Tag Archives: California

Science is deadly


Name: Richard Din (25)
Specialty: Biology Student
Date: May 4, 2012
COD: Bacteria?

Richard Din was allegedly killed by the germ Neisseria meningitidis which he was researching.

Title: California Lab Shut Down After Young Researcher Dies While On Personal Crusade To Find Vaccine For Meningitis
Date: May 4, 2012
Source: Daily Mail

Abstract: California officials have shut down a laboratory at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Thursday following the death of a young research associate that was apparently caused by a dangerous bacteria that he had been handling.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that for the past several weeks, 25-year-old Richard Din, a biology major working with the Northern California Institute for Research and Education, had been researching the germ Neisseria meningitidis that can cause meningitis and bloodstream disease.

A state laboratory has confirmed that the rare strain that Din was studying — Serotype B — was the same one found in his body, according to the website Military.com.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease caused by this particular strain is relatively uncommon in the United States, with only about 1,000 cases reported each year. In 2010, an estimated 75 people died from this type of meningococcal infection.

The germ causes septicemia and meningitis, officials said. Septicemia is an inflammation of the bloodstream that causes bleeding into the skin and organs, and is believed to be the cause of Din’s death.

It can be spread by sneezing, coughing or kissing. Meningitis is a bacterial infection of the thin layer of tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord that can result in brain damage and death.

A VA official told the San Francisco Chronicle that Din, who shared an apartment with his girlfriend and several roommates in treasure Island, left work on Friday at 5pm in good health.

Two hours later, the researcher told his girlfriend that he was feeling ill with a headache, fever and chills, and went to bed.

Din woke up Saturday morning to discover a rash all over his body and asked his friends to take him to the VA hospital.

On the way there, the 25-year-old fell unconscious in the car and had no pulse on arrival. He was pronounced dead of multiple organ failure at around 2pm, according to Reuters.

‘In his case, the time between the onset of symptoms and death was 17 hours. That’s not uncommon with this disease,’ Dr Harry Lampiris, chief of infectious disease at the San Francisco VA, told the Chronicle.

While vaccination can generally prevent meningococcal disease, the vaccine is not effective against this particular strain of bacteria. Lampiris said Din had not been vaccinated, but as a precaution, all of his co-workers and close friends have since received the inoculation.

About 70 VA employees who came in contact with Din also have been given antibiotics to prevent possible infection.

The University of California at Berkeley graduate had been described as a polite and intelligent man whose interest in infectious disease was inspired by a family tragedy, according to former classmate Alex Peng.

‘It really troubles me thinking about it,’ Peng told the San Jose Mercury News. ‘It’s really sad to hear about him passing away after he wanted to follow that dream.’

The 25-year-old’s death is being investigated by the VA, the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the state Department of Public Health and the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

Officials have six months to conclude the probe into Din’s death, and if any workplace violations are found, the employer could face citations and fines, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

Lampiris says he is not sure how Din contracted the infection, given that his colleagues have described him as a very ‘fastidious’ and by-the-book researcher who had always followed safety procedures. Initial results of the investigation did not show any spills or equipment failure that could have caused the exposure.

Lampiris said he does not believe the case poses a high risk because the incubation period is generally three to five days. Symptoms of meningococcal disease can include high fever, headache, stiff neck, vomiting, rash, confusion and severe sleepiness.

All local hospitals have been put on alert to watch out for anyone coming in with these symptoms and to immediately contact public health officials, CBS San Francisco has reported.
According to a 2005 study by the Journal of Clinical Microbiology cited by Military.com, 16 laboratory workers worldwide contracted meningitis between 1985 and 2001, including six in the US. Half of them died (Daily Mail, 2012).

Title: Researcher Believed To Be Killed By Lab Bacteria
Date: May 4, 2012
Source: Fox News

Abstract: A young research associate killed by a highly virulent strain of meningococcal disease is believed to have contracted the bacteria from the San Francisco lab where he was working on a vaccine against it, public health officials said on Thursday.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention experts are seeking to confirm what they already suspect: that Richard Din, 25, died Saturday in an unusual case of a scientist being fatally infected with an agent from his own laboratory.

Tom Skinner, a CDC spokesman in Atlanta, said in a telephone interview the CDC in Atlanta would test a biopsy sample from Din and a sample of the laboratory pathogen he was working with to create fingerprints for each.

“If the fingerprints match, you know it’s highly likely he acquired the infection from working in the lab,” he said.

“Someone getting sick and dying from the organism they’re working with in the lab is exceedingly rare,” he added.

Meanwhile, dozens of people, including relatives, close friends, medical personnel who treated Din and some of his co-workers at the research department of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center were being given antibiotics as a precaution.

Harry Lampiris, chief of infectious disease at the San Francisco VA, said it is likely Din died as a result of his work with Neisseria meningitidis, a strain of bacteria that causes meningococcal disease, which leads to meningitis and bloodstream infections.

“It’s our responsibility to assume it’s laboratory-associated until proven otherwise,” he told Reuters.

Since the 1960s, vaccines have been available for some strains of meningococcal disease. But scientists in the San Francisco lab have spent more than 20 years trying unsuccessfully to develop a vaccine against serogroup B, the strain that killed Din.

“It’s been like the Holy Grail to develop the vaccine against B,” Lampiris said.

Din died of multiple organ failure caused by meningococcal infection and septic shock, said Eileen Shields, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Department of Public Health. He died less than a day after becoming ill.

The disease can come on quickly with symptoms including high fever, headache, stiff neck, vomiting, rash, confusion and fatigue.

Lampiris said coworkers described Din, who began work at the lab in October, as “a very talented, hard-working and fastidious individual.”

“He was a very bright person who was probably at the beginning of a long research career,” he said.

Meningitis, an inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, commonly strikes infants and college students living in dormitories, Lampiris said. He said Din had not had contact with either group.

About 1,000 Americans each year suffer from meningococcal disease, and an estimated 10 to 15 percent die from it, Skinner said. He could not say how many of the cases resulted from serogroup B.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health is investigating the circumstances of Din’s death, along with its federal counterpart and the CDC, the city Public Health Department and the San Francisco VA (Fox News, 2012).
Name: Esther Fujimoto (49)
Specialty: Genetic Scientist
Date: August 21, 2011
COD: Killed by Boat

Esther Fujimoto was run down and killed by a boat while swimming across a lake in Utah. Fujimoto helped discover the breast cancer gene. A few local teens have been implicated in her death, but her case has not gone to trial.

Title: Esther Fujimoto Ex ’91
Date: Winter 2012
Source: University of Utah

Abstract: Esther Fujimoto ex’91, a University of Utah scientist who was on the team that helped discover a breast cancer gene, died August 21 after being hit by a power boat while swimming in Pineview Reservoir near Ogden. She was 49 (University of Utah, 2012).
Name: Jonathan B. Tucker (56)
Specialty: Biological & Chemical Weapons Expert
Date: July 31, 2011
COD: Unknown/Murder?

Jonathan B. Tucker was killed in his Washington D.C. home on July 31, 2011. Tucker was a biological and chemical weapons expert who was awaiting a security clearance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Title: Bioweapons Expert Found Dead
Date: August 5, 2011
Source: Bio Prep Watch

Abstract: Jonathan B. Tucker, an expert on biological and chemical weapons, was found dead in his Washington, D.C., home on July 31.

