Harvey potentially boosts vulnificus season

Posted in Bioterrorism, Culture of Lickspittle at 5:45 pm by George Smith

Although still a relatively rare hazard, the NY Times informs Harvey floodwaters could boost area Vibrio vulnficus infections:

Some Texas public health officials expect an increase in gastrointestinal problems from bacteria breeding in stagnant floodwaters that can contain Escherichia coli (E. coli), Shigella, and Vibrio vulnificus. The latter, which is present in the Gulf of Mexico, can cause terrible infections that can lead to amputations. It is harmful if swallowed or if it comes into contact with a cut.

In a report issued one month after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it had counted 24 cases of hurricane-related wounds infected with Vibrio vulnificus or its relative, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, of which six were fatal.

The danger comes from the flooding of waterways that are known to contain vulnificus in any area suggested to hurricanes.

Vibrio vulnficus — from the archives.

Most irresposible headline keyed to Harvey and vulfnicus, from Mother Jones:

If Things Weren’t Already Bad Enough, Houston Is About to Face a Public Health Nightmare
Entire neighborhoods have become contaminated and potentially toxic rivers.

A potential six cases after a disaster as widespread as Katrina in no way points to a nightmare. No link. Mother Jones provides nothing useful, in this case, other than an instance in bad headline/clickbait handwaving.

Phrase to never use as a layman: “Gut microbiota”

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Shoeshine at 5:25 pm by George Smith

The New York Times asks on its web frontpage:

“Can I Test the Health of My Gut Microbiota?”


The article is an intelligence test. If you read it, you flunk. I’ll admit to getting about a third of the way in. As pure clickbait aimed at the upper middle class of American shoeshine, people who think reading about their “gut microbiota” makes them informed on health and scince, it’s first rate.


Tom Friedman’s Cream Pie Moments

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, War On Terror at 2:37 pm by George Smith

Last week Tom Friedman was bowled over by American servicemen and their multi-billion dollar war network infrastructure at Al Udeid airbase in Qatar. It’s in service to what Friedman loves, traveling the world to bring back what he thinks are teachable examples of how things are done with excellence for the rest of us.

First up was national unity And Charlottesville. In this the US military was held up, as it has been by by many, as the shining example of integration, unity and how to treat others with respect.


Just one glance at our traveling party and the crews at this base and you realize immediately why we are the most powerful country in the world … In the control center I’m introduced to the two Russian-speaking U.S. servicemen who 10 to 12 times a day get on the local “hotline??? with the Russian command post in Syria to make sure Russian planes don’t collide with ours. One of the servicemen was born in Russia and the other left Kiev, Ukraine, just five years ago, in part, he told me, because he dreamed of joining the U.S. Air Force: “This is the country of opportunity.??? [Keep in mind how the -opportunity- arose, pip squeak. The US military destabilized Iraq and, subsequently, Syria.]

Then we get a briefing from the combat innovation team, which is designing a new algorithm for dynamic targeting with colleagues in Silicon Valley.I ask their commander about his last name — Ito — and he explains, “My dad is from Cuba and my mother is from Mexico.??? The intelligence briefing was delivered by “Captain Yang.???

The very reason America is the supreme power in this region is that the U.S. military can take all of those different people and make them into a fist.

“Pluralism is our true source of strength at home and abroad,” Friedman concludes. You knew this was coming.

You also know he could have just gone to the supermarket in Pasadena and interviewed the day staff to find the same thing. The US military is not magical or special. Neither is its military. You find the same things in it, much of the time, as you do anywhere else.

Coincidentally, a colleague reprinted an article on the nature of domestic terrorism, taken from the archives of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in 2014:

The military and the far right. Throughout the history of US far-right extremism, many of its most influential and infamous members have had ties to the military. A small sampling includes the former Confederate soldiers who founded the Ku Klux Klan in 1866; its first leader was a former Confederate general, Nathan Bedford Forest. The highly influential Willis Carto served in World War II before a 50 year career with far-right extremism that encompassed, according to the Anti-Defamation League, “nearly every significant far-right movement in the country, from neo-Nazism to militias, segregationism to Holocaust denial.??? An aide to General McArthur, William Potter Gale, oversaw guerilla resistance in the Philippines during World War II before helping establish the racist, anti-Semitic, and apocalyptic Christian Identity movement and the virulently anti-federal government umbrella organization Posse Comitatus. The North Dakota Posse leader Gordon Kahl, who died in a 1983 shootout with federal agents, and whom many far-right extremists consider to be the Posse’s greatest martyr, earned two purple hearts as an aircraft gunner in World War II. Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler served in World War II.

