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Why Do Pathogen Researchers Face Less Scrutiny Than Nuclear Scientists?

timothy posted 1 year,17 days | from the time-travelers-totally-get-off-easy-too dept.

Security 227

Lasrick writes "Derrin Culp of the National Center for Disease Preparedness explores the different levels of scrutiny that scientists in microbiology undergo, when compared to those who work in the nuclear weapons field. His complaint is that, even though America's most notorious biosecurity breach — the 2001 anthrax mailings — was the work of an insider, expert panels have concluded that there is no need for intrusive monitoring of microbiologists engaged in unclassified research."

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227 comments

Intrusive Monitoring for Everybody! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43381615)

Let's all pass around some intrusive monitoring, sound good?

Let's do anal probes with the morning latte, and lie detectors with the evening beer!

Huzzah?

Re:Intrusive Monitoring for Everybody! (5, Informative)

davester666 (731373) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381895)

What is intrusive anymore?

Things you don't need a warrant for:
-tracking someones travels via their cell phone
-reading their email
-any call that originates from another country or is destined for another country can be monitored/recorded
-who they have called/texted
-any and all business records [actually, are there ANY limitations on NSL's?]
-lots of other stuff, based on secret interpretations of laws, cherry picked from "friendly" lawyers, which you are not permitted to know about

Oh god, please die in a fire right now (0, Troll)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381617)

It's because no biological weapon could ever be as effective as a chemical one. You want something to worry about? Think about all of the millions of gallons of hydrofluoric acid used every day in glass etching. That is dangerous. Not some little bug that takes four days to incubate and can be eradicated with antibiotics and ultraviolet light.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43381639)

That's incredibly naive.

I'm sure that there are certain sequences of nucleic acid or protein that, once synthesized and not "contained" could represent an existential threat to life on this planet.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43381655)

Also, there's no reason to suspect that engineering an infectious agent that spawns a global pandemic is impossible, even if the agent is easy to neutralize.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (-1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381683)

That's incredibly naive.

I'm sure that there are certain sequences of nucleic acid or protein that, once synthesized and not "contained" could represent an existential threat to life on this planet.

Speaking of naive. You're sure of this. Just a 'few sequences' and poof, the end of life as we know it?

Dr. Critchon, I thought you were dead.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43381759)

Dr. Critchon, I thought you were dead.

You are so mentally deficient you cannot even spell Crichton correctly.

Quit posting and go smoke some cock, you mentally deficient lowlife faggot
piece of subhuman waste.

Spanish Flu (4, Insightful)

Roger W Moore (538166) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381887)

Speaking of naive. You're sure of this. Just a 'few sequences' and poof, the end of life as we know it?

Obviously that seems exceedingly unlikely so to try to cut through irrational fears lets try looking at a real disease. The Spanish flu of 1918 killed 50-100 million people world wide. If we scale that as a percentage of the population today that number would be 180-300 million and that is for a disease which 80-90% of the people who caught it survived. This is clearly comparable to several, powerful nuclear weapons and for something as infectious as flu it is unlikely that you could stop it once it got out e.g. the recent swine flu outbreak.

So for those involved in researching viruses with the same, or worse, potential as the spanish flu why shouldn't there be similar safe guards to nuclear weapons researchers? The consequences of material getting out is similar in both cases and, in a world with suicide bombers, I'm not sure I'd rely on the fact that a biological weapon may well kill the one who releases it to stop if from happening.

Re:Spanish Flu (2)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43381921)

Because anyone with a decent knowledge of virology could pull an attack off without access to any "restricted" materials, they might not succeed, but if you think that you are secure because you watched the experts you just missed well more than 90% of the risk.

Re:Spanish Flu (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43381941)

Really? So what? The nuclear weapon not only kills a bunch of people in a spectacular way, it also makes a large area uninhabitable and, of course, destroys the infrastructure too. The flu kills some people. The land is still livable and the buildings, roads, bridges, etc. are all fine. The only thing that happens is the population (which is too high) goes down a bit.

Re:Spanish Flu (2, Insightful)

Roger W Moore (538166) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382031)

Yes but with the Spanish flu as much as 50% of the world's population was infected so, while a nuclear weapon is limited to killing the people in one city a biological weapon can reach into practically every home on the planet. Those "some people" will include your friends and family so again I would say it seems just as terrible as a nuclear weapon but in a different way.

Re:Spanish Flu (2)

Jessified (1150003) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382615)

Our ability to identify and quarantine disease is obviously what it was at the beginning of the 20th century. No big breakthroughs since then.

Re:Spanish Flu (4, Interesting)

Shavano (2541114) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381987)

The consequences of the material getting out are worse with the pathogens because it doesn't take any technical capability at all to start the spread of the pathogen. All a person has to do is get infected, or get another person infected.

Steal 20 pounds of weapons-grade plutonium and you have 20 of raw material that you need a Ph.D. and a lot of engineering knowledge to convert into a bomb that can kill millions of people.

Also, the pathogen is millions of times easier to conceal.

Re:Spanish Flu (1)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382183)

I loved the Spanish Flu episodes of ReGenesis [wikipedia.org] . That show really captures a lot of intelligence and thoughtful analysis in the midst of crazy and unlikely + unrealistic plot lines. Ellen Page [wikipedia.org] was in it as Sandstrom daughter in the first-season episodes (The Ontario Genomics Institute [wikipedia.org] also wrote a bunch of fact-sheets about the scientific facts behind the fictional story lines. Two of those apply to these concepts. Hell, even Psych [wikipedia.org] did an episode about virulent pathogens, and that episode even starred the Asperger's scientist from ReGenesis, Bob Melnikov (played by Dmitry Chepovetsky [wikipedia.org] ): the episode was in 2010 Death is in the Air [imdb.com] , which is Psych Season 4, episode 13.

