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Marc Lallanilla, Writer and Editor

National Affairs

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The feds' 'gruesome' STD
experiments on Guatemalans

A government investigation reveals shocking new details
about World War II-era medical abuses
By Marc Lallanilla
Sept. 1, 2011 – An investigation into American medical experiments in Guatemala in the 1940s has uncovered "gruesome" new details about how subjects were treated. Doctors repeatedly infected people with sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis, gonorrhea, and chancroid without their knowledge or consent, causing untold suffering and death.
The experiments were brought to light last year, prompting an investigation by a presidential commission. The commission's full report is due later this month, but some new details were already released this week. Here, a brief guide to this scandal:

guatemala syphilis

What exactly happened to these people?
Between 1946 and 1948, about 1,300 soldiers, mental health patients, prisoners, and prostitutes in Guatemala were intentionally infected with one or more STDs. None was told what they were being exposed to, and more than 80 people died, though it's not clear if the medical experiments were directly responsible for killing them. The experiments were funded by the U.S. Public Health Service, a federal agency.

What was the point of these experiments?
The Guatemala study was ostensibly done to test the effectiveness of penicillin. But the results were never published in any medical journals, record keeping was "haphazard at best," and standard scientific protocols weren't followed.
How gruesome were these experiments?
Very gruesome. One patient was deliberately infected with syphilis. When she later appeared close to death, doctors "inserted pus from a male gonorrhea victim into her eyes, urethra and rectum," says Donald G. McNeil, Jr., in The New York Times. "Four days later, infected in both eyes and bleeding from the urethra, she died."

For more, visit

Shooting Stars
U.S. Military Takes First Step Towards Weapons in Space

(Lockheed Martin)

By MARC LALLANILLA                        

March 30, 2004 For all of human history, people have looked at the stars with a sense of wonder. More recently, some U.S. military planners have looked skyward and seen something very different — the next battlefield.

While the military's presence in space stretches back decades, now there appears to be a new emphasis. Officials in the Bush administration and the Department of Defense are actively pursuing an agenda calling for the unprecedented weaponization of space.

The first real step in that direction appears to be coming in the form of a little-noticed weapons program at the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. The agency has now earmarked $68 million in 2005 for something called the Near Field Infrared Experiment.

As one senior government official and defense expert described the program, which has seen cost-related delays and increased congressional scrutiny: "We're crossing the Rubicon into space weaponization."

For the full story, go to ABC News.

New Rave Drugs Have Experts Concerned
Synthetic Hallucinogens Use Rises, But Health Effects Are Unknown

(AP Graphics)

By MARC LALLANILLA                        

Dec. 30, 2004 A new class of drugs is getting increased attention from police and partyers alike.

Synthetic hallucinogens, which are growing in popularity at nightclubs and rave parties, are so new that many don't even have street names yet.

Usually manufactured in small home-based laboratories, these drugs have law enforcement and health officials concerned because their long-term health effects are virtually unknown.

The drugs reportedly have effects similar to the popular rave drug ecstasy: feelings of euphoria, emotional empathy and colorful hallucinations. The typical user is a young, white, college-educated and Web-savvy person who finds that these drugs complement the dance music heard at nightclubs and raves.

For the full story, go to ABC News.

The Pentagon's 'blistering' fast new
plane: Crash and burn?


Why do the military's experimental
supersonic airplanes keep disappearing?
By Marc Lallanilla
August 11, 2011 — An experimental airplane capable of flying unmanned at 20 times the speed of sound was launched today from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California — and promptly disappeared.
The "blistering" fast military aircraft, dubbed the Falcon Hypersonic Test Vehicle 2 (HTV-2), is designed to cover a distance equal to that between New York and Los Angeles in less than 12 minutes. At such a speed, "air doesn't travel around you — you rip it apart," the military boasted on its website. But shortly after the HTV-2's flight began, engineers lost all contact with the craft. Here, a brief guide:
What happened on its flight?
The HTV-2 was sent into the upper reaches of the atmosphere on the back of a Minotaur IV rocket. It then successfully disengaged from the rocket and began to nose-dive toward the Pacific Ocean, where it was supposed to level off and reach speeds of about 13,000 miles per hour for about 30 minutes. But all contact with the HTV-2 was lost just a few minutes into the flight — and an "eerily similar" problem occurred during a 2010 test flight of the first HTV-2.
What occurred on that first flight?
In April 2010, after just nine minutes of flight time, the first HTV-2 craft was also lost. Both planes were equipped with what the military calls "autonomous flight termination capability," which means the wedge-shaped airplanes are designed to automatically crash into the ocean at the end of their test flights.

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Big Guns:
When Cops Use Steroids
Steroid Abuse Can Contribute to Police Brutality -- Even Murder

By MARC LALLANILLA                        

May 24, 2005 Amid the furor over steroid use by superstar athletes like baseball's Jose Canseco and Jason Giambi, another story is quietly unfolding in small towns and big cities across America — cops on steroids.

From New York City to Norman, Okla., police departments are investigating a growing number of incidents involving uniformed police officers who are using steroids to build beefy, muscular physiques.

(AP Graphics)

Police departments are concerned because it is illegal in the United States to possess steroids without a prescription. They are listed by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a Schedule III substance, like morphine, opium, barbiturates and other prescription drugs.

But there is an even greater problem: violent, aggressive behavior, a common side effect of steroids, can contribute to police brutality — even murder.

For the full story, go to ABC News.

(AP Photo)

Is the United States Ready for a Bioterrorism Attack?
Some Experts Fear our Preparations Are Woefully Inadequate
By MARC LALLANILLA                        

Dec. 2, 2004 During the anthrax scare of 2001, when envelopes containing the deadly bacteria were mailed to locations throughout the country, 22 people were infected with the disease. Five eventually died.

The incident, occurring shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, underscored the vulnerability of the United States to bioterrorism. Those responsible for the anthrax scare have never been found.

But has our preparedness improved since then? According to many experts, the answer is no.

And anthrax is only one of several bacteria and viruses that could be used in a bioterrorist attack.

For the full story, go to ABC News.

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