On September 20, 1950, a US Navy ship just off the coast of San Francisco used a giant hose to spray a cloud of microbes into the air and into the city’s famous fog. The military was testing how a biological weapon attack would affect the 800,000 residents of the city.
The people of San Francisco had no idea.
The Navy continued the tests for seven days, potentially causing at least one death. It was one of the first large-scale biological weapon trials that would be conducted under a “germ warfare testing program” that went on for 20 years, from 1949 to 1969. The goal “was to deter [the use of biological weapons] against the United States and its allies and to retaliate if deterrence failed,” the government explained later. “Fundamental to the development of a deterrent strategy was the need for a thorough study and analysis of our vulnerability to overt and covert attack.”
Of the 239 known tests in that program, San Francisco was notable for two reasons, according to Dr. Leonard Cole, who documented the episode in his book “Clouds of Secrecy: The Army’s Germ Warfare Tests Over Populated Areas.”
Cole, now the director of the Terror Medicine and Security Program at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, tells Business Insider that this incident was “notable: first, because it was really early in the program … but also because of the extraordinary coincidence that took place at Stanford Hospital, beginning days after the Army’s tests had taken place.”
Hospital staff were so shocked at the appearance of a patient infected with a bacteria, Serratia marcescens, that had never been found in the hospital and was rare in the area, that they published an article about it in a medical journal. The patient, Edward Nevin, died after the infection spread to his heart.
S. marcescens was one of the two types of bacteria the Navy ship had sprayed over the Bay Area.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that Americans, as Cole wrote in the book, “learned that for decades they had been serving as experimental animals for agencies of their government.”
San Francisco wasn’t the first or the last experiment on citizens who hadn’t given informed consent.
Other experiments involved testing mind-altering drugs on unsuspecting citizens. In one shocking, well-known incident, government researchers studied the effects of syphilis on black Americans without informing the men that they had the disease — they were told they had “bad blood.” Researchers withheld treatment after it became available so they could continue studying the illness, despite the devastating and life-threatening implications of doing so for the men and their families.
But it was the germ warfare tests that Cole focused on.
“All these other tests, while terrible, they affected people counted in the hundreds at most,” he says. “But when you talk about exposing millions of people to potential harm, by spreading around certain chemicals or biological agents, the quantitative effect of that is just unbelievable.”
“Every one of the [biological and chemical] agents the Army used had been challenged” by medical reports, he says, despite the Army’s contention in public hearings that they’d selected “harmless simulants” of biological weapons.
“They’re all considered pathogens now,” Cole says.
Here are some of the other difficult-to-believe germ warfare experiments that occurred during this dark chapter in US history. These tests were documented in Cole’s book and verified by Business Insider using congressional reports and archived news articles.
From Minneapolis to St. Louis
The military tested how a biological or chemical weapon would spread throughout the country by spraying bacteria as well as various chemical powders — including an especially controversial one called zinc cadmium sulfide. Low flying airplanes would take off, sometimes near the Canadian border, “and they would fly down through the Midwest,” dropping their payloads over cities, says Cole.
These sprays were tested on the ground too, with machines that would release clouds from city rooftops or intersections to see how they spread.
In the book, Cole cites military reports that documented various Minneapolis tests, including one where chemicals spread through a school. The clouds were clearly visible.
To prevent suspicion, the military pretended that they were testing a way to mask the whole city in order to protect it. They told city officials that “the tests involved efforts to measure ability to lay smoke screens about the city” to “hide” it in case of nuclear attack, according to Cole’s account.
The potential toxicity of that controversial compound zinc cadmium sulfide is debated. One component, cadmium, is highly toxic and can cause cancer. Some reports suggest a possibility that the zinc cadmium sulfide could perhaps degrade into cadmium, but a 1997 report from the National Research Council concluded that the Army’s secret tests “did not expose residents of the United States and Canada to chemical levels considered harmful.” However, the same report noted that research on the chemical used was sparse, mostly based on very limited animal studies.
These air tests were conducted around the country as part of Operation Large Area Coverage.
“There was evidence that the powder after it was released would be then located a day or two later as far away as 1,200 miles,” Cole says. “There was a sense that you could really blanket the country with a similar agent.”
City tests were conducted in St. Louis, too.
