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Putting Biotech Threats In Context 117

Posted by Soulskill
from the terrorists-will-make-your-elbows-melt dept.
Lasrick writes "This article starts with an interesting anecdote: 'In 1998, President Bill Clinton read a novel about biological warfare that deeply disturbed him. In fact, the story reportedly kept him up all night. It’s one of the reasons that Clinton became personally invested in protecting the United States from bioterrorism threats. The book was The Cobra Event (Preston, 1998), a sci-fi thriller by journalist and novelist Richard Preston that told of a mad scientist who brewed a lethal, genetically engineered virus in his New York City apartment. Preston’s tale highlighted the potential ease with which individuals or small groups with access to advanced bioweapons capabilities could launch attacks on major US cities.1 After reading The Cobra Event, Clinton called several advisory meetings and ordered classified assessments and simulation exercises to examine the threat depicted in the story. As a result of these deliberations, by the end of his administration Clinton had increased funding for biodefense preparedness efforts fourfold, to more than $400 million per year.' The article goes on to describe the two trajectories of bioweapons threats, and puts them both in perspective. It may or may not calm everyone who's ever spent a sleepless night after reading one of the many bioterrorism novels"
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Putting Biotech Threats In Context

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  • by starworks5 (139327) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @06:26AM (#42735997) Homepage

    I remember seeing a used PCM multiplier online for $10k, and thinking what a powerful piece of machinery that was, especially given this [slashdot.org] was done in 5 mutations. It makes it sort of scary to think that all that steps in the way of Armageddon, is a disgruntled scientist and about $20k worth of lab equipment and supplies.

    • I'm worried, not because this is possible, but because we may react in a way which spends a lot of money for very little protection. Not unlike gun control or airport security.

      To quote another bit of sci-fi, "Life finds a way." And that quote isn't to mean that things are going to get out of control, but the simple nature of 'life' is that it is dead simple to engineer/develop bioweapons. Perhaps not The Stand levels of bioweapons, but you don't need to 'breed' a particularly difficult strain of influenz

    • I've never heard of a PCM multiplier (and I'm a biologist). Do you mean a PCR cycler [wikipedia.org]? If so, it's actually a lot cheaper than $20,000 [openpcr.org]. Getting the mutations into a virus would require more equipment that I'm not familiar with though.
  • When AQ is on the ropes, they will no doubt attack with a bio-weapon. Why? Because it is SO easy and cheap to make. In addition, it will be difficult to trace back to them. And if done right, they can provide immunity for themselves FIRST. My bet is that they will do avian flu. Trivial to come up thanks to all of the chicken growers in Asia. And then to 'weaponize' is very easy (i.e. make it easy to target humans).

    And the reason why I saw nothing to worry about is that this will be coming. Not much that y
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You've been watching too many Hollywood movies.

      There are so many problems with trying to use bioweapons, you could write a whole series of books on it.
      Vaccines are not that easy to develop, especially for something that makes a 'viable' bioweapon.
      Just look at HIV. It would make a lousy bioweapon, but it still kills, and with millions upon millions spent on trying to develop a vaccine, they still don't have one that works reliably for human.
      And of course, there is no method to target such bioweapons. Sure yo

      • by Jesus_666 (702802)
        A bioweapon doesn't need to kill. It can also be used to harrass.

        Step 1: Develop a new, strain of the flu. It it's very virulent, so much the better.
        Step 2: Develop a vaccine for your strain, just in case.
        Step 3: Vaccinate your people and spread your flu in the target area.

        The result: The target area will have to deal with a flu outbreak, reducing their productivity (how much depends on how many people catch it). Since you are already vaccincated you don't have to worry much about it coming back to yo
        • Even better, make the virus then sell the vaccine. Repeat ad infinum!
        • by flyneye (84093)

          Develop a strain of Bacteria that causes chronic flatulence.
          THAT is harassment.

          • by Muad'Dave (255648)

            Develop a strain of Bacteria that causes chronic flatulence.
            THAT is harassment.

            ... or the solution to our dependence on fossil fuels.

