ashcroft's America, dissent will not be tolerated. Now his zealous prosecutors are dusting off obscure laws to use in their assault on civil liberties.

Some three miles off the Florida coast in April 2002, two Greenpeace activists were grabbed as they boarded a cargo ship to protest what they believed was an illegal shipment of mahogany from Brazil. The pair spent the weekend in custody. They got their day in court two months later and were sentenced to time served.

End of case? By no means. Now federal prosecutors in Miami are going after the whole Greenpeace organization and have obtained an indictment on the basis of an 1872 law that "forbids the unauthorized boarding of 'any vessel about to arrive at the place of her destination,''' according to The New York Times.

The law was intended to make it illegal for boarding house operators to board ships without authorization to lure sailors to their establishments. According to the Times, the last time a court ruled on the law was in 1890. The court said the law was "meant to prevent 'sailor-mongers' from luring crews to boarding houses 'by the help of intoxicants and the use of other means, often savoring of violence.'"

In court papers defending the indictment, prosecutors wrote, "The heart of Greenpeace's mission is the violation of the law."

Prosecutors, while admitting a conviction could have tax consequences for the non-profit Greenpeace and "a chilling effect on First Amendment rights," are even attempting to deny Greenpeace a jury trial.

The Times reported, "The potential loss of constitutional rights, prosecutors wrote, does not require a jury. They cited a misdemeanor domestic violence prosecution in which the defendant was denied a jury trial although he faced losing his license to carry a gun. In contrast to speculation about the impact of a conviction on Greenpeace's First Amendment rights, prosecutors wrote, the defendant in the gun case 'was not entitled to a jury trial even though he was definitely faced with loss of his Second Amendment rights.'"

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Have the powers behind the curtain had enough of Bush? 

Yours truly has predicted for months that if the corporate globalists have had enough of George W. Bush that they will replace him with someone who appears kinder, gentler and more diplomatic in his approach to the US and the world.

Bush has delivered everything his corporate masters wanted, from negating treaties that destroy their profits to invading Afghanistan and Iraq for the benefit of the energy companies, the weapons manufacturers and the construction firms, plus all the tax breaks he has given both business and his rich patrons.

Now with more mounting scandals -- the criminal outing of former Amabassador Joseph Wilson's wife as a CIA operative being the latest and the one that could finally result in Bush's long overdue impeachment -- growing unrest at home over the still sinking economy and the historic level of debt Bush has piled up, and the way he has turned world opinion against the US, the powers behind the curtain are sending subtle signals that Bush has become a liability.

Headlines such as this one in the Sunday, Oct. 5, Contra Costa Times, Republicans unsure of Bush's chances for 2004 election, are starting to show up in a number of newspapers.

Since private corporations now control the voting systems in 37 states -- and that number is growing -- and in the wake of the stolen 2000 presidential election, replacing Bush is easy.

While any of the Democrats, with the exception of Dennis Kucinich, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton, will do, retired General Wesley Clark may be their man.

You have been warned.

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