The District’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said the cause of death was unknown, the Washington Post reported Thursday. Tucker, 56, was awaiting security clearance so that he could take a position in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, UPI reports.

Tucker left his job of close to 15 years as a research fellow at the Monterey Institute’s James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. He had also previously worked as an editor at the magazine Scientific American. He was often used as a source by journalists writing about chemical and biological weapons.
“Jonathan was a rare breed in that he knew the science of the issue, which was really complicated, and also knew the policy side,” Paul Carroll, the program director at the Ploughshares Fund, said. “He was one of really a handful of people that could talk to both of these audiences, to both chemists and diplomats.”

Tucker was a weapons inspector for the United Nations in Iraq in 1995 and used his knowledge of the chemical weapons program of Saddam Hussein to advise the U.S. government before its invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Tucker graduated from Yale in 1975 with a biology degree and later earned a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a doctorate in non-proliferation studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Bio Prep Watch, 2011).
Name: Gelareh Bagherzadeh (30)
Specialty: Genetic Molecular Bioologist
Date: January 17, 2011
COD: Gun Shot

Abstract: Gelareh Bagherzadeh was killed when she was shot in Houston, Texas. Detectives investigating the murder of the Iranian molecular scientist gunned down in her car as she drove home believe she was followed or that someone was waiting for her. Bagherzadeh was struck by a single bullet that entered the passenger door window as she talked on her cell phone with her ex-boyfriend. Bagherzadeh was a molecular genetic technology student at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and an active in promoting Iranian women’s rights.

Name: Zachary Greene Warfield (35)
Specialty: DARPA Engineer
Date: July 4, 2011
COD: Boat Accident

Abstract: Zachary Greene Warfield died in a boating accident on the Potomac River. Zack was a co-founder and a member of the Board of Directors for Omnis, Inc., a McLean, VA-based strategic consulting firm for the intelligence, defense and national security communities. He spearheaded major research initiatives and, in addition to helping steer the company, was directly involved in numerous projects, including analytic training and technology consulting. Prior to founding Omnis, Zack was an engineer and analyst for the U.S. Government and private industry. As a science and technology analyst, he assessed missile and space systems, managed technical contracts, and investigated Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) program as a member of the Iraq Survey Group, serving in Baghdad on two separate occasions. As an engineer, he worked on aerospace projects for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and private industry. Most notably, Zack designed critical guidance systems that ensured a successful landing for the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity; his name is inscribed on one of the rovers, and remains on Mars today.

Name: Jonathan Widom (55)
Specialty: DNA/Molecular Biosciences
Date: July 18, 2011
COD: Heart Attack

Abstract: Jonathan Widom died of an apparent heart attack. He was a professor of Molecular Biosciences in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University. Widom focused on how DNA is packaged into chromosomes — and the location of nucleosomes specifically. Colleagues said the work has had profound implications for how genes are able to be read in the cell and how mutations outside of the regions that encode proteins can lead to errors and disease.

Name: Fanjun Meng (29) & Chunyang Zhang (26)
Specialty: Anatomic Pathology/Parkinson’s Disease
Date: 2011
COD: Drowning

Abstract: Fanjun Meng and Chunyang Zhang drowned in a Branson hotel swimming pool. Both were from China and working in the anatomic pathology lab at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Meng was a visiting scholar and his wife, Zhang, was a research specialist, according to information at the university’s website. Meng was working on research looking at a possible link between pesticides and Parkinson’s disease. Police said the investigation is ongoing as to the cause of the drowning but had said earlier there was no sign of foul play.

Name: Gregory Stone (54)
Specialty: Coastal Scientist
Date: February 17, 2011
COD: Unknown Illness

Abstract: Gregory Stoned, who was quoted extensively in many publications internationally after last year’s BP oil leak, died from an unknown illness. Stone also was the director of the renowned Wave-Current Information System. Stone quickly established himself as an internationally respected coastal scientist who produced cutting-edge research and attracted millions of dollars of research support to LSU. As part of his research, he and the CSI Field Support Group developed a series of offshore instrumented stations to monitor wind, waves and currents that impact the Louisiana coast. The system is used by many fishermen and scientists to monitor wind, waves and currents off the Louisiana coast. Stone was a great researcher, teacher, mentor and family man.

Name: Bradley C. Livezey (56)
Specialty: Avian Anatomist
Date: February 8, 2011
COD: Car Crash

Abstract: Bradley C. Livezey, who knew nearly everything about the songs of birds and was considered the top anatomist, died in a car crash. Livezey, curator of The Carnegie Museum of Natural History, never gave up researching unsolved mysteries of the world’s 20,000 or so avian species. Carnegie curator since 1993, Livezey oversaw a collection of nearly 195,000 specimens of birds, the country’s ninth largest. Livezey died in a two-car crash on Route 910, authorities said. An autopsy revealed he died from injuries to the head and trunk, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office said. Northern Regional Police are investigating.

Name: John (Jack) P. Wheeler III (66)
Specialty: Biological/Chemical Weapons
Date: December 30, 2010
COD: Murder

Abstract: John (Jack) P. Wheeler III, last seen December 30, 2010, was found dead in a Delaware landfill. Wheeler fought to get the Vietnam Memorial built and served in two Bush administrations. His death has been ruled a homicide by Newark, Delaware, police. Wheeler graduated from West Point in 1966, and had a law degree from Yale and a business degree from Harvard. His military career included serving in the office of the Secretary of Defense and writing a manual on the effectiveness of biological and chemical weapons, which recommended that the United States not use biological weapons.

Name: Mark A. Smith (45)
Specialty: Alzheimer’s Disease
Date: November 15, 2010
COD: Hit & Run

Abstract: Mark A. Smith, a renowned Alzheimer’s disease researcher, died after being hit by a car in Ohio. Smith was a pathology professor at Case Western Reserve University and director of basic science research at the university’s memory and cognition center. He also was executive director of the American Aging Association and co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. He is listed as the No. 3 “most prolific” Alzheimer’s disease researcher, with 405 papers written, by the international medical Journal.

Name: Chitra Chauhan (33)
Specialty: Molecular Biologist/Mosquitoes
Date: November 15, 2010
COD: Cyanide Suicide

Abstract: Chitra Chauhan was found dead in an apparent suicide by cyanide at a Temple Terrace hotel, police said. Chauhan left a suicide note saying she used cyanide. Hazmat team officials said the cyanide was found only in granular form, meaning it was not considered dangerous outside of the room it was found in. The chemical is considered more dangerous in a liquid or gas form. Potassium Cyanide, the apparent cause of death, is a chemical commonly used by universities in teaching chemistry and conducting research, but it was not used in the research projects she was working on. Chauhan, a molecular biologist, was a post-doctoral researcher in the Global Health department in the College of Public Health. She earned her doctorate from the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in New Delhi, India, in 2005, then studied mosquitoes and disease transmission at the University of Notre Dame.