            • by flyneye (84093)

              Well, why don't we fit cow butts with a hose,compressor and tank? This should satisfy the greenies who believe in global warming and provide fuel.

              • by Muad'Dave (255648)

                Are you familiar with the works of H.R. Giger? I just got a mental image of a a cow with a steampunk-esque tank on its back, contentedly munching on grass.

        • by jeffmeden (135043)

          Why wage a war of destruction when 20k$ in equipment and a guy with a biochem degree are sufficient to constantly harrass them and potentially hurt their economy? Make it part of a larget harrassment plan and you might even raise panic levels. Hell, just imagine what the media would do if they heard that AQ successfully deployed a "weaponized" flu strain in the USA.

          Well, put this in perspective; we (the USA) have gone to war over *supposed* weapons of mass destruction, and certainly if someone were successfully brewing virulent, unique strains of influenza that would qualify as an *actual* WMD (and be relatively easy to detect and trace) they would bring the wrath of a vengeful god down on their heads.

          It's not clear why so many people assume bio weapons are hard to uniquely identify; we are pretty awesome at genomics these days, we would have no problem figuring out h

          • by Jesus_666 (702802)
            I was going to argument that a well-hidden (or mobile) bio lab with a few fake ones in various countries could piss off said countries when the USA want to conduct "police actions" there... but the real kicker is the one you delivered yourself: The whole "we'll just invade that country while insisting it's not an act of war" and "we'll just capture someone and put them in a camp where we pretend the Geneva Conventions don't apply to them" attitudes are already making the USA look bad. Provoking more of that
      • by Chrisq (894406)

        Vaccines are not that easy to develop, especially for something that makes a 'viable' bioweapon.

        Of course that's not an issue to Muzzie outfits like Al Quaida, if they die as well its a bonus.

      • by TheLink (130905)
        If you want to infect very many AND kill a high percentage of the infected you'd have to design the virus to be mostly symptom-free (or at least symptoms that are tolerable) but still reasonably infectious/contagious and then only killing people a month or more later.

        Many of the noticeable symptoms are what makes a virus more contagious - coughing, sneezing, body fluids leaking everywhere. If the virus starts by quickly making a victim bleed from every orifice and then killing within a day or two it may be
        • by jafac (1449)

          Tons of "mind-control" pathogens to work with.
          Toxoplasmosis parasite comes to mind.

      • Actually, no. I do not watch movies on this. I did this work back in the 80s for the DOD and CDC. So, I very likely have a little bit more knowledge than an AC on here.
    • In addition, it will be difficult to trace back to them.

      Which makes it useless for every terror organization I am aware of. The whole point of executing a terror attack is to make some population afraid of those who carry it out. In particular, making that population fear the terror organization enough to overcome that population's unwillingness to follow the terrorist organization's political agenda. If you don't know who launched the attack, you don't know who to appease to prevent another such attack.

      • by nedlohs (1335013)

        It would be trivial to make it traceable if you wanted to, so that's completely irrelevant.

        • If you can choose to make it traceable or non-traceable, that means that you can also lay a false trail.
          • by nedlohs (1335013)

            Which is irrelevant to the "problem" of not being able to "prove you did it".

            If it is completely untraceable then you send the CIA or NSA or CNN or whomever an encrypted description of what you are going to do (you better make sure that encryption is solid of course). Then you do it. Then you send them the decryption key. They now know that you at least knew of the plot and when two dozen organizations claim responsibility your claim has a lot more weight.

            Or you just have one of your guys release the stuff

      • by Endovior (2450520)
        Not at all. It's easy enough to release a video claiming responsibility; as you pointed out, that kind of thing is what provides credibility to the organization.
    • by Hatta (162192)

      I'm a lot more worried about being governed by a man who makes his decisions based on works of fiction than I am of the threat of bioterrorism.

      • by nedlohs (1335013)

        So only things which have already happened should be considered?

        Note that it wasn't "Hey I read this book in which X happened, how can we spend huge amounts of money to combat that?". It was "Hey I read this book in which X happened, can you guys see if that's actually a valid threat?".

