Feature

Backtracking on smallpox

The week's news at a glance.

Berlin

The German Health Ministry this week said it had greatly exaggerated the danger that Iraq might use smallpox in germ warfare. It said the public shouldn’t take seriously an internal ministry memo, obtained by the respected Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, that claimed German intelligence had evidence that Iraq had stockpiled and weaponized smallpox. The memo said a smallpox outbreak in Germany could wipe out a third of the population. Health Ministry spokesman Klaus Vater said the document was “drastic and imprecise,” and was simply intended to make a case for increased funding of smallpox vaccine. But opposition leaders said the government was trying to downplay its own assessment of Iraq’s threat in order to justify keeping Germany out of the war.

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