Name: Franco Cerrina (62)
Specialty: DNA Microarray Technology
Date: July 12, 2010
COD: Unknown

Abstract: Franco Cerrina was found dead in a lab at BU’s Photonics Center on a Monday morning. The cause of death is not yet known, but police have ruled out homicide. Cerrina joined the faculty of BU in 2008 after spending 24 years on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He co-founded five companies, including NimbleGen Systems, Genetic Assemblies (merged with Codon Devices in 2006), Codon Devices, Biolitho, and Gen9, according to Nanowerk News. NimbleGen, a Madison, WI-based provider of DNA microarray technology, was sold to Basel, Switzerland-based Roche in 2007 for $272.5 million. Cerrina, chairman of the electrical and computer engineering department, came to BU two years ago from the University of Wisconsin at Madison as a leading scholar in optics, lithography, and nanotechnology, according to his biography on the university website. The scholar was responsible for establishing a new laboratory in the Photonics Center.

Name: Vajinder Toor (34)
Specialty: Unknown
Date: April 26, 2010
COD: Murder/Gun Shot

Abstract: Vajinder Toor was shot and killed outside his home in Branford, Connecticut. Toor worked at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in New York before joining Yale.

Name: Joseph Morrissey (46)
Specialty: Immunopharmacology
Date: April 6, 2010
COD: Murder/Stabbing

Abstract: Joseph Morrissey died as a result of an alleged home invasion. Although the cause of death was first identified as a gunshot wound, the autopsy revealed that the professor died from a stab wound. Morrissey joined NSU in May 2009 as an associate professor and taught one elective class on immunopharmacology in the College of Pharmacy.

Name: Maria Ragland Davis (52)
Specialty: Plant pathology & Biotechnology
Date: February 13, 2010
COD: Murder/Gunshot

Abstract: Maria Ragland Davis died at the hand of neurobiologist Amy Bishop. Her background was in chemical engineering and biochemistry, and she specialized in plant pathology and biotechnology applications. She had a doctorate in biochemistry and had worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Monsanto Company in St. Louis. She was hired at the University of Alabama after a seven-year stint as a senior scientist in the plant-science department at Research Genetics Inc. (later Invitrogen), also in Huntsville.

Name: Gopi K. Podila (54)
Specialty: Bioenergy & Functional Genomics
Date: February 13, 2010
COD: Murder/Gunshot

Abstract: Gopi K. Podila died at the hand of neurobiologist Amy Bishop. He was an Indian American biologist, noted academician, and faculty member at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He listed his research interests as engineering tree biomass for bioenergy, functional genomics of plant-microbe interactions, plant molecular biology and biotechnology. In particular, Padila studied genes that regulate growth in fast growing trees, especially poplar and aspen. He has advocated prospective use of fast growing trees and grasses as an alternative to corn sources for producing ethanol.

Name: Adriel D. Johnson Sr. (52)
Specialty: Gastrointestinal Physiology
Date: February 13, 2010
COD: Murder/Gunshot

Abstract: Adriel D. Johnson Sr. died at the hand of neurobiologist Amy Bishop. His research involved aspects of gastrointestinal physiology specifically pancreatic function in vertebrates.

Name: Keith Fagnou (38)
Specialty: Molecular Research
Date: November 11, 2009

Abstract: Keith Fagnou allegedly died as a result of H1N1. His research focused on improving the preparation of complex molecules for petrochemical, pharmaceutical or industrial uses. Keith’s advanced and out–of-the-box thinking overturned prior ideas of what is possible in the chemistry field.

Name: Stephen Lagakos (63)
Specialty: AIDS
Date: October 12, 2009
COD: Car Crash

Abstract: Stephen Lagakos was killed in a car crash along with his wife Regina and his mother Helen. Lagakos centered his efforts on several fronts in the fight against AIDS particularly how and when HIV-infected women transmitted the virus to their children. In addition, he developed sophisticated methods to improve the accuracy of estimated HIV incidence rates. He also contributed to broadening access to antiretroviral drugs to people in developing countries.

Name: Malcolm Casadaban (60)
Specialty: Molecular Genetics
Date: September 13, 2009
COD: Plague

Abstract: Malcolm Casadaband was as a renowned molecular geneticist with a passion for new research. He had been working to develop an even stronger vaccine for the plague, but allegedly died of plague prior to bringing his vaccine to market. The medical center says the plague bacteria he worked with was a weakened strain that isn’t known to cause illness in healthy adults. The strain was approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for laboratory studies.

Title: Plague Samples Suspected In Scientist Death
Date: September 21, 2009
Source: Science Mag

Abstract: An autopsy last week revealed that a geneticist who died mysteriously might have succumbed to the plague. Malcolm Casadaban, 60, studied a weakened and reportedly benign form of the bacteria that causes plague, Yersinia pestis, in his lab at the University of Chicago. Casadaban died Sunday, 13 September, and an autopsy report 5 days later indicated high levels of Y. pestis in his blood. No other cause of death was apparent, the university said. A team of scientists at the university, with support from local health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is investigating the matter. So far, no one in contact with Casadaban has shown plague symptoms. The investigators are focusing on whether the strain Casadaban worked on was different than other benign strains of the bacterium and whether he had any inborn susceptibility to the microbe. Results are expected in a few weeks (Science Mag, 2009).

Title: Another Dead Microbiologist – The Coming Plague
Date: September 23, 2009
Source: ABC 7 News

Title: Researcher’s Death From Plague Prompts CDC Warning
Date: February 24, 2011
Source: My Health News

Abstract: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reminding laboratory workers to be diligent about wearing protective gear, after it found that an Illinois researcher died in 2009 from exposure to plague-causing bacteria.

The 60-year-old researcher, a university employee, had been working with a strain of the bacteria Yersinia pestis. He died of cardiac arrest shortly after going to the hospital for what appeared to be flu symptoms, the CDC said in a report released today (Feb. 24).

After determining the cause of death, health agencies and the university began a safety investigation and learned that the man had inconsistently complied with the laboratory policy to wear gloves while handling the bacterial cultures, the CDC report said.

However, experts at the CDC did not rule out that the researcher could have been infected by the bacteria elsewhere on his skin or mucous membranes, such as his mouth or nose.

The CDC report did not identify the man or his university. According to a report from Chicago television station WLS in 2009, he was Malcolm Casadaban, a longtime professor of molecular genetics at the University of Chicago. His family said Casadaban had been seeking to develop a plague vaccine, and was working with a weakened strain of the bacteria.

The CDC report said he had hemochromatosis, a condition in which too much iron is absorbed into body tissues from foods in the gastrointestinal tract. Because Y. pestis bacteria are naturally iron-deficient, the extra iron in the man may have fed the bacteria and caused them to become virulent, the report said.

The researcher sought care from a physician Sept. 10, 2009, six days after he had last worked in the lab. But that doctor thought the problem was a respiratory infection or the flu, and referred him to an emergency department, the report said.

Three days later the researcher was brought by ambulance to an emergency department because of fever, cough, and worsening of his shortness of breath. He died there after suffering septic shock and cardiac arrest, the report said.

Blood tests later revealed he was infected with the bacteria . The Chicago Department of Public Health was then notified.
Before then, the last known laboratory-acquired infection with Y. pestis bacteria in the United States occurred in 1959, the CDC report said. That person, who inhaled the bacteria, did not die (My Health News, 2011).