        • by Hatta (162192)

          Not at all. Things should be considered based on research studies that take into account the likelihood of things happening and how severe the damage will actually be. They should not be considered based on how scary an author of fiction is able to portray.

          • by nedlohs (1335013)

            Which would be what he asked them do.

          • by cusco (717999)
            This is why Clinton organized simulations and war games modeling bioterror attacks. I highly recommend 'Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War' by Judith Miller. The only book that I have ever read in my life that gave me nightmares. They found that an anthrax attack was similar to a chemical weapon attack. People exposed get sick and may die, but it doesn't spread to any extent beyond those exposed. Anthrax is easy to make, if you can brew beer you can grow anthrax, but it's only a localiz
      • And yet, how many in government make decisions based on the bible, torah, or Quoran? reagan made regular decisions based on what he thought the bible wanted. Same with W.
    • by moeinvt (851793)

      "if done right, they can provide immunity for themselves FIRST"

      I don't really believe in AQ, but in general, Islamic terrorists don't have an overwhelming interest in self-preservation when it comes to carrying out their attacks.

      I read an article in "Nature" last year about the flu viruses. It's certainly not "trivial" to create a strain of the virus that would allow human to human transmission. "Weaponizing" a virus or bacteria is harder than hell. You can't just put it in an aerosol can or make a missi

      • Actually, it IS trivial to create a bio-weapon out of avian flu. Basically, wait until somebody in Indonesia (large muslim population) catches it. And about 6-12 a year do so. Then get a small sample of the bug from that person. That is the hardest part. Once you have that, go back to Pakistan, inject it into several of the followers with compatible blood type. Basically, you now have a living incubator (for a short time) which replaces the need for growing cells. You can inject other flu strains in there
    • by jafac (1449)

      No.

      The people they want to "free" are the ones who are going to suffer from a biowar attack the most. (people living in poor conditions in poor countries). Those are the ones who are most at risk of catching an infection, and least likely to get expensive life-saving treatments.

      However - Anthrax is a fairly likely biowar method, because it's pretty well-known (though it's difficult to weaponize and deploy) - reasonably easy to handle and treat accidental exposures, and while it is devastating and terrifyin

      • It will not be anthrax. Harder to produce, easy to trace, and not as easy to spead. OTOH, avian flu is ideal.
      • by cusco (717999)
        Anthrax doesn't need to be 'weaponized' to be effective. Quantity can take the place of quality, and it's pretty easy to grow. A slurry of anthrax mixed into mop water and spread around the floor of a subway station or mall will create plenty of spores naturally as it dries, which will be stirred up by foot traffic. That was why the grunts went into Iraq with full bio-gear, they were worried that the retreating Iraqi army would spray the road behind them.

        After the fall of the Soviet Union the Pentagon
    • by cusco (717999)
      They don't need to develop anything new, nor 'weaponize' anything. All they need is to infect some poor illiterate farmer from Nowhereland with Ebola or pneumonic plague, get him a tourist visa, put him on a plane just as he gets contagious, and tell him that his new employer will find him on the subway platform at Grand Central Station (NYC), Red Square Station (Moscow), El Solar station (Madrid), Trafalgar Square station (London), or wherever you want to target. As he stands there, unable to ask questio
  • by ciurana (2603) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @07:02AM (#42736105) Homepage Journal

    Related: Richard Preston also wrote the non-fiction book The Hot Zone, where he discusses Ebola, Marburg, and other hot viruses in detail (and it's perhaps the first mass media coverage they received), as well as how the CDC operates to identify, contain, and otherwise deal with hot viruses.

    The Cobra Event was OKi for fiction, but rather meh compared to works by Follett or Crichton (RIP), that may be shakier on the science but way more entertaining. However, in my opinion, Preston's non-fiction, documentary accounts in The Hot Zone and in The Demon in the Freezer are way, way, way scarier. Highly recommended.

    Trivia: Richard Preston is the only civilian, non-physician/doctor of any kind, who's been recognized for his work by the Centers of Disease Control.

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Hot-Zone-Terrifying-Story/dp/0385495226/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_z/177-7970503-1396814 [amazon.com]
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Demon-Freezer-True-Story/dp/0345466632/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_y/177-7970503-1396814 [amazon.com]

    Cheers!

