Thursday, May 31, 2007

THE DAILY MISINFORMER: Bioterror article pins trade magazine

"While nuclear or radiological weapons require a significant capital and physical investment to develop, 'in today’s genomic world, students with microscopes have the potential to develop biological weapons,' said [Jay Cohen, undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security’s science and technology division] in an interview," wrote National Defense magazine here "[I]t’s the possibility of a biological attack that keeps him up at night," it is said.

Cohen is a retired rear admiral with no discernible background in the study of bioterror. He does have a background in showing up before Congress and at security trade conventions testifying and sermonizing on the always present need to buy new gadgets for the defense of the homeland.

In any case, in today's "genomic world," to steal a phrase, it does take a good bit more than a microscope to make a bioweapon, no matter the rank of the person making the claim.

However, longtime readers of the blog of your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow know that not knowing much when it comes to bioterror and terrorists is no obstacle to being taken seriously as an expert on the subject.

In fact, it is ofen a boost since it makes it easier to have no qualms when dropping quotes helpful in getting others frightened enough to pay attention to your requests for more money.

The students-can-make-biological-weapons meme surfaces regularly. Most recently, we dealt with the subject here while examing the cliche, often repeated in newspaper stories, that biodoom is inevitable.

The meme comes out the bioterror defense lobby. Functionally, it allows the counter-terror experts selling it to walk away from anything logical and moderate in risk assessment.

The future bioterror agent, custom-made by students or loners, provides a fresh new platter of unverified, theoretical enemies. This is much better than having to actually find out about things like what terrorists are actually doing and what materials have been found in their possession.

Further on in National Defense's article on biodefense, another so-called expert is furnished to talk about anthrax. She immediately hangs herself. Or the reporter and editor goof big time, although they seem not to know they have done so.

"The Japanese terrorist group, Aum Shinrikyo, known for releasing sarin nerve gas in a Japanese subway, tried seven times to release anthrax from the top of a building and failed because the conditions were wrong, [Barbara Billauer] said," informs ND.

Except, it is reasonably well known that Aum Shinrikyo never had a pathogenic strain of anthrax. What the group had in 1992 was a vaccine strain used in animal prophylaxis. No manner of altering "conditions" would have made it sicken people. (See here for a multitude of references.)

National Defense magazine published the quote as part of a larger discussion in which Billauer, an adjunct law professor, talks about details in the weaponization of anthrax.

"Even if a terrorist wanted to spread diseases such as anthrax ... Billauer explained that anthrax for example, has to float between three and five feet off the ground to be ingested by humans, otherwise it falls to the ground and dies," wrote the magazine, publishing another amusingly boneheaded mistake. (We'll leave it to the reader to figure out this one, which is fairly obvious.)

" 'You add ‘clay’ to [anthrax] to keep it airborne,' but it’s difficult to get the formula exactly right, [Billauer] said."

What is difficult to get exactly right, at least for this article, were basic facts about Aum Shinrikyo and anthrax. And while lay readers might not be expected to know such details, when one cannot get even these correct, it simply rips the guts right out of any other discussion which attempts to build on an authoritative voice.

Was there even a minimum of fact-checking at National Defense? Nope, sure doesn't look like it.

Tip o' the hat to Armchair Generalist for the attention-getting post.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

EAT ZINC! CHINESE BUREAUCRAT GIVEN DEATH PENALTY: Flack says the Chinese government has always attached great importance to the health and safety of consumer goods

"China has delivered a death sentence to the former head of its food and drug administration, for taking bribes to approve untested medicines," reported Voice of America news today. "The court case was heard as China faces growing complaints about unsafe drugs and food."

"A Beijing court sentenced Zheng Xiaoyu to death for taking bribes worth over $830,000 while he served as chief of the State Food and Drug Administration ... [The Chinese government] said one antibiotic approved by the regulator caused at least ten deaths."

A fuglewoman for the Beijing government said "China has always attached great importance to the health and safety of consumer goods, especially food and drugs, and is willing to work with the international community to safeguard the quality and reputation of Chinese food."

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow now invites readers to wonder what will be the fate of Mao Lijun, the arrested head of Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology, the company that sold melamine as a protein extender to pet food feed makers?

Waiting to be put down?

In related news late last week, the Los Angeles Times business section ran a short article on "monk fish" from China, sold in the US, containing tetrodotoxin.

The FDA news release which spurred the story is here.

Tetrodotoxin, in case you don't know, is a powerful poison contained in ubiquitous trash fish known as puffers. While obviously not popular in classic American cuisine, consumption of puffers is associated with tetrodotoxin poisoning and called fugu.

Now, it's possible a simple mistake was made. And then again, knowing how things have worked recently, it would not be unreasonable to suspect that a Chinese vendor to the global market had come up with the brilliant idea of selling puffers as knock-off monk fish.

"Two people in the Chicago area became ill after consuming homemade soup containing the fish," infored the FDA. "One was hospitalized due to severe illness."

Moving along, today's Los Angeles Times op-ed page contained a contribution by Steven Ettlinger enttitled "What Twinkies can teach us."

Ettlinger is the author of "Twinkie, Deconstructed," a book about where the myriad chemicals in American foods originate. It was presumably thought he had something absolutely scintillating to contribute on the Chinese food-tainting scandal.

Not really.

"The Food and Drug Administration should classify additive adulteration the same way the Agriculture Department classifies meat contamination: totally unacceptable," he writes.

Brilliant. When you're into poisoning lots of pets with melamine and bringing to market medicines with diethylene glycol, we're a little beyond that stage.

Ettlinger is fascinated by "sorbic acid." He mentions it comes from foreign lands in his editorial and devotes a chapter or two to it in "Twinkie, Deconstructed," because his kid once asked him what it was, thus inspiring an intellectual quest to write a book about its ingredients.

Losing control of the food supply chain has led, Ettlinger writes, "to lower food and pharmaceutical prices, but perhaps at the cost of the quality control."

Ettlinger's blithe and brainlessly breezy piece leads one to entertain the image of an author you'd expect to hear humming "On The Sunny Side of the Street" at work. Next book to be entitled: "You've Been Poisoned! The good news is you won't eat that again!" Due from Penguin, early 2008.

"Smart processed food companies ... are scrambling to find guaranteed safe alternatives ... If you want to have your snack cake and eat it, too, you have to remember: You are what you eat."

Except, dope, the companies involved in the current scandals can't just walk away from their part in betraying the trust of consumers.

Ettlinger's book had been sitting around at Plaza Destiny for months, retrieved by a friend from the castoff review copies pile at a big local newspaper.

Despising gee-whiz books of the type, DD resisted opening it until a couple days ago.

"Twinkie, Deconstructed" was apparently written as a golly-isn't-this-remarkable story about chemicals found in food.

It strings together dozens of brief explanations on the industrial origin and uses of various compounds in the Twinkie as well as other foods. One can think of it as a grab bag of chemical identities, written for people who hate science by someone who doesn't really know science, but done so ebulliently the pages keep turning until the end, at which point the lay reader will have forgotten most of the anecdotes.

"Flour dust is explosive!" burbles the book jacket. "Phosphorus, one of the seven elements necessary for life, is also what causes ... artillery shells to explode!"

Phosphorus! The gift of life and the gift of death! Who knew!?

Gosh-o-jeekers! Say it isn't so, Mr. Ettlinger!

Voice of America News original.

Boss Melamine -- Mao Lijun of Xuzhou Anying.

An 'Eat Zinc!' favorite.
THE DAILY CHEM BIO TERROR FEARMONGER: A White House advisor, naturally

"The likelihood that al-Qaeda and its fellow travellers will use chemical, biological and radiological weapons is growing, a counterterrorism adviser to the White House believes.

" 'For terrorists, the likelihood of using these weapons grows because they believe that they can have very significant and corrosive psychological impacts on society," Georgetown University's Bruce Hoffman told the [Australian newspaper known as the] Herald. He pointed to al-Qaeda's long history of pursuing unconventional weapons and recent trends in Iraq."

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow picked this article and subsequent context up over at Armchair Generalist.

Whenever the terror threat appears to be gathering flab because of utter disgust with Iraq, readers know there is never a shortage of experts at the beck and call of the US government to be called upon to put muscle back into it. And if this cannot immediately be done in domestic op-ed pieces, then the foreign English-speaking press is fair game, too.

Bruce Hoffman has been one of the war-on-terror experts good at the practice.

However, no matter the regard in which Hoffman may be held by the current US government, he needs to be taken with a shaker full of salt when assessing a CBRN threat from al Qaeda. Hoffman doesn't appear to know much about the practical misapplications of science which are involved and there is little or no evidence in his public writings that he's actually seen and understood terror chem/bio terror documents on the subject.

In February, Hoffman was also seen writing in the Los Angeles Times that al Qaeda was on the march. This opinion was a rehash of some testimony he'd delivered before Congress and if you read the footnotes from the original material, Hoffman tried to make his case from a number of incidents drawn from the terror beat in England.

For it, Hoffman referenced the old London ricin plot. This plot, though, was not the work of al Qaeda. It was the work of one loner and a jury trial subsequently cleared everyone else thought to be al Qaeda men. DD had the terror documents from it, the materials of Kamel Bourgass, the one convicted Algerian. Other terror original materials were made available to the Old Bailey court, recovered at al Qaeda hideouts in Afghanistan. They specifically addressed toxin and biologicals and it was the aim of the prosecution in the ricin case to link the men in the dock to al Qaeda by tieing the poison recipes of Kamel Bourgass to the al Qaeda originals.

This could not be done because they were not the same.

More pertinently, there was no significant savvy on chemical or biological weapons in any of these materials. In fact, they were childlike in nature.

For another example, Hoffman dragged in the case of Dhiren Barot, a crackpot who envisioned making a dirty bomb from smoke detectors and an another terror weapon from used exit signs.

Barot's computer files were put on the Net in heavily redacted form by London's Metropolitan Police and I went over them here.

These pieces of computer evidence were a shabby business and after their true nature was publicized, the Met Police pulled them from its website. (Note: I haven't yet decided where I'm going to put them back onto the net. Here, there, somewhere.)

Since then, DD has been the recipient of more chem and bioterror files recovered from jihadists, procured during investigations used to break up terror plots and subsequent prosecutions in England.

While the wishful intent of jihadists to obtain a chemical or biological weapon has remained constant since 9/11, it can also be said that, as far as can be determined from the documents, the jihadist savvy has also remained dreadfully poor. Which is good for us.

The young jihadi men have a tendency to recycle the same old texts over and over, making minor variations to their materials, depending on the personal vanity of the distributor.

One thing that does become clear from reading such documents. The jihadists who write and distribute them are very poorly educated. They have only the barest inklings of the sciences of chemistry and biology.

This reality is far more complicated than the often told simplistic pseudo-reality that al Qaeda men are working on the getting chemical and biological weapons. However, because the US mainstream media has virtually ignored taking an independent and critical look at actual terrorist documents, other than using selected photos and blurbs from them for shock value, the pseudo-reality remains ascendent.

Where terrorists do have abilities in weapons engineering is where they have hands-on experience. Like in Iraq. This, in turn, has extended a slim reed to which some current terror prognosticators cling.

The reasoning goes that since a handful of chlorine bombs have been used in Iraq, even though almost no chemical effect has been attributed to them, it illogically follows that this indicates a chemical WMD attack capability which will inevitably follow on in the United States.

Armchair Generalist states flatly that current predictive scenarious "completely ignore the actual capability of terrorists ..."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

LEARN TO ROCK AT SUMMER CAMP: Hello muddah, hello fadduh, there are no groupies here, ta blow ya

With the Memorial Day weekend here, DD assumes parents have already signed their kids up for a variety of summer camps.

Decades ago, summer camps in Pine Grove, Pennsyltucky, meant only pain and embarrassment. The worst offender was Boy Scout retreat.

At Boy Scout camp, Pine Grove-style, the scout master -- a single man in his thirties -- had an icky taste for seeing his troop do push-ups. If you were a little too slow starting a fire with the flint and steel set, or had blundered in the making of biscuits, the punishment was always push-ups.

"Twenty push-ups, Smith! And take off your T-shirt!" were the orders.

Accidentally step in the wet cement for the new sidewalk leading to the mess hall?

Thirty push-ups! And don't forget to take off your shirt.

This inspired a permanent loathing for everything and anything associated with the Boy Scouts of America.

So when DD reads about rock camps for kids (and adults), the gears start to turn wondering if some of them are touching off revulsions for music which will last a lifetime.

I suspect this is probably not the case most of the time.

That's too bad, because if newspaper accounts on them are true, they're about only two things: wish-fulfillment and getting your kicks vicariously, neither of which have anything to do with learning how to play rock and roll.

The camps, or more accurately -- the tales of them, overflow with gag-ya-with-a-spoon cheerleading.

