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Avian Flu Researcher Backs Down On Plan To Defy Publishing Ban

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the would-like-to-see-family-live dept.

Censorship 54

ananyo writes "Ron Fouchier, a researcher at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, whose work on the H5N1 avian flu virus has been embroiled in controversy, has now agreed to apply for an export permit to submit his work to the journal Science. Fouchier's paper is one of two reporting the creation of forms of the H5N1 virus capable of spreading between mammals. The other, by Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the University of Tokyo, and his colleagues, has already been submitted to Nature. Fouchier had said last week that he intended to defy the government and submit the work to Science without seeking the export permit that the Dutch government says is required." In related news, renek noted that the U.S. NIH director supports publishing the papers in full.

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Fun! (1, Offtopic)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 2 years ago | (#39795269)

One of the solutions to the Fermi Paradox is there is some feature of physics that is trivially easy for a disgruntled sentient to misuse and kill everybody.

way to cave (1, Insightful)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#39795289)

Pansy.

Re:way to cave (3, Informative)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 2 years ago | (#39796403)

Yeah, it's not like variations of the flu have killed [nap.edu] more people than all of our wars combined. It's not like we have a lack of organizations that believe [bbc.co.uk] in terror or widespread murders. Heck, we don't even have any environmental radicals that just might look at a world wide population reduction [utexas.edu] as the best possible [seashepherd.org] thing that could happen to the environment. Nope, no reason at all to be concerned about this....

Re:way to cave (1)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39799513)

So scientific research potentially dangerous is OK to be censored? Oh boy, that is going to set back chemistry a bit.

Re:way to cave (1)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 2 years ago | (#39799619)

That isn't what I said or implied, your argument is completely off base. I talked about a very specific danger, one that has a track record of killing more people than anything short of communism. This also happens to have a fairly low barrier of entry compared to conventional weapons of mass destruction. Biological warfare in WWII killed far more people than the atomic bombs ever did.

I'm not aware of anything in Chemistry that would allow something to propagate on it's own and kill people by the millions. The hard reality is that their have been biological out breaks from secured environments (african honey bees in Brazil for example) a number of times throughout history. People are rising up against this paper, where they don't rise up against things like nukes because they can relate to the flu spreading from person to person and being helpless to do a damn thing about it.

Re:way to cave (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39800451)

Biological and chemical warfare were pretty much banned by WWII, WWI had both and the chlorine and mustard gas wiped out many more than their biological war efforts. There was a bird flue that spread during WWII, but it was not biological warfare, just luck of timing.

Re:way to cave (1)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 2 years ago | (#39801551)

There are hundreds of thousands of dead victims [wikipedia.org] of world war two [stanford.edu] that would care [fas.org] to disagree with you.

Re:way to cave (1)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39804631)

They'll certainly be helpless if we start censoring and preventing research on it and, potentially, other forms of virology. Hell, you seem to be advocating no research be done UNTIL there has been an outbreak, with your little "their have been biological out breaks from secured environments". If that's your concern (not that bad people repeat the experiment), then you're not complaining about the same thing. You're complaining the science was done. That's even sadder than complaining about it being published.

Of course the giveaway about your opinions might be the bit about "a track record of killing more people than anything short of communism". Really? You can't think of anything that killed more people than "communism"? Sounds like you have a pretty big political axe to grind, so much so it is now derailing your other arguments. If we're talking about vague concepts, might as well include gunpowder. That's a lot less vague than communism... and wow, it falls under chemistry! Suddenly, what I said makes sense. Maybe.

Re:way to cave (1)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 2 years ago | (#39805489)

I have advocated for years in support of scientific research and my comments consistently show that position. Are you aware of what the research paper contains? If this was a stock issue research report there never would have been controversy to begin with. Research into dangerous things has been done for decades and it is necessary. The controversy in this case was whether or not it was appropriate to publish to the public at large. The issue was serious enough the government accepted that this needed a high level review to see whether or not someone could weaponize the bird flu with the results of this study.

While I certainly have an axe to grind against communism, the only thing it has to do with my comment was to try to give people a grasp for the sheer scale of the number of people previously killed by the flu. Communism is the only thing short of natural causes that I can think of that has somewhere in large enough numbers to offer any comparison at all. Hell even all of our wars combined from the last century don't come close.