    • by Lorens (597774)

      Should've read The Stand by Stephen King too, at least the first half which is basically scientific worst-case what-if fiction. The second half is Stephen King-typical paranormal fiction.

      • When reading The Stand you really start to notice just how much people cough,sneeze and sniffle.
      • by ciurana (2603)

        Awesome -- I'll add it to my reading list. Thanks for the recommendation!

        Cheers,

        E

    • by Zedrick (764028)
      > However, in my opinion, Preston's non-fiction, documentary accounts in The Hot Zone
      > and in The Demon in the Freezer are way, way, way scarier. Highly recommended.

      Agreed. I actually started reading the Hot Zone two days ago. It's a struggle getting past the first chapters (just reached the introduction of the army veterinarian) since it's so disgusting.

      But that's what I was looking for. Seems like a good book.
      • Its made its way into schools, which is nice, because its one of those books that is very entertaining but also very enlightening and informative. Its a really good peice of work and is really informative to those of us who haven't had to deal with epidemics in our lifetime.

    • by dpilot (134227)

      The book that started me down the path that ended in a career in engineering was, "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea", by Verne, which I read the summer after second grade.

      When my daughter was in fifth grade we read "The Hot Zone" together. She's in the last semester of her Masters, and is planning to start her PhD in the fall, in the biological sciences.

      • by ciurana (2603)

        dpilot,

        Thanks for your comment - as an infant's parent and just figuring out my way on this parenthood thing I found your story very inspiring.

        2001: Space Odyssey was the one that let me to get a computer engineering degree. Let's see what happens with the Little One when he's old enough to understand stories.

        Self serving, cutesy post: 10-month old kid watched Star Wars with me the other night. The whole thing. Without blinking. Is this some kind of omen?

        http://is.gd/3hR7RF [is.gd]

        Cheers and best wishes!

        • by dpilot (134227)

          Have fun. Sometimes that's hard to remember, in the early years.

          The other telling activity with my daughter was in the Fall of first grade, when she was building villages and roads out in the yard for the wooly bear caterpillars. On "take your daughter to work day" she would hang out around the microscope.

          She's working in aquatic macro-invertebrates.

        • by dpilot (134227)

          One other thought... Your kids will find their own paths. My daughter is into the sciences, my son is working on becoming a history teacher - even though he has always watched science fiction with me.

          When both kids were younger and we were having a rough time controlling the scatalogical humor at dinner time, my wife would say, "The Kennedy's discussed politics at the dinner table!" Fast-forward a few years and dinners can be quit civil with sophisticated discourse - or not. But there capable of it, and

      • by jafac (1449)

        For me, it was "The Andromeda Strain".

        Book? WAY better than the movie.
        (then. .. I actually got to work at Vandenberg Air Force Base. . . :)

    • To me, "The Cobra Event" reads and feels like it started out to be another nonfiction book, similar to "The Hot Zone". I got the distinct feeling that someone said something to the author that gave him the screaming willies and he decided it would be safer all around to make it look like fiction.

      In the afterword, he points out that every item he described in the book was real, although some of them had different names.

  • Moulder was right (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CuteSteveJobs (1343851) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @07:07AM (#42736131)
    There has already been real-life testing of biological attacks. The ones we know about took place in the 50s and 60s. The US Navy released bacteria in a cloud off the coast of San Francisco to see what would happen. The bacteria they released was "mostly harmless" but killed some people with compromised immune systems. Some other government scientists spread bacteria around the NY subway system to see what would happen. Was hushed up for 20 years and sounds like trooferism but it really happened: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/general-article/weapon-secret-testing/ [pbs.org]
    • Re:Moulder was right (Score:4, Informative)

      by JWSmythe (446288) <jwsmytheNO@SPAMjwsmythe.com> on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @07:41AM (#42736231) Homepage Journal

      According to Wikipedia, the US interest in bioweapons started around 1918. [wikipedia.org] They've been used on and off throughout history [wikipedia.org]

      Being prepared for such a threat isn't such a bad idea. We've gone far beyond that.

