Saturday, October 02, 2004

Martin May Delay Gay 'Marriage' Bill

Oct. 2, 01:02 EDT
Same-Sex Bill in Limbo
'Secret' document says feds plan to put controversial issue off at least a
Tonda Maccharles
Toronto Star

The governing Liberals expect a swift decision from the Supreme Court of
Canada on the proposed same-sex marriage law but plan to delay bringing the
bill to Parliament until fall 2005, a leaked cabinet document indicates.

The document is silent on the reasons for such a delay. The bill would then
have to go through study by a parliamentary committee before a vote. Under
that scenario, a vote could be delayed until 2006.

The timeframe suggests Prime Minister Paul Martin, who campaigned on
protecting Charter rights, is reluctant to rekindle the divisive debate
within his own party while it is in a precarious minority position, or to
whip up the issue before a possible election.

Even though Martin has only 135 Liberal seats in the Commons, most in the
Bloc Quebecois and New Democrat caucuses could be expected to support a
same-sex marriage law, as they did last year on a simple motion that saw
more than 50 Liberals break ranks with the government.

The document outlining cabinet's agenda, obtained by the Toronto Star, also
red-flags another controversial issue facing Martin's government: three
requests by Bombardier for billions of dollars in federal aid in the short-
and long-term.

Most of the money -- $48.8 billion -- would go to development costs and
sales financing support over 20 years for a new family of commercial jets,
called the "Cseries."

In addition, cabinet faces a request from Bombardier for $1.5 billion as
part of a "domestic sales financing program."

Cabinet has already approved the creation of a program at Industry Canada
"to facilitate the sale" by Bombardier of 45 Canadair Regional Jets to Air
Canada, it says. But further cabinet approval is required to release the

As well, Bombardier wants $50 million in research and development funding
from Technology Partnerships Canada (a federal lending agency) for a
$200-million "strategic aerospace technologies" project.

The total bill: about $50 billion US over more than 20 years.

The cabinet document also shows Ottawa wants to maintain current
"operational" immigration target levels at about 225,000 -- a decision
described as "not a controversial announcement." But it warns such levels
threaten efforts to reduce backlogs and delays that have frustrated

It also says Canadian health regulations must be amended to allow federal
authorities to collect from the provinces information to help prevent the
international spread of disease.

One federal source says the Liberals' plan to introduce a lot of new
legislation in the new Parliament. A throne speech on Tuesday will set the

But on gay marriage, Liberals appear set to stall a vote, even as they plan
how to deal with the issue in public.

"The government of Canada intends to continue to emphasize the role of
Parliament and the necessity of respecting the Constitution, especially when
it comes to the protection of minority rights," it says.

The document says Justice Minister Irwin Cotler expects to return to cabinet
in the spring for authorization to table the bill later in the fall of 2005.

"As the issue of marriage between same-sex couples carries with it a certain
polarization, it is likely that the media will continue to highlight every
example of diverging opinions within the Liberal caucus and in cabinet over
what approach to adopt," says the "secret" document.

Wednesday, the draft bill on same-sex marriage goes before the judges of
Supreme Court of Canada. Three days of oral arguments are scheduled, after
which the high court is expected to reserve its decision.

The proposed law is brief.

It says "access to marriage for civil purposes should be extended to couples
of the same sex," and "officials of religious groups are free to refuse to
perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs."

The issue exposes divisions in all parties and caucuses.

Yesterday, Conservative justice critic Vic Toews said social policy is a
matter for Parliament, not the courts.

"I'm very concerned that the government is using the court to advance a
political agenda. I think that what the court should really be doing is
simply saying to the government: 'Look, this is your issue. It's your
obligation to table legislation. Table that legislation in the House.' Have
that discussion and debate in the house, and then allow the judicial
challenges to take place after that."

Ontarians Not Getting Federal Hep C Money

Federal money for Ontario Hep C victims being re-directed
Last Updated Sat, 02 Oct 2004 09:07:51 EDT

TORONTO - Ontarians who contracted hepatitis C from bad blood in the early
eighties will not be getting any federal money that was promised to them.

About 5,000 Canadians got hepatitis C from tainted blood before 1984. The
federal government promised them $300 million to cover out-of-pocket
expenses for healthcare not provided by provincial programs. Ontario's share
was $132 million.

The province's health minister, George Smitherman, has announced the money
will be used to pay for care that usually comes free under medicare.

"I do think there's been an attempt over time to redefine the purposes for
the money that has been flowed," said Smitherman.

A lawyer for Hepatitis C victims is calling it theft. David Harvey says
Smitherman should read the news release put out by then-federal health
minister, Allan Rock, when he announced the $300 million package in 1998.

"That money was to provide access to needed medical care no currently
covered by provincial healthcare programs. That's right out of the Health
Canada news release," said Harvey.

Ontario's Liberal government issued its news release late Friday to avoid
any publicity about the issue. The Conservative opposition say they will
keep the issue alive until the health minister answers their questions.

TV News Is Blind to the Market

TV news: blind to market?
By Richard W. Rahn

If you managed a business and noticed one of your five major competitors had changed its product design and was gaining market share against your firm and other competitors, what would you do?
A decade ago, the world's automobile manufacturers noticed firms with SUVs in their product line were gaining market share. Companies that produced no SUVs quickly added them — a normal and rational market response.
The major TV news companies — ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN — have all been losing market share to Fox News but so far have failed to respond in a rational market way. Recent surveys by the Pew Research Center (and other organizations) clearly show Republicans watch Fox News more than its competitors, and Democrats watch ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN more than Fox News.
Fox News had the most credibility with Republicans, and CNN had the most credibility with Democrats. On average, approximately twice as many Democrats as Republicans rate CBS, ABC, NBC and CNN as credible.
All the above named news organizations are owned by publicly listed major corporations. These corporations' executives are supposed to try to maximize profits to their shareholders. For years, surveys have shown the country has more conservatives than liberals, and there are almost an even number of Republican and Democrat voters. Therefore, does it make economic sense to have four left-leaning (five if you count MSNBC separate from NBC) TV news organizations, and only one right-leaning? One would think normal competitive pressures would lead one or more of the existing left-leaning news organizations to shift to the right to gain market share. It should be easier to obtain a bigger market share by competing for half of the potential market with only one competitor than competing against three or four others for half of the market.
Before the rise of Fox News, all TV news organizations could afford to be liberal since there was no conservative opposition. They could compete on other grounds, such as number of news bureaus or the attractiveness of their on-air personalities. Given that we know stockowners tend be more Republican than Democrat, it is a fair assumption that for at least some of the Democrat-leaning news organizations a majority of their owners are likely Republicans. Thus, it is not unreasonable to conclude these public companies' managers neither follow profit maximization nor reflect the political wishes of most owners.
I expect this is because if top management at GE (which owns NBC), for example, were to tell the folks who run NBC News, "We want you to shift the news coverage from liberal to conservative (or even neutral)," the NBC news folks would cry press censorship, and this would be echoed by all of their political soul-mates of the left, including the people at CBS and ABC News, as well as the New York Times and The Washington Post. GE's top managers know this and are intimidated.
For decades, the electronic media's leftist journalists have argued Republican media owners are obliged to fund Democrat reporters' opinions — but, of course, not the other way around.
The family that controls the New York Times are well-known as Democrats with a left-wing agenda, which is reflected in their newspaper. This is fine, because the New York Times' owners have a perfect right to spend their money as they see fit, even if it does not maximize profits. However, the situation is different with GE (and the other major TV media parents), because most of their stockholders are not interested in the company pushing a left-wing agenda but in maximum profits.
At some point, some top executives (or board members) of the companies that own TV news organizations will get the courage to do what they already should have done and say "enough of this left-wing claptrap which is costing us market share and profits." If they fail to do so, they will eventually open themselves up to a stockholder revolt or suit.
Dan Rather likes to sign off his program with the word "courage." Perhaps those in corporate headquarters should take him at his word and get rid of him, rather than to be held hostage to his ego and political agenda as he slowly kills CBS News.

(Richard W. Rahn is a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute and an adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute.)

Saskatchewan Kids Wait Years for Needed Surgeries

Kids wait years for surgeries
Wait shorter for surgery in Edmonton
Lana Haight
The StarPhoenix
Saturday, October 02, 2004