Re:Spanish Flu (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43382093)

The Spanish flu was somewhat special case as the secrecy and censorship during the WW1 caused media to mostly ignore the early signs of the disease, giving the flu great way to spread mostly unnoticed. The other factors where the large population movements and the chlorine gas used in the battlefield.
  It is of course quite telling that the need to monitoring is not very large for those involved with unclassified research. With classified research, the need for intrusive monitoring is apparently high then, which leads to the question of what the virus they are researching at?

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

Bowling Moses (591924) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381721)

"I'm sure that there are certain sequences of nucleic acid or protein that, once synthesized and not "contained" could represent an existential threat to life on this planet."

Nope. Nucleic acid is not terribly stable stuff and for relatively short sequences every possible combination already exists in nature. Proteins aren't terrifically stable either and the vast majority require a three dimensional fold on top of the chemical structure in order to function. You can get rid of that fold-denature the protein-by a large number of means. Even if you still have properly folded protein its activity is heavily impacted by temperature, pH, presence of salts, concentration, etc. Life has evolved over billions of years to consume, break down, and reuse nucleic acids and proteins. The risk factor is around that of somebody manipulating water to go all ice-nine on us.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43381855)

Nucleic acid is not terribly stable stuff and for relatively short sequences every possible combination already exists in nature.

You've proven this? Can we see your data?

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

stevez67 (2374822) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381889)

Try reading scientific journals before showing off your lack of knowledge ... there are some organisms and some sequences of nucleic acid that could be used as bio-weapons but they wouldn't be a "threat to life on this planet". Those that could be weaponized are maintained very securely, use and access is tightly controlled and restricted, and they are quite expensive and cumbersome to do research with or on.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381739)

It's not. There aren't. And if there were, it would be cheaper to do anything else, like one of the many missing Russian nukes. All things die when left alone in the wild. This fearmongering is the product of years of zombie fantasies in popular culture. All of it is utter nonsense.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

RsG (809189) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381967)

This fearmongering is the product of years of zombie fantasies in popular culture. All of it is utter nonsense.

Second that. Though it's not just zombies.

Plagues, both natural and manmade, are a staple of apocalyptic fiction. Current craze is zombies, but they're a recent (and effective) retelling of a very old meme.

Stop me if you've read this one: "PLAGUENAME a (virus/bacteria/prion/plot device) created by (godless researchers/actual god(s)/mother nature/snidley whiplash) swept the globe after (accident/outbreak in the third world/contrived event) killing (millions/billions/everyone but our heroes), and turning our cities into haunting graveyards". When you can make a mad libs version of what is essentially the same story, it's officially become a cliche.

Now, reality time. The worst plagues in recent history were the 1918 flu epidemic and the HIV pandemic, while the worst in ancient history were the black death and smallpox. These are the killers that the cliche above sprung out of. They set the bar.

They aren't even close to apocalyptic. Especially not on a global scale. Even a pathogenic perfect storm is at worst a regional catastrophe.

Is this any surprise? Fiction always takes things further than reality. If the world conformed to our fantasies, we'd have moon cities twenty years ago. Reality is a huge letdown sometimes. Not that that stops people from believing; you could probably make a killing by selling lunar real estate with the promise that it'll be ready in twenty years.

So you get people who think that yes, it really is possible to bring about the end of the human race via pathogen. And those same people will look at something like the 2001 anthrax attack and think the sky is falling, while reality being what it is, the total death toll for that was single digit. The article is pandering to that mindset.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381983)

...and let's be honest, if nature was going to do it, it's had fifty million years to make a move, y'know?

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43382345)

Apocalyptic plagues are an evolutionary dead end. If it kills quickly and surely enough to be a weapon, it's not a particularly fit organism because its host will tend to die before they can infect others.

I'm far more scared of pathogens than nukes, though, and I don't think this idea deserves the derision it's getting. Prion diseases, for example, are really terrifying stuff. The kuru strain of the CJD prion, for example, exhibited an incubation period of between 5 and 20 years. If you were really determined, you could get that disease into a lot of people before it started showing itself.

Look up Biopreparat. Look up the Marburg virus. This is very useful, very worthwhile research which we should be spending a great deal of effort on, but it's also the kind of research that could end up destroying a civilisation. Is it really so terrible to suggest that perhaps we should be a little more protective than we already are?

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382435)

Weaponisation of prions is an interesting angle I hadn't considered, although it looks like research into BSE and CJD is far enough along that, if Kuru were weaponised today and spread amongst a million people, we would notice it and cure it before it started causing symptoms. (That might be a little on the optimistic side, but presumably funding and other resources would be reallocated in such a situation.) Engineering new prions also seems like a woefully wasteful plan, and ultimately all such superdiseases run into a classic shortcoming of zombie stories: it's not currently practical to defend yourself or your people from getting infected, too.

The Marburg virus, like other BSL-4 diseases, falls under the other clause of this debate, which is that it doesn't require a biologist to disseminate, and so monitoring researchers wouldn't do a lick of good. I've already noted similar of other diseases like Ebola. As a general rule such diseases kill so aggressively that they can be only used with a handful of targets, in which case it would be more reliable and cost-effective to send a hitman, or use a nerve gas attack.

