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Germs Gone Wild: How the Unchecked Development of Domestic Bio-Defense Threatens America Paperback – Bargain Price, December 15, 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Pegasus (December 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605982687
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.4 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,492,699 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 2006, when the Department of Homeland Security was searching for a site to house the "second biggest biodefense facility" in America, the Republican Congressman representing Pulaski County, Ky., was in the forefront of a coalition pushing to house the facility; it would be "as safe as going to Wal-Mart," he asserted. But thousands signed petitions in opposition, including Pulaski resident King, who collected enough evidence to call these safety claims lies. Even after Kentucky was eliminated as a potential home, King continued his research, compiling an impressive number of articles and reports that illustrate not only a widespread failure to track and contain biologically dangerous materials at germ labs across the country, but a history of reckless or even criminal behavior (routing chemical sprayings of U.S. cities through the 1950s, for example). As a chronicle of the development of America's largely unseen biodefense infrastructure, King's book is intriguing; the author combines meticulous research, an often flippant style, and unshakable faith. And this personal connection ultimately stops King's effort from being greater than the sum of its parts.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“As a chronicle of the development of America’s largely unseen biodefense infrastructure, King’s book is intriguing; the author combines meticulous research and unshakable faith.” (Publishers Weekly )

“A superb guided tour of the demented world of twenty-first century bioweapons research in America, where dangerous new labs seem to pop up on every street corner, the lines between offense and defense blur, and people who question the wisdom and safety of it all are derided by their own government.” (Ed Hammond, former director of the Sunshine Project )

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mary Beth Hines on October 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Review of Germs Gone Wild by Kenneth King

Before I read this book, I thought I was pretty well informed about our nation's mutliple efforts to stop the war on terror. I knew that the government had invested billions of dollars in scientific research designed to thwart attacks by bio-terrorists on our water, air, animals and citizens. However, this book has really opened my eyes and has made me think differently about our country's investment in such endeavors.

This book presents an amazing and comprehensive documentation of the ways in which bidodefense research labs represent safety hazards to the American public. Whether toxins are released because of the mistakes of lab employees, lax oversight at research facilities, or good-old-boys slacking off at local and federal levels, the reality is that the germs created in the name of national defense are insidiously leaking out of labs, contaminating some, killing others, and always carrying the potential to trigger large-scale disaster. It seems ironic that the very experiments that are supposed to save us from biological terror events actually threaten us, but there it is--King lays out the facts, case-by-case. He presents a compelling argument by using impeccable documentation of breaches, cover-ups, and near-breaches in germ research labs across the country.

Emphasizing the economic advantages of developing biodefense research sites to investigate germ warfare, the Dept. of Homeland Security obscures the risks to humans and animals, water and air in order to curry favor in communities considered for projects. However, King also offers inspiration for those who fear such labs may land on their doorsteps, describing his own community's response to such a prospect.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Paul H. Vangogh on February 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book concerns dangers, real dangers, in biodefense research. Mentioned much are problems of containment and laboratory-security, for one. And about an eagerness, a just plain puzzling eagerness of entrepreneurs and government officials coming into this business. Those people have a gusto. The way they are entering biodefense research makes others of us wonder if this is a thing with a future, wonder if there are $$ to be had by getting in early.
Well, dolars and votes.

I wonder if this issue is taking the place, just guessing here - for a number of us - of nuclear power plants /w problem of spent-fuel storage. Although this latter is not a dead issue, it seems to this reviewer to be receiving less attention than in previous years. (Not dismissing it :(

The author of this book has succeeded in making a grim subject endurable. Well, more. Has made it fun to be a watch-dog.

There is a Twitter expression, "He-he."

King spent years on the book. Doing a zillion interviews. The Plum Island incident is mentioned several times. Oops!, no problem there, I forgot. The Plum Island incident is really no cause for worry.

He is a funny writer. There is a passage in which certain officials are caught in a
mistake. Denying at first, they then begin to backpedal a tad. Then, "seemed to be making crow-munching sounds." After the book gets going, one finds not a page going by without something wry, or deftly sarcastic or sweetly-scornful being said. Hoo hooo..! :) Shades of Jonathan Swift. The author can at times show himself speechless; some of what these money people, vote people or bureaucrats can do is the height of unfeeling. It is past comprehension. What they do can be insulting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sheree from Truth Frequency Radio on November 16, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
I absolutely loved this book. It had the sources and information equal to that of Ed Hooper's "The River", but without the depressing tone. It adds humor and satire to the pure information that people really need to gauge how dangerous the military-academic-industrial complex is with their biowarfare research disguised as "keeping us safe" from terrorists, but without scaring people to the point of muted terror. It's a great read for anyone interested in the subject, and one that I would recommend to anyone who doesn't think that the Department of Homeland Security would ever take unnecessary risks with American lives.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Dr. King delivers a compelling text about biological and germological research. A gripping, shocking, and informative book. The degree of depth to his research unveils the layers of this complex problem in an approachable way. Excellent.
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More About the Author


Kenneth King holds a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska and a J.D. from Vanderbilt University. King has taught writing at colleges and universities in Kentucky, Missouri, and Illinois, clerked for the Hon. Eugene Siler, Jr. of the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and worked as a staff attorney for the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund. He was on the faculty at Western Kentucky University before resigning to complete Germs Gone Wild.