Young children in Saskatchewan can wait years for surgery in their home province or be transferred to Edmonton and have the same operation within weeks.
"My jaw hit the floor," said Valerie Elliot. "I honestly thought I wasn't hearing right."
Valerie and Stewart Elliot learned the hard facts of the health-care system at a recent visit to the province's only certified pediatric surgeon. Their two-year-old daughter, Skylar, has a growth attached to her thyroid that's been diagnosed as a thyroglossal duct cyst.
"It's quite a distinct protruding (lump), almost like an Adam's apple, only a little lower down," said Elliot.
Last month, Dr. Grant Miller told the family from Perdue that it could be two years before Skylar had the surgery in Saskatoon. The operation, which involves removing part of the bone that's attached to the cyst, was classified as non-urgent.
"I know there's a lump there and I know she's been an entirely different kid since the first part of August," said Elliot.
The family was immediately prepared to take Miller's advice to travel out of the province for Skylar's surgery even though they would have to pay for their own travel costs. The provincial health department covers the hospital expenses in such cases.
But this week, the Elliots learned that Skylar's condition had been bumped up to urgent and that she'll have her surgery in Saskatoon within weeks, not years.
"That's wonderful. Now we're just waiting on a phone call. It could be anytime from two to 12 weeks depending on when there's a time frame to fill," said Elliot.
More than 80 children are waiting for non-urgent operations to be performed by Miller, who is allocated about one-and-a-half days each week in the operating room. Some have already been waiting for more than two years.
In Edmonton, children requiring non-urgent surgery are having their operations performed by a pediatric surgeon within four to six weeks.
"When something is that outrageous, people have a hard time just believing it. How can it be -- two-and-one-half years here and you can go to Edmonton and have it done in six weeks. How can that be? It just can't be, but it is," said Miller.
"It wouldn't be right of me not to let people know what their options are. I'm not telling them they have to go away."
Saskatoon Health Region physician vice-president, Dr. Barry Maber, doesn't think sending patients to other centres for procedures that can be performed in Saskatchewan is appropriate.
"I don't think we should solve our waiting list problem by transferring people to another province," he said.
But he does agree that children in Saskatchewan needing non-urgent surgery are waiting an unacceptably long time. He says two factors are causing the long waits.
Miller performs complex pediatric surgeries to correct congenital problems as well as routine surgeries on newborn babies. Anything that's not emergent or urgent is rarely performed because he's so busy with more pressing cases.
The other problem is an administrative one.
The health region, through its surgical operations committee, allocates operating room time to the surgical specialists based on each specialty's waiting list. Pediatric surgery falls under the general surgery division.
"If pediatric surgery were to be its own master, so to speak, would that give them better opportunity to increase their operating time?" Maber said.
"And I guess, to some extent, it would give them opportunity if they had to re-allocate, they would be re-allocating within the group as opposed to competing with adults (waiting for surgery)."
A hospital dedicated to children's health could solve both these problems, says Maber.
Miller agrees with the necessity of a children's hospital in the province.
"The only way we're going to be able to give children in Saskatchewan the best care, care that's comparable to the rest of the country, is to have a pediatric centre because we'll have resources, operating room resources that are dedicated to children," said Miller.
The health region is committed to redesigning existing hospital space to create a children's hospital within a hospital.
"Unfortunately because of the complicated inter-dependencies that exist, we just can't do it overnight. How soon will it occur? I can't answer that right now. We are actively working on bringing the pieces together," said Maber.
In the meantime, the health region is hoping to recruit another pediatric surgeon to work in Saskatoon but it could take months before someone is in place.

© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2004

Tracking Chips Will Be 'Everywhere'

Tiny tracking chips will be 'everywhere'
Executive sees big future for controversial technology
Posted: October 2, 2004
1:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2004

In the future, a controversial technology that uses tiny computer chips to identify and track items from a distance will be "on everything from diapers to surgical instruments," says an executive for a leading corporation.
Pat Rizzotto, vice president of global customer initiatives for Johnson & Johnson, says his company's long-term vision for RFID, or radio frequency identification, includes having physical objects communicate in real time and extending the Internet into everyday items.
Knowing where the company's products are at any time promises significant cost savings, better on-shelf availability of products and a more efficient supply chain, he explained at the EPC Global U.S. Conference 2004 in Baltimore this week held by EPC Global, the non-profit organization seeking to adopt a universal technology standard for products.
RFID chips communicate the location and status of the tagged items by radio waves similar to those used to broadcast FM radio programs.
However, privacy advocates express concern over the price society might pay for these benefits.
"RFID radio waves can travel right through solid objects," said Katherine Albrecht, founder and director of CASPIAN, Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering, a group that has led the opposition to RFID.
"Information on RFID 'spy chips' can be read through the things we usually rely on to protect our privacy, like walls, purses, backpacks and even through our clothes," she said. "It would be a privacy nightmare if we allowed them to be attached to everyday objects."
CASPIAN was one of more than 40 privacy and civil liberties organizations to call for a voluntary moratorium on the use of RFID on consumer items last November.
"Used improperly, RFID has the potential to jeopardize consumer privacy, reduce or eliminate purchasing anonymity and threaten civil liberties," the group warns in its position statement.
RFID supporters have discounted the concerns as overblown, emphasizing that the focus of the tracking technology is on warehouse pallets and cases, not consumer goods.
But Rizzotto's statements suggest the industry is working toward a future in which individual items are chipped and tracked.
"There will be tags and readers everywhere," he told the standing-room-only crowd.
While Johnson & Johnson is best known for its baby shampoo and Band-Aid bandages, the company also makes birth-control pills, incontinence protection, portable diabetes testing systems and medication for schizophrenia.
Consumers might not want information about their use of these products remotely accessible, the privacy advocates argue.
Research by RFID consulting firm Capgemini found that consumers are uncomfortable with the technology. In its October 2003 study [pdf file] of 1,000 U.S. consumers, "Understanding Their Mindset," Capgemini concluded, "When it comes to consumer concerns relating to RFID, there's no question that privacy heads the list ... ."
The study reported that "almost seven out of 10 respondents said they were 'extremely concerned' about the use of consumer data by a third party; 67 percent were concerned they would be targeted with more direct marketing; and 65 percent were concerned about the ability to track consumers via their product purchases."

Friday, October 01, 2004

Killing Children in Europe

Now They Want to Kill Children--Euthanasia in Europe

Reports out of Europe trace the advance of the Culture of Death as euthanasia is normalized and human life is progressively discounted. Now, two European nations are moving forward with plans to euthanize children, and advocates admit that the practice is already widespread.
A report out of Brussels indicates that Belgium will legalize euthanasia for terminally ill children, according to legislation introduced by members of the ruling Flemish Liberal Party. The bill, proposed by senators Jeannine Leduc and Paul Wille, asserts that children and teenagers suffering with terminal illnesses and "intolerable pain" have the right to choose death rather than suffering. As the legislation reads, "Their suffering is as great (and) the situation they face is as intolerable and inhumane (as that of young adults)."
Belgium, like many of its European neighbors, has been sliding toward the practice of euthanasia for decades. The nation's current legislation allows euthanasia in the case of adults who are assumed to be fully conscious and able to consent to their own death. According to the current law, children as young as twelve are given the "right" to have their lives terminated, and children sixteen and older are able to do so without parental consent.
The practice of euthanizing children is already legal in the Netherlands, where Dutch euthanasia advocates have been constantly pushing for a lower age of consent. Writing in The Weekly Standard, Wesley J. Smith reports that the Groningen University Hospital has now decided that its physicians will be able to euthanize children under the age of twelve, "if doctors believe their suffering is intolerable or if they have an incurable illness." Children too young to gain a driver's license will now be able to choose their own death by means of legalized euthanasia.
The debate--or more accurately, the lack of debate--in the Netherlands indicates that the culture of death is now galloping toward moral nihilism and the open embrace of death over life.
As Smith points out, the use of the word "incurable" means nothing more than "a euphemism for killing babies and children who are seriously disabled." In reality, doctors have no objective criteria to use in making decisions for euthanasia. Despite safeguards previously written into Dutch law, that culture has seen a progression from passive euthanasia to active euthanasia and from euthanasia with consent to euthanasia without consent in less than a generation.
A study published in 1997 documents the Dutch slide from "assisted suicide" to the killing of infants. The British medical journal The Lancet reported that physicians were actually killing between eighty and ninety infants per year--amounting to eight percent of all infant deaths in the Netherlands. As Wesley Smith reports, "at least 10-15 of these killings involved infants who did not require life-sustaining treatment to stay alive. The study found that a shocking 45 percent of neonatologists and 31 percent of pediatricians who responded to questionnaires have killed infants."
This staggers the moral imagination. Those statistics--surely now eclipsed by even more dramatic percentages--reveal that Dutch physicians have turned themselves into instruments of death. These doctors now place themselves as the judges of who shall live and who shall die. This same report indicates that many of these decisions are being made without the consent or knowledge of parents. Broken-hearted parents are simply told that their babies have died, when in reality their own physicians have put them to death. As Smith comments: "For anyone paying attention to the continuing collapse of medical ethics in the Netherlands, this isn't at all shocking. Dutch doctors have been surreptitiously engaging in eugenic euthanasia of disabled babies for years, although it technically is illegal, since infants can't possibly give consent to be killed."
To the north, Great Britain now faces the question of euthanasia as a recent report claims that twenty thousand Britons are being euthanized each year.
Dr. Hazel Biggs, Director of Medical Law at the University of Kent, has produced a shocking report claiming that at least eighteen thousand people a year are being euthanized by their own physicians. Another seven thousand patients are reported to die by "voluntary euthanasia," or a form of "assisted suicide."
Biggs, who supports voluntary euthanasia, was led to her study after considering parallel research conducted in Belgium and Australia. In those two countries, physicians were granted immunity for the purposes of research, and both supporters and opponents of euthanasia were shocked by the high levels of physician-assisted death reported by the physicians themselves.
Current British law calls for a sentence of up to fourteen years for physicians who help patients to die. At present, involuntary euthanasia is explicitly forbidden by British law and the prevailing code of medical ethics. Can anyone expect this to last?
The British House of Lords is already taking up proposed legislation that would allow voluntary euthanasia and provide legal protections for physicians engaged in the practice. The proposal has launched a fierce debate in the pages of the nation's newspapers, the most important of which focuses on a series of letters exchanged between some of the most famous and influential British philosophers.
In a letter published September 20, 2004 in The Times [London], Professor A. C. Grayling of Birkbeck College, University of London, is joined by several of his colleagues in arguing for voluntary euthanasia. "Although we believe assisted dying to be a frequent phenomenon, it takes place in secret because it is illegal. Apart from the intrinsic undesirability of underground practices, the illegality of assisted dying places great burdens on medical professionals and family members who respond to requests from sufferers for help to die. Moreover, without proper safeguards the most vulnerable are at increased risk from abuse. Most importantly, the Bill provides an option for competent terminally ill sufferers to choose an assisted comfortable and dignified end to life legally and without fear of compromising their careers and families." Earlier in their letter, the philosophers argued "that people should be guaranteed choice and dignity at the end of their lives to remove the fear, discomfort and loss of dignity and autonomy that can attend the process of dying."
In a powerful and eloquent response, Professor John Haldane of St. Andrews University in Scotland joined with others in responding to Grayling. According to Haldane and his associates, Grayling and other pro-euthanasia advocates "confirm the existence of a slippery slope by sliding down it."
As their letter documents, the Grayling argument speaks of euthanasia because of patients' suffering "unbearably from a terminal illness." Yet, the Grayling group quickly changes the foundation of its argument from unbearable suffering to "loss of dignity and autonomy." As Haldane insists, "In the space of a sentence, they [Grayling and his colleagues] glissade from unbearable suffering to fear, discomfort, etc."
Haldane then asks: "Principles invoked by advocates of euthanasia typically subvert the legal boundaries they propose. If suffering is unbearable, why should people released be confined to the terminally ill? If the crucial question is the 'quality' of existence, why should euthanasia be denied to those unable to request it?"
The Haldane letter, cosigned by Alasdair Macintyre of Notre Dame University, pushes the case against euthanasia at the pragmatic level as well. All those "safeguards" supposedly put in place to protect euthanasia from "abuse" are routinely disregarded. As the reports from the Netherlands make clear, doctors there have been routinely breaking even the liberal euthanasia laws of that nation, putting children and babies to death in clear violation of the law and medical ethics. Furthermore, they are now sufficiently bold to acknowledge this practice to researchers.
What kind of culture produces physicians who will kill their own patients? What degree of moral insanity is necessary for 31 percent of pediatricians to admit that they have killed infants, along with a staggering 45 percent of neonatologists?
The Culture of Death no longer creeps and crawls. It is now advancing at a breathtaking pace, and the transformation of medical ethics and practice now evident in Belgium and the Netherlands is already taking root in the logic proposed by euthanasia advocates in the United States. Assisted suicide is now legal in the state of Oregon, and a federal court recently told the Bush administration that the federal government has no right to challenge the Oregon law.
Herbert Hendin, a physician who serves as Executive Director of the American Suicide Foundation, documents the slide toward euthanasia in Seduced by Death: Doctors, Patients, and the Dutch Cure. As Hendin explains, "Euthanasia advocates have been seduced by death. They have come to see suicide as a cure for disease and a way of appropriating death's power over the human capacity for control. They have detoured what could be a constructive effort to manage the final phase of life in more varied and individualistic ways onto a dangerous route to nowhere. These are not the attitudes on which to base a nation's compassionate social policy."
That is an understatement. The Christian worldview posits an understanding of human life that begins with fertilization and continues all the way to natural death. At every moment and stage of development along that continuum, we must contend for the sanctity and dignity of human life. We must confront the Culture of Death and euthanasia advocates with a solid wall of informed resistance, refusing to accept the premise that we possess autonomy over our own lives, or that we have the right to decide the time or means of our own death.
The debate in Great Britain is illuminating, even as the legislative possibilities in Belgium are frightening. But the report out of the Netherlands pushes the envelope of moral understanding. We can hardly imagine doctors who kill babies and now propose to kill children--all in the name of "compassion."
Wesley J. Smith reminds that Dutch physicians are now engaged "in the kind of euthanasia activities that got some German doctors hanged after Nuremberg." Have we learned nothing?


