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Category Archives: Germ Warfare

North Korea and China Accused America of Biowarfare During the Korean War – The National Interest

Posted: April 21, 2021 at 9:25 am

2021 marks seventy-one years since the beginning of the Korean War, a bloody conflict which saw the loss of nearly forty-thousand Americans and ten percent of the Korean population. Despite this massive loss of life and the physical decimation of the Korean peninsula, it is criminally under-researched. Its place in history, sandwiched between the catastrophic Second World War and the devastating Vietnam War, has caused it to be buried by the tragedies of its immediate predecessor and successor in time. However, during the Korean War peace talks, claims by communist forces thataccused the American forces of violating the Geneva Convention took the world by storm, only for the false accusations to be forgotten in just a few generations.

In early 1951, as the United States and Chinese-North Korean forces were locked in the back-and-forth which would later characterize the Korean War, Chinese media made repeated claims that America waspreparingbiological weapons for use against the Chinese and North Korean people. The U.S. grant of immunity for Shiro Ishii, former director of Imperial Japans biological warfare center Unit 731, played a central role in these accusations; specifically, that the Japanese and American forces were collaborating in the production of bacterial weapons for use on the war front. This initial campaign culminated in a formal charge submitted to the United Nationsby North Korea Foreign Minister Pak Hen En:

Following in the path of the defeated and universally condemned Japanese war criminals, MacArthur, Ridgeway and abettors carried out this threat in the middle of December 1950 and January 1951. Several areas were simultaneously infected with small-pox sickness (...) after their liberation from American occupation. (UN Security Council 1951, S/2142/Rev 1)

After a lull from July 1951 until early 1952, following outbreaks of cholera and plague in North Korea and Manchuria, Pak Hen En again submitted a protest with the United Nations, citing seven instances in which he alleged that enemy military aircraft had dropped insects infected with plague and cholera. This accuastionwould be echoed by Peoples Republic of China PremierZhou Enlaijust two days later.

In both instances, the accusations were immediately and vehemently denied by the United States government. What followed would be yet another back-and-forth between the communist and United States forces which would persist through the end of the war.

Four months after the second wave of allegations were made, the United States proposed to the United Nations Security Council that there should be aninvestigation of the reported attack sites, led by the International Red Cross. This proposal fell apartdue to a Soviet veto, as did the resolution. Moscow blocked the idea due to the extensive U.S. influence within the Red Cross, and the ongoing perception that the United Nations was too obliging with western interests. This was a persistent concern since the United Nations refusal to remove the Republic of China representative in favor of a representative of the Peoples Republic of China, against the wishes of the Soviet Union.

Instead, led by the communist-aligned World Peace Council, the International Scientific Commission performed their own investigation in mid-1952. That effortwasheaded by Dr. Joseph Needham, a British scientist who previously investigated the Japanese use of bioweapons during World War II. The commissions report consists of sixty pages detailing the purported incidents in Korea and China, followed by over 600 pages of appendices which included eyewitness and epidemiologist testimony, and photos of the alleged bomb casings.

Despite never performing any independent field analysis, and only receiving evidence secondhand through Chinese government field staff, the ISC concluded that the accusations of biowarfare in the Korean War were factual. The document received immediate and unrelenting opposition by representatives of the United States and was also the subject of criticism from Western bacteriologists and virologists.

Notably, the document containedthe statements of four captured U.S. airmen, who initially testified in support of their captors:

As to when we first started to use germ bombs, it was about the first of the year, about 1 January, 1952, I should say, since that is when we were all reminded to look for dud bombs. It is probable that other outfits (...) started to use germ warfare at the same time. (First Lieut. Kenneth L Enoch, ISC pg 493)

I was forced to be the tool of these war mongers and made to drop germ bombs and do this awful crime against the people of Korea and the Chinese Volunteers. Because I am a soldier I must follow orders (...) from those imperialists on Wall Street. (First Lieut. John Quinn, ISC pg 537)

In late 1952, over six months after the initial confessions, another pilot, Colonel Schwable of the United States Marine Corps, produced another admission after undergoing months of torture at the hands of his captors. Schwable, along with the four airmen featured in the ISC report, all recanted their confessions upon repatriation andit was concluded through trial that the confessions were made under extreme mental duress.

The purpose of these allegations remains murky even today because wartime political interests and the lingering international relations clouded the situation at hand. For instance, whether or not the claims of biological warfare were only intended as a defamation campaign against an enemy in battle, China still mobilized national vaccination campaigns during the Korean War. These vaccination drives suggested that, at least for some Chinese citizens or officials, the allegations were seen as terrifyingly real.

It should be noted, however, that the Communist Party of the Soviet Union itself retracted the claims shortly after Stalins death, in a statement to Mao Zedong:

The Soviet Government and the Central Committee of the CPSU were misled. The spread in the press of information about the use by the Americans of bacteriological weapons in Korea was based on false information. The accusations against the Americans were fictitious.

This powerful Soviet rebuttal of the claims further enforces the conclusion of most scholars today that the allegations were nothing more than political theater during one of the most destructive conflicts in modern history. This remains true despite details that remain unclear even today, such as who first instigated the claims and the fact that there has been no retraction of the allegations from the Chinese government.

Emalyn Atkins is a Research Associate Intern in Korean Studies with the Center for the National Interest.

Image: Reuters.

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North Korea and China Accused America of Biowarfare During the Korean War - The National Interest

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Top Secret: Russia Had a Military Accident With Anthrax in 1979 – The National Interest

Posted: March 26, 2021 at 6:21 pm

Key point:Biological and chemical weapons were explored by the major powers during the Cold War. Thankfully, aside from accidents, they were never deliberately used in a Third World War.

In October 1979, a West German newspaper run by Sovietmigrsran a vague story alleging that an explosion in a military factory in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg) had released deadly bacteria, killing as many as a thousand. The story swiftly drew attention from other Western newspapers and eventually the U.S. government, because if Soviet factories were producing biological weapons, they were doing so in contravention of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention.