In 2012, Lisa Martino-Taylor, a sociology professor at St. Louis Community College-Meramec, released a report theorizing that the army’s experiments could be connected to cancer rates in a low-income, mostly black neighborhood in the city where zinc cadmium sulfide had been tested. She said she was concerned that there could have been a radioactive component to some testing, though she did not have direct evidence for that possibility.
Her report, however, prompted both senators from Missouri to write to the Army secretary, “demanding answers,” the Associated Press noted at the time.
While Martino-Taylor’s suggestion remains purely hypothetical, “the human dimension is never mentioned” in most Army documents, Cole writes in the book. Instead there’s just a discussion of how well the particulates spread and what they learned about the possibility of biological attacks from them.
1966: “A Study of the Vulnerability of Subway Passengers in New York City to Covert Attack with Biological Agents”
The New York subway system experiments are among the most shocking in terms of the numbers of people exposed, according to Cole.
In a field test called “A Study of the Vulnerability of Subway Passengers in New York City to Covert Attack with Biological Agents,” military officials tried to see how easy it would be to unleash biological weapons using the New York City subway. They would break light bulbs full of bacteria on the tracks to see how they spread through the city.
“If you can get trillions of bacteria into a light bulb and throw it on the track as a train pulls into a station, they’ll get pulled through the air as the train leaves,” Cole says, travelling through the tunnels and into different stations.
Clouds would engulf people as trains pulled away, but documents say that they “brushed their clothing, looked up at the grating apron and walked on.” No one was concerned.
In a 1995 Newsday story, reporter Dennis Duggan contacted retired Army scientist Charles Senseney, who had testified about the experiments to a Senate subcommittee in 1975. In his testimony, he explained that one light bulb full of bacteria dropped at 14th Street easily spread the bacteria up to at least 58th Street.
But he declined to reveal anything to the Newsday reporter. “I don’t want to get near this,” Senseney said to Duggan. “I [testified], because I was told I had to by the people at the Department of Defense … I better get off the phone.”
Experiments continued in New York for six days using Bacillus subtilis, then known as Bacillus globigii, and S. marcescens.
A paper from the National Academy of Sciences analyzing military experiments notes that B. globigii is “now considered a pathogen” and is often a cause of food poisoning. “Infections are rarely known to be fatal,” the report said — though fatal cases have occurred.
Particularly controversial tests
Another controversial experiment described in Cole’s book involved a test at the Norfolk Naval Supply Center. The experimenters packed crates with fungal spores to see how they would affect the people unpacking those crates.
Cole’s book notes that “portions of a report about an army test in 1951 involving Aspergillus fumigatus … indicate that the army intentionally exposed a disproportionate number of black people to the organism.” Most of the employees at the supply center were black.
In the military reports cited by Cole, researchers claim they are preparing for an attack that might target black citizens. He quotes from a section that reads: “Since Negroes are more susceptible to coccidioides than are whites, this fungus disease was simulated.”
When these experiments were first revealed in 1980, the racial aspect of these tests engendered controversy and skepticism about the “army’s interest in the public welfare,” according to Cole.
Tests revealed by an unexpected source
Many of these experiments on the American public were first investigated by what we would consider questionable sources.
One 1979 Washington Post news story discusses open air experiments in the Tampa Bay area involving the release of pertussis, or whooping cough, in 1955. State records show that whooping cough cases in Florida spiked from 339 (one death) in 1954 to 1,080 (12 deaths) in 1955, according to that story.
But it’s hard to trace how accurate the information about the whooping cough release is: The only documentation goes back to an investigation by the Church of Scientology.
The Church of Scientology formed a group called American Citizens for Honesty in Government that spent a significant amount of time investigating controversial experiments run by the Army and CIA, according to the Post. Through FOIA requests they uncovered a number of documents related to these experiments in the late 1970s.
Cole understands why some people are skeptical of those reports. “I certainly am not a member and I think a lot of what they do is quackery,” he says, but “in this case, I have no reason to believe any of this isn’t real.”
Many of the documents Scientologists made public were the same documents he’d received doing his own research, redacted in the same places.
Perhaps the hardest question is how much information is still missing.
As Cole writes in the book:
Many details about the army’s tests over populated areas remain secret. Most of the test reports are still classified or cannot be located, although a few of the earlier ones have become available in response to Freedom of Information Act requests and in conjunction with the Nevin case. Among those available, sections have been blocked out and pages are missing.
What we learned
Military officials were called to testify before Congress in 1977 after information about these biological warfare experiments was revealed.