R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. For more articles and resources by Dr. Mohler, and for information on The Albert Mohler Program, a daily national radio program broadcast on the Salem Radio Network, go to For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to Send feedback to

Intelligence Reforms Threaten Civil Liberties

New reforms threaten civil liberties
Under the guise of improving the gathering of intelligence, unprecedented powers to spy on Americans would be granted to agents
Kate Martin is director of the Center for National Security Studies, a civil liberties organization based in Washington. This is from The Washington Post.
October 1, 2004

Momentum is growing for efforts to dramatically reorganize the U.S. intelligence community in the few weeks left before Congress adjourns. But while there has been much arcane debate on budgetary authorities, one important aspect of the reform proposals has gone largely unnoticed: the serious threat they pose to civil liberties.

The proposed intelligence agency restructuring would, in columnist William Safire's words, marry the law officer and the spy by placing the FBI's domestic counterterrorism activities and counterterrorism operations by the CIA and Defense Department under the authority of one spymaster. Foreign and domestic intelligence activities are now in different agencies reporting to separate masters.

Under the proposals being considered, there would be no protection against covert operations targeting Americans by the CIA and the Pentagon. There are no legal prohibitions against the CIA or defense intelligence agencies conducting covert campaigns against Americans. Although the National Security Act excludes the CIA from law enforcement and internal security, it has never been read to prohibit domestic covert operations done for a "foreign intelligence purpose." Indeed, President Ronald Reagan granted such authority to the CIA in a 1982 executive order that remains in place. The only protections against such operations have been bureaucratic arrangements and the CIA's understanding that its primary mission lies overseas.

Those bureaucratic protections would disappear with the establishment of a new intelligence director with the power to turn to the CIA or Defense Department and order domestic covert operations in the name of counterterrorism.

These proposals also threaten to transform the FBI's counterterrorism operations by putting an intelligence czar, rather than the attorney general, in charge. The FBI operates with much greater accountability than the CIA, because the line of command goes to the Justice Department, which has an institutional responsibility for the protection of constitutional rights.

The pending bills call for the creation of a national information-sharing network. (This is not part of the intelligence agency restructuring.) Congress would require giving an FBI or CIA officer sitting at his desk the technological capability to access all information about any American in any existing database.

This would make it possible, for instance, to generate complete dossiers on all political protesters in Seattle or all Arab-Americans in Michigan. Instead of building one massive central database, this proposal envisions a system whereby thousands of government officials would have instantaneous access to multiple databases. No laws currently restrict such dossier-building or limit the government from using such information against anyone for any purpose. Only the lack of capacity stops the government from putting this into practice today.

The proposals do contain references to privacy and civil liberties protections, but they abdicate Congress' constitutional responsibility to enact such protections. Instead, they direct the White House to write privacy guidelines for the new information network. Neither administration guidelines nor the proposed civil liberties board is an adequate substitute for public debate and congressional legislation on the complex issues posed by such a massive new information-gathering program.

What is to be done? As CIA Director Porter Goss has recognized, we urgently need a national debate on the domestic spy powers of any new intelligence director before such powers are given to him. If there is to be a new national intelligence director, domestic covert operations should be outlawed. While a new intelligence director should ensure that foreign and domestic information is shared and that agencies operating at home and abroad coordinate their efforts, the FBI should remain under the direction and control of the attorney general.

Before Congress gives its blessing to the largest-ever surveillance information network, it should conduct a serious examination of the need for such government capability. It should then look closely at the implications for individual privacy and liberty in concentrating such power in the government. Only then, if it determines that such a capability is needed, should it authorize its construction and write the laws necessary to protect individual rights.

In the end, there will be an added security benefit from respecting civil liberties because limited government resources will be focused on actual terrorists and not on American Muslims or political dissidents.

Kansans Being Conditioned to Accept Mass Innoculations

Flu-X: Conditioning Kansans to Give or Accept Mass Inoculations on Cue
Mark Erwin | September 30 2004

This month, ten Kansas counties are going to conduct a “mass dispensing exercise” called “Flu-X.”
What’s a “mass dispensing exercise” you ask?
In the words of my own county’s health department’s press release, it’s a federally funded “opportunity to practice vaccinating a large group of people in a relatively short period of time.”
Specifically, folks (even babies as young as six months old) will be offered free flu shots, but only if they show up at a designated central staging area on the appointed day, within a narrow seven hour window of time.
The hope is that citizens enticed by the offer of free flu shots will swamp the staging area and provide public health officials with a scene comparable to what they might experience during what they vaguely describe as a “large-scale public health emergency.”
But conditioning local public health officials to accept as normal or necessary the mass inoculation of entire populations in a short period of time is only half their agenda. In the words of one Health Department Director, “This Flu-X exercise also gives the public the experience of participating in a mass immunization event. The public will be able to learn what is expected in the event of a large-scale public health emergency.”
It gives the public “experience.” It teaches us “what is expected.” Perhaps with enough conditioning, we’ll overlook the fact that the “experience” and “what is expected” is patently insane.
To my knowledge, there has never been a “large-scale public health emergency” in Kansas that has ever required a response as bizarre or draconian as this.
So what is it that they are really preparing us for? What sort of “large-scale public health emergency” would require mass inoculations of the entire population in a matter of hours?
And would such mass inoculations, should this vague “large-scale public health emergency” ever arise, be voluntary or forced?
Thankfully, these Flu-X “mass dispensing exercises” still rely on voluntary participation. Their “success” hinges on the public:
1) Believing that flu shots are actually good for them despite evidence that they contain mercury and other toxic contaminants far exceeding safe levels. For example, last year it was reported that flu vaccines were found to contain 250 times the safe level of mercury set by the EPA.
2) Showing up en masse at the designated staging area during the window of “opportunity” in order to get the shots for free.
To gull the public into participating, slick PR campaigns are being rolled out. Check out this flyer being circulated in Shawnee County, which includes Topeka, our state’s capital:
And here’s the website for one local agency promoting this federally-funded insanity, the Shawnee County “Medical Reserve Corps:”
I wonder if other counties in other states are inviting their citizenry to participate in such “mass dispensing exercises?” Or is my home state of Kansas being singled for special attention by our federal terror lords. And if Kansas is being singled out, what might they have planned for us here, in our otherwise quiet corner of the world?
As the 9/11 event itself demonstrated, federally sponsored drills have an uncanny way of becoming reality. Such mass conditioning is not for nothing. Something is up.
Only time will tell, of course. But the fact that so many of my fellow Kansans are being conditioned to give or accept mass inoculations is not at all comforting. Hopefully, Kansans (and Americans generally) will reject the bait of free intravenous poison when offered, reject this insane “large-scale public health emergency” forced mass inoculation response paradigm the federal government is attempting to condition us all to accept as normal or necessary, and make these and all future “mass dispensing exercises” complete and total busts.

