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The Spinach E. Coli Outbreak

Contributed by Alex Shrugged

The story begins at two major fast food outlets, but they are not the problem. The farms that grew the produce for the restaurants are the problem. As December rolls around, a lot of people become ill, mostly in New York and New Jersey. It's E. Coli bacteria usually associated with contaminated, uncooked food. The source is traced to Taco Bell, and Taco John's. The restaurants are judged clean, but they are using prepackaged lettuce and spinach. The food processing and packaging are also judged blameless. Somehow the contamination comes from the farms themselves. The E. Coli outbreak is finally traced back to farms in California's Central Valley region. Local streams are contaminated. Apparently, cow and pig waste is making its way into the farming irrigation system. With several people dead and many more hospitalized, lawmakers are looking into legislation. California is looking at a major disaster for their farming industry. (You may not realize this, but California is a major farming state.) Since the farmers do not want intrusive regulations imposed upon them by lawmakers who think that food comes from supermarkets, they move quickly to draft standards to address the problem. The standards mainly involve the regular testing of irrigation water by state inspectors and training produce workers in sanitary practices. Comedian Jay Leno jokes that the produce pickers should not be stuffing lettuce down their pants. (Uh... yeah. Thanks, Jay.) [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The new rules helped, and produce buyers limited themselves to the farms that pledged to keep to the rules, but contaminated produce remains a concern. Eventually outbreaks coming from Mexican produce forced the Obama Administration to sign new federal legislation regulating produce coming into the country. (That is the federal government's role, after all.) If you will recall the past Mad Cow disease scare, people were frightened that the meat they were eating could kill them... ten years down the line. While that concern was well-founded, the probability that one might die from Mad Cow disease is very small compared to dying from a contaminated melon, cucumber or salad. It's like the difference between being hit by lightening or being hit by a random motorist. Both can result in serious injury or death, but one is more likely to happen to you than the other.

Human Genome Project hits a major milestone

Contributed by Southpaw Ben

Despite the "draft" of the HGP being published in 2000, the project keeps sequencing and completing the genome until 2003. In 2006, the last chromosome is published in Nature magazine, officially ending the project. This project was funded by the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of health, and was expected to take 15 years, however computer and analysis improvements between 1990 and 2003 allowed the project to finish early, unlike most government projects.

My Take by Southpaw Ben
In order to not have one person's entire genome sequenced and used for study, the project used small pieces of many different people's genetic materials to carry out. 2006 was a major milestone as it was the last chromosome was published, however the project is still analyzing the exact make up on a smaller level to better understand the human genome, with the goal being to allow it to be used to find specific genetic markers for certain diseases, allowing preventative measures to be taken at much earlier times than otherwise would be possible. Current technology makes analyzing any individual's entire genome for diagnostic purposes cost prohibitive, however this is a long term goal for many in this field.

The UK Foils Yet Another Airline Bombing Plot

Contributed by Alex Shrugged

Last year the London transportation system came under attack by British Islamic terrorists using homemade peroxide bombs. (The bombs failed to detonate, but the blasting caps went off just fine.) In the midst of that bombing investigation, four British-Pakistani subjects come under surveillance. They have been buying items out of the ordinary, and in larger quantities than one would normally use... such as bottles of hydrogen peroxide. It's normal stuff found in toothpaste, mouthwash, and used as a medical disinfectant. When it is mixed with other chemicals it is used to bleach one's hair, but how much of the stuff does a normal person use in year? If you try really, really hard, maybe a quart, but several quarts in a month? Forget it! While returning from a visit to Pakistan, British agents search a suspect's luggage. It contains powdered Tang® and batteries. While these are normal items, MacGyver could use them, along with peroxide and a few other things, to make a bomb. The police break into the suspect's apartment and set up a camera and microphone. He and his buddies are turning drinking bottles to bombs. One suspect visits an internet cafe to look up international flights over the Atlantic that will leave from Heathrow International. Then they record their jihad suicide videos. That does it. They are arrested. Everyone they know is arrested. Heck, they arrested a mother too! The list is long, but only a few will be convicted of plotting to murder thousands. [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
I'm NOT going to tell you how to make a bomb with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide... mostly because I have no idea how to do that, but even if I did know, I wouldn't want to give any budding pyromaniacs any ideas. Any MORE ideas, that is. I will say that this bombing plot was NOT in the execution phase. It was in the "Let's test this out and see if we can get the chemicals on board the plane" phase. That is close enough for me. Accidents happen, and the chemicals the terrorists were using are inherently unstable. Did the terrorists have links to Al Qaeda? Probably, but that is the wrong question to ask. Al Qaeda is a leaderless organization. Jihadists sympathetic to Al Qaeda do not require a "go" order. They already know what to do, so they just do it. That is what makes a leaderless organization so difficult to stop... personal initiative. It's not always a good thing. [20]