At the time, those officials said that determining just how vulnerable the US was to a biological attack “required extensive research and development to determine precisely our vulnerability, the efficacy of our protective measures, and the tactical and strategic capability of various delivery systems and agents,” according to a record of that testimony quoted in “Clouds of Secrecy.”
Cole too says it’s hard to see these events now from the perspective that people had then.
There was “a different mindset in the country then … [a] Cold War mentality,” he says. But, he argues, that doesn’t justify glossing over the already known potential danger of the agents used.
At the same time, part of what the military knows about how clouds of chemicals spread comes from these experiments. Cole says that knowledge gleaned from these biological warfare testing programs helped inform the US reaction when reports came in on the potential use of chemical weapons in the first Gulf War.
So what’s happening now?
Cole says that the obvious question that’s on people’s minds is what’s happening now. After all, if secret tests could occur then, what prevents them from continuing? Are they, in fact, still going on?
He doesn’t think it’s likely.
“I would never swear on your life or my life that nothing illegitimate is happening, but based on what I do know, I don’t have any sense that there’s illicit activity now that would involve risking exposure to tons of people, as happened in the 50s and 60s,” he says.
Biological agents are still studied and tested, but informed consent is more widely appreciated now. There’s also less of a Cold War mentality that would be used to justify this research.
Still, more recent reports show that experiments in this area went on longer than we thought.
In 2001, a New York Times report revealed projects testing biological weapons that began under the Clinton administration and continued under the second Bush administration. A 1972 treaty theoretically prohibited developing biological weapons, but this program justified it with the argument that new weapons needed to be studied in order to develop adequate defenses.
And the “War on Terror” raises other concerns, according to Cole.
After the 2001 anthrax attacks, funding for bioterrorism research spiked by $1.5 billion. Then in 2004, Congress approved another $5.6 billion bioterror research project.
These projects are meant to protect society from the dangers of biological agents, but they may have an unintended consequence, Cole says.
“Thousands and thousands of people became familiar with pathogens that they were not familiar with before,” he says. “You now have many more people that could potentially do bad with these organisms, and it only takes one person.”
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Fears coronavirus will spark divorce surge as couples self-isolate together for months
Coronavirus is “very likely” to lead to an increase in marriage break-ups because of people being confined together for long periods in self-isolation, a leading divorce lawyer has said.
Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia, whose previous clients have included Sir Paul McCartney, the Prince of Wales, Madonna and Liam Gallagher, revealed the view of the profession as a growing number of households go into voluntary lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of infection.
Official health advice states that if one person in a property has a persistent cough or fever, everyone living there should stay at home for 14 days.
Nicknamed the “Steel Magnolia” for her skills and charm, Lady Shackleton told peers at Westminster: “The prediction amongst divorce lawyers is that following self-imposed confinement it is very likely that the divorce rate will rise.
“Our peak times are after long exposure during the summer holidays and over Christmas.
“One only has to imagine what it’s going to be like when families are sealed in a property for a long period of time.”
Anyone with a new continuous cough or fever is currently advised to self-isolate for seven days, while anyone else in the household must do the same for 14 days.
The vulnerable, including over-70s, diabetics, asthmatics and pregnant women, are about to be ordered to self-isolate for three months.
Brits have also been told to avoid pubs and theatres over the coming months in the battle with the killer bug, which has claimed 71 lives in the UK and is feared to have infected 55,000 people.
Boris Johnson will today face questions from MPs on his coronavirus strategy after the Government announced an “unprecedented” £350 billion package of support to help businesses survive the crisis.
The Prime Minister and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak vowed to do “whatever it takes” to buoy the economy.
Measures unveiled by Mr Sunak on Tuesday evening included government-backed loans worth £330 billion – equivalent to 15% of GDP – to help businesses which need access to cash, and a package of tax cuts and grants worth more than £20 billion.
Warning that “never in peacetime” had the UK “faced an economic fight like this one”, he also announced plans for three-month mortgage holidays for homeowners suffering outbreak-related difficulties.
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In this image taken from video provided by the Malacanang RTVM, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, center, gestures as he delivers his speech at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines, on Thursday March 12, 2020.(AP)
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is allowing for the use of deadly force against those found violating lockdown standards implemented in an effort curtail the spread of the coronavirus.
In a televised address on Wednesday, Duterte emphasized the importance of respecting the quarantine guidelines as authorities work to slow the virus, which has infected nearly 1 million people worldwide, according to Reuters. The volatile leader added he’s granted the military and local authorities permission to shoot those resisting the new measures and abusing medical officials.