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Not so, Moscow swiftly retorted. Yes, an outbreakhadkilled dozens in Sverdlovsk, a closed city devoted to the Soviet military-industrial complex and the fourth largest in Russia today. But the culprit was tainted meat afflicted by anthrax.

This first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Anthrax is an infection caused by a naturally occurring bacteria transported via spores that can be found all over the planet, and that can lie dormant in the soil for some time. Humans are most commonly affected by anthrax when abraded skin makes contact while handling an affected animal, particularly sheep or cattle, or animal products such as hides or wool. This form, known as cutaneous anthrax, leaves nasty sores, but is only fatal 20 percent of the time when left untreated. Much rarer gastrointestinal anthrax infections can result from eatinginfected animals.

However, the deadliest form of transmission involves breathing in anthrax spores, and has an 85 percent fatality rate. For pulmonary anthrax infections to occur, high concentrations of spores must be inhaled, and the spores cannot be too large, so as to slip past human mucous membranes. Once inside the human body, the bacteria multiply and in a couple of days begin producing deadly toxins. The victim may feel flu-like symptoms such as a sore throat and aching muscles, as well as shortness of breath and nausea. These symptoms progress to intense bleeding coughs, fevers, interrupted breathing and lethal meningitis (inflammation of the brain), leading to characteristic dark swelling along the chest and neck. Vaccination with antibiotics is effective at preventing the infection, but is not effective once the infection sets in.

Because anthrax can be easily manufactured and remains stable for years, it also was ideal as a biological weapona fact that U.S. scientists were aware of due to the experience of their own biological-weapons program, which had been active since 1943. It ultimately mass-produced six major strains of deadlybioweapons, many of which were designed to be spread by air-dropped cluster bombs. However, President Richard Nixon brought an end to the program in 1969, and three years later most of the worlds nations signed onto the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, banning not only the use, but the production and development, of biological weapons.

However, the convention lacked a formal compliance and monitoring mechanism. Furthermore, it does not ban research on how to defendagainst bioweaponswhich explains why weapons-grade anthrax is stored in U.S. government laboratories, and was available for use in the infamous anthrax letters that were sent shortly after 9/11, likely by a disgruntled employee.

U.S. intelligence analysts were skeptical of the Soviet tainted-meat storyCIA agents had obtained scattered reports supporting the narrative that there had been a factory accident at the time of the outbreak. Furthermore, the deaths of Soviet citizens spanning over two months did not cohere with a tainted meat-supply problem, which could have been dealt with swiftly. The Reagan administration seized on the incident to lay into the Soviet Union for apparently contravening the bioweapons ban.

The Soviet press maintained that this just showed how Washington was ready to use any tragedy afflicting the Soviet people to its political advantage. Some U.S. scientists, such as renowned Harvard researcher Matthew Meselson, were also inclined to believe the Soviet explanation. In 1981, the United States had alleged that Communist forces in Asia made use of Yellow Rain mycotoxins in Asiaallegations that were widely discredited. When, in 1988, Soviet scientist Pyotr Burgasov flew to the United States and presented autopsy records and photos from the victims of the Sverdlovsk outbreak, many Western scientists were finally persuaded that the incident merely reflected an embarrassing slip-up of the Soviet medical system.

However, even that autopsy data suggested some curious anomalies, including evidence of swelling of the lungs corresponding to a pulmonary anthrax infection. Furthermore, why had the outbreak mostly affected adult males, and relatively few women or children? New rumors emerged that the Soviet Union had developed some form of disease tailored to kill military-age men.

The true situation would soon come to light in 1992, after the fall of the Soviet Union. The newly anointed Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, confided to President George H.W. Bush at a conference that U.S. allegations about the Soviet bioweapon were entirely true. Yeltsin, as it happened, had been the party boss in the Sverdlovsk during the outbreak, which he admitted wasthe result of the bioweapons accident.

Just a year after signing on to the 1972 bioweapons ban, the Soviet Union had actually expandedits bioweapons production via a massive new civilian program, known as Biopreparat,that employed fifty thousand personnel scattered across fifty-two separate facilities. Biopreparathad manufactured hundreds of tons of a dozen different biowarfare agents, designed to be spread by missiles or sprayed out of airplanes. And mishaps didoccurfor example, in 1971, weaponized smallpox being tested on Vozrozhdeniya Island had infected a scientist on a passing ship, leading to three deaths.

The deputy director of Biopreparat, Kanatzhan Alibekov (now Ken Alibek), would later immigrate to the United States and give his account of the Sverdlovsk incident in his bookBiohazard, based on accounts he overheard from several colleagues.

The bacteria had originated from a bioweapons facility in Sverdlovsk known as Compound 19A, built in 1946 using specifications found in the Japanese germ warfare documents captured in Manchuria, according to Alibekov. The Japanese Unit 731 was infamous during World War II for both testing and field deploying bioweapons targeting Chinese civilians.

Compound 19A produced tons of anthrax in powdered form annually, for release from ballistic missilesin particular a strainknown as Anthrax 836selected (not designed) because it was particularly deadly to humans. One dayAlibek places the date as March 30, 1979, though most sources insist it was early Aprila technician removed a clogged filter and left a note indicating it needed to be replaced.

His account continues:

Compound 19 was the Fifteenth Directorate's busiest production plant. Three shifts operated around the clock, manufacturing a dry anthrax weapon for the Soviet arsenal. It was stressful and dangerous work. The fermented anthrax cultures had to be separated from their liquid base and dried before they could be ground into a fine powder for use in an aerosol form, and there were always spores floating in the air. Workers were given regular vaccinations, but the large filters clamped over the exhaust pipes were all that stood between the anthrax dust and the outside world. After each shift, the big drying machines were shut down briefly for maintenance checks. A clogged air filter was not an unusual occurrence, but it had to be replaced immediately.

Lieutenant Colonel Nikolai Chernyshov, supervisor of the afternoon shift that day, was in as much of a hurry to get home as his workers. Under the army's rules, he should have recorded the information about the defective filter in the logbook for the next shift, but perhaps the importance of the technician's note didn't register in his mind, or perhaps he was simply overtired. When the night shift manager came on duty, he scanned the logbook. Finding nothing unusual, he gave the command to start the machines up again. A fine dust containing anthrax spores and chemical additives swept through the exhaust pipes into the night air.

