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Biotech Science

U.S. Continues Biological Warfare Research 945

Posted by michael
from the die-mice-die dept.
merryprankster writes "Researchers at Saint Louis University have engineered a strain of mouse-pox virus which kills 100% of animals it infects - even when the mice have been treated with vaccination and anti-virals. The deadliness of the virus is related to the addition of a protein IL-4 which shuts down cell-mediated immune response. The engineered virus is not contagious and does not affect humans but the research has drawn some condemnation as being dangerous and unnecessary."
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U.S. Continues Biological Warfare Research

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  • Seriously... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Evil Adrian (253301) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:03AM (#7347190) Homepage
    Seriously, what is the point of engineering something like this?

    If it was another country's research team we'd probably be invading by now...
  • by youngerpants (255314) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:04AM (#7347203)
    And not only will we kell the enemy, but a virulent strain of smallpox could wipe us all out.

    Bravo to these fellows, now how about working on a cure for cancer!
  • Don't worry... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DrEldarion (114072) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:05AM (#7347222)
    Yeah, don't worry, it doesn't infect humans.

    Er, wait.

    The work has not stopped there. The cowpox virus, which infects a range of animals including humans, has been genetically altered in a similar way.

    Uh-oh.
  • by colmore (56499) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:07AM (#7347248) Journal
    Don't worry folks, viruses never mutate. There's no chance that a non-contageous virus could become airborne or bloodborne, and there's absolutely no way it could start affecting people. The fact that the US military has created a vaccine proof superbug with a 100% kill rate shouldn't bother anyone.
  • by davFr (679391) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:08AM (#7347256)
    But it seems like they haven't a cure for your "shit-in-place-of-the-brain" disease. Sorry.
  • Why do we do this? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TWX (665546) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:08AM (#7347257)
    It's one thing to experiment and end up going somewhere with it accidently, and it's another thing to research such directions in order to make vaccines and better treatments if one fears that one's enemies will attack with such, but creating something like this just seems stupid. Even if this particular agent doesn't strike humans, what's to say that the next one won't be capable?

    We've use two nuclear weapons in the course of history, and we've never needed to use them again. I don't want us to use something worse. This definitely strikes me as worse, and a lot harder to store safely than even all of the nuclear weapons that we have.
  • by Adolf Oliver Bush (716951) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:09AM (#7347272) Homepage
    did you even read the blurb at the top of the page? and I quote: "The engineered virus is not contagious and does not affect humans"

    even so..... lets say we did not work on this stuff at all.... sooner or later Osama or some Osama wannabe will get around to making something like this. I would rather we research it before he or anyone else does, so we might be able to counteract the effects. You create anti-venom from venom you know... same with vaccines against things like this.
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hype7 (239530) <u3295110@[ ].edu.au ['anu' in gap]> on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:09AM (#7347276) Journal
    Seriously, what is the point of engineering something like this?


    If it was another country's research team we'd probably be invading by now...


    Maybe that's true, but assuming there are adequate (and they'd need to be big for something like this) security measures in place, developing biological weapons like this is not necessarily the terrible thing(TM) that it sounds like.

    First off, there's a lot that is learned. Virologists may learn how to accurately target certain areas of different entities. Here in Australia, for instance, we have a wretched little (introduced) animal called the cane toad [google.com]. If a virus like this could be engineered such that it would kill them all out, I'd say it's not such a bad thing.

    Secondly, putting a lid on any sort of research is bad. It might stop some, but it might also drive others underground. I'd rather it in some lab in the US than in some lab in Russia.

    Finally, the US isn't the only country capable of developing these things. By taking obvious virii and genetically enhancing them, you can also start looking for cures and vaccines. None of the vaccines that presently exist work on this thing - so now, maybe we can do something about it.

    -- james
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 99bottles (257169) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:12AM (#7347304)
    The article notes, "He says his work is necessary to explore what bioterrorists might do."

    If research was stopped everytime someone asked "why?", there wouldn't be much done at all.
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by s20451 (410424) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:12AM (#7347317) Journal
    The point of researching these things is to not get caught with your pants down when someone else invents it. Now that this strain of smallpox has been developed, the scientists can determine how to protect against it.

    Examining one scientific study or result out of context usually misses the point of the overall body of research. For example, several congressmen have been campaigning against studies into sexual deviancy that have been funded with federal money. However, these studies are critical to understanding how diseases like HIV spread.
  • by Animaniac (719374) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:13AM (#7347324)
    The deadliness of the virus is related to the addition of a protein IL-4 which shuts down cell-mediated immune response.