China's Party Chief Tells Army to Be Ready for War

China's Party Chief Tells Army to Be Ready for War
Reuters | September 30 2004

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese Communist Party chief and President Hu Jintao has urged the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to prepare for a military struggle, but stopped short of singling out rival Taiwan as the target.
Many security analysts see the Taiwan Strait as the most dangerous flashpoint in Asia. China claims sovereignty over Taiwan and has threatened to attack if the democratic island of 23 million people declares independence.
Hu, who assumed the role of military chief less than two weeks ago, told the 2.5-million-strong PLA to "seize the moment and do a good job of preparing for a military struggle," the People's Daily and the Liberation Army Daily said on Thursday.
Hu did not say against whom the struggle might be fought.
But on Wednesday, a spokesman for China's policymaking Taiwan Affairs Office accused Taiwan Premier Yu Shyi-kun of clamoring for war with threats to fire missiles at Shanghai if the PLA attacked the self-ruled island.
Taiwan needed a counter-strike capability, Yu said in defense of plans to buy T$610.8 billion (US$18.2 billion) worth of weapons from the United States.
He made the remarks hours before thousands of people took to the streets of Taipei on Saturday to demand the government scrap the weapons package they said would trigger an arms race with China and squeeze social welfare and state spending on education.
Tension between China and Taiwan has been simmering since the re-election in March of the island's President Chen Shui-bian, who Beijing is convinced will push for statehood during his second four-year term.
Beijing and Taipei have been rivals since their split at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, but trade, investment and tourism have blossomed since detente in the late 1980s.
Hu also urged the PLA, the world's biggest army, to "comprehensively revolutionize, modernize and standardize," newspapers said. No details were given.
Hu, 61, replaced Jiang Zemin, 78, as chairman of the Central Military Commission on Sept. 19, completing the most orderly leadership succession in the 55 years since the Communist Party took power.
The following day he promoted two senior officers in a move that was likely to help consolidate his position in the PLA.

One in Eight U.K. Teen Girls Has Chlamydia

One in eight teenage girls has chlamydia, tests show
By Jeremy Laurance Health Editor
30 September 2004

One in eight teenage girls is infected with chlamydia, the sexually transmitted disease that can cause infertility, according to the first results from the national screening programme.
The rate of infection among 16- to 19-year-old women is more than 40 per cent higher than in those aged 20 to 24, indicating that girls starting sex are at highest risk. Among men, rates are highest in the 20 to 24 age group with one in five infected. The findings from the first year of the national chlamydia screening programme, which was launched in April last year, confirm that the infection is Britain's commonest sexually transmitted disease. Chlamydia causes no symptoms in half of men and 70 per cent of women. But it can have serious consequences, causing pelvic inflammatory disease in up to 30 per cent of women. One in five women is left infertile.
Figures for 2003 show more than 58,000 cases of chlamydia were diagnosed in 16- to 24-year- olds in sexually transmitted disease (STD) clinics in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. But the Health Protection Agency (HPA) estimates the true number to be 300,000. The infection can be cured by a single dose of antibiotics.
The HPA warned in July that Britain was facing an epidemic of STDs, with more than 700,000 cases diagnosed last year, up 57 per cent since 1995. Prompt treatment is critical to curb the spread of STDs, but genito-urinary medicine clinics are overwhelmed and patients face "unacceptably long waits", Sir Liam Donaldson, the Government's chief medical officer, admitted. The British Medical Association said the service was worse than 90 years ago.
The Family Planning Agency said teenage girls were more likely to have sex with men in their twenties. A spokeswoman said: "They do not have the same negotiating skills over asking their partner to wear a condom and they are more vulnerable. Women in their twenties are more forceful."
The screening programme is to be offered nationwide by 2008. It aims to provide 50 per cent coverage of all sexually active women aged 16 to 24.

Schwarzenegger's 'Pedophile Protection Act'

Arnold OKs so-called 'Pedophile Protection Act'
Critics say new measure gives more opportunity for molesters
Posted: October 1, 2004
1:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2004

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a bill dubbed by critics as "The Pedophile Protection Act."
Authored by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, the new law drastically reduces requirements for mandatory reporting of the known or suspected sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children.
Opponents, who are urging constituents to contact the governor, also say it creates a loophole for abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood, to be exempted from reporting statutory rape, molestation and sexual abuse and gives molesters greater opportunity to be involved with the caregiving of children.
In addition, the new law changes the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act's definition of "sexual assault" to exclude consensual oral copulation, sodomy and sexual penetration between two minors who are both 14 years or older.
Richard D. Ackerman, vice-president of legal affairs for the Pro-Family Law Center, and a survivor of severe physical and sexual abuse, has called the bill a "reprehensible act."
Under existing criminal law, anyone who regularly comes into contact with children is required to report an instance in which there is reason to believe a child has been molested or abused, Ackerman points out.
Typical mandatory reporters include pastors, priests, church volunteers, teachers, school volunteers, and medical personnel.
But the new law eliminates mandatory reporting for anyone who can be characterized as a "volunteer."
That means a Sunday school teacher, for example, would not be required to report her knowledge of a pastor's molestation of children.
Ackerman, while working for the United States Justice Foundation, persuaded the California Attorney General's office to issue a written opinion to the California Medical Board that affirmed the requirement of reporting for anyone who comes into regular contact with children as part of professional duties.
The report, following a petition by more than 10,000 people, presented evidence that Planned Parenthood had seen over 30,000 children in California, but not one instance of reporting to law enforcement could be found.
State-required demographic data provided by Planned Parenthood to California demonstrated that the volunteers and paid staff of Planned Parenthood had seen children ages 6 and under for sexually transmitted disease treatment.
Ackerman says the new law seeks to make unavailable any reports of abuse, even if the reports are redacted.
Schwarzenegger recently has signed other bills that have angered activists on the right, including one that gives special rights to cross-dressers and transsexuals and requires health insurance companies to "provide registered domestic partner coverage equal to that provided to spouses."

Drugmakers Seen as the New Corporate Villains

From the September 20, 2004 edition
A new corporate villain - drugmakers?
A number of charges against the pharmaceutical industry damages its credibility and further erodes public support.
By Gregory M. Lamb | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Big Pharma is in danger of joining Big Oil and Big Tobacco as one of the bad boys of American industry. A slew of revelations have stung drugmakers in recent months - from charges of hiding unflattering clinical trials to studies showing a link between the use of antidepressants in children and suicidal thoughts. The companies' stance against allowing Americans to buy cheaper drugs in Canada has further eroded public support.
Now, a steady stream of critical books - with titles such as "On The Take" and "The $800 Million Pill" - lambastes the way the companies do business.
"It's obviously frustrating," says Jeff Trewhitt, a spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the industry trade group. "We think it's the result of a barrage of distorted allegations, and we are trying to fight back." The charges have "obscured the fact that the US pharmaceutical and biotechnology research industry is the most innovative ... in the world," he says, supplying 60 to 70 percent of the world's new medicines.
Nevertheless, the charges keep coming. In June, New York's attorney general sued GlaxoSmithKline for, among other things, suppressing clinical findings that its antidepressant drug was ineffective in children and teens and possibly could cause suicidal behavior. The drug industry has since announced it will establish a voluntary database of clinical studies. But some in Congress, as well as the American Medical Association and medical journal editors, are calling for a mandatory registry that would make public all clinical trials, even the ones where the drugs failed to work.
Then last week, advisory panels to the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urged the strongest possible warnings on the use of antidepressants in children.
What's more, the current publicity about antidepressants "almost certainly" will lead to more lawsuits against drug manufacturers, says Richard Daynard, an expert in product liability and consumer protection who teaches at Northeastern University in Boston. People will say "these guys did know [about the problems]. They should have told me," Professor Daynard says.
The drumbeat of revelations has damaged the industry's credibility. A majority of Americans (55 percent) now think drug companies should be more closely regulated and two-thirds of Americans say drug prices are unreasonably high, according to Harris polls this year. Most significantly, only 44 percent say pharmaceutical companies serve their customers well. That's down 35 percentage points since 1997, the biggest drop in approval among any of the 15 industries the poll tracks. Only four industries - health insurance (36 percent), oil (32 percent), managed care or HMOs (30 percent), and tobacco (30 percent) - now rank lower.
Big Pharma is not the first industry to enter the doghouse of American public opinion. The 1970s gasoline shortages and the infamous 1989 spill from the oil tanker Exxon Valdez off the Alaskan coast have made Big Oil a longtime member of the bad boys club.
Big Tobacco has an even longer history, although many Americans assume it got its comeuppance in 1998 when US state attorneys general won a gigantic $206 billion settlement against cigarettemakers.
Drugmakers do have a stronger case to make than the tobacco industry, says Daynard, who has led efforts to make that industry legally responsible for tobacco-induced deaths, diseases, and disabilities. "What the drug industry can always do is say, 'Well, that was a bad product. We're sorry about that one. And we should have put a somewhat different label on this other one. But all our other stuff is fabulous and, you know, you need it."
"It's big industry, and people are prejudiced against large industries like the oil industry," says Mel Harkrader Pine, a veteran public-relations expert in Purcell-ville, Va., who has represented both Mobil and the treated-wood industry when they were under attack.
Part of the problem is that drug companies are a victim of their own success, he says. "We went through this in the '70s and early '80s [in the oil industry] until business went down the tubes," Mr. Pine says. "People liked us better when we weren't making as much money."
But critics say it's practices not profits that has gotten Big Pharma into trouble.
"[C]ontrary to its public relations, this is not a very innovative industry," writes Marcia Angell, a former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) and author of "The Truth About the Drug Companies," in an e-mail. "[T]he notion that the pharmaceutical companies discover lifesaving drugs is largely myth. Of the 487 drugs they brought to market in the past six years, 78 percent were classified by the FDA as not likely to represent improvements over drugs already on the market, and 68 percent didn't even contain new chemical compounds (just old drugs in new combinations or formulations)."
The current patch of criticism that has come upon PhRMA is "deserved," adds Dr. Jerome Kassirer, another former editor in chief of NEJM and author of "On The Take: How Medicine's Complicity with Big Business Can Endanger Your Health." "[T]hey exaggerate the amount of money that's used to produce new products. They are producing too many drugs that don't have any special added value, a bunch of 'me too' drugs."
"Obviously, it's hard for someone to understand what's wrong with going across the border into Canada and getting a needed drug for a lower price," says PR guru Pine. He says Big Pharma would benefit from the same advice he gives all his clients: "Be authentic and sympathetic."