The missing filter was noticed hours later and swiftly correctedbut by then it was too late. A brisk night breeze had carried the deadly spores over into an adjacent ceramics factory, infecting the largely male factory laborers working the night shift. Nearly all died within a week.

The city authorities were kept in the dark about the accident until the outbreak became apparent. Then the party swiftly engaged in a cover-up. Troops established a perimeter around the factory, while Soviet officials announced that tainted meat was responsible. Hundreds of stray dogs were shot and black-market food vendors were arrested for spreading tainted food. The KGB destroyed hospital records and pathological reports documenting the outbreak, while the victims bodies were bathed in chemical disinfectants to remove the evidence left by the spores.

According to Alibek, damage control measures instigated by ill-informed Soviet officials actually worsened the outbreak.

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Chaos Walking: Wanna Hear What Tom Hollands Thinking? Think Again – Rolling Stone

Posted: March 7, 2021 at 1:35 pm

And if my thought-dreams could be seen, a wise man named Bob Dylan once said, theyd probably put my head in a guillotine. Chaos Walking, an adaptation of Patrick Nesss young-adult trilogy about a planet where ones private hopes and fears become public audiovisual transmissions, cribs the sentiment from that Dylan couplet though, to be fair, it does not chop off a single persons head. Characters are shot, beaten, tortured, drowned, chased, burned, pushed into an abyss, scratched, and shamed, but no gets the falling blade. What happens to the cast of Doug Limans movie version, however, is far worse than any of that. They end up finding themselves stuck in an overcooked 22-pound cinematic turkey, a genuine schlockbuster, a cosmic flop. The guillotine would have been quick and merciful. An association with this misfire will be on their rsums and their IMDb pages and, likely, their consciences for a long, long, long time. (It hits theaters today. Pray it goes away soon.)

Tackling only the first book of the series, The Knife of Never Letting Go though suffocating or smothering might be more apt verbs here Lionsgates high-concept sci-fi lit-fail lays out the basics right away: In the near future, humanity has left Earth for another life-sustaining planet several light-years away. It was already populated by an indigenous population known as the Spackle, however, who were largely wiped out by the colonizers quicker than you could say manifest destiny. But the natives apparently released a virus that caused a mutation among the visiting male populace, in which the mental chatter inside their heads (the Noise) is broadcast out loud as red and blue-gray smoke swirls around their heads. Occasionally, visual images pop up in these tiny cerebral storm clouds lightning flashes of memories, or vague impressions that quickly fade away. (We can neither confirm nor deny that some of these snippets may subliminally feature actors slipping out of character and angrily firing their agents.)

The germ warfare somehow didnt affect women. Unfortunately, this did not stop the female of the species living in the new-world settlement of Prentisstown from being slaughtered. At least, thats what Todd (Tom Holland), one of the young men who call this neo-frontier village home, has been told all of his life. The war, and the victory, and all of those deaths happened when he was but a child. He farms alongside his adoptive dads, Ben (Demin Bichir) and Cillian (Kurt Sutter), though he looks up to the towns strong, stoic, fur-coat-rockin mayor (Mads Mikkelsen) as more of an aspirational role model. Then, the news hits town that a ship has crashed on to the planet. Not only that, but the only survivor may possess XX chromosomes, which leads to the immortal line: Its a girl a space girl!!!

Ah, yes, the space girl: She is Viola (Daisy Ridley). Having spent many decades trying to get to the new world with her parents (you age slower while traveling throughout the stars, yadda yadda yadda), this young-looking woman is scared, hiding, and in need of safe haven. The mayor wants her found immediately, no questions asked. As for Todd, well, he cant mask how gosh-darn pretty he thinks she looks or his kissy-time wishes around her, which means were treated to endless scenes that replay the thinking-aloud equivalent of having-to-walk-to-the-class-blackboard-with-a-boner scenario.

No time for that, my dude, sorry: The posse is on your tails. You have rivers to get dunked in and extraterrestrials to tussle with and narrow escapes to make and miles to go before you sleep. And as certain things come to light, Todd begins to wonder if maybe the stories hes heard all his life about how they were the last settlement standing and it was the aliens who were responsible for the ongoing noisy, intergalactic sausage party happening around him were some tall tales attached to a whole other agenda involving religious zealotry, old-school misogyny, and the evil that, yknow, men do.

Look, credit where credit is due: The people behind this ramshackle attempt at starting a new YA screen franchise certainly got the chaos part right. There is so much sound and fury and static, so many booms and pings and pows, and so little coherence to any of it, that it all just sort of listlessly collides with little to no friction at all. Anyone whos done time on a movie set will tell you that getting a finished film out of the process, much less something good, always feels like a minor miracle. But the transformation of Nesss world building and storytelling into so much strolling confusion feels particularly messy and off-the-mark even by the loosest of standards.

And you cant blame the pedigree: Liman has done wonders with high-concept, FX-heavy science fiction/action projects before (we still contend that Edge of Tomorrow is a low-key multiplex masterpiece). Ness helped pen the adaptation himself, or at least is one of the few credited writers on it; everyone from Charlie Kaufman to John Lee Hancock (The Little Things) apparently took turns contributing to drafts. And while the cast feels like it may have been assembled via Mad Libs (name another movie featuring Mikkelsen, Cynthia Erivo, Nick Jonas, David Oyelowo, and the showrunner for Sons of Anarchy), you couldnt have asked for more compelling young leads than Holland and Ridley. The absolute lack of even a hint of chemistry between them, however, is stunning. Chaos Walking doesnt even get to the level of high camp, where pleasure is found in the sheer badness of it all. Its a movie that succeeds in one thing, and one thing alone: It proves that you can subject viewers to two hours of watching characters project their inner monologues onto a soundtrack and then wonder aloud, What the hell were the people behind this thinking?!?