The trend has continued in more recent years: Neo-Nazi Louis Beam was a Vietnam veteran. The founder of one of the leading racist groups of its time, White Aryan Resistance, Tom Metzger, spent the early 1960s in the US Army. Metzger is often credited with being the “godfather??? of the racist skinhead scene. Timothy McVeigh, whose actions during Operation Desert Storm merited him the Bronze Star, later killed 168 people, including 19 children in the 1995 Oklahoma City truck bombing; his accomplice, Terry Nichols, was also a veteran. Army of God adherent and Centennial Olympic Park and abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolf was an Army veteran. In August 2012, Army veteran Wade Michael Page killed six people in a racially motived shooting rampage at a Wisconsin Sikh temple. Radicalized during his time at Ft. Bragg, Page told an interviewer, “If you don’t go in the military a racist, you’re sure to leave as one.???

To be clear, the homeland security department’s 2009 report on far-right extremism did not denigrate US military personnel or exaggerate their past or potential for terrorism. Many studies and reports demonstrate that veteran and active-duty US military personnel account for only a miniscule part of far-right extremist plots and attacks. But the percentage of individuals and members in far-right groups with military experience is larger than the corresponding percentage of those with military experience in the population at large. And in a 2008 study, the FBI reported that veteran and active duty military personnel “frequently occupy leadership roles within extremist groups …

However, Friedman can’t get over the alleged perfectly synchronized pluralism of the US command at Al Udied. (Or maybe it’s just its mind-numbing infrastructure of war.)

We toured the command center here with its wall-size screens that take the data from satellites, drones, manned aircraft, cyber, sensors, human intelligence and aerial refueling tankers and meld them into a series of strategic targeting decisions. Watching the choreography of all this is both chilling and mesmerizing.

We are moving “from wars of attrition to wars of cognition,??? explained General Goldfein. These new integrated systems are simultaneously “state of the art, unparalleled — and too slow for the future.???

What if all of this talent and energy and idealism and pluralism were applied not to propping up a decrepit Arab state system against Iran, but instead fixing the worst neighborhoods of Baltimore, Chicago and Detroit?

And this is where it’s at its most intelligence-insulting. The idea, that we get again and again in the culture of lickspittle, that if the magnificent US military were just repositioned to point our way, if they came home, they could work magic.

Reality makes a hash of it. What is the accomplishment from Al Udeid?

The Middle East’s versions of Stalingrad in Mosul and Raqqa. And today, a Times front page story on a plague caused by cholera in Yemen where we’ve assisted Saudi Arabia in bombing the country’s water sanitation facilities into rubble.

“The world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” reads part of the headline. It’a quite a notch on the belt. What doesn’t follow is how people who bring about humanitarian crises, who break things globally, could fix things domestically.

“We need to have a national discussion about this,” writes Friedman. No we don’t. Surely not with him as impresario. Get the cream pies.

Tom Friedman, hit by pie.


Vibrio vulnificus season

Posted in Bioterrorism, Culture of Lickspittle at 1:32 pm by George Smith

It’s that time of year when Vibrio vulnificus infections begin showing in the news with some regularity. V. vulnificus is the brackish water/salt water bacterium I worked on for my Ph.D. which outlined its production of a collagenolytic enzyme that might and did turn out to have something to do with the catastrophic but human illness it can cause.

From the current news wires — Vibrio vulnficus infections, mostly in Florida and along the Gulf Coast states.

Interestingly, also skin and intestinal infections caused by the presence of the bacteria in a live Tilapia fish tank at a Seattle market:

One man is in the hospital with a confirmed Vibrio vulnificus infection. He became ill July 17. His wife was also sickened, but is recovering at home. Another person, confirmed in November 2016 with an infection from Vibrio vulnificus, also ate fish from a grocery store live tank, according to the health department notice. The department described the illnesses as an outbreak.

