Inquiry Whitewash and Hogwash
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Whitewash: Inquiry buckles to establishment pressure
Online full text of BSE Inquiry Report
Inquiry sleaze -- eyewitness account
TV shows dying child's nvCJD agony
Names of nvCJD victims released
Massachusetts nvCJD case claimed
Cause discovered at Queniborough?
No more secrecy, pledges food agency chief
French stand firm on British beeF
French paper hails British openness over BSE
CJD surgical incident at New Orleans Tulane HCA exposes 8 subsequent patients

TV shows dying child's nvCJD agony

Wed, Oct 25, 2000 By Danny Kemp, PA News
The agony of a child dying of nvCJD and the devastating effect on her family has been shown on television for the first time. Helen Jeffries, from Wigan, Greater Manchester, allowed cameras into her home to film her stricken 14-year-old daughter, Zoe. [Zoe died shortly after this story was written, on 28 Ict 00. -- webmaster]

In the harrowing interview with Channel 4 News, she said Zoe first showed symptoms just two months after her husband died in May 1998. "She was very, very popular in school, lots of friends, she was always doing something," said Mrs Jeffries. "She did Morris dancing for three years, got lots of medals. She was a gymnast ... she was very sporty, very, very sociable. She was no angel, she was like anyone's 12-year-old girl but she was a nice kid.

"Then one morning she got up and just didn't do anything. She just cried. It was as though she went to bed one person and got up a different person." Zoe cried solidly for two weeks, Mrs Jeffries said, then she began to scream all the time.

"It was about October when I noticed she wasn't walking properly. She held her arms out and dragged one foot behind. She kept her balance most of the time but you could tell she was really making an effort to do that."

Mrs Jeffries, 39, took Zoe, her eldest child, to a neurologist after waiting three months for an appointment, but she said the doctor knew almost instantly what was wrong.

"You just feel like someone has hit you on the head with a hammer," she said. "Zoe was sat outside waiting and I just remember walking out of the room and looking at her and I couldn't tell her. I have never told her since."

She added: "I didn't really cry - something died inside me and I couldn't cry."

It took until April 1999 for doctors from the CJD Surveillance Unit to officially diagnose the condition as nvCJD.

In the piece, being broadcast tonight at 7pm on Channel 4, Mrs Jeffries is seen attending to Zoe's needs at home while the girl lies almost motionless. Zoe's siblings, who "sobbed their hearts out" when their mother broke the news to them, take it in turns to hold their sister's hand.

But Mrs Jeffries complained that help from social services since Zoe was diagnosed had been patchy at best - and at worst non-existent.

The occupational therapist assigned to Zoe said the family couldn't have a stairlift because their stairs were too narrow, and they couldn't have an extension to the house "because she wouldn't live long enough". "It's more than anyone can cope with, but having to fight for everything - even incontinence pads I had to go to my MP for," said Mrs Jeffries. "We shouldn't have to do all that."

Zoe's breathing now stops on occasions and she has to be given emergency oxygen to keep her alive. Her mother said: "I don't know if it's the right thing to do ... But I hope that when the time comes I can say, leave her be. I'm not sure I can do it but I am going to have to, for her."

Mrs Jeffries said she wanted the BSE report to name those to blame in the crisis, adding: "It's just as if someone had stuck a knife in her (Zoe's) body - I really do think she has been murdered.

"If she were a cow and I was a farmer then we would get everything I needed."

Blair `moved' by CJD video

Wed, Oct 25, 2000  By Alan Jones, Industrial Correspondent, PA News
Opinion (webmaster):

An apparent change of heart here -- it was only last week that Whitehall was telling the press the BSE policy had been a "qualified success" meaning only a small but acceptable price had to be paid for restoring consumer confidence in beef.

Here is a video that needs to be shown over at MAFf and Dept of Health, perhaps have it looping constantly in the lobby to build awareness that this is not about beef exports.

Harrowing video footage of the suffering of a teenage victim of the human form of mad cow disease was sent to the Prime Minister as part of a cry for help from despairing families, it emerged tonight. After watching the 10-minute home video of Donnamarie McGivern lying limp and motionless in her Scottish home, with tubes attached to her body, Tony Blair said no one who saw it could fail to be moved.

The video was shown in private to Lord Justice Phillips, who chaired the BSE inquiry, and a senior civil servant [June Bridgeman --webmaster], who was emotionally affected by what she saw. [This indicates that Blair himself did not watch the video. -- webmaster]

... The video, which has not been seen in public before, was shot at Donnamarie's home in Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, in October 1998, more than a year after she became ill, and shows the teenager bedbound, emaciated, virtually blind and wearing an oxygen mask.

The youngster, who used to be a top athlete at her school, has a feeding tube connected to her body and groans when her mother Marie lifts her from a chair to her bed. Her frail body is propped up by some of her cuddly toys, while on the walls around her are pictures of her favourite pop star Peter Andre.

She remained in the same state, unable to talk, eat or see, for another year before she died in her mother's arms on September 2, 1999. The video represented the first time the BSE inquiry had seen footage of a new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease victim in the advanced stages of the horrific disease.

Some legal experts believe the video helped sway the Government to agree a multi million pound care and compensation package for victims and their families.

Donnamarie's aunt Tina O'Keefe, 48, decided to make the video to chart the true horror of the disease after she watched news reports of the inquiry hearing being told by a former chief veterinary officer that beef was safe.

"I wanted to show the inquiry exactly what Donnamarie and her family were going through," said ex-nurse Mrs O'Keefe, who lives in London. "A few days after making the video I went to the inquiry. Lord Philips took me into a private room and we sat in silence watching it." The senior civil servant was so moved by what she saw that she kissed Mrs O'Keefe's hand and told her to kiss Donnamarie for her.

Mrs O'Keefe recalled how her niece became ill in 1997 at the age of 14. She died two years and eight months later at the age of 17.

"The symptoms were vague to begin with, although she suddenly had terrible temper tantrums and would smash her room up. Then she became tired and withdrawn and kept on saying that she did not know what was wrong with her. By this time she was stumbling around like a drunk, hardly able to put one foot in front of the other."

Donnamarie was admitted to hospital in Glasgow with a suspected brain tumour but after a few weeks she was taken back home. Her mother, who worked as a cleaner at her daughter's school, and father James, a lorry driver, both gave up their jobs to provide round-the-clock care.

"They have been devastated by this. Their son Thomas (14) has been traumatised. There was no care, little information, no help. Nothing like this should ever be allowed to happen again." Mrs O'Keefe said she hoped the video would lead to families of living victims receiving help to care for their loved ones.

"I sent a copy to Tony Blair because he is a father and is from the same generation as me, and I wanted him to see 10 minutes of Donnamarie's life. I asked him to set up a centrally-funded care package to help families like my sister." Mr Blair wrote back: "No-one who has seen the video could fail to be moved by it."

David Body, of law firm Irwin Mitchell, which is acting for victims' families, said of the video: "It is a very powerful piece of evidence and shows how miserable the disease is."

Families welcome BSE report

Thu, Oct 26, 2000 By Nick Mead, PA News
The families of those who died from nvCJD today broadly welcomed the public inquiry report into the disease, the Government's care and compensation package and apologies given in the House of Commons.

Malcolm Tibbet, whose wife Margaret, 29, died in 1996, opened the press conference at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster, central London, with a minute's silence to remember the victims. Afterwards he said: "That brief interlude in your life is nothing to what the families have experienced. Some here today have endured this nightmare for more than six years.

People sometimes say that time is a great healer but I'm still waiting for the healing process. The unique, undignified and cruel manner of the disease rarely allows the victims' families to return to a normal life."

Mr Tibbet said the public inquiry and report were "a lasting testament" to the victims, which would never have happened without the determination of their families to see justice done.

Gerald Callaghan, whose 30-year-old brother Maurice died of the disease in November 1995, said he thought there was broad agreement between the families about the report.

He continued: "I made my brother some very important promises on his death bed. "I promised him that his death was not in vain. I can go home and put my hand on my heart and say `yes, I think we have achieved a lot'."

The announcement of a care and compensation package and the presence of the Government ministers during today's presentation of the report was "symptomatic of a massive change" in official attitudes towards BSE. Welcoming the care and compensation package, he added: "The Government has done the decent thing. We fully endorse it but we think it was long overdue."

John Keleghar lost his 23-year-old son Mark, a supermarket deputy manager and dedicated West Ham fan, in May 1999. He said: "Why wasn't the care package given to us two or three years agobut better late than never."

Frances Hall, secretary of the Human BSE Foundation, lost her vegetarian son Peter, 20, who died in February 1996 after two years of illness. She said: "These people deserve to die with as much dignity as possible. "This illness leaves them with none. We have to make sure that families are supported as they go through hell."

David Churchill, whose 19-year-old son Stephen was the first victim of variant CJD in May 1995, called the report "a tremendous achievement". He said he hoped the Government's package would put a stop to the "postcode lottery" of care across the country. He added: "We should feel not pleased but satisfied by what we have achieved."

David Body, solicitor for the victims' families, said he thought the public inquiry had done "a thorough and proper job." He welcomed today's apologies in the House of Commons but added: "It's been a long time coming."

But there was deep anger among the families at the behaviour of ministers and officials in the former Tory government. Mr Keleghar said that while he had "heartened" by the response of the current government he could not accept the apologies made today by former Conservative ministers.

"The people from the Conservative government I think only apologised today because they felt they had to. The reason they didn't apologise before was because that would have been an admission," he said.

Their attitude had been epitomised by their appearances before the inquiry hearings. "I have never seen such a bunch of smug arrogant people in my life," Mr Keleghar said. The way they conducted themselves in front of us knowing we had lost loved ones - it had to be seen to be believed. I don't accept the apologies from the previous government. For them to do it now is too late as far as I am concerned."

His comments were echoed by Mr Callaghan who said: "It is almost distasteful to the families to talk about some of these individuals. We know who they are. They know who they are."

Mr Body rejected suggestions that the report was a "whitewash" but said the families would need to study the findings in detail before they could come to a final judgment.