Notable Births

None that I can find at this time.--alexshrugged

Notable Deaths

  • Gerald Ford (age 93, coronary artery disease): President of the United States. He had selected the University of Michigan fight song, "Hail to the conqu'ring heroes for his funeral procession." [21] [22]
  • Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (age 39, injuries from 2 laser-guided bombs): 1st Emir of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. (Bye-bye.--alexshrugged) [21] [23]
  • Saddam Hussein (age 69, execution by hanging): President of Iraq. (He requested to be shot because he thought it was more dignified. Request denied.--alexshrugged) [21] [24]
  • Slobodan Milosevic (age 64, heart attack): President of Yugoslavia. He was on trial for crimes against humanity and genocide. [21] [25]
  • And... Milton Friedman, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Steve Irwin ("The Crocodile Hunter"). [21]

This Year in Film

  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: A film based on the Disneyland amusement ride. [26]
  • The Da Vinci Code: A professor hunts for the Holy Grail. (The interpretation of ancient documents is total BS, but fun.--alexshrugged) [26]
  • And...: Cars, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, and V for Vendetta. [26]

This Year in TV

  • Heroes: Human beings with superpowers are hunted down and controlled... or killed. (Great show.--alexshrugged) [27]
  • Friday Night Lights: A Texas high school football team drama based on the book and movie. [27]
  • Disney's Hannah Montana: Miley Cyrus plays a teenage recording artist. (Quite a stretch. Eh?--alexshrugged) [27]

This Year in Music

  • Madonna's Confessions Tour breaks all records: Every venue is sold out within hours. [28]
  • Tower Records assets are auctioned off: With iTunes selling its billionth song this year, the reason is obvious. (A customer of Tower Records could listen before buying. Apple iTunes samples are online and available for instant purchase per track rather than purchasing an entire album.--alexshrugged) [28]
  • White and Nerdy: "Weird Al" Yankovic hits the Billboard top ten. (Funny and sounds good too.--alexshrugged) [28]

This Year in Video Games

  • New Super Mario Bros for the Nintendo DS: 900,000 copies are sold in the first 4 days in Japan. [29]
  • Gears of War for the Xbox 360: Sales will reach $1 billion over 8 years. [29]
  • Resistance: Fall of Man for the PlayStation 3: A horror-SciFi first-person-shooter. Controversy erupts due to a shooting scene inside Manchester Cathedral. [29]
  • And... Madden NFL 07: (What else?--alexshrugged). [29]