Re: Oh god, please die in a fire right now (3, Interesting)

Doubting Sapien (2448658) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382611)

So far diagnosis of prion infections can only be reliably done using post-mortem detection of PrP, which is too late in most cases. The incubation period of most prion disease, measured in months and years, makes it a very poor bio-weapon candidate. While the argument can be made that military research can make progress toward that end, the practical reality is that it is still a not very well understood disorder and a lot of basic research is still needed despite intense and public scrutiny (for obvious reasons) from the agricultural sector of developed nations. Treatment options at the moment are virtually non-existent. Containment and culling to halt the spread of infection is still the order of the day in most agro scenarios. But this has been difficult where the infection exists in wild populations. Studies from a Colorado wildlife research facility where chronic wasting disease is endemic in local elks and deers have shown that prion infections can persist dispite conventional cleaning and sterilization methods. Other research shows that livestock to human transmission are not the only cross-species cases with examples being observed in minks from fur farms and guinea pigs in the laboratory also being suceptable. Such realities have resulted in hunters and recipients of venison from road kill being publicly cautioned from consuming the meat of animals from area known to have infected populations. There are a few efforts in very early experimental stages, but owing to the still very immature understanding of prions in general, it is still effectively a fatal disease with know cure/treatment options in human.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43381675)

Im incredibly worried about biological attacks. If there was any reason that we should have universal healthcare it is the threat of biological weapons. It's national defense.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381717)

The plague took months to spread around Europe when there was no sanitation whatsoever. As a weapon of mass destruction, diseases are (a) wildly impractical and (b) much less convenient than many alternatives.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43381781)

Also, there is no good way to stop them from infecting your own populace at a future point. It would be the pinnacle of stupidity to unleash some type of unstoppable virulent pathogen onto the world. No rational nation would ever do such a thing. Anyone that cares about their people and doesn't want to hurt them would know better. I mean, Kim Il Sung is way smarter than ... wait ... oh, shit.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381823)

That's merely a popular misconception of cult leaders—they're not that short-sighted. Even North Korea's current sabre-rattling is an attempt to get something out of the UN and the US.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43381903)

The problem with biological weapons is what happens when you release them at major airport, by the time the symptoms make a pattern every country with enough money for even occasional flights from the "upper classes" has been infected. Also even near 100% survival with hospital treatment can look very bleak when all the hospitals are full. But this cuts both ways. even most religious terrorists wont use them, their country's and people who follow their cause will suffer the worst- compare religiosity scores to economic development for the reason, you need money for heath care. I say most for a reason however if you view civilisation as worth destroying and will consider your compatriots deaths to be justified martyrdom then you might want to.

This does not mean however that biological weapons are automatically doomsday devices, the details matter, incubation period, infection rates, transmission requirements, lethality rates with varying levels of treatment (drug resistance/effectiveness ect) and the cost of that treatment in scares resources(eg blood for hemorrhagic fever). Chose the wrong disease and it is not much more than an inconvenience on a national scale, and *if* it gets taken seriously the quarantine will cut spread and may even give time for immunisations.

So, scary, random, may hurt the users more than the targets - and all this leaving out what will happen if anyone finds out who released it. But if it does happen it could be horrific, it wont end civilisation but it could seriously ruin the lives of pretty much everyone for years, even decades afterwards. So should we look at these experts? NO - it does not take an expert to do this, hence the fear factor. It might not work but any clever organised graduate with a biology degree and a decent wad of cash could set an attack like this up with little suspicion. The thing that stops this from happening is that only the crazy or stupid would want to do this anyway and it would take a lot of clever organisation to pull it off. The best thing to do is prepare quarantine plans keep hospitals well drilled and make shure that the international disease warning systems are well funded, all of which have the benefit of being effective against more common but smaller threats.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381949)

No, a biology degree isn't even required—just a well-concealed sample imported from a third-world country in your carry-on luggage, like a mosquito with malaria. No exposure to academia of any kind needs to be involved, and it certainly doesn't make sense to harass researchers who are likely to wind up in the middle of the quarantine area. With nuclear weapons this all makes sense because the transfer of technology could give a vulnerable country a bartering chip in world politics, and a scientist giving up this information does not put himself or herself in danger to do so. But with biology, the resources are already available.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43382291)

I want to fuck your bare asshole, you know that?

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382309)

You sound like you have a very childish grasp of sexuality.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43382597)

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Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

Shavano (2541114) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382005)

The plague took months to spread around Europe when there was no sanitation whatsoever. As a weapon of mass destruction, diseases are (a) wildly impractical and (b) much less convenient than many alternatives.

The Spanish Flu took about six weeks to go from barely noticeable levels to its peak. Other flu strains do the same.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382073)

And they're all similarly non-perilous in the face of modern medicine.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

Shavano (2541114) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382171)

And they're all similarly non-perilous in the face of modern medicine.

That's not correct. The Spanish flu was a particularly deadly strain, unlike most other flu variants before and since and we don't really know why it was so bad. It is completely possible for a deadly new flu (or other disease) variant to crop up for which we just don't have the proper medicines. Flu outbreaks can be reduced with vaccination campaigns, but that depends on the correct prediction of what flu types will be going around in a few months. Sometimes the flu shots are effective and sometimes they're not because the formulators guessed wrong. There are now antivirals like Tamiflu, but not all types of flu are susceptible to it.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382303)

The mechanism is actually understood, now; like SARS and H5N1 it causes a cytokine storm. A 2003 publication produced results suggesting that cytokine storms can be treated. Moreover, both SARS and H5N1 were largely defeated by public awareness and proper sanitation; in contrast, the 1918 flu spread throughout Europe in a time when military censors prohibited publication about it, making things worse. In fact we call it the Spanish flu because Spain wasn't subject to that censorship.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (2)

The Master Control P (655590) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381715)

You do realize that biological agents do something that chemicals don't, right?