Names of nvCJD victims released

By Danny Kemp, PA News 25 Oct 2000 [abridged] 
Comment (webmaster):

This is important, not only in remembrance of the 53 individuals named, but in refuting government claims that data must be held back to protect patient secrecy when in fact the families voluntarily come forward wanting very much to help research into this terrible disease.

The government motive here is simply to understate the epidemic as long as possible and control and monopolize knowledge so that it can be kept from independent epidemic modellers and the press, it is MAFF all over again. nvCJD is viewed not as a disease, but as a public relations exercise in "issue management".

Every month, researchers have to go through the same charade at the House of Lords asking again and again for the latest onset dates and ages -- why doesn't Dept of Heath simply provide it up front? Or for that matter, click their spreadsheet once and update the graph and projections.

The practical effect of constantly understating the scope of the epidemic is that insufficent nvCJD research is funded; they can't very well fund nvCJD research adequately because funding adequately would be a "sign" to the press that there was a problem, just as earlier MAFF couldn't fund BSE research adequately citing this same exact reason in internal memos.

nvCJD Victims

By Danny Kemp, PA News 25 Oct 2000 [abridged]
French

-- Laurence Duhamel, died at 36 in  February 1999.

-- Henri Rodriguez, died age 27 in Lyon, January 1996

-- woman, died in February 00 aged 36 

-- Arnaud Eboli, 19, still alive 15 Nov 00.

Irish

-- name unavailable, diagnosed 31 May 99, gastroscopy scope used on subsequent patient.

British

-- Steven Lunt, 34, died in Apr00, of Adswood, Stockport, Greater Manchester cluster of two.

-- Paul Dickens, 28, died Nov 00, also of Adswood, Stockport, Greater Manchester, onset June 00 

-- Thomas Gemmel, 17, died Feb 00, name announced an inquest, Northwich, Cheshire, onset May 1998 age 15.

-- David Antonio, 28, died in Sep 00 after a nine-month illness, confirmed mid-Oct 00, Orkney-born labourer.

-- Zoe Jeffries, onset June 98, at age 12, died 28 Oct 00 age 14, born November 85.

-- unnamed man, 74, onset in 99, oldest known case, North Yorkshire, confirmed 27 Oct 00.

-- Margaret Tibbert, Scotland.

-- Kevin Morrison, Scotland.

-- Clare Tomkins, 24, from East Peckham, Kent, became a vegetarian aged 11 in 1985, died in 1998.    

-- Stephen Churchill, 19, died in May 1995, first person to die from nvCJD.  

-- Andrew Carter, 27, died in February 2000, of Keighley in northern England.

-- Tibbet, Margaret, 29, died in 1996, husband Malcolm.

-- Pamela Beyless, 24, died in Glenfield in September 1998.

-- Glen Day, 35, from Queniborough, died in October 1998. 

-- Stacey Robinson, 19, mother from nearby Thurmaston, died in August 1998   

-- Christopher Reeve, farmhand, worked in Queniborough lived Rearsby, then died early 00.    

-- Michelle Bowen, 29, butcher's assistant, died November 1995, just days after birth of third child.    

-- Jean Wake, 38, died in November 1995, worked as a meat-chopper in a pie factory.  

-- Maurice Callaghan, 30, an engineer/manager at Queen's University of Belfast, died in November 1995.

-- Ann Richardson, 41, a health care assistant and mother of one, from Liverpool, died in January 1996.  

-- Leonard Franklin, 52, an abattoir worker, died in February 1996.  

-- Alison Williams, 30, a clerical assistant, from Caernarfon, North Wales, died in February 1996.  

-- Peter Hall, 20, a vegetarian student, of Chester-le-Street, Durham, who died in February 1996 after two years.

-- Anna Pearson, 29, an assistant solicitor, from Canterbury, Kent, died in February 1996.

-- Ken Sharpe, 42, a businessman from Liverpool, died in March 1996.  

-- Andrew Haig, 31, an electronics engineer from Glenrothes, Fife, Scotland, died in May 1996.

-- Barry Baker, 29, a woodcutter from High Halden, near Ashford, Kent, died in June 1996.  

-- Michael Clifford, 50, from Redditch, Worcestershire, a manager with a telecommunications company, died in June 1996.  

-- Janice Stuart, 35, a mother of two young children from Glasgow, died in September 1996.

-- Victoria Lowther, 19, from Carlisle, Cumbria, died in November 1996.  

-- Neil Fayers, London vegetarian in 1991, died in a Spanish hospital in February 1997.  

-- Adrian Hodgkinson, 25, former RAF policeman, Harrogate, Yorkshire, died February 1997 visited Armthorpe weekends 1972-1986.

-- Susan Carey, 36, a mother of four from Mersham, Kent, died on her eldest daughter's birthday in March 1997.  

-- Matthew Parker, 19, 6'8" trainee chef from Armthorpe, died in March 1997, lived at 21 Wickett Hern, ate four burgers at a session.

-- Sarah Roberts, 28, died 14 Sep 00 nine weeks after diagnosis, Doncaster, lived at 43 Wickett Hern Road, Armthorpe, March 00 onset. 

-- Louise Adams, 23, an IBM worker from Basingstoke, Hampshire, died in May 1997, within six months of onset.

-- Nina Cadwallader, 23, geography graduate from Harpenden, Hertfordshire, died in May 1997.  

-- Gulcan Hassan, 19, a computer studies student from south London,  died in May 1997, onset 16.

-- Keith Humphrey, 42, an engineer from Northfield, Birmingham, died in July 1997.  

-- Mandy Minto, 27, died in July 1997, mother-of-two from Sunderland wasted away within eight months.

-- Christopher Warne, 36, a computer systems analyst, from Ripley, Derbyshire, died in October 1997.  

-- Victoria Rimmer, 20, Connah's Quay, Clwyd, first teenage victim, diagnosed in 1993 at the age of 15, died in 1997. Doctor from the National CJD surveillance unit told family not to go to the Press, saying: "Think of the economy, think of the EEC."  

-- Donna Lee Mellowship, 34, a mother of two from Tottenham, north London, died on New Year's Eve 1997.

-- Jayne Bishop, 54, a medical care centre manageress and mother-of-two from Oxford, died in January 1998.  

-- Caroline Jones, 33, a mother of four and part-time cleaner, died in March 1998.  

-- Tony Barrett, 45, a coastguard officer from Brixham, Devon, with two grown-up children, died in May 1998.  

-- Alison Thorpe, 25, a store manager from Macclesfield, died in August 1998.  

-- Alex Paton, 36, a father of two from Scotland, died in October 1998.

-- Kelly Stableford, 21, a kennel maid from Alconbury Hills, Tilbrook, died in November 1998.  

-- Lisa Crowe, 29, a mother of one from North Wales, died in December 1998.

-- "G", aged 20, a second-year university student, died in December 1998, six months after symptoms of nvCJD.  

-- Nicola Harrison, 24, a jewellery saleswoman, from Grimsby, died on New Year's Eve, 1998.  

-- Marianne Harvey, 25, a potter from Pembrokeshire, died in August 1999 two and a half years after onset

-- Sylvia Bibby, 51, a sales assistant, from Warrington, Cheshire, died in January 1999.  

-- Jason Keat, 25, a father of one, worked as a butcher in an abattoir prior to his death in February 1999.  

-- Mark Keleghar, 23, a supermarket deputy manager, died in May 1999.  

-- Donnamarie McGivern, 17, from Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, died in her parents' arms in September 1999.   

-- Ian Thompson, 25, postman from Gosforth, Newcastle, died in October 1999.  

-- "S", 33, father of one, died in November 1999, wrote harrowing diary about early stages of his disease.  

-- Claire McVey, 15, died on January 11, 2000, after months of illness, Kentisbury Ford, Devon.

-- An unnamed mother died in an unnamed Midlands hospital after giving birth to a baby girl. The baby was subsequently diagnosed with nvCJD and is seriously ill.  

-- Karen Beavon, 37, a computer manager Cardiff, died 15 July 00, 8 months after onset anxiety, diagnosed May 00.   
Comment (webmaster):

The overall scope of the tragedy cannot yet be estimated. However, to see how big monthly onsets would have to be in a mid-range scenario of a 100,000 total nvCJD cases over 25 years assuming a normal distribution of cases per month, a patch onto current observed onset data was done.

While we might actualy be just entering the long tail of the distribution with 3-4 cases per month observed now, it is surprising that at its worst just 878 cases/month are needed at the peak to reach a 100,000 total cases over the 25 years of the main epidemic.

The compensation range per family under discussion is 75,000-250,000 pounds; $150,000 per family was assumed to figure the cost per day in the third column below, the worst is $4.3 million per day and the total is $15 billion. These latter numbers scale up by a factor of 10 in the 1,000,000 case model

100,000 total nvCJD cases assumed (not predicted); gaussian distribution tail patched to current data

month  cases/mo $/day
0       3.4     18,454  current observed rate.
5       5       26,053
9       7       35,822
14      10      47,763
18      13      65,132
23      17      85,757
27      23      112,895
32      30      147,632
36      38      189,967
41      49      243,158
45      62      307,204
50      78      385,362
55      97      477,632
59      119     586,184  September 2005
64      144     712,105
68      174     857,566
73      207     1,020,395
77      244     1,203,849
82      285     1,405,757
86      329     1,625,033
91      377     1,860,592
95      427     2,108,092
100     479     2,365,362
105     532     2,626,974
109     585     2,888,586
114     637     3,144,770
118     687     3,390,099
123     733     3,616,974
127     775     3,822,138
132     810     3,997,993
136     839     4,140,197
141     860     4,244,408
145     873     4,309,539
150     878     4,330,164  half way at 12.5 years

Cause discovered at Queniborough?

Tue, Oct 24, 2000 By Tim Moynihan, PA News
Comment (webmaster):

This would be welcome if true. However until such time as the evidence is published, the source of the outbreak in Queniborough remains speculation. The results of tonsil biopsies in remaining villagers have not been disclosed.