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Josh Freed: COVID has robbed us of small talk, and that’s a big deal – Montreal Gazette

Posted: February 21, 2021 at 12:26 am

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We have less and less to say to each other thats new, exciting or interesting. Thats because no ones been anywhere exciting, done anything exciting or even met anyone new and exciting.

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The other day I had a very exciting COVID experience.

I passed a school crossing guard and said: Bonjour, a va? and he looked straight at me from behind his mask and replied:

Oui, Monsieur! Mais cest trs froid, non?

Oui, cest froid! I nodded, ending one of my most talkative and thrilling encounters with a stranger in months.

Almost a year into COVID, theres much talk of the obvious things we miss: seeing our parents, kids and close friends in person; going to restaurants, bars, theatres, concerts and festivals.

Travelling! Even a drive to Ottawa sounds like an exotic expedition nowadays.

But what doesnt get mentioned much might be most important of all: having occasional chats with acquaintances, neighbours and utter strangers that add novelty and variety to life.

Most of us are keeping up with family and close friends, on walks or talks online. But we have less and less to say to each other thats new, exciting or interesting.

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Thats because no ones been anywhere exciting, done anything exciting or even met anyone new and exciting.

Were all treading water. At COVIDs start, which seems like a decade ago, at least it had a certain horror-film excitement that had us chattering away:

Person 1: Omigod! Do you think I should open this envelope from Columbia University, or quarantine it for three days? It could be my daughters acceptance letter but its from New York, which is a plague zone!

Person 2: No way Id touch that! Just put on rubber gloves and burn it in the sink before it contaminates your whole house.

But now, almost a year later, were largely numb to COVID and theres not much to yak about, apart from:

Didja hear were down to 800 new cases today? Pretty good, eh?

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Yeah, pretty good. I hear Ontario had 900.

Yep (long silence)

So, seen anything good on TV lately?

Frankly, I havent had a memorable conversation in months.

Behind this problem is the massive shrinking of our social worlds. Perhaps youre talking to five or 10 people, even Zooming with 25.

But studies show the average person actually knows around 350 people (not counting online friends) from their butcher and baker to many acquaintances they see occasionally.

And we just arent seeing them anymore.

For instance, I miss the gang of 10 tennis buddies I used to see every Wednesday, then share a drink-and-yak with. Weve met online occasionally, but theres no zing in Zoom.

I miss dropping by my local caf and exchanging greetings with neighbourhood characters I kind of know and waiters who kind of know me.

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I miss my decades-old annual Super Bowl party at a pals house, where Id see several football fans I never saw elsewhere but I loved meeting up with them.

I miss the many now-and-thenners in my life who gave it spice.

Like everyone, I also miss dinners and parties where you sometimes talked to actual strangers whod share their life story, or details of their fascinating job as a rodent catcher, or soldier or poet.

I miss yakking with shopkeepers now walled off by Plexiglas and as eager as me to keep COVID conversations brief. Try talking to a stranger in your supermarket queue and theyll leap back like you were a germ warfare weapon which maybe you are.

I miss cabbies and Uber drivers who I rarely use anymore. If I do, I open a window that drowns out any conversation who wants to share the air?

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I miss cosy nostalgic chats across tiny restaurant tables, catching up with long unseen friends over a bottle of wine. I miss personal gossip, which has practically evaporated, along with peoples personal lives.

Like those new contact-free payment methods we use for stores and deliveries, we have less and less contact. Period.

Its hardest on single people who often eat alone every night, their only company the evening news.

Whats lost in this is more than the simple sum of all these small chats. When we dont talk to new people with new stories, ideas and life experiences, we have less to bring with us to the next conversation, or Zoom.

Its the same for those were talking to, as our worlds shrink and we lose our sense of a larger community.

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Recently I find my conversations getting shorter and shorter, even with good friends, as we run out of fresh chit-chat. If this pandemic goes on much longer, will the whole city, country and world go on mute?

Will conversation just die, another casualty of COVID?

For all our obsession with diet and fitness, longevity studies show that our social lives may be most important of all. People who thrive with age are often connected and interacting with many people.

So along with your daily yoga, jogging, Zumba and Peloton exercises, do some lip stretches, tongue twists and voice exercises, too.

When this pandemic finally ends, well all have a lot of catching up to do.

joshfreed49@gmail.com

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Letter to Editor | Letters to the Editor – Hermann Advertiser Courier

Posted: February 8, 2021 at 11:14 am

Can we risk exterminating the human race.

What if the cure is worse than the disease, what if a hastily created vaccine is rapidly injected into every person on the planet and we find out there is a glitch, a side effect we didn't know about, most vaccines take 10 to 20 years to meet FDA approval, weather intentionally or unintentionally can we risk exterminating all human beings from the Earth.

This is a very complicated vaccine it affects a lot of things in the body, should we just take this pill no questions asked because covid is bad? Germ warfare is all too real, some people say that covid itself is a created warfare disease, escaped or actually dispersed but what if that was just a precursor to a planned chain of events leading up to actually getting people to willingly have something squirted directly into their bodies, what a great way to make sure nobody is missed than actually documenting every person as they get it.

It's not that hard to get a shot, these shots are being specially documented to every person's name. This could be a whole new game.

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Letter: Need to return to united, not divided states – Whidbey News-Times

Posted: at 11:14 am

Editor,

In response to Al Williams letter to the editor regarding the natural, human state of tribalism, I would like to offer a quote or two from one or two men who might be regarded as patriots:

Ulysses S. Grant, speaking to Civil War vets in 1875, speculated that if ever the nation were torn apart again, it would not be split North versus South along the infamous Mason-Dixon Line, the geographic boundary that separated free and slave states. He surmised that in the future the dividing line would be reason itself, with intelligence on one side and ignorance on the other.

Austrian philosopher Karl Popper wrote, The more we try to return to the heroic age of tribalism, the more surely do we arrive at the Inquisition, at the Secret Police, and at a romanticized gangsterism, a horrible degeneration that begins with the push of a domino the suppression of reason and truth.