      • by Muad'Dave (255648)

        According to Wikipedia, the US interest in bioweapons started around 1918.

        An interesting coincidence given that the world has just been subjected to the deadliest viral pandemic in history [wikipedia.org], no?

        It killed between 50 and 100 million people - 3% to 6% of the world's population at that time [wikipedia.org].

        If that happened today, it would kill the equivalent of every living soul in the United States and Mexico. Sobering, huh?

        • by JWSmythe (446288)

          If that happened today, it would kill the equivalent of every living soul in the United States and Mexico. Sobering, huh?

          Not to nitpick but...

          The US population is roughly 314,000,000.
          Mexico's population is roughly 112,000,000

          And if it were 3% to 6%, it would only be 25,560,000, or less than the population of California.

      • Given how bitterly controversial the idea that Americans really ought to have access to boring old routine healthcare is, I wouldn't be optimistic about our level of preparedness...

        The turnaround time(even if you crank up your risk tolerance a bit and skip some of the approval steps) from even modestly novel pathogen to treatment/vaccine is on the order of months(something like the flu vaccine is probably the most well-oiled vaccine development and distribution operation, and even there they have to forecas

        • by khallow (566160)

          Given how bitterly controversial the idea that Americans really ought to have access to boring old routine healthcare is, I wouldn't be optimistic about our level of preparedness...

          Let's consider the flaws in this one sentence. First, if it isn't accessible, then it can't be routine. Second, just because you have to pay for something doesn't mean it's somehow not accessible. And third, there's not a correlation between the quibbling over who pays for personal healthcare and public sanitation/national defense needs. That annual state-paid mammogram isn't going to help you discover or defend against a bioengineered influenza virus.

          • by Immerman (2627577)

            Actually, having to pay for something can make it effectively inaccessible - last time I looked at the bill a single brief doctor visit costs ~$100 in the US (admittedly that number would likely be smaller for someone without insurance). For someone on a tight budget that's easily a month's worth of food they have to give up in order to visit the doc, and that's just the visit - lab work, medication, etc adds more expenses.

            In a budding pandemic/bioterrorism scenario that means you have a large portion of t

            • by khallow (566160)

              Something I don't understand is why the socialized medicine discussion always seems to be divided into "fully for" and "fully against". The vast majority of medical expense is incurred in end-of-life medicine and fighting really serious problems - i.e. it benefits a tiny portion of the potentially productive population. We could socialize just the front-end at a tiny expense to get most of the social benefits - make initial diagnoses cheap/free (basic low-tech medication is already fairly cheap) and you get a major leg up on nipping pandemics in the bud, as well as catching many more serious problems while they're still in the early stages and relatively cheap to cure/mitigate if the patient can raise the money.

              Ok. What benefits are there to this? All you are doing is looking for problems. And once you find problems, do the treatments for those problems fall under the "routine" healthcare that should be "accessible" or the "sucks to be you" healthcare that shouldn't be accessible to anyone not willing to pay (either directly or through insurance)?

              My impression has been that state-paid medical check ups and tests are a prelude to state-paid medical care. Because these are procedures that find problems. And a pe

              • by Immerman (2627577)

                > there's never been a problem with people holding out in a pandemic
                Once the pandemic is recognized, yes. But it may delay the detection of a pandemic considerably if many of the most vulnerable people in the population avoid seeking medical care until their symptoms become severe, and in an outbreak of something truly dangerous even hours can matter. Yes, some sort of magical disease detector would be better, but how exactly do you detect something you don't know about? Multicellular life is a thin "

                • by khallow (566160)

                  Yes, some sort of magical disease detector would be better, but how exactly do you detect something you don't know about?

                  Well, how does a disease spread? There's some basic organism, such as a virus or bacterium, which has to do the job. So you look for lots of organisms, particularly, organisms you haven't seen before.

                  Socializing treatment at least for the cheap/easy stuff and would likely be an effective way to eliminate the cost-inflation which currently goes to subsidize the more rare and expensive treatments, not to mention cutting the insurance industry (basically parasites) out of the loop for the bulk of the medical industry.