"[An] unconventional classroom is the Ames School of Rock, a new curriculum [at Iowa University] that focuses on just two R's (Rock and Roll, of course) and ensures that no child is left behind in the passionate drive to become a rock star," wrote the Des Moines Register late last year.

"A few parents [are always on hand to] watch from a balcony above as their kids plow through the classic rock canon," it adds.

Parents, one would think, would be anathema to anything rocking, if you were a kid.

Cue the commercial were the idiot dad tells his son that he is planning on getting a tattoo so they can go to some big festival together.

"I hate my life," mutters the kid.

However, in rock camps -- parents are always required -- if only to pick up the tab and get a thrill from seeing junior do something staged and propped up, something they were a bit too feeble to try when they were in their teens.

"The School of Rock in Ames is the latest, local incarnation of a national surge in more formal rock education," it is written. To which one naturally replies: One of the coolest things about rock and roll is that it requires no formal education to be good at it. And that formally educating someone on an art that, when it is good, is like catching lightning in a bottle, could be held in the same regard as trying to teach a pig to sing.

"Learning music theory might not be the way most youngsters would choose to spend their summer days. But if you want to be a rock'n' roll star, you've got to know the science behind the songs," wrote the Burlington Free Press of a rock camp in Vermont.

"[The rock camp is about letting the kids] know that making rock music isn't all about adoring fans, breathless groupies and instant money."

The retort to this laugher is that anyone who actually gets involved in playing pop music in the real world (as opposed to the homes of the vanity-riddled upper middle class) is that one finds such things out, free of charge, instantly and elegantly.

No groupies at Rock Camp Grenada. Boy, kids! Your parents so won't want to pay that tuition now!

"It's easy to see what the draw [of rock camp] is," the newspaper blithely continues. "What musician wouldn't want to spend his or her days jamming with a band and learning from professional musicians?"

"[That's] exactly why [some spotty nerd] of Hinesburg came to camp. This is the 14-year-old's first time at rock camp and already he's feeling the vibes."

Quick cut to the San Jose Mercury News, and yet another summer rock camp, this one in Palo Alto.

" ... [The] camp is riding high on pop-culture influences, including Jack Black's movie 'School of Rock' and the growing acceptance of a new generation of parents," reports the newspaper.

The reporter then reels off a list of the clientele's high-rent locales, where parents of the spoiled-and-annoying believe they can front-load success in pop music, like adding another couple of lines of padding to a future resume.

"The budding rockers who attend the camp come from all over the Bay Area, including Fremont, Los Gatos, Palo Alto and San Mateo. The camp operates in one-week cycles, with some kids attending multiple weeks to hone their skills."

"It's a warm summer Wednesday at [a Portland] Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls, and [a 13-year old wallflower] is strumming her dream to life," reports another newspaper, the Oregonian.

"' Being in a band would be the ultimate job,' the eighth-grader at [a local middle school] says. In just three days, [the wallflower] will be clocking in on her dream job."

"Relatives, friends and rock fans fill the seats [at the standard rock camp 'concert'] [The wallflower's] fan base includes her mom, dad, brother [and] grandma ... "

If only DD could have had ol' grandma watching him do push-ups without a T-shirt on for flubbing the flint-and-steel exhibition at Pine Grove Boy Scouts of America summer retreat.

At a rock camp of sorts in Brooklyn, the New York Times writes of kids and their upscale parents, people you might wish to poke in the eye with a blunt stick given your druthers, taking a more bohemian hipster's approach.

"The children whispering and fidgeting in front of the stage at Union Hall in Park Slope, Brooklyn, looked like any kids awaiting, say, a storyteller," wrote journalist Jessica Pressler. "Then [a wee girl] and [a wee boy], the two 11-year-olds who make up the band Magnolia, climbed onstage and broke into a hard-driving original song called Volume. It was clear this was not quiet time."

" 'Wooooo!' a dreadlocked woman shouted from the back of the room, where a crowd of adults, many in vintage concert T-shirts and cardigans, looking like kids themselves, cheered and sipped bloody marys."

For the New York Times, the rock-out-with-your-cock-out schooling for kids ante is upped by the roping in of the offspring of celebrities and snobs, the procurement of managers and shows for the children, and the christening of the excrement which is produced with a genre name, "kid-core."

"The most prominent band on New York's junior-varsity rock scene is Hysterics, a 'psychedelic' quartet founded at the artsy St. Ann's School in Brooklyn," continues the Times. "The week after performing at Union Hall at the CMJ Marathon, the band members gathered at the studio of Jeff Peretz, their manager. Mr. Peretz also guides the Tangents, whose bass guitarist, Miles Robbins, 12, is the son of Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins."

However, there are sights and sounds even more worthy of civic superciliousness than rock camps for kids.

Like rock camp for adults.

Roger Daltrey stands gamely on a Hollywood stage as the musically deaf, dumb and blind crucify a tune from the Who catalog.

Whereas any old hack can set up shop as a rock camp counselor for kids and convince dumb parents to shell out a few hundred bucks for a week, rock and roll fantasy camp is an entirely different kettle of fish. It takes long-in-the-tooth classic rockers with name recognition but poor liquidity and charges thousands of bucks to adults who, for that soliciting fee, will briefly believe the rock stars are sincere when they smile and tell the camper he or she did good after an execrable performance.

"All that's required is $9,500 and five days of your time," reported the Orange County Register in March. "No experience necessary. Campers have flown in from Detroit, Long Island, Chattanooga, you name it."

" 'I've never done this before," says [Jim] of San Diego. 'I've never been in a working band in the studio or onstage. Even the idea of rehearsing is very exciting to me.' "

Rock fantasy camp counselors include those members of bands who joined after the act was washed-up, studio replacements for regulars incapacitated by the rock and roll lifestyle or those simply known as "the other guy."

For this particular edition of camp: Spike Edney "of" Queen (unknown sideman); Bruce Kulick, guitar, Kiss (studio hack, replaced Ace Frehley, tossed out of band for dissipation); Mark Slaughter, guitar, Slaughter (huh?) and Teddy Andreadis, "of" Guns 'n' Roses (one of many hack sidemen hired by Axl Rose after the rest of his band quit in disgust over a decade ago).

"I'm fronting a band at the House of Blues," said one deluded woman to the Register awhile ago. "And people like Bret Michaels [of Poison] told me my vocals were really good. How do you put in words what is happening here?"

Expensive bullshit, that's how. For over nine thousand US, they'll set you up with a show and blow any color smoke you like up your ass, lady.

"The Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp gives such amateur musicians as [a shmoe named from Steve with too much immediately disposable income from Asbury Park, New Jersey] a chance to be a rock star for a week," reported the Asbury Park Press in August of last year.

"Initially, [Steve Shmoe] said he'd had some reservations about the camp's $8,950 price tag. Indeed, it was his wife, [Karen], who convinced him to go as a special birthday present to himself. He turned 51 just before camp ended.

" 'She said, 'Why not? You've been waiting for this your whole life,' [Mr. Shmoe] said. 'She was right. I have been waiting my whole life to be with these people, hang out with these people, have them teach me, play guitar with them a little bit.'"

More accurately, a Rodney Dangerfield quip comes to mind, describing what really may have gone down: "I told my wife a man is like wine; he gets better with age. She locked me in the cellar."

Can it get even more irritating?


You could work for a corporation that uses rock and roll fantasy camp as a training exercise.

Rock fantasy camp "can accommodate 25 or 250 people, traveling to a corporate location and even gearing the workshop toward a specific company objective," reported United Press International late last year.

"If [your] CEO is up there playing guitar, I guarantee the room is not going to empty out," said someone for the article.

Let it be known, I am hanging out a shingle for Dick Destiny's Tough Love Rock Camp for Kids As Well As Their Parents.

As camp counselor and director, I am very experienced in everything that would make a good rock and roll camp.

On the first day, your parents will pick out a cheap instrument for you to play. It will not stay in tune very well and possibly hurt your fingers to play. You'll be given instruction on your instrument but it won't be from the songs by your favorites. It will be something like TV theme music from the Sixties or the score to David Lean's Dr. Zhivago. You won't be able to get out of these lessons.

You'll be able to pick your bandmates but they'll be free to quit at any time and go to another band in the camp if they think you stink and the grass looks greener elsewhere.

You'll get one airless garage to practice in. Occasionally the cops will come, ending your practice session. Occasionally a neighbor will show up, ending your rehearsal. Sometimes the camp counselor will cut power to your garage, like real parents -- not your indulgers and enablers -- might do after having heard enough of you.

Sometimes during the week, there will be the possibility that someone will break into your rehearsal space during the night and steal all your equipment. If that happens, you'll have the option to replace it out of pocket by buying it back from the camp store. Or you can go home early.

At the end of the week, you'll get one shot at a show. For some campers, arranging the show will be easy. Others will have to pay a club owner in advance ticket sales before landing the show. An unlucky few won't even get a show. They'll have to go home.

If the campers land a show, there will be enough liquor and beer served at the venue to ensure a small audience is well-oiled and free of inhibitions. At least one but not more than two merciless hecklers will be in the audience. The audience can be as small as half a dozen people. There's a fifty-fifty chance none of them will like your chosen genre of rock music. If your show goes poorly, you won't get paid or get a ribbon or a certificate of completion. If your show goes well, you won't get paid, or get a ribbon or a certificate of completion.

Remember, the purpose of the Tough Love Rock Camp is to have fun by instilling the ability to recover from setbacks and bad luck while also teaching learning how to live with failure and cruelly diminished expectations.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

'EAT ZINC!' TUESDAY: Chinese manufacturer insists poison a healthful and high quality product

"Two brands of Chinese-made toothpastes were last week pulled from shelves in Panama after authorities discovered they contained potentially-fatal diethylene glycol," reads an article from el Reg, today.

The Chinese spike diethylene glycol -- or DEG -- into medicines and other consumables as a cheap alternative to using the correct ingredient, glycerin. It is another in a line of Chinese poison additives, developed in a kind of backroom chemistry of dirty tricks where adulterating masking compounds totally unfit for human or animal consumption are used to increase profits.

DEG is convenient to use because in liquid analyses it cannot be distinguished from glycerin using infrared spectroscopy. In this, it fulfills a function like melamine. Melamine cannot be distinguished from protein in food samples in simple assays aimed at determining nitrogen content.

"In this case, however, the diethylene glycol was apparently clearly labelled on the 'Excel' and 'Mr Cool' toothpastes, supplied by the Hengxiang-based Danyang Chengshi Household Chemical Co.," continues the Reg. "After a sharp-eyed customer spotted the offending ingredient, University of Panama experts confirmed it comprised around 2.5 per cent of the toothpastes - not considered enough to pose a health risk, but sufficient to provoke the powers that be to warn consumers off the products."

"Danyang Chengshi Household Chemical Co's general manager Chen Yaozu confirmed ... that his firm had exported toothpaste containing diethylene glycol to Panama, but said the chemical was 'permitted under Chinese rules and was safe in small amounts.'. He added: 'I can say I am very confident about our product's quality.'"

It's a self-serving comment, equivalent to "This is bad for you but it won't kill you because the concentration is low. That is, until we get even more greedy and pooch it up in the mix room. And you won't catch us until it's too late, anyway."

In related news from an Indiana newspaper, "Even though scientists have concluded that the risk to humans from the chickens fed [melamine] tainted feed is very low, [Even Bayh, Sen., (D)] told [George W. Bush] that the episode illustrates how vulnerable U.S. consumers are 'to potentially poisonous agents that may be intentionally delivered to American citizens ..."

Bayh, it is said, wants to roll up the welcome mat for Chinese food imports and additives as well as strengthen inspection processes. Neither of these is particularly achievable.

In the current system, there is no real security. American food makers have outsourced their supply chains to China. They have found that it is impossible to divest themselves from such sources because they have ceded so much to China in the name of profit and expedience.

There are alternatives.

China has achieved sufficiently bad publicity over the pet food scandal. The federal government could require all American foods and food additives with ingredients from China be brightly labelled in yellow with "Ingredients from China!" Businesses that did not comply or are found in violation could, theoretically, be forced to accept severe fines and penalties.

As it stands, there is no requirement at the moment that food manufacturers inform consumers, on the package, where the potentially dodgy materials in them originate.

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow knows consumers would quickly make their choices, providing great incentive to American businesses to revamp and fix the problem of outsourced supply chains.


Because people would read "Ingredients from China!" as "Contains poison!"

Sales of goods with such a label would suffer immediate negative consequences in the marketplace in competition with more expensive goods that do not have to post such a label.

It's one solution but it probably won't happen, either. American businessmen would fight it tooth and nail. They know they would have to make immediate changes, changes which would certainly impact quarterly profits, or face ruin.

Politicians are now fond of making what will surely be a transient noise about how the USDA, the FDA, and other agencies will be strengthened. They make farting sounds about keeping the food safe and have appointed a "czar" whose name no one can remember since it is assumed to be a meaningless gesture.