Here's a source for you to start [hawaii.edu] looking at:

In sum the communist probably have murdered something like 110,000,000, or near two-thirds of all those killed by all governments, quasi-governments, and guerrillas from 1900 to 1987. Of course, the world total itself it shocking. It is several times the 38,000,000 battle-dead that have been killed in all this century's international and domestic wars.

Re:way to cave (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39797197)

You bet me to it

Re:way to cave (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39797595)

You bet me to it

Okay, I'll give you 8 to 3 against!

Opportunity, not threat (1)

korpique (807933) | more than 2 years ago | (#39795295)

1. pandemia
2. ???
3. profit!

Director of NIH? (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39795337)

There's a guy who's in charge of a department devoted to grumbling that things were "not invented here"?

I wonder where that dumb idea came from.

Re:Director of NIH? (1)

IRGlover (1096317) | more than 2 years ago | (#39795525)

Not Here!

Re:Director of NIH? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39795707)

What'll really blow your mind is when you realize that one of their departments is NIMH. Yes, that place with the secrets. [wikipedia.org]

How to defend ourselves against technology? (2)

concealment (2447304) | more than 2 years ago | (#39795377)

With each new advance come new powers; with new powers, the ability to commit evils.

When humankind invented the axe, murder got a lot easier.

With the computer, hacking.

With home DNA synthesis, biological warfare.

When we get nuclear reactors for the home, all sorts of bad stuff can be done.

Do we retreat from technology just because there are going to be evils?

Or accept that we're going to take some casualties and move forward?

Re:How to defend ourselves against technology? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39795489)

I would say that with power comes responsibility and that no rights (i.e. Freedom of Speech) are without limits.

It's one thing to invent nuclear energy only to find out later that someone weaponized it. It's another thing altogether to outright aim for weaponizing a disease to begin with and then publish the blueprints for doing so for the world to read. How does this possibly benefit society by any stretch of the imagination?

Devil's advocacy department (2)

concealment (2447304) | more than 2 years ago | (#39796057)

It's another thing altogether to outright aim for weaponizing a disease to begin with and then publish the blueprints for doing so for the world to read. How does this possibly benefit society by any stretch of the imagination?

If I find a way to immunize the population against cancer, but the only delivery system is through a modified bird flu virus, it's very helpful to have this information out in public.

Re:Devil's advocacy department (0)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | more than 2 years ago | (#39796567)

it's very helpful to have this information out in public.

Is it? The information will already be available to legitimate professional researchers. How many hobbyist scientists do research on deadly epidemic diseases? I have mixed feelings about this, but it seems reasonable to make some effort to keep this information away from the enemies of civilization (and yes, they exist).

Re:Devil's advocacy department (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39797787)

Hobbyists don't seem to be a problem either. Unless you count mass murder as a hobby.

Re:How to defend ourselves against technology? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39796857)

The more dangerous that the technologies become, the less you can tolerate the risks.

Maybe you can say that the loss of a billion people to a flu pandemic is an acceptable risk to take, but you noted the progression yourself - we keep making more and more powerful toys.

What happens when we find something that can kill everybody at once?

Dang... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39795455)

...NOW how am I supposed to create a ultra-virulent virus capable of making humanity extinct!?!?!!?!

Re:Dang... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39795715)

...NOW how am I supposed to create a ultra-virulent virus capable of making humanity extinct!?!?!!?!

Probably avoid using ferrets as your test organism. This is really a media provoked slow-news-day frenzy. The review committee decided it wasn't all that scary (the transmission rate was pretty bad). Trivial analysis of the papers indicated that the method was pretty obvious (serial transmission of the virus to select for better air droplet transmission).

Further research could be left to any one of millions of people with the ability to do this kind of research.

Best of luck in your attempts to rule the world through virology. It would be hard to screw things up more than we already are...

Triple negative (3, Funny)

LambdaWolf (1561517) | more than 2 years ago | (#39795467)

I love the way that headline is phrased. So he's not deciding not to follow the rule about not publishing, eh?

You can't handle the truth! (3)

pla (258480) | more than 2 years ago | (#39795503)

So "the truth" now requires an export permit before we dare speak of it in public?

Well and truly fucked, the lot of us.

Re:You can't handle the truth! (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#39796129)

Some truths were born [wikipedia.org] unspeakable. [wikipedia.org] And have been for decades.

I hope you're not surprised by this.

Re:You can't handle the truth! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39797091)

Well and truly cooked, that goose is.

Well, that's that. (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#39795629)

Science is now dead.