Spill any chemical you want - that's all there is and all I have to do to escape it is not go where it's laying. Weaponized anthrax? Smallpox? Pandemic flu? Yeah, good luck escaping that shit by staying away from the place of the initial outbreak.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

flayzernax (1060680) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381787)

Thats not necessarily true. There some pollutants that stick around for a good while. Some of those could be mixed into a bioengineering bacterium that would stick around for awhile in the environment as well. Again its all unpredictable, but you could really screw up an ecosystem for decades by using 1 pathogen targeted at the right environment with the right payload.

DDT is a chemical that comes to mind. Something like that wouldn't be as dramatic as zombies but would definitely make for a devastating affect over a long. Really great if you planned for a war of attrition and wanted the enemies food supply to become unreliable.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (2, Interesting)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381813)

Oh, yes. A doomsday device that gets preyed upon by every protozoan, yeast, and bacterium in the world. How brilliant. At least that rules out any organization other than a lunatic from employing it!

Why do you think MRSA—by all means a real, legitimate biological threat that isn't the fantasy of a powerhungry politician—is only found in hospitals and factory farms? The metabolic cost of the antibiotic resistance makes it vulnerable to the environment. The more radically efficient a disease is, the worse it is at killing. Even exceptional pathogens are meagre: "during the outbreak the fatality of SARS was less than 1% for people aged 24 or younger, 6% for those 25 to 44, 15% for those 45 to 64, and more than 50% for those over 65."

Furthermore, what would controlling American researchers accomplish? The United States does not have a monopoly on disease research. Surely a much greater threat comes from disease research laboratories in less developed countries with more corrupt governments rather than the exceptional person in a generally healthy, secure, and safe working and living environment. Moreover, despite the lack of a direct oversight mechanism, there is still a great deal of internal review, and it is implausible that an academic would have the resources to work on a project such as this without scrutiny and authorization.

Ultimately, this approach seeks to treat with suspect people who do sensitive work. In less fortunate populations that has been shown very thoroughly to induce criminality. Ivins, the prime suspect of the "Amerithrax" case, was known to be mentally unstable and once saw a counsellor, who was apparently terrified of him. He should have been directed to another therapist, but wasn't.

So there you have it. The only real scenario that has ever occurred, which this policy seeks to prevent, and it was caused by a failure of the psychiatric system. And no one died.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382085)

"during the outbreak the fatality of SARS was less than 1% for people aged 24 or younger, 6% for those 25 to 44, 15% for those 45 to 64, and more than 50% for those over 65."

Are you saying it is less important because it is a possible resolution to the "social security crisis"?

What?!? I couldn't find any of the expected juvenile jokes involving scientists, small things, and magnifying glasses.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382131)

Honestly, Malaria would give far better results, in which case harassing disease researchers won't accomplish anything. My point was that engineered diseases are futile.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (2)

Lehk228 (705449) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382101)

ordinary pathogens tend towards less lethal simply because killing off all available hosts is bad for business and will likely lead to extinction of the strain.

however, engineered pathogens are not subject to such restrictions, modify a rhinovirus so that it also craps all over p53 and now you have a cancer causing cold.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382177)

Your suggestion is a perfect example of why engineering wouldn't work.

Rhinoviruses are successful because they mutate rapidly. The only thing that prevents them from corrupting their genes completely and disappearing is the tiny chance that they won't misfold and will, instead, produce new viable virions after host infection.

A payload protein specifically meant to interfere with a normal cellular function would (a) be selected against due to a high rate of failure and (b) not serve the virus in any capacity, thereby causing it to fail through mutation. (And I don't know enough about virology to say for certain, but I don't think enteroviruses integrate with the genome normally, so there goes that approach.)

You would probably have more luck trying to engineer a really aggressive strain of HPV, but that's easily eliminated with sanitation.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382617)

i am sure it would not be point and click VB.net simple as i describe, but working in some type of hardening code to partially protect the payload should help longevity, and you only want limited longevity, a nice bloom is desired, a global kill pandemic is not (unless the party engineering the virus is a human-extinction advocate)

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

russotto (537200) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382265)

however, engineered pathogens are not subject to such restrictions, modify a rhinovirus so that it also craps all over p53 and now you have a cancer causing cold.

Subtle, and possibly quite effective at cleansing the earth of its two-legged parasites, but I prefer the more direct and messy approach of using the Ebola glycoprotein.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43381737)

It's because no biological weapon could ever be as effective as a chemical one. You want something to worry about? Think about all of the millions of gallons of hydrofluoric acid used every day in glass etching. That is dangerous. Not some little bug that takes four days to incubate and can be eradicated with antibiotics and ultraviolet light.

You could not be more wrong.

Google "1918 flu epidemic" and see just how wrong you are.

Oh, and if you think the antibiotics and UV light are a panacea,
you need to do some research on drug-resistant bacteria in
US hospitals ( hint : lots of people are dying because of this
problem ).

The phrase "stupid cunt" cannot often be used without being excessive,
but in this case it barely covers the surface of your own idiocy.

.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381871)

I don't think you know a thing about evolution.

