Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Experimenters criticized for mouse 'torture'?


Experimenters criticized for mouse 'torture'
Officials say research studying hopelessness and depression ethical
Updated: 4:55 p.m. CT May 21, 2007

ALBUQUERQUE - Mice were hung by their tails with adhesive tape, subjected to electrical shocks and forced to swim until nearly drowning during experiments done at the University of New Mexico.
University officials say there was nothing wrong with the research that helped a high school student study hopelessness and depression for a science fair project. But Daniel Theele the former lab veterinarian at the university who had been in charge of the welfare of lab animals at UNM called the research "torture." He said "I have defended animal research, stating that we do not abuse animals. Then, this slapped me in the face." He says he was forced to resign after complaining about the experiments.
This is such an odd story. I wonder why the vet was really fired?

There is a lot of hopelessness, depression, and suffering in the UNM labs that is as unlikely to lead to benefit as was the student’s science fair project. After all, someone might have seen her experiments and been inspired to go on and find a cure for cancer in mice. Oh wait, we cured cancer in mice 20 years ago.

The University of New Mexico is involved in the most speculative research and development ever undertaken. Ever, anywhere. Though admittedly, UNM isn’t the only actor in this modern tragedy.

There is research underway at the university to develop vaccines for various select agents -- possible biowarfare agents. This is part of the 9-11 hysteria.

Mouse models of cancer, monkey models of HIV, you name it, animal models of human disease and drug response are very poor predictors of anything having to do with human illness. Animal models have a nearly perfect failure rate precisely because they are actually tested in humans. In the case of the select agent vaccine program, this crucial test is unlikely to ever take place.

The research is pie-in-the-blue sky, and the cost in terms of tax dollars and suffering is grotesquely greater than any likely benefits.
Grant Number: 5P01AI056295-029003
Project Title: Primate Core
PI Information: Name Email Title
VAN ANDEL, ROGER A. roger.vanandel@nau.edu

“The incidence of primary pulmonary infections for most of the major biothreats is extremely low. Therefore, we will not be able to rely on testing new therapeutics and vaccines during "natural" outbreaks as is commonly done for many more common infections. Further, as is the case with the human immunodeficiency virus, direct challenges with the biothreats in normal human populations is unlikely to be a viable alternative. Because of these issues we will need to rely on animal models much more than usual for understanding the basic pathophysiology of the disease as well as determining the efficacy of new therapeutics and vaccines….
Then-La Cueva High School student Sarah Founds said that project at UNM was worthwhile and did no harm. "I thought it was awesome. I had a lot of fun working on it." She said it "wasn't overly painful." And that she’d, " encourage other students to do that kind of research."

And really, considering other research underway at UNM, hers doesn’t seem out of the ordinary in anyway.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Intentional Behavior and Cruelty: Video Snips

Interesting clips of animals acting with intention and planning and disturbing clips of primates (mostly) being hurt in various bogus research projects.

This is a nice short overview asking why we don't seem to recognize that intelligent life is all around us.

Here is a crow using and modifying a tool in a laboratory setting.

Naysayers (think bigots) might claim that learned behavior in a laboratory isn't really an indication of intentional behavior and mind. Maybe the crow in the clip above was taught to behave in this way over time, and maybe he or she isn't really goal directed. Here's an example of more diligent tool fashioning by a wild crow.

Interspecies interpersonal relationships are significant challenges to claims that animals are not independent agents. In this clip, a crow befriends a young cat.

Here's a clip from the Ellen DeGeneres Show of a dog who is clearly acting with intent.

This is a collection of three snips. All three show goal-directed planning. The animal escaping from the pit is an African animal called a ratel or honey badger.

This is a video of a bonobo named Kanzi playing Pacman. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7ttRaXlnfs

This a snip of the widely publicized early 1950s experiment designed by the infamous Harry Harlow that demonstrated what everyone already knew. It amounted to little more child abuse. Of note is the term used to describe the housing conditons: "semi-isolation." In the labs today, the sides of the cages are solid and the isolation more profound, yet, the labs consistently and uniformily claim that the monkeys are not isolated because they have visual and auditory contact with other monkeys.

