Comments on: As a biological weapon, H5N1 is for the birds Thu, 21 Jul 2016 07:57:19 +0000 hourly 1 By: PCHall Fri, 13 Jan 2012 23:14:20 +0000 We wouldn’t have vaccines if such an attitude had prevailed in the past.

By: OneOfTheSheep Fri, 13 Jan 2012 17:08:09 +0000 @PCHall,

More academic navel-gazing. A poll in a publication read primarily by those in or interested in research in general being is about like a 59% vote by pilots at the airport to pave their runway at public expense. That’s well below a passing grade, even taken among “enthusiasts”.

It’s society at large that ultimately PAYS for research AND the costs when things go wrong. Any research community that does not yield to the “voice of the people” will get cut off. I guarantee it!

By: PCHall Thu, 12 Jan 2012 21:37:28 +0000 ScienceNow is running an event on this issue today: 12/01/live-chat-should-science-be-cens.h tml?rss=1&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_med ium=twitter

ScienceNow’s poll sows that 59 percent of respondents now support full publication of H5N1 research; 41 percent oppose.

Best, Peter Christian Hall

By: crdcal Thu, 12 Jan 2012 06:49:00 +0000 OneOfTheSheep makes several good points. One, that when we create problems, they affect ALL of us and individual escapism is not the answer. Two, when we refuse to recognize that there are natural laws that govern the outcome of our over-use of anti-microbials in food production, we create much larger problems than we solve. Three we shouldn’t underplay or sensationalize these very serious problems for the sake of selling novels which create hysteria and distract us from coming together and solving our man made problems. We need to focus on changing our foolish commercial intentions from making profits at the expense of ourselves and future generations to an intention to serve mankind in order to serve the development of humankind. We can achieve far superior societies than we’ve ever dreamed of if we change our focus.

By: PCHall Wed, 11 Jan 2012 18:49:32 +0000 @OneOfTheSheep
The entire species cannot emulate your personal flight to nature. That would leave the earth devoid of natural settings, providing little security and unleashing further lethal viruses, which spring out of threatened natural settings, as illustrated at the close of the movie, ‘Contagion.’

The use of antibacterials and antivirals in industrial farming most certainly facilitates the evolution of dangerous viruses. The FDA has been dithering about banning routine antibiotic use in agriculture for decades.

I remain appalled at the hostility that simple, innovative scientific work from a pair of prestigious BSL-3 labs has evoked. They simply let nature take its course under controlled circumstances.

Attitudes such as yours would have forestalled the creation of vaccines. I’d prefer not to await passively a devastating pandemic.

Smallpox came to North America with Cortez. There’s no evidence that the British military’s efforts had much effect on the Indians; by then it wuld have triggered, at most, a local outbreak.
We are always at the mercy of anyone who wants to kill everyone. Even H5N1 would not do that. The hysteria over this issue is dangerous to people and to science and I contend that we will all suffer if research is to be governed in the future by U.S. government officials.

By: OneOfTheSheep Wed, 11 Jan 2012 18:07:09 +0000 @PCHall,

It’s really pretty simple. Authors can trumpet most anything into the media and create “buzz” so people are aware of their book(s) and seek to learn “the truth”. I seem to recall the recent re-opening of the Natalie Wood death case in California largely because of a new book, and that case is again closed.

You ask “How can we continue to live in cities if we believe they abound?” I don’t, and that is not by chance. It is not a matter of if but when a dirty bomb or suitcase nuke from some corner of the failed “Soviet Union” is set off in New York or Washington or a major port. As our society becomes more and more an information one and not a manufacturing one, cities become more of a liability as targets than economic necessities; and so society will change accordingly.

I would disagree with your assertion that H5n1 is a menace because of “industrial farming practices”. It presently, as I understand the process, only makes the jump to humans where humans live with their chickens. That’s not in a quantity production facility but in Asia where individuals keep a few for eggs and meat, etc.

Everything else you say merely looks at the considerable questions of human nature and intent which are not any different in terms of the Bird Flu threat than any other.

Dr. Racaniello’s article offers more questions than answers. Tamiflu and Relenza may or may not be effective. They may or may not retain effectiveness as the virus evolves “in the wild” as is common.

The “bottom line” is that academics should NOT have freedom or be paid to figure out new ways to hasten the demise of humans and then dull each new sword they thus produce. Yes, it’s a nice never-ending “living”, but far too risky for the “rest of us” to accept. It does NOTHING to improve our lives and might someday end them!

By: PCHall Wed, 11 Jan 2012 15:15:13 +0000 Sorry, ‘One of the Sheep,’ but I don’t grasp how I’ll sell more copies of my pandemic flu novel by contending that research into H5N1 transmissibility is less dangerous than the government says. Arguing for reason and against hysteria is no way to sell a thriller.

