Pathogen update

The UC Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is on the short list to play host to the most dangerous type of biological warfare laboratory in the United States. It is seeking to locate the level 4 lab just outside the city limits of Tracy.

Tracy is the hereditary capital of that area composed of the adjoining congressional districts of RichPAC Pombo, Whale Slayer-Tracy, and Dennis Cardoza, Polar Bear Slayer-Merced, called in these pages, Pombozastan.

The general idea -- if it reaches the level of an idea -- of local, state and federal
government in Pombozastan is to urbanize as much farm and ranch land as possible, rendering the environment toxic in the process. But, the level-4 biowarfare lab is a twist worthy the Chairman Himself, Pombo, who heads the House Resources Committee, guiding it with fervent pre-World War II faith in the infinity of land and natural resources, and the infinite capacity of the globe to stay cool and the air to cleanse itself.

One Tracy city councilwoman tried to get the rest of the council to vote on the issue earlier this week. The mayor adroitly deflected the issue to a 9-member committee called Tracy Tomorrow and Beyond. One possible interpretation of "Beyond" was mentioned by a former UC/LLNL supervisor: “If an animal with a level 4 pathogen ever got loose, the entire valley would be gone, not just Tracy.”

A typical level-4 pathogen is Ebola Zaire, which rapidly turns its victims' organs into slime, producing a high percentage of mortality. Moreover, there doesn't seem to be a cure for Ebola at present.

All Valley residents should feel safer now, knowing the decision will be made by the wise, far-seeing Tracy Tomorrow and Beyond Committee. But somehow, not all of us do feel safer. UC/LLNL flaksters insist that there is no example of the most lethal pathogens ever escaping a biowarfare lab. Supposing that there had been an escape at some point, we also suppose it would have been a matter of the highest national security not to reveal it, for fear of making the public nervous or worse.

The American public is generally aware that the Bush administration is promoting the redesign and upgrade of the largest nuclear weapons arsenal in the world, ours, and is also promoting development of a new generation of biowarfare weapons, necessary for development of antidotes to protect the public in case of biological attack. What remains murky, however, is the testing of the weapons and the defenses against them on the American public.

Particularly murky is the issue of consent to be tested.

Heather Wokusch, author of The Progressives’ Handbook: Get the Facts and Make a Difference Now (Volume I), explained to readers of this morning:

There’s a tricky clause in Chapter 32/Title 50 of the United States Code (the aggregation of US general and permanent laws). Specifically, Section 1520a lists the following cases in which the Secretary of Defense can conduct a chemical or biological agent test or experiment on humans if informed consent has been obtained:

(1) Any peaceful purpose that is related to a medical, therapeutic, pharmaceutical, agricultural, industrial, or research activity.

(2) Any purpose that is directly related to protection against toxic chemicals or
biological weapons and agents.

(3) Any law enforcement purpose, including any purpose related to riot control.

The definition is a little too open-ended for comfort; apparently there are a lot of
circumstances under which the Secretary of Defense can test chemical or biological agents on human beings, but at least informed consent has to be obtained in advance.

Or does it. Get a load of Section 1515, another part of Chapter 32, this one entitled "Suspension; Presidential authorization": After November 19, 1969, the operation of this chapter, or any portion thereof, may be suspended by the President during the period of any war declared by Congress and during the period of any national emergency declared by Congress or by the President.

You got it. If the President or Congress decides we’re at war then the Secretary of
Defense doesn’t need anybody’s consent to test chemical or biological agents on human beings. Gives one pause during these days of a perpetual "war on terror."

It’s not a stretch to wonder what kind of clandestine WMD tests the Defense Department could be conducting in the US right now, on military or civilian populations, without consent, let alone on populations abroad.

Nov. 19, 1969 -- Nixon remains among us.

It's probably just a coincidence, but ...

Normally, people of some agricultural experience would look at the statements of the federal government and the press concerning the outbreak of E. Coli as merely more of the laughable and witless distraction we have come to expect from an administration, one of whose most subtle, effective forms of domestic terrorism is absurd utterance.

Otherwise, we can look at it as the inevitable result of the corporate vegetable deal, setting aside for a moment the question of why lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers and green onions grown in the Salinas and San Benito valleys somehow escaped suspicion.

Earthbound Farms, the suspected producer of the tainted spinach, claims
to farm 26,000 acres, all or most of it in organic vegetables for the fresh market. It also claims to employ more than 1,000 people. Earthbound is reported to have sales of $500 million in 2006, a dramatic increase from a reported $156 million in 2004.

From this information, the public would not be illogical to assume that the corporation, probably together with the largest distributors in that trade, have dispatched to Washington DC a phalanx of expensive attorneys of impeccable reputation and deep personal relationships with members of the administration. Perhaps the lettuce growers also have sent some legal representatives to the capital to make damn sure none of this wipes off on them. There, they are no doubt meeting with officials of the Food and Drug Administration, the agency whose corruption has turned the entire American public into unwitting guinea pigs for the biotechnology industry and has done severe damage to American growers in some international grain markets. Together, they are pointing
fingers here, there, and everywhere, in order to evade liability.

In short, common sense and experience would suggest a medium-sized fix is in -- nothing as big as Mad Cow Disease, but a serious corporate effort at damage control. However, who really knows these days?