Name: August “Gus” Watanabe (67)
Specialty: Former Eli Lilly & Co. Executive
Date: June 9, 2009
COD: Suicide/Murder/Gun Shot

Abstract: August “Gus” Watanabe was found dead outside a cabin in Brown County. Friends discovered the body, a .38-caliber handgun and a three-page note at the scene. Friends allegedly said he had been depressed following the death last month of his daughter Nan Reiko Watanabe Lewis. She died at age 44 while recovering from elective surgery. Watanabe was one of the five highest-paid officers of Indianapolis pharmaceutical maker Eli Lilly and Co. when he retired in 2003.

Name: Caroline Coffey (28)
Specialty: Bio-Medicine
Date: June 3, 2009
COD: Murder/Throat Slashed

Abstract: Caroline Coffey died from massive cuts to her throat. Hikers found the body of the Cornell Univ. post-doctoral bio-medicine researcher along a wooded trail in the park, just outside Ithaca, N.Y., where the Ivy League school is located. Her husband was hospitalized under guard after a police chase and their apartment was set on fire.

Name: Nasser Talebzadeh Ordoubadi (53)
Specialty: Bioweapon Antitoxin
Date: February 14, 2009
COD: Unknown/Suspicious Causes

Abstract: Nasser Talebzadeh Ordoubadi died of “suspicious” causes. Dr. Noah (formerly Nasser Talebzadeh Ordoubadi) is described in his American biography as a pioneer of Mind-Body-Quantum medicine who lectured in five countries and ran a successful health care center General Medical Clinics Inc. in King County, Washington for 15 years after suffering a heart attack in 1989. Among his notable accomplishments was discovering an antitoxin treatment for bioweapons.

Title: Iranian Bioweapon Researcher Nasser Talebzadeh Ordoubadi Dies Suspiciously In The US
Date: Feb 18, 2009
Source: Press TV

Abstract: A US-based Iranian doctor working to discover an antitoxin therapy for biological weapons has purportedly died a “suspicious death.”
One of the leading bioweapon researchers and a regular keynote speaker at international conferences, Dr. Nasser Talebzadeh Ordoubadi died on Saturday in what his doctors described as a “suspicious death”.

Media reports have linked Dr. Talebzadeh Ordoubadi’s mysterious death to his notable accomplishments in discovering an antitoxin treatment for bioweapons.

The use of biological and chemical weapons — which is considered illegal under The Hague convention on rules of warfare — is feared by many experts more than the use of nuclear weapons.

Biological weapons can kill, incapacitate, or seriously impede an individual as well as entire cities or places where they are used.

While there are antibiotic and penicillin treatments for different types of bioweapons, some of them such as Botulism and Ricin still remain without any antitoxin or vaccine to cure those subjected to the poisonous weapon.

According to Tabnak, Dr. Talebzadeh’s achievements in finding a cure to bioweapons had made him the target of various accusations from the government of the United States — one of the possessors of biological weapons — since 1992.

In 2000, the Iranian doctor was sentenced to 35 months in prison on charges of health care and mail fraud under the new HIPAA regulations (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996).

His jail sentence, which prompted him to change his name to Noah McKay, came after years of government attempts to level various accusations against him.

The charges, which were never substantiated, proven or confirmed, included “money laundering, funding Middle Eastern terrorists, and connections to the Russian mafia in Seattle”.

While serving in the federal prison camp in Sheridan, Oregon, he told one of his lawyers “my life is in danger and I should change my name and request transfer to another prison” (Press TV, 2009).

Name: Bruce Edwards Ivins (62)
Specialty: Anthrax/Vaccine Technology
Date: July 29, 2008
COD: Suicide/Murder/Overdose

Abstract: Bruce Edwards Ivins died of an alleged drug overdose. Ivins allegedly committed suicide prior to formal charges being filed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for his alleged criminal connection to the 9/11 anthrax attacks. Ivins was likely to be scapegoated for the attacks which resulted in the deaths of five persons and the injury of dozens of others. The attacks included the mailings of several anonymous letters to members of Congress and members of the media in September and October, 2001. The letters in question allegedly contained Bacillus anthracis, commonly referred to as anthrax. Ivins was a coinventor on two US patents for anthrax vaccine technology.

Name: Laurent Bonomo (23) & Gabriel Ferez (23)
Specialty: Infectious Disease/Eco Friendly Fuels
Date: July 3, 2008
COD: Murder/Stabbing

Abstract: Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez, both died after being bound, gagged, stabbed and set alight. Laurent, a student in the proteins that cause infectious disease, had been stabbed 196 times with half of them being administered to his back after he was dead. Gabriel, who hoped to become an expert in ecofriendly fuels, suffered 47 separate injuries.


Even prisoners deserve right to free speech


Prison is hardly supposed to be pleasant. Inmates are deprived of their freedom because they did terrible things. James Crawford, for example, was convicted of robbery and auto theft, and is reportedly a member of the Black Guerrilla Family, a notorious and violent prison gang.

That’s why Mr. Crawford has been incarcerated in Pelican Bay, the toughest and most secure prison facility in California.

But even the most dangerous inmates deserve certain rights. One of these is the right to communicate with the outside world. Two years ago, officials with the Department of Corrections tried to deny him that right. They were wrong to try, and state appellate Justice James Lambden was right last week when he ordered prison officials to lift what amounted to an arbitrary gag order.

In April 2010, Crawford wrote a letter to the editor of the San Francisco Bay View newspaper in which he addressed a recent article about political prisoners in the United States.

Crawford claimed the newspaper seriously undercounted the number of political prisoners, and that inmates such as himself were being held in solitary confinement because of their “political beliefs in a New Afrikan Nationalist Revolutionary Man.”

Prison officials opened and read the letter, as is customary. But this reference to a “New Afrikan,” they decided, was part of a sophisticated code to promote the Black Guerrilla Family’s criminal agenda out on the mean streets of California. They refused to allow Crawford to mail it.

Crawford sued, with the help of attorney Donald Spector. He and Spector produced James Campbell, a Stanford historian who testified that the phrase “New Afrikan” has a long legacy in the history of black nationalism and is hardly unique to the Black Guerrilla Family.

As for the Pelican Bay officials, they never bothered to elaborate on what sort of code Crawford was allegedly using. They simply said so, denied his rights and went to court.

On June 4, Lambden wrote for a unanimous three-person appellate court committee when he declared that Pelican Bay officials had gratuitously denied Crawford’s fundamental right to communicate with others and didn’t even bother to explain why. Crawford’s rights, he concluded, “cannot be taken away by a government agency simply speculating.”

As a result, Crawford’s letter will now be sent to the Bay View — two years later. That prison officials can simply refuse to allow something as basic as the right to communicate with the outside world, and force inmates to spend two years in court, is more than a little galling.

But at least the 1st District Court of Appeal has ruled against them and stood up for the First Amendment.

California’s prisons have been plagued by numerous scandals, from allegations of brutality to widespread failures in medical care for inmates. Inmates must be allowed to speak to the rest of us, and not have their rights be subject to the whims of prison censors.

Otherwise, we may never learn what next scandal is brewing inside the system. We hope that Pelican Bay officials learn from this case and never try to suppress the rights of inmates again.

