'Breeding Bio Insecurity' argues for change in biodefense policy


November 12, 2009

Biological warfare has shaped human conflict throughout history. But the deadly anthrax-letter mailings following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks presented Americans with a threat new and terrifying. What if the resources spent to safeguard American citizens against terrorism have only made them more vulnerable?

With their new book, "Breeding Bio Insecurity: How U.S. Biodefense is Exporting Fear, Globalizing Risk, and Making Us All Less Secure," Edward Sylvester, an Arizona State University journalism professor, and Lynn Klotz, a senior science fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, investigate the implications of costly, complex and secretive U.S. biodefense policy. Download Full Image

The book, released in October, offers readers facts and figures regarding the U.S. government's biodefense policy, and compels policymakers to justify spending and actions. The authors argue that the greatest external threat facing the U.S. comes from rogue nations conducting secret research rather than hypothetical scenarios in which people with basic skills weaponize deadly biomaterials.

"We have an urgent message that everyone needs to hear," says Sylvester, who teaches science writing, news writing, reporting and editing courses at ASU's Walter">http://cronkite.asu.edu/">Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Sylvester, who previously co-authored "The Gene Age" with Klotz, says, "‘Bio Insecurity' started out as a series of conversations with Lynn, a scientist who is an expert in the field of biological security issues and one of my oldest friends. We became increasingly concerned that the government was taking the wrong direction in preparing against possible bioterrorism attacks in the years after Sept. 11.

"Terrorists are best known for stealing what they use to kill, everything from rifles to jetliners," says Sylvester. "The only realistic way for terrorists to get their hands on highly developed pathogen stocks to make such weapons is by stealing them, and the government was making that more likely by funding research into those pathogens at a rapidly increasing number of places around the country."

The anthrax used against American citizens in the attacks after Sept. 11 was almost certainly stolen from Fort Detrick in Maryland, he notes.

"It was the extremely lethal Ames strain, cultured by well-trained scientists. It couldn't have been grown from a soil sample in someone's basement lab or a cave somewhere," Sylvester says.

The number of high bio-security labs in the country has tripled in the last several years. The expansion of the biodefense program after Sept. 11 and its clandestine nature make the centers more susceptible to lethal accidents or theft. The book asserts that the only way to truly defend the country from bioterrorism is through multilateral activities, such as treaties, and international cooperation on defenses against all diseases.

The future potential for biowarfare in the absence of such concerted efforts is truly ominous, Sylvester says.

"When you realize the propensity of countries to bring whatever is most powerful into warfare and you combine that with the stunning possibilities for manipulating the living world, you enter a whole new world of dark possibilities," he says.

Sylvester also is the author of three books on medical research: "Target: Cancer," "The Healing Blade: A Tale of Neurosurgery," and "Back From The Brink: How Crises Spur Doctors To New Discoveries About the Brain."


Written by Danielle Kuffler (dkuffler">mailto:dkuffler@asu.edu">dkuffler@asu.edu).

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Volleyball fired up for part two of the 'Duel in the Desert'


November 12, 2009

The Sun Devil Women’s Volleyball Team (13-12 overall, 3-10 Pac-10) will take to the road again this weekend as they head down to Tucson to finish off the 2009 ‘Duel in the Desert’ as they set to take on in-state rival, No. 18 Arizona (17-7, 6-7 Pac-10) Friday night at 7 p.m. in the McKale Center.

Follow The Sun Devils Live!:
ASU’s fans can follow all of ASU’s home matches, as well as some road matches, via the free statistical GameTracker system at www.thesundevils.com. Just click on the Women’s Volleyball schedule and click on the live stats link! Download Full Image

Recapping Last Weekend:
Against Oregon State: The Sun Devils came out of the gates ready to rattle the cage on Friday night as Sarah">http://thesundevils.cstv.com/sports/w-volley/mtt/reaves_sarah00.html">Sarah Reaves immediately exploded for five kills with Cat">http://thesundevils.cstv.com/sports/w-volley/mtt/highmark_cat00.html">Cat Highmark showing the way with 13 assists to make the magic happen as ASU hit .433 in the first set to send a message with a 25-16 win, which bodes well for ASU as they headed into the match 10-0 when winning the first set. This match was no different as ASU didn’t let up for the second set with Sarah">http://thesundevils.cstv.com/sports/w-volley/mtt/reaves_sarah00.html">Sarah Reaves swinging like she was unstoppable with seven kills in the second set as the D held it down at the night with 2.5 more blocks, to push their tally to 7.5 blocks after just two sets.

The Beavers weren’t going away quietly though, as Sun Devil errors let them right back in the set that they snaked away from ASU 25-23 to tie it at 1-1 going into the break. The Sun Devils weren’t ready to let this one slip away though as they came out of the break to hit .238 with Reave’s six kills leading the way again. OSU hung tough pushing four tie scores and two lead changes though, but in the end ASU grabbed set three with a 25-20 win. ASU only needed four though as Ashley">http://thesundevils.cstv.com/sports/w-volley/mtt/kastl_ashley00.html">As... Kastl slammed four kills down on the table with the Sun Devil D posting 4.5 total blocks as ASU ran off with a 25-13 win in the fourth set to finish it off. The win was also a bench mark in Head Coach Jason Watson’s career as he collected his 100th career coaching win in Corvallis.

Against No. 14 Oregon: The Sun Devils took to the court in Eugene but couldn’t seem to find the offensive rhythm they had against Oregon State the night before as they broke even in the first set with only eight kills and eight errors to give UO a 25-16 first set win. The Sun Devils pieced together more offense in the second set only to see the Ducks step it up with a .324 attack percentage and five blocks to hold the Sun Devils at bay in the second set as well with another 25-16 win. Three was the magic number for Oregon as they hit .333 in the third set as well as posting five blocks again to stifle the Sun Devil offense who managed to finally put their offense in sync, but found the effort too late as they fell 25-20 to complete the sweep.

Scouting This Weekend’s Competition/Series History:
No. 18 Arizona: The Sun Devils will face their in-state rival the Arizona Wildcats for the 77th time in program history, holding a slight 40-36 edge over the ‘Cats. In Pac-10 history, ASU is 26-20 over UA with Arizona leading the series in Tucson with a scant 12-11 record.