Multiple antibiotic-resistant bacteria are not found in the wild unless there is an excess of antibiotics significant enough to justify the metabolic cost of wasting energy on keeping the resistance alive. What bacteria do not need, they do not keep. Take the patients out of the hospitals and they will do just fine. You should have picked a better example, like Russia's tuberculosis epidemic, but I get the feeling that if you had anything more than surface knowledge about this subject, you wouldn't be throwing such childish words around. Engineered mutations are fragile.

The reality is that the real biological threats to human health don't need us to enable them. Malaria kills millions of people a year, and has been doing so since the beginning of human history—it kills so many, in fact, that most deaths go unreported and it's believed that the real figures may be ten times higher than what we can verify. And it does it without any engineering or mentally unstable biochemists getting in the picture. This proposal is a complete waste of money that will only bring misery to the researchers it affects.

So, really, take your paranoid babytalk and go back to your basement.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43381821)

One of my friends works in a lab focused on lots of nasty stuff -- everything you've heard about being weaponized and more. There are exceptions, but in most cases the measures needed to protect the workers from their work are extremely unimpressive. Much of the time it's just gloves and keeping the work under a hood, like in your standard Bio 101 lab. It's not exactly a fair comparison, I know, but you're not going to find a lot of similarly casual safety among people handling live nuclear material.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381907)

They do get higher—there are a handful of BSL-4 labs where everything is vacuum-sealed, and personnel suits have life support systems that are kept under positive pressure. It sounds like you're describing a BSL-2 lab, which can be used to study (for example) hepatitis, but not tuberculosis or anthrax, which are BSL-3. BSL-3 labs require either constantly working under a hood or special safety equipment. Different safety levels may be found in adjacent rooms, so it's easy to get confused.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43382167)

I just looked it up and it's BSL-3. Not that it adds a lot to the discussion.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382283)

In that case, most of the precautions taken are in the fume hoods. If a BSL-3 lab has a containment breach, typically the entire building will go under quarantine until everyone has been properly screened; a friend of mine had the misfortune of going through one once.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43381861)

Happily, you're not the one making policy decisions on this.

Ebola comes to mind.

Go back to your corner.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381905)

Happily, you're not the one making policy decisions on this.

Ebola comes to mind.

Go back to your corner.

Speaking of corners, Elboa sits in one. It's not a very good bioweapon. Really virulent viruses tend to be crappy weapons. Once you kill your vector, you're pretty much dead yourself unless you simultaneously invoke the deux ex machina of a Zombie Apocalypse.

Now that would be a good bioweapon. Even the CDC [cdc.gov] agrees with that.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43382019)

Once you kill your vector, you're pretty much dead yourself unless you simultaneously invoke the deux ex machina of a Zombie Apocalypse.

Not only that but nothing says "stay away and don't get infected" like making your host bleed out.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381911)

Ebola and TB could be imported from Africa by anyone, though. Why harass researchers?

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

Shavano (2541114) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382113)

Ebola IS very dangerous to humans and it does spread, but there have been a lot of outbreaks and they always burn out in a few days. It kills its victims too fast to spread rapidly once people are aware that people are getting sick. To be a big threat to humans, a disease has to have a longer incubation. Smallpox, for example, had an incubation period of about 12 days.

Interestingly, during the 19th and early 20th centuries, a less-virulent form of smallpox evolved, called "variola minor." Patients with this form didn't get as sick but it was higly communicable. The minor form spread rapidly and might eventually have made full-blown smallpox extinct if the eradication campaign hadn't made both forms extinct in the wild.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382223)

And there's a key theme—communicability is inversely proportionate to impact, particularly with viruses. They don't really have incubation periods; cells get infected and effects worsen until the immune system can't keep it under control. If the symptoms are extreme, people die right away. And if you really want to kill a handful of people immediately, why bother with a disease at all? Envelopes of anthrax spores is a gimmick that works once before everyone gets suspicious. There is no advantage over a normal assassination or a poison gas attack.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43382515)

So, something like Lassa with a 6 to 21 day incubation period? Crimean–Congo with a flu-like appearance for about a week where the person is contagious? Maybe MARV or RAVV . . . I don't know their incubation times off hand. HPS could be nasty, another week long incubation followed by days to week of infection spreading, with 60% fatality rate.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43382629)

Ebola and TB could be imported from Africa by anyone, though. Why harass researchers?

citation?

Suggest a reconsideration (1)

ridgecritter (934252) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382119)

because nobody could distribute the daily HF etchant load so as to kill very many people. Contrast that with the Black Death, which killed 1/3 of Europe through the movement of fleas on rats on ships. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Death [wikipedia.org]

Chemweapons have to be distributed and don't extend their effects very far beyond their delivery locus. Bioweapons can propagate. Engineer a latency between infection and onset of symptoms of say, 100 days into an airborne pathogen with high clinical mortality and watch it spread far and wide before it surfaces.

I understand that such bioengineering may be nontrivial, but to say that "no biological weapon could ever be as effective as a chemical one" is, I believe, incorrect.

Re:Suggest a reconsideration (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382273)

Engineered bioweapons cannot propagate. Incubation period is inversely proportionate to severity of symptoms, except for complex organisms like protozoans. Bacteria and viruses both mutate too quickly for a delayed lethal phenotype to be in their interest, otherwise we would see this more frequently in the wild.

The only highly-spread bioweapon (that comes to mind) not defeated by a combination of sanitation and the environment is malaria. Rather crucially, malaria is very common in third-world countries, which means that restricting the activities of researchers provides a uselessly small amount of security.

Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43382565)

And yet, it was one little bug that in a 5 year period wiped out 1/3 of the world's population. Likewise, another takes roughly 10% of all deaths each year.

O'rly? (1)

flayzernax (1060680) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381651)

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/02/washington/02anthrax.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 [nytimes.com]

Seems like biowarfare researchers make just as solid scapegoats as crazy nuclear physicists and MIT computer nerds.

Re:O'rly? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43381819)

Yes, but not as much as FAGGOTS! We need to put tons of scrutiny on FUCKING FAGGOTS! FAGGOTS are ruining this nation morally! Convert a FAGGOT today.

Re:O'rly? (2, Funny)

EvilSS (557649) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381923)

I've tried this before but a FAGGOT is such a non-standardized unit of measure no one can seem to come up with a consistently working conversion. Sometimes we ended up with a carton of menthols. Sometimes a big bundle of sticks (why the fuck would I need that?) The worse were the times we ended up with a cheap beer swilling ex high school jock. Seriously inconvenient unit of measure those were and I couldn't trade them for anything useful!

scrutiny? from whom? (1)

turkeydance (1266624) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381653)

is scrutiny from A better and/or more reliable than from B? will multiple scrutinizers provide better data just because they're *more*? my position is: inviting more to the party invites more of absolutely everything.

The same reason there no more anti-war protests (0, Flamebait)

Kohath (38547) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381667)

Why pick on nuclear science and the nuclear industry? For partisan political advantage. In the 70s and 80s, the anti-nuclear crowd was able to spread lots of FUD -- and they got unlimited media help -- because it helped the left gain political power. Pathogen research offered no such advantage.

Where are the protestors for the drone war, BTW? Where was the "grim milestone" protest for Obama's 1000th US soldier killed in Afghanistan? Or his 2000th? No partisan political advantage means no (or very, very little) media coverage and no organized protests.

Great point, and also (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43381703)

Why is Jerry Jones still calling the shots in Dallas? The Boys have won exactly one NFL playoff game in the last 16 years. An owner and GM are two separate jobs, Jones is messing up both right now.

Simple, it's because obama... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43381763)

...is a fucking nigger and a communist therefore they won't ever speak against him. You don't want to be seen as a 'racist' after all as that's a fate worse than any other. The whole global government, big brother, gun control, fuck the Constitution, import millions upon millions of third worlders and wetbacks, ban 'hate speech', DMCA, etc. is the work of the 'progressives'. Progressives belong in mass graves. END OF STORY.

Re:Simple, it's because obama... (0)

DigiShaman (671371) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381957)

Obama is not the n word. In fact, his character is refined and he does have a sense of cuth. The problem with Obama is that he's your typical passive-aggressive authoritarian that somehow feels he can get around the law by making it an executive branch issue. Despite the fact communist progressives are toxic to maintaining a harmonious and prosperous culture, the American people voted for these ideal multiple times. Thus I'm reminded that presentation, not substance, matters. Therefore, if it takes being a bullshitter to make it in life, so be it. I can play that game too.

Re:Simple, it's because obama... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43381965)

You don't want to be seen as a 'racist' after all as that's a fate worse than any other.

Re:Simple, it's because obama... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43381971)

Whoever modded OP as insightful should have mod privileges revoked. This is pretty basic.

Re:The same reason there no more anti-war protests (3, Interesting)

wanfuse123 (2860713) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382067)

I wrote an article on the Ulterior Motives [rawcell.com] : That killed the best nuclear solution to date for the US for nearly seventy years. That solution is LFTR Nuclear Reactors, If it hadn't been for the Oil industry, Nuclear Bombs, and Other Alternative Energy Movements, we would have a nearly endless supply of safe and cheap power. It goes to show you spreading FUD does pay off. Every time I post a message about LFTR reactors someone inevitable says something that is unfounded. Being as impartial a write as possible, I always entertain the arguments by giving them counter arguments which takes a lot of time from research for the defense. Nuclear is a solution and a good one. One the US would be smart to invest in. It would kill the Global Warming problem in 10 years with the right effort with the least environmental impact of any solution that can be deployed to date.

Re:The same reason there no more anti-war protests (2)

Idou (572394) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382103)

>For partisan political advantage. Really? Had nothing to do with a very possible nuclear war apocalypse (which almost happened, from my knowledge, at least once . . .).

>Pathogen research offered no such advantage. Maybe if a version of the Nagasaki or Hiroshima bombings were to occur with pathogen research, you would start to see some more protests. Humans are not very good at understanding risks, such that it can take seeing cities of people perish in unimaginable hell before they actually care enough to get involved.

The rest of your post gives examples that basically do not even come close to a "global apocalypse." In fact, your post seems more politically motivated than the protests against nuclear war. If nuclear science was also a target, I would consider it as just a casualty of being too closely associated with the very real threat of nuclear war apocalypse at the time. Seems some of the blame for nuclear science getting a bad wrap should go to weaponization and use against large numbers of civilians.

Re:The same reason there no more anti-war protests (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382367)

Where was the "grim milestone" protest for Obama's Obama didn't go tarded and start as many wars as he could.

In the 70s and 80s, the anti-nuclear crowd was able to spread lots of FUD Yeah. FUD. Because humans never get lazy or forget to expect the unexpected.

because it helped the left gain political power. Yeah. Because every time there is an anti-nuclear protest it only charges the left.

