Thursday, July 30, 2009

"regrettable consequences"

Biological Research: Observations on DHS's Analyses Concerning Whether FMD Research Can Be Done as Safely on the Mainland as on Plum Island
GAO-09-747, July 30, 2009
Full Report (PDF, 64 pages)

... Drawing conclusions about relocating research with highly infectious exotic animal pathogens from questionable methodology could result in regrettable consequences. Site-specific dispersion analysis, using proven models with appropriate meteorological data and defensible source terms, should be conducted before scientifically defensible conclusions can be drawn.

UW "expert":

Procedures Have Long Been In Place For Safe Research On Infectious Diseases
The Capital Times :: EDITORIAL :: A7
Monday, December 4, 2006
Daryl D. Buss, dean School of Veterinary Medicine UW-Madison

Dear Editor: A recent letter to the editor expressed concern about the possibility of a new federal agricultural support laboratory, the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility, being located at the UW Kegonsa Research Facility.

It is important to note that the safe conduct of research on infectious diseases, and employment of the related precautions to ensure that safety, is not new. The UW-Madison has for decades been a leader in such research, and the findings and applications of that research have led to the elimination of such diseases as tuberculosis and brucellosis from our livestock population. These are examples of diseases referred to as zoonotic diseases, which are those animal diseases potentially transmissible to humans.

The future National Bio and Agro Defense Facility -- no matter where it is located -- will include laboratories designed to provide the high levels of biosecurity needed for the safe conduct of diagnostic testing for infectious diseases, as well as for research to develop new vaccines and drugs to control these diseases.

The engineering features that help assure that level of biosecurity are not new or experimental. They have been proven over many decades in laboratories in urban settings such as Atlanta, Ga.; Bethesda, Md.; and Frederick, Md.; and internationally in such locations as Winnipeg, Canada, and Melbourne, Australia.

It is the combination of these specialized engineering design features with rigorously monitored laboratory practices that has made research on infectious diseases a safe and effective process, leading to many of the disease diagnostic, prevention and treatment methods we now take for granted.

Wisconsin State Journal discounted science and concerns and urged ride on dangerous bandwagon:

U.s. Lab Is Good Fit For Dane County
Wisconsin State Journal :: OPINION :: A8
Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Memo to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security: As you consider where to build a $400-million federal laboratory to conduct research to fight animal and human diseases, you should be aware of the public support for putting the lab in Dane County.

Yes, there is local opposition as well, which was represented in the Dane County Board's vote last week to oppose construction of the lab in the town of Dunn. But the vote was only an expression of board members' early opinions.

There is time to persuade opponents. The overwhelming evidence of the lab's benefits to national health and security, its contributions to the Wisconsin economy and its compatibility with local land use plans make a winning case.

We in Dane County understand that we are competing with 16 other sites in 10 other states to become the home for the lab, known as the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility.

The opposition here is generated, at least in part, by fear of the unknown. At first, opponents feared risks they imagined would be associated with the research the lab will do on high-level animal and human disease and bioterrorism.

But as the opponents have been informed about the safety of the research, the fear has subsided.

Most of our local concern now is based on land use. The Dane County site you are considering, which was proposed by UW-Madison, is in the town of Dunn. Some residents fear the impact of a 500,000-square-foot biological and agricultural lab on the town's rural character, even though the town land use plan permits agricultural labs.

There will be opportunity to ease residents' fears when it comes time to discuss exactly what the lab will look like and what accommodations can be made.

There will also be opportunity to excite the county about the economic benefits the lab offers - 200 to 400 high-paying jobs, the opportunity local research businesses will have to grow by collaborating with the lab, and the potential to make the Madison area the nation's premier location for agricultural and biological research.

So as you prepare to trim the list of potential sites to a few finalists, please consider the advantages that the UW-Madison proposal offers. And understand that most of Dane County would welcome the lab.

Maybe jobs are more important than the community's health. NBAF has never been a good idea.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

UW Experts Dead Wrong, again


Infectious Diseases Study Site Questioned
Tornado Alley May Not Be Safe, GAO Says

By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 27, 2009

The Department of Homeland Security relied on a rushed, flawed study to justify its decision to locate a $700 million research facility for highly infectious pathogens in a tornado-prone section of Kansas, according to a government report.

The department's analysis was not "scientifically defensible" in concluding that it could safely handle dangerous animal diseases in Kansas -- or any other location on the U.S. mainland, according to a Government Accountability Office draft report obtained by The Washington Post. The GAO said DHS greatly underestimated the chance of accidental release and major contamination from such research, which has been conducted only on a remote island off the United States.

DHS staff members tried quietly last week to fend off a public airing of the facility's risks, agency correspondence shows. Department officials met privately with staff members of a congressional oversight subcommittee to try to convince them that the GAO report was unfair, and to urge them to forgo or postpone a hearing. But the House Energy and Commerce Committee's oversight and investigations subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), decided otherwise. It plans to hold a hearing Thursday on the risk analysis, according to two sources briefed on the plans.

The criticism of DHS's site selection comes as the proposed research lab, the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), was expected to win construction funding in the congressional appropriations process.

"Drawing conclusions about relocating research with highly infectious exotic animal pathogens from questionable methodology could result in regrettable consequences," the GAO warned in its draft report. DHS's review was too "limited" and "inadequate" to decide that any mainland labs were safe, the report found. GAO officials declined to comment on the findings.

