Mike Baute: ‘Cool column. Now tell us where Regular Mail (snail that is) goes!’


Anne Speck: ‘Why do you suppose Al Gore bungled so badly on communicating that he had presided over the biggest contraction of government bloat in U.S. history? I find it very amusing that it is the Democrats who shrunk the government and the Republicans who are now expanding it and making ever-more intrusive decisions about the lives of Americans.’


Michael Axelrod: ‘The article by Easterbrook in the New York Times you quoted last month is in places misleading and in other places incorrect. I think he knows very little about the things he writes about in this article. For example, the ‘tape and seal’ protective strategy for chemical warfare attacks on civilian populations originally comes from NATO (1983) and Israel, not the US Department of Homeland Security. This ‘expedient sheltering’ idea is not for ‘psychological benefit.’ In 1991 Israeli civilians used ‘tape and seal’ in anticipation of chemical attacks from Iraq. You can find a report prepared by Oak Ridge National Laboratory here that discusses the effectiveness of plastic sheeting and duct tape in preparing a residential ‘safe room’ against chemical and biological attacks on cities. There is no intelligent basis for Easterbrook’s claim that a chemical attack on an American city would have a small effect, and that your chances of harm would be ‘a million to one.’ This kind of statement is irresponsible, and the New York Times is irresponsible for printing it. The experiments and calculations for assessing this risk are current research. But, let’s go on to bio-terror where Easterbrook really demonstrates his ignorance.

‘The 1971 smallpox outbreak at Aralsk in the (then) Soviet Union is a particularly troubling incident because the index case likely caught the disease from smallpox that was both weaponized and aerosolized and retained its infectivity for 15 kilometers. The index case would have become infected while aboard ship in the Aral Sea when it passed near the Soviet bio-warfare testing ground on Vozrozhdeniye (Rebirth) Island (actually a peninsula). In other words, the smallpox virus did not require human contact; it was carried by the wind to its victim. For details, see the report by Zelicoff at Sandia Labs. Easterbrook doesn’t seem to take this incident very seriously, completely missing its significance because he thinks it requires person-to-person contact to spread smallpox.

‘Easterbrook gets some of the important facts about the anthrax outbreak in Sverdlovsk in 1979 wrong. There was no explosion at the bio-warfare facility in Sverdlovsk, and the quantity released was not necessarily large. The Soviet defector and scientist, Ken Alibek, covers this incident in his book, Biohazard. A missing filter caused the anthrax release. According to Alibek, the Soviet Union was planning to deliver anthrax warheads by ballistic missile to the US. He says an anthrax warhead is as deadly as a nuclear weapon!

‘Easterbrook also doesn’t seem to understand the effects of nuclear weapons either. The Hiroshima bomb exploded at about 5,000 feet, which is the optimum height for damage. The effects of a surface detonation would be quite different.

‘In short, don’t rely on the New York Times, or any other newspaper for that matter, to get accurate and complete information about this complex topic.’


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