Everyone should be intrusively monitored (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43381685)

Remember 9/11 folks. That happened because the government didn't have the proper tools to monitor the terrorists before the act occurred mainly due to the idiotic beliefs in an outdated and itself a terroristic document, the constitution. Now that we are moving away from the constitution, which was a piece of crap anyways, the country can be made secure. We now have a solid globalist President that is on board with the abolition of the constitution, especially the second amendment, which will lead us to a socialist global society. It's time to give up your so called 'rights' and get with the program. FORWARD!

Re:Everyone should be intrusively monitored (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43382187)

Yeah, I've been hearing that on the radio too, and let I tell you I'm going to invest all my money in gold. We all need to listen more to the people who talk tough and are angry and not wimps and make sure you know that with every sentence that comes out of their mouths!

Open access leads to better outcomes (4, Interesting)

Stonefish (210962) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381707)

1. Biological agents are readily available.
2. Biological agents are naturally dangerous ie H5N1 is killing people.
3. Reseach into these agents will provide positive outcomes. ie vaccines
4. Stupid measures such as profiles fail the best researchers, eg NSA fails more than 50% of maths researchers. Those creative left handed types are dangerous. It's actually true that NSA employs fewer left handed people than the research community at large and is an acknowledged problem. ;-)
5. Research doesn't have many resources, wasting them upon dumb controls means much less reseach.
6 The military has oodles of cash (read wasteful) however they're not allowed to play with biological weapons so biology doesn't get much of this cash. (unlike nukes)

Statistically... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43381731)

You are far more likely to die from the actions of thug niggers than some rare disease released from a biology lab. If you think different just do a google news search. Nigger on Human crime is epidemic but you won't hear of it on the news. You only hear it when it's the opposite such as the justified killing of the worthless nigger thug trayboon martin.

History. (1)

LowlyWorm (966676) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381761)

The reason there is less scrutiny is simply history. Nuclear weapons were used in the last world war. Biological warfare was not used extensively since WWI. It was used in mid evil times and in the American wars against native Americans but biological weapons are more difficult to contain than other weapons of mass destruction and are less widely used for that reason. Also, there are justifiable reasons for biological research in the medical research field that might be severally limited if over-regulation were applied. This is not to say that misuse of biological pathogens is any less deadly.

Easy (0)

Mister Liberty (769145) | 1 year,17 days | (#43381793)

Nuclear rhymes with explosion.
REAL explosion that is -- not as in outbreak.
Great sensayional effect,spectacular soundtrack,
great lightshow, tremendous kinetic surround effects,
what's not to like?

Easy.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43381935)

Because there aren't decades of anti-nuclear propaganda to make people scared of it, just a few novels and sci-fi scenarios, and the medical industry is far better at keeping its nose clean in the public's eye.

Hmm (1)

lightknight (213164) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382021)

In the past seventy odd years or so, how many nuclear scientists / chemists / biologists / etc. have gone awol?

There's your answer.

Anthrax = Weapon of Mass Distraction (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382037)

Of course, there are plenty of dangerous pathogens that are researched actively in the US and other countries. However, Anthrax for the most part is not one of them. As my undergrad microbiology professor said, Anthrax is a "weapon of mass distraction", as it is of little value in terms of actually causing fatalities. It is incredibly difficult for someone who has caught Anthrax to actually transmit it to another individual. Even when you have spores (such as those that were mailed) it is not easy to actually infect someone with it as the required number of spores to infect someone is highly variable. And on top of that, if it is quickly diagnosed the outcome is usually quite good.

In other words, you could do almost as much by mailing letters with powdered sugar instead.

Re:Anthrax = Weapon of Mass Distraction (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382071)

anthrax is a biological weapon in that it is a weapon of biological origin, however it's behavior and characteristics are much more similar to a chemical weapon.

Re:Anthrax = Weapon of Mass Distraction (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43382207)

Although I am not disagreeing with you about anthrax, the goal of a biological is not necessarily to cause casualties. If you were to use something like a weaponized form of brucella, you would get very few deaths. What you would get is to completely overwhelm the medical resources of a first world country. You also get a country where 75% of its workforce it put out of commission for 1-3 months and anyone who is not infected is too scared to leave their homes. Do you think that might have some useful secondary effects? Like maybe the complete collapse of the economy. People dieing from completely unrelated conditions simply because they are unable to get any medical care. Maintaining adequate protection of the border also because impossible which means you get to walk across with even more bio weapons, or maybe a backpack nuke, or just a few dozen terrorist cells ready to cause trouble when the crisis is finally over..

Re:Anthrax = Weapon of Mass Distraction (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382401)

I guess terrorist will have to get cocaine popular before using it. Kinda defeats the whole terror thing when people are all happy and stuff though.

simple:pathogens don't go flash/boom (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43382083)

Nuclear devices have demonstrated capability to kill many people and cause much damage in a short time.
Biological/Chemical weapons may have large mortality, but not quickly. Bhopal was smaller than Hiroshima (8k vs 150k). Biological and chemical weapons/accidents do not cause property damage (loss of use, perhaps, in a transient sense "sowing a field with salt")

The articles (and the ones referenced) describe controls on nuclear workers and ask why bio researchers aren't under similar restrictions, but neglects that the vast majority of people who have capability and knowledge of nuclear info are not restricted in any way.
The controls on nuclear workers are on the sophisticated end products (the SNM itself, design *details*). There are no real limitations on someone doing nuclear experimentation in their garage or lab other than "occupational safety". Basic design information and, of course, the underlying theory, is in the open literature, and totally unrestricted. It is very possible for someone to come up with a workable design using library materials (demonstrated multiple times, see, e.g. "the N-country problem"). Nuclear weapons are somewhat unique in that the essential materials (fissionable materials) are hard to come by.