"The Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) is working with other federal agencies to help the country prepare for a biological emergency, natural disaster or terrorist attack by making sure there is a safe and adequate supply of animal drug products and a safe animal feed supply system," writes someone from the FDA on its website.

Fine words, eh?

They were written well before the tainted pet food scandal.

"Al-Qaeda has studied U.S. agriculture, which is in need of defense, FBI deputy director John Pistole told about 900 people gathered at the Westin Crown Center . . . 'I believe that the terrorist threat is changing and even adapting — but so are we,' Pistole said at a government Keep-The-Food-Safe industry seminar in 2006.

Boy, that man certainly knew what was going on now, didn't he?

Poisoned toothpaste from China at the Reg.

Evan Bayh on Chinese imports in the Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette.

'Eat Zinc!" on diethylene glycol in medicines.

Incidental agroterrorism.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

THE SUNDAY MUSHROOM CLOUD: It's inevitable, at least twice this week

Write more about atomic attack on America. Please.

Big ups to Indiana newspapers covering the mock terror atomic attack on Indianapolis. They helped contribute to the weekly quotient of atomic-attack-is-coming-to-America stories, well documented in this blog during the past first year of its existence.

" ... [The] leader of a group of scientists who monitor and assess global security through its well-known Doomsday Clock sees a nuclear attack becoming less and less unthinkable," writes a newspaper in Terre Haute.

Yes, thinking about the unthinkable certainly ain't what it used to be. Now the United States overflows with those who tell us how we'll meet doom, their merciless farting always going boom. Then they send out press releases to notify us of the really fine work they're doing.

“ 'These risks are hard to judge, ' said Kennette Benedict, executive director of The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, an organization that has updated its Doomsday Clock every other month since 1947," informed the newspaper. " 'But many in the field who are military, former government officials and intelligence types say it’s not a matter of if, but when.' ”

Attention newspaper opinion writer: Don't ever let readers know that's what they always say!

And don't let on that if any self-respecting terrorists gets hold of an atomic bomb, he's no more likely to waste it on Indianapolis than Pine Grove, Pennsylvania. (It's just more convenient to do a drill there, as opposed to stirring up Manhattan or Washington, DC, on a busy work day.)

If your eyes aren't yet rolling sufficiently, the New York Times Sunday book review dragged readers through its contribution to the literature of thinking about the unthinkable until nausea is provoked. (About two months ago, the Sunday magazine did the same thing.)

This time it was delivered in an elegantly-styled piece of dogshit, not-so-imaginatively entitled "The Nuclear Threat," a book review by someone named Jonathan Raban. C'mon editors, how long did it take you to come up with that title? A second or two? Hey, dear reader-ninnies, we'll pair it with a skull and some missiles, too! (Never mind that the review isn't about ICBMs, ha-ha!)

Raban is taken with a copy of "The Atomic Bazaar," a new book by William Langewiesche, and a hasty fix-up of various riffs played out in the Atlantic Monthly magazine.

Once again it is time to relate the story of how terrorists, from the point-of-view of a man-on-the-beat, will put together their improvised nuclear device, its core material of highly enriched uranium taken from old rickety Russian labs where the security is crummy.

"One way or another it will be no great feat to transport the stolen [uranium] to Istanbul where assembling it into a workable bomb will require a machine shop, a nuclear scientist, several technicians and up to four months of work," it is written.

"The Atomic Bazaar is an important book, but not a perfect one."

No it isn't. Only someone who is a glutton for punishment would buy it.

Anyone familiar with the literature of atomic disaster and the spielers on it in magazines knows why: The same story is always written, unflinchingly, with only the names, places and nationalities of the terrorists changing to fit whatever convenience seems appropriate. There are unpleasant truths embedded in it but the script is now so overpeddled, everyone knows it by heart.

In the meantime, Jericho, the CBS television drama about nuclear devastation dealt to the United States and the way it impacts a small town in Kansas, was unceremoniously cancelled. Some angry fans wrote e-mails in protest but the show's ratings took a big nosedive when it inexplicably took a long holiday mid-season. Most viewers, understandably perplexed, changed channels and never came back.

The danger of atomic attack to Indianapolis and Alaska, too, maybe.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


"Discover your world!" crows the Discovery channel. To which DD adds, "Yes, discover the world of engineering for massacres."

Whenever Discovery or the Military Channel airs a repeat episode of Futureweapons, hits on this site creep up due to universal searches for cluster bombs like the Sensor-Fuzed Weapon.

"This is awesome! Your tax dollars well spent!" crowed someone on YouTube.

Only pinheads would engage in mockery.

Shown in empty-headed rotation and hosted by Richard Machowicz, the now well-known shaven-headed ex-NAVY SEAL and sniper, the episode called "The Power Of Fear" purports to show how frightful technology hot from US weapons shops annihilates en masse.

This week, along with the Sensor-Fuzed Weapon promotional video from Textron -- which seems to have aired at least sixteen times in the last four months alone -- there was also the Excalibur, a smart artillery shell that is designed to do about the same thing.

Illustrations show its use as a massacre-enabling cluster munition. Look! The usual whirling hot copper submunitions, great for decapitations.

It's not possible to heap enough slurs upon Futureweapons. As an example of pitiless television without a single redeeming feature, its producers and enablers seem to have not fathomed the obvious: None of the weapons glorified as examples of American power are worth a bucket of spit now. They are virtually designed for a certain type of enemy, the nature of which doesn't exist.

Emphasized repeatedly, the Sensor Fuzed Weapon can erase in one stroke, an entire armored corps assembled in the space of six football fields or so.


Now if only the US military could get the pesky Iraqi civil war fighters and terrorists to convene en masse on an airfield somewhere, we'd really be in business. Or perhaps if China could be inveigled into attacking Taiwan with its land army, over a six-lane pontoon bridge thrown across the Strait of Formosa!

For your consideration, a show that is a couple rungs up the ladder of evolution from Futureweapons: Picture a cable sitcom, one starring a couple of blunt-spoken but lovable buddies in a special office at the Pentagon, trying to humorously get through a day of explaining to generals and various bumbling gadflies, why such favorite weapons of massacre exist. Pilot episode synopsis: Contractor Tex has a recurring nightmare in which his genitalia have been inexplicably replaced with one of the Sensor-Fuzed Weapon's molten copper-shooting skeets, a development which causes him to break out in a cold sweat and become unable to perform when his wife turns amorous.

In a development that shows some people do enjoy other things than looking for photos and paintings of cluster bombs, "Joan Jett Made Me Sweat" has inexplicably rocketed to the top of the DD blog hitlist. There may yet be hope for us Americans.

Friday, May 18, 2007

THEY CALL HIM MR. DANGER! Danger, dammit, danger!

That which is repeated too often becomes insipid and tedious. -- someone you don't know

Often your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow runs across material that's just laugh-out loud funny -- but not for the right reasons -- if you're familiar with the cult/business of fearmongers/anti-terror consultants in the US.

Today, we pay a visit to Stephen Flynn's bookpage at the Council on Foreign Relations. Flynn is Mr. Danger. Never straying from the task, it is his function to think the unthinkable, imagining Old Testament-style Biblical disasters, along with the ten or twenty thousand or so other Mr. and Mrs. Dangers who do exactly the same thing, for the sake of the global war on terror.

Hey, what if the dikes in California break?! Aggghhhh-blub-blub!

Just of think of how awful it would be if a liquid natural gas tanker blew up in port! Diii-eeeeee!

"As a part of its ongoing Face It: We Are Probably All Going To Die or at the Very Least, Suffer Immeasurably Series, [a seminar] kicks off the week with a visit from Stephen Flynn, author of The Edge of Disaster, which, apparently, we are teetering on (cf. “all going to die,” “suffer immeasurably”)," one reads from a Gawker Media property, DCist, on a recent Mr. Danger book.

Mr. Danger's first book, in case you missed it as you did with The Edge of Disaster, was engrossingly entitled, America the Vulnerable.

A jaw-dropping Mr. Danger essay on the funpage is called Disturbing Lack of Attention Paid to America's Security Vulnerabilities.

"Stephen R. Flynn cautions that America is still unprepared for the worst," says the page. "By tackling head-on, eyes open [to] the perils that lie before us, we can remain true to our most important and endearing national trait: our sense of optimism about the future and our conviction that we can change it for the better for ourselves—and our children."

Mr. Danger's books are ringingly endorsed by ex-state governors and FEMA functionaries, perhaps guaranteeing they will at least sell to, if not actually be read at, libraries in state capitols.

“The must-read book for every American,” declares an ex-governor of Virginia. "We can only hope policy-makers are listening," adds an ex-governor of New Jersey. "A great book that I highly recommend,” writes Michiko Kakutani a former FEMA functionary.

Mr. Danger funpage.
'EAT ZINC!' AGAIN: Get used to it because it's good business

No one needs this useless inert white powder. But if we put a little in your pet's food, no one will mind. And we can make some extra money. Isn't outsourcing the food supply chain great?

In today's edition of the Los Angeles Times, "China's additives on menu in U.S."

No fooling!

The synopsis: Some American food-making giants have quietly put out word to stop buying from the Chinese! And guess what? They can't do it! Everyone has outsourced parts of their food supply chain to China for the sake of cheap labor and enhanced profit!

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow discussed the issue at length in past editions of the tiresome and odious series, "EAT ZINC!"

The working example was provided by the melamine-poisoning company run by Mao Lijun, Xuzhou Anying. Not only did Lijun sell melamine as protein powder, he also offered the inert white powder, zinc oxide, as a food additive. (It's Xuzhou's product pic, above!)

Upon looking into the issue, it was discovered all kinds of pet dry food contain trace amounts of this useless ingredient under the sham rationalization that it's a necessary thing. No animals, and while we're at it -- no people, need zinc oxide in their diet. They get the very trace amounts of zinc necessary to life in normal meals of wholesome food. Yet Mao Lijun, Xuzhou Anying, and -- one presumes -- many others advertised zinc oxide as a good additive, a fine source of zinc for animals.

It's rubbish!

But just try getting ahold of pet food makers like MenuFoods or ChemNutra or Hills to ask why it's in their bagged goods. Ha-ha-ha, good luck with that!

The boilerplate US government functionary's response to the problem can be summarized, thus: Yes, some additives from China appear to be nasty but we can't control it because US businesses have let go of their supply chains. The good news is that most of the problemmatical ingredients are in such small quantity, they probably won't hurt you. That is, until someone gets really really greedy, pooches up the concentration, and then it hurts you, or your pets.

"As the recall of tainted pet food mushroomed into an international scandal, two of the largest US food manufacturers [Mission Foods and Tyson Foods] put out a blanket order to their American suppliers: No more ingredients from China," wrote the LA Times.

"The problem is, what Mission and Tyson want is next to impossible."

And therein lies the problem in food security. In this system, you can't have it.

The FDA and US government experts often love to squeal about how jihadists and Osama bin Laden would love to compromise the safety of US food.

"Oh, it is so easy to do!" they repeatedly say.

Pay no attention to the charlatans working behind the curtain next to the great and powerful Oz of Terrorists Are Menacing Our Food machine.

Al Qaeda doesn't have the savvy, the infrastructure or the personnel to threaten the food supply as easily as Xuzhou Anying did. Plus, they don't have the motivation. Dollars speak louder than the idea that "We'll make Americans afraid!" But the terrorists are always convenient super-boogeymen to which all manner of plots and powers can be attached.

"Some of [the Chinese additive vendors] are driven by profits; you can see the dollar dollar signs in their eyes," said one expert for the Times.

"In the US, major food manufacturers often don't know where all their ingredients originate . . . US food ingredient suppliers can only hope the pet food scare blows over."

That's not a bad bet to make.

However, there's a market opening now for bold souls who want to provide costlier goods that guarantee their ingredients are free of the unregulated fly-by-night suppliers from mainland China. After all, there are no additives supplied in China that cannot be made, and which were not once made, in the continental United States.

The original in the Los Angeles Times.

From the 'Eat Zinc!' archives:

Boss Melamine in pictures.

If you have zinc, maybe it's time to consider iron filings as a good food additive!

Incidental agroterrorism: They'll protect you from Osama bin Laden, but not melamine, buckos!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

RICIN TRIAL SUSPECT FINALLY CLEARED: After 19 months of home imprisonment

"An Algerian who was branded a terror suspect after being acquitted in the ricin plot trial, was yesterday cleared of being a threat to Britain's national security, reported the Guardian, today.

"Mr Justice Mitting, chairing the special immigration appeals commission (Siac), ruled that there were no national security grounds to deport Mouloud Sihali back to Algeria as there was no 'evidence or intelligence that he has ever been a principled Islamist extremist.' "

"[In 2005 an] Old Bailey jury cleared Mr Sihali, 30, of taking part in an alleged terrorist conspiracy to spread the poison ricin in London. But at the end of the case he was re-arrested and has lived under virtual house arrest since."