Like most people after the fall of 2001, I sometimes worried about anthrax in the mail. But I never delved deeper than what was being served up by our mass media. For all I knew, Saddam Hussein was behind the anthrax letters. I certainly had no notion that the anthrax had been linked to one of our own facilities, and that we were in the process of building huge new numbers of similar facilities.

In the spring of 2006, bioterror germs weren't even on my radar screen. I was in the midst of a painful divorce, wondering if the time had come to move on from my non-tenure-track teaching position at Western Kentucky University.

One evening that spring, TV Channel 13 in Bowling Green, KY, carried a clip from an affiliate. Some of my former neighbors in Pulaski County, including David Taylor and Floyd Lovins, were featured expressing concerns about a government facility being solicited for our county. That was the first I'd heard about the Department of Homeland Security's National Bio-and Agro Facility.

I was still living 120 miles away that spring, and was not at first involved with the widespread and determined grassroots opposition to that facility in Pulaski County. While I was still living elsewhere, my neighbors gathered thousands of signatures in opposition, held a successful rally, established a website, and gained media attention.

Meanwhile, in Bowling Green, I was gradually learning more about the facility, which DHS proposed to make a sort of super complex for the study of human, animal, and zoonotic diseases. (Later public relations statements by DHS would act like its earlier characterization of the facility had never existed.) NBAF would be the country's second largest biodefense facility, and would include BSL-4 labs for experiments with killer diseases with no effective treatment or cure.

One had to wonder whether this was the sort of thing anyone in his right mind would want two miles down the road in a Pulaski County pasture. But our Congressman, Harold "Hal" Rogers, who'd already siphoned public funds to bring the "National Institute for Hometown Security" and the Kentucky University Consortium for Homeland Security to our local hotbed of terrorist activity, assured his constituents that a facility studying incurable diseases would be as safe as going to Wal-Mart. And our local excuse for a newspaper, the Somerset Commonwealth-Journal, assured its readers that BSL-4 facilities had been operating around the country for 50 years with not even an accident.

Early on, many residents of Pulaski County found their way to Michael Carroll's Lab 257, which documented serious accidents and safety problems at NBAF's predecessor, the Animal Disease Center at Plum Island. For me, however, the first warning signals were raised by a remaindered copy of Judith Miller et al's Germs, which I happened onto one day in the Bowling Green Barnes & Noble. Though the book takes a pro-biodefense stance, it recounts a scary history of bioweapons and biodefense research, replete with secrecy, reckless experiments, and accidents--including the accidental deaths of researchers. That book alone clearly demonstrated that Congressman Rogers and our fawning local media outlet were either liars, stupid, or both. Yet they--the truly ignorant ones--were depicting the concerned citizens of Pulaski County and elsewhere as "backward, uneducated" people.

That's what got me involved in the Kentucky opposition to NBAF. I'm normally fairly fatalistic and pessimistic about the possibility of influencing our bought-and-sold "democratic" processes for the good. In this case, however, I was outraged by the local lies, propaganda, and smear tactics, painting a picture so completely at odds with the history of existing germ labs.

I'd taught in Paris the summer of 2005, and I'd planned to spend a month or more in France again, but instead I spent most of the summer of 2006 researching in Lexis-Nexis, EBSCO Host, and other online databases, and preparing Fact Sheets to be posted on the No Kentucky Biolab website. I also wrote and published op-eds in the Lexington Herald-Leader, and letters in the Somerset Commonwealth-Journal (the SCJ turned down my op-eds, declaring--in the summer of 2006--that the subject was no longer timely).

Somewhere along the way I began thinking about a book. There were multiple books--and good ones--about the history of bioweapons, and the 2001 anthrax attacks, but there was nothing about the serious situation that was developing now.

In December 2006, Betty, my wife of 29 years, and ex-wife of one year, died unexpectedly. She also left me, unexpectedly, a $100,000 life insurance bequest. As I began to emerge from the fog of grief which surrounded me in the early months of 2007, and as Kentucky escaped being named an NBAF finalist in July 2007, I began to think more seriously about the book. I felt Betty, who valued small farms and rural communities, would have approved of this use of her bequest.

If Betty's bequest provided the financial foundation for the book, several events in 2007 further established the need for the book and supplied important factual underpinnings. Ed Hammond's Sunshine Project discovered that Texas A&M University, a DHS "Center of Excellence" and frontrunner for NBAF, had violated the minimal accident reporting rules of the CDC on two different occasions. A redfaced CDC, investigating, found a safety train wreck in progress, and shut down all of A&M's biodefense research. Later that fall, a hearing conducted by the House Energy and Commerce's Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, and an accompanying report by the Government Accountability Office, indicated just how critical and unsafe the madcap proliferation of new biodefense facilities actually was.

A grant from the Kentucky Arts Council, awarded on the basis of a sample chapter from the book, gave me some notion the book would appeal to others. It took me four months, however, to find my agent Winifred Golden, and another four months for her to place the project with a quality publisher, Pegasus Books. So essentially, I have spent four years, three of them full-time, on the writing of the book. If the book is widely read, I will consider the years well-spent. If not, I gave it my best shot.--Kenneth King