Saturday, March 26, 2005

Everybody Was Kung Flu Fighting

I'm a few days late linking to this, but over at Dyerama, Joel has a long and very thought-provoking post up about the Plum Island bio-hazard lab, just off Long Island, and its current research into the flu virus that killed millions of people worldwide in the pandemic of 1918. Despite the fact that most of his posts are fueled as much by Newcastle Brown as by interest, information and outrage, this is a very sobering read with some excellent links. There's plenty there that could possibly be interpreted as strictly for the tinfoil-hat crowd, but there are also enough links to credible resources and citations of well-documented, undisputed information to make any serious reader sit up and take notice. For instance:

"...Plum Island now has a new owner: The Department of Homeland Security:
On the face of it, DHS says it is "committed to positive community relations"; but in a recently-published notice in the Federal Register, it proposed to grant itself authority to make secret the environmental assessments of government activities that are required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The change would make it possible for DHS to conduct activities on Plum Island (and other facilities) without divulging risks, effects or even their existence under NEPA. Plum Island is poised on the bleeding edge of DHS’ research program on biological weapons, a program that includes activities that independent observers conclude are practically indistinguishable from offensive biological weapons research.

Which brings us back to Plum Island’s institutional biosafety committee (IBC), the local committee that, according to the Bush administration, forms the government’s major line of defense to review dual-use research projects and to ensure their safety and security. Thus, if there is a place where the government might demonstrate that IBCs can in fact be an effective mechanism to review the conduct of dual-use bioweapons research, it is at facilities like Plum Island, which are under direct government control and which have missions that are focused on biodefense.

What has DHS done with the Plum Island Institutional Biosafety Committee? Nothing. Since DHS took over the facility more than a year ago, the Plum Island IBC has not met. Not once. The committee whose responsibility it is to ensure that research is safe and secure appears to be moribund. Not only has there been no committee review of Plum Island’s new and ongoing research projects, the committee has not met to review safety conditions in laboratories nor to perform any of the other duties incumbent upon it.

Bush administration biodefense policy leaders claim that IBCs can take responsibility for the conduct of dual-use research with biological weapons agents; but the Department of Homeland Security itself does not maintain an effective institutional biosafety committee at Plum Island."

Sunshine Project

Meanwhile, the media point their cameras at Tom DeLay claiming to be a life-saver to a brain-dead woman in Forida; to Michael Jackson in his pajamas in a California courtroom; to Martha Stewart recovering from her stint in stoney lonesome, etc. etc. etc., and the pundits tell those of us who are actually worried about the path our nation is now following to go pound salt.
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