A doctor investigating a cluster of cases of nvCJD - the human form of mad cow disease - said tonight he believed he had made a breakthrough in his inquiries. Dr Philip Monk, a consultant in communicable diseases, believes it was a combination of factors involved in the production of meat between 1980 and 1986 which explains the deaths in the village of Queniborough, Leicestershire, according to Channel 4 News.

Suggested causes such as meat in school dinners and baby food, trade in meat deemed unfit for human consumption in the 1980s, infection through contaminated medical equipment and vaccines have been ruled out, the programme said.

Dr Monk said: "This is about food preparation techniques, it's not about one butcher's, or one abattoir. It is about a series of events that had to all occur one after another for the BSE agent to have entered into the food chain.

"Even in the relatively small area of Leicestershire, it is quite surprising how widespread the food chain is. It was an area where there was a lot of butcher's shops, there were supermarkets, freezer centres, so there was quite a wide ranging variety of meat sale that was taking place.

"We have had to trace all of that back so we can understand the process involved in all of that and it is that that has enabled us to come up with the potential linking hypothesis."

Dr Monk, who warned that the epidemic could be at an early stage, does not want to give more details yet and hopes to prove his theory by January, the programme said.

Veterinary scientist Dr Iain Magill told the programme that it was possible Dr Monk was talking about the early days before measures to ban specified bovine offals and the slaughter of older animals for consumption.

Professor Hugh Pennington, who investigated the E.coli outbreak in central Scotland, said: "Clusters are the best way of finding what went wrong. This particular cluster is an extremely important scientific event." He added: "He has got a very difficult task trying to find out what people were eating 10 and 15 years ago.

"The plain fact is that we don't know if we are at the beginning of an epidemic or right in the middle of one. We have no way of knowing whether we are going to see a steady increase over the next few years or whether we are close to the peak. We are really in the dark about how people caught this terrible disease.

"We know the BSE agent in cattle is the causative agent but we don't know how they contracted this agent. We assume it is something they ate but what it was, and what the exact circumstances were, or whether there was anything else involved, is a complete mystery. That's why this cluster is incredibly important."

Four people with links to Queniborough and five from the county have died from the illness, which is thought to have claimed about 85 lives nationwide.

No more secrecy, pledges food agency chief

Thu, 26 Oct 2000 By Simon Mowbray, Consumer Affairs Correspondent, PA News
Food Standards Agency
Professor Sir John Krebs, chairman of the Food Standards Agency, today welcomed the BSE Inquiry report and pledged that vital information on food safety risks would never again be withheld from the public. But he insisted there was no immediate need for new safety measures on BSE as a result of the inquiry's findings. [Krebs was hand-picked by MAFF over the objections of English food safety groups. The press release here is part of a major campaign to get the public to believe future pronouncements on food safety; no substantive changes in food safety procedures have taken place so far. -- webmaster]

Sir John said: "BSE is a continuing tragedy and all of us will be thinking today of those who have contracted nvCJD, their families and their friends. " still with us and the Agency is committed to stringent precautionary measures, supported by scientific research, to protect public health.

"The inquiry has highlighted how secrecy, and the reluctance to trust the public, dogged efforts to tackle BSE. The Agency pledges that never again will vital information on food safety risks be withheld from the public. We have been, and will continue to be, open and transparent in our assessment of food safety. [So far, the agency has released no information on BSE. -- webmaster]

"Many of the key changes identified by the inquiry to protect consumers have been adopted by the Agency. We have made a clean start on openness and public accountability. Our research and advice is open to scrutiny. And when there is uncertainty and risk, we say so.

"The human cost of BSE means that no-one and no organisation can be complacent and we have to ensure we learn the lessons of the past. The board of the FSA will discuss at a public meeting the implications of the report for the future conduct of the Agency."

Colin Breed, Liberal Democrat agriculture spokesman, said: "The report exposes a sorry saga of complacency, incompetence and complicity.

"It has vindicated every single criticism of the Tories' handling of the BSE crisis. At first Tory ministers turned a blind eye. Then their policy was one of bungling and mismanagement.

"Throughout they consistently failed to put appropriate measures in place and they put public health at risk. The Tories' panic and overreaction compounded the damage to the farming industry.

"The Tories showed themselves to be incompetent and incapable at every juncture - dithering when action was required and panicking when Britain needed level-headed leadership. The Tories claim to be champions of the countryside. The report today proves that the Conservative legacy is a farming industry in crisis."

John Monks, general secretary of the TUC, said: "A powerful lesson from today's shocking report is that we should beware those that preach of deregulation. "Vested interests will always pretend that vital protection is nothing more than red tape.

"But the BSE tragedy shows what can happen when we don't regulate enough. Yet if there had been tough rules that stopped cattle being fed with diseased sheep, there would no doubt be a lobby today slamming them as a burden on business."

The FDA, the Association of First Division Civil Servants which represents 11,000 public sector workers, said it took Lord Phillips's concerns over institutional failings "very seriously". It added that it would now be closely studying its conclusions and recommendations.

A spokesman said: "We are wholly committed to explore and consider any changes to civil service and government working that would help to ensure that the public does not have to suffer another tragedy of this kind in the future.

"We will be exploring the recommendations raised in the report to draw lessons for the future. Of particular interest will be recommendations that will help government respond better to ever more complex questions of scientific uncertainty." [Will scientific advisory committees continue to be packed with government lobbyists and elderly no-nothings? -- webmaster]

French mad cow disease food scare spreads

Wed, Oct 25, 2000 By Greg Frost Reuters
France said on Wednesday more companies had received meat products from a herd of cattle hit by mad cow disease, prompting a scramble to track down contaminated food. The government said approximately 10 makers of tripe and animal feed had received offal and meat products from a herd in western France that contained a cow suffering from bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

A spokesman for the French consumer fraud agency said that while efforts were under way to retrieve the potentially contaminated meat products, some may have already wound up in consumers' stomachs.

"It's entirely possible that (these) products were purchased and even eaten, either by animals or people," he said.

Three retail chains earlier this week alerted customers that they had unknowingly sold beef from the same BSE-tainted herd. The revelations triggered a new BSE food scare and forced the government to consider taking more precautions against the spread of the disease, such as banning the practice of feeding animal products to other animals. Currently, France only bans the use of such products in cattle feed.

French President Jacques Chirac on Wednesday added his voice to calls for such a ban and also demanded a more systematic programme of testing cattle for BSE.

French Farm Minister Jean Glavany said that France may ban meat and bone meal from all animal feed, although he warned his country might be forced to flout a key transatlantic farm deal by planting more oilseeds as a substitute.

If such a ban were put in place, France would have to plant more oilseed crops such as soybeans, rapeseed and sunflowers to compensate for the loss of protein from meat and bone meal. But under the 1992 Blair House accord between the European Union and the United States, the European Union's oilseed area is limited to 4.9 million hectares.

"The area which we are allowed to plant with oilseed crops is limited by international accords. But if one day we needed to ban animal fats, then we would reconsider the problem," Glavany told radio station RTL. When asked if the fear of clashing with the United States was more important than public health, Glavany said: "International accords can be pushed aside."

The French oilseeds lobby slammed Glavany's suggestion as reckless and the EU executive Commission said France could not ignore international accords negotiated by the EU.

"We have a commitment under the Blair House deal and we'll stick to it," a spokesman for the EU farm commissioner said. "It is not possible to unravel a WTO (World Trade Organisation) deal merely to reflect internal policy changes in one country," he added.

Glavany said that as a new precaution, France would accept a recommendation by French food safety agency AFSSA to extend a ban on animal fats to types of animal feed that had previously been exempted. He also said the government was leaning towards BSE tests for the five to six million cattle slaughtered in France each year but that setting up the necessary infrastructure would take time and the tests were "not 100 percent reliable."

Separately, the government said French health experts will decide next month if the country is doing enough to ensure that blood products do not pose a risk of spreading BSE or its human equivalent, new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (nvCJD).

Scientists in Scotland announced last month that new resaerch suggested BSE and nvCJD can be transmitted through blood transfusions. At least 73 people in Britain and two in France have died from nvCJD.

French stand firm on British beeF

Wed, Oct 25, 2000 By Simon Mowbray, Consumer Affairs Correspondent, PA News
France has been the most strict in its action against Britain over the BSE crisis - continuing to ban British beef despite an European Commission ruling. The French government were swift to outlaw meat from British cattle, imposing its ban on March 21, 1996 - just a day after Stephen Dorrell's Commons address on BSE.

The ban has remained in place ever since, even though it was illegal once the European Commission lifted the EU-wide block on British beef in August last year. It was not the first time Britain's cross-Channel neighbour had taken such action, although a ban in 1989 lasted just a few weeks.

France is now facing its own crisis, having already two deaths due to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and another expected to be confirmed in the near future. That figure is still way short of the 85 CJD victims in Britain.

Meat from a BSE-infected French herd caused supermarket chain Carrefour to withdraw all minced beef from its shelves in France.

Ironically as the French grapple with their own BSE and CJD troubles, British beef made a return to France for the first time in five years this week. More than 100 kilos of prime British beef were shown at the giant SIAL international food fair in Paris.

But many French people, especially farmers, blame infected cattle feed from Britain, containing bone meal and offal, for introducing BSE to France in the mid-nineties.

Although unproved [unproved, where did the reporter get this notion ??? -- webmaster], the allegation has fuelled animosity against Britain's beef industry.

As one French meat industry chief put it at this week's SIAL show: "If we lifted the ban tomorrow, no-one would buy it. Rightly or wrongly, people are still scared of British beef."

But France has found that allaying fears about its own produce is not an easy task. For example, thousands of quality-assurance stickers bearing the initials VF, for "Viandes Francaises" or "French Meat", had been attached to packs of French beef throughout the country following France's first recorded case of BSE in 1996.

But the stickers, designed to allay customer fears, had to be dumped following check-out queue banter which branded the new logo "Vache Folle", French for "mad cow".

France also has some way to go before it can claim its herds are BSE free with the results of a national screening programme due to be published next month. French customers are awaiting the results eagerly.

Belgium finds 15th case of mad cow disease

Reuters World Report Tue, Sep 26, 2000
Belgium said on Tuesday it had found its fifth case of mad cow disease this year, bringing the country's total to 15.

