Wednesday, September 10, 2014

People as Playthings, Part 3


Part 1 introduced, via an investigative report video, how the official explanation of the Amerithrax case, where weapons-grade anthrax was mailed to certain political leaders and media figures, was not the true story. I finished with this:

It seems to me the idea was not to maximize casualties among the American people, but rather, to maximize publicity about the potential for casualties. Unlike hoaxes a few years previously, this time the perpetrator did indeed have high-grade anthrax, and wanted to make sure America knew that, but without inflicting actual mass casualties, and while trying to make it look like Al Qaeda may have been responsible.

Who had both motive and opportuntity to do this?

In Part 2, we began to weave together a variety of other information, painting a picture of the connections between narcotics traffickers and terrorists, and the flow of heroin from places where it is produced along the Afghan-Pakistan border, and the United Kingdom, which is a significant destination country.

We then saw how then-recent outbreaks of anthrax among heroin users in the United Kingdom and in Western Europe were closely related to each other, and were related to no other outbreaks of anthrax among humans; in particular, the evidence suggested the heroin had been contaminated during transshipment through Turkey. In particular, we saw how one outbreak in 2009-2010 seemed connected to another outbreak in 2012, when the blog post was written, and then wondered: if the contamination occurred by accident in Turkey, why did we not hear about an outbreak of anthrax among heroin traffickers there? And, if it was just an accidental contamination, how could the very same strain of anthrax have been responsible, by accident, in two outbreaks separated by two years? (However, we do now have more information on this: there are people in Turkey who have developed a degree of immunity to contamination with anthrax by handling the material. Perhaps I will write about this at some point.)

We then considered additional information explaining how getting users to inject anthrax might be a far better method to contaminate them than trying to get them to inhale it.

I then pointed out that, in the Amerithrax case, the goal seemed to be to gain publicity while minimizing casualties: in other words, terrorization was the objective. However, using the same logic to analyze the more recent outbreaks, I concluded that it now looked like the objective was to spread the disease and cause death. This conclusion was in sharp contrast to the conclusions of officials looking into the matter.

However, others now seem to be beginning to share my concerns, as one respected blog has seen anthrax in heroin as a possible sneaky means of conducting bioterrorism. This is the concluding excerpt of Heroin's Anthrax Problem by Rebecca Kreston, August 30, 2014:

Anthrax is widely feared for its potential as an agent of bioterrorism; the media-induced panic attack that is occasionally invoked usually relies on images of shadowy terrorist cells spraying spores from planes above cities or perhaps into malls filled with aimless shoppers. However, this frightful microbe's recent entry into our communities was far more insidious and unexpected, relying on an altogether different type of illicit network that spreads harm.

I find this quite interesting, considering the increased use of heroin in the United States.

First we might want to consider some background that I believe can be found elsewhere here at my blog, but which, in any case, I have come across during my research and which is pertinent.

After the invasion of Afghanistan to oust the Taliban following the 9/11 attacks, poppy production there soared; it was especially big along the border with Pakistan. Furthermore, whereas previously poppies had to be transported to some place such as Turkey for refining into heroin, after the invasion refining of heroin began to be done in Afghanistan, right under the eyes of US and allied military forces.

On top of that, this was very high-quality heroin. It was hitting the streets in the West as high-quality heroin, and even experienced junkies were overdosing, because they were not used to the quality and purity.

We consider now some excerpts from some recent news articles.

First, from 'The meat and potatoes' of fighting drugs, September 2, 2014:

Chelsea [Massachusetts] is in the middle of a heroin epidemic. In March, Gov. Deval Patrick declared a public health emergency in Massachusetts in response to the growing opioid addiction sweeping the entire state. From 2000 to 2012, the number of unintentional opiate overdoses in Massachusetts increased by 90%, he said.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, it's happening all across America. The demand for heroin is reaching unprecedented proportions -- fueled in part by a growing number of people who get hooked on prescription painkillers and soon need a cheaper way to get high.

Like heroin, the painkillers morphine, methadone, hydrocodone and oxycodone are all opioids and have a similar effect on the nervous system.

Heroin, however, is cheaper to get and easier to find.

[snip]

From Southeast Asia or Mexico, the drugs make it into the United States, [Lt. Detective David] Betz says. The drugs are smuggled into New York, then Connecticut and Rhode Island before heading into Massachusetts and the Boston area. From there, it is a short trip across the Tobin Bridge to Chelsea. Betz says small cities often have a tougher battle against drugs than bigger cities because of lower income and resources.

This gives you an idea how extensive the growing heroin problem is becoming in the United States.