All science and engineering have "dual uses" - good and evil. Basic science more than anything, because it's done without any practical goals in mind - that's figured out later and we call it the applied sciences.

When a government says you can't publish because "someone might use it for bad things" that means you can't publish anything at all. It doesn't matter. A design for a new kind of architectural brick cannot be published because someone might make one and bash someone's head in.

The people who need their heads bashed in are those pushing the security state.

Welcome to the new dark ages.

--
BMO

Re:Well, that's that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39796059)

You think that "someone might use it for bad things." is trivial.
35 deaths is not much, Ill just post from the CDC Website:

"However, because avian influenza A viruses have the potential to change and gain the ability to spread easily between people, monitoring for human infection and person-to-person transmission is important. (See Information about Influenza Pandemics for more information.)"

So, instead of naturally occurring person-to-person vectors, this paper gives us the ability to export death wholesale.

Gentlemen, start your synthesizers.

In a related note: Mad cow is now a California resident. What do you want on your hamburger?

( capatcia: Predict )

Re:Well, that's that. (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 2 years ago | (#39796145)

Could you try to think of an evil use for say, aerogel (or the research therefore), a material which if could be massively manufactured cheaply, could have incredibly ramifications for humanity, and mostly only positive ones at that.

Re:Well, that's that. (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#39796341)

Evil use of aerogel: Someone could probably be asphyxiated with it. Wow, that was hard.

>cheap aerogel

If only. It would revolutionize the home insulation industry.

--
BMO

Re:Well, that's that. (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 2 years ago | (#39796873)

Something called 'Starlite' very almost did that. Unfortunately, the guy behind it was a bit paranoid (and almost made million/billion dollar deals with big companies, but he wanted a 51% share and more control than they were willing to offer). Hoax you say?

Except it has been tested and verified countless times independently. Here's a clip from an old Tomorrow's World (a reputable science prog from the BBC):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4nnLP--uTI [youtube.com]

Here's more info:
http://www.reddit.com/r/science/comments/sq9dw/starlite_is_a_material_claimed_to_be_able_to/ [reddit.com]

Very sad to see it fall (only his family have the secret now, so I guess there's still hope).

Re:Well, that's that. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39799437)

I came to the conclusion in the 80's that it's either a Hoax, or they has decided no one gets any no matter what. Since his reasons for not selling it or licensing it changes, I strongly suspect hoax.
Patent it, sell the patent. Even if a company sits on it, 20 years latter everyone will be able to get it.
So instead we have had decades with out it?

Hell, go on 'Shark' and get an investor. There are tones of investors that he could get for less then 51% and then manufacture it himself.

It makes no sense at all. He could produce it in his garage, so produce some more and start selling it.

Well, he's dead, so that won't happen.

The whole thing reeks of delusional behavior we see with people who demonstration free energy.

Re:Well, that's that. (1)

allonoak (1800750) | more than 2 years ago | (#39796607)

When a government says you can't publish because "someone might use it for bad things" that means you can't publish anything at all. It doesn't matter. A design for a new kind of architectural brick cannot be published because someone might make one and bash someone's head in.

This is different. You're talking about not just harming one or two people, you're talking about working with a virus that could possibly kill 1/10th of the world's population. From an excessive point of view: If someone developed a way to make a nuclear bomb out of superglue and rubber bands, you think they should publish that, too? The results: -No more superglue and rubber bands. and/or -A whole lot of nuclear weapons. Those are the two options.

Re:Well, that's that. (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#39796853)

>From an excessive point of view: If someone developed a way to make a nuclear bomb out of superglue and rubber bands, you think they should publish that, too?

Your argument is based upon the assumption that weaponizing a virus is as simple and easy as manufacturing a nuclear bomb from superglue and rubber bands.

Even if you have the equipment, you need the education and training to figure out how to do bioweapons research and take this paper and somehow translate it into something practical. Your assumption is that this is easy. If it's so easy, why doesn't everyone have a PhD in genetics by the time they graduate Middle School?

Your argument doesn't even pass the belly-laugh test.

--
BMO

Re:Well, that's that. (1)

allonoak (1800750) | more than 2 years ago | (#39808231)

My argument was intentionally excessive. In general, the people who will read the article and understand it in the first place are those that have some experience in the field already, though probably a few who don't. The point is that if it can be weaponized, we at least have to think twice about it before throwing the information out there.