                  It encourages consumption of medical services, which has a history of increasing overall medical costs.

                  If you can get an 80% solution for 20% of the cost that seems to me an area that would be worth investing in as a society.

                  I don't see that being proposed here. Instead, I see a subsidy for a costly search for even more costly problems. There are some health care issues that are clear wins, such as immunizations with low costs and

                  • by Immerman (2627577)

                    >look for organisms... you haven't seen before
                    I think you're underestimating the scope of the problem - it can be extremely difficult to identify a dangerous pathogen even when you have a room full of patients it has infected and a team of experts on hand. Moreover the number of unknown organisms drastically outnumbers the number of known ones - IIRC the recent seawater DNA analysis project found that something like 95% of the species sequenced were previously unknown, with something like 20-30% being s

      • by dpilot (134227)

        I would argue that US interest in bioweapons started much earlier, when we gave blankets from smallpox patients to the native Americans.

        • by jbeaupre (752124)

          By "we", you must mean you are British. http://www.history.org/Foundation/journal/Spring04/warfare.cfm [history.org]

          Seems there is quite a bit of evidence that the British used biowarfare on Indians and on the US Army. There doesn't seem to be any evidence of the US Army doing the same. The US Army had good reason not to fool with smallpox.

          The British considered it effective because their army was relatively immune (smallpox was a common in childhood), whereas colonists and Indians usually weren't exposed and lacked i

          • by vakuona (788200)

            No, you the colonisers (or rather your ancestors the colonisers - apologies in advance if you are not really descended from them). It's not like they left and let the Indians get on with things. And it's not the worst thing that Americans have done to other Americans either.

            • by jbeaupre (752124)

              It wasn't done by colonizers. It was done by British commanders who came to North America then went home. You're right that Americans have done some bad stuff, but spreading smallpox intentionally on blankets isn't one of them.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      There has already been real-life testing of biological attacks. The ones we know about took place in the 50s and 60s. The US Navy released bacteria in a cloud off the coast of San Francisco to see what would happen. The bacteria they released was "mostly harmless" but killed some people with compromised immune systems. Some other government scientists spread bacteria around the NY subway system to see what would happen. Was hushed up for 20 years and sounds like trooferism but it really happened: http://www [pbs.org]

  • It may be bioweapons, or it may just be a natrual event, but I believe we'll have a pandemic that kills billions within my lifetime. I see SARS, avian flu, AIDS, etc popping up, and they all seem like nature's dress rehersals for something bigger. It seems like only a matter of time until we get something that is both highly communicable (air) and highly fatal.
    • by cusco (717999)
      If any animal overpopulates its habitat eventually it dies off to a sustainable level, or dies out entirely. There has never been a large mammal with the population that humans today have. The worldwide population of reindeer or wildebeest is smaller than the population of Shanghai.

      We need to reduce our population or Ma Nature's going to do it for us, and she's a bitch.
  • Another good novel (written when genetic engineering was fairly new) is The White Plague [wikipedia.org], written by Frank Herbert of Dune fame. Basic premise (not really spoilers, since as I recall this is on the book's back cover): an expert molecular biologist, otherwise sane and benevolent, cracks when his wife and daughter are killed in a terrorist attack. He creates a highly contagious virus that is lethal to women but harmless to men, and lets it loose in the countries he considers responsible, so that the men the

    • I thought White Plague was far better than anything Dune.
      • What I liked especially is that it inverts the usual dynamic of most "some person(s) use something to cause a disaster" stories. For most of them, the initial part of the story involves the antagonists trying to acquire or learn how to create the mechanism to cause the disaster -- a bomb, a plague, nerve gas, friggin' laser beams, whatever -- and the protagonist is trying to stop them from getting/creating the mechanism, and failing that, from using it. Here, we start with someone who already has the necess
  • And his threats of EMP attack, at least this one is slightly more realistic and possible.
  • "Biotech is Godzilla" - Sepultura
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBEuNJal8yA
  • While there doesn't seem to be a 100% clear answer on how hard biological weapons actually are to make(nation states have definitely played with them, sometimes just by bottling wild nasties, sometimes by modification or selective breeding, amateurs don't seem to have managed much for the moment), the thing that makes 'biodefense' feel like something of a lost cause is that so much of it is a deeply unsexy(and surprisingly unpopular) mix of public health and infrastructure work.