The situation is a bit different for biological weapons. Building a lab in your garage is certainly possible at relatively low cost. The "bench skills" needed aren't hard to acquire and are well within the ability of high school students (look at the International Science & Engineering Fair for examples). (Or Frank Herbert's "The White Plague") The "hard parts" are things like weaponizing (just as the hard part for nuclear devices is in making a small portable bomb), and that's more in the nature of "trade secrets" and should be protected in the same way as design details in the nuclear biz (e.g. security clearances and whatnot).

Just as in the nuclear field, though, there's a long distance between talented researcher in well equipped university lab and weapons developer. We don't engage in security restrictions on students doing nuclear work.

It all comes down to the fact that there are LOTS and LOTS of people who possess knowledge of how to cause mass casualties or to cause them directly (the driver of the hazmat truck: we transport millions, if not billions, of tons of hazardous materials every day. A truckload of dynamite has no special precautions, neither does a truckload of phosgene or HF or any of a zillion things). And most people do not do "bad things".

What about regulating mechanical engineers: they could be designing a high rate of fire machine gun to be mounted on a small private plane re-equipped as a UAV. Or what about aero/astro majors.. they could modify a crop dusting plane to serve as a CBW dispersal vector.

bunch of reasons (1)

stenvar (2789879) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382157)

(1) People have an irrational fear of radiation and anything "nuclear".

(2) It's damned hard to create a deadly pathogen that's any worse than what already is out there.

(3) Radioactivity is trivial to detect, new pathogens are pretty much impossible to detect, so it's hard to "scrutinize" the work.

"Safe" and "dangerous" strains look the same. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43382175)

Can you tell the difference between a bacteria that is pathogenic and one that is safe with video surveillance? No.

How many virulence factors does a "safe" strain need to be a harmful strain? Probably 1-3 in the case of bacteria (such as Anthrax's capsule and toxin) and 1-2 for a virus (one human gene added can make a vaccine useless).

How many people are already dying from pathogens that are freely available?

why do Financial Executives face less than either? (1)

darue (2699381) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382189)

Let's snoop on everyone! Or we could just establish real world precautions that prevent people from smuggling anthrax out of labs and that sort of thing.

Bio is hard because it's all been done: (2)

Hartree (191324) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382251)

"expert panels have concluded that there is no need for intrusive monitoring of microbiologists engaged in unclassified research."

For good reason.

First, the knowledge is more widespread.

We have large numbers of researchers/lab workers/hospital lab techs that could do the neccesary techniques for much of biological work.

We have to have them in large numbers to keep us safer from the NATURAL bioweapons we face every day.

Such well known killers as malaria, bacterial pneumonia, a whole range of virii, the various strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria we keep a running treadmill race going with, etc, etc.

Putting all of these lab/hospital workers (Yes, they are working with pathogens. Why else do you think they're doing culturing of that throat swab your doctor took?) under a magnifying glass is needless, discouraging to those who might enter the field, and actively disruptive to trying to fight disease.

Second, nature completely outclasses us.

Someone in a lab can do one experiment every few days/weeks, maybe. Mother nature can and does do billions to trillions of experiments all in parallel.

The bioweapon arms race has been going on in nature for billions of years (yes, billions. Single cell life has been around that long and competing. Multicelled life and armor/teeth is a latecomer at 600 million or so). Every nasty trick you're likely to think of to put into your superbug has been tried multiple times naturally.

The metallo-beta-lactamases that are the hot new nasty in antibiotic resistance? They aren't new. They were old genetic material that were present in a minority of bacteria, and then spread due to it being an advantage for some bacteria in some cases. None of the antibiotic resistance we see is "new". It's all relics in the bacterial genomes that have become useful again. Why? Because Mom Nature already tried those tricks.

And,it's the same for virii or any other one you can think of.

"Nuclear" sounds dangerous. It's just bad P.R. (3, Insightful)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | 1 year,17 days | (#43382253)

It seems like it's mostly because of bad PR for the word "nuclear". The sciency types here on /. know that nuclear power plants are not as dangerous as other types of power plants, yet the majority of the public is against nuclear power systems. The PR for "nuke" is so bad that it even caused medical types to change the name of one of their diagnostic devices:
.
MRI machines (magnetic resonance imaging) are called that because when they called them NMR machines originally, people were afraid of the word "nuclear" in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. Even though MRI machines are still exactly the same thing and still measure nuclear magnetic resonance, they no longer use the word "nuclear", because no one wanted to be stuffed in a tube of a machine that had "nuclear" in its name!! People confused it with nuclear imaging [wikipedia.org] in which radioactive isotopes really are injected into the human body and then imaging is performed to see how the isotope is distributed and if it clusters in certain parts of the body.
.
People are scared of "nukes", and not-so-much of teeny little microbes, though look at all of the wacky episodes of ReGenesis [wikipedia.org] , a canadian show about the canadian equivalent of the CDC and a genomics lab, to see the crazy plotlines of what could go wrong with bio-organisms. Psych also did an episode, "Death is in the Air", Season 4, Episode 13, that used "Bob" from Regenesis as the same sort of scientist. See my other post here [slashdot.org] for links to those episodes.

because bioweapons don't cause property damage (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#43382533)

the 0.1% are more concerned about property than lives and they control legislation and regulation
Nuclear weapons destroy buildings and other capital assets.

Bioweapons kill people, but those are easily replaced, at lower cost. Dead people don't require paying pension benefits.

Destroyed factories require rebuilding at substantial expense.

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