    Wow, just wow! I can't believe people don't realize how useful this is, and how off base the news poster really is. It was not developed to become a means to kill people. Being able to deactivate the entire immune system with a virus is such a huge leap forward. Now we can see how various biological processes work in the absence of the immune system. We have never been able to supress the immune system on this level. We can learn what functions definately need the immune system, gain new insight into autoimmune disease, and so on. Science always advances by altering or eliminating a variable and observing what happens to the others. I'm sure this sounds awfully familiar to all you CS people who spend hours debugging. Next time think before jumping to the OMG DEY R TEH Ev1L!!!11 conclusion.
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ComaVN (325750) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:20AM (#7347425)
    I'm pretty sure Syria would not be allowed by the US to perform this kind of research, not even for "defensive" reasons.
  • Re:We need this (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:23AM (#7347455) Homepage Journal
    Actually the US was the first nation to outlaw germ warfare. Even when the USSR would not agree to a ban the US stopped all production and destoried it's stockpiles.
    The US does continue to do development for defense. The reason that they would do such research is to see what is possible and to try to develop was to stop it.

    Good grief people the US has been a world leader in trying to outlaw germ warfare and was one of the first to ban it. Give at least a little credit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:23AM (#7347459)
    This isn't about creating deadly viruses for the sake of creating deadly viruses. Viruses can get deadly on their own. Terrorists or other governments might do the same work as well.

    What this is really about is to figure out how stuff works. How viruses work. How these super viruses work. Because when you know how a thing works, you're that much closer to being able to prevent it. If this IL-4 makes a virus super deadly, then it's a damn good idea to know exactly how that protein works and come up with a way to prevent it from working in case of an outbreak (through whatever causes).

    Only by knowing the mechanisms behind such killers can they be stopped. It's disingenious to think that if he hadn't created it it would have never existed. Mankind can't really play god, because all those parts we use to create such things already exist somewhere. By knowing how they work, we can hopefully prevent them from working when/if it ever becomes necessary to do so.

    More power to these researchers, I say.
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JamesTRexx (675890) <m DOT nystrom AT mbitz DOT nl> on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:25AM (#7347477) Homepage Journal
    It might be an idea to develop something that only affects one sort of animal, but in reality that virus wil mutate and infect other species as well. This is just how nature works.
    And I'm not so sure if it is safer in the US than in Russia. Money greedy people are everywhere.
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nukeade (583009) <<moc.liamtoh> <ta> <11tnepres>> on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:27AM (#7347504) Homepage
    Agreed! When the British banned civilian explosives research, it did nothing but make sure the Germans could be extra devastating when the war rolled around. As evil as the research sounds, they are being open and therefore hopefully responsible about it. This could lead to a breakthrough new treatment that would defend us against the new, evil bioweapons that some are developing elsewhere (North Korea).

    ~Ben
  • by Marc Desrochers (606563) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:30AM (#7347544)
    Is it just me, or is the US acting more and more like a rogue nation? Who draws the line, and when?
  • From the article (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Diabolical (2110) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:31AM (#7347567) Homepage
    Despite the concerns, work on lethal new pox viruses seems likely to continue in the US. When members of the audience in Geneva questioned the need for such experiments, an American voice in the back boomed out: "Nine-eleven". There were murmurs of agreement.

    What has 9/11 to do with this? Could this virus have prevented the attack? Or any biological/chemical weapon for that matter?

    9/11 has been used as an excuse for too long now to have any real meaning.

    Americans have given up alot of privacy for nothing (as most allready know). The rest of the world has been ordered by the USA to change identification documents or face economical consequences, hand over flight information (including information which has nothing to do with the possibility of being a terrorist), Iraq have been invaded with this as an excuse whil everyone and their mother know right now that there has been no evidence of Iraq being involved with 9/11 and people are still being bombarded with laws and organisations that are supposedly to stop another attack.
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Davak (526912) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:32AM (#7347574) Homepage
    The overlooked thing here is that it does have potential to help control immune-responsive diseases.

    These findings demonstrate the effectiveness of IL-4 for the inhibition of powerful cell-mediated immune reactions and suggest strategies potentially useful for the control of deleterious immune responses, such as autoimmune reactions.

    These studies show that IL-4 plays a huge role in moderating the immune cascade. Diseases from rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, sepsis... and even probably cancer and heart disease have problems with different mechanisms in this immune cascade.

    Finding ways to turn off this spiral could have great potential benefits.

    The press is going to spin this the sexiest direction to get people to think, talk, and react. The research has potential to really help medical knowledge. Now what the real purpose of the research is we will never know...

    Davak
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by guiscard (712813) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:33AM (#7347579)
    didn't the cane-toad problem come from people trying to eradicate insects? now you want to introduce someting new to eradicate the toads? doesn't seem like a good idea to me, this century is riddle with environmental disasters resulting from trying to introduce one species to clear out another.
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:0, Insightful)

    by monkeydo (173558) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:36AM (#7347619) Homepage
    There's a problem with your equivalency argument. We are the good guys, and North Korea and Iran are the bad guys. If you don't accept that basic premise then you will simply spiral yourself down the falacious path of moral relativism.
  • by Listen Up (107011) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:39AM (#7347653)
    This is simply another case where the US can do whatever in the hell it pleases, and the rest of the world can do nothing about it.

