01.30.12

Bioterror Keynsian jobs program or national security welfare — your choice

Posted in Bioterrorism, Ricin Kooks at 1:44 pm by George Smith

From the Los Angeles Times over the weekend, a laboratory designed to fight bioterror has no bioterror to fight.

Because the only bioterror was American bioterror defense industry bioterror. In the entire decade.

So there’s make work setting up test exercises for things which, in all likelihood will never happen. And moving into police work, which in the case mentioned by the newspaper, means helping to chase around those people selling and smoking the new kind of synthetic pot called bath salts.

Anyway you look at it, it’s trivial applications for trivial problems deceptively advertised as things bigger and more meaningful.

Please don’t take the bioterror funding away! See, it’s good for something! Like protecting the populace from synthetic Demi Moore dope and the odd intestinal illness that shows up every couple of years.
In the meantime, nationwide austerity forces the lay-offs of something one does need everyday — teachers.

From the Los Angeles Times:

When Jeffery H. Moran goes to work each day, he swipes his security badge, passes into an airtight chamber, opens a bombproof door and enters a lab full of deadly toxins.

As chief of the counter-terrorism laboratory at the Arkansas Department of Health one of 62 such federally funded labs in the country he heads two dozen chemists who are on constant alert for the release of pestilence or poisons in the United States.

Armed with $2 million worth of new equipment, Moran concocts gruesome tests to keep his team sharp. He has laced samples of baby formula with lethal ricin. Poured rat poison into water bottles. Tainted blood with cyanide gas …

Using a counter-terrorism lab to test for synthetic marijuana is the latest sign of how a multibillion-dollar national infrastructure built to detect or respond to chemical or biological attacks over the last decade has adapted to the lack of any actual attacks.

Stewart Baker, former head of policy at the Department of Homeland Security, said he wasn’t surprised that Little Rock’s high-tech lab is helping police ferret out potheads.

“Otherwise they would be like the Maytag repairman, just sitting there waiting for the phone to ring,” Baker said.

The only place ricin has ever been put in food, excluding one case in which a husband tried to kill his wife and failed, in the last decade is in government labs. And the only place pure ricin exists is also in government labs, or private sector research labs funded by the taxpayer.

No terrorist has ever produced pure ricin.

And no terrorists have successfully used cyanide gas bombs.

Edward Hammond is the only critic polled by the Times. For those of us who have followed the issues over a decade, Hammond was known for the Sunshine Project, a watchdog agency for bioterror research, one that worked quite well.

“Pork, pork, pork, pork, pork,” Hammond told the Los Angeles newspaper. “These state departments of health have become addicted to extra federal bioterrorism dollars.”

And Hammond is on the money.

About a week ago a newspaper in the Pacific northwest ran a news brief on a local laboratory that had taken bioterrorism funds to finance testing of oysters for marine vibrios.

Outside the Gulf coast states, the only marine vibrio that causes foodborne illness is known as Vibrio parahaemolyticus.

The Los Angeles Times newspaper mentions the lab in part of its piece:

In California, the Humboldt County Public Health laboratory spent federal bioterrorism funds to buy a DNA-sequencing machine. The lab began using the device this month to test for bacteria in oysters harvested off the state’s coastline.

“We don’t just purchase the equipment and it sits in the corner,” said Jeremy Corrigan, who manages the lab and is state bioterrorism coordinator for Northern California. “I use it for dual purposes.”

The initial story on the lab, which ran in the Times-Standard of Eureka, CA, informed:

Humboldt’s vibrant oyster farming industry and bioterrorism funds have allowed the county’s public health laboratory to deploy a cutting-edge process to test for shellfish contamination.

The laboratory is now the only public facility in California to utilize a molecular process — known as polymerase chain reaction — for oyster testing. The only other laboratory to perform this type of work is a private lab in San Diego …

According to public health, two cases of the intestinal infection caused by virbrio parahaemolyticus were reported in 2007, but it is unclear if they were linked to oyster consumption. No cases have been reported in the past four years.

Dale said the company has done quality control for oysters and water as a precaution. About 70 percent of California’s oysters are grown in Humboldt Bay.

Although there has never been a positive result, a recent false positive illustrates the streamlined convenience of the new process, he said.

The LA Times piece did not mention how minor the nature of the threat was. And it is baffling that the only result, one false positive, could be peddled as something which is actually fulfilling a need.

“Last year, people who smoked Spice or other fake pot variations made 6,955 calls to poison control centers across the country, more than twice the number of calls in 2010,” wrote the Times reporter, in trying to make the case that identifying bath salts synthetic dope is more than a trivial business.

Some statistics from the Bulletin of Cannabis Reform:

Number of estimated marijuana users, nationally, 2007: 25.2 million

Number of estimated marijuana users, California, 2007: 3.3 million

Number of arrests for marijuana use, California, 2007: 74,024

Percentage expression of poison calls on bath salts usage relative to total number of marijuana users in US: 0.000275992063

“What are you people? On dope?” — Mr. Hand, Fast Times at Ridgemont High

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