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow consulted with an expert for the defense of the ricin ring in the original trial. During the long case it became clear the alleged London ricin ring, said to be connected to al Qaeda, was a fantasy.

All the British anti-terror operation did was round up many people, some guilty of -- at best -- petty dishonesty, and one bad loner, Kamel Bourgass, who was sent away for life.

At the time of the ricin ring arrests, called Operation Springbourne, news was sensational. (See the infamous chem terror cover of The Mirror, at left.) The US government, with the lamentable presentation of Colin Powell before the UN Security Council, implicated the fictitious ring in a web of al Qaeda operations it claimed stretched from from Iraq to London.

However, a British jury found the UK government's case against the alleged conspirators to be preposterous and freed them, with the exception of one lone bad man, Kamel Bourgass. (Bourgass an Algerian, was convicted in the murder of a British constable, a slaying that took place while he was being apprehended.)

No ricin was ever found, just a handful of castor seeds in a jewelry tin, a paper laden with cherry stones -- parts of a cracked impossible plan to make cyanide. A few foolish recipes on poison making, originally from the neo-Nazi survivalist right in the United States, were also found translated into Arabic and copied to paper from servers on Yahoo.

Nevertheless, no one in the US government has ever answered the question: "Who put the bogus information on the London ricin ring into Colin Powell's presentation?"

When it came time for the US newsmedia to report on the trial, it was caught napping and still largely in compliance with the Bush administration's story line on the war in Iraq.

No US news sources had attended the trial.

As a consequence, the mainstream media simply went to London police sources, who repeated all the rumors and innuendo that hadn't been allowed in the trial. Like stenographers to power, instead of reporting what actually had happened, American journalists reported only what British authorities wished them to pass on.

The result was an appearance, in the States, that a rogue jury had allowed al Qaeda operatives to go free.

But they did not go free.

The British government immediately turned around and slapped the exonerated ricin ring defendants with control orders, an action that made them prisoners in their own homes, awaiting deportation.

The same preposterous evidence that a jury had rejected was used to justify these antics. The men were said to be threats to British national security, the reasons too sensitive to disclose.

"At the time of the ricin trial, [Mr. Sihali] admitted two counts of possessing false passports and received 15 months imprisonment in Belmarsh maximum security prison, continued the Guardian. "But he was cleared of charges connecting him with the ricin plot and was released soon after, as he had already served the time on remand."

"The Siac judges ruled yesterday that he had used false names and documents, fraudulently opened several bank and credit card accounts and falsely claimed state benefits and lied about them at the Old Bailey trial. But they added there was nothing in the evidence to suggest he knew that those he helped were terrorists.

"The judges said they were satisfied that although [Sihali] was unprincipled, he did not engage in anything beyond petty dishonesty. 'Whatever the risk to national security he may have posed in 2002, the risk now is insignificant,' they concluded."

"Mr Sihali's lawyer, Natalia Garcia, said he had had to endure years of imprisonment in Belmarsh and control order-style restrictions on the basis of faulty intelligence and political spin. 'Having cleared his name once in front of a jury ... he had to face the sheer injustice of the same evidence being used against him by the government to try to deport him as a risk to national security ... "

The result of the London ricin trial and the immediate effort to overturn the results of it through subterfuge greatly damaged the reputation of the Blair government. And it created great suspicion with Britain's Muslim community, suspicion which still hinders British anti-terror efforts.

While not addressed in the United States, or even acknowledged in the US mainstream media, the London ricin trial came to be seen in England as part of an effort to fabricate evidence for invading Iraq. It also most certainly contributed to the decided lack of enthusiasm for the Bush adminstration's so-called "global war against terror" among the polity in England. The net result of it all, as well as the perceived lack of proper justice and fairness, was absolutely damaging to national security interests in both countries.

["Mr. Sihali's lawyer] said the deportation proceedings had been brought to 'save face' after the ricin plot acquittals, a plot that she claimed had been used to justify the invasion of Iraq," reported the Guardian.

The original from the Guardian.

UK Terror Trial Finds No TerrorThe first reporting, globally, from the trial and the only accurate material published in the United States.

Botching It. Some explanation of how the US newsmedia ignored or misrepresented the results from the ricin trial.

Also reprinted at The Register. Includes additional notes, as footer, addressing the British media's dreadful coverage of the trial.

Monday, May 14, 2007


The press coverage of Miranda Lambert's new record allows an opportunity to illustrate intelligence-insulting practice in entertainment news coverage from daily newspapers.

Obviously, numbing repetition of memes is front and center. Lambert's meme is this: Girls who carry guns are tough, rebellious and resourceful. Cue the bad movie with Sharon Stone as a gunfighter in the Old Wild West.

With Lambert, you find average journalists, people who would do anything within their power to avoid attending a county ag fair, suddenly falling all over themselves to praise someone from the heart of redneckville.

Since DD grew up in Pine Grove, Pennsyltucky, and left PA -- in part -- to GET AWAY from the prevailing ideology there, I've always found it hysterical that mainstream news journalists give get-out-of-jail-free cards to selected members of the demographic -- usually girls, who are every bit as dull as the boys.

Then they proceed to write about how novel and empowering it is to see a girl who is tough, or who shoots her boyfriend, or farts, drinks beer and puts midgets or dwarves in their country music videos.

A couple of years ago the same shtick was all about husky Gretchen Wilson.

"Gretchen Wilson is proud to be redneck!" yelled the Arizona Republic.

"Gretchen Wilson hasn't forgotten she's a redneck woman!" shouted the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

"Hell yeah" and "Yee haw" appeared a few hundred times in Lex-Nex, as well as overjoyed references to keeping Christmas lights on all year 'round. Keeping Christmas lights on all year 'round wasn't about being a rebel redneck in Pine Grove. It was about being too damn lazy to devote a Saturday afternoon to taking them down.

The cant on Miranda Lambert, climaxing today, is all about how she totes a gun and is an angry and tough girl, like angry and tough girls are rare diamonds.

"She torched a cheating lover's home in 'Kerosene' and loaded up a shotgun for an abusive man in 'Gunpowder & Lead' ... She named the title track to her latest album 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,' for Pete's sake ... And yet Miranda Lambert, a striking blond with pouty lips, laughs at the suggestion she might be, well, the girlfriend from hell," writes the Cape Cod Times.

"Miranda Lambert’s sophomore album ups the ante in the post-Gretchen-Wilson-tough-country-chick sweepstakes," wrote the Philadelphia Inquirer.

"If Uma Thurman's too busy for Kill Bill III, director Quentin Tarantino has her replacement in 23-year-old Nashville Star finalist Miranda Lambert. Pretty and blond, this Texas lass seems innocent, but she's really tougher than she looks ... On her [new album], Lambert pronounces herself crazy twice, loves her pistols, tells us she's self-reliant. Mess with her, and before ash develops at the tip of her cigarette, you'll know about it," said the Akron Beacon Journal.

"Miranda Lambert is a dangerous woman," proclaimed the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

" 'I grew up around guns,' " Lambert, whose parents are private investigators, explained in a recent phone interview. 'It's something that's just part of my personality.' "

"[Miranda Lambert] is a tough, no-nonsense firecracker," writes the Columbus Dispatch, deadeningly. "The daughter of semiretired private investigators who followed philandering spouses for a living, she knows her way around firearms. She has a license to carry a gun."

"[Miranda Lambert] lives in the teeny east Texas town of Lindale, right next to her parents, both of whom are private investigators," adds the St. Petersburg Times, in case you've not heard it before. "And she recently killed the biggest deer of the season in the town of Abilene. It was a 155-pointer on the Boone and Crockett scale, if that means anything to you. She used a crossbow."

In any case, the machine has been set in motion and once a full head of steam is worked up, the favored action is to emulate a bad cable channel, one which repeats the same shows over and over. Like Country Music Television, which has mindlessly rerun the same episodes of the Dukes of Hazzard through most of 2006 and 2007.

Naturally, the Los Angeles Times ran a feature on Lambert, today, in its Calendar section.

Now, behold the rewrite from a less reader patronizing angle:

JUST MAD FOR HER FURY -- Miranda Lambert scares up an audience.

..inspired by the Los Angeles Times

Miranda Lambert plays the jilted-psycho role on the banjo-rattled title track of her new album, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

"If somebody hurts me, I'm gonna get even. I'll bite their fat neck. That's the way I was raised," says the Texas-born singer/songwriter, whose parents, Charles and Bev Whitman, taught her to stand up for herself. (Lambert changed her last name when she left for Nashville in 2001.)

With their private investigator and retail sniper rifles businesses, they also inadvertently provided vivid examples of the rotten things people do to each other, especially in relationships.

"Like shoot each other?" the interviewer asks.

"No," Lambert snaps before threatening to end the conversation.

"People ask me, do you just hate guys?" relates Lambert, proudly displaying a tattoo on her left arm of two crossed pistols. " 'No, no,' I say. I have the best dad in the world, and the best boyfriend. You do believe me, don't you?"

"But if they give me grief, I'm not gonna take it. If you try to jump bail, I'll put two bullets in your tail. That's a lyric I'm saving for my next album, too."

Lambert credits Gretchen Wilson, of "Redneck Woman" fame, with paving the way for her modern brand of twangy feminine rebellion. Yet paradoxically, Lambert hopes listeners will tune in to her sensitive side on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

"I'm not trying to be this badass chick all the time but if someone wants to try and pilfer from my can of strawberries, that's where I'm going to get them," Lambert adds. "I'm not angry, I'm happy most of the time. I have a lot of sides but deep down, I have the tenacity of a pitbull. And if I'm romancing your leg, you better fake an orgasm."

Yet even when Lambert's at her most vulnerable, she's not exactly a wilting flower in love's fiery furnace. She's just too old school.

"Country music is about real things, like drinkin' and cheatin'," she says. "It's about telling stories in the present vindictive, about men you have to marry to get rid of."


If you found this essay annoying, then you surely won't enjoy: Two syllable words too arcane in Lindale.

And be sure to boycott Hots on from Doltsville.
MONDAY MORNING NITROUS: Rewriting newspaper entertainment news stories so they actually entertain

The next piece squirmed its way to the top of the great Internet waste bin this morning, so I thought it worth reccycling before getting back to the usual dumb chemical terror experts and daily mushroom crowds.

It was written in 2004 immediately after seeing something in the Calender section of the Los Angeles Times on Hilary Duff. The Times, if you don't read it, never allows a sense of humor in its coverage of pop musicians and celebrities. Everything is taken very seriously, the tea leaves of pop social trends carefully read, the idiotic exclamations of every man or kid on the street dutifully reprinted as wisdom from the salt of the earth. Because it is like this, it is always easy to lampoon.

...from the Los Angeles Times

January 26, 2004

Duff: She's no pop tart

Thousands of preteens -- sugared up and waving glow-sticks -- were attending their first Hilary Duff concert. And accompanying, in one of the greatest rituals of modern times, were parents, embarrassedly reminiscing about their own first concerts.

"I threw up on my sneakers for Ten Years After in Long Beach in '71," said one father. "I drank so much Piels on the way to Black Sabbath/Slade at the Spectrum in '74, my buddy had to let me jump over the guard rail on the Schuylkill Expressway to take a wiz," yelled another.

It was easy to picture the kids of these parents in 20, 30, 40 years, taking their children to their first concerts, while embarrassedly reminiscing about this day. "I was so excited I wet myself," one might say. "I screamed so long I swallowed my chewing gum," another.

It could be an embarrassment party, but not too embarrassing, because -- after all --nothing can top falling unconscious in a puddle of your own sick for AC/DC or carving "Slatannic Wehrmacht" in your forearm with a razor-knife while Slayer was onstage.

Sure, Hilary Duff's popularity -- her debut album has sold three million copies in the U.S. -- springs from her Disney work.

Sure, she's a cream puff who appeared to be faking ala Milli Vanilli through the entire show.

But she also seemed the perfect star for the pre-teen crowd, and why shouldn't they have their own pop stars? Do you want your little girl etching "Slatannic Wehrmacht" on her tit or piling into the tour bus after the show to be videotaped having sex with someone from Mudvayne?

Presenting herself as a straightforward power rocker in black tank top, skin-tight pants and white knee-high boots, she looked more like Gina Gershon, that bitch who fronted Hairy Clam in "Prey for Rock and Roll" than Britney, Christina or Justin.

Her songs were uniformly robust and catchy, with state-of-the-art hack playing and production.

Most noteworthy, while the now sixteen-year-old's image has been sexualized, it was still quite wholesome, not like the Humbert Humbert-bait, Spears.

A sense of even more wholesome girl power was reinforced by the fact that with the drummer -- in a sort of dominatrix outfit, three backup singers and an onstage video-deejay, all female, Duff and her gender-mates, outnumbered males in the act six to four!

It's a symbol for superior all-American goodness, one that should be fostered by parents who could insist that if junior is to be allowed to practice Misfits covers in the basement with his gender-mates, then at least a couple girls are to be included.