Re:Well, that's that. (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#39812511)

>The point is that if it can be weaponized, we at least have to think twice about it before throwing the information out there.

But here's the thing.

The only people *capable* of weaponizing this are in the industry and academia. And these are the people who are going to get access *anyway.*

How does Joe "I set my undies alight and it hurt" Terrorist even comprehend the fucking abstract?

Your argument stems from the entire assumption that this is cheap and easy. It's not. It likely never will be, because even lab safety, when it comes to things like this, is not easy for Joe "my shoe has a fuse" Terrorist. That guy is likely to kill himself outright with a chemical he forgot to open under the fume hood.

The difficulty makes it so much easier and quicker (and more likely) that Joe "I've got a boxcutter" Terrorist is going to find someone who can get him a few bags of ammonium nitrate from a mining company instead.

It is your over-the-top arguments that politicians and TSA goons use to justify the abuse of 4 year old girls at checkpoints.

--
BMO

Re:Well, that's that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39797083)

All science and engineering have "dual uses" - good and evil.

Last time this virus went pandemic it killed 3% of the world's population. That is not some theoretical scaremongering of "what could happen", this is what actually happened. Half a billion people were infected within a few years, and more than a quarter of those infected died. In terms of death toll, this virus is literally worse than Hitler, Stalin and the atomic bombings of Japan taken together. If it ends up as virulent as the 1918 flu pandemic caused by a similar strain, the death toll could easily outdo all the wars during the last century taken together.

Re:Well, that's that. (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#39797483)

But what you *are* saying *is* scaremongering.

Momnature will come up with this on her own, eventually.

Researching how this happens will tell us how to create vaccines or drugs in the future that can treat this.

So Joe "I lit my pants on fire and didn't like it" Terrorist decides to invent a "Kill Everyone" virus. The funny thing about actual universities where you learn how to do genetic engineering is that when you're actually done learning all that shit and are capable of doing so, you can get *paid* handsomely and you forget all all about the idiotic idea you had about making a "kill everybody" virus.

Basing your security legislation on bad movie plots is simply idiotic.

--
BMO

Re:Well, that's that. (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#39797531)

Following up to myself, I said this:

>Researching how this happens will tell us how to create vaccines or drugs in the future that can treat this.

Burying this information because "the bad guys might do something" will only *guarantee* that when Momnature actually devises a "kill everyone virus" we will *not* have anything in the toolkit to battle it. So everybody dies.

That's what's so galling.

--
BMO

Re:Well, that's that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39806703)

So Joe "I lit my pants on fire and didn't like it" Terrorist decides to invent a "Kill Everyone" virus. The funny thing about actual universities where you learn how to do genetic engineering is that when you're actually done learning all that shit and are capable of doing so, you can get *paid* handsomely and you forget all all about the idiotic idea you had about making a "kill everybody" virus.

-----

riiight, just like you can finish flight school and go get fatpaid as a pilot, so theres no way you'd decide instead to crash planes into buildings.

flawless logic as always, BMO. goose-step along now back to the land of ideological logic

Re:Well, that's that. (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#39812233)

You sound... ... unemployed.

--
BMO

Crimes pays, so does inventing viruses. (1)

henkvanderlaak (965214) | more than 2 years ago | (#39795767)

Ron is from the same "venture" that convinced the Dutch government to make the tax payers invest millions and millions in useless vaccines. And now somehow they still feel they don't need to be held accountable by the Dutch government. I trust him as far as I can throw him. And I promise I'll make a real good effort....

Meh makes sense (1)

nhat11 (1608159) | more than 2 years ago | (#39795855)

There's no advantage of releasing the techniques of creating a killer virus. What advantage is there to releasing a serial killer form prison and shooting everyone?

Re:Meh makes sense (1)

JockTroll (996521) | more than 2 years ago | (#39796141)

What advantage is there to releasing a serial killer form prison and shooting everyone?

Movie rights.

Re:Meh makes sense (1)

Brian Feldman (350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39796771)

Less overpopulation.

Re:Meh makes sense (1)

nhat11 (1608159) | more than 2 years ago | (#39797827)

There's always a positive side to everything is suppose ;)

Too much sophistry (1, Insightful)

adamchou (993073) | more than 2 years ago | (#39797307)

I'm all for freedom of information. But in this instance, what reason do we have to release it to people that aren't working at research labs? Why would the hobbyist need access to this? I agree, we need to release this to researchers so we can develop a vaccine. But can a person who's not working at a serious research facility develop a vaccine before the eco-terrorist with basic biology skills develop a weaponized form of the virus? I'm not an SME on the field, but I'd bet that the answer is no.