The Agriculture Ministry said health officials found a seven-year-old cow with signs of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) on September 25 on a farm near Bioul in southern Belgium. The animal and the 74 other cows in the herd were to be slaughtered later on Tuesday, the ministry said.

Online full text of BSE Inquiry report

Thu, 26 Oct 2000 
Inquiry report index
Executive Summary
Volume 1-16
Order a copy
Opinion (webmaster):

The executive summary below is a bizarre document that floats incredible notions such as "government did not lie to the public about BSE" and "not MAFF's policy to lean in favour of the agricultural producers to the detriment of the consumer." The author here is unknown; it could not have been written by anyone familiar with Inquiry documents. Concessions may have been made -- Judge Phillips received 4 separate promotions during the ongoing Inquiry. The press is already calling it a whitewash [below] or stitch-up [UK expression for concocted event].

The main value of the Inquiry will be its incredible compilation of primary internal memos, direct testimony from players large and small, and the superb accessibility of this information over the web (though keyword searching is still lacking). The 16 volume report, in addition to the 100 kilobytes of earlier online text, will take some months to properly digest.

BSE report no `whitewash' - Phillips

Thu, Oct 26, 2000 By Gavin Cordon, Whitehall Editor, PA News
The judge who headed the inquiry into BSE today denied that his report was a "whitewash".

At a news conference to launch the report's publication, Lord Phillips said the inquiry had identified "shortcomings" by individuals and in administrative and legislative structures. "I don't think we have pulled our punches and I don't believe this report is a whitewash," he said.

He said that he did not believe that earlier action by the Government could have prevented the epidemic. He said that thousands of cattle had already been infected by the disease by the time it had been identified by scientists....

He said that for the first six months after Government scientists had identified the disease, they did not inform the public for fear that it would cause anxiety and damage British trade. "We do think, and have found, that there was what you might call a cover up in the first six months," he said.

He said that if the information had been made available from the outset, it could have led to precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the disease being implemented at an earlier stage. He also criticised the way in which officials and ministers had repeatedly reassured the public that eating British beef did not carry a risk of infection to humans.

"A false impression was conveyed that BSE posed no risk to humans," he said. [Remarkably, the Inquiry found the false impression was conveyed without anyone lying. -- webmaster]

Volume 1 Findings and Key Conclusions

BSE has caused a harrowing fatal disease for humans. As we sign this Report the number of people dead and thought to be dying stands at over 80, most of them young. They and their families have suffered terribly. Families all over the UK have been left wondering whether the same fate awaits them.

A vital industry has been dealt a body blow, inflicting misery on tens of thousands for whom livestock farming is their way of life. They have seen over 170,000 of their animals dying or having to be destroyed, and the precautionary slaughter and destruction within the United Kingdom of very many more.

BSE developed into an epidemic as a consequence of an intensive farming practice - the recycling of animal protein in ruminant feed. This practice, unchallenged over decades, proved a recipe for disaster.

In the years up to March 1996 most of those responsible for responding to the challenge posed by BSE emerge with credit. However, there were a number of shortcomings in the way things were done.

At the heart of the BSE story lie questions of how to handle hazard - a known hazard to cattle and an unknown hazard to humans. The Government took measures to address both hazards. They were sensible measures, but they were not always timely nor adequately implemented and enforced.

The rigour with which policy measures were implemented for the protection of human health was affected by the belief of many prior to early 1996 that BSE was not a potential threat to human life.

The Government was anxious to act in the best interests of human and animal health. To this end it sought and followed the advice of independent scientific experts - sometimes when decisions could have been reached more swiftly and satisfactorily within government.

In dealing with BSE, it was not MAFF's policy to lean in favour of the agricultural producers to the detriment of the consumer.

At times officials showed a lack of rigour in considering how policy should be turned into practice, to the detriment of the efficacy of the measures taken. At times bureaucratic processes resulted in unacceptable delay in giving effect to policy.

The Government introduced measures to guard against the risk that BSE might be a matter of life and death not merely for cattle but also for humans, but the possibility of a risk to humans was not communicated to the public or to those whose job it was to implement and enforce the precautionary measures.

The Government did not lie to the public about BSE. It believed that the risks posed by BSE to humans were remote. The Government was preoccupied with preventing an alarmist over-reaction to BSE because it believed that the risk was remote. It is now clear that this campaign of reassurance was a mistake. When on 20 March 1996 the Government announced that BSE had probably been transmitted to humans, the public felt that they had been betrayed. Confidence in government pronouncements about risk was a further casualty of BSE.

Cases of a new variant of CJD (vCJD) were identified by the CJD Surveillance Unit and the conclusion that they were probably linked to BSE was reached as early as was reasonably possible. The link between BSE and nvCJD is now clearly established, though the manner of infection is not clear.

The BSE Inquiry was announced in Parliament on 22 December 1997, and set up on 12 January 1998, to establish and review the history of the emergence and identification of BSE and new variant CJD in the United Kingdom, and of the action taken in response to it up to 20 March 1996; to reach conclusions on the adequacy of that response, taking into account the state of knowledge at the time; and to report on these matters to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Secretary of State for Health and the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Members of the Committee of the Inquiry were:

Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers
Mrs June Bridgeman CB
Professor Malcolm Ferguson-Smith FRS

BSE Inquiry is latest in Lord Phillips's high-profile career

Wed, Oct 25, 2000 By Nick Mead, PA News
The chairman of the BSE inquiry, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, is a judge who was recently appointed Master of the Rolls. Lord Phillips, 62, presided over the 27 million inquiry for the two years nine months it took to complete.

Evidence from more than 900 witnesses, including scientists, former ministers, senior civil servants and families of victims, was condensed into a 16-volume report. The inquiry, announced by former Agriculture Minister Jack Cunningham and former Health Secretary Frank Dobson in December 1997, was originally due to finish by the end of 1998.

But, deluged with documents, including a reported five million bits of paper from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food alone, the completion date was repeatedly set back.

Born Nicholas Addison Phillips on January 21, 1938, he was educated at Bryanston School, Blandford, Dorset and King's College, Cambridge. He completed national service with the Royal Navy before being called to the bar in 1962.

In 1972, he married Cristylle Marie-Therese Rouffiac. The couple have a son and a daughter, as well as her two children from a previous relationship. He was made a QC in 1978 and served as a recorder from 1982 to 1987. From 1987 he served as a High Court judge, presiding over the Maxwell pension fund and Barlow Clowes cases.

He was made a Law Lord in January 1999, sitting in one of Senator Pinochet's appeals two months later. He ruled that the former dictator of Chile had no immunity for extraditable crimes. In June this year, he was appointed Master of the Rolls at the Court of Appeal.

He lists his recreations in Who's Who as "sea, mountains and Mauzac", a variety of grape.

Opinion (webmaster):

Here are the promotions and new titles received by Phillips during the Inquiry. These reached their grandest moment in appointment to Master of the Rolls (a title of Pooh-Bah ridiculed a century ago by Gilbert and Sullivan in the Mikado).

In January 1999, it was announced that the judge who is overseeing the proceedings, Sir Nicholas Phillips, now 62, is to be a Law Lord. He has been appointed Lord of Appeal in Ordinary and is to be known as The Rt. Hon. The Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers.

Phillips was then promoted during the inquiry to the Lords Justices; as the Inquiry neared the end, he was promoted again, in June this year, to Master of Rolls in the Court of Appeal and Head of Civil Justice, with Lord Justice Nourse filling in until Phillips assumes his new duties on October 1.

The Right Honourable Sir Nicholas Addison Phillips, Knight, a Lord Justice of Appeal, having been appointed a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary and created Baron Phillips of Worth Matravers, of Belsize Park in the London Borough of Camden, for life--was, in his robes, introduced between the Lord Alexander of Weedon and the Lord Mustill. [House of Lords Tuesday, 12th January 1999].

In short, heading up this inquiry really put Phillips' career on the fast track.

Counsel and the Inquiry team sent out letters to all witnesses facing potential criticism and evaluated the responses to these letters. They are called 'Salmon letters' and are sent by a public inquiry to a witness facing 'potential criticisms'. (A royal commission into public inquiries in1966 was chaired by Lord Justice Salmon, who recommended that anyone who might face criticism in the proceedings and report of a public inquiry should first be given details of potential criticisms and an opportunity to respond to them. It is not normal practice to publish the Salmon letters, the response to them, and any consequent adjustment of the report.

Britain urged to implement Freedom of Information Act

PA News  By John von Radowitz and Maxine Frith, PA News
Families of the victims of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease were today coming to terms with the findings of the BSE inquiry report. It found that incompetence and complacency by ministers and officials hid the truth about the dangers of "mad cow" disease from the public for years. People were repeatedly misled and kept in the dark by statements that underplayed the potential risk, Lord Phillips's mammoth report concluded.

...The Government pledged financial support for the victims of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (nvCJD), the human form of the cattle brain disease Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE).

Health Secretary Alan Milburn will meet the families next week to discuss a multi-million pound compensation award. An immediate payment of 1 million will also go to the National CJD Surveillance Unit to kick-start a care package for living sufferers. Families have welcomed the compensation package and have broadly supported the report itself. David Churchill, whose 19-year-old son Stephen was the first victim of nvCJD in May 1995, called the report "a tremendous achievement".

The families' solicitor, David Body, said he thought the public inquiry had done "a thorough and proper job". He rejected suggestions that the report was a "whitewash" but said the families would need to study the findings in detail before they could come to a final conclusion.

At a news conference earlier Lord Phillips, Master of the Rolls, who chaired the inquiry denied that the report had been too lenient. "I don't think we have pulled our punches and I don't believe this report is a whitewash," he said.... However, the criticisms were muted compared with what had been expected.

Sheila McKechnie, director of the Consumers' Association, said the Government's response to the report did not go far enough and accused ministers of continued complacency. "Protecting the Government machine still has priority over public health," she said.

National Farmers' Union president Ben Gill said the report laid out mistakes which "must never be made again". Liberal Democrat agriculture spokesman Colin Breed said the report exposed "a sorry saga of complacency, incompetence and complicity".

