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NBAF & the E-N: putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable


Here's a fun comparison:

First, the Washington Post's story, published yesterday, about a preliminary report from the GAO, which thinks the Department of Homeland Security used outdated science and poor, rushed decision-making when it decided to relocate the NBAF bio-defense research lab from an Atlantic island to the middle of Kansas.

According to the Washington Post, the GAO thinks that America's tornado alley* doesn't sound like such a great spot for a lab that will research foot-and-mouth disease and a host of other virulent diseases. In fact, the independent government watchdog agency wonders if putting it on the mainland makes sense at all in light of the 2001 lab-caused outbreak in England, in which millions of cattle and pigs were slaughtered.

You should read it, but if you're in a rush, just compare the headline -- "Infectious Diseases Study Site Questioned: Tornado Alley May Not Be Safe, GAO Says" -- to today's Express-News headline reporting the same story: "Decision on biolab S.A. didn't get will be examined."

Even more telling are the stories first paragraphs.

From the Express-News:

"A congressional panel will conduct a review to determine whether the Homeland Security Department used a flawed analysis in its decision to locate a $650 million agricultural lab in Kansas, instead of in San Antonio or other locations, officials said Monday.

The disclosure that locating the laboratory in Kansas was not “scientifically defensible” gave new hope to a San Antonio consortium that has aggressively sought to get the lab in Texas."

From the Washington Post:

"The Department of Homeland Security relied on a rushed, flawed study to justify its decision to locate a $700 million research facility for highly infectious pathogens in a tornado-prone section of Kansas, according to a government report.

The department's analysis was not "scientifically defensible" in concluding that it could safely handle dangerous animal diseases in Kansas -- or any other location on the U.S. mainland, according to a Government Accountability Office draft report obtained by The Washington Post. The GAO said DHS greatly underestimated the chance of accidental release and major contamination from such research, which has been conducted only on a remote island off the United States."

The Express-News story goes on to construct a tit-for-tat argument between Kansas and Texas over which state is the bigger tornado magnet. Remarkably, the E-N -- which during the selection process produced at least two pro-NBAF editorials and a slew of boosterish headlines (scroll down to "Viral marketing") -- presents evidence showing that Bexar County in fact has significantly more tornado touchdowns on record than its counterpart in Kansas.

Nonetheless, according to the E-N, the Texas Research and Technology Foundation -- which already unsuccessfully sued once over the decision -- thinks we're in the game again. I wonder where they got that idea?

* On the tornado alley map linked above, both SA and Manhattan, KS, the proposed NBAF site, appear to fall just outside the boundaries of the official tornado alley, but as this site notes, the boundaries are somewhat fluid, and, most importantly, no guarantee. Check out the map at the bottom that tracks tornado incidents.

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