And for all those saying you guns can kill people or that nuclear technology can kill people. First off, a gun kills a few, maybe tens of people at a time, at most. A weaponized virus will kill millions, tens of millions, or hundreds of millions at a time. And as for nuclear technology, it takes substantial infrastructure to weaponize nuclear technology. It only takes a home lab to weaponize a biological threat. So please, stop comparing apples and oranges.

The government has no reason to prevent this information from getting to legitimate research institutions. In fact, they've already said that they want this to go to legitimate research institutions. They'res just trying to prevent this from getting in the hands of the religious nut that wants to start the second coming of christ or the eco-terrorist that feels humans should be exterminated from this planet.

Re:Too much sophistry (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39797885)

I'm all for freedom of information. But...

That says everything about you right there.

Re:Too much sophistry (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#39798707)

You approach some fuzzy line when you start to tag the research labs as legigimate or ilegitimate, and crossing it will have very bad consequences. Let's all hope the involved government(s) have enough self control to not kill the development of medicine within their borders, or even worse, steer it in a bad way.

Re:Too much sophistry (1)

nbauman (624611) | more than 2 years ago | (#39799093)

There was an article in Science magazine about why the same U.S. government agency that wanted to withhold the data talked it over and decided that it wouldn't work.

For one thing, it was impossible to make up a list of "legitimate" research facilities and "non-legitimate" research facilities.

On the other side, the "select agents" regulations already threw the field of infectious diseases into an uproar. Foreign graduate students couldn't work on them. One accomplished infectious disease scientist went to jail for a year for filling out his paperwork wrong. A lot of scientists just stopped working on those agents. Who wants to spend a year waiting for the government to allow you to publish your next paper? Who wants to spend a year defending yourself from trumped-up criminal charges?

Avian Flu Researcher Backs Down On Plan To Defy Pu (1)

WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) | more than 2 years ago | (#39798495)

Good. Some people live like there is no reality and no actors out there but the one they live in and the ones they have lunch with. Glad to see they finally GTFU.

Re:Avian Flu Researcher Backs Down On Plan To Defy (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39799501)

Now it can sit in the back ground until a research who is a bad actor decides to whip some up.
Better to release the info, and make it a priority on vaccine research.

You can't control it from the people who would use it because they have researchers as well.

And if we study it now, if Mother nature tosses it at us, or something similar, we will be prepared.

Re:Avian Flu Researcher Backs Down On Plan To Defy (1)

WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) | more than 2 years ago | (#39831041)

It's not black and white like that. It's not "everyone knows or no one can look". It's controlling who looks. Yes that is not democratic and will not lead to the optimum results if your ONLY goal is to study it for defensive purposes- against Mother Nature or terrorists .

But that can't be your only goal. Your goal has to be to minimize the likelihood that terrorists will use it in the first place, or learn from it and do something just as vile against which we have no immediate defense.

So we have an optimization problem. If we secret away and no one looks, we run the risk that terrorist or MN will unleash it and we'll have nothing to defend ourselves with. If we just let it go public, you're HELPING the terrorists as per above.

Like everything else in life there is no silver bullet solution or perfect approach. You have to assign probabilities to outcomes and try to maximize your result.

The way to do that is let's study it in a secure environment. That way, we learn about but the terrorists are shut out.

Is there a scenario whereby Bruce Willis Lone Rouge Researcher secretly studied in his basement and was the only one with an effective vaccine the day the terrorist struck? Are we preventing such a virtuous outcome by following keeping our secrecy in place?

That scenario exists ( in Hollywood especially) but it's much less likely than the alternative where we helped the terrorists inadvertently.

This is a judgement thing.. this is a maturity thing and also an experience thing where experience means roughly, having spent serious time running the scenarios informed by real world and possibly classified information.

People don't just naturally come to the conclusions game theorists do without studying and reasoning with the benefit of informed tested theories. This is something like that. You have to be a specialist to really think through what to do here. Yes that does sort of leave you and me with layman's opinions out of the decision making process. That's what it is to be alive at a time when just everything has been advanced to the point where only specialists really understand shit. It's inherently undemocratic if you think everyone's opinion should count for the same amount in every domain..

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