Ms McKechnie today called on the NFU to "own up" to its members' role in the tragedy. "Farming has a culture like the old nationalised industries - basically the NFU and MAFF are one institution," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. .. The Government was today urged to revise its Freedom of Information Bill in the light of the BSE report. Agriculture Secretary Nick Brown has pledged to make scientific advice on food safety public but said he would not necessarily reveal policy advice.

Maurice Frankel, director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, said the distinction was false and warned the rights that ministers will retain to withhold information under the Bill meant the same mistakes could be repeated.

"I do not think the Government has a clue what the public requires in this area and the Freedom of Information Bill reflects that," he told BBC Radio 4's World at One. There is no right to information about policy making, not just the policy advice, no right to see the facts on which decisions have been taken or are being considered. They can be disclosed only if there is an overriding public interest and ministers insist on the right to veto any such disclosure."

Mr Frankel disputed Mr Brown's claim that he would make scientific advice available. "He is not going to make scientific advice available either. Sir John Krebs' (Food Standards) agency has the power to publish its own advice and has made positive indications that it will do so.

"But there is going to be other scientific advice coming into Government >from other sources and there will be no right to that information under the Freedom of Information Bill."

Whitewash: Inquiry descends into mediocrity and cover-up

28 Oct 00 Inquiry Report discrepancies
Opinion (webmaster):

The Inquiry began to buckle quite a few months back. MAFF, which is to say the government, spent a reported 11 million pounds (and counting) of public money on lawyers contesting the Inquiry, through what channels was never made clear. Lawyers for families or public interest were excluded from this undisclosed judicial forum. No record of these ex parte negotiations has ever been released.

It is curious to see both the judge and the lawyer representing family compensation issuing hot denials of whitewash, cover-up, stitch-up, and pulled punches. That is an infallible sign that the Report consisted of whitewash, cover-up, stitch-up, and pulled punches as far as the Whitehall press corps was concerned.

Here is the deal that went down: a compensation package was negotiated in exchange for agreement to families' silence on emasculation of charges against government miscreants.

It began with hard-nosed leaks from Whitehall two weeks prior, as the Inquiry Report recommendations were being finalized. There was to be no compensation to families, indeed the government would fight them to the bitter end in the courts. This was a message telling the judge his options: soften the tone of the Report and see justice done to the families; or keep it factual, no justice done, and see your 4 promotions undone as quickly as they were made.

With Body "delivering" affected families, an outcry of whitewash and calls for justice from the families -- who have the full attention of the press -- was averted. The families got their compensation deservedly but they had to agree to a major rewrite of the inquiry report, brokered by Phillips, to make it highly sympathetic to perpetrators of the epidemic. Any lawsuit now is all but impossible now; no record of these ex parte negotiations will ever be made public. It remains unclear whether the British intend to compensate French and Irish families not represented by Body.

MAFF and beat a mass murder rap by a few promotions and a payoff (the coins of the Realm), most cleverly using other people's money to purchase the muted criticism.

Thus the explanation of the bizarre delay between release of the report on 2 Oct 00 to two ministers and the release to Parliament 3 weeks later: to allow time for negotiation of the compensation package and tweak the executive summary accordingly, Parliament receiving the Report as adjusted to the final arrangement struck.

This begs the question of international compensation for past, present, and future Irish, French, Belgian, Swiss, Portugese, German, Canadian, Australian, American, .... families of nvCJD victims. It has not been made clear is whether a different solicitor represented any of these families. It seems not. Thus a significant result -- or at least intent -- of the negotiated Inquiry rewrite to a bulletproof liability shield for responsible parties, would be to exclude compensation at the international level, be it financial or justice at an impartial tribunal. British families could surely relate to the suffering of their Irish and French counterparts, but surely this was not explained to them, it was the best that could be done, etc. etc.

Delay after delay after delay in the Inquiry Report release were announced. It now appears that opposing lawyers were having internal aspects of the Report rewritten to better suit their clients. A more immediate effect was the removal of vast amounts of embarassing archival and draft factual account material from the Inquiry web site (although this was captured and stored offshore). Indeed, Terry S. Singeltary has obtained and subsequently posted a fair amount of additional documents that were intended for, but blocked from, the Inquiry web site. Not everyone on the Inquiry staff was willing to join the cover-up.

The Inquiry in the end completely lost its nerve, buckling to pressure to change facts and conclusions, ultimately arriving at the mix of whitewash and mediocrity that constitutes the bulk of the Report. The most humiliating aspect was ceding sole authorship of the Executive Summary itself, apparently to an MAFf public relations officer. The long and the short of it is the English establishment proved incapable of critically investigating itself.

The Report pages are highly padded with repetitive headers, half-page footnotes with no information, and bulky copyright footers -- the 16 volumes really boil down to one but the idea here is to give the appearance of depth (what in the US is called a snow job). Most of the interesting material (primary documents) was posted earlier during the fact-finding portion of the Inquiry, its high water mark. The Report in in essence is a sloppy summary done by strongly partisan non-scientists with a very limited grasp or interest in critical factual or historical issues.

Nearly every page exhibits outright errors in fact or dubious opinions. While these are inevitable in a complex subject with a huge evidentiary record and scientific uncertainties, how is it possible that every single error and dubious opinion errs on the same side -- whitewash. Anything and everything inconvenient to BSE scandal participants has been sanitized to the point they cannot be prosecuted.

For example, the report explicitly dismisses nvCJD as a risk to people with meat industry occupational exposure, section 5.153 saying there have been no abattoir workers. Yet the Inquiry need have looked no further than newspaper accounts: in the victim list above: Leonard Franklin, 52, abattoir worker , died in February 1996; Michelle Bowen, 29, butcher's assistant, died November 1995; Jean Wake, 38, died in November 1995, worked as a meat-chopper in a pie factory.

Who could write after a 27 million pound investigation that "no tissues from BSE-affected animals should have entered human food after the introduction of the slaughter and compensation policy in August 1988. "

Or in view of the BSE polio vaccine scandal, "5.186...all vaccines in current use are prepared using bovine materials sourced from BSE-free countries"

Volume II, on prion science is clueless, as expected from a typical British TSE science advisor: unqualified in prion research, never heard of amyloidoses, and best of all, unwilling to lift a finger to get up to speed. The science account strains mightily to ignore the status of Prusiner's work in 1986 -- MAFF didn't welcome documentation of cross-species transmission mechanisms and attendent risks. To muddy the water further, great attention is given to kookie alt.theories, again to provide a smokescreen for those responsible for policy.

Here is an absolutely incredible section from Volume III. The Inquiry attacks the testimony of Carol Richardson, on the theory that senior MAFF staff would never tell the Inquiry a self-serving lie. A supporting memo, signed by Richardson, and sent by several experts to the Inquiry, is never mentioned. Here the Inquiry goal was to conclude Maff had not covered up the BSE epidemic for years and years, at complete odds with its own evidentiary record and contemporary newspaper accounts.

"1.26 Conflicts of evidence are bound to occur when witnesses are asked about events that took place some 15 years ago. Contemporary documents provide a valuable aid to solving such conflicts. Having carefully considered all the evidence, we have concluded that Ms Richardson is mistaken in her recollection that, in September 1985, she and her colleagues at the CVL identified the disease affecting Cow 142 as a scrapie-like disease in cattle. While we think that she may well have noticed a pathological similarity to scrapie, we do not believe that she can have concluded that Cow 142 was suffering from a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy.

1. The suggestion in Ms Richardson's Pathology Report that the spongiform encephalopathy was an acute condition attributable to 'a toxicity of some description' is incompatible with a conclusion that Cow 142 was suffering from a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE).

2. It is plain that Ms Richardson had a discussion about Cow 142 with Mr Watkin-Jones in which she commented that the pathological changes were consistent with bacterial toxin. Her memory must be at fault when she says: (a) that the conversation never took place and (b) that she would not have ascribed the condition to a bacterial toxin. The suggestion that a bacterial toxin was the cause is incompatible with a conclusion that Cow 142 was suffering from a TSE."

Another good example (vol 16) is the failure to compile a list of medical products based on bovine products -- Inquiry staff simply xeroxed a list out of an encylopedia, rooster combs for hylauronic acid, coral reefs for bone replacement, and so on, never mind the thousands of bovine medicinals. The Southwood and Tyrell committees immediately realized the need for this audit, but like the Inquiry, neither could not face up to providing it. Of course, MAFF maintained exactly such a list as the primary beef product advocacy and regulatory agency.

It goes on and on, problems on nearly every page. Lack of scholarly standards and objectivity mean little archival or historical value to the Report; its ardent partisan and politicized summary of events are directed at the exculpation of event participants. What purpose is served by the wonderful Internet distribution of information if ultimately the content has been corrupted? What lessons are learned are learned here -- that the government cannot investigate itself, that no one is responsible for an eminently forseeable and affordably preventable turn of events?

Here is prime example of scientific mediocrity:

The Inquiry Report caused a bit of a stir, concluding as it did that the cause was not the thousands of scrapie sheep thrown into the rendering pot nor the odd cow with sporadic BSE, but rather the odd cow with familial BSE.

Perhaps they reviewed the reasoning for this somewhere in the 4000 pages, but no one can locate this -- there was never a review of the underlying literature on this nor the many interferences experiened by those researching it. For a report costing 27 million pounds, a 100 pound literature review was in order.

It would be very useful today to pull together a comprehensive review of where TSE science is at today, surely not a proper remit for the judiciary. This is best done by a small committee of editors and community-wide participation -- the Pseudomonas aeruginosa paradigm.

Their theory is mainstream enough, so why the stir?. Indeed, a whole breed of cattle was found by the Swiss to carry a 7x repeat, on the edge of familial BSE and anticipatory for worse in a breed. The overall screening program was never revealed.

Further, cattle have genomic CpG hotspots precisely at certain human familial CJD causative sites leading to precisely the same amino acid change, at the notorious E200K but also R208H. These are newly re-tabulated.