This is the story of Britches, an infant stumptailed macaque rescued by "terrorists" (ALF) from a lab at the University of California-Riverside in 1985. If rescuing this baby is terrorism, then I'm pro-terrorism.

This is child abuse as rocket science. The chimpanzee is named Ham.

This is undercover footage taken inside the Covance lab in Vienna, Virginia. Every lab claims that the animals they hurt and kill are treated with respect.

This is a tightly edited piece that says that hurting an owl monkey is justified if crippled humans might be helped. What isn't shown are the surgeries or the life the monkey is being forced to endure. Why are drawings used rather than shots of the monkey? This monkey is a victim of our self-importance.

This is part of the hours upon hours of video taken inside the NIH Oregon National Primate Research Center by Matt Rossell while he was working as an environmental enrichment technician.

This is the result of experimental brain operations. No one other than the vivisector who did this benefited whatsoever.

This is undercover video from inside Huntingdon Life Sciences. The knowledge that this is going on day in and day out and that government supports and defends such cruelty is the main reason that some people are compelled to take direct action to stop it.

A series of stills from within the monkey labs to the accompanyment of Maria Daines' "Monkey in a Cage."

Know of other snips demonstrating animal mind and/or crulty in the monky labs? Send me a link.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Cycle of Abuse

"Ours is the first study to show that rhesus monkey females who are abused by their mothers in infancy tend to become abusive mothers themselves, and the first to provide experimental evidence that the intergenerational transmission of abuse is the result of early experience and not genetic inheritance," Dario Maestripieri, as quoted in Medical News Today referring to his 2005 publication of “Early experience affects the intergenerational transmission of infant abuse in rhesus monkeys.”

The tendency for the cycle of abusive and neglectful parenting to be transmitted across generations has been well documented. The authors report on 40 families who broke this family pattern. The mechanisms for change used in these families included reliance on a broad network of resources, a degree of self-differentiation, an attitude of realistic optimism, and the ability to marshal extra resources to meet crisis situations. The authors recommend further study of such exceptions and a more hopeful approach to the problem of abusive families.
R.S. Hunter and N. Kilstrom in the abstract of their 1979 American Journal of Psychiatry paper “Breaking the cycle in abusive families.”

Dario Maestripieri’s research on infant abuse is meaningless in any sense related to actual societal problems or how to address them. His “discovery” is just another among many that have consistently post-dated the publication of research from human studies and plain observation, as the 1979 paper above makes clear.

His waste of public funds is one thing, but his research is cruel as well. At the most basic level, monkeys likely to abuse their infants shouldn’t be allowed to become pregnant. The fact that they do is a willful decision made by Maestripieri with full knowledge that infants are going to be born into an abusive situation.

Other methods he uses are also cruel. Four times a year, the monkeys are captured and undergo spinal taps. According to eMedicineHealth:
About 5-30% of people who have a spinal tap get what is commonly referred to as post–lumbar puncture headache.

[The] headache may start up to 48 hours after the procedure and usually lasts for 2 days or less.

The headache typically worsens when you are in an upright position and lessens when you lie flat.

The cause of the headache is leakage of the spinal fluid from around the puncture site.

Younger people and males have an increased risk of headaches after lumbar puncture compared with older people and females.
One retired anesthesiologist says, “I have seen patients (not mine, of course) suffering from spinal headache after surgery or spinal tap. Their pain is excruciating. Even the strongest pain killers like morphine cannot alleviate their pain.”

The monkeys' fear associated with Maestripieri’s quarterly roundup is probably intense. Mothers fear for their infants and for themselves. For monkeys who suffer from intense and long headaches or other undiagnosed maladies resulting from the stress of capture and the spinal tap there may be strong negative associations with the event that tend to make it additionally frightening.

I was led to consider Dario Maestripieri’s research as a result of working on a bibliography of primate cognition. I was intrigued by many of the recent papers on macaque and chimpanzee cognition by Michael J. Beran.

Though I am familiar with the Language Research Center of Georgia State University in Atlanta, I didn’t know much about Spelman College where Beran is a part-time professor in the Department of Psychology.