Bio-weapons are just that: weapons. Both you and Dr. Wilson (in the first comment) contend that we must worry about doomsday killers who wish to kill indiscriminately. This is why I looked closely at the practices of Aum Shinrikyo, often described as a doomsday cult. Even Aum favored chemical and biological weapons that could be targeted. Suicide bombers are targeted devices; their payload is localized. A civilization ruled by the fear that maniacs will kill everyone on earth by any means possible is necessarily authoritarian. How can we continue to live in cities if we believe they abound?

H5N1 is a menace mankind feeds every day via industrial farming practices. There are many ways to fight the consequences, but barring research and the discussion thereof holds little promise.

As for the government’s top secret efforts, I pointed out that a CDC-backed experiment with ferrets had yielded a reassuring but now-discredited result earlier this year.

The government’s claim that the post-9/11 anthrax mailings came from top scientist Bruce Ivins at its lab at Fort Detrick is scary. That the FBI’s investigation is under a broad shadow of doubt is worse. That the shaky case against Ivins, who killed himself under pressure, followed a $5.8 million payment to yet another government scientist who had been publicly identified as a ‘person of interest’ (Steven J. Hatfill) in the case is terrifying. The anthrax mailings seem never to have been solved, as Laurie Garrett explores in her book, ‘I Heard the Sirens Scream.’

Putting science under bureaucratic wraps strikes me as a terrible solution. I appreciate that you both disagree.

Here’s an excellent blog post from Dr. Vincent Racaniello on this matter: mes-h5n1-ferret-research-should-not-have -been-done/

Best, Peter Christian Hall

By: pardnaxela Wed, 11 Jan 2012 13:40:05 +0000 Hall uses old examples and forgets that when the Confederate Army and Shinrikyo tried to use Bioscience was less advanced. It’s been between 20 and 200 years since most of these events took place. I’m sure a couple of rogue scientists today could manage a vat of botulism toxin without falling into it and only subsequently realizing it contained none at all (as Shinrikyo did). Furthermore, even though the South lost the war, their tactics still rendered the water unusable, and smallpox essentially decimated the Native American population. Just because a side using a certain technology loses, does not make the technology ineffective. People have used guns in many wars, often on both sides. It’s not the guns’ fault one side lost.

I assume (and hope) that the government will build these facilities to be natural disaster- proof. Hall is right about most people not wanting to use this virus as a weapon and that the majority of the threat would be accidental. But that doesn’t include all actors, a rogue scientist is far more likely now that level 4 bio labs are proliferating and not only staffed by senior researchers. And since the ferret experiment allegedly did produce a super strain; all the scarier. The question to ask is who would want the Avian flu, and although your run of the mill political /religious terrorist group or rogue state would not be interested, I think a doomsday cult (that may have the intent to commit mass suicide anyway) or a rogue scientist might be. Thankfully there are not a whole lot of either of these floating around. That said, only one would need to be successful.

By: OneOfTheSheep Wed, 11 Jan 2012 07:57:52 +0000 Correction: “Thousand” should have been “billion”.

By: OneOfTheSheep Wed, 11 Jan 2012 07:56:24 +0000 Mr. Hall,

You will undoubtedly benefit financially from making a disingenuous and irresponsible argument in favor of unregulated H5n1 “research” and unrestricted academic access to same when your book goes on sale. While I might excuse your “freedom of research” naivety in an undergraduate, you are an obviously mature individual.

To do this to boost sales of a book that otherwise few would buy or read is contrary to the most fundamental values of civil society. The “needs of the many”, the thousand that might die, outweigh any possible commercial “value” of what you have to say (if you survive).

You state that H5n1 wouldn’t make a useful weapon. Terrorists use suicide bombers again and again. Is that a “useful” weapon? Must be. They keep doing it! They show the same appalling willingness to “embrace” tools that put “their members” at risk as did the Japanese Kamikaze in WW II. That was a very effective weapon. It cost the U.S. a lot of lives and material even though the Japanese lost in the end.

It certain appears that radical Muslims are the face of the army of Islam just as the Nazis were the face of the army of WW II Germany. Though uneducated, unskilled, and without an original thought in their head, radical Muslims are quite cunning and utterly dedicated to their “vision”. They also reproduce at a rate that would make a rabbit blush.

Given their apparent primary goal to eliminate a thousand years or more of human progress and destroy civilization as we know it, these people might well embrace the loss of a billion human lives. Modern society might be incapable of surviving such widespread disruption over a period of up to a year. Terrorists have demonstrated time and again they don’t NEED weapons that are “targeted”.

You are aware that “…this fearsome virus could wreak catastrophic harm if it learns how to circulate readily among humans”, and that scientists have apparently made that possible. You agree that “…influenza is an extremely dangerous, poorly understood virus…”.

Yet you argue that high security government biomedical programs under Top Secret military security with federal funding is no safer than “academic workers” who go through “airport sneaker checks”? You deem having the U.S. Government control research and access to the results of same as the “more perilous development” than allowing such research without meaningful oversight? Please.

That is the most intellectually bankrupt and academically indefensible argument I have seen anyone make publicly with a straight face in my seventy-one years on this planet.