Note that for human P102L, the pity here was CpG newly fixed in hominoids (CpG are in depleted equilibrium in placental mammals), being the CCC codon in all species prior to divergence with orang-utan. For a similar reason, mule deer are at special risk, unlike humans, for A117V, just as pronghorn at T188R. At D178N and D202N, cattle again are spared -- the problem is the silent CAC codon at H177, mainly affecting primates and rodents, similar to V80I, and the ACT thr at 201.

Womack, the distinguished cattle genomicist at Texas A&M, published a susceptibility allele for BSE, though the precise polymorphism was never let out: he wrote me that the lab notebooks had been "misplaced" and he did "not know" where the post-doc had gone. (The postdoc was located by the webmaster within minutes at a Tennessee hospital but calls were never returned.)

A highly qualified livestock polymorphism/quantitative trait loci person at Mordun Institute was then funded to pursue this, but immediately went on leave and has not been heard from since.

So here we have150 published studies on sheep alleles (complex, most relevent to scrapie susceptibility) and 0 proper studies on cattle. The thinking here is cattle are far more important economically, therefore they should be less studied, their fear being inadvertently inbred BSE susceptibility (as seen in sheep).

In short, the stir was right but it was the wrong pot. There is not simply enough information at this time to warrant a strong opinion on the ultimate original of BSE. The heavy-handed intimidation of researchers here, not documented in the Inquiry, surely fell within their remit.

For policy purposes, we might ask, for each of the reasonable theories, what is being done today to prevent a repeat, and what further research is needed to clarify each hazard. Here, favored is a thorough cattle genomics program focused on the SNPs and repeats, with BSE QTL. This is cheap, fast, informative for a variety of reasons, and directed at preventing future re-occurence. This won't go forward with the jackboot of the cattle industry still resting squarely on MAFF's brakes.

Here is some serious mediocrity: "BSE must be harmless, because scrapie is harmless." This is not an acceptable reading of the scientific literature and simply repeats a cliche without critical re-examination. The Kocisko experiments showed years ago that scrapie is very likely to be as infective for humans as BSE. Subsequent studies give strong support to the idea that scrapie, BSE, and CWD are of comparable risk to humans. Indeed, this is the best available science (upon which policy is, in theory, based):

The story that epidemiology shows scrapie does not effect humans demonstrates instead that no one on the committees or inquiry staff actually consulted the original papers. This is where real scientists were missed -- everything from the ground up must be challenged, nothing taken on assertion. No one would be persuaded here by internal design and detail -- the quality of epidemiology in these papers is pathetic. Put it out to review.

Food Safety Agency could revisit the whole issue of the risk to human health from ordinary scrapie and issue a critical assessment of the status of knowledge here. There is really a need to reach outside Britain more for neutral professional committees, depending on whether they want cliches or objective assessment. The scrapie-is-harmless bit in the Inquiry Report is further documentation of its politicized mediocrity.

The Inquiry got off to a great start with its 5 million documents but ended in hogwash and whitewash.

Britain urged to implement Freedom of Information Act

By John von Radowitz and Maxine Frith, PA News
The families' solicitor, David Body, said he thought the public inquiry had done "a thorough and proper job". He rejected suggestions that the report was a "whitewash" ...

At a news conference earlier Lord Phillips, Master of the Rolls, who chaired the inquiry denied that the report had been too lenient. "I don't think we have pulled our punches and I don't believe this report is a whitewash," he said.... However, the criticisms were muted compared with what had been expected [prior to a deal being struck with families in exchange for muted criticism -- webmaster]

BSE report no `whitewash' - Phillips

Thu, Oct 26, 2000 By Gavin Cordon, Whitehall Editor, PA News
The judge who headed the inquiry into BSE today denied that his report was a "whitewash". At a news conference to launch the report's publication, Lord Phillips said the inquiry had identified "shortcomings" by individuals and in administrative and legislative structures. "I don't think we have pulled our punches and I don't believe this report is a whitewash," he said.

Phillips report packs a punch

Thursday, 26 October, 2000 BBC News Online political correspondent Nick Assinder  
Within minutes of its publication, Lord Phillip's report on BSE was being dismissed as a whitewash.

Some MPs and sections of the media accused the inquiry of failing to answer the key question: "Who is to blame?" And, although the report singles out a handful of former Tory ministers and officials for particular criticism, elsewhere it often praises the very same people. The introduction to the document specifically states: "Any who have come to our report hoping to find villains or scapegoats should go away disappointed."

And many have indeed been deeply disappointed by the inquiry's findings....

French paper hails British openness over BSE

Fri, Oct 27, 2000 Reuters
Comment (webmaster):

The BSE Inquiry report, in American terms, is the British equivalent of the Warren Commission Report which floated the provocative conclusion that a small soldier, who had defected to Russian, was solely responsible for whole Kennedy assassination operation.

In America, there is an independent judiciary. Government attorneys who seek to contact or influence a federal judge outside of the courtroom (ex parte communication) are put in prison. Americans take their system for granted, not realizing desperate conditions can prevail even in other western countries.

France's daily Le Monde hailed on Friday Britain's openness in publishing a report about "mad cow" disease which was damning to authorities, saying such honesty was impossible in France.

"What a lesson in democracy Britain has given the rest of Europe and specifically France," the influential centre-left newspaper said in a main editorial. The lesson must be hailed as a model of an investigation by a state which has erred and recognises it without trying to wriggle out of its responsibilities," the newspaper said.

Le Monde was referring to an official report, published in Britain on Thursday, which said that government officials had misled the public for years over the dangers of British beef and the risk of "mad cow" disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), spreading to humans.

The two-and-a-half year inquiry said that officials and ministers in Britain's previous conservative government, haunted by fears of consumer panic and the loss of valuable beef exports, doggedly stuck to a mistaken "campaign of reassurance."

Lack of communication between key government departments and bureaucratic delays also hampered the response to the crisis which first struck British herds in 1986 and claimed its first human victim 10 years later. Le Monde said British authorities allowed the investigators to work independently without ever invoking state secrets.

"In France, be it in the Greenpeace affair, the case of the Vincennes Irishmen, that of illegal state phonetaps or tainted blood products there are good chances that we will have to wait for years before the government itself sheds any light on serious mistakes by its agents," said le Monde, referring to major French political scandals of recent years.

"Paradoxically, it is in monarchist Britain that the state does not invoke regal powers, a practice which is common in France," said the newspaper.

French authorities frequently invoke state secrecy to avoid unveiling official documents. The latest controversy concerns the finance ministry's invoking unspecified military secrets to avoid publishing documents about alleged bribes in civilian energy contracts with Germany and Spain.

Comment (Roland Heynkes, Germany):

"The British government - in contrast to the German governments - really learned from the BSE disaster. One of the main failors of the former government was that there was a climate of secrecy and a feeling, that the people would not be able to handle primary information. Another main mistake was that the government was not open for the opinions of critical experts... But things changed very much in the correct direction. Now the public becomes informed very openly about possible health risks, allowing them to decide for themselfs about how to react on possible risks. In addition they improved the communication mechanisms within the government and ministries as well as between science and politics."

"But whereas the British improved their safety and communication standards, most other governments stay ignorant. Just now German ministries are preparing Internet sites with propaganda for the German meat industry.

These articles are full of mitakes, demonstrating a frustrating level of knowledge. They don't give any references or links for their statements and claim that mistakes have only been made in the UK and some other countries, but of course not in Germany. They refuse to provide the public with any real information.

On this governmental sites you will not find information about scrapie numbers or details about the German BSE testing program. It is really disappointing to see that they did not learn anything from the British inquiry.

After mad cow, rotten duck shocks French gourmets

Fri, Oct 27, 2000 By Francois Raitberger Reuters
After mad cows, it's dodgy duck -- another food scandal hit French headlines Friday to shock a country proud of its gourmet reputation. The daily Le Parisien revealed that 23 tons of duck confit, a hearty southwestern specialty of duck meat preserved in its own fat, were found in a routine inspection last year to be rotten.

Almost half the shipment had already been packed into 6,000 tins labeled "Top quality" and was set for delivery from the factory in the Dordogne region, the proud home of such famous delicacies as foie gras and truffles.

The news -- which dominated radio and television headlines Friday -- came as the Agriculture Ministry announced another seven cases of mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), bringing to 78 the total number of cases of the brain-wasting disease detected this year. Their herds, 531 animals in all, were destroyed, it said.

Le Parisien published a facsimile of the Agriculture Ministry inspector's report that said duck meat had been left standing for some time after its slaughter before being canned. Some duck legs were badly bruised while others still had their webbed feet and feathers attached.

The scandal went unreported and the company went bankrupt eight months ago, Le Parisien said. Financial police were investigating suspicions of tax fraud, abuse of corporate funds and money laundering. The state prosecutor investigating the case was due to hold a news conference later in the day. The scandal, which could shake other food companies in southwest France, followed a series of scares including the presence of dioxin and sewage sludge in animal feed.

Apart from the suspect beef recalled from the three supermarket chains, about 10 makers of tripe and animal feed also received meat products from the affected herd. The Agriculture Ministry said efforts were under way to retrieve the potentially contaminated meat products, but some might have already wound up feeding man and beast.

A year ago the European Commission reported that some French rendering plants were supplying animal feed makers with animal remains contaminated by sewage sludge. France's poultry and dairy industries lost at least $63 million last year after it was discovered that Belgian animal feed tainted with the toxic chemical dioxin had made its way to French farms.

CJD surgical incident at Tulane HCA exposes 8 subsequent patients

Fri, Oct 27, 2000 By Suein Hwang and David Hamilton  Staff Reporters of The Wall Street Journal 
Tulane University Hospital and Clinic is grappling with a serious medical accident that may have exposed several of its patients to a fatal neurological disease.

The incident originated last March with a patient who checked into New Orleans-based Tulane, underwent brain surgery and died. In the weeks that followed, the patient's surgeon, Christopher Mascott, used and reused the washed and sterilized instruments he had used on the deceased patient. No one during that period apparently knew that the patient, dubbed internally as "patient zero," had been suffering from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), the mysterious and deadly ailment that wastes away the brain.