A visit to the Spelman website led me to reading about Kai McCormack, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, whose institutional webpage says:

“Research interest: Non-human primate development, particularly the effects of early life stress on behavioral and physiological outcomes.”

I searched around for more information about McCormack and found her “research” described in more detail in the Center for Biomedical and Behavioral Research at Spelman College’s Winter 2006 newsletter:
Dr. Kai McCormack, Assistant Professor of Psychology, comes to Spelman College from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Her research interest focuses on the effects of early adverse experiences on the developing rhesus macaque, the social development of maternally abused and non-abused infants, and the impact of early abuse on the developing hypothalamic pituitary adrenalin (HPA) axis. Her research findings have implications for predicting and treating the outcomes of early negative experiences in humans, and gaining insight into the possible precursors of psychopathology.
So, I stuck her name in PubMed and learned that her research amounts to three papers, all published in 2006. It’s odd that she was at Emory, home to the NIH Yerkes National Primate Research Center and managed to get her name on only three papers associated with torturing monkeys:

Maternal care patterns and behavioral development of rhesus macaque abused infants in the first 6 months of life. McCormack K, Sanchez MM, Bardi M, Maestripieri D.Dev Psychobiol. 2006 Nov;48(7):537-50.

Early maternal rejection affects the development of monoaminergic systems and adult abusive parenting in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). Maestripieri D, Higley JD, Lindell SG, Newman TK, McCormack KM, Sanchez MM. Behav Neurosci. 2006 Oct;12(5):1017-24.

Influence of parenting style on the offspring's behaviour and CSF monoamine metabolite levels in crossfostered and noncrossfostered female rhesus macaques. Maestripieri D, McCormack K, Lindell SG, Higley JD, Sanchez MM. Behav Brain Res. 2006 Nov 25;175(1):90-5. Epub 2006 Sep 12.

Here's a stupid bit of pr fluff about her work.

Upon seeing that she was associated with Maestripieri and his hideous career, I decided to write a bit about his redundant and worthless research, which I hope explains why I wrote this.

Seeing that Spelman is home to both McCormack and Michael J. Beran, I was once again struck by the absolute failure of our college and university system to provide moral and ethical guidance and to constrain cruelty. Apparently, discoveries like Beran's, about similarities between monkeys’ minds and emotions and our own, no matter how close, are seen by some as reason to hurt them.

The sad irony here is that McCormack and Maestripieri probably learned to be mean to animals and are perpetuating this cycle of violence by teaching college students that they too can and should follow their example.

What’s right in front of us is often the hardest thing to see.

Maestripieri’s most recent worthless paper (as of May 23, 2007) is this:
Intergenerational transmission of maternal behavior in rhesus macaques and its underlying mechanisms.Maestripieri D, Lindell SG, Higley JD. Dev Psychobiol. 2007 Mar;49(2):165-71.

Thirteen group-living rhesus macaque females that were crossfostered shortly after birth were followed longitudinally until they gave birth for the first time. Their maternal behavior was compared to the behavior of both their foster and their biological mothers, and analyzed in relation to the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) concentrations of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine metabolites (5-HIAA, HVA, and MHPG) measured in their second year of life. Crossfostered females were similar to their foster mothers in their rates of maternal rejection and grooming, whereas their contact-making behavior was more similar to that of their biological mothers. Crossfostered females with lower CSF concentrations of 5-HIAA exhibited higher rates of maternal rejection than females with higher CSF 5-HIAA. In a related article (Maestripieri et al., 2006), we reported that rhesus infants reared by highly rejecting mothers had lower CSF 5-HIAA in their first 3 years of life. Taken together, these findings suggest that early social experience and experience-related long-term changes in serotonergic function may play a role in the intergenerational transmission of maternal rejection from mothers to daughters.
On and on, the cycle of violence continues unchecked in animal labs around the world.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Buddha of Compassion

[Excuse me as I vomit into my pool of tears.]

Milwaukee Journal Sentinal

Dalai Lama digs into veal, pheasant
Posted: May 15, 2007
First Course

Nancy Stohs

It's a question most chefs never get the privilege of pondering:

What to serve the Dalai Lama?

In Milwaukee chef Sandy D'Amato's case, the answer was veal.