I quote these entries from A Warning, by Anonymous.

Another one is: Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

That was James Madison, April 20, 1795 in Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, vol. 4, p. 491 (1865)

Instead of focusing on how we are different, perhaps it is time for us to think about what we have in common as Americans and how we got to this state.

George Washington, in his 1796 Farewell Address said, The unity of government is a main pillar in the edifice or your real independence.

From different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth, as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively directed.

The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations.

In earlier times our rallying cry was, United we stand; divided we fall.

In my view, it needs to be again.

Marcia Nelson

Oak Harbor

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Whats Keeping the Vaccine From Getting to Those Who Need it Most? – The Nation

Posted: at 11:14 am

Stanford University medical residents protest the inequitable distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine in December. (Angela Primbas)

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The week before Christmas, hundreds of medical residents at Stanford University Hospital joined an emergency Zoom call. They had been brought together by shared outrage at their administrations allocation plans for its first 5,000 doses of the newly authorized vaccine for Covid-19, the pandemic that had defined their past year. Only seven of those shots were reserved for residents, the lowest-ranking physicians, even though theyre more often exposed to patients infected with the coronavirus than other employees whose work had been almost entirely remote. But some of those employeesincluding hospital executives and dermatologists whod only seen patients virtuallywere nonetheless ahead of them in line.

For Angela Primbas, an internal medicine resident at Stanford, it was the last straw. She and her colleagues had been putting in 80-hour weeks caring for Covid patients, often missing out on their programs educational curricula to pitch in and staff wards instead. Theyd also recently gotten word that a shipment of the N95 masks theyd been using had been defective, leaving the young doctors vulnerable to exposure. They were more anxious than ever to get the vaccine, only to discover theyd been left out.

There was just a lot of emotional and physical stress that had been piling up over the course of many months, and then to be just completely excluded from participating in the one bright spotthe light at the end of the tunnelwas so upsetting, Primbas recounted by phone. She and the other residents decided to take action. The hospital wanted to kick off its vaccine rollout with a public-facing photo op, and they were going to get one.

The following morning, hundreds of residents, physicians, nurses, and other supporters staged a major protest at Stanford Medical Center, demanding that workers with the most contact with patients be first in line. Spokespeople told multiple media outlets that they took full responsibility for the problem and would right it immediately, blaming the error on a flawed algorithm for determining whod get vaccinated first.the greater good

Residents have indeed been vaccinated since their headline-grabbing demonstration, but not before hearing from friends in programs elsewhere whose experiences paralleled their own. In hospitals like University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins, physicians told me, work-from-home PhD students in their 20s were routinely offered vaccines they believed would be better off given to patients.

Snafus across the country have gone well beyond snubbed hospital residents. Since vaccines were sent rapidly out to states, high-profile screwups have dominated media coverage of the effort. Federal contracts with CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate nursing homes dragged well behind schedule. Spanish-language sections on enrollment websites spouted misinformation. Hundreds of hopeful recipients camped out at rumored distribution sites only to leave without jabs. Untold numbers of unused doses wound up in dumpsters, while vaccine targets nationwide fell millions short.

Such disasters reflect the immense challenges of implementing the largest mass vaccination program in US history, which until recently was helmed by a federal government actively hostile to it. As the Biden administration settles in and vows to ramp up coordination of and financial support, state and local efforts will scramble to make up for lost time. Their ability to do so will depend on their willingness to reach the patients that the 21st century has left behind.Current Issue

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From the early days of the global coronavirus pandemic, societies have, to varying degrees, adhered to measures like social distancing and school and business closures. The goal was to flatten the curveto slow the viruss spread to avoid overwhelming hospitals intensive care unitsin hopes that a vaccine would soon be available. And not long after, it was: largely thanks to investments of billions of dollars from the US and German governments, pharmaceutical giants Pflizer and Moderna both produced vaccines that boasted around 95 percent efficacy in clinical trials, greatly reducing symptom severity in vaccinated patients. These results clinched emergency use authorizations from the Food and Drug Administration, and the vaccines began making their way into arms less than one year after the novel pathogen arrived on American soilan absolutely astonishing timeline.

After nearly a year of incalculable losstopping 400,000 American deaths, not to mention countless hours with friends and family deferredthe vaccine is a ticket back toward normalcy. But that normalcy may elude us until upwards of 90 percent of people develop antibodies against the virus, either through vaccination or infection. Given the unknowns about how long protection from infection lasts, reaching so-called herd immunity will require getting shots into nearly everyone in the country.

Theres really no precedent for that. While mass vaccinations have played a key role in United States public health policy, theyve tended to be somewhat targeted by geography or age: Specific neighborhoods or cities were vaccinated against smallpox in response to outbreaks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a few million doses of polio vaccine were administered to grade schoolers in the 1950s and 60s, and a slate of childhood immunizations are still delivered on a routine basis today. But rolling out a vaccine to hundreds of millions of adults in a relatively short time is an entirely different situation: while children almost always have institutional relationships with schools and pediatricians, their ties to potential service providers can loosen with age and allow them to fall through the cracks. Getting adults to the right place at the right time, despite varying schedules, care responsibilities, access to healthcare, relationships with the state and levels of trust in medicine, is a formidable project.

I asked Jason Schwartz, assistant professor of health policy at the Yale University School of Public Healthan expert in vaccine policy who spends every day of his life thinking about this stuffif hed ever imagined what exactly a nationwide mass vaccination program would be like. He told me he hadnt. This is so far beyond our vaccination playbook that it explains why so much of this work is being envisioned, imagined, and implemented in real time, he said. We have so few lessons to draw on, other than imperfect analogies to other aspects of vaccination.