Read more at the San Francisco Examiner: http://www.sfexaminer.com/opinion/editorials/2012/06/even-prisoners-deserve-right-free-speech#ixzz21dk3NDW4


Man dies in Calif. state-sponsored torture scandal


Another Pelican Bay Prison SHU man dead after strip celled, blasted with ‘ice cold air’ in retaliation for peaceful hunger strike

Another Pelican Bay Prison Hunger Striker has died this week according to an Examiner.com source Saturday evening. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has yet to announce the death, name or cause. State-sponsored torture continues throughout California’s solitary confinement units prompting another prison to announce a mass hunger strike this weekend.

This death “makes it three now here, all strikers and its sad,” inmates at Pelican Bay Prison Segregated Housing Unit (SHU) solitary confinement said on Dec. 30, their message emailed to this reporter by a source late Saturday evening.

Prisoners in Pelican Bay Prison’s SHU decided early this summer to protest tortuous conditions in isolation using the only peaceful means available to them, a hunger strike, quickly spreading to over a third of California’s 33 prisons, 16 prisons where up to 12,000 prisoners refused food.

After the prisoners officially ended the strike, it resumed but ended again in October, Since then, at least three of the strikers “committed suicide,” two in Pelican Bay State Prison’s SHU and another at Calipatria State Prison’s Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU).

Retaliation on hunger strikers continues

“There have been reports of hunger striker leaders at Pelican Bay State Prison facing disciplinary action for their participation in the strikes,” reported Sal Rodriguez for Solitary Watch.

One of the hunger strike leaders recently reported, “On November 30th, myself and several other men here (whom CDCR has labeled as ‘leaders’ of the peaceful-protests) received serious rule violations, charging us with ‘causing a riot/mass disturbance’ and they referred it for felony – prosecution, to the local D.A’s office.

“The Ad-Seg/ ASU units are bad news. I was never housed in them until being put in the one here on Sept. 29th. This was CDCR’s retaliatory action against (15) of us here.

“We were all isolated on a tier, in strip cells with nothing but a set of clothes and fish kit (spoon, cup, bar of soap, etc…), with ice cold air blasting outta the vents!”

Confinement in those ASU conditions reportedly lasted until October 13th, end of the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike.

By mid-October, prisoners had begun reporting “grave medical issues.”

A relative of a striker at Calipatria State Prison said, “Men are collapsing in their cells because they haven’t eaten in two weeks. I have been told that guards refuse to respond when called. This is clearly a medical emergency.”

Hunger strike resumes at Concoran State Prison, despite brutal retaliation

Rodriguez states, “Since this time, there has been difficulty maintaining the momentum sparked by the first hunger strike, which notably led in a historic California Assembly hearing on the matter with promises of future Public Safety Committee inquiries into the system of solitary confinement.

With little progress by the slow-moving CDCR, ASU inmates at Corcoran State Prison were to resume or launch another hunger strike on December 28th.

A letter declaring the purpose of the strike with a list of demands, similar to the previous hunger strike Five Core Demands, has been published on December 30th.

Pelican Bay Short Corridor inmates wrote the letter below, dated December 22nd.

Pelican Bay Short Corridor inmates are considered leaders of the previous hunger strikes.

Their letter (below) reflects growing frustration and determination for their torturous situation.

The inmates are urging individuals to keep pressure on CDCR and the California government to fully address the human rights violations including torture by people at all levels of the California prison-industrial-complex.

Pelican Bay Short Corridor Update

(December 2011)

A Shout-out of respect and solidarity – from the Pelican Bay Short Corridor – Collective – to all similarly situated prisoners subject to the continuing torturous conditions of confinement in these barbaric SHU & Ad/Seg units across this country and around the world.

This is our update of where things currently stand and where we’re going with this struggle – for an end to draconian policies and practices – summarized in our “Formal Complaint” (and many related documents published and posted online, since early 2011)

As many of you know… beginning in early (2010), the PBSP – SHU Short Corridor Collective initiated action to educate people and bring wide spread exposure to – the (25+) years of ongoing – progressive human rights violations going unchecked here in the California Department of Corruption – via dissemination of our “Formal Complaint” to 100’s of people, organizations, lawmakers, Secretary Cate, etc… wherein, we also sought support and meaningful change.

The response by CDCR – Secretary Cate was “file an inmate appeal” (collectively, we’d filed thousands); therefore, after much reconsideration and dialogue, the collective decided to take the fight to the next level via peaceful protest action – in the form of hunger strike.

With the above in mind – beginning in early (2011)… we again sought to educate people about the ongoing torture prevalent in these prison systems – solitary confinement units; and pointing out our position that – the administrative grievance process is a sham, and the court system’s turned a blind eye to such blatantly illegal practices – Leaving us with no other meaningful avenue for obtaining relief, other than to put our lives on the line and thereby draw the line and force changes, via collective peaceful protest hunger strike action.

We believed this was the only – fully advantageous – way for us to expose such outrageous abuse of state power, to the world and gain the outside support needed to help force real change.

We requested support in the form of – asking people to write letters to those in power… we received more support than we ever expected – in the form of letters, rallies, and hunger strike “participants” – more than (18,000) similarly situated prisoners and some people on the outside!

All united in solidarity, with a collective awareness – that the draconian torture practices described in our “Formal Complaint” are prevalent across the land; and that – united in peaceful action, we have the power to force changes.

The hunger strike actions of (2011) achieved some success, in the form of – mainstream world wide exposure – solid, continuing outside support – some small improvements to SHU/Ad-Seg unit conditions … and assurances of more meaningful – substantive changes to the overall policies and practices re: basis for placement and amount of time spent, in such units – a substantive review of all prisoners files, per new criteria – and more change to the actual conditions in such units.

However, this fight is far from over! Notably, the second hunger strike action was suspended in mid-October … in response to top CDCR administrator’s presentation that the substantive changes be finalized… would be provided to “the stakeholders” (this includes our attorneys), within 60 days for comment. To date, CDCR hasn’t produced anything re: SHU/Ad-Seg policy changes; and PBSP’s Warden has not even replied to the (2) memo’s we’ve sent him concerning – additional program – privilege issues, per core demand #5 (see footnote #1 below)

Naturally, many people are not happy about CDCR’s failure to abide by their word – again – and they are asking… “what’s the next move in this struggle?”

Based on our collective discussions, our response is … people need to remain focused, and continue to apply pressure on CDCR, via letters, emails, fax, etc… summarizing the continuing core demands – immediately! There’s real power in numbers!! (see addresses to contact below, at footnote #2)

It’s important for everyone to stay objective and on the same page – remember… united we win, divided we lose. And, if we don’t see real substantive changes within the next 6 months… we’ll have to re-evaluate our position.

Additionally, now is a good time for people to start a dialogue about changing the climate on these level IV mainlines… As it stands now, these lines are warehouses, with all the money meant for programs – rehabilitation, going into guard pockets.

It’s in all of our best interests to change this in a big way, and thereby force CDCR to open these lines up and provide all of us with the programs and rehabilitative services that we all should have coming to us!!