In Other News

  • US housing bubble: over a million foreclosures are filed: A stock market meltdown ensues. [30] [31]
  • General Motors loses $8.6 billion: (Golly! I know I left it here somewhere.--alexshrugged) [32] [31]
  • Insurance company AIG apologizes for deceptive business practices: It makes a $1.64 billion settlement with the federal government. Next year that same federal government WILL BAIL OUT AIG to the tune of $180 billion because AIG insured sub-prime mortgages without sufficient collateral. [33] [31]
  • Google buys YouTube for $1.65 billion: . [31]
  • The Blu-ray Disc is released in the US: . [31]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 2006, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Disaster preparedness: A funding, and safety, disaster - NJ.com. blog.nj.com (September 17, 2007). Retrieved on 18 May 2017. “Let's take the recent Taco Bell E. coli outbreak as an example. In this case, a contaminated batch of lettuce was sent to several restaurants in Middlesex and surrounding counties. Days later, people with bloody stools--a sign of infection with the potentially deadly O157 strain of E. coli--started showing up at local hospitals. When their stool tested positive for the associated toxin, the hospitals notified the local, county and state health departments and samples were sent to the state for further analysis. Several questions needed to be answered--fast. Is there a common link amongst all the sick people? Is the agent that caused the illness still out there making people sick? How many active cases are not being reported? Could food handlers, health care or daycare workers be spreading the disease? How should health professionals differentiate people sick with something else from those with this disease? To answer these and other critical questions, public health professionals begin an epidemiologic investigation. With wide-spread outbreaks like this, the epidemic's source isn't easily identified. People eat in many different places each week and consume a variety of different foods--canned, frozen or fresh--at home. Epidemiologists and public health nurses must conduct dozens of interviews with patients and family followed by coordinated detective work to find the common link: eating at Taco Bell.”
  2. CDC - Multistate Outbreak of E. coli O157 Infections Linked to Taco Bell, November-December 2006. Center for Disease Control (OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT SITE) (December 14, 2006). Retrieved on 18 May 2017. “This outbreak was clearly linked to Taco Bell restaurants in the northeastern United States. As of 12 PM (ET) December 14, 2006, Thursday, 71 persons with illness associated with the Taco Bell restaurant outbreak have been reported to CDC from 5 states: New Jersey (33), New York (22), Pennsylvania (13), Delaware (2), and South Carolina (1). States with Taco Bell restaurants where persons confirmed to have the outbreak strain have eaten are New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. (The patient from South Carolina ate at a Taco Bell restaurant in Pennsylvania). Other cases of illness are under investigation by state public health officials. Among these 71 ill persons, 53 (75%) were hospitalized and 8 (11%) developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). Illness onset dates have ranged from November 20 to December 6. The peak time when persons became ill was in the last week of November. There have been no illnesses with onset within the past 5 days among identified cases, including suspects; therefore, the outbreak has ended.”
  3. Lettuce Was Culprit In Latest Cases - Page 2 - latimes (January 13, 2007). Retrieved on 18 May 2017. “At a state Department of Food and Agriculture hearing in Monterey on Friday, growers proposed a state-issued 'seal of approval' to identify leafy greens grown and processed under certain standards, which are yet to be developed. 'This is an industry-led initiative,' said Jim Bogart, president and general counsel for the Grower-Shipper Assn. of Central California, although the program would be overseen by the Food and Agriculture Department. The program, at least initially, would be voluntary, but industry leaders said pressure from both retailers and consumers would force growers and handlers -- the middlemen who bring greens from the farms to retailers -- to participate. Participants would be subject to mandatory outside inspections by federal and state authorities and would lose their seal of approval if infractions were found, the plan's backers said. The standards would be developed by a board of industry representatives working with state and federal regulators and university agricultural scientists, they said. But state Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter) testified that stronger measures were needed.”
  4. CDC: Taco Bell E. Coli Outbreak Over - CBS News (December 15, 2006). Retrieved on 18 May 2017. “As of Dec. 14, the CDC had reports of 71 people with illness linked to Taco Bell restaurants in four states — Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Those patients include 53 who were hospitalized and eight with HUS. Illness onset dates ranged from Nov. 20 to Dec. 2, peaking in late November.”
  5. Hunterdon teen settles with Taco Bell after contracting E. Coli - NJ.com (August 11, 2008). Retrieved on 18 May 2017. “A teenager from Hunterdon County has settled with the operators of Taco Bell for an undisclosed amount after being among the victims of an E. Coli virus outbreak that sickened the chain's customers in 2006, his lawyer said today.”
  6. Goal of new produce safety rules: prevent illness outbreaks - NJ.com (November 16, 2015). Retrieved on 18 May 2017. “New produce safety rules from the government Friday are intended to help prevent the kind of large-scale outbreaks of foodborne illness that occurred over the past decade linked to fresh spinach, cantaloupes, cucumbers and other foods. Under the rules, the government soon will have new oversight of the farms that grow Americans' food. That means, for example, making sure workers are trained to wash their hands, irrigation water is monitored for harmful bacteria and animals do not leave droppings in fields.”
