The Aflac Duck Wasn’t Quacking Anthrax!

But maybe it should have, considering that adorable duck from the Aflac Insurance commercials only squawked about emergencies. Here’s a hilarious irony: Aflac now only issues insurance to people “with no chance of dying.” These people are immune to anthrax, apparently.  The Anthrax murders of 2001 are an unsolved pathological case of long-distance serial murder. Anthrax struck just after 9-1-1. People were already jumpy. Eight days later, a biological attack in the form of anthrax arrived in the mail at tabloid photo editor Robert Stevens’ office in Florida. He opened the letter and frowned at the white powder that spilled out. Within hours, Stevens thought he’d developed a nasty case of the flu. Within days, Stevens died of that so-called flu. The Centre of Disease Control (CDC) released a public statement to the press: “The Centre of Disease Control has just confirmed diagnosis of anthrax in a patient at a Florida Hospital.” Anthrax? What the hell was that? Anthrax (bacillus anthracis) is a bacillus bacteria. It causes internal organs to hemmhorage, or bleed out. Nice. It damages the structure and function of the organs and its tissues. Ouch. What aanthrax-cycle painful way to go.  Anthrax is found all over the world. There are different forms of anthrax disease, most of which are lethal to humans. The nasty buggers can survive in harsh conditions for decades or centuries (something to look forward to). Anthrax usually infects wild and domesticated animals that eat or inhale anthrax spores while grazing or sniffing at grass. It doesn’t spread with direct person to person contact but the spores can settle on clothing and shoes. Because anthrax is so durable it is deliberately used in biological weapons. The United States and England have indulged in this type of weaponry. (And you thought we were the good guys, didn’t you)? Louis Pasteur invented an anthrax vaccine in 1881 (around the time of the Jack the Ripper killings). Too bad Pasteur didn’t invent a vaccine for “saucy Jack.”

In fact, rather like Jack, the Anthrax killer (if there was only one) sent letters taunting government officials along with their powdery gift. Take Penacilin(sic) Now. Death to United States. Death to Israel, were among some of the pleasantries listed in the letters. What was the motivation? The killer seemed to target countries around the world insofar as the messages were concerned, yet only Americans were infected, hence the name Amerithrax. The FBI The FBI and the CDC worked together in an effort to prevent the s1024px-Bacillus_anthracis_Grampread of Stevens’ anthrax delivery. The office was quarantined and his staff was tested. They learned that anthrax indeed was the killer, however, Stevens’ staff remained uninfected. The Anthrax Killer generally targeted senators and major media spokespeople. Dan Rathers and Tom Brokaw’s assistant developed skin anthrax. This form of anthrax was cutaneous, meaning it infected the skin. That infection wasn’t a mere rash. It was truly nasty. It looked like flesh-eating disease and caused lesions. Nasty, peeling, pussing, stuff that hurt like, well, anthrax.

Two postal workers died of pulmonary anthrax disease (heart) in late October. The Anthrax Killer was knocking em’ down in a quick succession. Imagine what these poor people went through. If you were the recipient of an anthrax letter, when you opened it, that terrible white powder poured out onto your hands, clothes, desk, whatever. If you were up on your current events, you knew right away you had just been exposed to a lethal bacteria. If that wasn’t a heart-stopper (pun) then what was? Two women died of anthrax-related pulmonary poisoning in November. The death toll stood at 5, 2 more people had been severely infected and 22 peop110726-F-HS721-308le overall were exposed to it. The FBI launched its widest investigation in American history. They considered the Unabomber, who was in prison at the time.The Unabomber seems to fall under suspicion every time there is any kind of attack across the States. I wasn’t aware that he indulged in biological warfare. Perhaps the Unabomber will eventually be credited with anything and everything bothersome in the country: rising taxes, inflation rates, unemployment. Meh. It’s an easy solution.  Thousands of leads were generated that led nowhere. 4,000 subpoenas were sent during the investigation. No arrests were made.

Mass Hysteria The public responded in a predictable, understandably hysterical manner. They swamped hospital and police switchboards with panicked phone calls asking if their mail was safe to touch or to open. In response, the government urged people to take anthrax antibiotics. 20,000 people complied until local pharmacies ran out of the stuff. I’ve never heard of taking antibiotics before infection, but the CDC seemed to think it was a good idea so who am I to dissent?

Steven Hatfill
Hatfill underwent a “trial by media circus” during the FBI investigation. Hatfill was a physician, virologist and bio-weapons expert. Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg accused Hatfill of the poisonings, stating to journalists that Hatfill was the “most likely person.” She included her suspicions in a report to the FBI. After she gave an interview to the press, hatfill-smjournalists pressured the FBI to do an intensive inspection into Hatfill’s personal and professional life. Searches of his apartment in July and August 2002 included many journalists but they turned up nothing. At one point, an FBI car accidentally ran over his foot. Ouch. Not as lethal as anthrax, but the FBI made its point. Hatfill sued the government for defamation of character. The government settled for $5.8 million. He should have sued Rosenberg in a civil suit and gone after her job.