"There's a whole bunch of people who look like pop stars, and there's Duff who looks like a 16-year old who is a pop star. The audience thinks she looks like them, and they love that. They love the idea that her pathological warehouse-sized closet full of shoes could be their closet, if they had a couple million dollars," says Joe Levy, music editor of Rolling Stone.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

GROUNDHOG DAY: 'Expert' dings chemical attack alarm bell

"The U.S. Naval Research Lab estimated that, depending on weather conditions and time of day, a rupture of a tanker car containing chlorine in the Washington, D.C., area could kill 100,000 people in half an hour," writes some person at the Hudson Institute, a think tank where they may not realize "thinking the unthinkable" doesn't have the same novelty it used to. (Homeland Security Authorities Fear Chemical Terrorism in US is the title.)

"Other experts anticipate that a 90-ton release of liquid chlorine from the Kuehne Chemical Corporation in New Jersey could kill 12 million people."

Right away one goes from zero deaths attributed to actual chlorine exposure in Iraq at the hands of terrorists trying to use it, to 12 megadeaths in the US.

Near the end, the Hudson expert hangs himself with an innocuous graf.

"At the local level, many communities are seeking to reduce their use of chlorine and instead employ safer chemicals for disinfecting water, manufacturing products, and other purposes," he writes.

This is nonsense. Not happening, folks. Pure figments of imagination and nice-sounding eyewash. There aren't any practical substitutes for the mass usage of chlorine in modern society.

"Although these alternatives are generally more expensive than chlorine, the attacks in Iraq have appropriately persuaded many localities of the imperative of reducing U.S. vulnerability to chemical terrorism."

Yeah, sure buddy. Next time, read this slowly, why dontcha?

Chlorine revisited.
BOSS MELAMINE: Mao Li Jun bulldozed company when jig appeared up

Buy melamine. Low concentrations in pork, chicken and fish won't hurt you.

"Before Mao Lijun's business exported tainted wheat products that ... killed American pets, his factory sickened people and plants around here for years," reported the LA Times today, below the fold in the C section.

"It wasn't authorities that finally acted. Mao himself razed the brick factory -- days before the investigators from the US Food and Drug Administration arrived in China on a mission to track down the source ... "

"Xuzhou Anying's website posted certificates claiming, among other things, that it had won top quality grades ..."

The Times reported Xuzhou Anying's website,, was down and pictures of its ESB Protein Powder, its melamine product, had been taken down. However, you can still see them on Alibaba, the global trading website. (DD did not verify xzay was gone.)

However, it is possible to review Xuzhou Anying's website, up until April of last year, at (For one example, see here.)

"China is a big country of agriculture; the people's life is improving along with the development of social and need more meat, and egg and mild [sic]," reads a Xuzhou webpage. "But for the high price of protein feed it improves the cost and decreases the benefit, which results in the pasturage develope slowly. 'ESB Biologic Protein Meal' settles the tableau of the protein resource in China, it decreases the cost of feed and improves the integral benefit and boosts the pasturage integral development of China. So developing the item is very necessary in this form.'"

Xuzhou Anying melamine powder: Solving the world's protein shortage through dirty tricks chemistry.

"China's 'watchdog agency' [quotes, mine] said the businesses had added melamine to the food ingredients in a bid to meet the contractual demands for the amount of protein in the products," reported the Times, without any sense of irony.

Last Wednesday, this blog examined Xuzhou Anying's website. It was deemed obvious crap for, among other things, addition of a product, zinc oxide, an insoluble white powder. Like melamine, technically not an outright poison, Xuzhou Anying's site claimed it was well-absorbed in the diet of animals.

While it is possible to applaud the arrest of Mao Lijun and the self-destruction of his facility, one cannot simply waltz away from the responsibility that must be shouldered by domestic partners in furthering his business.

Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology's website, extolling its products, did not pass the sniff test. And it has been peddling melamine as protein powder, if is accurate, at least from 2006.

Therefore, while a company like ChemNutra, a supplier to MenuFoods -- which distributed rebranded tainted pet foods, can claim it was the victim of a plot, it should fall on critical ears. Simple due diligence -- or even a visit to the place and a talk with the locals -- should have dissuaded a reasonable person, one not cutting corners in the mad pursuit of profit, to not do business with Xuzhou and others of similar ilk.

And while the FDA and USDA can make a big noise about suspending shipments of certain products from China and stepping up inspections, the hard truth is that melamine adulteration slipped by for a good long time, exposed only when pets began to die. The reasonable person would be concerned and ask what is to be done when one cannot and should not depend on Chinese regulation.

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, in Chicago on Monday, relating how low amounts of melamine in pork and chicken were not harmful. But what if you have a problem with kidney stones?
WEAPON OF THE WEEK: Formerly a good idea, but backwards apparently

LA Times reporter Dan Neil discovered Futureweapons, the Discovery/Military channel show hosted by a shaven-headed ex-Navy SEAL who gets erections over the most terrifying weapons in the American armory. He dealt with it in a nice essay entitled Bomb Mots.

The knock on Futureweapons, and it's a legitimate one, is that it is merely a vehicle for defense contractor promotions. It is TV with no heart, no morals, not even a twinge of regret as it goes about waxing enthusiastic over the most fearsome pieces of technology, technology designed with only one reason -- to bring about massacres.

One can see it simply in reading the weekly teaser descriptions, piped in from the cable box. "Weapons designed to annihilate en masse" or "Weapons to strike utter fear in the heart of the enemy" are favored, the former for a set of episodes which have aired many more times than even gluttons for punishment could stand.

The climax of the themed show on "weapons designed to annihilate en masse" is one that's been discussed previously, the Sensor Fuzed Weapon. It revolves solely around a promotional video made by Textron, the thing's maker.

"This is awesome!" wrote an enthusiast on YouTube, where the promo is also posted.

"Your tax dollars well spent," continues the president of the sensor-fuzed-weapon's fan club. "You wold [sic] not want to be an enemy of the USA on the receiving end of these things. Obviously the B-52 can carry a whole bunch of SFW-loaded cluster bombs. That must be why a lot of pinhead nations want to ban them."

It succinctly encapsulates the core appeal for regular fans of Futureweapons.

If you think technology for triggering massacres is awesome and those appalled by the idea are pinheads, Futureweapons in infinite rotation is definitely for you.

At no time does Futureweapons, or much of anything on the Military or Discovery channels for that matter, feature any recognizable self-examination.

There's no going into how "weapons designed to annihilate en masse" -- the Sensor Fuzed Weapons, the thermobaric bombs, the computer-aided artillery rockets, the Massive Ordnance Air Blasts of the American armory -- haven't made a lick of difference with regards to the big picture, beamed in fresh from Iraq, everynight to your TV set.

The writers and producers of Futureweapons don't trouble themselves over the fact that most sane nations, realizing they can't compete with the weaponshops of the United States, have just given up on the idea of preparing gigantic militaries to meet the stuff on the battlefield. And it never touches upon one issue -- that one rational answer to defending yourself from the monster weaponshops, should the need arise, is to work secretly at getting one or two atomic bombs in hopes that you won't be leaned on too hard should the hot metal start to fly.

"[Host Richard Machowicz] visits with the men behind the Massive Ordinance Air Blast device (MOAB), a 21,000-pound, mushroom-cloud-forming super-bomb that is the largest conventional weapon in the Air Force arsenal, thus earning it the nickname Mother Of All Bombs," writes Neil.

"It was the MOAB segment that stayed my remote-control hand. While I'm no authority on the laws of armed conflict, it seemed to me a weapon with a lethal blast radius of 400 feet is a tad, well, indiscriminate. Perhaps glorifying this pseudo-nuke was in some sense ethically dubious."

Of course it is. In 2003, DD wrote of the MOAB that press exultation over it revealed a poverty of intellect and heart in the country. Iraq has done nothing but confirm it.

Through the course of the series of columns written to address the glee over the instruments of destruction that would be used in Iraq, DD never saw a blessed bit of regret or self-doubt.

Instead, one read of a unique poll conducted by the WaPost, one done without batting an eyelash or even a wink, showing that most Americans thought it would be OK to nuke Saddam Hussein. And when the Pentagon was questioned by a foreign correspondent over the legality of using something like the MOAB or thermobaric bomb, which were compared to fuel air explosives used by Russian forces, everyone was informed such weapons "were found consistent with all international legal obligations of the United States, including the law of armed conflict."

Which pretty much ended all conversation on the subject.

"A season-one segment featured the world's most powerful cluster bomb," wrote Neil in "Bomb Mots."

"That's the CBU-97 Sensor Fuzed Weapon (SFW), which can rain down molten copper over 600,000 square feet. Another segment explored ground-penetrating thermobaric weapons, which are an extremely unpleasant variety of incinerating fuel-air explosive that can be used to— if I may paraphrase President Bush — smoke them out of their holes."

Except, of course, they never did.

Futureweapons, wrote Neil, is "a televised front porch for the military-industrial complex."

If the show had a motto, it would be one from Al Capone: "You can get more with a kind word and a gun than a kind word alone." Paraphrasing Einstein, one might wish for inclusion, somewhere among the giddy advertisements for steel rains, that it is easier to denature plutonium than the bad heart of man, but it's not congruent with the show's ideology.

Editors and producers might also do well to contemplate a project on America's mighty Futureweapons, one which addresses that while it's easy to whip them on an enemy, they also set in motion battles in which the designated enemy does not give up even though its cities, people, and treasure are pulverized with overwhelming force.
IT'S ORGANIC! EAT ZINC! Not just in plant protein extenders -- wheat flour, too

Don't read this! It's another boring entry about contaminated food. It's not a security issue. Arresting those clueless losers who yakked for 16 months about attacking Ft. Dix, now that's a security story!

"The tainted Chinese ingredient that was incorporated into U.S. pet food and later made its way into chicken and pig feed was neither wheat gluten nor rice protein as advertised, but was seriously contaminated wheat flour, government investigators said yesterday," reported someone at the WaPost.

"The finding adds a new layer of fraud to an already seamy tale of international deception."

You don't say!

Here's the pattern. An indeterminate number of Chinese businesses run qualitative and quantitative chem labs of dirty tricks.

Their function?

Figure out what cheap-ass but not too toxic chemical can be spiked into feeds and foods to be exported, in order to make them seem better than they are and inflate profits.

They caught people napping. They only thing that did the strategy in was greed and stupidity. The FDA was overmanned and its regimens all figured out. But they didn't count on pets dieing from tainted formulations.

What's the big gorilla in the room the US press is ignoring?!

It's a security issue!

It's not just bad business by the unscrupulous. Everyone has a right not to expect their food to be contaminated with materials that are toxic -- but not so toxic they can't be used to fraudulently inflate nutritional values.

Hiring more people at the FDA and the USDA won't fix this. It's not an inspection problem.

It's an import problem!

When one is willing to accept any good or foodstuff from anywhere, just because it's cheaper and superficially appears to be good business, there won't ever be enough people to inspect all of it. Ever.

For the past three years, government officials have yelled and pestered the mainstream media, and by extension -- the citizenry -- about how Osama bin Laden could poison food. Oh how easy it would be, they yelled! Just download some document from the web, brew up some exotic poison, and do it!

"Al-Qaeda has studied U.S. agriculture, which is in need of defense, FBI deputy director John Pistole told about 900 people gathered at the Westin Crown Center . . . 'I believe that the terrorist threat is changing and even adapting — but so are we,' Pistole said here.

Then reality showed up. It wasn't about terrorism. It's about money. And Osama bin Laden and his minions aren't anywhere close to it. They don't have the savvy. They don't have the infrastructure. And they don't have the manpower.

Your GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow watched the evening news.

What got more air time? Melamine in tons of stuff, distributed all over the country and throughout the food supply chain, or a half dozen losers who relished yakking about how they would attack the Army-Navy game, a group the FBI had infiltrated for SIXTEEN months before arresting them?

It's not a trick question.

Remember! Pay no mind to this! It's boring!

WaPost thing.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

IT'S ORGANIC: Melamine, that is, and fish like it, too!

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns at food conference on Monday.

Don't read this. Quick, click away! It's boring and troublesome! No one wants to read about poisoned food from China everyday and web stats prove it!

"Melamine, a chemical found in plastics and pesticides and not approved for use in pet or human in the U.S." has now been found in fish feed, according to a breaking story on AP.

Well, why not?

However, federal officials again reassure with the saying of the day, paraphrased: "It's probably so low it can't hurt anyone."

Will that fish be discounted? Tossed in a landfill?

No, that would be a waste of money. Once it's in the food supply chain, it's here to stay. It will be ground up for meal and --- hmmm -- well, someone will get it. Farm animals, pets, maybe those cheap fish paste fake crab products in the iced case of the supermarket. It's just a little and to toss it away would be an awful waste of money.