    We are now guilty of illegally invading a foreign country without any direct threat of war or attack or in assistance to another country, but simply based on political agenda, public ignorance, public fear mongering, and propoganda about WMD. Yet, the US is still able to produce WMD as freely as it wishes and can use them to threaten foreign powers. The same with nuclear weapons. The two reasons the US is at war right now to begin with.

    The US is not a world democracy, but a world hypocrisy. We can do it, but NOBODY else can. And there is NOTHING you can do about it.

    Do we need ANOTHER WMD? The answer is, we don't.
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nizo (81281) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:40AM (#7347661) Homepage Journal
    ... wretched little (introduced) animal called the cane toad. If a virus like this could be engineered such that it would kill them all out, I'd say it's not such a bad thing.


    Actually, the reason you have cane toads in the first place is they were introduced to combat the cane grub. In the end however they seem to be great for killing just about everything except the cane grub. The moral of the story? While we may have good intentions when introducing something new to an environment to control a pest, we may also be introducing new, even worse problems unintentionally. Are you sure you would want a man-made virus that is capable of wiping out an entire species introduced into your country?

  • by PainKilleR-CE (597083) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:43AM (#7347697)
    What if other countries do the same to "protect themselves from terrorists" too? Some probably do.

    Aren't we all in deep shit then?


    Actually, most developed nations do. It's not about developing the diseases, though, it's about developing the antidotes and treatments once those diseases are developed. It's about finding out what kinds of effects various mutations will have on a particular virus or bacteria and then finding out how to counter that.

    At the same time, you can look at it as being similar to mutually assured destruction. There wasn't an all-out war between the USA and the USSR simply because each side knew that there was no chance of surviving. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense, but you still have to have a good defense when you can, and that means developing a better offense and finding ways to defend against it before your opponent does.

    You can't have peace just by talking about it, you must assure that your defenses are good enough to keep your people safe when someone decides to break the peace. Most of the US would not be considered a war zone, yet there are more homicides in some US states (and even cities) than there are in Iraq right now. Why is that? Because military forces are generally not an option in policing our own citizens in the US. Even in the perfect world where all of the countries got along you would still have to have police forces to defend the citizens from the criminals, and those police forces would have to study the criminal mind and technology to keep their own techniques up to date.
  • by MosesJones (55544) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:44AM (#7347712) Homepage

    No no no... 9/11 is the excuse for everything..

    Have a poor economy at home, need to invade... 9/11. Need a "bogeyman" ... 9/11... can't find him well 9/11 another chap.

    The US remains the nation that has deployed WMDs against the most civilians. It remains the nation that refused to sign the chemical and biological non-proliferation treaty.

    9/11 justifies everything. In the same was as Oklahoma didn't justify cracking down on the far-right.
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Placido (209939) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:45AM (#7347718)
    I don't think it's so much that we should ask 'Why?' but more of a case that we should ask 'Why not?' and look at the reasons why we should not do some things.

    If we never asked ourselves what the consequences for our actions are, then the human race would have died out a long time ago when our ancestors stood at the top of a cliff and wondered 'What does freefall feel like?'.
    *splat*
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by M1FCJ (586251) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:48AM (#7347753)
    How do you know you are the good guys? Most of the third world sees America as a bully, invading/bombing countries at will. In their view, America cannot be good.

    Righteousness is relative and in this age no one can argue in favour of "Might is the right".

    I see USA's view of "Although I can do these things freely, you can't" as a hypocrisy.

  • by Atryn (528846) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:49AM (#7347770) Homepage
    "The engineered virus is not contagious and does not affect humans"
    Having a spouse working in a microbiology lab with anti-biotic resistance, etc. I would like to point out that VIRUSES MUTATE [bbc.co.uk].

    While I agree that this research has value, lets not underestimate the danger involved. This is why we have containment procedures, etc. What would make me more comfortable with the international treaties on defensive research would be:

    1. Requirement of open communication on research being conducted (not to disclose HOW to do anything, but for awareness of WHAT is being done)
    2. Int'l standards for containment, etc. which could be verified by an int'l body.
    These points allow you to prevent terror-supporting nations from abusing the loophole. If they don't tell us what they are doing and demonstrate observable precautions its illegal.

    Isn't that essentially how the IAEA Additional Protocol treaty works? The IAEA gets to monitor and you fully disclose what you are doing? Iran is signing on [cnn.com] to that I believe.
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sgt_Jake (659140) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:50AM (#7347774) Journal
    You missed the part that I think is probably the most important - by learning how many ways you can manipulate the genes and what effects they produce, you're far more capable of coming up with vaccines and treatments that will combat full ranges of variations. In which case, when some nut bag releases a doomsday virus they won't have to waste nearly as much time trying to narrow down exactly how THIS germ behaves, they can tweak a class of inoculations to combat the majority of the outbreak.

    Short answer, you're right. It sucks but it's necessary.

  • by Silvers (196372) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @11:53AM (#7347814)
    I equate this to computer security releases. Would you rather be fully disclosed about a potential security hole or would you rather live in ignorance?

