War on Terrorism

Friday, September 29, 2006

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News- September 29, 2006

Peril of E. coli [Escherichia coli]

“Part of the alarm over cases of E. coli poisoning, such as the current spinach-linked outbreak blamed on the O157:H7 strain, has been the difficulty in treating the most severe cases -- when toxins produced by the bacterium cause kidney failure. But researchers have been working for two decades to learn more about the illness and now think they will eventually have ways to limit the damage. …[B]ecause severe E. coli poisoning affects so few people, some health experts wonder whether a pharmaceutical company would be interested in commercial development of a drug or vaccine, [Alison] O'Brien [chair of microbiology and immunology at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences] says. However, [Tom] Obrig [a professor of medicine at the University of Virginia and an expert on E. coli poisoning] notes E. coli O157:H7 is now listed on the nation's select agent list of possible substances that could be used in bioterrorism attacks. That status, he says, could lead to more funding for research.” (The News & Observer; 28Sep06; Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times)


Crowded ERs [Emergency Rooms] Raise Concerns On Readiness

“Emergency rooms at many hospitals are routinely stretched to the breaking point, raising concerns that they would not be able to handle victims during a terrorist attack or natural disaster, according to congressional testimony yesterday and a new federal study. Between 40 percent and 50 percent of emergency departments experienced crowding during 2003 and 2004, the study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. The findings are stirring interest in Congress, and the Senate Health subcommittee on bioterrorism and public health preparedness convened a panel of experts yesterday to discuss the problems.” (Washington Post, 28Sep06, Christopher Lee)

FBI Denies Overestimating Anthrax [Bacillus anthracis] Power

FBI denied Thursday that it ever overestimated the potency of the anthrax spores used in mailings that killed five people in 2001. The bureau also rejected a request for a classified briefing on the case from Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J. Citing media reports, Holt said Wednesday that the FBI should have determined in days, not years, that the anthrax was less sophisticated than initially believed. Bureau officials say the early reports of weaponized anthrax were misconceptions, and the more recent reports misunderstood how early the FBI was able to accurately analyze the spores.” (ABC News, 28Sep06, Michael J. Sniffen)

Senator’s office hit by anthrax hoax

“An anthrax hoax at Sen. John Cornyn's office left aides stuck in their offices for about 45 minutes at lunchtime Thursday, after an intern opened an envelope containing a small amount of powder. Tests quickly determined that it wasn't dangerous. ‘There was a small amount of powder. It was nothing hazardous. Hazmat has given the all clear,’ said Capitol
police Sgt. Kimberly Schneider. ‘There was also a note indicating that there was anthrax.’” (San Jose Mercury News; 28Sep06; Todd J. Gillman, The Dallas Morning News)

New anthrax vaccine shows promise

“Five years after anthrax attacks left five dead and terrified America, scientists are reporting progress on developing a new vaccine they hope will work faster and with fewer side effects than the current one. The experimental vaccine cleared two big hurdles in its first round of human tests, involving two doses given in a single month: No safety problems emerged, and it produced responses that suggest people were developing immunity to anthrax, its British manufacturer reported Wednesday. The federally funded study involved 111 healthy adults and tested a vaccine developed by Avecia, a suburban London company, and the Defense Science and Technology Lab, part of the British Ministry of Defense.” (Monterey Herald; 27Sep06; Marilynn Marchione, AP)

Hoof-and-mouth peril seen

“When he visited a Nebraska feedlot of 10,000 cattle last week, David Franz saw it as a perfect bull’s-eye for a potential
terrorist attack. ‘There were people driving in and out,’ said Franz, director of the National Agriculture Biosecurity Center at Kansas State University. ‘Nobody was checking. There was really no control.’ With thousands of farms in Kansas and Missouri alone, experts say the vulnerabilities are endless. One potential threat many are focusing on now is hoof-and-mouth disease in cattle, for example, and some possible defenses include an animal identification system to track an outbreak. But one major need is emerging: To bring together planning that includes all the different strands of the vast agricultural industry.” (The Kansas City Star, 29Sep06, Adjoa Adofo)

Umatilla depot starts work on [destroying] nerve gas artillery shells

“The Umatilla Chemical Depot has turned its attention to destroying artillery shells containing GB nerve gas. The facility began processing the first of the artillery shells shortly after 8 a.m. Thursday, it said.”
(OregonLive.com, 28Sep06, AP)

World Marks 60th Anniversary of Chemotherapy: Its Origins Can Be Traced to a Horrific World War II Chemical Weapons Accident