Before leaving, GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow directs you to read the FDA's brightly written page on counter-terrorism and protecting food.

"The Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) is working with other federal agencies to help the country prepare for a biological emergency, natural disaster or terrorist attack by making sure there is a safe and adequate supply of animal drug products and a safe animal feed supply system," writes someone from the FDA.

"Current CVM activities that ensure safe food and drugs: monitoring animal feeds to ensure the safety of the animals which receive them; the public who consume the food products derived from those animals; and the environment."

Oops! Missed the melamine until it was too late. That's OK. Everyone knows, Protectors-of-our-Food men, that it's unfair to condemn an entire program for just a couple slip-ups.

Associated Press original.


Definition of melamine, an organic compound: "Melamine is an organic compound that is often combined with formaldehyde to produce melamine resin ... " It's organic, see!
EAT ZINC TUESDAY! A little melamine would be fine

A little melamine in your chicken would be OK, said the FDA. Following the titration of it from feed through the food chain, scientists determined the concentration of it was low enough that it would be all right to eat chicken that came from flocks which had eaten melamine.

While somewhat reassuring, it's not exactly the best message to send if you actually wish to discourage Chinese feed vendors from continuing to use it in the global marketplace.

One can envision them surfing the Internet, spying a newspaper report from the Washington Post on the subject, and saying to themselves: "See, Mr. American, it's not entirely fair to condemn an entire program because of one or two slip-ups."

It was only mild misfortune that cats and dogs died from eating higher concentrations of it. If we can just go back to our lab of dirty tricks, it shouldn't be too hard to reformulate things so melamine can go back into secret distribution.

Here's the WaPost story on it, "Quarantined birds ruled safe to eat," inadvertently inexactly worded:

"Chickens that ate bird feed made with a small amount of contaminated pet food are safe for human consumption and can be released for slaughter and sale, federal health officials said yesterday ... That decision emerged from a government risk analysis completed over the weekend involving 20 million chickens that officials said Friday had inadvertently been fed the tainted feed in several states."

Did "government officials" actually check "20 million chickens"? Of course not.

"Even if a person were to eat the chickens for breakfast, lunch and dinner, scientists concluded, the amount of melamine consumed in one day would be 1/2,500 of the minimum dose thought capable of posing a health risk," it is written.

Now, the question isn't just "Is the concentration of melamine so low that it's OK to eat the chicken?" but also "Do you want to eat those chickens?" And how much will such chickens be discounted? Or will the chicken be marked in the supermarket as containing "a little melamine, but approved for human consumption?" Or what if your dog or cat gets that chicken, either off the plate or sent for recycling in a facility that take substandard meats and poultry for grinding into other uses?

Naturally, the chicken won't be labeled. No one would buy that chicken then, except maybe pet food vendors, no matter what the government says.

Monday, May 07, 2007

SPOONBENDER'S TIRE SPIKES: Liquor in the front, poker in the rear of the flying saucer

Edward Hammond's Sunshine-Project has just put on-line some old documents from the Los Alamos National Lab's Non-Lethal Weapons Project, ca. 1994.

At the time, the project was administered by John Alexander. For masters of military pseudo-science trivia, the name is one to elicit a rolling of the eyes or a lunge for the nearest bottle of aspirin.

During his tenure with the US military, Alexander became known for his involvement in screwy projects like the development of psychic weaponry and the use of clairvoyants in reconaissance. (In 1997, these antics were popularized in a book entitled "Remote Viewers: The Secret History of America's Psychic Spies," by Jim Schnabel. DD seems to recall Alexander being dubbed 'Spoonbender' in it, this having to do with a personal enthusiasm for the old Yuri Geller gag.)

One of the ancestors of DD blog, the Crypt Newsletter, occasionally followed Alexander for the tales of unintended comedy that inevitably resulted.

Conveniently, one article, entitled, "NON-LETHAL WEAPONS ... QUARK, ELISABETH KUBLER-ROSS & CHARM" related:
[Non-lethal weapons] projects - in intellectual thrust - are not unique. They are all, without exception, extensions of the post-World War II US military's desire to formulate a kind of magic-bullet chemical weapon which would make the enemy throw down his rifle, stand up and recite the pledge-of-allegiance. Throughout the Cold War, invariably such attempts met with failure. However, the idea won't die, if only because of the combination of civilian and political distaste for nasty little wars ... and wishful thinking.

... Los Alamos's director of non-lethal weapons programs, Dr. John B. Alexander, crops up infrequently in mainstream media sources like the Los Angeles Times where his thoughts appear as reasonable statements about the suitability of such weapons in international peace-keeping ... However, Steven Aftergood who edits the Secrecy and Government Bulletin for the Federation of American Scientists, dug up a more complete background of Alexander in the most recent issue of that publication. Aftergood is diplomatic in his description of Alexander, but nuts is the word which comes to the mind of Crypt Newsletter editors.

At the time, Aftergood wrote: "In 1980, Alexander wrote that 'there are weapons systems that operate on the power of the mind and whose lethal capacity has already been demonstrated' [in] 'The New Mental Battlefield,' Military Review, Dec. 1980 . . . In that article, Alexander addressed out-of-body experiences, psychokinesis, and telepathic behavior modification. 'There is sufficient concern about psychic intrusion to cause work to begin on countermeasures such as bioenergy detectors,' he advised . . . 'The information presented here will be considered by some to be ridiculous since it does not conform to their view of reality, but some people still believe the world is flat.'"

"The New Mental Battlefield" has certainly aged well, don't you think? (Time again to paraphrase one of the favored quotes from Dr. Strangelove: "Now, Mr. President, I don't think it's quite fair to condemn an entire program for a couple of slip-ups.")

In any case, the Sunshine-Project has posted an old document -- a poster session for a seminar on pseudo-science, one might call it -- on the non-lethal use of "superacids" for the neutralization of enemy infrastructure.

It seems reasonable only if you don't know a jot about chemistry.

In 1994, Alexander and his non-lethal weapons group at the National Lab apparently became interested in antimony pentafluoride as a "superacid" or "magic acid" to throw upon the enemy. It was a grab-bag idea envisioning the use of exotic compounds for "embrittling" metals, dissolving rubber and -- well, generally degrading anything you wanted degraded.

The work and the paper were genuinely clueless.

The Los Alamos talking points paper fails to even notice that George Olah, the scientist who had discovered "magic acid" for his carbocation chemistry work, which would not have been possible without the use of it, was awarded the Nobel Prize the same year.

Of course, the non-lethal weapons project has nothing to do with Nobel class science. It's just a collection of silly anecdotes on what someone in the military industrial complex who doesn't know anything about science might wish to do with something niftily called "a superacid."

Antimony pentafluoride is a very hazardous compound and combining it with hydrogen fluoride, to form "magic acid," doesn't ameliorate the volatile and tricky character of the materials. In industry, it has a good number of applications but it's not something one can practically envision throwing about on a battlefield. Quantity is an obstacle to use. So is common sense. Maybe it could be for spilling on your patio, if you wish to turn it into a chemical waste dump.

To illustrate the genuine lack of critical thinking in the project, it's useful to review a snapshot from the Alexander document. The snapshot shows an artist's conception of a tire spike, filled with some foolish notional non-lethal chemical weapon, made just for the destruction of tires on enemy vehicles.

Well now, if you're going to throw tire spikes all over the the road, why waste time and effort filling them with a mixture that won't add to the final result?

Whoever thought of this had rocks in their head.

And perhaps it explains why such projects never went anywhere.

The US military's non-lethal weapons projects persist to this day.

They tend to circulate the same flavors of faux science passed off as cutting edge mission-of-mercy endeavor over and over. And although they never lack for enthusiastic press coverage, they never gain much traction, either.

One of the reasons for this must be because of perception among many, earned by this chapter in history, that such programs have been administered and guided by kooks.

Document presentation on "superacids" at Sunshine-Project.Org.

Some more discussion, in Weird vs. weirder at Danger Room blog.

Steven Aftergood's citation on John Alexander in the FAS Secrecy Bulletin, also from 1994.
DARPA WASTE-OF-TIME BUILT AT ARMY FORT: Takes about half a decade

DARPA's first "immune building" has been built at Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri, the home of the Army's chemical defense training corps.

"Immune building" has been around for about half a decade. DD remembers seeing nonsense for it around the time of the start-up of Weapon of the Week. During one week's selection process for stupid and possibly evil wastes of money to write about, Immune Building was in a run-off with DARPA's Self-Healing Minefield. The Jumping Minefield won, for obvious reasons, balancing the evil part of the equation much better than IB.

"Immune Building" asked people to entertain the fancy that lots of builders might actually rush to want to make everyday structures which are resistant to chemical and biological attack. It's an idea that only makes sense in world where you're gassed with blister agents as a part of modern life.

Since we don't live in that kind of world, the "Immune Building" is a non-starter.

According to the p.r. one sheet on it at Ft. Leonard Wood, the "Immune Building" is to "Rapidly decontaminate and restore buildings to function."

It takes no heed of human psychology or even common sense.

For the sake of a fantastical discussion, let's assume a local business -- anywhere -- has been hit by anthrax mailings. Once the crisis has been sorted out, everyone rapidly finds no one wants to go back to work there. Ever. The value of the property plummets; it lies abandoned for awhile. Eventually it gets bulldozed.

It's like saying you want to go back to living and working at a SuperFund site. If you've no choice in the matter, maybe. Given choice, never.

Consider Gruinard Island, off the northern tip of Scotland, contaminated by British biowar anthrax experiments for decades. (Google bacteriologist Paul Fildes.) Eventually, the Brits found a way to decontaminate Gruinard. Salt water and formaldehyde treatment of the island was the answer.

Wow! Sounds great. Don't you want to go there for your retirement now?

Immune Building opens at Ft. Leonard Wood.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

THE DAILY 'EAT ZINC!' Drink organic solvent -- then die, too

Today, there's not much more to say about the latest exported outrage from the Chinese industrial giant, brought to you courtesy of the New York Times.

"Over the years, [diethylene glycol] has been loaded into all varieties of medicine — cough syrup, fever medication, injectable drugs — a result of [Chinese] counterfeiters who profit by substituting the sweet-tasting solvent for a safe, more expensive syrup, usually glycerin, commonly used in drugs, food, toothpaste and other products," reports the newspaper.

"Toxic syrup has figured in at least eight mass poisonings around the world in the past two decades. Researchers estimate that thousands have died. In many cases, the precise origin of the poison has never been determined. But records and interviews show that in three of the last four cases it was made in China, a major source of counterfeit drugs.

"Chinese companies that made and exported the poison as 99.5 percent pure glycerin.

"Forty-six barrels of the toxic syrup arrived via a poison pipeline stretching halfway around the world. Through shipping records and interviews with government officials, The New York Times traced this pipeline from the Panamanian port of Colón, back through trading companies in Barcelona, Spain, and Beijing, to its beginning near the Yangtze Delta in a place local people call 'chemical country.'"

Later in the story, it is reported: "In China, the government is vowing to clean up its pharmaceutical industry, in part because of criticism over counterfeit drugs flooding the world marked."

Sure they have. Just as it has been vowed that melamine, or chloramphenicol, or whatever, would be cleaned up along with everything else, after animals and people start dieing. But absent documented death, no harm, no foul.

From the standpoing of your GlobalSecurity.Org national security expert on fine biochemicals, it's fundamentally a hopeless proposition to expect any practical help from the Chinese government.

Diethylene glycol was another compound DD worked with in the laboratory under the tradename Cellosolve. Again, it must be emphasized how astonishing it is that someone would use it as a diluent in syrupy medicines. Outrageous, although a strong word, doesn't quite cover the subject.

In any case, expecting the Chinese government's help in cleaning up so many practices found to be vile would seem to be akin to wishing on a star.

However, one can look to domestic partners of Chinese exporters. They are the ones who enter into deals in the global marketplace because it is cheaper and easier than making materials in house. And they must shoulder a big amount of blame for shirking due diligence, not just being the victims of bad luck and bad faith.

In the past few days for EAT ZINC, our amusingly unpopular series on poisoned consumables from China, DD has repeatedly made the point that if a lieutenant of Osama bin Laden's had been found working factories in a foreign country, shipping poison to the United States, drastic action would have been commanded. For the sake of this discussion, the facilities in question would now be on the unpleasant end of a strategic bombing campaign, or a good old-fashioned cruise missile shower.

However, since it's the pursuit of profit that has caused terror, pain and loss, it's just very bad business in the global marketplace. Business that will cause a temporary stink before shoulders are shrugged and daily work reverts to the usual anything goes ethic.

The New York Times original.

JT Baker poison specs on diethylene glycol, or DEG.

Diethylene glycol spikings in poisonings from contaminated medicinal syrups, in Haiti. Why diethylene glycol, aka DEG? Because it has a sweet taste and using it as a diluent will pass infrared spectroscopic analyses of imported medicines.