Critical books about the drug industry
• "The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It," by Dr. Marcia Angell.
• "On The Take: How Medicine's Complicity with Big Business Can Endanger Your Health," by Dr. Jerome Kassirer.
• "Powerful Medicines: The Benefits, Risks, and Costs of Prescription Drugs," by Dr. Jerry Avorn.
• "Overdo$ed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine," by Dr. John Abramson.
• "Critical Condition: How Health Care in America Became Big Business - and Bad Medicine," by investigative reporters Donald Barlett and James Steele.
• "The $800 Million Pill: The Truth Behind the Cost of New Drugs," by Merrill Goozner.

AIDS As a Man-Made Disease

More 'Evidence' That AIDS Is A Man-Made Disease
From Dr. Alan Cantwell, MD

More "evidence" that AIDS is a man-made disease.......although this "conclusion/speculation" carefully avoided by the authors in this Journal of Medical Primatology.
If the epidemic didn't come from monkeys...........then it certainly could have come from "the hand of man" -- unless one wants to postulate an extraterrestrial origin.
The "missing link" is that HIV was deliberately seeded into the American gay and the African black population via government and WHO-sponsored vaccine programs in the late 1970s. Also there is no "link" between the outbreak of AIDS in American gays and the outbreak in Africa.
It's about time we stopped blaming primates......particularly when tens of thousands have been locked up for decades in laboratories and biowarfare labs -- and who have been subjected to all kinds of experimental torture and virus exchange experiments. What scientific absurdity and chutzpah to blame primates for the current decimation of black Africa from AIDS!! And such a travesty to think that most doctors still believe this nonsense.
Please forward this article on to interested others. Hopefully more people will wake up to this obvious selective genocide program.
PS: For more information --- Go to and type-in "man-made AIDS" -- there are 134,000 citations!!!!!!
Begin forwarded message:
From: BiGoldberg@xxxxx
Date: September 30, 2004 11:33:20 AM PDT
To: BiGoldberg@xxxxx
Subject: No evidence that AIDS can be contracted from monkey/chimp & 10/04 JMP
In the 10/04 Journal of Medical Primatology article titled "AIDS as a zoonosis? Confusion over the origin of the virus and the origin of the epidemics," Preston Marx et al. conclude:
"These arguments indicate that viral cross-species transmission is in itself not the only requirement for the generation of epidemics, and that the ancestry of HIV should not be confused with the origins of AIDS. Other factors must be required for HIV adaptation and epidemic spread of SIV in the new human host. Therefore, AIDS is not a zoonosis, but a human infectious disease of zoonotic origin."
"With the advent of AIDS, avian flu, Ebola and SARS, the question of what launches new epidemics and pandemics is extremely important. The somewhat shocking answer is that we actually know nothing about the factors that launch animal viruses into epidemics or pandemics. Equally important is the question as to why most animal viruses fail to reach a sustained human-to-human transmission. These are critically important questions that are being bypassed. When we think zoonosis, we should think of diseases like rabies. There is no evidence that a person can contract AIDS from a monkey or chimpanzee. There is still a missing link."
Marx PA, Apetrei C, Drucker E. AIDS as a zoonosis? Confusion over the origin of the virus and the origin of the epidemics. J Med Primatol 2004 Oct;33:220-226.
Division of Microbiology and Immunology, Tulane National Primate Research Center, 18703 Three Rivers Road, Covington, LA 70433, USA. Tel: (985) 871 6518; fax: (985) 871 6248; e-mail:
Abstract: Based on findings demonstrating the simian ancestry of HIV, AIDS has been reported to be a zoonosis. However, this theory has never been proved and must seriously be questioned. Several arguments show that HIV-AIDS is not a zoonosis. (i) If AIDS were a zoonosis, there must be evidence of AIDS being directly acquired from an animal species, as is rabies, a disease that is directly acquired from animals. (ii) Despite long-term and frequent human exposure to SIV-infected monkeys in Africa, only 11 cross-species transmission events are known, and only four of these have resulted in significant human-to-human transmission, generating HIV-1 groups M and O and HIV-2 groups A and B. The closest relatives of SIVcpz (HIV-1 group N) and of SIVsm (HIV-2 groups C-H) are extremely rare, with only six HIV-1 group N-infected patients and only single individuals known to be infected by HIV-2 groups C-H. SIV, while capable of cross-species transmission, is thus poorly adapted for disease and epidemic spread. If AIDS were a zoonosis that is capable of significant human-to-human spread, there would be a plethora of founder subtypes and groups. (iii) Human exposure to SIV is thousands of years old, but AIDS emerged only in the 20th century. If AIDS were a zoonosis that spread into the human population, it would have spread to the West during slave trade. (iv) Experimental transmission of SIVs to different species of monkeys is often well controlled by the new host, showing that the virus and not the disease is transmitted. Therefore, we conclude that cross-species transmission of SIV does not in itself constitute the basis for a zoonosis. Transmission per se is not the major requirement for the generation of the AIDS epidemic. All HIVs do derive from simian species, but AIDS does not qualify as a zoonosis and this explanation cannot in itself account for the origin of AIDS epidemic. It is important to distinguish AIDS from true zoonoses (e.g. rabies) because research is needed to understand the processes by which animal viruses cause sustained human-to-human transmission, epidemics and even pandemics. Much is known about emerging viruses, but almost nothing is known about emerging viral diseases.
The emergence of AIDS in the late 1970s in the USA was the first sign of one of the deadliest pandemics in human history. In relatively short time, AIDS became a leading cause of mortality in the world and a cause of serious economic and social problems in of Central and southern Africa. The prevalence of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) increased rapidly, reaching apocalyptic levels of 30% by the end of the 20th century in southern regions of Africa [61]. Significant economic consequences have resulted from the reduction in life expectancy in some African nations [61]. In addition, the number of orphans in regions most affected by HIV has increased dramatically. A second wave of the epidemic reached Asia, where billions of people are at risk, with tens of millions already infected in India and China [61]. AIDS, therefore, is a major health problem in need of rapid and equitable medical and political solutions. The development of effective antiretroviral drugs (ARV) has partially controlled the problem in developed countries [45]. However, in developing countries, ARV is not yet available in spite of efforts by UNAIDS and other non-governmental organizations to provide drugs at least to patients in the late stages of infection []. An effective prevention strategy for controlling mother-to-child HIV transmission was implemented in some African countries and has showed promising results [6,34]. The increased transmission of resistant viruses reported in Western countries is a major concern [60] and the magnitude of this problem may further increase with the advent of ARVs in those regions where treatments are administered without monitoring the virus infection. Effective vaccines are an ideal solution to control in AIDS worldwide, but vaccine development has been too slow to meet the need. Moreover, although moderate optimism was generated by recent reports showing control of SIVmac replication in macaques [1,49,51,53], the mechanism of immune protection in rhesus macaques and their relevance to HIV-AIDS is not known [21].
In this context, debates on the origin of HIV have generated a dispute concerning the fundamental character of AIDS. Based on results showing the simian origin of HIV [14,17,28], AIDS was treated as a zoonosis [31]. This hypothesis was based on data showing cross-species transmission of SIV [14,27]. Supporting data for SIV as the origin of HIV are (i) similarities in viral genome organization; (ii) close phylogenetic relationships between SIV and HIV; (iii) SIV prevalence in the natural host; (iv) geographic coincidence and (v) plausible routes of transmission. Both the SIVsm/HIV-2 and SIVcpz/HIV-1 groups fulfill these criteria [13,17,28]. However, although the simian source of HIV is acknowledged, the emergence of the AIDS epidemic is not understood. Moreover, the idea that AIDS is a zoonosis has never been proved and must be seriously questioned.
Results and Discussion
Why is this question important? Is this simply a semantic argument? It is important to distinguish AIDS from true zoonoses (e.g. rabies) because research is needed to understand the processes by which animal viruses cause epidemics and even pandemics. Although much is known about the origin of HIV, nothing is known about the mechanism of AIDS emergence. This field of AIDS research does not end with the discovery of the source of HIV. We must eventually understand the adaptive process(es) in the new host that will (or perhaps more importantly will not) launch an emerging disease. We know much about emerging viruses, but almost nothing about emerging viral diseases.
A strong rationale for studying the character of AIDS is the social implications that have serious consequences for the ecology of non-human primates. An incorrect assumption concerning the risk of acquiring AIDS from simian bush meat may result in deliberate killing of monkeys to prevent the spread of AIDS, a disastrous consequence for endangered non-human primates (NHPs) that is likely to have little effect on the AIDS epidemic.