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Public health departments across the country have had hypothetical plans for mass vaccinations on the books for yearsa tendency that ramped up in the 21st century in response to concerns about germ warfare in the aftermath of post-9/11 anthrax attacks. But since those were written, public health department funding has been gutted; as Kaiser Health News reports, Great Recessionera austerity measures still havent been fully reversed over a decade later. Todays state and local health department budgets are 16 percent and 18 percent smaller than they were in 2008, and employ nearly 40,000 fewer people. Further compounding the problem is that these plans have rested on a reasonable assumption that simply isnt true of the Covid-19 pandemic. The plans that were developed prior to 2020 pretty much all assumed we would have federal leadership and federal financing, said Lindsay Wiley, director of health law and policy at the American University Washington School of Law. There wasnt really a plan in place where the idea was what free commercial event planning software can we use if we get zero federal leadership and support?

Wileys framing is hardly an exaggeration: Mere days after the inauguration of President Joe Biden, reports began to circulate that there was no existing federal Covid-19 vaccine distribution plan for the new administration to inherit. This punted responsibility to state and local health departments, whose long-awaited funding for vaccine distribution, passed through Congresss December stimulus bill, only just began to trickle to recipients in mid-Januarymonths after it would have been most useful. Weve been calling for fundingscreaming for fundingfor months, Claire Hannon from the Association of Immunization Managers told me by phone. Obviously, its better late than never, but its difficult to only get funding after the vaccine has been rolled out.

When I asked Hannon about how the delayed federal cash will affect the overall rollout, she said shed always been much less worried about the first stage of vaccinations than she was about the waves that come next. Phase 1amade up of the highest-priority vaccine recipients, according to the CDCwas arguably the easiest part. As states move on to Phases 1b and 1c, debates have raged over who should get shots first and why. But as it turns out, vaccine prioritization is less a philosophical question than a logistical one.

Even as the Trump administration left public health departments adrift, with no federal support or coordination for months on end, it had little hesitation about funneling resources into the private sector. Multimillion-dollar contracts were awarded to Walgreens and CVS to administer doses to the countrys 3 million nursing home residents, who along with 20 million health care workers comprised Phase 1a of vaccine allocation. But the drugstore giants lagged weeks behind schedule in state after state, with Oklahoma, Michigan, and Mississippi going so far as to beg the federal government to allow them to reassign nursing home vaccinations to other pharmacies or public health officials. Aharon Adler, a nursing home manager in Chicago, struggled to get information from CVS before they arrived to vaccinate workers and residents. Hed been prepared so inadequately for the big day that he hadnt even been told that shot recipients had to stay for observation in a socially distanced room, and the only space hed designated was too small, slowing down the process by several hours. When we talked by phone, Adler still hadnt been able to confirm with CVS when exactly theyd return for the second dose. Notably, the only state that didnt work with CVS or WalgreensWest Virginiaalso became the first to successfully vaccinate all of their nursing homes.

While CVS and Walgreens were woefully botching the nursing home rollout, high-profile incidents like Stanfords allocation algorithm began stoking outrage on social media. New Yorks Governor Cuomo endeavored to combat such unfairness by threatening stiff penalties for institutions that vaccinated anyone out of order, which reportedly spooked some hospitals into throwing unused doses in the trash instead. Meanwhile, relatively substantial numbers of people included in Phase 1a reportedly declined the vaccine, or preferred to take it later once theyd seen others do so safely.

The combined impact of these mishaps was that the early stage of the rollout underperformed projections by several million doses. Those meager numbersas well as anecdotes about undeserving recipients and overemphasized but rage-inducing images of shots piled up in garbage cansbegan fueling a backlash against what was by January being widely characterized as a disaster.

At this point, a growing chorus began chucking the baby out with the bath water. People were right to be angry at how the first month of the rollout had gone. But instead of blaming players like a callous federal government and drugstore giants whod failed to deliver on promises, many onlookers ascribed the mess to the concept of vaccine prioritization itself. Dictating what groups get the shot first, they argued, straitjackets the process, when we really need to just get shots in arms. As Phase 1a finally drew to a close, the far harder work loomed. And for Phases 1b and beyond, the argument went, public health departments ought to broaden eligibility beyond vulnerable subgroups and focus simply on speedy injections at a massive scale.

The title of an essay from bioethics think tank The Hastings Center put it succinctly: Ethics Supports Seeking Population Immunity, Not Immunizing Priority Groups. Just before Trump left office, his administration endorsed this view, stipulating that anyone over age 65 should now be eligible to receive a vaccine. Were telling states today that they should open vaccinations to all of their most vulnerable people, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on January 12. That is the most effective way to save lives now. Several states, including Florida and Louisiana, have followed this directive. In Texas, state health officials went so far as to spike a Dallas plan to start vaccinating high-risk communities of color in favor of a broader, non prioritized program.

That shift may make intuitive sense, but it doesnt hold up to scrutiny. While its good to allow some flexibility in vaccine distribution guidelines to avoid unforced waste, prioritization schemes are far less of a limitation than the fact that states are still struggling to build up supportive infrastructure to do thisnot to mention the scarcity of doses in the first place. Adding tens of millions of people to the list of now eligible recipients doesnt make that any easierit would be like addressing long waits at the grocery checkout by doubling the number of people in line, instead of opening up more cash registers.

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After all, prioritization isnt just a matter of making a list with the power to magically summon arms in a particular orderit requires an active outreach strategy. Given how long the largest mass vaccination program in American history will takeperhaps nearly a year, per conservative estimatesit makes sense to strategize how to target both those patients most likely to die from the virus and those most likely to transmit it. Counterintuitively, doing away with prioritization in favor of speed and efficiency will actually do less to save lives, because the people most able to navigate the process of accessing the vaccine are overwhelmingly the least at risk. Figuring out how to enroll through a website or care provider, being able to take off work, and traveling to a vaccine site for two different doses are all rendered easier by class privilege.

This dynamic has already borne out starkly: in Washington, D.C., the number of early vaccine signups in a given neighborhood is directly correlated with how wealthy its residents are. In Chicago, race has proven a predictive factor. Unsurprisingly, wealth and race also correlates to employment in high-risk frontline jobs, affliction from debilitating comorbidities and residence in overcrowded housing most likely to drive infections. In other words, a passive approach of first come, first serve practically guarantees that the people who are safest from the virusricher, whiter, more connected people who work from home or can otherwise afford to hide therewill comprise the early wave of vaccination, as the people most likely to die or spread it remain unprotected. Beyond being unjust, that ensures the societal benefits of vaccination will be as minimal as possible.