Lt. Betz is said to have mentioned Mexico and Southeast Asia as the sources. However, well over 90% of the global heroin supply has come from Afghanistan and just across the border in neighboring Pakistan, basically since the invasion. While Mexico and Southeast Asia are heroin producers, we have to question the drug distribution networks, and wonder how much of the heroin showing up in America is coming from the world's major supplying region, Southwest Asia.

According to UN World Drug Report 2014 (page X):

There is evidence that Afghan heroin is increasingly reaching new markets, such as Oceania and South-East Asia, that had been traditionally supplied from South-East Asia.

Thus, even if the heroin is "from" Southeast Asia, Southeast Asia might just be a transshipment point for Afghan heroin.

Continuing with excerpts from UN World Drug Report 2014 (pgs 28-30):

According to Indian authorities (i.e. country report submitted by India to Thirty-seventh Meeting of Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies, Asia and the Pacific, and the reply submitted by India in response to the 2011 UNODC annual report questionnaire) heroin from South-West Asia reaches India across the India-Pakistan border and tends to be trafficked onward to destinations such as Europe, the United States and South-East Asia. These destinations are presumably more lucrative markets than India, given the relatively low price of heroin in India (reported to be the equivalent of $8.6-$13 per gram, as of 2011, compared with a range of $100-$400 per gram of heroin from South-West Asia in the United States and an average price, taken from 17 countries in Western and Central Europe and weighted by population, of $72, both in the same year).

[snip]

Moreover, Indian authorities also indicate illicit cultivation of opium poppy in some pockets within India, suspected diversion of opium from licit cultivation and manufacture of “brown sugar” (also referred to as “low-quality heroin”) by indigenous groups.110, 111 Thus, it appears that the consumer market in India is mainly supplied by heroin of domestic origin, quite plausibly derived from a minor proportion of licitly produced opium diverted into the illicit market.

And (from pg 31):

Apart from heroin originating in Latin America, heroin from South-West Asia may be reaching the North American market in larger quantities. Canada, which continues to identify Pakistan and India as being among the prominent countries of provenance for heroin reaching its market, mentioned an increase in the number of heroin seizures from couriers on commercial airlines in the latter part of 2012 and in early 2013, and reported that this could be due to a resurgence in the use of heroin across Canada, as well as possible export to other countries, such as the United States.118 However, the United States has not reported a significant flow of heroin from Canada. India and the United States both indicated that there was a flow of heroin from India to the United States; it is plausible that the flow of heroin reaching North America from India, while probably still small in relation to the size of the North American consumer market, is of South-West Asian origin (as discussed above).

Consquently, aside from an indirect impact on the heroin market from Southwest Asia, driving prices down and quality up through competition, there is a direct impact: correlating this information with other information here at the blog, heroin from regions of the world controlled by Islamic terrorist groups is reaching the United States, and the money benefits, in part, Islamic terrorist groups.

Next, with drug overdoses in Rhode Island up to 142 so far this year (not all from heroin; some from prescription drugs), New England governors joined together to put the fight against heroin on the front burner. From Governors Unite to Fight Heroin in New England by Katharine Q. Seelye, June 17, 2014:

WALTHAM, Mass. — Facing a heroin crisis that they say has reached epidemic proportions, the governors of five New England states met here on Tuesday to devise a regional strategy to combat the rise in overdoses and deaths from opioid abuse.

This is not just a problem in New England. From Low cost fuels growing heroin problem in Columbus by Mark Webber, September 6, 2014:

COLUMBUS, Ind. -- A plentiful and easy-to-get supply of heroin is creating a growing addiction problem in Columbus that law enforcement and lawmakers agree will take years to get under control.

Columbus Regional Hospital officials have noticed a significant jump in heroin abuse among patients over the past year, said Dr. Kevin Terrell, the emergency room medical director.

"We've gone from seeing 111 patients for heroin and pain pill abuse in 2009 to 169 patients in 2013," Terrell told The Republic. "With 118 patients seen for heroin and other narcotics in just the first half of 2014, we're on pace to see a large jump in drug abuse compared to last year."

This summer, the Columbus Police Department has been called to an average four to five heroin-related incidents a week, Police Chief Jon Rohde said.

The increasing numbers aren't a surprise to police.

In late 2012, local officers began recognizing they were witnessing the "calm before the storm," Columbus Police Department Lt. Matt Myers said.

So, heroin use in the United States is becoming more of a problem.

And, considering that "injectional anthrax" is a newly-coined term for contracting anthrax by injecting contaminated heroin, how long until this problem reaches America? And, when it does, will it be by accident or by design?