An illustration of the confusion caused by misinterpretations of data on the origin of AIDS, the disease, is reaction of the non-scientific press in reports showing that chimpanzees were the source of HIV-1, the virus. 'Chimpanzee meat blamed for AIDS epidemic'[23] was the headline in a frontpage article in the New York Times. The first paragraph of the article stated that 'Chimpanzees slaughtered for food in west central Africa was the original source of AIDS'. Another was from the Daily telegraph which stated that: 'AIDS started by humans eating chimps'. The fact that the original scientific paper suggested that route of human infection with SIVcpz was exposure to blood during hunting and butchering and not the ingestion of meat [28] is incidental to the bigger issue that research only identifies the source of the virus and not the mechanism by which AIDS emerged. The corrected headline would have been, 'Chimpanzees slaughtered for food in west central Africa was the original source of HIV'. The results indicate that humans have been exposed to SIV-infected bush meat for thousands of years, but AIDS only emerged in the 20th century. If AIDS were a simple zoonosis with potential to become a health threat in humans as reported [31], it would have appeared earlier in Africa and would have emerged in the West during the era of slave trade when millions of Africans were brought to North and South America [33].
Definitions - what are zoonoses?
The definition of a zoonosis is 'a disease of animals that may be transmitted to man under natural conditions (e.g. brucellosis, rabies)' [24] or 'a disease communicated from one kind of animal to another or to a human being; usually restricted to diseases transmitted naturally to man from animals' (Medical Dictionary Online, Interestingly, in the Dictionary of Virology it is emphasized that the term zoonosis is frequently misused: 'a zoonosis is a disease or an infection naturally transmitted between vertebrate animals and humans. However, the term has been frequently misunderstood' [40]. The emphasis is on a zoonosis being a naturally acquired disease from an animal source. There is no evidence for AIDS being acquired directly from an animal source.
Stedman's Medical Dictionary [56] provides more details. Zooanthroponosis -- a zoonosis normally maintained by humans, but can be transmitted to other vertebrates (e.g. ameobiasis to dogs, tuberculosis); Amphixenosis -- a zoonosis maintained in nature by humans and lower animals (e.g. staphylococcoses). Amphixenosis would be the correct term for AIDS if it were a disease maintained in nature by animal to animal transmission and humans to human transmission. But the argument is more than semantics.
Arguments against AIDS as a zoonosis
The following facts do not support AIDS as a zoonosis.
1. In spite of the large number of exposures to SIV-infected monkeys in Central and West Africa [41,48], extensive molecular epidemiologic studies have documented only 11 cross-species transmission events during the last 50 years. Only four of these cross-over events resulted in epidemic strains. They are HIV-1 group M, the major group of viruses of the pandemic, group O, which is responsible for perhaps 5% of cases in Cameroon [4] and groups A and B of HIV-2, which are the epidemic forms of HIV-2 [19,27]. Figure 1 shows some of the closest relatives of SIVcpz (HIV-1 group N) and of SIVsm (HIV-2 groups C-G) (Fig. 2). These viruses are extremely rare in humans, with only six HIV-1 group N-infected patients known [3,8] and only single individuals infected by HIV-2 groups C-H (Fig. 1)[13,20,27,62]. These findings indicate that cross-species transmission of SIV is not in itself sufficient for spread into new human populations to generate an epidemic.
The concept that viruses transmitted across species are usually weak pathogens unsuited for initiating large-scale epidemics is not unique to SIV. Direct transmission of avian influenza virus has relatively lower epidemic potential compared with recombinant influenza viruses originating from the pig 'mixing vessels'. Only 18 cases of H5N1 influenza infection were recorded in Hong Kong [16]. These cases were severe, with a mortality rate of more than 30%. However, no evidence of human-to-human transmission of H5N1 virus was found [37]. Moreover, serological screening of poultry workers directly exposed to the avian virus has shown that about 10% were seropositive, and that the infection was asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, with no secondary cases reported [9]. These findings suggest a need for adaptation of animal-origin viruses before they are capable of human-to-human transmission.
2. Experimental cross-species transmissions of SIVs in different species of monkeys have shown that in many cases the virus is relatively non-pathogenic and cleared by the new host [54,57, C. Apetrei, unpublished]. Moreover, some of the HIV-2 groups show low pathogenic potential in the human host [13,27]. Although baboons were reported to develop AIDS following infection with HIV-2 [5] it was clearly shown that serial passage of the virus in baboons will result in an increased pathogenicity [39]. We recently had the opportunity to characterize the outcome of cross-species transmission of SIVsm in three black mangabeys [2]. Although AIDS was observed in one animal, the SIVsm infection was cleared in the remaining two. These findings lead to the conclusion that cross-species transmission of a lentivirus is not the only requirement for the selection of a pathogenic virus in the new host and that studies have to be conducted to characterize the mechanisms of virus adaptation to the new host.
3. The SIVs infections in their natural host are generally asymptomatic in spite of high viral loads over long periods of time [10,12,22,29,43,50]. Immunodeficiency is extremely rare in African non-human primate hosts [2,38,46,55,58] and generally occurs after long incubation periods that exceed the normal life span of non-human primate species [46]. This finding reinforces the assumption that a change in the pathological potential of the virus is needed for SIV to become pathogenic in a new primate host [39]. In zoonotic diseases such as rabies or West Nile encephalitis, the animal source is also susceptible to the disease [11,52].
4. Finally, in Central Africa, humans have been exposed for centuries to SIVs and the epidemic only emerged in the second half of the last century, which suggests the intervention of some factor(s) favoring the emergence of HIV. These factors could be deforestation, increase of urbanization and travel in the 20th century [15]. In addition, it has been postulated that the main factor behind the emergence of HIV in human population may have been an increase in injections, unsterile needles and syringes as well as unsafe transfusion practices. This factor may have significantly promoted viral adaptation through serial passages [25,42] or favor adaptation by other mechanisms such as recombination.
And what if AIDS was a zoonosis?
If AIDS was a zoonosis, then human exposure to SIV would result in AIDS in the SIV-infected individual. Are there any data to support this assumption? During the study of SIV infections in macaques, cases of human laboratory workers becoming infected with SIV were reported. SIVsm had been accidentally transmitted to humans in laboratories in the US but in one case the infection was cleared [35] whereas in the second case (a human infection with SIVsmB670), a persistent non-symptomatic infection had been observed [36]. Macaques inoculated with SIVhu failed to develop productive infection due to the occurrence of deletions in different genomic regions [59]. This suggest that (i) SIVsm directly transmitted to humans is of low pathogenicity and (ii) that the cross-transmitted SIVsm must undergo adaptation into the new human host in order to replicate efficiently to generate immune suppression and to initiate an epidemic.
Most of the SIVs found thus far have not been grown in vitro and are only known from sequences. However. it has been repeatedly reported that most SIVs will replicate in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) [18,31,48,47]. This is an overstatement. For example, only four SIVs of 13 reported in Cercopithecus monkeys have been isolated and only one of them (SIVlhoest) is known to grow on human PBMCs. Remaining viruses (SIVsun, SIVsyk and SIVtal) have a very restrictive host-related tropism [7,26,30,32,44].
These arguments indicate that viral cross-species transmission is in itself not the only requirement for the generation of epidemics, and that the ancestry of HIV should not be confused with the origins of AIDS. Other factors must be required for HIV adaptation and epidemic spread of SIV in the new human host. Therefore, AIDS is not a zoonosis [42], but a human infectious disease of zoonotic origin.
With the advent of AIDS, avian flu, Ebola and SARS, the question of what launches new epidemics and pandemics is extremely important. The somewhat shocking answer is that we actually know nothing about the factors that launch animal viruses into epidemics or pandemics. Equally important is the question as to why most animal viruses fail to reach a sustained human-to-human transmission. These are critically important questions that are being bypassed. When we think zoonosis, we should think of diseases like rabies. There is no evidence that a person can contract AIDS from a monkey or chimpanzee. There is still a missing link.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Everything Will Be Linked

Alien Has Landed
A growing technology strikes some as a perfect tool, while others think it's a sign of the apocalypse
By Stett Holbrook

THE ALIEN invasion has begun.

Still hidden behind warehouse walls and receiving-dock doors, the technology won't proliferate for several years. The Silicon Valley company with a sci-fi name is at the forefront of an integrated circuit-powered revolution that may someday rival the Internet in its reach, touching virtually all corners of the global marketplace and beyond.

Its proponents envision an "Internet of things" that links everything, everywhere. They see dollar signs as well as better-stocked shelves, safer medicine, less lost luggage, fresher produce and an ever-growing list of business and consumer benefits. Others regard the coming revolution as the dawn of an unprecedented era of corporate and government surveillance—and privacy invasion.