But what exactly does effective outreach strategy look like? When I asked experts whos doing it right, I kept hearing the same surprising answer: Perhaps the best model for vaccine distribution in the country right now is happening in Central Falls, R.I.

Home to around 20,000 people, Central Falls is a city of superlatives: Its the most densely populated city in the state, the poorest, and the only one with a majority of residents of color. It was also the most affected by the coronavirus epidemic, with case rates per capita doubling those in hard-hit areas of New York.

Overwhelmed by his duties as the public health commissioner of Central Falls, Dr. Michael Fine began researching other countries coronavirus mitigation strategies last spring, as infections surged in his own community. When you look around the world, Fine told me by phone, its very clear that the places that have done best with coronavirus have been places that put people to work and invest in a lot more public health presence than the United States does. He set out to apply those insights, using money distributed to the city to hire 15 so-called health ambassadors from both Spanish and English-speaking communities within Central Falls to implement the citys pandemic response measures.

Since the spring, Fine told me, the health ambassadors have donned bright orange uniforms and maintained a presence at busy spots in town, like outside the Dollar Tree and City Hall. They handed out masks and talked to passers-by about why they were important, eventually driving local mask usage rates from less than 50 percent to over 90 percent. Later, they helped remind locals to get their flu shots, and helped enroll eligible participants in early vaccine trials. As Fine tells it, the health ambassadors became well-known and credible conduits for critical health information, relaying messaging within their own communities in ways officials could not.

And now, as the city rolls out the vaccine, the health ambassadors role is more important than ever. As part of a pilot program to stress test vaccine distribution, the State of Rhode Island opted to focus first on Central Fallszeroing in on a highly distressed ZIP code, and affording local officials latitude within it. To kick off the program, Fine and the vaccination teamcomplete with health ambassadors whod already been stationed thereset up a clinic at the public housing authority, knocking on doors and vaccinating everyone who accepted a shot. Both Fine and Central Falls Mayor James Diossa both got their first shots on-site, to demonstrate the vaccines safety. But Fine believes the health ambassadors helped things go as smoothly as possible: The ambassadors were there with the teams interpreting, and because of their very local presence, I think it was more comfortable for people.

Once the vaccination teams had worked through the public housing buildings, the ambassadors resumed their stations around townthis time, enrolling and teaching residents about vaccines and when and how to get one, like on one Saturday morning at the Kiwanis Club parking lot. And each morning before the start of their shifts, they have a bilingual Zoom meeting to discuss what theyre hearing about the vaccines, how to get people excited for them, how to assuage anxiety or quell rumors swirling about them. Fine encourages them to discuss their own experiences getting vaccinated to reassure their neighbors. In one meeting I was invited to, one health ambassador described how he was running into fewer and fewer people who had misgivings about the vaccine, and more and more people excited to get theirs.

The Central Falls model offers an effective strategy not only for prioritizing vulnerable people but actually reaching them. Thats whats missing from discussions about vaccine distributionas it turns out, the biggest logistical challenge of turning vaccines into vaccinations isnt maintaining extremely cold storage or even reaching consensus on who gets it first, but how to connect and coordinate with patients who are often by definition among societys hardest to reach.

Models like that used in Central Fallsactually going out into communities, and knocking on doors or setting up tables and clinicshave been successfully deployed by public health departments for diseases like tuberculosis, another deadly respiratory disease that shares Covid-19s predilection for the poor and vulnerable. For example, I once wrote about an outbreak among undocumented Chinese immigrants in 2013 and 2014. NYC public health officials were able to trace several cases to an Internet caf and karaoke bar in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and sent workers there to test regulars on site, identifying and treating several additional cases. TB caseworkers also routinely bring medicines or administer antibiotic injections to patients in their homes and workplaces, saving them the burden of traveling to the clinic and making the sometimes lengthy treatments easier to adhere to.

Devising ways of reaching people less institutionally connected to the healthcare system has been central to many public health initiatives, Nabila El-Bassel, director of the Social Intervention Group at the Columbia University School of Social Work, told me. Mass vaccination teams should draw on those lessons, she says: Im thinking about people who use drugs, people in homeless shelters, in soup kitchens, in domestic violence shelters, or in community supervision programs. If we want to get into these populations, weve got to think about nontraditional sites and strategies. We cant just wait for them to come to us.

Experts have long debated how to handle the so-called last mile problem, or the logistics of getting a vaccine from the warehouse or hospital into the arm of a patient. Sometimes, the best option is to travel the last mile for them.

After all, vaccines may be the single most life-saving invention in the history of medicine, but no disease has ever been beaten by science. Turning vaccines into vaccinations requires vast amounts of resources and labor: investment in transformative pharmaceutical research, manufacturing operations, shipping and storage, administrative coordination, public messaging, pharmacists and health care workers, clinic supplies and planning, community outreach and ways to keep them all on the same page. How those elements are marshaled, and on whose behalf, arent questions that science can answer.

Those fights happen squarely in the realm of politics: As President Bidens administration sets to work building a federal distribution plan from scratch, and the deposits from the second stimulus bill finally hit state and local health departments accounts, were finally in place to start catching up to make mass vaccination work. If we do things right, and implement strategies for meeting the most vulnerable people where they are, the amount of sorrow wrought by the coronavirus will be all but stamped out by the time we pass 300 million vaccinations. Should we fail, the outcomes will look more or less like the past yearwith sorrow and death doled out to people who deserved shots instead.

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Letter: Need to return to united, not divided states – South Whidbey Record

Posted: February 2, 2021 at 7:15 pm

Editor,

In response to Al Williams letter to the editor regarding the natural, human state of tribalism, I would like to offer a quote or two from one or two men who might be regarded as patriots:

Ulysses S. Grant, speaking to Civil War vets in 1875, speculated that if ever the nation were torn apart again, it would not be split North versus South along the infamous Mason-Dixon Line, the geographic boundary that separated free and slave states. He surmised that in the future the dividing line would be reason itself, with intelligence on one side and ignorance on the other.