Despite expectations that a vegetarian feast would be in order, the team of chefs assembled to cook for His Holiness on his recent visit to Madison was given no such instruction, said Catherine McKiernan, executive chef at the Madison Club, where the elaborate luncheon was held.

The Dalai Lama is, it turns out, a meat lover.

And so the five-course menu, served to about 60 people on May 3, including the guest of honor, his entourage and assorted citizens, included a stuffed pheasant breast, D'Amato's slow-cooked veal roast with scalded morels and escarole, and an asparagus soup with a chicken stock base.

A cured fish appetizer, mixed green salad, eggplant-and-chickpea entrée, and three full-size chocolate desserts completed the menu....

See too: His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a Callous Prick

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Experts fear escape of 1918 flu from lab

I should have read this more carefully when I cited it in the original post.

Experts fear escape of 1918 flu from lab
10:33 21 October 2004
Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition.
Debora MacKenzie

The 1918 flu virus spread across the world in three months and killed at least 40 million people. If it escaped from a lab today, the death toll could be far higher. “The potential implications of an infected lab worker – and spread beyond the lab – are terrifying,” says D. A. Henderson of the University of Pittsburgh, a leading biosecurity expert.

Yet despite the danger, researchers in the US are working with reconstructed versions of the virus at less than the maximum level of containment. ....

The latest work was done by Yoshihiro Kawaoka at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. His team showed that adding the 1918 gene for the surface protein haemagglutinin to modern viruses made them far deadlier to mice. The researchers also found that people born after 1918 have little or no immunity.

The team started the work at the highest level of containment, BSL-4, at Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. Then they decided the viruses were safe enough to handle at the next level down, and did the rest of the work across the border in a BSL-3Ag lab in Madison. The main difference between BSL-4 and BSL-3Ag is that precautions to ensure staff do not get infected are less stringent: while BSL-4 involves wearing fully enclosed body suits, those working at BSL-3Ag labs typically have half-suits.

Kawaoka told New Scientist that the decision to move down to BSL-3Ag was taken only after experiments at BSL-4 showed that giving mice the antiviral drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu) in advance prevented them getting sick. This means, he says, that if all lab workers take oseltamivir “they cannot become infected”. ...

Yet this assumes that the mouse results apply to humans. And the findings have not been published. In similar experiments, Terrence Tumpey’s team at the US Department of Agriculture’s poultry research lab in Athens, Georgia, got quite different results: they found that mice given oseltamivir still got sick and 1 in 10 died. It is not clear why Kawaoka’s mice fared better.

What is more, all the safety precautions are aimed at preventing escape, not dealing with it should it occur. If any of Kawaoka’s lab workers are exposed to the virus despite all the precautions, and become infected despite taking oseltamivir, the consequences could be disastrous.

“I experienced disbelief…regarding the decision to relocate the reconstructed 1918 influenza strain from a BSL-4 facility to a BSL-3 facility, based on its susceptibility to antiviral medication,” Ronald Voorhees, chief medical officer at the New Mexico Department of Health, wrote on ProMED-mail, an infectious diseases mailing list....


Millions dead within weeks

I became interested in primate research at the university of Wisconsin in 1997, after learning about some of the research at the Oregon and Washington Regional Primate Research Centers. Since then, I have been a fairly close observer of primate research in the United States.

Among the National Institutes of Health's National Primate Research Centers, Wisconsin stands out for a couple of reasons. Harry Harlow started the lab that bears his name, and he was the first director of the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center, which sits next door. (In April 2002, the Regional Primate Research Centers were renamed National Primate Rersearch Centers.) Many people remember Harlow as the scientist associated with the black and white photos of the baby monkeys clinging to a cloth-covered surrogate mother. Harlow was one of the promoters and architects of the country’s current system of publicly funded primate research centers. At Wisconsin, primate research seems homegrown.

Wisconsin’s setting is unique. The other primate centers are shielded from public view. Yerkes, Oregon, California, New England, Tulane, and Southwest are located on large acreages and more or less impossible to see from the road, while Washington presents itself as a single door along one of a labyrinth of hallways in the Magnuson Health Sciences Center (once billed as the largest area under one roof in the world.)

