CONTENTS: JULY 12, 2000
Click. WACO: JUDGE LIMITS SCOPE OF EVIDENCE AT TRIAL. ABSENCE OF TWO LEAD FBI WITNESSES (RAID COMMANDERS) QUESTIONED.
Click. Alzheimer's Vaccine Promising.
Click. Drug czar Barry McCaffrey wants to turn his office's Internet "cookie" machine back on to find out what turns on kids about drugs.
PEDOPHILE PLAYED THE SCHOOL SOCCER FIELD THANKS TO D.A. ORLOFF, SHERIFF PLUMMER AND UNNAMED ALAMEDA COUNTY JUDGES! Parents furious that Leroy M. Garcia still has sex-offense convictions on his record and got close to young people for years after being required to register as a sex offender, including working for two local school districts.
Alzheimer's Vaccine Promising.
By Sally Squires © Washington Post Staff Writer. Wednesday, July 12, 2000; Page A01
An experimental vaccine for Alzheimer's disease reverses some damaging effects of the devastating brain disorder in animals and appears safe in the first tests on people, researchers reported yesterday.
While the results are preliminary and much more work is needed, the findings sparked excitement because the vaccine represents a new approach to treating an incurable disease that is becoming increasingly common. Unlike other potential therapies, the vaccine is designed to attack the underlying cause of the disease.
"It's a tremendous example of taking an idea that flouts current scientific concepts and taking it to completion," said Marcelle Morrison-Bogorad of the National Institute on Aging (NIA). "It's very, very interesting."
Experts cautioned that many experimental treatments that work in animals end up being disappointing when tried in people. But because of the lack of treatment options, Alzheimer's patients and their families are eager for news of any possible advance.
"The numbers of people with Alzheimer's disease will go up precipitously as the population ages," said Bill Theis of the Alzheimer's Association. "We expect three to four times the number of cases as baby boomers age."
Just a year ago, Morrison-Bogorad was one of many neuroscientists who were highly skeptical of the notion of a vaccine against Alzheimer's, which afflicts an estimated 12 million people worldwide and is poised to reach epidemic proportions.
"When I first heard about it, I was shocked," said Morrison-Bogorad. "Most of us thought it would make the disease worse. But when [researchers] first showed the results last year in mice, everyone dropped back on their heels. It was huge."
Alzheimer's gradually destroys brain cells, robbing sufferers of their memory and personality. While several drugs appear to help slow the disease's progression, there is no effective treatment. The cause is unknown, but sufferers' brains develop dense tangles of protein structures called beta amyloid plaques.
The vaccine, developed by Dale Schenk and colleagues at the Elan Corp. of Dublin, Ireland, consists of a laboratory-made protein called AN-1792, which attaches to amyloid in the brain plaques. By doing so, the vaccine tags amyloid for removal by naturally occurring brain cells that scavenge for unwanted material.
"It's like vacuum cleaning," said Morrison-Bogorad.
Schenk and his colleagues first tested the vaccine in mice that had been genetically engineered to develop a rapidly progressive form of Alzheimer's, and last July the researchers reported in the journal Nature that the mice showed less loss of brain tissue.
Yesterday, at a meeting of the World Alzheimer's Congress here, Schenk reported that the vaccine was well tolerated by a wide range of animals, including rabbits, guinea pigs and monkeys, suggesting that it is safe.
Delaying vaccination of the genetically engineered mice until they were one year old still produced "a very surprising reduction in plaques, even in animals with advanced pathology," he said.
The mice also mounted an immune system response against the plaques, marshaling special scavenger brain cells to ingest the amyloid. "It looked to be very, very encouraging," Schenk said.
The results were encouraging enough that Schenk and Elan received approval from the Food and Drug Administration to test the safety of the vaccine in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. Two dozen patients have received a single dose of the vaccine in the United States with no adverse effects, he reported.