Austrian philosopher Karl Popper wrote, The more we try to return to the heroic age of tribalism, the more surely do we arrive at the Inquisition, at the Secret Police, and at a romanticized gangsterism, a horrible degeneration that begins with the push of a domino the suppression of reason and truth.

I quote these entries from A Warning, by Anonymous.

Another one is: Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

That was James Madison, April 20, 1795 in Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, vol. 4, p. 491 (1865)

Instead of focusing on how we are different, perhaps it is time for us to think about what we have in common as Americans and how we got to this state.

George Washington, in his 1796 Farewell Address said, The unity of government is a main pillar in the edifice or your real independence.

From different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth, as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively directed.

The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations.

In earlier times our rallying cry was, United we stand; divided we fall.

In my view, it needs to be again.

Marcia Nelson

Oak Harbor

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Bill Gates: 3 innovations that will help America get ahead of the next pandemic – CNBC

Posted: at 7:15 pm

"[P]andemic preparedness must be taken as seriously as we take the threat of war."

That's according to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's annual letter published Wednesday.

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Although the Covid pandemic is still raging, the billionaire philanthropist has ideas about how the world can better address the next pandemic.

Gates, whose foundation has committed$1.75 billionin the fight against Covid to date, wrote that the world needs to be spending tens of billions of dollars each year on pandemic preparedness.

"I think of this as the best and most cost-efficient insurance policy the world could buy," he said.

Here are strategies that Gates believes will help future outbreaks:

At the start of the pandemic, the United States lagged behind many countries in terms of diagnostic testing capacity.

"By the next pandemic, I'm hopeful we'll have what I call mega-diagnostic platforms, which could test as much as 20% of the global population every week," Gates wrote. (In the past, Gates has discussed the need for more efficient tests, like at-home rapid tests.)

In addition to testing, Gates pointed to promising therapeutic treatments, such as monoclonal antibodies, which have been shown to be effective at reducing the risk of death and hospitalization from Covid. Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-produced molecules that mimic the immune system's ability to fight off harmful antigens such as viruses, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The success of messenger RNA vaccines (both the Pfizer and Morderna Covid vaccines are RNA) is another reason to be hopeful. They "essentially turn your body into its own vaccine manufacturing unit," Gates wrote in an April 2020 blog post. And RNA vaccines are more versatile and can be manufactured more easily and faster than conventional vaccines.

The efficiency of RNA vaccines will only increase: "I predict that mRNA vaccines will become faster to develop, easier to scale, and more stable to store over the next five to ten years," Gates said in the foundation's annual letter. "That would be a huge breakthrough, both for future pandemics and for other global health challenges."

In early December, Gates said that there needs to be a team of 3,000 infectious disease experts whose job it is to spot and quickly address a pandemic when it arises.

"Think of this corps as a pandemic fire squad," Gates wrote in the letter. "Just like firefighters, they're fully trained professionals who are ready to respond to potential crises at a moment's notice."

"When they aren't actively responding to an outbreak, they keep their skills sharp by working on diseases like malaria and polio," Gates said.

There should also be a large scale "global alert system" that healthcare workers can use to log patient data, identify trends and ultimately pick up on a pandemic sooner, he added. (Smaller decentralized systems for spotting infectious disease outbreaks exist. For example, last year, the Canadian startup BlueDot used its artificial intelligence platform to pick up on a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China before the pandemic was declared.)

In order to stay prepared, Gates suggested worldwide "germ games," which are organized and sophisticated "simulations that let [experts] practice, analyze, and improve how we respond to disease outbreaks, just as war games let the military prepare for real-life warfare," Gates said.

Before the pandemic, the United States did not have ample experience handling respiratory outbreaks, which is one of the reasons the country's response was delayed and fragmented. Simulations could help train and prepare the groups of infectious disease experts.

"Speed matters in a pandemic," Gates said. "The faster you act, the faster you cut off exponential growth of the virus."

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1887: The invasion of the rabbit – Stuff.co.nz

Posted: at 7:14 pm

THE PRESS 160 YEARS is a series marking the launch of The Press newspaper in Christchurch on May 25, 1861. Between now and the anniversary, The Press will revisit stories from every year of publication.

Canterbury was preoccupied with an infestation of rabbits in the late 1880s. They were to the north of us and heading south. They were crossing the border from Otago.

It was even a talking point during an otherwise dry pre-election address by Premier Julius Vogel when he spoke at the Theatre Royal on July 19, 1887.

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This rabbit in north Canterbury is probably the distant descendant of those that preoccupied 19th century politicians.

He had been looking into this question lately, and it seemed to him that Canterbury was threatened with an invasion of rabbits which would reduce by one half the carrying capacity of the land, The Press reported.

He need only point to the examples of Southland and Otago to show the evil effects of the pest. Some years back these districts exported 46 per cent of the total value of wool for the colony. Now it had fallen to 25 per cent, and all this was due to the incursion of the rabbits which had taken place there.

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In view of the importance of dealing with the matter without any of the delay which had taken place elsewhere, and which was to some extent responsible for the damage done, the Government had taken the responsibility of ordering netting to be brought out in anticipation of Parliament dealing with the question on an ample scale. He could only hope that they would not allow such desolation on the Canterbury Plains as had occurred in Otago and Southland.

Another idea had been floated at a Canterbury Chamber of Commerce meeting in May. How about using stoats and weasels to combat the rabbits? While some objection has been taken the evidence of a most reliable authority on the subject proves clearly that the nature and instinct of the animals will prevent them from ever becoming a nuisance in the colony.

As for germ warfare promoted by the celebrated inoculator Louis Pasteur and others, The Press urged caution in an editorial published on December 3, 1887: It is to be remembered that many diseases fatal to mankind have arisen from cognate forms in the lower animals. It is necessary to repel the invasion of the rabbit, but if the war is to be waged with microbes and sarcoptes cuniculi, the matter should be cautiously undertaken.

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