Wisconsin is comprised of two buildings immediately next door to a third monkey lab (Harlow) on the edge of campus. A short street bisects the center; it is sometimes possible to see monkeys being carried between the buildings. At Wisconsin, you can see people working at their desks on the ground floor of one building, although the buildings are otherwise nearly windowless.

All of the centers have closets filled with multiple USDA violations and scandal. But here too, Wisconsin is a stand out. Briefly, they lied in writing repeatedly to the county in regard to their use of protected monkeys at the county zoo; a director was involved in an abusive sex scandal with a graduate student; they paid off a veterinarian to keep quiet about the lack of medical care the monkeys were receiving; USDA inspectors discovered many instances of neglect and lack of oversight. I have detailed these and other unique features of Wisconsin elsewhere.

My observation of the industry has led me to realize that much of what they say publicly is a surreal abstraction of the truth and sometimes has little similarity to reality. I now read anything written by those associated with the Wisconsin animal labs with a skepticism born from their history of lying to the public to protect or promote their own interests.

So I was primed to doubt much in the featured article in the alumni magazine about Yoshiro Kawaoka and his research; especially because he had jut made national news by demonstrating that exposure to the reconstituted previously extinct 1918 Spanish flu quickly leads to an agonizing death in monkeys.

Since I first wrote about seeming contradictions in the article, a letter to the editor appeared in a local paper, and some behind-the-scenes correspondence has taken place between the magazine’s editors and James W. Tracy an official responsible for the university’s select agent program.

Select agents are things like germs or spores that could cause public health problems if they escaped from a laboratory.

In reply to the recent letter to the editor, [Capital Times 5/12/2007] Tracy had this to say:
Dear Editor: Melissa Tedrowe's letter regarding the work of Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka contains serious inaccuracies. It misrepresents not only a very important line of research intended to mitigate the effects of potential future flu pandemics, but also the processes and mechanisms in place to oversee work involving serious pathogens such as influenza.

The most serious inaccuracy is the assertion that Dr. Kawaoka's group has been conducting work on campus with live 1918 or Spanish flu virus. Dr. Kawaoka's group has indeed reconstituted the virus, but work with the live, infectious agent has not taken place on the Madison campus. That work was conducted in Canada, in high-level biosafety facilities that do not exist in Wisconsin.

The virus was first reconstituted by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in laboratory settings a safety level below the laboratory where Dr. Kawaoka's work was performed. Dr. Kawaoka's experiments, which received considerable international publicity, are critical to understanding the nature of influenza viruses such as the 1918 virus, and insight gleaned from those experiments is already being utilized to help prepare for future flu pandemics, which will inevitably occur.

That the UW-Madison Institutional Biosafety Committee raised questions about Dr. Kawaoka's influenza work simply shows that the oversight process is vigorous and thorough. All such work undergoes scrutiny and must be approved before it is undertaken. We would be concerned if such questions were not raised.

Ms. Tedrowe also implies that the public is somehow uninformed about such work. No doubt the inspiration for her letter was the cover story about Dr. Kawaoka in the winter issues of On Wisconsin, the university's alumni publication. Sharing the important work done by Dr. Kawaoka and his colleagues with 300,000 of our closest friends seems like a good way to make this a part of public conversation.

James W. Tracy, Ph.D., Select Agent Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison
It seems to be true that some experiments with the 1918 Spanish flu were conducted in Canada at a lab with a relatively high level of biosafety and that Kawaoka was associated with them. And, it is true that the experiments received considerable international publicity. And, it is true that an article appeared in On Wisconsin. But on this scaffold of true statements, Tracy has hung a number of misleading claims.

If we were talking about most diseases, this would all be fairly academic; the university’s lies might serve to shine its image, they might serve to deflect public concern over the animals’ suffering, but they would not be putting the public at such a profound risk.

The risk associated with the 1918 Spanish flu is unlike the risks associated with any other infectious agent. Let me repeat that: The risk associated with the 1918 Spanish flu is unlike the risks associated with any other infectious agent.

