Valley biowarfare buzz

The University of California/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is bidding to site a mile from the Tracy city limitsthe most dangerous level the government designates of biowarfare laboratory. The issue and UC management problems are discussed in the articles abstracted below.

It is a win-win solution for Tracy with this bio-safety laboratory created here with the
protections and competence known to be present in the University of California labs.
Let us not be driven by fear, but rather offer our support for UC to adequately
implement this opportunity close by.

-- Chris Page, Letter to the editor of the Tracy Press, Sept. 23, 2006


Sept. 28, 2006

Tracy Press
On the fence...John Upton
Level 4 bio-lab is a hot topic in Tracy. A City Council candidate has defended a

biological laboratory that might be built near Tracy, accusing project opponents
Councilwoman Irene Sundberg and environmental activist Bob Sarvey of misleading locals.
City Council referring the proposal to the Tracy Tomorrow and Beyond committee of nine
citizens... The city has no jurisdiction over Site 300, but Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy,
previously said through a spokesman that his support for the proposal would depend on
the city’s position. “Tracy Tomorrow is nothing but an extended hand of council,” said
Roger Adhikari, who applied last year for a spot on the Tracy Planning Commission...
Like all city committees, members of Tracy Tomorrow and Beyond are appointed by the
council. Adhikari said he considered the committee selection process biased.

San Francisco Chronicle
Los Alamos...Nuke lab evacuations cited in federal probe...Keay Davidson
Power and ventilation failures at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico forced a
half-dozen evacuations over the past four months from a building where radioactive
plutonium is handled, according to a federal investigator...incidents point to
continuing concern about the handling of radioactive materials for nuclear bombs at the
lab, which is jointly run by the University of California, Bechtel Corp. and a few
industrial partners. Failure of the ventilation system can be hazardous because of the
potential that plutonium might be sucked out of secure labs and through the structure,
and possibly into the outside environment. In a separate inspection, the investigator
noted that half the weapons lab's storage containers for fast-accumulating amounts of
plutonium used in bomb "pits" -- the explosive cores of nuclear weapons -- are possibly
substandard and could lead to further safety issues. The amount of plutonium and other
radioactive waste is growing to the point "where they impact both (lab) mission and
safety, virtually ensuring failure unless addressed as a priority," the investigator
wrote in an Aug. 25 memo.

Washington Post
The secretive fight against bioterror...Joby Warrick...7-30-06
The government is building a highly classified facility to research biological weapons,
but its closed-door approach has raised concerns. The heart of the lab is a cluster of
sealed chambers built to contain the world's deadliest bacteria and viruses. The work at
this new lab, at Fort Detrick, Md., could someday save thousands of lives -- or, some
fear, create new risks and place the United States in violation of international
treaties. NBACC's close ties to the U.S. intelligence community have also caused concern
among the agency's critics. The CIA has assigned advisers to the lab, including at least
one member of the "Z-Division," an elite group jointly operated with Lawrence Livermore
National Laboratory that specializes in analyzing and duplicating weapons systems of
potential adversaries, officials familiar with the program confirm.

Sept. 24, 2006

Los Angeles Times
UCLA Lab to quickly track infectious diseases...The Associated Press,1,1367227,print.stor...
Scientists at UCLA and the Los Alamos National Laboratory will be developing a
high-volume lab that will use robots to quickly test samples for infectious
diseases...$22-million project is called the High Speed, High Volume Laboratory Network
for Infectious Diseases. It is slated to be completed within a year at Los Alamos and
will be moved to California and operated by UCLA.

Sept. 23, 2006

Tracy Press
The community would be so lucky as to have a bio-research lab built in the nearby
hills...Chris Page, Tracy...Your Voice
EDITOR, It is in the interest of all the citizens of Tracy to have present in their
community more and more advanced technology with its associated staff and their
contributions as community members. Biotechnology is advancing and bringing us better protection along with better health and food. It is a win-win solution for Tracy with this bio-safety laboratory created here with the protections and competence known to be present in the University of California labs.
Let us not be driven by fear, but rather offer our support for UC to adequately
implement this opportunity close by. Let’s assist them to make it a little better with
our opinions during the environmental inquiry stage when we can all contribute and also
hear informed personnel regarding all options for improvement.

