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Cowed by the Feds

Ah, us chicken hearts, 'fraid a little foot-and-mouth disease will get loose in the wilds of Far West San Antonio should the Feds decide to relocate and expand the Plum Island bio-defense facility at the Texas Research Park. [See "Banging the drum for Bio-defense," August 15, 2007.] Ambition should be made of sterner stuff, the Bard once said - and indeed 'tis among our Congressional delegation. Lone Star representatives Lamar Smith (R), Charlie Gonzalez and Ciro Rodriguez (Ds, the both of them, although you wouldn't always know it to look at the latter's voting record) presented themselves to the Department of Homeland Security last week to remind its Science and Technology Directorate why San Antonio is the best of the five NBAF finalists when it comes to manufacturing swine fevers, Japanese encephalitis, and various invincible viruses in an effort to figure out how to then kill them (this is an " ends justifies the means" sort of universe here, so if you can't hang, please scroll your eyes on down the page).

Those reasons: We already have a (private) Level 4 biosafety lab and we love all things military ("Military City, U.S.A." Congressman Gonzalez reminded the Queque). But our rarest resource, is, as the press release noted: "the support of the local community," and "community support needed for the NBAF to succeed." Read: Not much in the way of protests.

Gonzalez told the Queque that, sure, recent developments in the 2001-02 anthrax attacks (engineered, it seems, from an American lab) give him a moment's pause, but "the bottom line is, the research has to take place. ... The havoc that could be created as a result of a biological agent ... those are a real concern."

DHS assured the Texas party that they're on track for an October decision, so should you not feel warm and fuzzy about our NBAF prospects, you have two opportunities to make yourself heard, this Thursday, August 7, from 12:30- 4:30 p.m. and 6-10 p.m. at the Radisson Hill Country Ballroom, 9800 Westover Hills Blvd. Call (210) 509-9800 for location info. [Want some talking points, including Homeland Security's own very good reasons for keeping the microbes off the mainland? See Last Words, July 2-8.]

original story: http://www.sacurrent.com/news/story.asp?id=69136