As devices and life forms merge, locating lost dogs and children will be a snap. Chip-implanted Mexican government officials can now badge their way into secure inner sanctums without even having to flash a card. Loose tongues have already raised macabre South-of-the-border scenarios of kidnappings and severed limbs as chips begin to be used to track, authenticate or grant access and financial privileges.

Welcome to the brave new world of Alien Technology and radio-frequency identification.

Tag, You're It

In the next few years, radio-frequency identification (RFID) may be everywhere: in supermarkets, in your clothes, in your home, even in you. It is imagined that RFID will one day replace the omnipresent bar code. But RFID isn't a new technology. It's only moving into the mainstream now because the price of the technology is dropping and several major corporations are adopting it, creating a get-on-the-bandwagon-or-be-left-behind mentality.

"People are getting extremely excited," says Kathleen Schaub, vice president for Sybase Inc.'s information technology solutions group. The Dublin, Calif.-based company is a leading provider of database software and plans to get into the get into the RFID industry itself. "It just absolutely explodes the amount of data coming into a company ... the physical world can now be part of the Internet."

For all its potential, RFID is a relatively simple technology. RFID uses radio waves to automatically identify people or objects. In its most common applications, RFID stores a serial number that identifies a person or thing on a microchip. The grain-of-sand-size chip is attached to a tiny antenna. Together, the chip and antenna are called a tag. Most tags are about the size of a small Band-Aid. The antenna allows the chip to transmit information to a reader. The reader then converts the radio waves from the tag into digital information that's read by computers.

RFID was first used by the United States in World War II to distinguish friendly and enemy aircraft. The first commercial application dates back to the 1970s, when Los Gatos electronics inventor Charles Walton sold a lock-opening key-card system to Schlage. While he saw widespread uses for the technology, he was too early. Back then, the bar code was the ascendant form of product identification. Now that RFID's time has come, Walton, 82, watches as others run with the technology he was advocating 30 years ago. While he continues working on RFID in his lab, his patent expired in 1997.

While consumer applications of RFID are limited now, the technology is widely used. FasTrak toll passes, remote-entry key fobs and ID chip implants in pets are all RFID-based technology. In many ways RFID tags are like bar codes in that they transmit data about a product, but unlike barcodes, which must be held up to a scanner to be read, RFID tags are readable from up to 20 feet away. And where bar codes must be read one at a time, an entire pallet full of products can be read simultaneously, dramatically reducing the time—and workers—required to inventory products.

As it's being applied now, RFID is used to strengthen the weak links in commercial and government "supply chains." As merchandise moves from manufacturer to distributor to wholesaler and finally to retailer, things often get lost. Inventory is misidentified. Quantities are improperly calculated. This can mean retailers order too much product or not enough. Products fall out of date or spoil. Customers get mad and shop elsewhere. Prices rise.

With RFID, proponents say, these errors will become a thing of the past. Queried with a reader, a pallet of RFID-enabled toothpaste will speak up and say, in essence, "Fifty cases of Crest toothpaste, right here." Perishable items like milk could be programmed to respond, "There are only two cases of us left, and we'll be sour in three days. Better order more."

Supply-chain RFID applications are going to be the first roll-out of the technology, but other uses will follow right behind.

"Retail supply chain is going," says Tom Pounds, Alien Technology's vice president for corporate affairs and product development. "2005 is the year of implementation. It's deploying."

Other uses, while they may sound far-fetched, are only a few years off. In the home, it's imagined that clothes will tell a smart washing machine that they should be washed in cold water or an RFID-wired turkey will tell the oven how long it needs to be cooked. In the supermarket, an entire shopping cart of groceries could be scanned at once without unloading your cart. If you've got an RFID-enabled credit card or customer-loyalty card, the RFID reader will scan your purse and debit your account.

But it's talk of RFID tags appearing on individual products like cosmetics, automobile tires and clothes, and potentially linking them to the people who purchased them, that gets privacy advocates nervous.

RFID critics fear the technology will offer corporations and the government irresistible access to not only our shopping habits, but a peephole on our movements outside the supermarket. RFID tags could potentially be read through your car or your clothes or as you move about, identifying not only what you buy, but who you are, critics say. It's expected that the distance at which the tags can be read will increase over time, but in the near future critics fear the placement of readers at strategic points such as store and parking lot entrances, freeway on/offramps, public buildings, etc.

"You could put these things anywhere," says Katherine Albrecht, a privacy advocate and leading critic of RFID.

The Patriot Act already allows federal agents to seize personal and business records if the records can be shown to relate to terrorism or spying. Government agents can also conduct "sneak and peak" searches, entering a home or business secretly without immediately notifying the target. In the post-Sept. 11 world, will Constitution-stretching officials like Attorney General John Ashcroft be able to resist using RFID to accomplish their goals?

Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Privacy Center as well as elected officials are also concerned about the privacy implications of RFID technology.

Prime Mover Directive

While the public is generally unaware of the potential perils and promise of RFID, Alien Technology has been at the center of the coming revolution. Alien Technology occupies a sprawling modern building in Morgan Hill's growing high-tech area off Cochrane Road. A company that calls itself Alien offers plenty of fodder for opponents who fear the technology's intrusion into private life, but Alien seems to have a bit of fun with its name.

Inside the company's dark tinted glass front doors, two robots stand sentry in the lobby: Robby the Robot, who made his debut in the 1956 sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet as an iconic image of advanced but friendly technology ("Danger, Will Robinson!"), guards the right flank of the lobby. On the left stands Gort, the silver-helmeted giant who turned his death ray on a paranoid Washington, D.C., in 1951's epic The Day the Earth Stood Still, trying to convince earthlings to live in peace or face destruction. Pretty good corporate messengers to have around.

Alien's front hallway comes straight out of another sci-fi standby: the U.S.S. Enterprise. The brushed steel and rivet-studded walls are as Star Trek as Spock's ears. A key card-activated metal door opens by sliding into the wall. All that's missing is the whoosh of the Enterprise's portals.

Alien isn't out to control the world. The company just wants to supply the world's largest corporations and most powerful government with tiny tags that will identify virtually everything in them.

Today, RFID is a roughly $1 billion a year industry. But in the next few years, the business is projected to jump to about $5 billion a year. With the new applications being unveiled all the time, it's anyone's guess how big RFID will become.

"I think it's going to be a very major industry," says vice president Pounds, a thin man whose casual dress style and restrained demeanor peg him for a tech executive. "If you go out 10 years it has the potential to be a ubiquitous technology."

Alien is a privately held company and one of a half-dozen radio-frequency identification (RFID) manufacturers in the United States (Matrics is another RFID leader; the companies seem to have a thing for unsettling names). Alien has approximately 130 employees and is supported by venture capital, about $140 million to date. The company is expected to break even next year. While still relatively small, Alien's been busy cranking out millions of RFID tags to feed a growing market, positioning it to become the Ford Motor Co. of the RFID industry.

One of Alien's market advantages is a patented technology called fluidic self-assembly that allows the company to make large volumes of RFID tags quickly and cheaply. Instead of using a robotic arm to put tiny microchips in place, a process that is not well suited to speed and large quantities, Alien uses a technique in which the chips are placed in liquid and then allowed to settle into place. The process is unlike any other chip-assembly technique on the market, and it allows Alien to make large quantities of tags at a very low cost, Ponds says. For orders over 1 million, tags go for 20 cents each. But the industry is watching Alien to see when and if it makes good on its pledge to manufacture tags for 5 cents each. When that happens, expect the RFID floodgates to open as the technology becomes affordable for medium- and small-sized companies.

Alien's growing chip assembly prowess has meant steady growth since it was founded a decade ago. The company has landed several key contracts, including the U.S. Department of Defense, Gillette, San Francisco International Airport and other clients. It has opened a second assembly plant in Fargo, N.D.

But now Alien is about to hit the big time. There's nothing like a dictate from the world's largest retailer that its top 100 suppliers adopt RFID technology by 2005 to put a little wind in your sails. Wal-Mart has given the industry and Alien in particular a monumental shot in the arm. The Arkansas-based superstore chain mandated that its top suppliers use RFID tags on cases and pallets going through its three Dallas area distribution centers by January 2005. The rest of the store's suppliers must adopt RFID for Dallas area warehouse operations by the end of 2006.

"They are clearly a prime mover," says Pounds.

Wal-Mart is generally regarded as one of the most efficient retailers in the business, but even the behemoth faces shortages attributable to hang-ups in its supply chain management. It's estimated that the stores are out of stock about 7 percent of the time. RFID can help solve that problem, says Pounds.

According to published reports, thanks to Wal-Mart's mandate Alien is expected to expand its customer base tenfold and quadruple its annual revenue this year. Asked how many of Wal-Mart's top 10 suppliers are coming to Alien, Pounds says "a majority," the hint of a smile forming on his lips.

"We have a significant majority market share among those Wal-Mart top 100," he says.

For now, Wal-Mart and other companies like Target and Albertson's in the United States and Tesco and Metro in Europe are focusing on supply chain RFID applications. Other uses include tagging pharmaceuticals to prevent counterfeiting, store checkout scanners and tracking systems on container ships and trucks.

All this back-of-the-house, supply-chain stuff is well and good. Better inventory control. Fewer out-of-stock items. Safer meds. Lower prices. What's not to like? Although the adoption of RFID technology will probably favor big retailers and manufacturers that deal in large volumes at the expense of mom-and-pop operations that won't qualify for large-volume RFID-tag price breaks, the benefits of the technology are plain to see. But there's a potentially dark side to this bright new technology.