Sept. 22, 2006

Regents retroactively approve $6 million in executive pay and perks...Tanya Schevitz
140 university executives can keep at least $6 million in pay and perks that they
received earlier without proper approval or public disclosure. The vote is the second
time regents have given retroactive approval for questionable payments that were cited
in three audits of the university's compensation practices. In July, the regents
retroactively approved more than $1 million in compensation items for about 60 top-level
executives. The items included matters large and small, from improper car allowances and
extra vacation time to large undisclosed bonuses and perks. Other employees got promises
of a full year's pay if they were terminated. Some, including an assortment of deans at
UC Berkeley, were granted an extra week of vacation time.

Regents vote to seek contract to keep running Livermore lab...Chronicle Staff Report
The University of California Board of Regents voted unanimously Thursday to compete for
the next contract to run Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the nuclear weapons
laboratory in Livermore. Winning the contract from the U.S. Department of Energy would
let UC manage the nation's two nuclear weapons design laboratories -- Lawrence Livermore
and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Nuclear weapons foes want UC out of
the nuclear weapons business altogether.

Sept. 21, 2006

Stockton Record
Panel to analyze biolab proposal...The Record

TRACY - A nine-member panel of real estate agents, educators and others will explore a
proposal to build a biological weapons and agricultural disease research laboratory
before the City Council takes a position on the issue, council members decided Tuesday
night. Questions abound over the risks and benefits of the University of California's
bid to locate the laboratory at Site 300, a 7,000-acre weapons testing ground south of
the city. Mayor Dan Bilbrey asked that the Tracy Tomorrow and Beyond committee delve
into the proposal and report its findings to the council in January. Councilman Brent
Ives works for the University of California at Livermore National Laboratory and recused
himself from Tuesday's discussion.

San Francisco Chronicle
Regents to vote on Livermore today...Keay Davidson
A committee of UC's governing body moved to retain the university system's grip on two
of the nation's three nuclear weapons laboratories, voting Wednesday to compete for the
next contract to run Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore. The full Board
of Regents is expected to ratify the recommendation today. UC has run Lawrence Livermore
and New Mexico's Los Alamos labs for more than half a century... Both labs have had many
serious problems...Los Alamos employees inadvertently shipped radioactive materials to
several states;...Livermore employees were accidentally contaminated with plutonium --
but UC teamed up with Bechtel Corp. to beat back a strong challenge in December from a
team headed by Lockheed Martin Corp. and the University of Texas to retain control of
the Los Alamos lab it had run for more than 60 years. If UC succeeds in keeping control
of Lawrence Livermore, it would not only shore up its tarnished reputation as a manager
of national labs, but would solidify San Francisco-based Bechtel's bid to become the
industry titan behind the research wings of the world's No. 1 atomic arsenal.

'Sea change' in oversight of money...Tanya Schevitz
University of California officials announced several policy reforms Wednesday to carry
out an advisory panel's recommendations for correcting shortcomings that came to light
during an executive pay scandal last year...greater documentation and review will be
required anytime a special exception is made to a policy governing executive
compensation. UC will be more open with its compensation, making public disclosure of
the compensation of officials filling positions that require appointment by the
governing Board of Regents. The university will also provide an electronic annual report
of base salary for all UC employees and full compensation for executives. The regents
are expected to vote on a variety of compensation items today. The regents are also
expected to retroactively approve compensation for about 140 executives who received it
without proper approval or disclosure. The move goes beyond what was required in a
ruling by an Alameda County Superior Court judge in August in a case brought by The
Chronicle against the university, but it does not go so far as to open up pay raise
discussions prior to the vote.

