I find myself scared by an alphabet soup, and you might be too
by Duncan Boutwell
Dec 04, 2012 | 3059 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In the spring of 1945, everyone but Hitler knew the war was almost over. Both Russians and Americans offered new homes to German scientists. We called our offer Operation Paperclip.

Many went into our space program, but we also took Eric Traub, from the Nazi laboratory where he was turning germs into weapons, and installed him in a secret lab on Plum Island, a small island near the lower tip of Long Island, New York. His job was developing medicines for some very nasty diseases, including HMD, hoof and mouth disease.

That’s what we were told. Why, then, is the work there top secret, and Plum Island under the management of the DHS (Department of Homeland Security)? Secrecy makes me suspicious.

Disturbing legends surround Plum Island. Bodies of strange new animals have been found on its shore. One, the Montauk monster, has pictures on YouTube. Lyme disease is rumored to have resulted from one of Plum Island’s projects. So what, I thought. Plum Island is clear across the country.

Recently, as I watched BBC news, a scary alphabet soup of circumstances emerged. The reporter said that Manhattan, Kansas, was going to be home to a new NBAF.

Great. BBC says KSU is hosting an NBAF run by the DHS to study HMD. The British Broadcasting Corporation announces the coming of a new National Biological Agro/Defense Facility to be built on the Kansas State University campus, replacing the aging Plum Island facility, studying not only hoof and mouth disease, but also Category 5 microorganisms that attack both animals and humans and for which there is no treatment or cure.

I rate Manhattan as the most beautiful city in Kansas, filled with good people and beautiful homes. There are many reasons to want to live there, including the campus of Kansas State University. The entire city is registered as a national forest. I peacefully lived near there for five years, and went to summer school there three times. It doesn’t deserve an NBAF.

Notwithstanding, the prospect of hosting a lab that contains the deadliest disease pathogens known to man where it will be vulnerable to tornadoes, where any escaped virus will result in the immediate euthanization of all livestock within a very large radius of the KSU campus, and an economic catastrophe of 50 billion dollars, is becoming a reality, after site selection in 2008.

Not much is stopping it now, according to a September 24 article in the Wichita Eagle. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has declared it is time to move forward. She appears ready to ignore the opposition, which centers on the possibility of the release of toxins.

Until recently, another alphabet soup has blocked funding. First, the GAO (General Accounting Office) studied the risks and demanded that the DHS submit an SSRA (Site Specific Risk Assessment) and have it reviewed by the NAS (National Academy of Sciences) before building their blessed NBAF.

Result: a firestorm pitting local citizens and common sense against selfish politics and economic development.

Spirited discussions and blogs have sprung up to arouse the citizenry. Among the arguments against are those showing that no computer model factored in a single malicious person, performing a single bad action and thus changing the future of our cherished Midwest breadbasket in a heartbeat. Another point of view demonstrates that one interpretation of a computer model showed a 70 per cent chance of an accidental release of the hoof and mouth pathogen during the lifetime of the lab.

There’s time to change this. But the odds aren’t good. And I’m scared, for myself, for the state where I grew up and for the country. What happens in Manhattan, Kansas, could dwarf the tragedy of 9/11.

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