Related: Friday's EAT ZINC!

Incidental agroterrorism.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

SATURDAY AFTERNOON PARTY: Old Allentown glam-rocker takes up role of a lifetime on YouTube

Fifteen years ago, as a staffer and a free-lancer, DD wrote most of the weekly pop music coverage the Allentown Morning Call newspaper.

Imagine my surprise to read about an old A-town entertainer, not from the pages of the Morning Call, but in the business section of the Los Angeles Times. (The Times' parent company also owns the Call.)

In today's LA Times, it is written:

"I put on a hat, I put on my glasses, I took out my teeth and I became a character," said Terry Roth, for the newspaper.

Roth was speaking in response to questions about his homemade videos on YouTube, part of a Times story entitled, "First fame, now cash for stars on YouTube; The website says it will share ad revenue with contributors of top-rated amateur videos as a thank-you."

As Zipster08 on YouTube, Roth has been posting videos since August, the newspaper reports.

For the newspaper, he described "his character as 'kind of a Pee-wee Herman thing.'"

"Roth said he was amazed that his sordid tales of sex, drugs and rock and roll -- all true, he added -- managed to attract about 10,000 subscribers, some of whom raised money for him to participate in forthcoming YouTube gatherings in Europe."

Back in Morning Call days, Roth was known as part of the campy cabaret act, Zen For Primates. Although not DD's cup of tea, they were very popular and, if memory serves, managed by a local promoter who handled most of the big rock shows at the Allentown Fairgrounds and Lehigh University's Stabler Arena. (Trivia note for locals: The promoterlater went to jail for skimming concert proceeds off Tom Petty.)

One of the selling points for Zen was that Terry Roth had also been in a New Jersey glam band called Another Pretty Face in the early Seventies.

Although Another Pretty Face had recorded an album with a producer who would go on to bigger acts like the Ramones, it was never released. However, all old albums deserve a release in the digital age and now it can be conveniently found on CD Baby along with some fulsome praise by Dave Fricke of Rolling Stone.

Terry Roth/Zen for Primates website.

Terry Roth answers the question, "What would Jobriath look like if he were still alive and on the Internet?" A bit like watching your grandmother talking about herself while wearing an orange baseball cap, it turns out. Hey -- here's one video plus another on the enterprising use of the element, helium -- off YouTube, the font from which all wisdom is said to flow.

Friday, May 04, 2007

FRIDAY'S 'EAT ZINC!' Chinese vendor of zinc and melamine arrested

Eat melamine, as advertised on Alibaba. We Americans'll buy anything as long as it's cheap.

See the above pic! It's from Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology's Alibaba page in the global market. It's a picture of the company's melamine product, disguised as "ESB protein powder," advertised alongside its fresh "Zinc Oxide of Feedstuff," "fresh carrot" and "fresh ginger." (Visit quick, it won't last forever.)

On Tuesday, your GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow's blog pointed you right at Xuzhou pages on Alibaba in its unpopular week-long series, EAT ZINC!

On Tuesday, DD was outraged to find the inert white powder, zinc oxide, being sold as a food additive.

In subsequent days, we analyzed the idiotic use of zinc oxide as a trace contaminant in animal feeds. We vigorously and thoughtfully explained why zinc oxide powder was not good. The sheer nonsense of it being sold as a food additive was explored. And Wednesday we took a look at Xuzhou Anying's horrible website (incidentally, -- surf out before it goes away) and its description for "zinc oxide of feedstuff."

We said Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology's webpage made crap look good. We made the joke that perhaps it was time to reclassify iron filings as food if one were to believe the rubbish from it.

And today, on PAGE 3 -- you read right, page 3 -- of the C Section, of the Los Angeles Times, buried -- so as perhaps not to annoy businessmen doing global trade with Chinese food additive vendors, it is reported:

"Chinese authorities [have arrested] the head of a Chinese company [Xuzhou Anying] suspected of shipping melamine-contaminated wheat gluten to pet suppliers ... according to a report in the New York Times."

Here is the NYT report.

NY Times reporter David Barboza had been on the case since early in the week, reporting that Chinese firms were brewing up melamine to sell to feed vendors.

And during the week, it became increasingly obvious that Xuzhou Anying's webpages stank to high heaven.

But even DD was surprised at the brass of actually advertising melamine, under the name of a food, at Alibaba, right next to carrots and ginger.

Two out of four Xuzhou Anying products were and are poison. Any bets on what the carrots were made of? Orange crayons, anyone? How 'bout the ginger? The roots of big weeds and thistles from your backyard?

Who knows if the zinc oxide is even actually zinc oxide? Maybe it's a salt of arsenic!

If Xuzhou Anying Biologic's boss, Mao Lijun, had been that of a lieutenant of Osama bin Laden's, this wouldn't be a story just for page three of the business section. "Terrorist who mowed down thousands of pets with poison is captured by military," would be the headline. And then you would read how he'd been shipped off to Guantanamo or some other nameless place. It wouldn't be buried in the back end of the business section so as not to annoy the lubricators of the global market, many who are probably busy saying now that it really isn't fair to condemn an entire network of outsourced food preparation for a couple slip-ups in China.

But since it is all about greed -- greed that only incidentally has caused fear and pain -- our usual counter-terror windbags, those fond of always reminding us that terrorists are getting ready to strike, have been silent.

"Consumers have reported the deaths of as many as 8,500 dogs and cats as a result of tainted pet food, federal officials said Thurdsay," wrote the LA Times. "Officials said the agency had not confirmed those reports but added that the number of allegations were likely to rise as it caught up with the backlog of calls reporting sick or dead animals."

Snapshot of Xuzhou Anying Biological Technology's poisoned foods advertisements on the global market trader website, Alibaba. Includes melamine fraudulently branded as ESB protein powder. Visit quick before it's gone.

In the ever-changing story of pet food contamination, it is easy to lose track of the expanding scale of it and the immensity of collusion that must be involved.

Menu Foods, the company first involved in the recall of tainted food, again expanded its recall this week to include three million more pet food parcels. Earlier in the week, Wilbur-Ellis Feeds did not even include a mention of the crisis on its webpage devoted to description of its animal feed products.

While it would be tempting to think the worst is over when a boss at the most egregious company in China is arrested, the American pet food industry has much explaining to do.

Why, for example, would anyone do business with a company whose products, upon early examination of advertising materials, appear so dodgy?

These are questions for a government actually interested in oversight and protecting the security of the food of its citizens. So far, nothing of particularly great interest has emerged from Congressional hearings on the subject.

It would be good to hold the government's feet to the fire. It would also be good to keep ChemNutra, Menu Foods, Wilbur-Ellis and many other domestic partners also on the stick. Because it's a lead pipe cinch it won't be doable in China.


Yesterday's EAT ZINC!

Wednesday's EAT ZINC!

Tuesday's EAT ZINC!

Incidental agroterrorism.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

'EAT ZINC!' CONTINUED: Tainting honey and pooching bees in China

In today's edition of -- EAT ZINC -- this week's unpopular series of blog articles on the tainting of food in China, readers are told of antibiotic spiking of honey.

In "Cleaning Up China's Honey," LA Times reporter Don Lee writes of "unhealthful practices" in the Chinese bee-keeping industry.

Lee writes of one bee-keeper trying to get his countrymen to not contaminate bees and honey in their search for profits. It's an uphill battle and they've given him a beating over it, the article says.

" . . . [A] gang of fifteen local bee-keepers ambushed [him] as he got out of his red Isuzu pickup truck, beating him and leaving him with a mild concussion."

China exports honey to the United States, "but as the honey business ... in western China shows, major obstacles remain ..." to the cleaning up of food.

It turns out, Chinese bee-keepers administer antibiotics -- specifically chloramphenicol and penicillin -- to their bees when they appear sickly or merely underproducing.

Chloramphenicol is a powerful drug which inhibits protein synthesis in bacteria.

Its usage is banned on animals used in food production in the United States because it depresses the function of bone marrow and causes idiosyncrastic aplastic anemia. It is also on track to be named as a carcinogen. (See here.)

"The reason these farmers use antibiotics is simple," said a Chinese agricultural expert. "It is cheap and effective."

"[One bee-keeper] knew chloramphenicol was illegal but ... said he had no idea that penicillin was another type of antibiotic and that its use had also been restricted," reported the newspaper.

"In 2002, Chinese honey was blocked, first by the European Union and then the US after shipments tested positive for chloramphenicol..."

The Chinese government outlawed the use of it, a step which restored shipments to the United States were it is now used in a variety of foods.

The newspaper add, "Last year, duck farmers added cancer-causing Sudan dye to their animal feed to make yolks redder and bring a higher price," it is reported. Baby foods were also nonspecifically fiddled with, a stunt which apparently led to fatalities there.

It's now clear that US journalists have swarmed some Chinese agricultural businesses, emitting a steady stream of stories on the sub rosa contamination of exported foods for the purpose of increasing profits.

Related: Eat Zinc! (Wednesday) -- Analyzing the idiotic use of zinc -- and other things -- in animal food additives and Xuzhou Anying Biologic's sales pitch for "Zinc Oxide of Feedstuff."

Eat Zinc! (Tuesday) -- Americans will buy anything, apparently. Melamine, urea, zinc oxide.

Incidental agroterrorism. Causing fear, mayhem and pain through greedy and bad business practices within the food supply chain.

Unfortunately, no LATimes link because of sequestration behind premium content wall. Maybe tomorrow if it moves on the wires.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

EAT ZINC! Maybe it's time to reclassify iron filings as nutritional, too

This week, your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow has delved into the murky world of pet food production. And it's a bad and dim-looking place.

Imagine my astonishment to find that zinc oxide, an inert white dust used in paints, baby powder and other materials not considered good to eat, is sold as a food additive by one of the Chinese companies involed in the tainted pet food recall.

Imagine even greater astonishment when the same zinc oxide is found in dry cat and dog food formulations, as trace material.

The pet industry would seem to want consumers to think zinc oxide is necessary for good nutrition!

It isn't.

But DD became so confused he went into the kitchen to look at various goods to see if he had been eating zinc oxide himself!

Was there zinc oxide in Hebrew National Beef Franks? Apparently not, unless Hebrew National's fibbing.

No zinc oxide in the box of Triscuits or the box of organic cereal. No zinc oxide in the can of red chiles. No zinc oxide in Ragu's Mama's Meat Sauce.

Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. sells zinc oxide, right along side its protein powder, fresh carrots and ginger! Why, it almost looks like they'd want buyers to believe it's good for sprinkling on fresh veggies.

Xuzhou Anying wants people to believe zinc oxide is a good food additive. It's website devotes a page of useless information on the product, which I'll deal with in a moment.

But there's absolutely no common sense reason why zinc oxide would be considered a beneficial food additive.

Zinc ion is a critical component in a class of proteins known as metalloenzymes. And metalloenzymes are present within the vital biochemical pathways of life.

However, normal warm-blooded animals, including people, do not need to eat zinc oxide for their zinc requirements. The very idea is senseless. Dietary zinc is furnished in red meat, oysters, poultry, and plant proteins, among other things.

Many years ago DD worked closely with zinc-requiring metalloenzymes in the lab, purifying and characterizing them. Some experiments involved pulling the trace amounts of zinc out of the enzymes, noting the differences in activity that resulted, and then adding it back.

One example of a zinc-requiring protein was a phospho-glycero mutase found in wheat germ. Usually, the lab bought the wheat germ from a local health food store. The enzyme from the wheat germ was tested in the lab and compared with a counterpart found in human red blood cells.

So readers can see from this that trace amounts of zinc are found in common foods derived simply from nature. No need to eat an insoluble powder, zinc oxide, to add zinc to diets.

In fact, the idea of using it in such a way flies in the face of common sense and natural biochemistry.

However, somewhere along the line funny things started to happen in American food production.

Regulators apparently stopped paying attention. So did consumers.

People bought the silly idea that all kinds of things were good micronutrients, as long as -- and here's the good part -- the concentrations of the compounds in question fell below what was thought to be overtly harmful.

Let's put it another way.

You could eat a little bit of plastic, a little bit of baby powder in your food, and it probably wouldn't hurt. After years of it, who knows?

In any case, American agriculture has been spraying zinc on crops as part of its fertilization regimens, in the form of zinc sulfate, for many years. And it has expanded the use of zinc sulfate, with fertilizer companies making it available as a feed additive.

Zinc sulfate isn't good for you either. There's no reason to believe it is good for animals. But in very dilute trace form, it appears not to kill or chemically maim anyone.

Part of the reason for this is not one of healthful benefit. It's for the selling of zinc sulfate to make money.

It can be learned from the web that the market for zinc sulfate is essentially stagnant. It's only growth has occured in its addition as feed and fertilizer additive.

"Zinc sulfate's growth comes chiefly from fertilizer applications and animal feed supplements," writes one web page on business "innovation."