So in May, when the original patient's condition was discovered in an autopsy, Tulane's top officials were confronted with a horrifying reality: that the hospital may have exposed numerous patients to a baffling disease that can take decades to develop, has no known cure and can't be accurately diagnosed until the sufferer is already dead.

Officials at Tulane, a unit of embattled hospital chain HCA-the Healthcare Co., declined repeated requests for interviews, saying that doing so would compromise its obligation to protect patient confidentiality.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the hospital confirmed that the surgical instruments that were used on the original patient were put through "normal washing and sterilization procedures" and used in operations involving eight other patients. It added that the risk of CJD is "reduced by washing, but not eliminated by normal sterilization procedures."

It concluded that "the eight patients who may have been exposed to CJD might have some risk of contracting the disease." The hospital added that the instruments have been taken out of service, saying it has "no indication" that anyone else has been exposed.

When the statement was released midday on Wednesday, Tulane said the patients potentially exposed "are being notified." By later that night, a hospital and university spokesman said that all eight affected patients had been contacted.

The statement raises almost as many questions as it answers. Doctors have known it is possible to transmit the disease in surgery for nearly three decades, back to 1974, when a patient contracted CJD in an eye operation. Many medical experts now recommend the use of disposable instruments in neurosurgery, where the risk of coming into contact with highly infective CJD tissue is particularly high, though they acknowledge that certain instruments are too costly simply to throw away.

Tulane, however, declined to identify which instruments were used, or to describe the brain surgery that patients received, or the sterilization procedures in any detail. An individual familiar with the situation said that the concerns center on so-called stereotactic electrodes, which neurosurgeons insert into the brain to map electrical currents or to stimulate regions of the brain with electric current. [These caused the earlier US incident with documented triple patient-to-oatient transmission. -- webmaster]

The spokesman also declined to discuss why it appears to have taken nearly half a year for the hospital to contact potentially exposed patients. People familiar with the situation say the hospital convened a panel of ethicists and experts in the disease to determine what it should say to the affected patients.

Tulane's accident reflects how little is truly understood about CJD, a variant of which has been linked to "mad cow" disease in Britain, sparking a public outcry that has yet to die down. Not only is the disease difficult to diagnose and impossible to cure, scientists are still arguing over exactly what causes it and how it spreads...

All that leaves the Tulane patients in an agonizing bind. They must now face the possibility that they may, or may not, have a fatal disease without any way to know for sure. CJD can incubate without symptoms for years, depending on how much infected material a patient has come in contact with, though the disease typically progresses more rapidly if a patient's brain or spinal tissue is exposed directly to CJD-infected material.

Once the disease is established, its early symptoms range from depression and personality changes to problems with muscular coordination. As the illness progresses, patients frequently suffer muscle spasms and dementia, and usually die within several months to a year.

The situation also deals a potential blow to HCA, which has been working mightily to get beyond its troubled past. Last May, the company dropped its old Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. moniker, eliminating the name that had become synonymous with the biggest Medicare-fraud investigation in history. One of the first for-profit hospital chains, HCA was dogged by accusations that it was falsifying and inflating medical bills for government reimbursement.

Washing and normal sterilization reduce but do not eliminate the chance of transmitting the disease, Miller said. He also told The Times-Picayune that the instruments were destroyed.

In most cases of "direct inoculation" into the brain, the disease has developed within 1 1/2 to 5 years, said Pierluigi Gambetti, a pathology professor at Case Western Reserve University and director of national Creutzfeldt-Jakob surveillance center.

The independent group that renewed the hospital's accreditation last month for three years, will investigate, as will the federal agency that administers Medicare and Medicaid.

CJD Feared Transmitted thru Surgery

By Terry Allen | salon.com | Oct. 29, 2000
Eight Louisiana surgery patients operated on with possibly infected medical instruments are at risk for contracting Creutzfeldt_Jakob disease (CJD), an always fatal neurological disorder, Tulane University Hospital in New Orleans announced Thursday.

CJD is the human form of mad cow disease and occurs in about one in a million people worldwide. It is believed to be spread by prions, mysterious rogue proteins that are not really alive and thus cannot be "killed." Resistant to heat and radiation, prions are unaffected by standard sterilization procedures used for disinfecting medical instruments.

When an unnamed patient at Tulane died after brain surgery in March, the instruments were cleaned and sterilized following routine procedures, hospital officials said. Weeks later, the hospital conducted an autopsy and discovered that he had CJD. The hospital ordered the surgical instruments destroyed, but they had already been used in eight other neurosurgical procedures, said Dr. Alan Miller, Tulane University Health Sciences Center vice president for clinical affairs.

Because the incubation period for CJD can be decades long and the disease is generally confirmed only through an autopsy, the eight living surgery patients will have to wait an extremely long time to find out if they have been contaminated. They are receiving counseling and "related medical care," Miller said in a prepared statement.

This is not the first time contaminated surgerical equipment has been implicated in the spread of CJD. In 1977, two teenagers in Switzerland developed the incurable disease after having undergone surgery for brain tumors. The electrodes that apparently transmitted CJD had been cleaned, disinfected and sterilized using benzene, alcohol and formaldehyde.

"None of these agents will eradicate the CJD causative agent," warned an article published by the Association of Operating Room Nurses. The article added, "It is not known how to terminally sterilize power saws (and some other medical devices) contaminated with the CJD agent."

Although some federal agencies have promulgated guidelines for preventing transmission of the disease through surgery, none actually oversees or enforces their implementation, although hospitals' general procedures for cleaning and sterilizing medical equipment do undergo periodic review. Likewise, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, which accredits most U.S. medical institutions, does not specifically check on steps hospitals take to ensure that prion contamination does not occur. "The standards don't get into details," said commission spokeman Robert Lee.

An incident similar to the Tulane situation occurred last spring at Australia's Royal Melbourne Hospital, where doctors operated on nine patients with instruments previously used during surgery on an individual with CJD. John Thwaites, health minister in the state of Victoria, ordered an official inquiry. "The government and the public cannot tolerate such breaches of infection control," he told the parliament. "The risk of CJD is not eliminated by normal cleaning and sterilization."

Another example occurred last year in England after a woman suffering from depression and mood swings underwent Caesarian section. When doctors diagnosed her with probable CJD in January, the hospital was "able to ascertain seven other women had had Caesarian sections using this theater kit," wrote Dr. Rod Griffiths, West Midlands director of public health, in an e_mail to ProMed, a list serve for infectious disease professionals.

The situations presented ethical dilemmas for the facilities involved. Since there is no treatment for the disease, and those infected are unlikely to develop symptoms for decades, hospitals have struggled with how to approach the problem. The English hospital set up a hotline where worried individuals could call to find out if had been exposed. The Australian hospital simply informed the affected patients. Tulane officials apparently waited nearly half a year before contacting the potentially exposed individuals. The hospital reportedly sought advice from a panel of experts about how to proceed and what to tell the patients.

Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy is the name of the family of diseases that includes mad cow and CJD. Although these disorders have been known for decades, infection caused through contamination of medical equipment has received increased attention after the British mad cow scare hit the headlines a few years ago. So far more than 70 people in Europe -- although none in the United States -- have died from a form of CJD that they contracted after eating beef from infected cows. The situation sparked the slaughter and incineration of almost 200,000 British cows and prompted many countries, including the U.S., to ban most beef products from Europe.

With predictions that the number of infected people in the United Kingdom could eventually reach anywhere from the tens to hundreds of thousands, the likelihood of accidental transmission through surgical infection has grown. Although no cases of mad cow disease have appeared in the U.S., the risk of surgical transmission of CJD, is cause for concern. The long incubation period means that at any one time as many as 10,000 Americans could be infected, according to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Since prions can remain infectious for years, the reuse of medical instruments can pose risks long after the surgery that might have contaminated them. Cleaning helps, but instruments such as hollow_bore needles and electrodes used in some surgeries can harbor tiny bits of tissue even after undergoing post-surgical procedures -- leading some researchers to propose more disposable equipment for certain procedures.

Massachusetts nvCJD case claimed

27 Oct 00 By: Anne Barnard, The Boston Globe
Opinion (webmaster):

It is only a matter of time before nvCJD is confirmed present in the US. Ireland, and increasingly France, are already awash in additional rumored nvCJD cases. Many Americans have been seriously exposed to British BSE as tourists, military, exchange students, diplomatic corps, and through imported medical products, which include widely-used bovine insulin. The American Red Cross recently excluded such individuals from blood donation to reduce risk.

Whether this Massachusetts case does or does not prove out to be nvCJD, Americans must raise their preparedness level and reduce risks inherent to animal protein recycling (downer cows may still be fed to pigs and chickens; these at death may be milled back into cattle feed pellets.)

Massachusetts man may be first U.S. mad cow victim
Doctors Doubt It, But Patient Believes Trip To England To Blame

CONCORD, Mass., Oct. 27 -- Last fall, Don Hodges started losing most of his racquetball games. It had never happened before. On Thanksgiving, he slurred some words. Slowly, he lost the ability to walk, stand or speak.

Now Hodges, 63, sits behind a tray of hospital food, his face slack. Spelling out words by pointing to letters on a clipboard, he can still list his graduate degrees, explain his conversion to Catholicism, and slam "limousine liberals" like Jane Fonda.

Even that will fade, his doctors say. They believe he has a rare degenerative brain ailment called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is always fatal.

Ask Hodges how he thinks this happened to him, and he spells out, "England, 1995."

If he is right -- and no one will know until after he dies -- he would be the first American known to have contracted a new form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease that has frightened Britain since an epidemic of "mad cow" disease struck 180,000 cattle there. Since the early 1990s, 85 Britons have been diagnosed with "new variant" CJD, which scientists have linked to eating products from infected cattle.

Although his doctor, whom he trusts, strongly doubts it, Hodges is convinced he got sick from eating beef on a trip to England he won in a seat raffle at a Celtics game in 1995. His family tells friends he has "mad cow" disease.

His wife has joined a national support group and says she is on "a personal crusade" to spread the word about CJD and its links to food -- even as doctors say her husband's symptoms do not match the bovine version and federal health officials insist there has not been a single case in this country.

