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SUFFOLK CLOSEUP - Plum Island Weaponized Ticks Fact Or Fiction?


By Karl Grossman

“Pentagon May Have Released Weaponized Ticks That Helped Spread of Lyme Disease: Investigation Ordered” was the Newsweek headline last month. The article below it was about the U.S. House of Representatives having “quietly passed a bill requiring the Inspector General of the Department of Defense to conduct a review into whether the Pentagon experimented with ticks and other blood-sucking insects for use as biological weapons between 1950 and 1975.”

The article continued: “If the Inspector General finds that such experiments occurred, then, according to the bill, they must provide the House and Senate Armed Services committees with a report on the scope of the research and ‘whether any ticks or insects used in such experiments were released outside of any laboratory by accident or experimental design’…potentially leading to the spread of diseases such as Lyme.”

The measure was introduced by Representative Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, “who was ‘inspired’ by several books and articles claiming that the U.S. government had conducted research at facilities such as Fort Detrick, Maryland, and Plum Island, New York, for this purpose.” 

One of the books, published earlier this year, was “Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons” by Stanford University science writer Kris Newby. It includes interviews with Willy Burgdorfer who is credited with having discovered the pathogen that causes Lyme disease and earlier developed bioweapons for the Department of Defense. Said Mr. Smith on the House floor: “Those interviews combined with access to Dr. Burdorfer’s lab files suggest that he and other bioweapons specialists stuffed ticks with pathogens to cause severe disability, disease—even death—to potential enemies. With Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases exploding in the United States…Americans have a right to know whether any of this is true.”

Whether Lyme disease resulted from activities on Plum Island—a mile-and-a-half off Orient Point —is an issue I’ve pursued since tick-borne Lyme disease became widespread in Suffolk County. 

A 1982 book linking Plum Island and Lyme disease was “The Belarus Secret: The Nazi Connection in America” written by John Loftus, an attorney specializing in pursuing Nazis for the Office of Special Investigations of the U.S. Department of Justice. He tells of former “Nazi germ warfare scientists” brought to the U.S. after World War II who “experimented with poison ticks dropped from planes to spread rare diseases. I have received some information suggesting that the U.S. tested some of these poison ticks on the Plum Island artillery range during the early 1950s…Most of the germ warfare records have been shredded, but there is a top secret U.S. document confirming that ‘clandestine attacks on crops and animals’ took place at this time.”

Mr. Loftus points to “the hypothesis that the poison ticks are the source of the Lyme disease spirochete.” And adds: “Sooner or later the whole truth will come out, but probably not in my lifetime.”

In 1995, with Lyme disease epidemic in Suffolk, indeed in many areas of the U.S., a just-elected congressman from Suffolk, Michael Forbes, conducted what he told me would be a “raid” on Plum Island. He would go to the Plum Island Animal Disease Center and demand information about tick weaponization there and a link to Lyme disease as related by Mr. Loftus. He took John McDonald, a Newsday investigative reporter, and me.

Representative Forbes confronted the center’s director, Dr. Harley Moon, who in intensive questioning took the position that “we don’t have any paperwork on that.”

Then in 2004 came another book, “Lab 257,” also by an attorney, Michael Carroll, formerly a law firm associate of the late New York Governor Mario Cuomo. Using documents he found in the National Archives, he exposes a full story about Plum Island. He details how Erich Traub during World War II was the “lab chief of Insel Riems—a secret Nazi biological warfare laboratory” in the Baltic with a mission in World War II of poisoning cattle in the  Soviet Union. Traub and hundreds of other Nazi scientists were brought to the U.S. in the U.S. government’s “Project Paperclip” after the war. Traub was the “father” of the establishment of a biowarfare center on Plum Island, says “Lab 257,” with the same mission Insel Riems had—going after Soviet livestock now with the Cold War having begun.

“Lab 257” relates how “animal handlers and a scientist released ticks outdoors on the island. They called him the Nazi scientist…they were inoculating these ticks.” Mr. Carroll, too, points to the possibility of Lyme disease emerging from activities on Plum Island with ticks. 

Will we know in our lifetimes a confirmed link between biowarfare and Lyme?

Karl Grossman is a veteran investigative reporter and columnist, the winner of numerous awards for his work and a member of the L.I. Journalism Hall of Fame. He is a professor of journalism at SUNY/College at Old Westbury and the author of six books.   