    These kinds of things need to be researched. Mainly because the cost of creating these is becoming lower and lower. Would you rather have no research done on how to protect against these? For those of you thinking the US would actually weaponize this stuff, I suggest a full body tinfoil suit.

  • By some measures, the U.S. government is the most violent that has ever existed in the world.

    The writer of this is an American who is very concerned about his government's participation in violence. In his opinion, a person doesn't really love his or her country unless he or she is willing to look at and understand areas where the country needs improvement. The same principle applies elsewhere. A man doesn't really love his wife if he turns his back when she is having serious, difficult-to-understand problems. And, a person doesn't really love himself or herself unless he or she tries to understand and resolve his or her own inner conflict.

    Strictly speaking, it is the U.S. government that is responsible for the violence, not the people of the United States. Very, very few Americans understand the facts presented here. There are many Americans who support violence, and who angrily reject these facts, but even those probably would not want their money being spent on violence if they fully understood the financial and social impact on their lives.

    The U.S. government has directly killed about 3,000,000 people since the beginning of the Vietnam war. Most of those, an estimated more than 2,000,000, were in Vietnam, a very poor country that did not threaten the United States.

    Historians say that the number of people indirectly killed by the U.S. government is at least another 3,000,000, for a total of 6,000,000. For example, U.S. bombing of Cambodia left that country destabilized, and the forces of violence controlled Cambodia for years after the U.S. bombing.

    The U.S. government has bombed 24 countries in the 58 years since the Second World War. The list below includes only countries bombed, not countries in which the U.S. government was responsible for other violence. The list includes only violence since the Second World War, not the extensive violence before the war. Most U.S. citizens are surprised and skeptical when they see the list, so a few links have been provided to supporting information. For more information, try the Google [google.com] search engine or see the links below.
    1. Afghanistan, 1998, 2001 [guardian.co.uk], 2002 [cnn.com], 2003 [paknews.com]
    2. Bosnia, 1994, 1995
    3. Cambodia, 1969-70
    4. China, 1945-46
    5. Congo (now Zaire) [att.net], 1964
    6. Cuba, 1959-1961 ("Bay of Pigs" invasion)
    7. El Salvador [greenleft.org.au], 1980s
    8. Grenada, 1983
    9. Guatemala [thirdworldtraveler.com], 1954 [gwu.edu], 1960, 1967-69
    10. Indonesia, 1958
    11. Iran [progressive.org], 1987
    12. Iraq, 1991-2000, 2003 (The U.S. government used radioactive bombs [commondreams.org] in the first war against Iraq. See United States War Crimes Against Iraq [deoxy.org] for what appears to be an accurate history.)
    13. Korea and China, 1950-53 (Korean War)
    14. Kuwait, 1991
    15. Laos, 1964-73
    16. Lebanon, 1983, 1984 (both Lebanese and Syrian targets)
    17. Libya, 1986
    18. Nicaragua, 1980s
    19. Panama [af.mil], 1989. The U.S. government called it "Operation Just Cause". The link is to a U.S. military web site.
    20. Peru [csrp.org], 1965
    21. Somalia, 1993
    22. Sudan [about.com] 1998. There are doubts [nytimes.com]
  • by greenhide (597777) <jordanslashdot&cvilleweekly,com> on Thursday October 30, 2003 @12:01PM (#7347892)
    From the article:

    Ramshaw's team made its initial discovery while developing contraceptive vaccines for sterilising mice and rabbits without killing them. The researchers modified the mousepox virus by adding a gene for a natural immunosuppressant called IL-4, expecting this would boost antibody production.

    Instead, the modified mousepox virus was far more lethal, killing 60 per cent of vaccinated mice. The addition of IL-4 seems to switch off a key part of the immune system called the cell-mediated response.


    Okay. For all of you going on and on about how useful this research for preventing bioterrorism, keep in mind that this is not at all the original intent of the researchers.

    They were trying to make an contagious but non-lethal virus whose sole function was to serve as a contraceptive. Instead, they ended up creating a highly lethal, non contagious virus.

    Granted, it is difficult to know exactly what the effect of mutating or altering viruses will be on the animals they're introduced into, but this is sort of my point.

    If you try modifying a virus to make it non-lethal, and it turns out to be lethal for most of your test subjects, it is not a good idea to to say, "Wow! Let's see what happens when we try that in *another* virus!"

    Since they don't know why the introduction of IL-4 made the viruses non-transferable, they probably don't know enough about this virus modification to assume that other strains won't be contagious when it's introduced.
  • by ElectronicElf (710528) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @12:06PM (#7347958)
    Ramshaw's team made its initial discovery while developing contraceptive vaccines for sterilising mice and rabbits without killing them. The researchers modified the mousepox virus by adding a gene for a natural immunosuppressant called IL-4, expecting this would boost antibody production.

    Instead, the modified mousepox virus was far more lethal, killing 60 per cent of vaccinated mice. The addition of IL-4 seems to switch off a key part of the immune system called the cell-mediated response.