"It is especially applied on crops such as pecan, deciduous fruits, peanuts, cotton, corn, and citrus, and added to feeds for swine and poultry. Some of the fertilizer segment's gain in recent years came at the expense of zinc oxysulfate, produced from steel furnace fly ash. Fear of attendant undesirable heavy metals (e.g. chromium) resulted in some oxysulfate displacement in the fertilizer market." (Ummm, sounds good!)

"Agricultural uses will continue to provide modest growth for zinc sulfate, as zinc is an essential trace element for plant and animal life ... Other application areas are stagnant and are expected to remain so."

Zinc sulfate, as sold by a fertilizer company found on the web, contains a product spec sheet on toxicity. It is here.

Feed grade zinc sulfate, the brochure indicates, is a moderate health hazard. It is obviously not good to eat, as it causes symptoms in line with acute zinc toxicity --"kidney damage, liver damage and convulsions."

Keep in mind the fact that zinc requirement in diet is met by eating normally, not by eating zinc powders under the fool's-hall-of-fame idea that if it is sprinkled upon and into everything, after dilution in the food production chain, it will provide an essential ingredient. (In fairness, zinc sulfate isn't the only compound used in this idiotic manner.)

From this, it can be seen there is a market for zinc sulfate, no matter how unnecessary, in North America.

Enter a company like Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology, a company now apparently caught, along with others, adding melamine to its protein additives shipped to US buyers in order to boost profits.

From Xuzhou Anying Biologic's webpage, a snapshot of its display on its "Zinc Oxide of Feedstuff."

Perhaps this looks reasonable to someone not versed in chemistry. It isn't. It's crap.

In fact, it makes crap look good.

Xuzhou's page compares its zinc oxide, a dubious product, to zinc sulfate, another dubious additive. It does this to apparently make a favorable impression, to persuade someone who does not -- perhaps -- have much in the way of brains, to buy it as a cheaper, better version of zinc sulfate.

"The cost of Zinc Oxide is lower ... " it reads. Yet zinc oxide and zinc sulfate, assuming one would want to buy zinc sulfate for this purpose, are something of apples and oranges. Zinc oxide is an insoluble-in-water powder. Zinc sulfate is soluble in water.

"Zinc Oxide is easier to be absorbed by animal than other Zinc," reads the Xuzhou Anying Biologic page.

Remember what I said about crap?

Zinc oxide is insoluble in water. Although it can be dissolved in acid, and would be expected to encounter some in the digestive system, eating zinc oxide -- in any quantity -- is in no way better than the normal way of getting trace amounts of zinc in the diet. Entertaining such a fancy is absurd.

In fact, in no biochemistry classes or books on proteins and enzymes does DD ever recall zinc oxide explained as biochemical source material.

Well, while times have surely changed since then DD is sure they haven't changed that much.

With further delving, one can find some information -- none of it particularly good -- on zinc in animal feeds.

"Long-term feeding of high zinc sulfate diets to lactating and gestating dairy cows," is the title of one paper found from the Journal of Dairy Science.

"Thirty dairy cows, fed a control diet consisting of silage and concentrates, were given either 0, 1000, or 2000 ppm of supplemental Zn (DM basis), from zinc sulfate monohydrate (ZnSO4.H2O) for most of a lactation," reads the abstract, a summary of the paper's purpose and findings.

"Feeding 2000 ppm Zn decreased milk yield and feed intake after several weeks. Some cows were affected more severely than others."

"Except for lower calf weights with 2000 ppm Zn, reproductive performance was not measurably affected by the dietary treatments. The 1000 ppm added Zn diet had no adverse effect on the cows in any parameter measured."

While it's not "terrible bad," unless you're doing a weird cost benefit analysis on how to decrease milk yield and lower feed consumption, spiking animal feeds with zinc salts appears to be undesirable, at best -- utterly pointless.

The original is here.

In another document from the web, entitled "Imported Cadmium-contaminated Zinc Sulfate Used in Fertilizer and Other Products," it is read: "In 1998, Washington became the first state in the nation to adopt standards for fertilizers. Two years later, when cadmium contamination was discovered in zinc sulfate from China used as ingredients in fertilizers . . . [it was] assumed the cadmium was added to the zinc sulfate. However, it is not clear if the zinc sulfate was deliberately contaminated or not."

Xuzhou Biologic's page on its "Zinc Oxide of Feedstuff" claims to not have much cadmium, lead or arsenic in it.

Hmmm, melamine.

The original is here.

In today's Los Angeles Times, it was said the FDA appointed a "food safety czar" to defend the food and "take into account increasing US dependence on food imports in a global econony."

"The development came as the agency saids its investigation of contaminated pet food ingredients from China had expaned to include feed eaten by millions of chickens that most likely have already been consumed in the US."

"We do not believe there is any significant threat to human health," was the saying of the day. Of course, it is right. Until it is found there is a signficant hazard to human health or it is found that an unlucky someone's kidneys or liver have had a hit put on them.

The original at the LATimes.


"The pet food industry loves to say that it’s more highly regulated than human food, but that’s just not true. Pet food exists in a bit of a regulatory vacuum; laws are on the books, but enforcement is another story. The FDA has nominal authority over pet foods shipped across state lines. But the real 'enforcers' are the feed control officials in each state," reads an interesting report on what's in pet food.

Read it here.

Yesterday, in Eat Zinc!

ChemNutra's PR blog on spiking of animal feeds.

MenuFoods, ChemNutra, Wilbur-Ellis, and the Chinese: Incidental agroterrorism.

Melamine, urea spiking in pet food recall at the WaPost.

Chinese melamine production for feed spiking -- in the New York Times.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

EAT ZINC: American's will buy anything, right?

White powder, looks clean -- hard for Americans to tell from protein, maybe? Or just a trace element source?

"Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. and Binzhou Futian Biology Technology Co., the two companies under investigation by Chinese and U.S. officials, sell vegetable proteins on Alibaba," wrote reporters at the Washington Post today.

And if you read your GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow's blog yesterday, you know Xuzhou Anying also sells zinc oxide, right along side its protein powder, fresh carrots and ginger!

The issue becomes still more clouded when one finds zinc oxide poisoning causes renal disease in cats!

Traditionally, the poisoning comes from the eating of pennies, which are mostly zinc.

However a number of veterinary entries here and here implicate some other household materials containing zinc oxide.

The Merck Veterinary Manual indicates the median lethal dose in animals is approximately 100 mg / kilogram. It's a substantial amount. "Also, diets containing high levels of zinc (>2,000 ppm) have been reported to cause chronic zinc toxicosis in large animals," it reads.

Now, let's review.

It's not intuitively obvious, to someone with a Ph.D. in chemistry -- me, why zinc oxide, an inert compound used in paints, sunblock, rubber manufacture and baby powder, would be sold by a company marketing food additives.

That is, until looking belatedly at pet food labels, where zinc oxide appears to be in brands in extremely small amounts. The amounts appear to be so small as to be contaminants. They are not quantitated on the package.

For example, on the bag of Hill's Science Diet in DD's kitchen, the fine print reads "minerals" which include, in parentheses -- ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, copper sulfate, manganous oxide, calcium iodate and sodium selenite. However, most of these compounds aren't even listed in the "guaranteed analysis," which quantitates only amounts (0.6 percent) of calcium.

Indeed, there's no need for any diet to include copper sulfate, to mention one compound. One suspects that might just as well come from extremely trace water contaminations. Since a form of copper sulfate appears to be used as a fungicide in crops, and has received an exemption from the Environmental Protection Agency here, it's possible it is included because it is a contaminant, along with the other materials listed.

Now, while zinc ion is a key component in metalloenzymes, critical proteins in the metabolic pathways of humans and animals, one does not eat zinc oxide to furnish it.

Zinc oxide is not soluble in water like the form of zinc which one acquires naturally in the diet. It is soluble in acid, so presumably stomach acid -- HCl -- may make it available. However, this still appears to make no sense from a biochemical and nutritional standpoint.

To explain further, DD once purified and characterized a metalloenzyme found in wheat germ, bought at a health food store, which required zinc for its activity. But the amount of zinc present was vanishingly small.

People and animals don't need to consume any special dedicated zinc compound at all.

For example, red meats -- or even wheat germ, naturally furnish the zinc needed by metalloenzymes.

(See NIH explanation here. By reading, let's repeat again, one can see adults need only vanishingly small amouts of zinc, coming naturally in red meat and poultry, and certainly not from the consumption of zinc oxide.)

In unusual circumstances, "Pharmacological doses of zinc may be beneficial in some circumstances and harmful in others," reads a summary from an National Institute of Health conference on its potential use in dietary supplements.

Now perhaps this is all coincidence.

Xuzhou Anying announces on its website that "Zinc oxide is easier to be absorbed by animal than other zinc." It is an empty phrase -- complete rubbish -- a sales push to get feed buyers apparently interested in purchasing zinc oxide.

Because it is known that the Chinese tweak additives into food powders to boost their selling price, it would seem something worth checking, if only so that it can be ruled out as a source of trouble.

After all, what has killed pets? Melamine is thought to be the primary agent. But melamine is, according to news reports, said to be only slightly toxic.

What's the truth of the toxicity? Are there combined actions at work? A stupid and bad formulation? DD doesn't know.

But the Washington Post also writes, "Before melamine there was urea, Chinese traders said -- another nitrogen-rich chemical that was used to give false high scores on tests of protein content but was abandoned after it made animals ill."

(The original is here.)

Oh well, urea!

DD worked has worked with urea many times and never thought of it as a food. No one sane would eat urea. Urea did, however, indeed put assays for protein through the roof.

Now what might one use "zinc oxide of feedstuff" -- which is what it is called by Xuzhou Anying -- for? To add to animal feeds? Why do animal foods which already contain materials that naturally would have trace elements of zinc in them need more zinc from zinc oxide?

Good question? Ask the FDA.

"The task of guarding against contaminants in imports has become far more complicated because an increasing portion of the tens of billions of dollars in Chinese food and agricultural imports involves powders and concentrates for the processed-food industry -- including the wheat gluten and rice protein at the center of the pet food scandal," writes the Post.

And yet wheat gluten, rice protein and other plant protein extenders are not special commodities. They can easily be made in the United States.

However, somewhere along the line, for the sake of the global market, bad business decisions were made. These bad decisions resulted in the ceding of animal feed supply chains to untrustworthy partners. In this, companies like MenuFoods, ChemNutra, Wilbur-Ellis and other American partners cannot evade responsibility. Decisions were made which resulted in egregious breaking of faith with the American consumer.

And, although newspaper journalists have been loathe so far to dig into the ethics of it, the decisions would have had to have been based on the fact that profits could be saved by dealing with the Chinese vendors, an industry with no regulation and apparently no scruples at all.

The questions raised by today's lines of reasoning are legitimate ones and they should be answered as fast as possible as the FDA goes about its business of investigating ChemNutra, MenuFoods, Wilbur-Ellis and all the Chinese agencies that are part of the chain which caused the introduction of tainted pet food into North America.


Your GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow is astonished anyone would consider urea as an additive to food. However, it appears to be the grandfather adulterant from which the idea of using melamine descends. See here.

Urea was a common chemical in protein biochemistry labs DD worked in. Furnished by JT Baker and other makers of finely purified chemicals, one had to be careful to either keep it out of, or remove it from -- buffers, reagents and preparations. This was because it interfered with general protein determinations. In other words, it made you look like you had a lot more protein on hand that was actually there. In the lab, urea contamination -- when it occured -- was always fairly obvious.

But no one was optimizing the use of it to pooch testing.

In 1985 a criminal agricultural enterprise in the United States added urea to wheat to boost general nitrogen determinations and profit.

A tipster on the inside informed the government and the FDA raided the operation.

"The investigators spent a day and a half on the premises," reads a newstory on the incident here.

"During that time, they collected wheat scrapings from one of the grain dryers that FDA lab analysis later revealed contained as much as 33 percent urea. During the next 10 days, FDA investigators took wheat samples from local farm bins where Schuler [company] wheat was stored. One percent of urea was found in some of the wheat ... As a result of FDA's investigation, during October and November 1985, U.S. marshals seized three bins and 26 railroad cars of wheat in the St. Paul-Minneapolis area and three barges of wheat--two in New Orleans and one in Chattanooga--bound for foreign ports."

"The urea did not pose a health hazard [it was said] because there is no known toxic effect of 1 percent levels of urea in food," reads the piece. "Urea is currently approved by FDA as an additive in yeast used for baked goods and alcoholic beverages."

JT Baker's toxicity spec sheet on urea.

Related links:

The latest in 'EAT ZINC!' -- Zinc salts in animal feeds and fertilizer.

Eat Zinc Oxide! From yesterday.

ChemNutra's PR blog. Tracks articles on the pet food spiking implicating Chinese practice.

Earlier piece on tainted pet food for this blog.

Incidental agroterrorism.

[This article has been updated from an earlier version.]