Suicide
On July 29, 2008, the FBI’s main suspect, Bruce E. Ivins, a researcher in anthrax vaccines at a government-run bio-weapons laboratory committed suicide. On April 11, 2007, the FBI put Ivins under constant surveillance and an FBI document stated that “Bruce Edwards Ivins is an extreme;y sensitive subject in the anthrax investigation.” The FBI eventually told Ivins charges would be brought against him in connection with the anthrax poisonings. Does this mean Ivins was the anthrax killer? Who knows? Wouldn’t you be frightened enough to consider suicide if the FBI was out to get you, regardless of your guilt or innocence? I would. If you’ve ever been an innocent person accused of something you didn’t do you have the idea of how frightening that experience can be. Throw the FBI into that mix and you’re in for the fight of your life. Also consider that the anthrax poisonings were long over. They began and ended in 2001. This was 2008. To suggest that after Ivin’s suicide there were no more poisonings is naive at best. There hadn’t been any poisonings in 7 years. Guess what Ivins used to kill himself? Nope, not anthrax. Aspirin. There’s another creepy chemical poisoning for you.

Ongoing DoubtBruce_Ivins_award_ceremony_crop Two American senators insisted on an investigation into the method the FBI used to implicate Ivins. A report stated that, “although the type of anthrax used in the letters was correctly identified as the Ames strain of the bacterium, there was insufficient scientific evidence for the FBI’s assertion that it originated from Ivins’ laboratory.” The FBI responded that it “science alone” would not lead to the likely suspect, and that it was a combination of facts that pointed to Ivins. It also stated that Ivins possessed supposed mental health issues that haven’t been revealed to the public. The FBI also stated that Ivins tried to mislead the investigation by sending “false samples of anthrax” for comparison purposes. The federal government ordered the FBI to release hundreds of documents in the case and stated they were “confident” Ivins was the culprit. “We regret that we will not have the opportunity to present to a jury to determine whether the evidence proves Ivins’ innocence beyond a reasonable doubt.” It insisted that Ivins was among only a “handful” of American scientists who knew how to process the anthrax spores. It also claimed to have found the flask in which the spores were originally held. Be that as it may, Ivins cannot be identified as the anthrax killer; without a trial or a plea, there cannot be a resolution to the case. I have to admit the FBI made some compelling arguments. It gets a lot of (a)flack for its investigations but it can’t be wrong all the time.

Copycat
Nicholas Roberts, 50, of Tudor Street Cardiff, mailed four letters containing white flour to the First Minister of the Welsh Assembly Rhodri Morgan. author Jan Morris and two of Roberts’s (now former) friends. Roberts thought it would be “kind of funny” but after he sent the letters he contacted police to admit to the gag. Roberts was arrested and a wide-ranging search was launched to track down the four letters before they reached their targets. Taking no chances, police made arrangements to contain the building in case the powder was indeed anthrax. Roberts told the Cardiff court that he sent Morgan the mail after he read an article Morris stating the Minister had “done nothing  robertsfor Wales”. Roberts agreed with her criticism and in support of her statement he sent off the letter with flour. He then fired one off to Morris herself, although only the Lord knows what that was about.  I hereby induct Roberts into the Hall of Most Pathetic Copycat Crimes Ever. Here’s another gem for you: Roberts is a former schoolteacher. Today’s lesson in history, students, is what not to do after an anthrax scare. The judge’s comment was “you’re clearly a very strange man indeed,” the only completely accurate statement during the entire trial, probably.

There were several other anthrax scares, some of which may indeed have involved a potentially dangerous chemical although anthrax was not among them. A woman named Diane Nellie Stafford, 37, of 251 County Road 52, Athens, faced a number of charges the first being filing a false report, a Class E felony. Stafford and two unnamed juveniles attended the McMinn County Justice Center with a package that had a “surprise” inside. Now that was the stupid Stafford’s first mistake. How would she know about the “surprise” if she hadn’t tampered with the package? Sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Gary Miller was told the package had nude photos of a male “and also had another object taped to one of the photos.” Miller wasn’t too happy when he opened it and white powder spilled out of the package.  Of course, the office area was immediately secured where the package was examined and all three subjects were interviewed.”  After they were interrogated one of the kids admitted he had put baking soda into the package. Stafford claimed her daughter was sent the package from a relative in Florida. For whatever reason the idiotic Stafford thought it would be hilarious to fool the court into thinking her daughter had received a false anthrax scare. Stafford received a one year probation sentence and a $300 fine. That isn’t harsh enough. The Deputy and many other people in the building, thought their lives were in danger. Lock her up for a couple of years, I say.

Did the FBI collar the right guy when it accused Ivins? Who knows? Who cares? The anthrax scare is over.

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