She is not alone. At the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Md., Dr. Clarence J. Gibbs has a folder full of e-mailed questions from relatives of people with the classic form of CJD, which develops spontaneously in about one in a million people each year.

"They immediately start worrying about beef, beef, beef," said Gibbs, chief of central nervous system studies. "They're looking for something, and that's the most convenient to hang onto... because there is no other answer in their minds."

When classic CJD strikes in Massachusetts -- about six times a year -- questions flow into the Department of Public Health, some from families "absolutely convinced" beef is the culprit, said Dr. Alfred DeMaria, director of communicable diseases. The department has investigated several cases and found that none were the beef-related version known as new variant CJD.

In Acton, Hodges' friends are asking, " 'How did he get it?' and 'How can I avoid it?' " said his wife, Sally Brennan-Hodges.

Only an autopsy will show for sure whether Hodges, a retired Air Force meteorologist, has the distinctive pattern of brain damage caused by the new variant CJD. But his age and symptoms strongly suggest the classic version, said his neurologist, Dr. Gilmore O'Neill, of Massachusetts General Hospital.

Classic CJD tends to strike people over 50 and sometimes attacks the motor functions first, often leading to uncontrolled jerking motions and dementia. The new variant tends to strike younger people and often starts with psychiatric symptoms, which have not affected Hodges, O'Neill said.

He said it is doubtful but "not impossible" that Hodges has the new version -- although it is hard to generalize about new variant CJD when so few cases have been documented. "I'd be very foolish to give absolutes," he said.

Originally from Ireland, where mad-cow disease is a preoccupation, O'Neill called U.S. fears of beef-related illness "understandable," especially given the American Red Cross ban on blood donations from anyone who spent six months in England between 1980 and 1996.

As with many high-profile but rare diseases, the mad-cow connection has physicians and health officials walking a tightrope: They caution against panic, reminding people that the chances of getting CJD are infinitesimal compared with breast cancer or diabetes.

At the same time, they want to raise awareness of CJD. DeMaria calls for required reporting of all CJD cases; Gibbs wants tighter rules to keep U.S. cattle free of mad-cow disease, including a ban on feeding mammals to other mammals, a practice blamed for the British outbreak.

Formally called bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the cattle disease was first identified in Britain in 1986 and linked to human CJD in 1998, devastating the British beef industry.

Scientists believe a similar sheep disease called scrapie somehow passed to cattle that were fed ground-up sheep. The bovine form then spread when rendered cow carcasses were fed to cattle. It exists in nine other European countries. France has identified 73 sick cattle this year, up from 31 last year.

CJD and related animal diseases kill off neurons and riddle the brain with tiny sponge-like holes. They are caused not by a bacteria or virus, but by prions, proteins normally present in the brain that for some reason change their structure. The malformed prions can then convert healthy ones. They must be boiled for hours in detergent to be destroyed.

In England, safety measures were introduced in 1989 to keep brain and spinal tissue out of food, but because of the long incubation period, new variant CJD cases in humans are still rising, by an average of 23 percent a year. British scientists have recently toned down predictions of a massive human epidemic, but still say several thousand could die.

In 1997, the United States banned imports of European cattle, sheep and goat products. Most mammal-to-mammal feeding was also banned in the United States, although there are a few loopholes. More than 11,000 U.S. cattle with neurological symptoms have been tested, and none had the disease, said Linda Detwiler, a senior veterinarian at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. [The USDA estimates, however, that only 1 in 26,500 US downer cows has a BSE, implying the number tested in-house is insufficient. -- webmaster]

Sheldon Rampton, co-author of the 1998 book, "Mad Cow U.S.A.," said a bigger danger to Americans is chronic wasting disease, found in deer and elk in Colorado and Maine. But state governments, eager for revenue from hunters, "don't want to see a problem," he said.

As for Hodges, he will go no farther than to spell, "If it is possible to prevent the disease, then the powers that be should do something." The chairman of the Acton Republican Committee and his late first wife had five children and raised three nieces whose parents were killed in a house fire. Three years ago, he married Brennan-Hodges, 56, who calls him "my knight in shining armor."

Recently, he was confirmed as a Catholic. As a surprise, his wife invited 100 friends and family members to "celebrate Don's life." His son wrote a tribute to him that makes him cry -- one of the few noises he can still make.

"I wasn't that good," he spelled out, during an interview at Emerson Hospital. Frustrated by the difficulty of expressing complex thoughts, he still tackled a big one -- his attitude toward his disease, his death and the PhD in history he'll never get.

"Life is fatal. Thus far I feel fine. So I will accept whatever. I have no choice," he said.

Inquiry sleaze -- eyewitness account

27 Oct 00 UK correspondent opinion
Opinion (webmaster):

The remarkable account below is from a veteran UK newspaper editor. It has always been baffling, how the Kent nvCJD cluster rose and fell so swiftly. Pumping rendering waste into groundwater was an exceedingly poor idea, though it is not in the webmaster's opinion the overall explanation for the age and geographical distribution of the cases so far.

It seems that two new cases of nvCJD in the Ashford area have been held back, put in the long queue for eventual uploading to the confirmed statistics list. This won't change anything, people in London have long said nothing will be done about nvCJD until someone in the upper classes is affected, it is peceived a disease affecting villagers and their low-cost cuts of meat.

The other new oddity in the nvCJD statistics is that France may soon acknowledge a nvCJD caseload out of proportion to its exposure, which could indicate under-reporting elsewhere.

Here is an Inquiry eyewitness account (identifiers removed, account not verified):

"I became convinced that the BSE Inquiry was a whitewash shortly after it opened.

"At the time, I was the editor of a regional newspaper and was keen to attend the Inquiry to hear the evidence of Dr Alan Colchester and John Williams about practices at the Canterbury Mills rendering plant in Thruxted - at the centre of the so-called Kent cluster of nvCJD cases.

"Dr Colchester gave his evidence but was prevented from detailing allegations that the management of the plant pumped effluent from the rendering process down a well and onto the main Mid Kent Water supply aquifer for the Ashford area.

"When John Williams came to give his evidence I noticed, from the press bench, that David Richardson, the director of the plant, was sitting, twitching, in the public seating section. John Williams was detailing research by a local newspaper which showed that Canterbury Mills was supplying a rendering plant at Porchester, very close to those first Pitsham Farm BSE cases in West Sussex, with greaves. Th story tentatively linked those first cases with the ones (previously thought to be the first) discovered by Colin Whittaker at Plurenden in High Halden.

"The twitching Mr Richardson abruptly left the Inquiry room clutching his mobile phone. John Williams continued for a few minutes until, astonishingly, he was halted by the Inquiry solicitor who had received a fax from Wollastons, the solicitors for Cheale Meats (owners of Canterbury Mills), smearing Mr Williams' character and putting down his evidence.

"The fax was read out, as fact, by the solicitor and Mr Williams was not allowed to veer from his written evidence to tackle it. Mr Richardson, sat grinning like a Mad Max cat who had just got the last can of contaminated Whiskers. Afterwards, he seemed remarkably friendly with some members of the Inquiry team.

"I vowed then to ignore the Inquiry's findings but was astonished to read some of its conclusions this week to see that the entire thing was an utter stitch-up from start to finish."

"Indeed, now that the small matter of the Inquiry whitewash is out of the way, John Prescott can give Canterbury Mills permission to built a new underground disposal system - thus bringing the effluent much closer to the aquifer."

"As to the reassurances about the quality of the water in the aquifer , it seems that Mid Kent Water has just lost 12 years of data."

Comment (webmaster):

Here is a further account from this UK newspaper editor who can be verified to have covered this story since 1987 and to have been present in the press box the day of the incident. In reconciling the discrepancy between this account and the putative Inquiry transcript, it is important to recall that the press seldom ersr in direct reporting of the who-what-when.

"I can assure you that the fax from Wollastons was received in session and was read out during John Williams' evidence. How else would I remember Richardson [rendering plant director] sneaking out with his phone and remember the name of the plant's soliticitors? "

Surprise, surprise, this exchange was not recorded verbatim in the transcript. If the Inquiry had been granted judicial powers, as it should have been, then this incident would never have been allowed. It was outrageous.

Until then, I had high hopes that the Inquiry would make a stab at finding out, if not the source of the epidemic, then at least its dissemination in the national herd. This one incident, which I recall clearly, was enough to convince me that it was just a talking shop which would cave in to pressure from the industry and MAFF.

As it has been proved, the BSE Inquiry is of no use to anybody except Mr Blair to bash the already tarnished reputations of former Conservative Ministers. For interest, I believe it could, given that it had 7million at its dispsosal, have attempted to trace bovine feed from the batch numbers the renderers and feed companies were obliged by law to record, from source to destination.

But surprise, MAFF rarely enforced this requirement! If it had done then it would have discovered, as in interviews with David Richardson of Canterbury Mills in 1997 - long before the Inquiry and when he was only mindful of the damage that could be done by the "well" allegations that Canterbury Mills sent partially rendered MBM to plants all over the country.

I am convinced that Kent was the original source of the epidemic in the 1970s and that the appalling plant at Thruxted and one, since defunct in Faversham, thoughtfully supplied contaminated greaves to Fareham and a host of plants around the south and the Midlands.

I have a tape of an interview with Richardson in which he names these plants. I shall try and find it. It is fascinating (including when he says that he thinks that BSE was caused by an English company manufacturing Agent Orange in the 1960s.)"

TSE expert Torsten Brinch reviewed the Inquiry transcript finding:

"The only fax mentioned by the transcript from that day is one coming from Mr Comer from the Environmental Agency, and dealing with filtration of prions into aquifers.

"However, the transcript mentions 'some comment' from the mill, which from the transcript appears to have been commenting on John William's statement to the Inquiry. There is no indication in the transcript, that these comments were received by the Inquiry -during- the session with John Williams, and there are no indication that the comments were read out by a solicitor." "What is apparent from the transcript is that certain pieces of information contained in those comments from the mill was given by the Inquiry team to John WIlliams for him to comment on, that this information was only given to him as part of the exchange and not beforehand, and that it was dealt with as a last major issue during the session...."

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