Late flu drug order could risk U.S. lives
Concern is growing about an avian flu pandemic, which has caused deaths in Southeast Asia, and spread to chickens in Europe.
HAWAII has begun preparing for a possible avian influenza virus pandemic
but the state may be vulnerable because of a serious federal lapse. Deplorable delays in placing orders for the drug of choice for prevention or treatment of the pandemic flu could put millions of Americans at risk while pills protect people in other countries.
The state Health Department has worked on a proposal to screen travelers who arrive at Honolulu Airport with highly contagious diseases. Dr. Paul Effler, the state epidemiologist, said in May that Hawaii was "ahead of the curve and other jurisdictions" in preparing for such a pandemic.
A strain of avian flu has caused more than 60 deaths in Southeast Asia and has infected chickens over much of central Europe. The deaths have resulted from exposure to chickens but once the virus passes easily among humans, it could kill millions. The flu pandemic of 1918 killed 50 million people worldwide, including 500,000 in the United States.
Health officials from 80 countries met in Washington last week to work on a strategy to deal with such an outbreak, while President Bush belatedly met with drug company executives to discuss ways of finding speedier ways to make the vaccine. The government wants to stockpile 81 million courses of Tamiflu, made by Roche.
Unfortunately, other countries beat the United States to the counter, nearly exhausting Roche's supply of the drug. Roche will be able to supply the two million courses already ordered by the United States, which will have to stand in line behind much of the rest of the world to have more.
Many European countries, such as France, Britain, Finland, Norway and Switzerland, will be able to treat 20 percent to 40 percent of their population by next year. Only 2 percent of Americans will be able to receive treatment.
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Breach mortifies U.S., Philippines
A Philippines-born FBI agent and former U.S. Marine is charged with leaking classified information to Philippine officials.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
» Leondro Aragoncillo, accused of leaking classified information to Filipino government officials, was an FBI intelligence analyst. An editorial Monday on Page A10 incorrectly stated that he was an FBI agent.
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FRANK assessments of Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo leaked from the FBI and perhaps from the White House should be an embarrassment for the administrations of both countries. The leaked material is far from surprising and includes no apparent secrets worth keeping.
Leondro Aragoncillo, an FBI agent since July 2004, is charged with passing classified information to government officials in Manila from January to August. Instead, Aragoncillo is accused of turning over the information, downloaded from the FBI database, to Michael Ray Aquino, of Queens, N.Y., deputy director of the Philippines National Police under the government of the former president, Joseph Estrada, who may have forwarded them to parties in opposition to Arroyo.
The FBI now is trying to determine if Aragoncillo, a U.S. citizen born in the Philippines, downloaded classified information at the White House, where he was a Marine assigned to the offices of former Vice President Al Gore and then Vice President Dick Cheney. If so, that would be a terrible security breach.
The material ended up in possession of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, which had a field day sharing the contents with readers. They consisted mainly of candid assessments and analyses of the Arroyo administration and various rivalries.
One report quoted a U.S. official as saying that "history will not treat Arroyo's presidency as a particularly good one." It added, "As time ticked out for her administration, it was clear the biggest problem was Arroyo herself." That widely held view has been no secret.
"What is the FBI doing with those classified information in the first place?" a spokesman for the Peasant Movement of the Philippines, an opposition party, asked the Inquirer. "They have no business with our internal affairs." If the FBI considers those observations to be spying, it is a further disgrace.