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Biotech Government The Military Science Technology

Putting Biotech Threats In Context 117

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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @07:01AM (#42736099)

    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 you can control where it's released, but once that's done, it goes anywhere it wants to.

    If you seriously want to worry about bioweapons in this century, you better start worrying about nanotech turning the world into grey goo as well. They have about the same probabilities.

    Maybe after centuries worth of man hours and hundreds of billions spent in R&D, it might become a viable threat. Of course, terrorist organizations don't have that kind of time, funding, or foresight much less actual R&D divisions, so they aren't the threat in those fields. Now governments are a different story, but not by much, and for pretty much the same reason.

Syntactic sugar causes cancer of the semicolon. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982