Respect and Solidarity,

T. Ashker, A. Castellanos, Sitawa (s/n Dewberry), A. Guillen

-Dec. 2011-

Footnote#1: To date, we’ve received zero improvements re: core demand #5 … while Corcoran and Tehachapi have gained on canteen and dip-pull up bars – which, is all good. This is an example of what we pointed out in our “Formal Complaint” re: disparate treatment at PBSP-SHU compared to other SHU’s.

This is also a typical CDCR attempt to create discord and disruption to our unified struggle…we’re certain this feeble move will fail because all of us understand what our main objective is – an end to long term torture in these isolation units! It is our fundamental right to be treated humanely… we can no longer accept state sanctioned torture – of our selves! (and, our loved ones!) and we remain unified in our resistance!!

Footnote#2: Addresses of people to write

1. Tom Ammiano, Assemblyman 2. Governor Edmund G. Brown

Capitol Bldg. Rm# 4005 State Capitol, Ste #1173

Sacramento, CA 95814 Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone# 916-319-2013 Phone# 916-446-2841

Fax# 916-319-2113 Fax# 916-558-3160

3. CDCR – Secretary Matthew Cate 4. Carol Strickman, Attorney at Law

1515 S. St. Ste. #330 1540 Market Street, Ste. #490

Sacramento, CA 95811 San Francisco, CA 94102

Phone# 916-323-6001 Phone# 415-255-7036

Fax# 415-552-3150

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) is now one of the leading groups dedicated to ending torture in U.S. prisons. It’s specific focus is on the widespread use and abuse of solitary confinement according to James Ridgeway and Jean Casella of Solitary Watch.

At the core of NRCAT’s work is it’s “Statement of Conscience,” titled “Torture is a Moral Issue,” Torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions, in their highest ideals, hold dear. It degrades everyone involved — policy-makers, perpetrators and victims. It contradicts our nation’s most cherished ideals. Any policies that permit torture and inhumane treatment are shocking and morally intolerable.

“Nothing less is at stake in the torture abuse crisis than the soul of our nation. What does it signify if torture is condemned in word but allowed in deed?

“Let America abolish torture now — without exceptions.”Source


Pelican Bay Prison: One Year Later, Policy Remains "Debrief or Die"


In October 1990, only months after being transferred to Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit (SHU), Todd Ashker was shot in the right wrist by a prison guard. “This nearly severed my hand from my wrist and caused severe damage to hand, wrist and forearm,” he recounted. Ashker stated that he was denied medical care, including pain management, and was told by medical staff, “If you want better care, get out of SHU. It’s your choice.” Only after he won a court injunction in February 2010 was he given an arm brace and physical therapy. [Letter from Todd Ashker, November 13, 2011.] Ashker’s experience is the norm rather than the exception. “Prisoners with medical concerns are routinely told by prison officials that if they want better medical care for their conditions or illnesses, or improved pain management, the way to obtain adequate care is to debrief,” states a federal lawsuit filed by Ashker and other SHU prisoners.

On July 1, 2011, Ashker and thousands of other prisoners went on hunger strike to protest such draconian conditions. As reported in Truthout last year, for three weeks, at least 1,035 of the 1,111 inmates locked in the SHU refused food. In the SHU, which comprises half of California’s Pelican Bay State Prison, prisoners are locked into their cells for at least 22 hours a day. Over 500 people have been confined in the SHU for over a decade, over 200 for more than 15 years and 78 for over 20 years. The only way that a person can be released from the SHU is to debrief, or provide information incriminating other prisoners. Even those who are eligible for parole have been informed that they will not be granted parole so long as they are in the SHU. “They are told they can debrief or die,” stated Jules Lobel, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which recently filed a federal class-action lawsuit on behalf of the SHU prisoners. [Press conference by phone, May 31, 2012.]

The Pelican Bay hunger strike spread to 13 other state prisons and, at its height, involved at least 6,600 people incarcerated throughout California.

“We have decided to put our fate in our own hands. Some of us have already suffered a slow, agonizing death in which the state has shown no compassion toward these dying prisoners.” Mutope DuGuma, one of the hunger strike representatives, wrote in the original announcement for the hunger strike. “No one wants to die. Yet under this current system of what amounts to immense torture, what choice do we have? If one is to die, it will be on our own terms.”

The hunger strikers at Pelican Bay issued five core demands:

Eliminate group punishments for individual rules violations;
Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria;
Comply with the recommendations of the 2006 US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement;
Provide adequate food;
Expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates.

In September, when the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) failed to address these demands, prisoners resumed their hunger strike. The strike spread to 12 prisons inside California as well as to prisons in Arizona, Mississippi and Oklahoma that housed California prisoners. On October 13, prisoners at Pelican Bay ended their nearly three-week hunger strike after the CDCR guaranteed a comprehensive review of every prisoner in California whose SHU sentence is related to gang validation under new criteria. Two days later, hunger strikers at Calipatria State Prison stopped their strike to allow time to regain their strength.

Hunger strikers were issued write-ups for “leading a riot or strike or causing others to commit acts of force and violence,” stated a hunger strike representative. [Letter from Paul Redd, December 29, 2011.] The CDCR threatened to refer these cases to the local district attorney for outside prosecution; if found guilty, the hunger strikers would receive additional sentences. Ultimately, however, the charges were dropped.

In the following months, three hunger strike participants committed suicide: Johnny Owens Vick and Alex Machado were both confined in the Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit; Hozel Alanzo Blanchard was confined in the Calipatria Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU). Many of the hunger strikers blame the agonizing conditions in the SHU and ASU for the men’s deaths: “Obviously these men could not stand it anymore and preferred to die by their own hand rather than be subject to another minute of torture,” declared Todd Ashker. [Letter from Todd Ashker, December 26, 2011.]

In late December 2011, prisoners at California’s Corcoran State Prison’s ASU launched a hunger strike. They issued 11 demands, including adequate access to the law library and legal assistance and an end to the practice of holding prisoners in ASU after they have served their sentences in the unit. Prison staff transferred those who were identified as hunger strike leaders to the psychiatric ward and issued all participants violation notices for “participation in mass disturbances.” In February 2012, 27-year-old Christian Gomez died a week after joining the hunger strike.

In March 2012, the CDCR released its plan around SHU classification. The plan proposed identifying prisoners as part of Security Threat Groups (STGs) and placing them in SHU. It did not specify alternatives to debriefing for release from the SHU; instead, it offered a vague four-year plan.

Pelican Bay hunger strikers rejected the proposal: “The tools are still in place to keep us in the SHU indefinitely and, in some cases, they are planning on expanding this abuse by making it even more inclusive of a broader class of people with no end in sight,” explained hunger striker Lorenzo Benton. [Letter from Lorenzo Benton, June 5, 2012.] By designating people as part of STGs, the proposal expands the number of people who can be placed in the SHU. The proposal also continues the CDCR’s current policy of keeping alleged gang members in SHU indefinitely and does not respond to hunger strikers’ first three demands. Furthermore, noted Benton, “there does not exist any physical structural changes within our environment. We are still housed in an isolated environment for a prolonged period of time with hardly any meaningful contact.” [Letter from Lorenzo Benton, March 27, 2012.] Benton conceded that “a few creature comforts were bestowed upon us to pacify the masses, but our struggle is not about making prison more comfortable. It’s about being treated humanely and with the hope of a positive future.” [Letter from Lorenzo Benton, June 5, 2012.]