    Seems to be standard "Oops" type science to me. There were trying to do one thing, and it came out completely different.
  • by jrumney (197329) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @12:09PM (#7348007) Homepage
    Defend against what attack? If this virus had not been developed, there would be nothing to defend against. And before you start rabbiting on about terrorists developing this virus themselves, if they have that ability (and that is a big if), how likely is it that they would develop this virus, and not some other variation of smallpox or other deadly virus?
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Asha2004 (460204) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @12:09PM (#7348011)
    That is absolutely a matter of perspective. Thinking in terms of good and bad (evil) is one of the reasons the US is not loved in a lot of countries. It just isnt that simple. Being right or wrong is not an absolute value, but an interpretation based on the available information and an emotional state. Your "falacious path of moral relativism" is preferable to closing your eyes to other reasonable opinions and perspectives.
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bobman1235 (191138) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @12:10PM (#7348019) Homepage
    Oh.. so by that "logic" Saddam Hussein was COMPLETELY and utterly correct in undertaking biological research as he didn't want to get caught with his pants down if someone else invented it.

    Or is it that if the US does it this means it is "good" research, but if someone else does it then it is "bad" research.

    After all the US has never used WMDs have they...


    You're such a troll.

    1) Biological RESEARCH and biological WEAPONS are two different things. It doesn't help you learn how to protect against a viral strain if it's sitting in a missile or bomb. Jesus, bash W all you want, but you're really going to stick up for someone like Saddam Hussein??

    2) Barring the current Iraq situation, the US has proven they are RESPONSIBLE with their use of WMD, and only use them when attacked, and therefore are allowed to have them, per the UN and the rest of the world treaties out there. Iraq, on the other hand, was deemed to be a threat to the rest of the world, and told --BY THE UNITED NATIONS that you all love and worship-- that they must destroy their WMD. The US didn't tell them to do it (or at least not on our own).

    You may not agree with the current Iraq situation, or the current president -- probably rightfully so -- but I just don't understand the whole "bash the US for the hell of it" mindset. You'll go so far as to defend a known terrible dictator just to make the US look bad. I don't get it.
  • It's your fault (Score:2, Insightful)

    by The AtomicPunk (450829) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @12:15PM (#7348068)
    You guys keep voting for the idiots that fund this stuff.

    Vote third party.
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BigBadDude (683684) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @12:16PM (#7348081)

    Thats the most STUPID SHIT i have read omn slashdot [today]....

    Lets "introduce" the virus to the cane toad. Dont you people never learn?

    So why did you guys "introduced" the toads in the first place??
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xaoswolf (524554) * <Xaoswolf@nospaM.gmail.com> on Thursday October 30, 2003 @12:17PM (#7348085) Homepage Journal
    After all the US has never used WMDs have they...

    The US, used two bombs that ended world war two.

    They could have dropped those two bombs, or they could have dropped a thousand normal bombs and had the same result in body count, but not a japanese surrender.

  • by Idarubicin (579475) <allsquiet.hotmail@com> on Thursday October 30, 2003 @12:25PM (#7348164) Journal
    The interesting thing about this, according to the article, is the IL-4 gene gives the virus its potency, but at the same time keeps it from being contagious. Apparently, they are not sure why. Sounds like the real scary part will be once they figure that out and someone figures out a work around.

    I don't know--sounds like it might be really useful to know what tricks can be used to decrease the infectiousness of diseases. What biochemical pathway does IL-4 screw up that limits transmission? Can we make drugs that interfere in the same way? Why does IL-4 make the virus more potent? Can we interfere with that?

    Sometimes it's necessary to work with apparently dangerous materials to perform useful research. In general, it's difficult to develop new drugs when you avoid working with infectious agents. Moreover, you can extract a great deal of information about the nature of infection itself by adding or removing single genes (for single proteins like IL-4) from a pathogen.

  • by rebelcool (247749) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @12:28PM (#7348198)
    About as likely as having sleeper agents live in a country for several years, learn how to fly jetliners and then pilot them expertly into skyscrapers and the pentagon at the same time.

    Or so I imagine.
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 30, 2003 @12:31PM (#7348239)
    Everytime someone brings up Nagasaki and Hiroshima, I have to point out that it was the Japanese who attacked first (HINT: Pearl Harbor)

    Had they not attacked us, we wouldn't have gotten involved, The Manhattan Project might not have happened and nobody in Nagasaki and Hiroshima would have had to have been horrifically killed.

    Or did you propose we lose somewhere between 100k - 1M US troops invading the Japanese mainland just so we didn't use Atom bombs?

    Seriously, if you're going to lay blame for that, lay it where it belongs, on the Japanese Emperor and his Imperialist Generals who wanted to control Asia.

    Wake up and learn your history.
    It sucks that Japanese people had to suffer because their emperor was a dingleberry, but better we ended that war before more people had to die.
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by shibbie (619359) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @12:37PM (#7348314)
    1) No. The US can't find the weapons, now it is looking for war justification on the grounds of research into WMD by Iraq. Also you can bet if the US wanted it, the research could easily be converted into a weapon. Hence "military research".