“It is getting worse. So once again I’m telling you the seriousness of the problem and that you must listen,” Duterte said in a broadcast to the nation’s 107 million residents.
“My orders to the police and military … if there is trouble and there’s an occasion that they fight back and your lives are in danger, shoot them dead.”
“Is that understood? Dead. Instead of causing trouble, I will bury you.”
National police chief Gen. Archie Gamboa on Thursday clarified the president’s remarks, noting authorities understood he “just overemphasized” the law and that lethal force would only be used when absolutely necessary, Bloomberg News reported.
Duterte’s warning came one day after the Philippines recorded its largest daily increase of infections and coronavirus deaths. The total confirmed cases most recently stood at 2,084, with 88 fatalities.
It also came on the heel of media reports detailing the arrests of several residents in a poor area of Manila, who were protesting a lack of sufficient government food and aid.
China has concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in its country, under-reporting both total cases and deaths it’s suffered from the disease, the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a classified report to the White House, according to three U.S. officials.
The officials asked not to be identified because the report is secret, and they declined to detail its contents. But the thrust, they said, is that China’s public reporting on cases and deaths is intentionally incomplete. Two of the officials said the report concludes that China’s numbers are fake.
The report was received by the White House last week, one of the officials said.
The outbreak began in China’s Hubei province in late 2019, but the country has publicly reported only about 82,000 cases and 3,300 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. That compares to more than 189,000 cases and more than 4,000 deaths in the U.S., which has the largest publicly reported outbreak in the world.
Trump said Wednesday that China’s reported virus data appear to be on the “light side” but that he hadn’t received an intelligence report saying the country had concealed the extent of its outbreak.
“Their numbers seem to be a little bit on the light side, and I’m being nice when I say that,” he said at a daily coronavirus briefing at the White House.
Trump added that the U.S. and China were in constant communication and that Beijing would spend $250 billionto purchase American products. “We’d like to keep it, they’d like to keep it” he said of the U.S.-China trade deal.
Communications staff at the White House and the Chinese embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
“The reality is that we could have been better off if China had been more forthcoming,” Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday on CNN. “What appears evident now is that long before the world learned in December that China was dealing with this, and maybe as much as a month earlier than that, that the outbreak was real in China.
While China eventually imposed a strict lockdown beyond those of less autocratic nations, there has been considerable skepticism toward China’s reported numbers, both outside and within the country. The Chinese government has repeatedly revised its methodology for counting cases, for weeks excluding people without symptoms entirely, and only on Tuesday added more than 1,500 asymptomatic cases to its total.
Stacks of thousands of urns outside funeral homes in Hubei province have driven public doubt in Beijing’s reporting.
Republican lawmakers in the U.S. have been particularly harsh about China’s role in the outbreak. Enhancing Beijing’s role in the pandemic could be politically helpful to President Donald Trump, who has sought to shift blame for the U.S. outbreak away from his administration’s delays in achieving widespread testing for the virus and mobilizing greater production of supplies such as face masks and hospital ventilators.
“The claim that the United States has more coronavirus deaths than China is false,” Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, said in a statement after Bloomberg News published its report. “Without commenting on any classified information, this much is painfully obvious: The Chinese Communist Party has lied, is lying, and will continue to lie about coronavirus to protect the regime.”
Deborah Birx, the State Department immunologist advising the White House on its response to the outbreak, said Tuesday that China’s public reporting influenced assumptions elsewhere in the world about the nature of the virus.
“The medical community made — interpreted the Chinese data as: This was serious, but smaller than anyone expected,” she said at a news conference on Tuesday. “Because I think probably we were missing a significant amount of the data, now that what we see happened to Italy and see what happened to Spain.”
The U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion is an attempt to divert attention from surging deaths in the U.S. and other Western countries, Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of China’s state-run Global Times, said on his account on Chinese social media platform Weibo.
There was no way for serious data faking to occur in today’s China, especially for an incident that has drawn such widespread attention, Hu said. He said China managed to curtail the death toll in Hubei, the province where the virus first emerged late last year, by sending medical workers and equipment there from other parts of the country.
“To fake the casualty data, which departments will be deployed? Who will implement the plan?,” Hu said. “It will involve many different departments in many places to get the total numbers. If one of them is faking once, they have to fake it all the time. The risk of screwing up could be very high.”