The hunger strikers issued their own counterproposal entitled the Modern-Management Control Unit (MMCU). Modeled after the Max-B management control unit programs in the 1970s and 1980s, the MMCU calls for the end of relying solely on confidential informants for SHU placement and using activities such as group petitions, birthday cards etc. as evidence of gang affiliations. In addition, it outlines a three-phase process for SHU release without requiring debriefing.

Hunger striker Mutope DuGuma stated that, at a follow-up meeting with hunger strikers and the mediation team, the CDCR representative “indicated that they’re going ahead with their proposal regardless of our counterproposal.” [Mutope DuGuma, May 28, 2012.] Instead, the CDCR has placed its proposal into the state’s revised budget.

However, DuGuma and others have not lost hope. “We are still going strong,” he stated. “We are working constantly, prisoners and the mediation team. Our five core demands have not been implemented [and] we all signed on to fight till they are.” [Letter from Mutope DuGuma, May 28, 2012.]

On March 20th, 400 prisoners in California’s SHUs and ASUs petitioned the United Nations to intervene on behalf of the more than 4,000 prisoners similarly situated. The petition can be downloaded from here. Five months earlier, in October 2011, shortly after the hunger strikes ended, Juan Mendez, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture, presented a written report on solitary confinement in the US to the UN General Assembly’s Human Rights Committee. He stated that solitary confinement “can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment when used as a punishment, during pretrial detention, indefinitely or for a prolonged period, for persons with mental disabilities or juveniles. Segregation, isolation, separation, cellular, lockdown, supermax, the hole, secure housing unit … whatever the name, solitary confinement should be banned by states as a punishment or extortion (of information) technique.” He called for a ban on any type of solitary confinement exceeding 15 days.

On May 31, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court on behalf of those who have spent between ten and 28 years in Pelican Bay’s SHU, including the hunger strikers. The suit, Ruiz v. Brown, names ten plaintiffs and seeks to establish two classes of prisoners entitled to relief. The larger class consists of all prisoners serving indefinite SHU terms based on gang validation. The suit argues that their rights to due process are violated by this review process. The current review process consists of three steps: First, the prisoner is urged to debrief. Second, a mental health staff member asks, “Do you have a history of mental illness? Do you want to hurt yourself or others?” Third, the classification committee “reviews” the paperwork in the prisoner’s file. However, unless the prisoner is willing to debrief, the review allows no possibility of release from the SHU even though many have had no serious rule violations during their confinement.

The subclass consists of over 500 prisoners who have been or who will be confined to the SHU for ten years or longer. The suit argues that their prolonged SHU confinement violates their Eighth Amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment, including:

the cumulative effect of prolonged solitary confinement, notably psychological pain and suffering as well as “significant risk of future debilitating and permanent mental illness and physical harm”
the denial of good-time credits and parole
the deprivation of quality medical care

The plaintiffs seek a court injunction ordering the governor and the CDCR to present a plan within thirty days of the court order which:

Provides for the release from the SHU of those confined for more than ten years
Changes SHU conditions so that prisoners are no longer subject to isolation, sensory deprivation, lack of social and physical human contact and environmental deprivation
Meaningful review of the continued need for SHU confinement of all prisoners in the SHU both currently and in the future

Nunn noted that, although the suit is limited to the SHU at Pelican Bay, any court ruling would affect the conditions and increasingly routine use of solitary confinement in other prisons. [Press conference by phone, May 31, 2012.]

The actions of both prisoners and outside allies have led to widespread attention to the issue of solitary confinement. Prisoner hunger strikes protesting extreme conditions have also erupted in Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.

On June 19, 2012, the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights held the first-ever Congressional hearing on solitary confinement. In his opening statements, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin read descriptions of Pelican Bay’s SHU as an example of the extreme inhumanity of solitary confinement.

So, what next? “So it’s now all about ramping up support for a new round of peaceful responsive actions,” wrote Ashker in a recent letter. [Asher, June, 10, 2012.]

Supporters are doing just that: To commemorate the strike’s one-year anniversary, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, a Bay Area coalition of family, friends and supporters of the hunger strikers, will be organizing a Month of Education, including building a replica of a SHU cell to be used at outreach events, organizing educational events (and urging those in other states to do the same), continuing legal visits and setting up a pen pal network to connect California prisoners with outside supporters. SOURCE


Secrecy Surrounds Inmate Suicides in California State Prisons


California prisoner advocate groups have raised alarm about a string of suicides in California state prisons committed by inmates who participated in hunger strikes this year to demand an end to inhumane conditions.

In recent months Alex Machado and Johnny Owens Vick, who were both housed in Pelican Bay’s notorious solitary confinement Security Housing Unit, and Hozel Alanzo Blanchard, who was incarcerated at Calipatria State Prison’s Administrative Segregation Unit, all committed suicide. Prisoner advocates say all three participated in a statewide hunger strike this summer to protest, among other things, prison discipline policies intended to identify prison gang members which punish innocent, unaffiliated inmates with decades of confinement to segregated units.

“It is a testament to the dire conditions under which prisoners live in solitary confinement that three people would commit suicide in the last month,” Laura Magnani, the regional director of the American Friends Service Committee said in a statement. “It also points to the severe toll that the hunger strike has taken on these men, despite some apparent victories.”

Details about inmates’ deaths are hard to come by, and what little is known is in dispute because prison officials refuse to be forthcoming about the circumstances of the suicides, prisoner advocates say.

“As far as we understand, these three people were involved in the hunger strike, and as far as we understand, these three people are dead now,” said Isaac Ontiveros, a spokesperson for the Prison Solidarity Hunger Strike Coalition, a network of organizations that advocates for prisoners’ rights.

“The how and the why is a hard thing to say more about, and it’s become more and more devastating when there is such a lack of clear information from the [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation].”

The fight for basic updates and information from the California Department of Corrections is nothing new for prisoner advocates and their loved ones. During the latest round of prisoner hunger strikes, prison officials disciplined those who participated in the strike by limiting inmates’ access to family members and advocates. Even in the wake of a series of suicides, distraught family members are being given very little information about what exactly happened with their loved ones.

Family members were informed of their loved ones’ deaths via automated recordings left on their voicemails, Ontiveros said, and those who have tried to reach out to the CDCR for more information have been rebuffed.

The CDCR did not respond to repeated requests for comment, though their spokesperson Terry Thornton disputed the prisoner advocates’ story in an interview with SF Weekly. According to Thornton none of the three inmates participated in the hunger strikes, and one of the three men died before the second round of the hunger strike began in September.

“It is troubling that this group, which professes to care about inmates, would fabricate information, label it ‘news,’ and discredit the men and women who work for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation,” Thornton told the SF Weekly. “Their claim that CDCR is withholding information is outlandish and irresponsible.”