When the disease first appeared, the United States government was well prepared for an epidemic. Medical experts knew that disease, at that time in history, accounted for more losses during a time of war than did the fighting itself. As the country geared up to fight the Great War, military doctors and public health experts put procedures in place that they felt would be needed when disease broke out, as they knew it would.

When the first cases showed up, quarantine was almost immediate. It is unlikely that such a rapid response would occur today.

By the time people showed any symptoms, they had been infectious for a few days and had already spread the virus. Pre-planned and vigorous quarantine had little affect on the spread of the disease.

John M. Barry, in his book The Great Influenza says:
Although the influenza pandemic stretched over two years, perhaps two-thirds of the deaths occurred in a period of twenty-four weeks, and more than half of those deaths occurred in even less time, from mid-September to early December 1918. Influenza killed more people in a year than the Black Death killed in a century; it killed more people in twenty-four weeks than AIDS has killed in twenty-four years.
Over half of those who died in the 1918 pandemic were in their 20s and 30s, in the prime of their lives, not the elderly.

Keeping in mind the government’s response to hurricane Katrina, it seems unlikely that a response to an outbreak of 1918 Spanish flu would come in time to contain it. Whether we even could contain it, even if we were ready for it, seems like a gamble that only a fool would take.

Estimates of the number of deaths cause by the epidemic vary from 20 to 100 million. This was prior to air travel and among a smaller population. The death toll today could be much higher. Betting it will be lower next time rests on an unwarranted faith in local, state, and world governments' timely and intelligent responses. Some scientists think that the world's population might now have a natural immunity to the virus. Should we test this conjecture?

Government’s wisdom regarding the 1918 Spanish flu is suspect at best. Once the epidemic ran its course, it all but completely disappeared. J. van Aken of the Research Group for Biological Weapons and Arms Control at the University of Hamburg, writes:
Recently, a team of US scientists resurrected a virus that has since been labelled 'perhaps the most effective bioweapons agent now known' (von Bubnoff, 2005). In 1918, a highly virulent strain of influenza virus killed up to 50 million people worldwide. The virus – later dubbed the Spanish Flu – killed more people than any other disease of similar duration in the history of humankind. Until last year, this virus was extinct, preserved only as small DNA fragments in victims buried in Alaskan permafrost, or in tissue specimen of the United States Armed Forces Pathology Institute. Now the full sequence of the Spanish Flu virus has been published (Taubenberger et al., 2005) and the virus itself reconstructed. It proved to be as fatal as the original….[Risks of resurrecting 1918 flu virus outweigh benefits. Heredity. 2007. 98, 1–2; published online 11 October 2006.]

So, with all these encouraging facts before us, look again at James Tracy’s letter. His main assertions are these:

“[W]ork with the live, infectious agent has not taken place on the Madison campus.”

This “work was conducted in Canada, in high-level biosafety facilities that do not exist in Wisconsin.”

The work that took place in Canada was reported in the journal Nature (the journal has been criticized for doing so): Kobasa D, Kawaoka Y. et al. Aberrant innate immune response in lethal infection of macaques with the 1918 influenza virus. Nature. 2007 Jan 18;445(7125):319-23.

But the real question is whether all the experiments leading up to this one were also conducted in the Canadian lab, and what was the nature of those that were conducted at Wisconsin?

In 2004, Kawaoka reported that inserting genes from the 1918 Spanish flu into contemporary flu viruses caused them to become deadly in mice: “these highly virulent recombinant viruses expressing the 1918 viral HA could infect the entire lung and … resulted in infiltration of inflammatory cells and severe haemorrhage, hallmarks of the illness produced during the original pandemic.” [Enhanced virulence of influenza A viruses with the haemagglutinin of the 1918 pandemic virus. Nature. 2004 Oct 7;431(7009):703-7.] This research probably took place in Madison.

The most telling evidence to date is the UW-Madison Institutional Biosafety Committee minutes from November 2, and December 7, 2005. On November 2, the committee reviewed Dr. Kawaoka's planned experiments, which are succinctly described: "Virulence and pathogenicity of the 1918 and reassortant strains will be tested in mice, ferrets, and NHP [nonhuman primates]."