SUFFOLK CLOSEUP -The Wind And The Sun Don't Send Bills


By Karl Grossman

“We are witnessing a tipping point in energy history and today’s commitment to large-scale investment in offshore wind power proves that New York walks the walk of powering our economy with renewable energy,” said Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island following approval by Governor Andrew Cuomo of two major offshore wind farms in waters off Long Island.

Mr. Cuomo in his July 18th announcement of the projects—one starting 30 miles east of Montauk Point and the other 14 to 30 miles mainly off Nassau County but also off a portion of southwest Suffolk County—said “with this agreement, New York will lead the way in developing the largest source of offshore wind power in the nation.”

The project off Montauk Point, if 10 megawatt turbines are used, would have 82 turbines, the project off Nassau and southwest Suffolk 88. 

“Offshore Wind Farms Are Spinning Up In The US—At Last,” headlined Wired magazine in April. Its article noted that “wind power is nothing new in this country” and 56,000 wind turbines are in operation on land. “But wind farms located offshore, where wind blows steady and strong, unobstructed by buildings or mountains, have yet to start cranking”—and that is changing. A factor in that is “the technology needed to install them farther away from shore has improved…making them more palatable to nearby communities.”

Economics greatly favors wind energy. Wired noted that the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities in April awarded Vineyard Wind a contract to provide electricity from offshore wind turbines “at 8.9 cents per kilowatt-hour.” The average price of electricity per kilowatt-hour in the U.S. is currently more than 12 cents per kilowatt hour.

The wind—and the sun—don’t send bills. Once wind turbines are erected or solar panels installed, there’s no charge for fuel: energy blows in the wind and shines down from the sun freely.

Still, said Wired, developers of offshore wind need to “respond to concerns about potential harm to fisheries and marine life.” That issue has been raised by fishing interests and others in the Town of East Hampton where a 15-turbine wind farm also east of Montauk Point has been proposed. (It’s not part of the projects just given the state OK.) In East Hampton, the group Win With Wind has formed and maintains that offshore wind and fishing can be compatible. Leading figures in Win With Wind are former East Hampton Town Supervisors Judith Hope and Larry Cantwell, both with exemplary environmental records.

Offshore wind power has been booming outside the U.S. for years. Indeed, Denmark-based Orsted, involved in the wind farm Mr. Cuomo approved off Montauk Point, operates 1,150 offshore wind turbines off Denmark, the United Kingdom, Germany, Taiwan and Holland. 

“We’ve built more offshore wind farms than any other developer in the world and we’ve only begun,” Orsted says on its website. “The Orsted vision is a world that runs entirely on green energy.”

Orsted purchased Deepwater Wind of Rhode Island last year and then entered into a partnership on several projects with Eversource, the largest energy supplier in New England. Orsted and Eversource are partners in the two wind farms proposed off Montauk Point.

The first offshore wind farm to rise in U.S. waters was developed by Deepwater Wind and began running off Block Island in 2016. It’s now operated by Orsted. I’ve been to the five-turbine Block Island wind farm and it is impressive. Each turbine occupies a small footprint in the ocean. Their 240-foot-long blades revolve slowly, silently, indeed gracefully. “Awesome!” said one passenger on the boatload of officials and environmentalists. “Beautiful,” said another. 

At a beach on Block Island there are cable connections, but you could not notice them. They run underground. Their only sign is a conventional manhole cover used for maintenance located in the parking lot of the public beach. Another concern expressed by some in East Hampton has involved the location of wind farm cables onto shore.

Mr. Cuomo not only approved the two wind power projects but at the same signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act passed by the state legislature in June. The act’s provisions include requiring New York to achieve a carbon-free electricity system by 2040. 

A contradiction to the state’s approach is Mr. Cuomo having in recent years pushed a $7.6 bailout of four uneconomic upstate nuclear power plants, a bailout now underway. It is adding a surcharge on the electric bills of every individual ratepayer, business, educational and governmental entity in the state. It is predicated on the false claim that nuclear power doesn’t emit carbon-based greenhouse gases when, in fact, the “nuclear cycle” including mining, milling and fuel enrichment is carbon intensive and nuclear plants themselves have emissions including radioactive carbon. 

Karl Grossman is a veteran investigative reporter and columnist, the winner of numerous awards for his work and a member of the L.I. Journalism Hall of Fame. He is a professor of journalism at SUNY/College at Old Westbury and the author of six books.   

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