China isn’t the only country with suspect public reporting. Western officials have pointed to Iran, Russia, Indonesia and especially North Korea, which has not reported a single case of the disease, as probable under-counts. Others including Saudi Arabia and Egypt may also be playing down their numbers.
U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has publicly urged China and other nations to be transparent about their outbreaks. He has repeatedly accused China of covering up the extent of the problem and being slow to share information, especially in the weeks after the virus first emerged, and blocking offers of help from American experts.
“This data set matters,” he said at a news conference in Washington on Tuesday. The development of medical therapies and public-health measures to combat the virus “so that we can save lives depends on the ability to have confidence and information about what has actually transpired,” he said.
“I would urge every nation: Do your best to collect the data. Do your best to share that information,” he said. “We’re doing that.”
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Boxes with medical equipment and masks to help fight coronavirus are seen aboard a Russian military transport plane ahead of its departure for the US.Reuters
A Russian military transport plane loaded with medical equipment took off early Wednesday from an airfield outside Moscow and headed for the US, following a conversation between President Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, according to a report.
Putin offered supplies to help fight the coronavirus pandemic during a phone call with Trump on Monday, which focused on how to respond to the outbreak, Reuters reported.
“Trump gratefully accepted this humanitarian aid,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday, Reuters reported, citing the Interfax news agency.
The Russian Embassy said on its Twitter account that Moscow sent the aid as Trump predicted the death toll in the US could be between 100,000 and 240,000 and amid hopes that the Trump administration would return the favor if the outbreak becomes severe in Russia.
“Importantly, when offering assistance to the American colleagues, President Putin is guided by the following consideration: when manufacturers of medical equipment gain momentum they will be able to reciprocate if need be,” the tweet said.
Trump on Monday said he had talked to Putin and suggested Russia would be sending aid.
“I have to say, we’ve had great relationships with a lot of countries,” Trump said. “China sent us some stuff, which was terrific. Russia sent us a very, very large planeload of things, medical equipment, which was very nice.”
Russia reported more than 2,000 cases of the virus, but many health experts have questioned the accuracy of the data.
It wasn’t enough that COVID-19 pandemic is trying to kill us, now NASA’s Centre for Near-Earth Object Studies or CNEOS has reported that on 21st March and 23rd March, a total of fourasteroids will be approaching Earth and are expected to fly really close to our planet.
The four asteroids have been named by CNEOS as 2020 FK, 2020 FS, 2020 DP4 and 2020 FFI. the FK is the smallest of the lot, which is just 43 feet in diameter. It is coming towards our planet at a speed of over 37,000 kilometres per hour and will pass by at a distance of 1.36 million kilometres.
The 2020 FS is slightly larger, with a diameter of 56 feet and is travelling at a relatively lower speed of just 15,000 kilometres per hour. It will be the farthest asteroid to fly by earth at around 3.05 million kilometres away. The 2020 FK flew by our planet at 9:35 AM IST, whereas the 2020 FS will pass by around 8:59 PM IST.
On 23rd March, we’ll see the 2020 DP4 make its approach towards Earth. It is the largest of the lot with a diameter of 180 feet. It will be flying at a distance that’s 1.35 million kilometres away from Earth at a speed of 29,000 kilometres per hour, so there’s nothing to really worry about.
The 2020 FFI, on the other hand, is the second smallest of the lot, with a diameter of 48 feet. Oddly enough, it is the fastest of the lot, travelling at a speed of 47,000 kilometres per hour.
Moreover, it will also be the closest one Earth at just around 7,13,000 kilometre away. The 2020 DP4 will pass by on 12:04 AM IST whereas 2020 FFI will pass by at around 3:39 AM IST.
If you’re concerned about any of the four asteroids impacting earth, worry not. None of the four asteroids are going to come anywhere close to the earth’s surface — the nearest anyone is coming to earth is at a distance of 7.13 lakh kilometre away. For reference, when it’s at its closest to earth, the moon is just over 3.6 lakh kilometre away — which places the nearest of the four asteroids almost twice that distance away at 7.13 lakh kilometre.
Even last year, European Space Agency initially gave a 1-in-7000 chance of an approaching asteroid impacting earth in September 2019, which they later said would miss — it indeed missed the earth completely. Almost the entire world won’t even know the passage of these current four asteroids, apart from amateur and professional astronomers keeping track. So
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