    2)Tut tut tut. You should have a good look at Amnesty International's site. You have a common misconception there. The US sprayed its own soldiers in Vietnam with toxic chemicals because it didn't want to tell them to move out and risk losing land. Those chemicals had no effect in the short term but became fatal, debilitating and caused serious birth defects.

    Bush is an oaf. This is not a misconception when the majority of the free thinking world knows it. Almost everything he says or does lacks thought and with regards to the enemy labels them as "These bad guys". America is a fine country, but you "guys" seriously need to think about whether you want such an idiot controlling your WMD.
  • by salesgeek (263995) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @12:37PM (#7348319) Homepage
    I rarely get mad at a post on slashdot. But this one got me going.

    We are now guilty of illegally invading a foreign country without any direct threat of war or attack or in assistance to another country, but simply based on political agenda, public ignorance, public fear mongering, and propoganda about WMD.
    Wow. First, there is no such thing as an illegal war. Frankly, there's hardly such a thing as a civilized war. Who has the athority to say "war is legal" and "war is illegal"? Last I looked on earth the highest authority is a soverign government. There is NO INTERNATIONAL GOVERNEMENT - although some would like there to be one.

    The public was not ignorant about the war in Iraq. I seem to recall almost endless debate over the need for the war. It came to a vote and people with access to even better information than you and I (congress) authorized the president to take action. WMD as justification aside, there were four other pillars to the decision: democratization of the region, oil, terrorism and the plight of the Iraqi people.

    The US is not a world democracy, but a world hypocrisy. We can do it, but NOBODY else can. And there is NOTHING you can do about it.

    Why whould you ever think the US was trying in any way to represent the world? Last I looked only US citizens had the right to vote here. We are not a world democracy. Our government was not founded protect the world, it was founded to to protect the people who have entrusted it with the power to do so. Based on the fact we are prosperous, don't have wars inside our borders and enjoy a life where we are free to pursue our own interests, our government is a success.

    As for hypocrisy, why does that even matter? Last I looked, hypocrisy wasn't a crime. Regardless, the US is not hypocritical. We are simply pursuing policy that is in our interest. What you seem to fail to grasp is that policies in the interest of other nations are often contrary to what is best for your own nation.

    Do we need ANOTHER WMD? The answer is, we don't.
    That's fine if you want to be bullied around by other nations. But I think I can speek for anyone who values freedom here: I'd rather have the next WMD in our arsenal than anyone else have it. Better my country be able to threaten a foreign power than be threatened by one.
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Richthofen80 (412488) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @12:37PM (#7348322) Homepage
    *sigh*

    The reason that Saddam and Kim Jong Il and the like are being told they cannot develop certain weapons is not because of the weapons themselves, but their status as a nation.

    Certain nations have forfeit their rights to exist when they commit acts against humanity. Invading Kuwait was universally ruled as such an act. The UN then demanded that certain things take place in retribution. They were no longer allowed to have certain weapons, etc.

    That is why India and Pakistan developed nukes without being invaded. We economically sanctioned them, but they hadn't violated such laws as to have their status as a legitimate nation effectively revoked by the UN. Therefore we had no right to invade those nation. That is why n. korea hasn't been invaded.

    But Iraq is different. They proved their unstable-ness and general malaise towards the concept of human rights. it was brought before the UN, voted on, and agreed.

    You may not agree with US policy, but the US has not committed any acts as such for a very long time. (at least since the inception of the UN). The US has one of the best human rights records, despite the trolls that will ensue. Therefore we have weapons and weapons research, because we have no intention of using them offensively.
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cens0r (655208) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @12:43PM (#7348404) Homepage
    Where do you think all of our viruses came from? Most every one of our communicable diseases can be traced back to a virus that affects animals.
  • by asdfghjklqwertyuiop (649296) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @12:48PM (#7348470)
    It came to a vote and people with access to even better information than you and I (congress) authorized the president to take action.

    Yeah, better information, like how many hundreds of tons of chemical weapons Iraq had, or those mobile chemical weapon factories...

    WMD as justification aside, there were four other pillars to the decision: democratization of the region, oil, terrorism and the plight of the Iraqi people.

    Where are the WMDs (and in the quantities that they said)?

    Where's the democracy? Will there ever be one? Remember a few months back when it was announced that Hillary Rosen was leaving the RIAA to help write intellectual property laws in Iraq? Why is an american media executive writing laws for Iraqis?

    And terrorism? That had exactly what to do with Iraq? 9/11 is the best thing that ever happened to the bush administration. Every since they've been able to use "terrorism" as an excuse to do whatever the hell they want.

  • Re:Seriously... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by workindev (607574) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @01:09PM (#7348734) Homepage
    Righteousness is relative

    While I'm sure Hitler thought he was doing the right thing by killing 6,000,000 Jews, it doesn't change the fact that it was just plain wrong.