"There was no question that the vaccine was well tolerated," Schenk said. An additional 80 patients in England will soon receive multiple injections of the vaccine.
Whether the vaccine proves as effective in removing brain plaques in humans as it is in animals won't be known until Schenk completes additional clinical trials that will not start until at least 2001.
This first round of testing only addresses safety. Effectiveness will have to be answered by larger and more extensive clinical trials that will take several years to complete.
"If, in fact, amyloid is what produces the problems in the brain with Alzheimer's, then this is a potential way of preventing the disease from forming in the first place and treating those with the disease," said Neil S. Buckholtz, chief of the NIA's Dementias of Aging Branch. "It's potentially a really big deal."
If the vaccine works, it remains unclear how many vaccinations would be necessary.
Adding to the excitement is the news that scientists at the University of Toronto have independently confirmed Schenk's results in another strain of genetically engineered mice.
WACO -- Every afternoon this week, Branch Davidian attorney Michael Caddell has left the federal courtroom, strode to a knot of reporters on the sidewalk outside, and asked the same two questions: "Where's Richard Rogers? Where's Jeff Jamar?"
Rogers and Jamar were the two principal FBI commanders during the assault on Mount Carmel that resulted in the fiery deaths of David Koresh and more than 80 of his Davidian followers seven years ago.
Their testimony was promised at the beginning of the trial of the Davidians' wrongful death lawsuit against the government, but the judge and jury have yet to hear from either man. As the trial winds toward a possible Friday finish it is increasingly unlikely they will.
The failure of either side to call the two retired FBI agents is but one of numerous oddities in a trial that began nearly four weeks ago with global publicity and now rarely makes the front pages except in the local newspaper.
High-profile witnesses, such as Attorney General Janet Reno and former FBI director William Sessions, appeared only in videotaped depositions. The jury met many of the key FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents through written statements alone.
The judge so limited the range of subject matter that could be covered that many witnesses -- including some who were in the courtroom and ready to testify -- were kept from taking the stand.
But it has been the absence of Rogers, who was in charge of the hostage rescue team, and Jamar, special agent in charge of the siege at Mount Carmel, that has been the most glaring because a cornerstone of the plaintiffs' case turns on their actions that Monday in April 1993.
The lawsuit alleges, among other things, that Reno approved a plan to end the 51-day standoff with tear gas but Jamar and Rogers acted on their own, contrary to Reno's plan and the advice of hostage negotiators.
The Justice Department plan had called for Davidians to be given 48 hours to leave the compound once the tear gas was sprayed inside. What happen instead was tanks began demolishing the building two hours after the gas was inserted. One government witness testified Tuesday that there apparently was no plan to continue the operation for 48 hours.
Gary Harris, an FBI agent who drove a tank equipped with a bulldozer blade that day, was called to bolster the government's argument that no order was given to demolish the building at the time the fatal fire began.
He said his orders were to clear a path for the tear gas tanks by crashing through the gymnasium to reach a three-story tower where many Davidians were believed to be hiding.
His tank clipped a corner of the building and caused the roof to collapse, but it was "unintentional on my part," Harris said.
Harris said he entered the gym but stopped 20 yards short of the tower. He backed up and re-entered the gym several times, apparently damaging it more each time. But he insisted his mission was not to destroy the building.
Later, when he was recommended for an agency award, the citation said his mission was "the systematic demolition of Mount Carmel."
On the witness stand, Harris said that was "completely inaccurate."
Caddell forced Harris to admit he told a different story Tuesday than one he told in a deposition more than a year ago.
"You would agree," Caddell said, "that after 45 minutes you had pretty well destroyed the gymnasium?" "No, I wouldn't," Harris said. Caddell then produced the deposition in which Harris had stated twice that he had "pretty well destroyed" the gym in 45 minutes.
After the trial recessed, Caddell told reporters that, "Harris is a nice guy in a bad spot. ... He was sent here to save Dick Rogers' butt."
