Monday, January 25, 2010

Determined Terrorists


A thoughtful article in the Washington Post informs us that OMG we're all gonna die.

In early 2006, a mysterious cosmetics trader named Rakhman began showing up at salons in St. Petersburg, Russia, hawking a popular anti-aging drug at suspiciously low prices. He flashed a briefcase filled with vials and promised he could deliver more -- "as many as you want," he told buyers -- from a supplier somewhere in Chechnya.

Rakhman's "Botox" was found to be a potent clone of the real thing, but investigators soon turned to a far bigger worry: the prospect of an illegal factory in Chechnya churning out raw botulinum toxin, the key ingredient in the beauty drug and one of world's deadliest poisons. A speck of toxin smaller than a grain of sand can kill a 150-pound adult.
So can inadequate access to healthcare, and far more of us will face that threat in the coming year. Which I suppose makes illicit Botox a welcome distraction from our real problems.
Obtaining the most lethal strain of the bacterium might have posed a significant hurdle for would-be terrorists in the recent past. But today, the prospect of tapping into the multibillion-dollar market for anti-wrinkle drugs has spawned an underground network of suppliers and distributors who do most of their transactions online, the researchers found. Customers don't need prescriptions or identification, other than a shipping address.
As the article notes a couple of paragraphs later, "the amount of poison in a prescribed dose is so small that a determined terrorist would have to obtain hundreds of vials at $400 each to kill even a single person."

Still, al-Qaeda are nothing if not determined! And however little toxin there may be in counterfeit Botox, there's no denying that a single gram of botulinum toxin could kill a million people, give or take (as long as you lined them up in an orderly fashion, administered the correct dose under laboratory conditions, and refused to give them medical attention even if they could afford it).

You know what else could kill a million people? A million bullets. Think about it!

The WaPo saw fit to devote three pages to this "story." That's space they could've allocated to glibertarian arguments against healthcare reform, or yet another summary of denialist talking points from George Will, so I guess they must've thought it was really, really important.

In other news:
Whipped to a froth of fear and loathing by the Farm Bureau and county commissions, property-rights zealots who hate all things federal save farm support are using Rozol [chlorophacinone] to neutralize the Endangered Species Act and eliminate black-footed ferrets....

Because Rozol is so deadly to all wildlife, the law requires that it be placed inside prairie dog holes. Instead, the county commission's applicator showed up uninvited on the Haverfield ranch, tossing Rozol-laced bait around like confetti. The state has ordered him to pay a $2,800 fine.
UPDATE: Cheryl has more, as does Armchair Generalist.