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Gloom and Doon: Luckily, no Bonny Doon residents attempted to block this weapons inspection. Imagine what Bush would have done!

Nüz

Urbani Legend

VIRGINIA ROBERTS is glad she got out of Southeast Asia "before the SARS quarantine became an Iron Curtain." A local resident, Roberts reports that one third of people were wearing masks when she passed through Taipei airport March 23. Two weeks later, twice as many people, especially airport personnel and stewardesses, were donning masks and many flights had been canceled.

"As we left Thailand, we saw that incoming foreigners from SARS-stricken countries had to wear a mask for two weeks after their arrival (the incubation period for the disease) or face six months in jail, and that native Thais returning from abroad were quarantined to their homes for two weeks."

Since Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome appeared in China's southern province of Guangdong in November, it has killed 137 people and infected nearly 3,300 worldwide. It has been carried to 20 countries in the past six weeks.

At this rate, the World Health Organization is predicting that SARS could become the first severe new disease of the 21st century, with global epidemic potential.

Laurie Lang of the county Disease Control Unit says some companies that do business in Asia are having employees work at home for 10 days after their return, and that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that people postpone trips to mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam, where possible.

Lang says that anyone who travels to those areas will receive a card on their return with instructions on monitoring their health.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, Bush added SARS to the list of diseases, which includes smallpox, plague and Ebola, for which

quarantine is authorized if someone poses a threat to public health and refuses to cooperate with a voluntary request.

Locally, the only person with a suspected case of SARS is recovering so quickly officials wonder if it was the virus.

"The county doesn't really have a test to confirm SARS that's reliable, but the patient had a 100.5 fever, a cough, and had traveled to certain parts of Asia, and so fitted the case definition," Lang says.

A relative of the common cold, SARS is thought to be a mutation of a virus that's jumped from birds to humans, much like the 1997 bird flu.

Whatever its source, the virus may be named Urbani SARS after Dr. Carlo Urbani, who died of the disease after treating its first victims in Vietnam and warning the world of this new outbreak.

Dr. Dawn Motyka, whose Health Matters show airs 9am Saturdays on 88.9 FM, says SARS is probably hitting Asia hardest "because it has a large population, with more people living close to animals, and less staffing, intensive care units and ventilators."

But while Motyka admits that "there are some very strange clusters"--like the apartment complex in Hong Kong where 100 people got the disease--she says SARS is still an uncommon disease, unlike the flu, which kills thousands of people in the U.S. each year. As of presstime, the U.S. was reporting no fatalities, but had 150 suspected cases in 30 states.

Still, with SARS able to survive outside the body for three hours, Motyka figures we all might want to get obsessive about hand washing. If you think you're in danger of being exposed to the virus, she recommends a N95 OSHA-certified particulate mask, which, of course, is suddenly in very short supply. But as Lang points out, "It's certainly not necessary to wear them all the time around here, because we are not in Hong Kong, and we have a less than 1 percent death rate in the U.S., maybe because of what Dr. Urbani did. He really was a martyr to this."

Show Us Your WMDs!

So, just where the hell are the weapons of mass destruction?

With Bush pointing the finger at Syria, a local Civilian Weapons Inspection Team is shining the beam on ... Bonny Doon.

Why on earth Dunersville? Better known for its wine and woodsy scenery, Bonny Doon is also home to the Lockheed Martin Missile and Space Company, the world's largest weapons maker and arms merchant--and the recipient of $30 billion in federal contracts in 2000-2001.

And in light of the Bush admin's declaration that the most dangerous rogue nations are those that are stockpiling weapons, ignoring due process of the United Nations, refusing to sign and honor international treaties and wielding power through illegitimate means, 50 locals decided to investigate LM's role in WMD development.

"It would be irresponsible not to request information and hold the U.S. government responsible for the same standards [for which] it holds other nations," said CWIT member Sue Colley.

The April 11 inspection attempt came after team members tried to question officials by phone, who referred them to company spokesman Jeff Richmond in Silly Valley, who referred them to officials in Bonny Doon. A letter to facility director Byron Ravenscraft also went unanswered.

LM reps denied entrance to the group, while facility operations rep Pete Olinger once again referred them to Richmond--who could not be reached for comment.

The CWIT is also investigating whether LM weapons used in Iraq contained radioactive elements, who else the company does business with, and its close ties to the Bush Administration.

Meanwhile, a couple of Marines showed up to express their support of Lockheed Martin and the military's mission.

"Lockheed Martin is one of several corporations that gives our troops the edge to bring them home faster," said pro-LM demonstrator Damon Favor.

Arrested Development

Meanwhile, four days earlier, Bonny Doon resident Amy Courtney got arrested at the Port of Oakland, while participating in what she says was billed as "a lawful community picket" outside the gates of Neptune Orient Lines and Stevedoring Services of America--two shipping companies that have scored million dollar contracts to manage the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr in a deal that has excluded non-American companies from the bidding.

"We didn't go prepared to get arrested, shot at or run over by motorcycles," says Courtney, who witnessed police open fire on the crowd with wooden dowels, sting balls and concussion grenades--at least until she and 30 others got hauled off to the slammer for 14 hours.

Police say protesters did not follow warnings to disperse, and that some threw metal bolts, bottles and wood at the police, but Courtney says demonstrators have videos that prove they remained nonviolent.

"The worst part was finding out that Mayor Jerry Brown says he supports the actions by the Oakland police," says Courtney, who was charged with "failure to obey a police officer" and "pedestrian outside a crosswalk."

"Clearly, docks are a sensitive spot to hold a demonstration," she says.

Anticipating a slew of lawsuits, the Oakland City Council is holding a public hearing April 29, and while some councilmembers believe its Civilian Police Review Board can handle the probe, the Oakland CPRB says its one investigator can't do the job alone.


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From the April 16-23, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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