(The minutes cited here are from the Sunshine Project's large archive of biosafety committee minutes from a large number of institutions engaged in research that could be associated with biological weapons.)

The committee minutes of December 7, 2005, indicate that the experiments were approved but stipulated that the lab should pour disinfectant down the floor drains.

Apparently, leading up to his experiments in Canada, Kawaoka was experimenting with various genetically engineered influenza viruses containing various combinations of genes from the reconstituted 1918 original. Along the way, he demonstrated that one of his designer versions was deadly to mice (Nature 2004, above.) He also uses ferrets and monkeys in his lab, as the biosafety committee minutes make clear, yet he published nothing regarding the effect of these genetic constructs on mice, ferrets or monkeys between 2004 and 2007 [Kawaoka Y. et al. Aberrant innate immune response in lethal infection of macaques with the 1918 influenza virus. Nature. 2007 Jan 18;445(7125):319-23.] The Kawaoka lab is incredibly prolific. In the same period, they published at least 45 other virology papers.

At some point between October 2004 and January 2007, he reconstituted the entire virus. It seems unlikely that Kawaoka was working in the Canadian lab for the intervening two years. The probability that much of the research was done somewhere other than in his Wisconsin lab seems low, given the committee’s approval. The anxious desire to build him a new high security lab, explained in the alumni magazine, where he can “safely” continue his research, is cause for serious concern about what is and has been going on in his present lab.

Tracy says that Kawaoka’s work with the 1918 Spanish flu was conducted in Canada because no similarly secure lab exists in Wisconsin. There is no such lab in Wisconsin, but such a lab does exist at the Wisconsin primate center’s sister facility in San Antonio (Southwest) and there are a few others scattered throughout the country.

There is also the problem associated with the university's oversight of research on animals. Tracy was not present at the November 2, or the December 7, 2005 committee meetings. Given the failure of university oversight in the Terasawa affair, there isn't much reason to believe that he is or was fully cognizant of the research taking place on campus.

Tracy makes an outlandish claim at the end of his letter when he says: “Sharing the important work done by Dr. Kawaoka and his colleagues with 300,000 of our closest friends [subscribers to On Wisconsin] seems like a good way to make this a part of public conversation.”

Public conversation about the reconstitution of the 1918 Spanish flu should have occurred prior to Kawaoka being given the go-ahead to do so. (See here, too. And here.) Public conversation should have occurred prior to the university promising to build him a new more secure lab. Telling the public what was done and decided after the fact is just more gross arrogance by university officials who seem to believe that their neighbors are too stupid to notice the spin.

The university is generally loath to entertain much public conversation about matters having to do with its animal experimentation. It is also uninterested in much discussion regarding its research into highly infectious diseases, if the NBAF meetings were a fair measure. In this instance, these two controversies -- hurting animals and conducting controversial and suspect highly dangerous infectious disease experiments -- combine to create a situation that they understandably don't want to address in depth.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Cutting Close to the Bone

Thursday, May 10, 2007

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a Callous Prick

How else to characterize a guy who proclaims his compassion yet endorses years of repeated cruelty? Turd?

During the lama’s visit to Madison in May 2007, sitting front and center at one of his $100-$150 per person talks was none other than Richard Davidson, closet Buddhist and monkey vivisector.

In spite of years of correspondence and copies of Davidson’s papers being sent to the lama’s office explaining that Davidson injects acid into the emotion centers of monkeys’ brains and then frightens them in various ways, and then kills them and examines their brains to check his various hypotheses, the lama remains steadfast in his support. What a prick.

See too: Does He or Doesn't He?
Group Asks the Dalai Lama to Renounce Support for Animal Cruelty
Richard Davidson
My Enlightening Meeting with Lama Lhundub Sopa
Could You Recognize Evil if It Stared You in the Face? (Will the anti-Christ come wearing a t-shirt saying I'm the anti-Christ?)

NBAF Fiasco Reveals Idiocy of UW Decision-Makers

According to many sources, UW Madison made a colossal blunder when it invited Homeland Security to build the proposed National Bio-and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in the Town of Dunn, Wisconsin. The UW's arrogance is likely to mean the loss of an initial $451 million in development costs, 1000 construction jobs over five years, and 200 to 400 highly paid permanent jobs. According to a study by the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, the NBAF would have brought in between $3.5 billion and $6 billion over 20 years. The report says that salaries alone would have reached up to $2.5 billion over the same period.