Back to the question I posed in Part 1, and unasked corollaries: Who had both motive and opportunity to scare the United States by mailing letters laced with weapons-grade anthrax to US Senators and media figures? Who would benefit by demonstrating an ability to cause mass casualties, without actually causing mass casualties?

Interestingly, the 2001 Amerithrax incident, in the wake of 9/11, has motivated US authorities to consider anthrax a real bioterrorism threat, as well as making them more concerned about its use as a weapon against US military forces.

As a result of this, one US company is seeing some growth.


Here are excerpts from Facility That Produces Anthrax Vaccine Moving To Mich., from September 21, 2013:

LANSING (AP) - Emergent BioSolutions Inc. is planning to open a new Michigan facility to expand production of its BioThrax anthrax vaccine to protect U.S military personnel against a leading biological weapons threat.

The Rockville, Md.-based company said it could take until 2014 or 2015 until the Lansing facility completes a review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and receives certification, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Large-scale production has been a challenge and the expansion will help meet that goal, said company chief executive and president Daniel Abdun-Nabi.

"The reality is that BioThrax is the gold standard for anthrax vaccinations," said Abdun-Nabi. "The last challenge ... is to provide large-scale production."

Emergent BioSolutions announced in 2011 that the U.S. government formally ordered 44.8 million doses of BioThrax anthrax vaccine in an agreement worth as much as $1.25 billion over five years.

[snip]

Anthrax "is your No. 1 threat organism," said Jeffrey Adamovicz, a research microbiologist at the Wyoming State Veterinary Lab and a former chief bacteriologist in the Army’s infectious disease lab in Maryland.

The U.S. is seeking to develop more advanced vaccines. For now, BioThrax will remain a significant part of the stockpile, said Robin Robinson, director of the federal Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"It's an insurance policy," Robinson said of BioThrax. "We don't know if these other vaccines are going to work."

And, in a more recent update to this aspect of the story, Emergent BioSolutions has won a contract to make a new vaccine. From Emergent BioSolutions wins $29M NIH contract for anthrax vaccine by Lindsay VanHulle, September 8, 2014:

LANSING – Emergent BioSolutions Inc. won a $29 million federal contract to make a new form of the anthrax vaccine, the company said today.

The Rockville, Maryland-based biopharmaceutical company said in a statement its five-year contract with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, will produce what it hopes will be the next generation of the anthrax vaccine.

Emergent is the nation's only producer of the anthrax vaccine, BioThrax, which is made at Emergent's Lansing facility on North Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. About 450 worked in Lansing as of October 2013.

It was not immediately clear where the new vaccine would be made or how it might affect Lansing operations. Emergent officials could not be reached for comment.

Emergent said the contract will fund production and other non-clinical functions for an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for an "investigational new drug." The vaccine Emergent wants to test is a dry version that could help it survive at warmer temperatures, which ultimately could cut the need for cold storage when shipping.

It would be made in part from BioThrax, the product made in Lansing, Emergent said in a statement.

Also, from EBS Gets Funded, HPTX Pulls Plug On Diabetes Drug Candidate, Panther On The Mend, September 8, 2014:

(RTTNews.com) - Emergent BioSolutions Inc. ( EBS ) has been awarded a five-year contract, valued at up to $29 million, by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to develop a dry formulation of NuThrax, the company's next generation anthrax vaccine candidate. NuThrax is currently under phase II testing.

Emergent BioSolutions was founded in 1998 under the name BioPort (see Emergent BioSolutions: Company History).

The executive chairman of the board of directors is American businessamn Fuad El-Hibri, who was the CEO of Emergent BioSolutions until his 2012 retirement from that position.

Mr. El-Hibri also provides leadership to the El-Hibri Foundation which "builds a better world by embracing the universally shared values of Islam: peace and respect for diversity."



As an aside, it is interesting to look at campaign finances.

Among political donations, Mr. El-Hibri has given to President Bush's 2000 campaign. In an interesting connection with my previous two posts, Mary Landrieu and Obamacare and Mary Landrieu, Keystone Phase IV, and Louisiana, Mr. El-Hibri supported Senator Landrieu in 2002.

(In an effort to protect privacy, big black boxes block out information for other contributors and little black boxes black out Mr. El-Hibri's address in the images of this documentation.)


In fact, Emergent BioSolutions has an employee PAC, which was also a big supporter of Senator Landrieu in 2002. Once you start looking at the money trails... :)

More recently, Mr. El-Hibri supported Barack Obama in his 2004 bid for the Senate, and he supported Hillary Clinton in her bid for the Democrat Presidential Nomination for 2008.



Funny where the rabbit trails (and money trails) lead, isn't it?

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