The reasons that Rogers and Jamar have not appeared in court to speak for themselves are vague. Caddell has taunted government attorneys for not calling them. U.S. Attorney Mike Bradford of Beaumont, who is the lead attorney for the government, returned some of the barbs Tuesday. He said he did not subpoena Rogers and Jamar because Caddell had placed them on his witness list. In his opening statement to the jury last month, Bradford said, "Jeff Jamar and Richard Rogers will come here to this courtroom and will testify to you." Tuesday he said that statement was in response to Caddell's request that the government make the two men available as witnesses.
"He backed down," Bradford said. "He sued us. This is his case. He has accused these two men of a serious wrongdoing, and he had a perfect opportunity to put them on the stand and prove that. We had them available." Caddell had said earlier that he had not called the two men because the judge had limited each side's presentation to 40 hours and he had run out of time. So, the five-member jury sitting as an advisory panel to U.S. District Judge Walter Smith will have to weigh the decision made by FBI agents without hearing from the agents themselves.
Government's drug czar wants to reopen the 'cookie' jar
By LANCE GAY © 2000, Scripps Howard News Service
WASHINGTON (July 12, 2000 12:01 a.m. EDT http://www.nandotimes.com ) - White House drug czar Barry McCaffrey said Tuesday he wants to turn his office's Internet "cookie" machine back on to find out what turns on kids about drugs.
But lawmakers warned McCaffrey that continuing controversies over White House drug office snooping on Internet users, and paying Hollywood scriptwriters to put anti-drug messages in TV sitcoms, are undermining public confidence in the government's $1 billion, five-year anti-drug campaign.
"We can't afford to have kids thinking that every anti-drug message portrayed on TV was planted by the government. Likewise, we cannot afford to have their parents fearing that they are being spied upon every time they visit a government Web site for information or help," said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Government Reform criminal justice subcommittee.
McCaffrey insisted that payments to Hollywood scriptwriters, and tracking of Internet use of drug sites, are key parts of his advertising campaign to persuade youth about the dangers of drugs, and to reduce drug use in the United States. The retired Army general pleaded with Congress to give him two years more to show his anti-drug efforts can curb youthful drug use.
Mica questioned the effectiveness of the program. He noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's annual drug survey shows teenage drug use increased over the last decade, with 26.7 percent of students reporting they had used marijuana in the previous year in a 1999 survey, almost double the 14.7 percent in 1991. Cocaine also increased over the same period.
McCaffrey told reporters after the session he's planning to expand the use of financial incentives for TV networks and scriptwriters who broadcast anti-drug themes in sitcoms and dramas to include Hollywood's movies.
Over the last two years, the drug office has paid scriptwriters and networks about $22 million for "programming content" - placing anti-drug messages in TV shows. Networks also received credits for airing anti-drug messages in their shows, allowing them to run commercial advertisements in place of government-sponsored anti-drug ads.
McCaffrey said the program has been altered this year, and he will no longer review scripts in advance, or give payments for writers to insert anti-drug themes in scripts. Instead, payments will reward writers and producers who send the anti-drug message only after the movies or TV shows are released.
McCaffrey said up-front payments might interfere in the "creative process" of making a film, but post-release rewards would not.
"I'm not going to inject a message in a film," he insisted.
McCaffrey also said he wants to overturn a directive issued by White House chief of staff John Podesta last month, ordering the drug czar to turn off computer-tracking cookies that White House computers were dropping in the personal computers of visitors to anti-drug Internet sites operated by McCaffrey's office.
Cookies are software programs used primarily by advertising firms to track users as they visit Internet sites. Scripps Howard News Service last month reported that cookies used by the White House drug office were connected to the New York advertising firm Doubleclick, which admits it is compiling databases on the Internet surfing habits of some 40 million Americans. When used with other database programs, cookies can be used to identify people by name.