“This week marks the 60th anniversary of the first described use of chemotherapy to treat cancer. The use of chemical poisons — commonly in early 20th-century warfare — had been secretly tested to treat cancer since the 1940s. It wasn't until after a spectacular event in Bari, Italy, during
World War II that this research finally came to light. In the crowded harbor at Bari, Italy, the Liberty ship John Harvey was docked, harboring 2,000 mustard-gas bombs. An early-morning air raid by Axis powers on Dec. 2, 1943, sunk many of the ships in the harbor, including the John Harvey, depositing its dangerous chemical cargo into the sea. It wasn't until [the]…survivors broke out in skin irritations and ulcers that an expert in chemical warfare, Lt. Col. Stewart Alexander, was called to investigate. Within several days, Alexander noticed that the patients' white blood cell levels were decreasing rapidly and that they were becoming anemic. He began to wonder, might nitrogen mustard's effects have some medical use? Alexander's research on the effects of mustard gas gained much attention, opening the door for a new technique to treat cancer: chemotherapy.” (ABC News, 27Sep06, Laura Owings)

Senators vow tougher chemical security

“Two Senate Democrats vowed Wednesday to keep the need for stronger chemical security regulations in the public spotlight, but conceded they will not be able to change compromise legislation that conferees added Monday to the fiscal 2007
Homeland Security appropriations bill. The spending bill includes a provision that gives the Homeland Security Department authority, for the first time, to regulate chemical facilities that ‘present high levels of security risk.’ Sens. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., who co-wrote a chemical security bill earlier this year, said during a news conference that they will fight during the next session of Congress to pass a stronger regulatory measure.” (GovExec.com; 28Sep06; Chris Strohm, Congress Daily)

ACC [American Chemistry Council] backs Congress move on chem[ical] security

“The American Chemistry Council Tuesday praised a congressional agreement on a new chemical security bill. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate approved chemical facility security language during a reconciliation conference to resolve the differences between their versions of the Department of
Homeland Security appropriations bill, HR. 5441.” (United Press International, 26Sep06) http://www.upi.com

Scientists work on treatments for mass radiation exposure

“Scientists are on the front lines of preparation for a ‘dirty bomb’ attack or other radiological incident. The federal government has awarded $1 million to a team from Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory studying potential treatments for exposure to radioactive substances, such as would come from a radiation-contaminated ‘dirty’ bomb. ‘I think we have the opportunity to develop something that works better than what's been available for the last 20 to 30 years,’ said Berkeley Lab chemist Kenneth Raymond, the research leader. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases granted the money to Raymond in the hope of accelerating his research on molecules that can flush metals such as plutonium and uranium out of the body. The treatments the federal government is currently stockpiling are not very thorough or efficient and must be injected. ‘If there is an incident, such as a dirty bomb attack, the numbers of people potentially requiring emergency treatment is likely to be large,’ said biologist Bert Maidment of infectious diseases institute. ‘And an injectable (treatment) is probably not mass-casualty friendly.’” (The Oakland Tribune; 28Sep06; Betsy Mason, Medianews)

Container Ships Must Be Protected from
Terrorist Exploitation

“A State Department
terrorism expert says the United States must work with its international partners to reduce the risk that terrorists will use container ships to carry weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Thomas Lehrman, director of the State Department’s Office of Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism, said terrorists constantly are adapting to existing defenses.~ Previously, an airplane might have been a weapon of choice against civilians, he said, but the next time the terrorists ‘may seek to slip a weapon of mass destruction into a container ship headed for one of our ports and then onto the streets of our cities,’ he said at a Maritime Security Expo in New York on September 20. For this reason, Lehrman stressed, international coordination among specialists in weapons design, transportation and international finance is needed to prevent illegal shipments of WMD.” (U.S. Department of State, 28Sep06, Jacquelyn S. Porth)

terrorists call scientists to jihad

“Al-Qaida in Iraq's leader, in a chilling audiotape released Thursday, called for nuclear scientists to join his group's holy war and urged insurgents to kidnap Westerners so they could be traded for a blind Egyptian sheik who is serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison. The fugitive
terror chief said experts in the fields of ‘chemistry, physics, electronics, media and all other sciences — especially nuclear scientists and explosives experts’ should join his group's jihad, or holy war, against the West. ‘We are in dire need of you,’ said the speaker, who identified himself as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir — also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri. ‘The field of jihad can satisfy your scientific ambitions, and the large American bases (in Iraq) are good places to test your unconventional weapons, whether biological or dirty, as they call them.’”
(Yahoo! News; 29Sep06; David Rising, AP)


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