In this case, the vibrio exists on the fish and in the tank, an experience I found to be easily possible in my research. The organism is relatively commonplace in estuarine waters and is found on the fauna. The mitigating factor is that most healthy people are not susceptible to V. vulnficus infection.

In addition, the bacterium is found in enriched presence as water temperature rises. A Tilapia tank in a market, not paid much attention to, might indeed be a good place for that.

An inection was also reported near Dunnsville in Virginia’s northern neck where a woman was thought to have acquired it while swimming in the Rappahannock river:

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that 61-year-old Jane Durvin took her grandchildren swimming on Sunday at the Rappahannock River, a day after her cat had scratched her finger.

Durvin says on Monday she was in the hospital with a swollen, throbbing hand. She says doctors diagnosed her with a vibrio infection. She says on Wednesday her middle finger turned “black and cold.” If antibiotics don’t work, Durvin’s finger may need to be amputated.

Those thought to be most vulnerable to infection are those with liver disease, a compromised immune system, or some other underlying cause associated with general infirmity.

The disease is rare, however, as noted in this newspaper piece from the Rappahannock area, dated 2000.

Vibrio vulnificus — from the archives.

Vibrio vulnficusmy doctoral work.


Be Strategic, Not Impulsive, Make them Eat Potatoes

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism at 2:07 pm by George Smith

Tom Friedman invokes the power of American cyberwarriors to put North Korea to heel:

Don’t even think about lobbing one near us, or we might just shut off all the lights in your pathetic failing state. We can do that — just like we can make your rockets blow up or go off course. Have you noticed? And when your people get tired of eating potatoes every night, give us a call …

In a nation that’s undernourished and suffering from famines and shortages, they’d be happy for potatoes, perhaps.

And just HOW do our cyberwarriors attack food so that only potatoes are eaten? Send malware to plague the dirt farm? That’s a good trick.

This shows that Friedman reads only the stories he likes at the NY Times, like left of launch. But not the stuff about famine.

“North Korea’s production of staple crops for this year, including rice, corn, potatoes and soybeans, has been severely damaged by prolonged dry spells ‘threatening food security for a large part of its population’ ??? reads the Times.

No potatoes. However, left of launch — a jingle, invisible … fake news.

Get the cream pie.


“Left of launch” — the big failure. So Big. Now, “fire and fury.”

Posted in Bombing Paupers, Culture of Lickspittle, Cyberterrorism at 5:14 pm by George Smith

Left of launch appears to have failed abysmally. Did it even exist except in the minds of a small set of weird American cyberwarriors?

So our leader promises “fire and fury.”

Basing reaction and strategy on the alleged impact or cleverness of internally rhyming triplets seems unsound, the constructions of cretins. (Heh — lil’ joke.)

Enough with the National Security Agency’s contract piecework cyberwarriors. They deliver nothing but unexpected dangers.

From the New York Times:

President Trump threatened on Tuesday to unleash “fire and fury??? against North Korea if it endangers the United States …

What does it even mean when the most powerful country on the planet allegedly feels endangered by one of the most isolated and poor?

Left of launch — the clever cyber-saying that worked so well.

Now, in the stupid phrases Hall of Fame, according to me, second to first place and all time winner, electronic Pearl Harbor.


Ricin Mama gets 18 years

Posted in Bioterrorism, Crazy Weapons, Culture of Lickspittle, Ricin Kooks at 2:19 pm by George Smith

Shannon Richardson, the original ricin mama, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for making castor powder containing the toxin. Richardson mailed the powder in three letters in 2013, one of which was sent to the president.

From thw wire:

TEXARKANA, Texas – A Texas woman was sentenced Wednesday to 18 years in prison for sending ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

A federal judge gave Shannon Guess Richardson, 36, the maximum sentence under her plea deal on a charge of possessing and producing a biological toxin. She was also ordered to pay restitution. She pleaded guilty to the charge in December.