  7. Center for Disease Control applauds NJ's terrorism preparedness - NJ.com (February 20, 2008). Retrieved on 18 May 2017. “New Jersey is credited with conducting the first drill on the East Coast to simulate handling of an anthrax attack. That June 2006 exercise involved multiple emergency agencies and the U.S. Postal Service, all responding when fake anthrax spores within mail-handling machinery activated an alarm at an Edison postal facility.”
  8. "BBC NEWS - UK - 'Airliners plot': The allegations", 3 April 2008. Retrieved on 18 May 2017. “The alleged bombs would involve 500ml plastic bottles of the Oasis and Lucozade soft drinks. A sugary drink powder, Tang, would be mixed with hydrogen peroxide, used as a hair bleach, and other organic materials. Hydrogen peroxide and the other ingredients can become explosive if mixed to a specific strength. Mr Wright said hydrogen peroxide had been used in 'previous terrorist incidents'. The mixture would be injected into a bottle with the help of a syringe. The bottle's cap would not have been removed and the hole would have been resealed, said Mr Wright. A second substance, a type of high explosive, would be hidden within an AA battery to form the small charge required to detonate the main bomb. The charge would be detonated, said Mr Wright, by linking the bottle of explosives to a lightbulb and a disposable camera. The charge from the camera's flash unit would be enough to trigger the explosion, he said. The BBC has not comprehensively detailed the alleged bombs' composition.” 
  9. Bush Praises Effort to Thwart Terror Plot - Fox News (August 10, 2006). Retrieved on 18 May 2017. “Chertoff said the plot involved the use of liquid explosives that could be carried on board disguised as beverages, electronic devices and other common objects. In response, the U.S. government has banned all liquids and gels from flights, including toothpaste, makeup, suntan lotion. Baby formula and medicines were exempted, but will be tested before allowed on board. Airports have also added an additional layer of security at boarding gates.”
  10. Xinhua - Three "UK air plot" suspects remanded (August 30, 2006). Retrieved on 18 May 2017. “The three British Muslims are Mohammed Yasar Gulzar (age unknown), Mohammed Shamin Udin, 35, and Nabeel Hussain, 22. They were charged late Tuesday with conspiracy to murder and planning to blow up as many as 10 transatlantic planes. The three men were among the 25 people arrested who allegedly planned to use homemade liquid explosives to bring down the airliners over the Atlantic on the way from Britain to the United States.”
  11. TSA: Prohibited Items for Travelers. (February 25, 2009). Retrieved on 18 May 2017.
  12. Terror Plot Suspects Planned 'Dry-Run' of Attacks in Next 2 Days, Sources Say - Fox News (August 10, 2006). Retrieved on 18 May 2017. “The suspects arrested in Britain were 'homegrown,' though it was not immediately clear if they were all British citizens, said a British police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case. Police were working closely with the South Asian community, the official said. The suicide bombing assault on London subway trains and a bus on July 7, 2005, was carried out by Muslim extremists who grew up in Britain. The police official said the plotters intended to simultaneously target multiple planes bound for the United States.”
  13. Pakistan Says It Tipped Off U.K. Officials to Assist in Terror Bust - Fox News (August 10, 2006). Retrieved on 18 May 2017. “'The major work was done by the British agents, but they got a major clue from Pakistan,' said the intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. He said that some suspects arrested in Britain were linked with Al Qaeda, but had no further information on their identities. The intelligence official said the information Pakistan obtained was 'quickly verified and shared' with Britain. He said that Pakistan had learned Al Qaeda people 'while sitting somewhere in Afghanistan had discussed this plan.' Pakistan is a key ally of Britain and the U.S. in the war on terrorism, but is still troubled by Islamic militancy. Three of the four suicide attackers involved in the July 7, 2005, bombings on the London transport system that killed 52 people were British Muslims of Pakistani origin and had visited Pakistan before the attacks.”
  14. 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 18 May 2017. “When Ahmed Ali, who was under police surveillance, returned from Pakistan in June 2006, investigators covertly opened his baggage. Inside they found a powdered soft drink—Tang—and a large number of batteries, which raised suspicions; in the following weeks the police mounted the UK's largest surveillance operation, calling on an additional 220 officers from other forces. Assad Sarwar (from High Wycombe) was seen buying items that did not appear to fit with his daily needs. On one occasion surveillance officers watched him dispose of empty hydrogen peroxide bottles at a recycling centre. Sarwar and Ali were seen meeting in an east London park. When MI5 covertly entered a flat being used by Ali, they found what appeared to be a bomb factory. They installed a camera and microphone and on 3 August Ali and Tanvir Husain were filmed constructing devices out of drink bottles. Surveillance officers later watched Ali spend two hours in an Internet cafe researching flight timetables.”
  15. "BBC NEWS - UK - Liquid bomb plot: What happened", 9 September 2008. Retrieved on 18 May 2017. “And when Ahmed Ali himself returned from Pakistan in June 2006, investigators secretly opened his baggage. Inside they found a strange powdered soft drink, Tang, and a large number of batteries. It was enough to raise suspicions and in the following weeks, the police mounted the UK's largest surveillance operation, calling on an additional 220 officers from other forces. Assad Sarwar buying a suitcase in Woolworths Shopping trips: Sarwar bought suitcase to store bomb parts in woods Assad Sarwar, the High Wycombe man convicted as the quartermaster of the plot, was seen busily buying items that did not fit with his daily needs - and more importantly had a potentially deadly context. On one occasion, surveillance officers even saw him dispose of empty hydrogen peroxide bottles at a recycling centre. Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical used legitimately as a hair bleach but also useful for bomb-making. Sarwar and Ahmed Ali were seen meeting in an east London park rather than indoors. It smacked of a counter-surveillance ploy.” 