The new developments started another round of accusations that politics steered DHS's decision in January to build the proposed lab in Manhattan, Kan. Critics of the choice argue that a Kansas contingent of Republican Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts and then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, aggressively lobbied DHS to pick their state. Records show that a DHS undersecretary and his site selection committee met frequently with the senators, one of whom is a member of an appropriations subcommittee that helps set DHS funding.

A Texas consortium that hoped to lure the DHS facility to San Antonio argues that the agency has wasted millions of dollars trying to justify its choice, and said the GAO's findings show that the selection method was "preposterous."

"They call it 'Tornado Alley' for a reason," said Michael Guiffre, an attorney for the consortium. "This really boils down to politics at its very worst and public officials who are more concerned about erecting some gleaming new research building than thinking about what's best for the general public."

DHS officials and Kansas leaders say the selection system, which began in late 2006, was always fair and open. Brownback has noted that George W. Bush was president in mid-January when his home state of Texas lost the competition.

"The process involved a transparent six-year process, run by career civil servants and punctuated with multiple public meetings near each finalist location," DHS spokesman Matthew Chandler said.

The DHS lab would replace and expand upon the mission of a federal research facility on a remote island on the northern tip of Long Island, N.Y. Critics of moving the operation to the mainland argue that a release could lead to widespread contamination that could kill livestock, devastate a farm economy and endanger humans. Along with the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease, NBAF researchers plan to study African swine fever, Japanese encephalitis, Rift Valley fever and other viruses.

GAO's draft report said the agency's assessment of the risk of accidental release of toxins on mainland locations, including Kansas, was based on "unrepresentative accident scenarios," "outdated modeling" and "inadequate" information about the sites. The agency's analysis of the economic impact of domestic cattle being infected by foot-and-mouth disease played down the financial losses by not considering the worst-case scenario.

The agency noted that the United Kingdom's outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in 2001, which resulted from an accidental release at a biological research laboratory south of London. Six million sheep, cattle and pigs were slaughtered to stop the contamination, and the country's agriculture market, comparatively a fraction of the U.S. market, lost $4.9 billion.

DHS had cited a foot-and-mouth disease facility in Winnipeg, Manitoba, as evidence that doing this research on the mainland is safe. But GAO said that is illogical: The NBAF would have a less sophisticated method for containing releases than the Winnipeg lab, it said, but would handle as many as 10 times the number of animals.

Selecting a spot for the lab has been rife with political battling and vigorous lobbying from five states that were finalists. Though the general public repeatedly voiced concern about the safety of such research, elected leaders were seeking the $3.5 billion jolt that the facility was expected to bring to its host's economy.

Critics of the selection of Kansas note that DHS Undersecretary Jay Cohen and others met often with the state's senators. Brownback said this month that he had helped add $36 million to a Senate bill to build the Kansas facility, and that he would work for the same in the House.

"We fought hard for this funding, and I'm glad my colleagues in the Senate realized the significant role this facility will play in researching emerging diseases that could endanger our food supply," he said on his Web site.

In recent days, DHS science officials involved in choosing the Manhattan site, adjoining Kansas State University, told Secretary Janet Napolitano's top staff members that GAO exceeded its authority in reviewing the agency's risk assessment, according to internal correspondence shared with The Post.

Chandler confirmed that agency staff members told the Energy and Commerce subcommittee staff members in their meeting last Monday that DHS would prefer not to have a hearing now. DHS officials were not trying to avoid discussing the issue during the appropriations process, Chandler said, but wanted to avoid wasting the agency's and committee's time until they saw the final GAO report.

"This has nothing to do with politics," Chandler said. "This is about logical reasoning . . . and was in the interest of everyone's time."

Monday, July 6, 2009

Buy My Books...

... put food on my table... send them as gifts!

"Tell Me Your Story" (Paperback)
"A slight change of circumstance led to the Nazis winning the war and eventually ruling the world. One result was the firm institutionalization of experimentation on 'subhumans'. Now, people who oppose this government-sponsored science are labeled enemies of the State."

Monsters and Pygmies (Paperback)
"Children imagine that monsters lurk under the bed or in the closet. We keep the nightlight burning because we know instinctually that monsters are afraid of the light. But real monsters are all around us, snatching up the weak and powerless, children and animals, torturing them, killing them. But we were right: monsters are afraid of the light. In the case of real monsters, it is the light of public scrutiny that they fear. They can be defeated; public education is a stake that can be driven into their cruel hearts. Learning the details of what goes on in the animal labs, on the farms, in the slaughterhouses, and telling others about it, shines a light on the dirty deeds being performed out of sight. The people doing these things don't want to discuss the details in public. But we can shine a light so bright that everyone will have to look. Monsters and Pygmies might be the spark that will light your torch."

Vegan Nation (Paperback)
"President Abraham Lincoln believed that slavery would not end for at least a century. Abolitionist John Brown's campaign of terrorism against the South shortened this to seven years. Brown began his campaign in 1856, was caught and hanged in 1859, and the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863. John Brown has been called 'The man who killed slavery, sparked the Civil War, and seeded civil rights.' Today, when people lawfully protest against cruelty they are characterized as terrorists by the industry and its supporters. What might happen if one of them really really did embrace terrorism?"