“I never intended for anybody to be hurt,” she told the court, adding later, “I’m not a bad person, I don’t have it in me to hurt anyone.”

Richardson said she thought security measures would prevent the letters from ever being opened.

Prosecutors say Richardson mailed three letters then went to police and claimed that her estranged husband, Nathan Richardson, had done it.

Richardson, who was trying to build a career as an actress had minor roles in The Walking Dead and The Blind Side.

Richardson has six children, one of whom was born after she was taken into custody in the case.

At the outset of the case she became known for a flurry of publicity pictures showing herself in a variety of fetching outfits.

Words do little to adequately describe such an unusual case. In review, then, here are pictures of Shannon Richardson and the castor powder-stained letter to the president, from “Ricin Mama:”

From the archives, Shannon Richardson.


Bioterrorism defense bust? Not cost-effective

Posted in Bioterrorism, Culture of Lickspittle, Ricin Kooks at 3:12 pm by George Smith

Long-term readers know the story of bioterrorism research in the United States. There was nothing that could not be funded because bioterror was inevitable and imminent. It was easy for bioterrorists to do.


Fifteen years on from the anthrax mailings the US has still had only one bioterrorist.

Bruce Ivins — who was an anthrax expert from the heart of the bioterror defense establishment at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

From the Fredericksburg< Maryland, newspaper in May of this year:

A research laboratory in Frederick with few peers across the country would be closed under the proposed budget from President Donald Trump.

While the overall spending for the Department of Homeland Security increases in Trump’s budget request, that department also zeroes out funding for the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) at Fort Detrick.

The news was shared in an all-staff meeting at NBACC this week after a letter from DHS confirmed an intent to shutter the laboratory by September 2018. According to the letter, all scientific research should end by March 2018 …

The NBACC is the crown jewel in the country’s elaborate and most secret network of biodefense laboratories.

The suggestion that it be closed by 2018, considering the history of its development, is nothing less than jaw-dropping.

Still, the NBACC is just criticized for failing to live up to expectations. There has been no bioterrorism and its capability is most fallow. At the time of its genesis critics argued, unsuccessfully, that the spending earmarked for it could be served equally or better by investing it in public health.

The historical context now is that a decade and a half shows bioterrorism is exceedingly difficult to mount. And other publich health threats have emerged into fully blown crises.

Death by opioid overdose now claims 33,000 lives a year, mostly a result of the widespread presence of fentanyl, a compound 50 times more powerful than morphine.

Ricin, the poison found in castor seeds and a compound the NBACC was developed to research and analyze, cannot compare to fentanyl as an active everyday public health threat.

“About 180 people work in the facility, with $21 million in annual salary and benefits and $4.5 million in annual subcontracting spending,” reads the Fredericksburg Post.

“The cut to NBACC could reflect shifting homeland security priorities under the Trump administration — in particular, the president’s call for a barrier along the Mexico border and increased border security. Overall, the Homeland Security budget increased 6.8 percent in the 2018 budget request.”

The border wall. Anti-immigration in. Bioterrorism defense after a very long run and, fortunately, non-production, is out. The differences between 2017 and 2001 could not be more stark. The NBACC’s contract was last renewed by President Obama and it is one of seven, mostly secret, such labs in the country.

Middletown, Ohio, a city under siege: ‘Everyone I know is on heroin’ — a remarkable news story on the opioid crisis in Middletown, Ohio. I direct readers to the set of graphics in which the increase in lethal overdose incidence is mapped by county, from 2010-2015. It is an astonishing and troubling ilustration of a country, primarily the rust belt and greater northeast rotting to death before your eyes.

By contrast, the hazard of bioterrorism is nonexistent.

On the NBACC, related labs and defense spending:

The country way over-invested in bioterror defense in the wake of 9/11. Free money went out for almost a decade. No results were required and none were furnished. During the time the public was bombarded with assertions that catastrophic bioterror attacks were easy to mount and likely.

None of the claims of the threat-mongers materialized. That’s zero.

Many of our most famous bioterror defense researchers grew wealthy during a period when millions of other Americans saw their economic futures languish or go up in smoke. Infrastructure repair and spending for the public good shriveled but national security spending ballooned.

The NBACC — here.