Friday, November 03, 2006

Dr. David Franz at Dillon Lecture Series in Hutchinson Kansas

The Dillon Lecture Series on Tuesday, Oct. 31, was by David Franz. He's a bioterrorism expert who served on weapons inspection teams to Russia and Iraq. He's originally from Buhler, just outside of Hutchinson, so it was a homecoming for him.

He told us about being in Russia in early 1994 as part of a team working to hammer out an agreement. At one point the leader of the team turned to him and said, "Col. Franz, you and the Russian Colonel go and work out the wording on this section here. After all, it's only science." Franz said that they were able to agree in about 20 minutes, which they felt good about. It was a turning point for Franz because he realized that science could be a common language. And he has been thinking of it that way ever since.

Franz said he thinks the first time the US really thought about terrorism was the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. He reminded us it was Oct. 2001 when the anthrax letters were sent. He said overnight the budget for bioterrorism went from the 1997 level of 137 Million to the 2001 level of 6 Billion. Overnight.

Franz joked about his role as an "expert." He was preparing for an interview with Mike Wallace on October 4, 2001. Wallace came in and said the story was breaking about someone in Florida being ill from breathing anthrax. Franz said his comment was, "No way. We haven't had a case of inhalation anthrax in the US since 1978."

He is also working with K-State to develop a major research facility there. Being a trained veternarian, he has a particular interest in animals. He said the biggest threat to Kansas is probably foot and mouth disease, which doesn't hurt humans, except economically. He said it's very easy to use and hard to trace - the problem with lots of these things and the reason five years later we don't know who sent the anthrax. He estimated the cost to Kansas of one foot and mouth disease outbreak would be $30-40 Billion.

He offered some really interesting figures from various research about how our stance on the world stage affects us. For example, in Indonesia, in 2003, support for the US was 23% and support for Bin Laden was 58%. After the tsunami and the US sent aid (albeit small), in 2005, support for the US rose to 40% and support for Bin Laden dropped to 23%.

Similarly, in Pakistan, in 2003 support for the US was at 23% and support for Bin Laden was at 51%. After we sent aid for the earthquake, support for the US rose to 46% and support for Bin Laden dropped to 33%. And 81% of those said the earthquake relief was important in their decision.

What does that mean? It means we could do a whole lot more for ourselves - and others - by sending aid. And it's far cheaper than war. It's far more effective in changing public opinion.

Franz ended his speech with an Edward R. Murrow quote, "It's the last three feet between people that count."

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