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The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Bioterrorism

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Various forms of cancer kill roughly 565,000 Americans per year; tobacco kills around 440,000, and obesity causes perhaps 400,000 or more deaths.1 Approximately 1.7 million patients develop infections annually while undergoing treatment in U.S. hospitals, resulting in an estimated 99,000 deaths.2 Together these four causes account for roughly 1.5 million U.S. deaths per year, every year. Bioterrorism killed zero U.S. citizens in the twentieth century and five to date in the twenty-first century. Why, then, a review essay on ‘‘bioterrorism’’? Most immediately, to review William R. Clark’s Bracing for Armageddon? The Science and Politics of Bioterrorism in America, an introductory volume to biological weapons (BW) issues. More importantly, because following the ‘‘Amerithrax’’ scare of October and November 2001*in which twenty-two people were sickened, of whom five died*the U.S. government has authorized $57 billion for biological weapons prevention and defense. The proposed current rate of annual authorization for this purpose is $10 billion, which can be expected to continue in the future.

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