    There always has to be a universal moral ground to fall back on. And killing 6,000,000 people just because you don't like them, or hijacking commercial airliners and crashing them into civilian buildings is universally wrong, despite the fact that the perpetrators thought they were right.
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by canajin56 (660655) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @01:14PM (#7348794)

    Why would the US turn on Israel? The only reason there arn't three to four times as many UN sanctions on Israel is that the US has vetoed every single one they could, ever. And where do you think Israel gets its tanks, its combat bulldozers, its planes, its missiles, and NBC weapons, its submarine launched nuclear missiles? The US and British and Australian peace protesters are getting shot, and crushed to death by guns and bulldozers built in the good old US of A. The US. Of course, that's where ALL the current "bad guys" got them, but oh well...So far the US has given Israel $87 BILLION in foreign aid. It comes up to $150 billon if you factor in the interest payments on that money. Think about that. With the power grid in ruins, highways crumbling, schools crumbling, hospitals closing, maybe the US could have used that many billion dollars? What does a country smaller than New Jersey need with that much money? And that figure doesn't even take into account all of the military supplies. Cruise missiles and helicopters and tanks arn't cheap.

    And on the subject of bio-weapons research, the US army has also recreated the Spanish Flu.

  • by Dolly_Llama (267016) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @01:18PM (#7348859) Homepage
    First, there is no such thing as an illegal war. Frankly, there's hardly such a thing as a civilized war. Who has the athority to say "war is legal" and "war is illegal"?

    Well if you consider the UN charter a treaty that the US has agreed to, then you look at that charter, especially where it says "The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members" and "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations."

    Then you can easily draw a conclusion that the new policy of premption is in contradiction with existing US treaty obligations.

    We are simply pursuing policy that is in our interest. What you seem to fail to grasp is that policies in the interest of other nations are often contrary to what is best for your own nation.

    This can be true, but international relations is not a zero-sum game. What goes around comes around.

    And it will come around...

  • Re:Seriously... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mikerich (120257) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @01:25PM (#7348962)
    In reality viruses very rarely mutate to infect other species, that's how nature really works.

    You've never heard of influenza then?

    Best wishes,
    Mike.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 30, 2003 @01:26PM (#7348979)
    Ramshaw's team made its initial discovery while developing contraceptive vaccines for sterilising mice and rabbits without killing them.

    Do you have ANY idea what would happen if this were to "somehow" infect humans? Well, besides a significant drop in baby daddies.
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EinarH (583836) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @01:37PM (#7349125) Journal
    But why drop the second bomb on Nagasaki before the Japanese leadership knew about the devastating effects off the first one?

  • by jaaron (551839) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @01:49PM (#7349295) Homepage
    That was a very well written post and I agree with you that most Americans do not understand the facts. But then, neither do the French, the Russians, the Chinese, heck, the entire human race's ability for objectivism and rationality could be seriously questioned. Which is the point of my response.

    While I as an American certainly do not want to let my government and my society (including myself) off the hook, laying the guilt of 3,000,000 or 6,000,000 deaths soley on the heads of America is an abuse of the facts. Violence is a global failure, not a localized one. Aggressors should be identified and appropriately dealt with (US included) -- but to excuse all other parties is to participate in a witch hunt.

    I leave you with one question: Suppose the US had not killed all those people. Suppose the US had never gotten involved anywhere. Can you confidently conclude that the gross level of violence and death in the world would be any less?

    There is more than one player in the world. And we ALL share in these iniquities. The violence of the US, Rwanda, Palestinians and Jews is violence of humanity and we each share in the failure.
  • by cicho (45472) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @02:43PM (#7349982) Homepage
    "I equate this to computer security releases."

    Wrong analogy.

    "Would you rather be fully disclosed about a potential security hole or would you rather live in ignorance?"

    There's a good chance of more than one person discovering the same exact security hole. The chance of someone manufacturing the same exact strain of virus is practically nil, and so is the chance of any vaccine effective on this strain being also effective on THAT strain.

    "Would you rather have no research done on how to protect against these?"

    You can do the research on existing strains of known viruses. Hell, we're still a long way off from a vaccine that'll work on all known strains of HIV. Inventing new lethal viruses is just sick, even if it serves a dim theoretical purpose.

    "For those of you thinking the US would actually weaponize this stuff, I suggest a full body tinfoil suit."

    Why? It's an earnest question, not a troll. Why would a contry not use a powerful weapon, especially if it believed the adversary was incapable of mounting a like response? Hello, Hiroshima?
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by markt4 (84886) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @03:03PM (#7350252)
    Both North Korea and Iran have signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. With that, they gave up their "right" to develop nuclear weapons.