UC system, Stanford cash in on research...Verne Kopytoff
California universities are among the top in turning research into business, reaping
tens of millions of dollars annually from licensing, according to a study released by the Milken Institute. Academic capitalism, the practice of schools
owning, licensing and marketing faculty research, has played an increasingly important
role on college campuses in recent years. Universities routinely make millions of
dollars from patents, money that can be used to support faculty pay, campus services and
capital improvements, such as laboratories. However, some critics complain that
universities are losing their focus because of the potential to cash in. Instead of
making teaching and basic research priorities, some schools have become obsessed with
coming up with inventions that have businesses applications... That California schools
rank near the top is hardly a surprise. They've been leading research centers for years
and have a long history of embracing academic capitalism...the UC system earned an
average of nearly $100 million annually from licensing... UC's policy is to share any
money from licensing between a fund for future research, the UC system's general fund
and the school where the invention was developed. The inventors get 35 percent of the

Sept. 20. 2006

Tracy Press
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”...

San Francisco Chronicle
Toxic mercury contaminating more species, report shows...Jane Kay
Mercury pollution from power plants and other industrial sources has accumulated in
birds, mammals and reptiles across the country, and only cuts in emissions can curtail
the contamination, says a report released Tuesday by a national environmental group. The
report is the first major compilation of studies investigating mercury buildup in such
wildlife as California clapper rails, Maine's bald eagles, Canadian loons and Florida
panthers. In all, scientists working with the National Wildlife Federation found 65
studies showing troublesome mercury levels in 40 species.

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.

CSU, UC leaders promise candor on executive pay...Michelle Locke, AP
Leaders of California's public universities, roiled by reports that some top officials
were quietly paid millions, are pledging to be more open about executive pay. California
State University trustees' meeting in Long Beach on Tuesday, Chancellor Charles Reed
endorsed a proposal to make sure the system's board members and the public knows about
compensation deals given to departing executives. Meanwhile, officials at the University
of California said they would be more public about setting salaries for the top ranks.
Also...CSU and the California Faculty Association have been negotiating for months over
salaries, with CSU recently saying they are at an impasse...CFA recently filed suit
alleging that trustees illegally held a closed-door meeting to discuss the hiring of
former Chancellor Barry Munitz.

Committee's pay votes to be public...Tanya Schevitz
The University of California announced Tuesday that the compensation committee of its
governing Board of Regents will voluntarily vote in public on pay proposals for all UC
officials requiring board approval. The move goes beyond what was required in a ruling
by an Alameda County Superior Court judge in August in a case brought by The Chronicle
against the university, but it does not go so far as to open up pay raise discussions
prior to the vote. "We are a public university. We do have to balance privacy rights of
individuals ... but we are carrying out the public trust and we have a responsibility to
be transparent and accountable to the public," Parsky said. "We are planning to go well
beyond the court ruling." Assemblyman Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, whose legislation
barring the regents from meeting behind closed doors when considering the compensation
of high-ranking executives has stalled, said that while the university's new move is
laudable, it still falls short.

UC mental health help called in crisis...Tanya Schevitz
University of California campuses have reached the crisis point in providing mental
health services to a growing number of students with depression and more serious
psychiatric problems, as well as plain old homesickness... Mirroring a national trend on
college campuses, suicide attempts and severe mental health problems have grown
dramatically on UC campuses in recent years. At the same time, UC's mental health care
budgets have shrunk. The report says that there were 29 suicides on the 10 UC campuses
between the 2000-01 school year and the 2004-05 school year... numbers understate the

Sept. 19, 2006

Tracy Press
Council to talk about bio-lab...John Upton
City Council debate about the proposed Level 4 bio-lab - it's the last item on tonight's agenda. Councilwoman Irene Sundberg said Monday she doesn’t want the Department of Homeland Security laboratory built next to Tracy - and she is expected to ask the rest of the council to join her in officially denouncing the project...she became opposed to the project after eating dinner with a scientist who scared her with stories of the “horrific things that could happen” should something go wrong in such a lab. The discussion will be broadcast live on Channel 26. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Site 300, which would host the laboratory, is just outside Tracy’s southwestern limits, next to a swath of AKT Development-owned land earmarked for habitat protection on the long-debated Tracy Hills housing project. Laboratory spokeswoman Susan Houghton said that information on the Web site would help counter false information surrounding the proposal.

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...