Bill Hatch


Rumsfeld’s Guinea Pigs: US Citizens at Risk for Military-Weapons Testing
by Heather Wokusch - Sept. 21, 2006

Discuss bio-lab's pluses, minuses...Our View
Tracy residents know where City Councilwoman Irene Sundberg stands on the proposed federal Biosafety Level 4 laboratory in Corral Hollow Canyon...she has the issue in the public forum, and it is important that all voices are heard. Some say the bio-lab would bring 300 research scientists and other new jobs to the area. But others say locating the lab here is risky - or, as one former LLNL supervisor cautioned, “If an animal with a level 4 pathogen ever got loose, the entire valley would be gone, not just Tracy.”
BioSafety Level 4 is the highest level of containment for biological organisms. Not located in populated areas Wrong. Level 4 labs are in Atlanta and San Antonio and on Plum Island, off the New York and Connecticut coast. There have been no reports of a pathogen ever escaping such labs. We urge all the council members to learn the facts about the proposed bio-lab, listen to the citizens and make an informed judgment...

Under the microscope...John Upton
The same nine-citizen committee that helped plan Tracy’s soon-to-be-built aquatics park will review a University of California proposal to build an anti-biological terrorism laboratory near Tracy. Mayor Dan Bilbrey referred the proposal to the City Council-appointed Tracy Tomorrow & Beyond Committee during a public discussion Tuesday night. The discussion heard from six Tracy residents, four City Council members and a public affairs representative from the university, which has been short-listed to run the laboratory at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories’ Site 300. University spokeswoman Susan Houghton said the Department of Homeland Security would call for public comment and thoroughly investigate the site if it is included in six finalist
sites this fall. “There is a very good chance the University of California’s proposal
will not make that list, but if it does we will engage (the community), as will all
entities,” Houghton said. “All the questions that have been raised tonight are really very good ones, and they’re questions that the Department of Homeland Security needs to address.” Councilwoman Evelyn Tolbert...“You can love this country deeply and not always have to trust your government — it’s the duty of being an American”...

UC regents vote to bid for Livermore contract...Michelle Locke, AP
Leaders of the University of California took a step toward solidifying their role as
national nuclear steward Wednesday, voting to put in a bid to continue running the Lawrence Livermore weapons lab...expected to be ratified by the full board Thursday, comes nine months after UC successfully bid to keep running the Los Alamos nuclear lab in New Mexico. UC in partnership with engineering expert Bechtel Corp. won the Los Alamos competition last December, beating out a team of the University of Texas and defense contractor Lockheed Martin.The 10-campus UC system will partner with Bechtel in its bid for Livermore.

E. Coli Pervades Harvest Area; Salinas Valley waterways are known to carry the bacteria that poisoned at least 145 people and killed one who ate tainted spinach
Los Angeles Times – 9/21/06
By Marla Cone,0,2311007.story?col...
The bacterium that has sickened people across the nation and forced growers to destroy spinach crops is so pervasive in the Salinas Valley that virtually every waterway there violates national standards.
"There are many sources of water coming into the watershed, and I guarantee you that they all have generic E. coli," and many carry the deadly E. coli strain linked to food poisonings, said Christopher Rose, an environmental scientist at the state's Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, which tests the region's waterways...

Earthbound Farms:

Live Oak native’s work found in kitchens all over the US
Suwannee Democrat-Sept. 12, 2006
...With the explosion of growth in organic foods, even Wal-Mart has jumped on board. Sweat has steadily guided Earthbound Farm's sales from $50 million in 1998 to $500 million in 2006...

Nutrition Business Journal: January 2005: NBJ's Business Achievement Awards & Executive ReviewBronze: Earthbound Farm for expanding organic sales by 28%. ... 30, 2004, gross sales were $165 million or 56.5% higher than the same period in 2003. ... - 46k

Monterey Herald
Ire over plan's ag land proposal...Larry Parsons
A proposal to offset the future loss of Monterey County farmland to development in the proposed county general plan provoked heated protests Wednesday before county planning commissioners. Another proposal to require water-quality tests on new agricultural wells in the draft general plan -- a 20-year growth blueprint for unincorporated areas -- also hit sore points with members of the public and some commissioners. Christopher Bunn Jr., a farm industry spokesman, said the proposal to require farmland developers to preserve twice as much farmland elsewhere in the county "is particularly designed to send a
farmer's blood pressure up." County planners said the farmland-protection measure was suggested as a means of mitigating the inevitable loss of important farmland to development during the next 20 years. Commissioners suggested changes that would make the program an option, rather than a requirement, to move ahead with a farmland-conversion project...critics said, the proposal would increase land and housing costs and prove very expensive to developers seeking to acquire farmland conservation easements from a shrinking pool of farmland owners willing to sell development rights.
The Planning Commission is in the midst of reviewing the draft general plan -- the
fourth land-use blueprint produced by the county during a seven-year, politically charged debate over rural growth...

The Three Mile Island of Biotech?
John Nichols
The Nation -- Dec. 12, 2002

... According to research by the ACGA, US corn farmers have already lost more than $814 million in foreign sales over the past five years as a result of restrictions on genetically modified food imports imposed by Europe, Japan and other countries.

"When it comes to what is being proposed, and what is actually happening with regard to genetic modification of food crops, we're absolutely navigating uncharted waters at a high rate of speed. And we're being pushed to speed up by people with dollar signs in their eyes and no concern whatsoever for farmers or consumers," says Nebraska Farmers Union president John Hansen. "There may be a television program here or an article there about what's happening, but I don't think most Americans have any idea of the extent to which things have been pushed forward without the kind of research and precautions that ordinary common sense would demand." ...