Americans are getting a crash course in microbiology. The delivery of anthrax spores with the daily mail took the U.S. populace completely by surprise. But anyone who has read Ken Alibek's Biohazard, an account of bioweaponry in the former Soviet Union,1 or Richard Preston's fictional The Cobra Event,2 or followed periodic updates on bioterrorism here in The Scientist or in other journals, could have predicted an attempt to subvert biology into weaponry in the wake of Sept. 11.

The government knew of the danger too. On Sept. 5, Donald A. Henderson, director of the Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies at Johns Hopkins University, told Congress "biological weapons are a significant threat." But once again, mainstream media are jumping on a life science story as if it sprung from the proverbial ether, much as it did for cloning in 1996 and stem cells in 1998.

While the...

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