This blog began in 2007, focusing on anthrax vaccine, and later expanded to other public health and political issues. The blog links to media reports, medical literature, official documents and other materials.
A senior Republican senator says it would take a powerful grassroots movement or startling new evidence to reopen the Justice Department's investigation that branded a now-deceased Army researcher as the anthrax mailer who killed five people a decade ago.
Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and others on Capitol Hill who've been skeptical of the case against the late Bruce Ivins said adamant opposition from the FBI and Justice Department is likely to block further inquiry into the case.
Even if he were the committee chairman, Grassley said, "I would question my capability of raising enough heat (to reopen the case) when you're up against the FBI. And I've been up against the FBI."...
Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., who has criticized the FBI investigation as "botched" and from whose district the deadly letters were mailed, said he may try for a third time to win support for legislation creating a special commission to investigate the attacks.
"There are so many reasons to want to get to the bottom of it," Holt said in an interview. "I hate to think of what lines of investigation have been shut off. "Nearly all of the evidence was circumstantial, however, and PBS' Frontline, McClatchy and ProPublica, in a one-hour documentary and a three-partnewspaperseries, disclosed evidence challenging prosecutors' assertions...
Among the evidence the three news organizations scrutinized:
FBI claims that Ivins worked unusually late hours in a "hot suite," a secure bio-containment lab at Ft. Detrick, in the weeks before the letter attacks. Records show that Ivins had worked similar evening hours in other USAMRIID facilities in the preceding months.
Assertions that Ivins tried to mislead investigators in April 2002, by manipulating anthrax samples from a laboratory flask he submitted for FBI testing. At issue was whether Ivins was trying to keep investigators from discovering that spores in the flask contained the same genetic variants as those in the anthrax contained in the letters. But while the April samples tested negative for the variants, Ivins gave three other samples to the FBI or fellow researchers between 2002 and 2004 and, ultimately, the bureau recorded positive results in tests of all three, FBI and Army records show.
Claims that Ivins was motivated to create fear about anthrax because the government's anthrax vaccine program was under heavy fire. The existing program was under fire, and Ivins helped to address problems, but his job was to develop a second generation vaccine that at the time had full funding.
Assertions that science showed that Ivins' flask was "effectively the murder weapon." A panel of the National Academy of Sciences and two scientists who worked on the FBI investigation described holes in that and other laboratory conclusions...
Holt and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., whose district includes Ft. Detrick, tried to push through an amendment to a spending bill last year requiring the inspector general for the intelligence community to investigate whether all relevant foreign intelligence had been passed to FBI investigators. The measure was torpedoed when the Office of Management and Budget objected, calling it "duplicative" and expressing concern about Congress directing an inspector general "to replicate a criminal investigation."
Last May, McClatchy disclosed that the FBI had never explained tests showing the presence of unusually high levels of silicon and tin in the letters sent to the New York Post and to Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont. That renewed suspicions -- denied by the FBI -- that the perpetrator used a chemical additive to keep the spores from clumping so they'd be more easily inhaled.
Another issue is the FBI's method for collecting anthrax samples from U.S. and foreign labs to narrow the suspect list. Because the samples were subpoenaed and couldn't be seized for multiple reasons, critics have said their submission amounted to an honor system in which the killer would have no incentive to participate.
Further, a still-confidential 2002 review of security at USAMRIID by a seven-member team from the Sandia National Laboratories found that "the culture at USAMRIID does not reflect the same indisputable commitment to security as it does to research."
The "diversion of small quantities" of deadly pathogens can be significant, noted the report, a copy of which was obtained by McClatchy, ProPublica and Frontline. That's presumably because they can be used as seed material to grow large quantities of germs for an attack. The problem is heightened, it said, because germs "cannot be reliably detected," underscoring the importance of an alert and cooperative research staff.
Meryl, enjoying spotting animals in the Thai jungle
Visiting tigers (inside the cages) in Chiang Mai
I think I'm in the wrong cage...
Night shot of a wild elephant
Canoodling at Elephant Nature Camp, Thailand
5 and 7 month olds playing
Mum and her 5 month old infant
Dusky Langur, curious about us humans in his territory
Self-satisfied Dusky Langur, after he relieved himself on me
Rhesus macaque: "I need three hands for this meal"
After swimming with dolphins at Key Largo, they checked me out at the edge of the pool
Visiting a Bhutanese Dzong, the regional seat of both government and religion (and a fort for good measure)
Why am I blogging?
Because life is meant to be lived! The left side of this blog has photos of some peak experiences. And the right side contains information about which I am passionate.
Too many peoples' lives are characterized by lack of authenticity, and fear of acknowledging and expressing their true nature. Employees cannot say what they think at work, and in the corporate system we must squish ourselves into square holes when we are round pegs. We thus lose touch with our souls, becoming cogs in a soulless, profit-driven machine.
The culture of political correctness has meant, in medicine, that we ignore how the foundations of our science are being undermined by commercialism. Clinical data generated or presented by the manufacturers of drugs, vaccines and devices cannot be trusted: there are hundreds of studies proving this. But this fraudulent information continues to be the only data informing the approval and use of vaccines, drugs and devices.
Unless scrupulous ethical conduct is demanded of physicians and biological scientists, our lack of meaningful standards will carry the medical-pharmaceutical system down the path of increasing irrelevance.
Medicine and its tools need to be affordable. The current medical-industrial milieu, characterized by contempt for science, countless ways for insiders to achieve wealth due to failure of good governance, and regulatory agency-to-industry revolving doors, has ushered in stratospheric pricing... further kicking us down that path to irrelevance.
Why is our new health care plan a giveaway to health industries instead of to health consumers? Wha won't it cover all Americans? Why was the "public option" never an option for the Obama administration?
So many of our leaders carry a heavy burden of mendacity and avarice. If they instead got in touch with their own souls (perhaps by exposure to the natural world), or made their decisions by maximizing the amount of good that results, our leaders might find real meaning and value in their lives.
Until that happens, the only way to straighten out the current mess is to demand accountability and impose penalties on unethical/dishonest leaders. Both political parties enjoy bounteous hors d'oeuvres from Pharma's table, making it unlikely the existing political "process" will provide relief--as we've seen in the demoralizing healthcare reform drama.
Until then, I'll continue to "call it as I see it" in this blog -- working and living the way life should be, in rural Maine, far from the centers of power.
Ellen Byrne has created several designs encapsulating aspects of the FBI's ridiculous case against Bruce Ivins. They can be purchased on T-shirts and coffee mugs. All proceeds will be donated to the the Frederick County chapter of the American Red Cross, a favored charity of Dr. Bruce Ivins.