Darkness in El Dorado Controversy - Archived Document

Internet Source: The Seattle Times, September 29, 2000, Friday Second Edition, ROP ZONE; News; Pg. A13; Around The World
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Scientists deliberately infected tribe with measles

NEW YORK--A new book alleges U.S. scientists deliberately started a deadly measles epidemic among South America's Yanomami Indians in 1968.

Investigative journalist Patrick Tierney's "Darkness in El Dorado" charges that hundreds or thousands of Yanomami Indians died in experiments meant to test the controversial eugenics theories of James Neel, a University of Michigan geneticist who died in February.

The book originally was scheduled for release Sunday, but publisher W.W. Norton delayed publication until November so the author could add material. It will be excerpted in the Oct. 9 New Yorker magazine.

Anthropologists consider the Yanomami one of the most isolated indigenous groups remaining in modern times and the best remaining example of Stone Age human society.

Early in 1968, geneticist Neel and his colleagues inoculated hundreds of Yanomami with an early measles vaccine called Edmonston B. Their 1970 account of the inoculation program in the American Journal of Epidemiology says that the shots were an attempt to stop an epidemic that had been going on for months.

Tierney charges in his book that in isolated populations that had never been exposed to measles, the shots actually would generate the disease. He theorizes that Neel sought to stimulate an epidemic to test his theory that a "leadership gene" would generate resistance to disease in some powerful males of the tribe.

Samuel Katz, a Duke University professor emeritus who developed the Edmonston B vaccine, said Tierney's scenario wouldn't work.

"It was given to something like 18 million children around the world," Katz said. "It never caused any of the troubles that this man is accused of."

Elian's Miami relatives sue Janet Reno over raid

MIAMI--Elian González's Miami relatives filed a lawsuit yesterday against Attorney General Janet Reno, alleging the armed raid that took the Cuban boy from their home and reunited him with his father was illegal.

"The last time I saw anything like that was in films from postwar Germany when the Nazis were invading people's homes without cause," said the family's lawyer, Ron Guralnick.

The lawsuit filed in federal court claims Reno and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) used false statements to obtain the arrest and search warrants used in the pre-dawn April 22 raid to seize the 6-year-old boy.

The Justice Department defended the decisions made by its leaders as called for under the circumstances.

"Unfortunately, the González family's refusal to comply with a lawful federal order and their statements that they would never give up the child except by force compelled us to take enforcement actions," Justice Department spokeswoman Carole Florman said. "We still believe our actions were appropriate and lawful."

Their lawsuit claims the raid violated the family's rights of expression and assembly, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, and freedom from the use of excessive force without due process of law.

Other defendants are the city of Miami, former Miami police chief William O'Brien and INS agents who took part in the raid.

Russian media executives probed on embezzlement

MOSCOW -- Russian prosecutors launched a criminal embezzlement case yesterday against the heads of companies belonging to Media-Most, the country's only nationwide independent media group.

The charges raise the stakes in a quarrel between the Media-Most group and its creditor, state-dominated natural-gas monopoly Gazprom, which has led to doubts over President Vladimir Putin's commitment to free speech.

The office was acting on allegations Media-Most has hidden assets abroad to avoid their seizure by Gazprom. Media-Most denies the allegations.

Among the heads of companies within Media-Most are some of Russia's most respected journalists. Media-Most spokesman Dmitry Ostalsky said it was not yet clear whether they were included.

Media-Most says it has been targeted by a Kremlin determined to silence its occasional criticism of Putin and take control of its media properties.

Putin has said he favors a free press, but has criticized the commercial media's owners harshly for battling "against the state." His spokesman said Putin would not intervene in the Media-Most dispute and believed it should be settled in court.

Canada's opposition rips call for early elections

OTTAWA -- Canada's new opposition leader, Stockwell Day, accused the ruling Liberals yesterday of trying to buy an election that could be called next month.

Finance Minister Paul Martin has said he would accelerate income-tax cuts and indicated this week he might do so in an interim budget next month if Prime Minister Jean Chretien calls a fall election.

Chretien this month also agreed -- in response to demands from the provinces and from all political parties including the Alliance -- to reverse cuts in health spending imposed in the mid-1990s to eliminate massive federal deficits.

"They're out to buy an election with our hard-earned tax dollars," Day said.

Mayor of Veracruz capital to face bigamy charges

MEXICO CITY -- The mayor of a Mexican state capital has been booted from office by the local congress to face charges of bigamy.

The state congress of Veracruz voted Wednesday to remove Raphael Hernandez Villalpando, the mayor of the state capital, Xalapa, from office so he can face charges in a civil court of being married simultaneously to two women, newspapers reported. The daily Reforma said Hernandez married Leonora Bustos in 1995, then later married Casha Acosta without first divorcing Bustos.