Last Thursday, however, the CDCR boldly announced a fourth suicide. Brandon Wilson, sentenced to death for brutally stabbing a child in 1999, hanged himself in his San Quentin State Prison cell last Thursday. Source


China Tried to Steal Secret of Titanium Dioxide

Mar 9, 2012 Spies aren’t just after government secrets these days: An indictment unsealed last month spotlights US efforts to crack down on corporate spying. The government has filed criminal espionage charges against a China-owned firm, saying Pangang Group was after DuPont chemical secrets—specifically, its efficient method for producing the white pigment titanium dioxide, the Wall Street Journal reports. It’s the first time such charges have been lodged against a state-owned foreign firm, the Justice Department says, as federal agents crack down on foreign governments’ attempts to pilfer US intellectual property.

A couple living in California has been charged with trying to steal and sell secrets about the 50-year-old DuPont technology to Pangang, and the Journal relates how the Liews were busted: After DuPont filed a civil suit against them last year, the FBI got a search warrant for their home. While there, it found a safe deposit box key—and an agent who speaks Mandarin overheard Walter Liew tell his wife in Chinese to say that she didn’t know about the bank … which is where she drove right after the agents left. Prosecutors say the couple’s box housed documents related to the plot. China says accusations that the state-owned company asked businessmen to obtain DuPont trade secrets are “groundless.” But “what we’ve learned since the end of the Cold War is that when it comes to the economy, our adversaries and even our allies will spy on us when it’s in their economic interest,” says an FBI director.Source

G4S: Finance & Investors wow that's interesting!


Read any newspaper article about G4S and you are more than likely to be told the company is the biggest employer on the London Stock Exchange, with over 650,000 staff and “operations” in more 125 countries. These facts are written big throughout its annual report, suggesting, as they do, size and success. However, the company’s accounts show its finances are not as impressive as its favourite stats may suggest.[1]

2011 saw the company post £198 million in profit, from a turnover of £7.5 billion. This was £50 million lower than the previous year’s profits but would have been higher were it not for the £55 million incurred in the failed takeover of ISS.

The company’s balance sheet, though hardly precarious, does not inspire the same confidence. G4S has total assets of £5.6 billion against liabilities of £4.1 billion, leaving it with equity of £1.5 billion (assets – liabilities = equity). Look closer at the assets column and you’ll see that £2.2 billion of these liabilities are accounted for as ‘goodwill’.

Goodwill is the value of a company over and above its tangible assets (although, confusingly, software is often counted as goodwill). A potentially profitable start-up company with a great idea for vacuum cleaners, for example, would not be bought for the value of the chairs and desks in its office, but the perceived value of the money that company’s vacuums can make in the future.

G4S’ accounts show the excess of goodwill on its balance sheet came from its previous incarnation as Group 4 Falck’s acquisition of Securicor in 2011. It paid more for the company than its ‘book value’ as it had intangible qualities that were deemed worth paying more than the tangible value on the balance sheet.

Chief among G4S’ qualities is its perceived knowledge of how to run services. This will provoke hollow laughter from anybody who has suffered from the company’s cost-cutting, often brutal, approach to service provision, but it’s not in doubt that the company has governments convinced. Still, £2.2 billion remains a huge amount of goodwill. If the company loses half of its goodwill, for example, its equity would be reduced to £400 million. Much more and the accountants would start getting itchy.

G4S is also carrying a significant level of debt. Its accounts show it owes around £900 million in loans to banks, and almost £1.2 billion due through loan notes issued since 2007 to unknown investors. £830 million of these notes are private, £350 million are publicly traded (known as Eurobonds). G4S has recently added to this debt by issuing a £489 million Eurobond in March 2012.[2]

The interest on the bank loans amounted to around £200 million in 2011, with the average cost of borrowing almost 5%. This is not excessive in corporate terms – it has a BBB credit rating at the time of writing – but is significantly more than the public sector would pay for financing.


Major investors as of February 2012:

FRANKLIN RESOURCES, INC. via its funds 3.41%
LLOYDS BANKING GROUP PLC via its funds 3.06%
INVESCO LTD. via its funds 2.30%
AEGON NV via its funds 1.87%
GOVERNMENT OF NORWAY via its funds 1.64%
STATE STREET CORPORATION via its funds 1.45%
UBS AG via its funds 1.28%
NCH PUMPKIN LIMITED via its funds 1.11%
VANGUARD GROUP, INC. via its funds 0.95%
HSBC HOLDINGS PLC via its funds 0.87%
SAS RUE LA BOETIE via its funds 0.84%
INVESTEC PLC via its funds 0.79%
N MAS UNO IBG SA via its funds 0.76%
TRILOGY GLOBAL ADVISORS, LLC via its funds 0.76%
SKY INVESTMENT COUNSEL INC via its funds 0.73%
MARATHON ASSET MANAGEMENT, L.P. via its funds 0.67%
ALLIANZ SE via its funds 0.65%
SCHRODERS PLC via its funds 0.65%
AVIVA PLC via its funds 0.61%
HENDERSON GROUP PLC via its funds 0.60%
DEUTSCHE BANK AG via its funds 0.57%
GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY via its funds 0.57%
BARCLAYS PLC via its funds 0.53%
F&C ASSET MANAGEMENT PLC via its funds 0.51%
JP MORGAN CHASE & CO. via its funds 0.43%
SVENSKA HANDELSBANKEN via its funds 0.39%
STANDARD LIFE PLC via its funds 0.37%
BP P.L.C. via its funds 0.35%
CREDIT SUISSE GROUP AG via its funds 0.35%
GOVERNMENT OF SINGAPORE via its funds 0.35%
COVEA via its funds 0.30%
SPAREBANK 1 GRUPPEN via its funds 0.29%
GOLDMAN SACHS GROUP, INC via its funds 0.27%
STATE OF CALIFORNIA via its funds 0.27%
MIZUHO FINANCIAL GROUP via its funds 0.25%
SOCIÉTÉ GÉNÉRALE via its funds 0.25%
BNP PARIBAS via its funds 0.24%
PETERCAM S.A. via its funds 0.23%
QUILTER & CO. LTD. via its funds 0.21%
REGERINGSKANSLIET via its funds 0.20%
ACKERMANS EN VAN HAAREN NV/SA via its funds 0.19%
AXA, via its funds 0.18%
GOVERNMENT OF SAUDI ARABIA via its funds 0.18%
RATHBONE BROTHERS PLC via its funds 0.18%
GROUPE CRÉDIT MUTUEL-CIC via its funds 0.17%
STATE OF NEW YORK via its funds US 0.17%
BANK OF NOVA SCOTIA (THE) – SCOTIABANK via its funds 0.16%
PICTET & CIE via its funds 0.16%
ZÜRCHER KANTONALBANK via its funds 0.15%
LOMBARD, ODIER, DARIER, HENTSCH & CIE via its funds 0.14%
POLAR CAPITAL HOLDINGS PLC via its funds 0.14%
DEXIA via its funds 0.13%
PROVINCE DE QUÉBEC via its funds 0.13%
SPEIRS & JEFFREY LIMITED via its funds 0.13%
TORONTO DOMINION BANK via its funds 0.13%
AZIMUT HOLDING SPA via its funds 0.12%
DNB ASA via its funds 0.12%
DANSKE BANK A/S via its funds 0.11%
PARTNERS GROUP HOLDING AG via its funds 0.11%
PGGM VERMOGENSBEHEER B.V. via its funds 0.10%

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