    Sure, somebody has to wear th

  • Biotech could mean:
    1) lethal dose (per kg or ounce of enemy) of bioactive molecule
    2) lethal contagious organism
    The latter would mean you create a memory (DNA or RNA) as a template for its contagious state.
    By nature of the replication mechanism of the memory mutations will occur. Every year we have proof of how effective these mutations are - and how effective the marketing of big pharmaceutical companies are by flooding us with vaccination programs.
    It's like digging a hole and the hole getting bigger a
  • Amazing how the author of that book actually changed something...too bad other books like 1984, Brave New World and the short story Right to Read get used like a manual for oppression instead.

    • by s.petry (762400)

      Similar line of thought: My comment was going to be 'too bad that prick didn't read "1984" or "Brave New World"'. Then again, I'm sure he did read them.

  • If you read nothing else in TFA, read the sections "The technological determinism model" and "The sociotechnical model", and pretend it's written about computer tech, because it applies there, too. I believe we're getting near the end of "the computer revolution", because there is not a sufficient market to fund development at the rate we've seen in the past. I believe Ray Kurzweil will have to fund the singularity himself, because for the endpoint to happen, all points in between here and there have to be

  • "One time at my lab, a petri dish of genetically modified super-virus went missing. That day we made a pinky swear never to admit we crossed Ebola with the common cold."

    "Why the hell would you cross Ebola with the common cold?"

    "We never did. That would be a terrible, terrible thing."

    • by cusco (717999)
      Ken Alibeck, while he still worked for the Soviets, crossed ebola and smallpox to make a chimera they called 'black pox'. Apparently that's why he works for us now.
  • I do like a good thriller novel and they don't really keep me up at night (except the reading part). Mostly b/c i have no involvement in the protection of most of these things. Reading the summary above makes me realize again the weight on any executive office. I can assume somebody is taking care of it. The president/prime minister/whatever realizes this is another thing he is responsible for stopping. No wonder they get grey so fast.

  • As another testement to the power of fiction, George Bush read one of Stephen King's books and got $500 million in funding for protection against Plymouth Furies.

  • > "In 1998, President Bill Clinton read a novel about
    > biological warfare that deeply disturbed him. In fact,
    > the story reportedly kept him up all night."

    "Clinton also called for remote-disable devices for vehicles after reading a story about a car, and for fire axes to be on 10-foot chain tethers after reading a story about a guy."

  • Make a bunch of clandestine transactions to acquire equipment that could potentially be used to create a bioweapon (even if you don't have any money to actually complete the transactions). Step 2, watch the 'Great Satan' flush billions down the toilet defending against the non-threat.

    Bonus points if you get the Great Satan to flush trillions down the toilet invading a country you hate because they think you are there.

    Triple bonus score: Get yourself a good 'Oswald' that they can spend years hunting down.

  • There is a substantial risk of a bioterrorist attack on the US from the Hezbollah operations in Mexico. Whether you believe John McAfee's revelations or not:
    http://www.whoismcafee.com/a-clear-and-present-danger/ [whoismcafee.com]
    The truth is the scenario he presents is possible entirely plausible.

    The solution is to enforce the Federal border control laws. The Feds won't do it. So the Arizona State government took matters into their own hands and created a state law that was similar to the Federal law, but Arizona woul

  • I'm guessing Clinton read The White Plague at some point too.
    It would explain his goal to f*ck every woman he met!

  • Am I the only one who read it that way?
  • In the subject article, Kathleen Vogel argues that research in the field of Science and Technology Studies (of which, no doubt coincidentally, she is a professor) that technology development proceeds more along an "evolutionary" path than a "revolutionary" path.

    This is actually not a bad argument. if one is describing the integration of technologies into the overall fabric of societies. Even though technologies do tend to develop in a revolutionary fashion (a well-established fact that she'd apparently l

We want to create puppets that pull their own strings. - Ann Marion

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