    You mean in the same way that the US signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, and so gave up its right to build missile defense systems? The US unilaterally pulled out of the ABM treaty. North Korea unilaterally pulled out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. What is the difference?
  • by Zelligar (667014) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @03:39PM (#7350776)
    OLD NEWS: http://www.csis.org/tech/ssi/sonsw/s_shenk.pdf http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/sci_tech/highlig hts/010117_mousepox.shtml Do some research before you announce to the world that the US is continuing 'BIOWARFARE RESEARCH'. This was originally done in Australia, and nobody accused THEM of biowarfare research.
  • by cje (33931) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @03:44PM (#7350847) Homepage
    The public was not ignorant about the war in Iraq.

    I suppose this is why over two thirds of Americans believe that most of the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqis. I suppose this is why most Americans believed the administration's rhetoric about massive stockpiles of "ultimate weapons" in Iraq. I suppose this is why 48% of Americans believed that there were close ties between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, and why 25% believe that we have found WMD in Iraq and that world opinion was strongly behind the Bush administration in the days leading up to the war.

    Perhaps "ignorant" is not the right word. "Gullible" might be more like it. After all, most of the folks who held (and continue to hold) any of the above misconceptions were just believing what they were being told by the administration and the media. As the days go by and more and more of this material is revealed to be misleading, incomplete, or outright untrue, it will be interesting to see what the reaction is.

    We are simply pursuing policy that is in our interest.

    Oh, how I wish that were true.
  • Shit happens... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by praedor (218403) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @04:27PM (#7351314) Homepage

    My first reply was to those who scream about the US violating this or that law, etc. It is NOT illegal to do bioweapon research for the purpose of defense (protective vaccines, treatment drugs, protective clothing). Weaponization and largescale production would be a violation. That said, this particular research was happenstance. Sheer good/bad luck. Trying something totally unrelated to bioweapons research and simply in the realm of bioremediation to try to control populations of rodents. Piff! A rather logical argument for adding IL-4 to increase antibody production instead leads to making the minor virus about as deadly (for rodents) as Marburg virus is for humans (60% fatality rate). Wasn't intended for weapons, wasn't even predicted. Shit happens and it is interesting.

  • by Yanray (686150) on Thursday October 30, 2003 @05:48PM (#7352149)
    First I agree that the U.S. has made serious mistakes during the cold war trying to establish friendly "hopefully democratic" allies across the globe. These mistakes were mostly due to the US fear of the Soviets and the Soviets fear of the West. Everyone else was caught up choosing sides and the world went to hell. We are both now catching the well deserved grief for those years.

    However since the mid-1980's we have been trying to do damage control on the backlash. If this is not the means to estabishing a better world and rectifying past wrongs, What is?

    IMHO
    -First we have to abolish the use of trade sanctions against non-military goods. The UN report on Iraqi deaths due to sanctions proves that, as does sanctions effects on Cuba, Libya, and a host of other "vacation spots" around the globe. Frankly they suck and cause more harm to the US reputation then good against the dictator.
    -Second remove dictators we put in place and help the countries rebuild. Tell the public "We fucked up in the past, now we have to go fix this mess in order to let others live better lives.
    Personally I think we had better do this "Monroe docterine style" at first trying to help places we have screwed close to home like the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Panama, Nicaragua, Columbia, etc all under UN sanction and without violence (other then the drug pedelling cartels and para-military groups in Columbia). Help thier economies and help the US's at the same time.

    Any idea's?
  • Re:Seriously... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Luyseyal (3154) <swaters AT luy DOT info> on Thursday October 30, 2003 @06:29PM (#7352615) Homepage
    I'm neither an isolationist nor a "let's gut the defense department" kinda person. I'm saying that current policy will lead to a world wide arms race, not deter it. I believe we should be an active partner in the world, not a dominating empire like the Project for a New American Century and its Whitehouse lackeys want it to be.

    -l

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 30, 2003 @06:57PM (#7352889)
    But I think I can speek for anyone who values freedom here: I'd rather have the next WMD in our arsenal than anyone else have it. Better my country be able to threaten a foreign power than be threatened by one.

    Keep in mind that every government eventually becomes corrupt.

    Just because the United States is acting a certain way today doesn't mean that will be the case tomorrow. Once we've developed these weapons, they're around for anyone to use for whatever purpose they like.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 31, 2003 @01:01AM (#7355384)
    You are right, the US is powerful, and pursuing their self interest with extreme prejudice. That's what powerful states do.

    Some of us hope for more than that from Homo Sapiens, perhaps naiively. What the rest of the world also hopes for (I am not American and therefore much better informed on US foreign policy than most Americans) is for the population of the US to wake up and manage their goverment like a real democracy.

    At the heart of 9/11 is a people feeling like their culture and way of life is being consumed by a more powerful culture. They are reacting the only way they feel they can - using violence.

    No, I'm not condoning it. I don't condone violence like you have just done. If you can rationalise your governments behaviour as "we are powerful, you can't do anything about it, so tough", then I would imagine that is what the hijackers might have said to the flight attendants before cutting their throats. And with your argument we should just accept that.

    You are welcome to such a world my friend. The rest of us strive for what we can become, not what we have become.

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