Market of the Beast

A small but growing chorus of critics says RFID must be held in check before already pervasive cracks in consumer privacy break wide open. If the anti-RFID movement has a spokesperson, it's Katherine Albrecht.

Albrecht, an attractive, clear-eyed woman with long, straight hair, founded a group called Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN), and is the self-appointed David against the RFID Goliath. Albrecht is Ph.D. student at Harvard University where's she's earning a degree in education. (Her dissertation is on consumer psychology.)

Before moving to Massachusetts, she lived in San Jose, where she began her career as a consumer-privacy activist. Her initial focus was supermarket loyalty cards (another name for discount cards). In her research, she found that not only do loyalty or so-called "club cards" fail to offer savings, they prey upon elderly, low-income and immigrants shoppers who don't use the cards, and they allow supermarkets to target big-spending consumers at the expense of everyone else. Her opposition to supermarket-loyalty cards led her to RFID, a technology that is far more disturbing, she says. But her discomfiture with these technologies dates back to her childhood.

When she was an 8-year-old girl, Albrecht's grandmother took her aside one day and issued her a grave warning. Be on the lookout for the number of the beast, she told the young and slightly freaked-out Albrecht. The warning comes from the Bible, Revelations 13:16-18:

"And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred threescore and six."

"People have struggled to understand that scripture since it was written," she says.

She says she understands it now.

Albrecht never forgot what her grandmother told her, and she promised herself she would remain vigilant. To her, the passage "No man might buy sell, save he had the mark" means "If you don't take the mark, you starve." Years later as she began investigating supermarket cards and later RFID, chills began to run down her spine.

"Here we are," she says. "I saw that nightmarish vision of the future. ...I made a vow that I was going to tell the world."

While Albrecht is a Christian and is motivated by what she sees as biblical prophesy, she bases her privacy concerns and critique of RFID on her philosophy as a "free-market libertarian." But she also sees a role for government and is pushing for the adoption of an "RFID right-to-know act," proposed legislation that can be found on her website

Entrusting big corporations to police themselves and to ignore the potential mother lode of data that could mined from RFID databases is not something she's willing to do.

"I don't trust them one iota," she says. "I want a law."

Although the industry says it will label RFID-tagged items and allow consumers to deactivate them before leaving the store, Albrecht says it's too easy to hide them in cardboard packaging, in clothes labels, between layers of rubber in shoes or in tires. Instead of having corporate goons driving around in unmarked vans and pointing RFID readers at people's front doors, Albrecht says it's not hard to imagine the installation of readers at traffic onramps, shopping-center entrances and other key locations. Because RFID-tagged products could be linked to the people who purchased them, the potential for privacy invasions is legion.

In an article she wrote for the Denver University Law Review, Albrecht cites statements in Consumer Insight Magazine made by John Stermer, senior vice president of E-business market development at ACNielsen, a market research firm:

"In an industry first, RFID enables the linking of all this product information with a specific consumer identified by key demographic and psychographic markers. ...Where once we collected purchase information, now we can correlate multiple points of consumer product purchase with consumption specifics such as the how, when and who of product use."

While the industry has pledged to protect consumer privacy, there have been several examples of less-than-forthcoming corporate behavior.

In January, German supermarket Metro AG, the country's largest retailer and fifth-largest in the world, unveiled its "future store" to the public in Rheinberg—a showcase of RFID technology. In introducing the technology, the store assured the public that whenever RFID technology was used it would make it visible and that the chips would never be used to store customer data. Those claims, as uncovered by Albrecht during her tour of the store, turned out to be false.

Without notifying customers, the store hid RFID tags in customer-loyalty cards, linking purchases with customer identity. What's more, Metro AG embedded RFID in shopping carts to track customer movement in the store without notifying them. And then there was the RFID-tag deactivation station that didn't work.

Last year, Albrecht organized an international boycott of Gillette after she discovered the company was testing a so-called "smart shelf" in a Massachusetts Wal-Mart store. When a shopper picked up a package of Mach3 razors, a product notoriously popular with shoplifters, an RFID tag on the packaging activated a camera that photographed the shopper. The photo was then compared with another taken when the customer took the razors to the checkout counter. Days after Albrecht launched her boycott of Gillette, the company said it dropped plans to monitor individual products for 10 years.

In a similar case uncovered by the Chicago Sun-Times last year, Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble tested an RFID-activated smart shelf in an Oklahoma Wal-Mart. When a customer picked up a tube of Max Factor Lipfinity lipstick, it triggered a webcam monitored by cosmetic-company employees. Procter & Gamble defended the test, saying it posted a sign near the shelf alerting customers to the electronic monitoring system. No mention, however, was made of the RFID tag. Procter & Gamble said the monitoring system helped it maintain inventory on the shelf. But after the Sun-Times uncovered the trial, the companies discontinued it.

"This trial is a perfect illustration of how easy it is to set up a secret RFID infrastructure and use it to spy on people," said Albrecht after the trial was uncovered. "The RFID industry has been paying lip service to privacy concerns, calling for notice, choice and control. But companies like P&G, Wal-Mart and Gillette have already violated all three tenets when they thought nobody was looking. This is exactly why we oppose item-level RFID tagging and have called for mandatory labeling legislation."

The I.D. and the Ego

Jack Grosso, spokesman for EPC Global, the RFID industry's trade group that includes Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble, Gillette and Alien Technology, says those incidents are "old news" and don't reflect the practices in the industry today. Privacy is in the interest of the industry because if consumers are hesitant, it will hamper adoption of the technology, he says.

"Privacy is as important to us as anything else we are doing," he says.

EPC Global has adopted a number of guidelines he says will protect the public. They include labeling all products that carry RFID tags and allowing retailers to deactivate or "kill" the tags before they leave the store. While the guidelines are voluntary, Grosso says companies that don't abide by them "will find themselves on the wrong side of the issue."

Alien's Pounds agrees.

"The retailers have no interest in making a problem or making it a reason not to shop at a store," he says. "I don't think there's any misalignment of incentives between the retailers and consumers."

Privacy controversies have taught the industry that item level tagging "has to be done very thoughtfully," he says. But he thinks privacy concerns may be overblown.

"You hate to say the cow's out of the barn, but it you carry a cell phone now, it's easy to track your location," he says. "If you wanted to do something nefarious, I'd argue you could do that now."

True enough, but RFID may make that much easier. And more global.

In July, the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on RFID and its implications for commerce and privacy. In testimony before the committee, Barry Steinhardt, director of the technology and liberty program of the American Civil Liberties Union, outlined potential RFID abuses.

"Most troubling of all are proposals to incorporate RFID tags into government identity documents," Steinhardt told the committee. "RFID would allow for convenient, at-a-distance verification of ID. RFID-tagged IDs could be secretly read right through a wallet, pocket, backpack or purse by anyone with the appropriate reader device, including marketers, identity thieves, pickpockets, oppressive governments and others. Retailers might add RFID readers to find out exactly who is browsing their aisles, gawking at their window displays from the sidewalk—or passing by without looking. Pocket ID readers could be used by government agents to sweep up the identities of everyone at a political meeting, protest march or Islamic prayer service. A network of automated RFID listening posts on the sidewalks and roads could even reveal the location of all people in the United States at all times."

According to Steinhardt, a plan for RFID-tagged passports is already in the works. In the wake of Sept. 11, a U.N.-affiliated group called the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has been developing global standards for passports and other travel documents, an effort that stems from the U.S. Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act, which mandated machine-readable, tamper-resistant passports that incorporate biometric and document authentication. The act mandates that the ICAO create the standards for these passports.

Under the ICAO's current proposal, passports around the world would incorporate not only biometrics like fingerprints or face recognition but also remotely readable RFID tags, he says.

For now, the RFID industry is a kind of high-tech Wild West. There are no government regulations, and the industry has pledged to be its own watchdog.

State Sen. Deborah Bowen (D-Redondo Beach) was one of the first lawmakers to carry legislation to try to regulate RFID. She carried a bill last year (S.B. 834) that would have permitted stores and libraries to collect the same information they do now using bar codes but banning the use of RFID to track people as they shop or after they leave the store or library. Specifically, the legislation would have prohibited any person or business from using RFID tags on store products and from using RFID readers to collect personal information about people unless a customer provides the information.

The reasonably written bill never made it out of committee and died. Lining up to oppose were the American Electronics Association, California Chamber of Commerce, California Grocers Association, California Retailers Association, Consumer Specialty Products Association, General Motors Corporation, Grocery Manufacturers of America and Hewlett-Packard Company.

Grosso, spokesman for EPC Global, and other RFID industry proponents say the legislation would have stifled a new technology before it was fully formed. Bowen sees many benefits to RFID but says the time to address its potential abuse is now, not later. Now that we realize the threats posed by Internet spam and spyware, privacy problems that in retrospect should have been confronted earlier, it makes sense to nip potential RFID abuses in the bud, she says.

"There's plenty of room to be innovative and creative and still protect people's privacy," she says. "It's better to lay out the ground rules now."

She's vowed to introduce legislation again. Meanwhile U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has taken up the RFID issue at the federal level. Nelson, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, has gone to the Federal Trade Commission with a list of questions and concerns about the privacy and security issues raised by RFID.

In the debate over RFID and privacy concerns, Alien Technology and companies like it argue that they are really just messengers.

"We make these tags," says Pounds when asked about the potential for abuse of RFID technology. "We cannot control what people do with them."