Sept. 17, 2006

Stockton Record
UC offers to fight deadly pathogens...Alex Breitler
TRACY - If it is built in the hills southwest of Tracy, a high-security laboratory where moon-suited scientists study a handful of the world's most dangerous pathogens would be one of perhaps a half-dozen such labs across the country, according to experts. The University of California has submitted a bid to the federal government to build the laboratory at a weapons testing site at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Dedicated to agricultural and biological defense, at least part of the new lab would fall into the highest security category, known as "Biosafety Level 4." There are plenty of precautions, officials said. But the critics are not appeased. The University of California's application has not been released to the public, adding a veil of secrecy to the project and further spurring criticism...the university established a Web site to keep people informed. A Livermore-based Tri-Valley CAREs conservation group spokeswoman said it filed a public records request for the university's application but was denied. Although there are other Level 4 labs, this would be the first to combine agricultural, animal and public health research. Community acceptance is one factor the government said it will take into account when deciding where the lab should be built.

Sept. 14, 2006

Job suits cost UC $12 million in 3 years...Tanya Schevitz
The University of California paid out at least $12 million over three years on employment lawsuits involving allegations such as sexual harassment, discrimination and "consensual relations" between faculty and students, according to an internal audit and letter obtained by The Chronicle...payout covers cases arising out of the 10 campuses, various medical centers and two national laboratories -- Lawrence Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley -- under UC's management. Specific details about the cases were not disclosed. About $9.3 million involved 168 employment cases at the campuses and medical centers from 2002 to paid at least $3 million to resolve 18 employment cases at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which it manages for the U.S. Department of Energy. That amount does not include two large class-action discrimination cases that were settled. Many more complaints were settled before they reached litigation, UC has reported in the past. Of the 168 cases reported on the campuses and medical centers, 55 were resolved for amounts of less than $100,000 and five for more than $250,000 -- with an average indemnity per claim of $55,000, according to Blair's letter. Of the 18 cases at the labs, 10 were settled -- six for less than $100,000 and one for $990,000. The damages paid after two court verdicts against the university exceeded $1 million in each case. Sheldon Steinbach, vice president and general counsel of the American Council on Education, which represents 1,800 colleges and universities, said the amount UC spent on litigation is not out of line with other universities. "When one looks at these numbers at first glance, they look overwhelming and possibly excessive, but in the litigious 21st century America, they are not overwhelming."

Sept. 12, 2006

Tracy Press
Meeting tonight on bio-agent lab...Phil Hayworth
Local folks will get a chance to voice their concerns and compliments...about possibility of a biolab being built near Tracy...workshop from 7 to 9 tonight at the Sarvey Shoe Store, 501 W. Grant Line Road. The University of California, which manages Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for the Department of Energy, said the lab submitted a proposal to Homeland Security to build a half-million-square-foot lab on 30 to 100 acres at Site 300, a bomb test site west of Tracy. If built, it would be one of the world’s largest biolabs...where experimental studies on pathogens such as avian flu would be conducted. The UC has thus far refused to release any formal information to the public about its proposal, Miles contends.

Sept. 8, 2006

Merced Sun-Star
UC Notebook: Professor to explore reasoning...Corinne Reilly
The National Science Foundation has awarded a $300,000 grant to UC Merced professor Evan Heit to fund research that will explore human reasoning. UC Merced shares the grant with the University of Massachusetts, which will send graduate students to Merced to participate in the project. Green campus...UC Merced has launched a campuswide recycling program...tall blue collection bins are now all over the campus. On-campus offices have offered recycling bins for the past three years, but this is the first campuswide program to be implemented. Last year, university officials estimate the campus produced about 155 tons of waste, about 67 tons of which was recycled. Research honored...UC Merced professor Roland Winston has been honored for his research in solar technology. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers...chose Winston to receive its first-ever Frank Kreith Energy Award for his work in nonimaging optics. Natural sciences professor Michael Dawson was also recently honored for his research on jellyfish and the movement of ocean waters...shares the 2006 Sherman Eureka Prize for Environmental Research with a team of researchers who developed a new computer model for that helps track water technology could shed new light on climate change.