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Archive for August 7th, 2008

Trial by innuendo in anthrax killings: update 4

Posted by Charles II on August 7, 2008

David Willman, LAT

A top government scientist who helped the FBI analyze samples from the 2001 anthrax attacks has died in Maryland from an apparent suicide, just as the Justice Department was about to file criminal charges against him for the attacks, the Los Angeles Times has learned.

Bruce E. Ivins, 62, who for the last 18 years worked at the government’s elite biodefense research laboratories at Ft. Detrick, Md., had been informed of his impending prosecution, said people familiar with Ivins, his suspicious death and the FBI investigation…

Ivins died Tuesday at Frederick Memorial Hospital after ingesting a massive dose of prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine, said a friend and colleague, who declined to be identified out of concern that he would be harassed by the FBI….

The scientist faced forced retirement, planned for September, said his longtime colleague, who described Ivins as emotionally fractured by the federal scrutiny.

“He didn’t have any more money to spend on legal fees. He was much more emotionally labile, in terms of sensitivity to things, than most scientists. . . . He was very thin-skinned.”

Is this the kind of legal system we want? One in which people, whether guilty or innocent, commit suicide because they can’t pay for legal defense.

There is no evidence in this article to connect Ivins to the anthrax killings. It’s all innuendo and ugly gossip.
Update 4. James Rowley and Avram Goldstein, Bloomberg:

“Scientists and legal experts questioned the reliability of novel genetic tests that the FBI says link deadly anthrax letters to an Army bioweapons scientist who authorities allege carried out the 2001 killings by himself.

Because the FBI has never offered such tests in criminal cases, it’s uncertain the results would have been admitted in court as evidence…

Gene sequencing that linked the highly refined anthrax spores used in the anthrax letters to a flask in Ivins’s laboratory was a key piece of evidence cited by the Justice Department yesterday as proof Ivins acted alone. The government said it will close the case soon.

“Microbial forensics is still a nascent field, and, as far as I know, no one has ever been convicted in a U.S. court on the basis of microbial forensic evidence,” said Peter Hotez, a microbiologist at George Washington University.

According to Paul de Armond, cited in Update 3:

Anthrax is remarkably immune from mutation, thanks largely to an odd life-cycle that vacillates between long periods of dormancy and brief periods of volatile activity. It’s estimated that over 100,000 cell divisions can occur before a mutation of the chromosomal DNA takes place. Since anthrax spends most of its time as dormant spores, this can take a long time — so long that two samples collected decades apart can and often do have the same DNA fingerprint.

What makes me think that the “novel genetics tests” will turn out to be like the novel fiber tests of the past?

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Justice Department, wrong way to go about it | 11 Comments »

Laughing At, Not With

Posted by MEC on August 7, 2008

Lolcat memes adapt entirely too well to politics.

Obama Pictures and McCain Pictures
see Obama pictures

Posted in 2008, John McCain | Comments Off on Laughing At, Not With

Press Corps = Junior High

Posted by MEC on August 7, 2008

Critics of the U.S. news media have occasionally likened the press corps to junior high, because so many reporters seem far more interested in being in with the Cool Kids and in gossiping about who “likes” whom than in reporting news we can use.

Politico’s Mike Allen provides reason to agree with that comparison. During an interview with Condoleezza Rice, he asked Rice whether she’d be willing to be Barack Obama’s vice president.

I am not making that up.

Considering that Rice has been a member of the Bush Administration since January 2001, the probability that Obama would ask her to be his VP is zero to “no way in hell”. That didn’t stop Allen from treating the presidential race like a school dance and wondering whether Rice would go with Obama if he invited her.

Rice gave a dignified and evasive answer to that question, so Allen switched tactics — he asked her who her Hollywood crush is.

This interview tells us a lot more about what goes on in Mike Allen’s mind than Allen probably wants us to know. Somebody please pass the brain bleach.

Posted in beat the press | Comments Off on Press Corps = Junior High

Making Moo Poo Work For You

Posted by Phoenix Woman on August 7, 2008

The fine folks at TerraPass have used the sale of carbon offsets to finance some nifty methane digester projects in Wisconsin: the Holsum Elm Dairy, the Holsum Irish Dairy, and the Clover Hill Dairy. No more yucky, methane-emitting, ground-water-poisoning open sewage lagoons! Instead, farmers get clean power and we get dairy products.

Posted in climate change, energy, environment, farming, food, global warming, Good Things, saving the earth, sustainability, technology | Comments Off on Making Moo Poo Work For You

Froomkin To Team Bush: Cut The Crap, Please

Posted by Phoenix Woman on August 7, 2008

The Bush White House denies that it ordered the CIA to fake ‘evidence’ of a Saddam-Al Qaeda link. The WaPo’s Dan Froomkin looks at the denials and calls shenanigans:

House spokesman Tony Fratto’s response was a classic non-denial denial:
“The notion that the White House directed anyone to forge a letter from
[former Iraqi intelligence chief Tahir Jalil] Habbush to Saddam Hussein
is absurd,” he said. He accused Suskind, a Pulitzer-Prize winning
investigative reporter and well-respected chronicler of Bush
administration secrets, of engaging in “gutter journalism.”

White House yesterday also distributed — and for all we know
ghostwrote — a statement on behalf of two former CIA officials who
were key sources for Suskind’s book. “I never received direction from
George Tenet or anyone else in my chain of command to fabricate a
document from Habbush as outlined in Mr. Suskind’s book,” Robert
Richer, the CIA’s former deputy director of clandestine operations,
said in the statement. And John Maguire, who headed the CIA’s Iraq
Operations Group at the time in question, supposedly gave Richer
permission to state on his behalf: “I never received any instruction
from then Chief/NE Rob Richer or any other officer in my chain of
command instructing me to fabricate such a letter. Further, I have no
knowledge to the origins of the letter and as to how it circulated in

Former CIA director George Tenet — who has had problems with his memory before — said in statement:
“There was no such order from the White House to me nor, to the best of
my knowledge, was anyone from CIA ever involved in any such effort.”

When honest people are confronted with a false accusation, they typically respond without caveats.

Fratto’s response is a far cry from a categorical denial that anything
akin to what Suskind describes took place. Indeed, given recent White
House history, it more likely means: “We want this question to go away,
so we’re going to call it ridiculous.”

And the statement sent out
on behalf of the former CIA officials raises more questions than it
answers. Did they perhaps get such instructions from people out of
their chain of command? (Vice President Cheney springs to mind.) Maybe
someone ordered them to create a forgery, but didn’t explicitly mention

Ideally, all the people allegedly involved in this plot
would be required to provide direct answers to some basic questions.
And even more ideally, this would be done under oath.

When the final history of this era is written, the name of Dan Froomkin will be one of the few DC journos’ names that isn’t associated with cowardice and knavery.

Posted in BushCo malfeasance, Iraq war, Republicans acting badly, rightwing moral cripples | 5 Comments »

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