McCaffrey said the monitoring project has been "temporarily put on hold" and the sites have stopped using cookies. "This is a real concern," McCaffrey said, explaining he wants to turn them back on so he can monitor what kids are doing on the anti-drug sites.
"No personal information at all is collected," he said.
While applauding McCaffrey for his zeal over reducing youthful drug abuse, lawmakers questioned his methods. "I'm always concerned about Big Brother looking over your shoulder," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.
Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., said entertainment producers should be voluntarily putting anti-drug messages in scripts, without government payments. "We are all uncomfortable that this is tied to money," he said. "This is something they ought to be doing on their own."
By Scott Marshall © 2000 Contra Costa Times Staff Writer
PLEASANTON -- An ex-soccer coach accused of exposing himself to girls was convicted of similar offenses in the 1960s but had them set aside after completing probation.
But Leroy M. Garcia still has sex-offense convictions on his record and got close to young people for years after being required to register as a sex offender, including working for two local school districts.
Garcia, a well-known Tri-Valley area soccer coach since the 1980s, raised eyebrows when he was indicted in March on two federal child pornography counts, but now parents are really talking about him.
"I was pretty shocked by it," said Jan Pappas, a Lawrence Livermore Lab administrator whose daughter, now 23, was coached by Garcia when she was under 12. "But I'm more shocked (now) that he had a prior record and was allowed to participate in youth activities."
"I took my daughter, when she was 12, and dropped her off at his hotel room" during a team soccer trip, said John Dockery of San Ramon, another outraged parent. "I just sit there and shudder to think, 'My God, what could have happened?'"
Dockery removed his daughter, now 14, from Garcia's team because she was uncomfortable around the coach, and Dockery was all the more incensed Tuesday after hearing that Garcia had a sex-offense record dating to 1963 that no one, apparently, ever knew about.
"He acted strange, and these girls could feel it," Dockery said.
Garcia, 58, of Pleasanton, who owns a plumbing-supply business, was charged this week with six counts of exposing himself to Livermore and Dublin schoolgirls, records show.
Livermore police stopped Garcia on Friday morning after they saw him open a door of his pickup truck when a 12-year-old girl walked by him on a sidewalk. The girl then told surveillance officers he exposed himself to her, records show.
Livermore police said they encountered Garcia on June 22, when they began patrolling closely around schools in response to complaints about a man exposing himself to girls.
Garcia was arraigned Monday on the exposure charges. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Hugh Walker set his bail at $250,000. Garcia appeared again Tuesday, but his attorney, Phil Schnayerson, asked that Walker reschedule a hearing for next week, during which Garcia would enter a plea.
"These are very sad cases," said Schnayerson, who is representing Garcia in the federal case and contended that Garcia never touched a child. "In all other respects, he's been a good member of the community."
Garcia has an arrest record dating to 1963 on charges of indecent exposure, records show. At least three of the offenses -- in 1963, 1965 and 1969, were set aside and dismissed, according to court records.
Schnayerson said Garcia was permitted under California law to have the convictions set aside after successful completion of probation or any other court requirements. Though not counted as convictions, they remain on Garcia's record.
Court records showed the 1963, 1965 and 1969 cases were set aside in 1976 after Garcia petitioned the court.
Garcia has at least two other convictions from 1971 and another from 1992 that have not been set aside, records show. He was required to register as a sex offender after the 1992 case, said Livermore police Detective John Hurd, who works on a team of specially trained investigators who handle crimes against children. The training helps police investigate crimes against victims without traumatizing them by the process, Hurd said.
Garcia worked for the Pleasanton school district from 1989 to 1994, though officials could not confirm his duties. Garcia also worked for the Dublin school district in 1993 and 1994. School officials were not available on Tuesday.
Garcia also coached in the California Youth Soccer Association, which put his status under review after his indictment. Garcia later quit his association with CYSA. The executive director of the CYSA, Helena Iceman, was unavailable Tuesday.