  16. "BBC NEWS - UK - 'Airliners plot': The allegations", 3 April 2008. Retrieved on 18 May 2017. “The alleged bombs would involve 500ml plastic bottles of the Oasis and Lucozade soft drinks. A sugary drink powder, Tang, would be mixed with hydrogen peroxide, used as a hair bleach, and other organic materials. Hydrogen peroxide and the other ingredients can become explosive if mixed to a specific strength. Mr Wright said hydrogen peroxide had been used in 'previous terrorist incidents'. The mixture would be injected into a bottle with the help of a syringe. The bottle's cap would not have been removed and the hole would have been resealed, said Mr Wright. A second substance, a type of high explosive, would be hidden within an AA battery to form the small charge required to detonate the main bomb.” 
  17. CNN.com - Air plot suspects appear in court - Aug 22, 2006 (August 22, 2006). Retrieved on 18 May 2017. “The charges stem from a cache of information seized during the months-long investigation into the plot, including 'highly significant video and audio recordings' taken before August 10, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke said at a news conference on Monday. Those recordings include what are called 'martyrdom videos,' Clarke said.”
  18. CNN.com - Agent infiltrated terror cell, U.S. says - Aug 11, 2006 (August 11, 2006). Retrieved on 18 May 2017. “Among those arrested were a Muslim charity worker and a Heathrow Airport employee with an all-area access pass, according to Britain's Channel 4. The suspects were planning to stage a test run within a couple of days, said a U.S. intelligence official. The suspected terrorists had been under surveillance in Britain since last December, Channel 4 reported.”
  19. "Details Emerge in British Terror Case - The New York Times", August 28, 2006. Retrieved on 18 May 2017. “'As you bomb, you will be bombed; as you kill, you will be killed,' said one of the men on a 'martyrdom' videotape, whose contents were described by a senior British official and a person briefed about the case. The young man added that he hoped God would be 'pleased with us and accepts our deed.' As it happened, the police had been monitoring the apartment with hidden video and audio equipment. Not long after the tape was recorded that day, Scotland Yard decided to shut down what they suspected was a terrorist cell. That action set off a chain of events that raised the terror threat levels in Britain and the United States, barred passengers from taking liquids on airplanes and plunged air traffic into chaos around the world.” 
  20. Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, The. Portfolio Trade. ISBN 978-1591841838. 
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 2006 Deaths - Wikipedia (2006).
  22. Gerald Ford - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 17 May 2017. “Ford died on December 26, 2006, at his home in Rancho Mirage, California, of arteriosclerotic cerebrovascular disease and diffuse arteriosclerosis. He had end-stage coronary artery disease and severe aortic stenosis and insufficiency, caused by calcific alteration of one of his heart valves. He was 93. Ford died on the 34th anniversary of President Harry Truman's death; he was the last surviving member of the Warren Commission.”
  23. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 17 May 2017. “Zarqawi was killed in a targeted killing on June 7, 2006, while attending a meeting in an isolated safehouse approximately 8 km (5.0 mi) north of Baqubah. At 14:15 GMT, two United States Air Force F-16C jets[143] identified the house and the lead jet dropped two 500-pound (230 kg) guided bombs, a laser-guided GBU-12 and GPS-guided GBU-38 on the building located at 33°48′02.83″N 44°30′48.58″E. Five others were also reported killed.”
  24. Saddam Hussein - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 17 May 2017. “Saddam was hanged on the first day of Eid ul-Adha, 30 December 2006, despite his wish to be shot (which he felt would be more dignified). The execution was carried out at Camp Justice, an Iraqi army base in Kadhimiya, a neighborhood of northeast Baghdad.”
  25. Slobodan Milošević - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 17 May 2017. “Milošević was indicted in May 1999, during the Kosovo War, by the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia for crimes against humanity in Kosovo. Charges of violating the laws or customs of war, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions in Croatia and Bosnia and genocide in Bosnia were added a year and a half later.”
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 2006 in film - Wikipedia (2006). Retrieved on 27 January 2017.
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 2006 in television - Wikipedia (2006).
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 2006 in music - Wikipedia (2006). Retrieved on 30 January 2017.
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 29.3 2006 in video gaming - Wikipedia (2006).
  30. "More than 1.2 million foreclosure filings reported in 2006", 'RealtyTrac', 2007-01-25. Retrieved on 12 September 2010. Archived from the original on 7 September 2010. 
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 31.3 31.4 2006 - Wikipedia.
  32. Maynard, Micheline. "G.M. Posts Worst Loss Since 1992", New York Times, January 27, 2006. Retrieved on 2009-03-20. Archived from the original on 24 April 2009. 
  33. Morgenson, Gretchen. "A.I.G. Apologizes and Agrees to $1.64 Billion Settlement", New York Times, February 10, 2006. Retrieved on 2009-03-21. Archived from the original on 24 April 2009. 

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