Though I consider this turn of events a good thing for the health and safety of the region's residents, and am pleased that the massive suffering to animals that the lab will cause will not be happening right down the road, from the perspective of the university and the local economy, the loss is very large and suggests that the university's decision-making abilities are not commensurate with the seriousness of the issues with which it is involved.

On Thursday, April 3, 2007, the Dane County Board of Supervisors voted 19-7 in support of a resolution opposing the University of Wisconsin, Madison’s bid to host the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed gigantic BSL-4 infectious disease lab, the National Bio-and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF).

The UW had offered Homeland Security a 40 acre site it owns in the Town of Dunn to construct its 500,000 square foot monstrosity.

The Town of Dunn is known locally and nationally for its progressive land-use ethic.

UW’s decision to name the Town of Dunn as the single location in Wisconsin suitable for the lab was pointed out by many supervisors as a major mistake. One of them commented that the Town of Dunn, with its deserved reputation as a leader in agricultural land conservation, was the absolute worse possible location in the state for such a facility, and that the university couldn’t have made a bigger mistaken than choosing the Town of Dunn as its proposed location. Even worse, from statements made by officials from the Town of Dunn, it is crystal clear that the university was told from the very beginning that the town would resist the university’s plans.

So, from the university’s perspective and all the other development-at-any-cost proponents, the UW’s all-the-eggs-in-one-unwilling-basket approach can only be seen at one of the biggest most costly mistakes ever made.

The reasons this matters go well beyond the state’s very large economic loss caused by the UW’s colossal blunder. The mistake should be cause for grave concern. In spite of being told that there was a problem with the Dunn site, the university refused to change course. Even with $6 billion at stake. This should cause one to wonder about the university’s decision-making skills generally.

The decisions of people making a mistake this big should be regarded with suspicion whenever they make claims about the wisdom of the decisions they make or will make. Unfortunately, these same individuals – those who have repeatedly acted as university spokes persons on the matter of the NBAF – also tell the public that their decisions should be trusted when it comes to ways of safeguarding the public from accidental infections from the university’s ongoing research into deadly highly virulent diseases. See When Spin Turns Deadly.

Every month, university oversight committees and officials make decisions about how many animals a researcher can kill, about how much suffering they should allow, about the safeguards needed to protect the public from possible infectious disease escapes, about providing or destroying public records requested by the public, about the level of research oversight needed. None of these cases come with a potential $6 billion loss; it is unlikely that the daily decision-making is considered as important as in the NBAF case.

Is there any reason to doubt that these day-to-day decisions are any wiser than the NBAF blunder?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Blinkered anti-science fanaticism

Early this morning, approximately 700 agents of the British government-pharmaceutical complex were involved in the late-night arrests of 30 animal rights activists suspected of having ties to the campaign to close Huntington Life Sciences, sometimes referred to as Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty (SHAC).

Undercover investigations have repeatedly demonstrated severe neglect and cruelty in the Huntington labs. Much information is available on the Internet.

As of May 1, at 10:00 am central time, there were already more than 125 news items available on line. One was the Guardian Unlimited report titled: Animal rights militants losing the war

The part that caught my eye was the comment:
Much of it has been down to the shared resolve of the government and city investors involved in medical research to fight back against what they perceive as blinkered anti-science fanaticism.
Well, I don’t want to be a blinkered anti-science fanatic, so I’ve decided to set morality aside and embrace all things science. And since you dear reader probably don’t want to be a blinkered anti-science fanatic either, let me warn you of a few cases that those despicable blinkered fanatics use to sow doubt about Science:

1. The Nazi doctors.
2. The Tuskegee syphilis experiments.
3. Dr. J. Marion Sims.
4. Unit 731.
5. Project MKULTRA.
6. And all of these important scientific projects.

Repeat after me, all you free-thinkers:

I pledge allegiance to scientists and Science, and to the power and wealth for which they stand, one mind-set, indivisible, with faith and confidence in all.