War on Terrorism

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News- November 22, 2006

Plague Proteome Reveals Proteins Linked to Infection; Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Study Could Lead to Improved Disease Detection, Vaccines, Treatments

“Recreating growth conditions in flea carriers and mammal hosts, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory scientists have uncovered 176 proteins and likely proteins in the plague-bacterium Yersinia pestis whose numbers rise and fall according to the disease's virulence. The team, led by the Department of Energy laboratory staff scientists Mary Lipton and Kim Hixson, identified the proteins as ‘unique biomarkers related specifically to growth condition,’ according to a study in the latest issue of the Journal of Proteome Research. Biomarkers associated with disease progression show promise as detection tools in public health and biodefense and can guide drug and vaccine designers in their quest to disrupt the microbe's ability to infect.” (AScribe Newswire; 22Nov06)


UA [University of Arizona] has key role in preventing bioterror attacks on water supplies

“The University of Arizona is working to keep the water supply safe from bioterrorists with more than $13 million in federal grants. ‘We are part of Homeland Security's [and the Environmental Protection Agency’s] Center for Advancing Microbial Risk Assessment,’ said UA Professor Charles P. Gerba. A $10 million grant ‘looks at issues of bioterrorism in drinking water security.’ [...] ‘We are looking at the risk if a contamination happens. What's the risk? What's the exposure? What's the impact on the population?’ Gerba said. They also study how many people might die in an attack or how many might become ill from various agents that could be placed into municipal water systems.” (Tuscon Citizen; 22Nov06; Larry Copenhaver)

Health labs ill-prepared for bioterror attack

“Scripps' [Scripps Howard News Service’s] study of food-borne-illness-outbreak data collected by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that states vary dramatically in their ability to detect and diagnose cases of food poisoning... The [...] study found that health departments are isolating the cause of food-poison outbreaks only 36 percent of the time, an alarming statistic if the nation ever faced a determined bioterror attack... Trust for America's Health [a Washington-based research group that monitors public health issues] issued a study in 2003 examining the nation's capacity to handle biowarfare attacks. Its conclusions were summarized in the report's title: ‘Public Health Laboratories: Unprepared and Overwhelmed.’ ‘State labs are hardly uniform,’ the report said. ‘As a result, the capabilities, responsibilities and practices of state public health labs vary substantially in many areas that directly impact America's ability to respond to chemical or biological attacks or other public health emergencies such as food poisoning or toxic substance exposure.’” (Scripps Howard News Service; 21Nov06; Thomas Hargrove)

Bioterror Detectors Get Sensitive

"In Chicago's Argonne National Laboratory, a Department of Energy research facility, scientists believe they have made a significant advance in identifying nasty pathogens such as anthrax, ricin or botulism that terrorists might release into an environment. The technology can also be used by doctors to diagnose sick patients without having to wait for a lab to send back the results of a blood test or a cheek swab. Argonne's breakthrough, called the ‘biochip,’ starts with a slide covered in thousands of tiny polymer gel droplets... Billions of "probes" consisting of
DNA strands, proteins, peptides or antibodies are inserted into every droplet. After a sample of contaminated air is gathered and buffered in fluid, microscopic fluorescent tags are attached to the target pathogen. When the sample interacts with the biochip, the droplet with the right probes will bind the pathogen... The biochip is then placed under a laser, which excites the fluorescent tags on the pathogen... Argonne, which received funding for the project from Darpa, the Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health and several biotech companies, hopes to turn the biochip into a commercial product that could be used by both first responders and medical professionals.” (Wired News; 21Nov06; Luke O’Brien)

Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Delivers Statement to the Sixth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention

“In an address to the Sixth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention delivered today, the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation called on States Parties to the Convention to take bold action to counter the threat of biological weapons.~ The statement proposes a number of steps that members (called States Parties) could agree to during the Review Conference, and follow-up during annual meetings over the five years preceding the Seventh Review Conference in 2011.~‘The Center and its Scientists Working Group urge States Parties to undertake a significant effort to improve the national implementation of their obligations under the Convention, including providing sufficient staff support for such efforts’ said Alan Pearson, Director of the Center’s Biological and Chemical Weapons Control Program.~ In addition, noting growing concerns about robust and secretive biodefense activities that threaten to undermine the purpose and objectives of the Convention, the Center called on States Parties to exchange .. information about the goals, activities and oversight of national biodefense activities and ideas on strategies to enhance transparency.” (PeaceJournalism.com; 22Nov06; Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation Press Release)

Biological weapons: ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] appeals to scientists and industry

“[In a Statement to the Sixth Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), the ICRC asserts that] ‘...[n]ew breakthroughs and technologies in the life sciences have promising applications with enormous potential to benefit humanity. But they will also make poisoning and the deliberate spread of disease easier, more lethal, more target-specific and more difficult to detect... The prevention of poisoning and the deliberate spread of disease is seen now as an essentially multidisciplinary endeavour involving not only delegates to the BWC meetings but also the public health sector, life scientists, industry, law enforcement agencies and the defence and the security community... To be effective in the 21st Century, the BWC must not only be known and respected by government officials but must also be understood and ‘implemented’ by all stakeholders in the life sciences - whether they are in academia, defence or industry... There is an obvious need to ensure that all universities offering curricula in life sciences include at least one mandatory session on the risks, the pertinent rules of national and international law and the responsibilities of scientists to prevent the hostile use of their research and its practical applications.” (ICRC Press Release; 21Nov06; Brigitte Troyon)

U.N.: Good health systems curb

“The United Nations says countries attempting to counter terrorism should first improve their public health services. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said terrorism must be addressed through responses encompassing public health and disaster relief efforts in order to ensure biological science and technology safely reach their potential... The biological weapons convention, the secretary-general said, can no longer be viewed as a treaty prohibiting states from obtaining biological weapons but as an interlinked array of tools, designed to deal with many problems.” (United Press International; 21Nov06)


Pentagon Delays Chemical Weapons Disposal

“The U.S. Department of Defense has extended its timeline to destroy its aging chemical weapons arsenal until 2023, despite concerns by Congress and watchdog groups that the stockpiles raise the risk of an accident or theft by terrorists. The new schedule, outlined in Pentagon documents obtained by USA Today, means the military won’t eliminate its stock of deadly nerve gases and skin-blistering agents until 11 years after the
2012 deadline set by the international Chemical Weapons Convention. The U.S. government had already asked for a five-year extension from an earlier 2007 deadline... Pentagon spokesman Chris Isleib said the delay is the result of several factors, including technological challenges in developing and building disposal plants, regulatory delays, and safety and security issues... Critics say the plan to slow spending and stretch construction at the remaining disposal plants will raise costs and create needless risks of an accidental chemical release or
terrorist attack.”
(DefenseNews.com; 21Nov06; Peter Eisler, USA Today)


Chemical's legacy of suffering: Many say U.S. should help victims of wartime poison

“Thirty-one years after the end of the war in Vietnam, the chemical warfare unleashed by the United States still maims... In a broad joint statement of the two countries issued over the weekend, the presidents agreed that combined efforts by both countries to deal with environmental contamination at former
U.S. military bases where the toxin was stored would help to deepen the relationship. It was far short of a public acknowledgment of responsibility by the United States that some Vietnamese hoped for, or the financial aid to those disabled by Agent Orange that many experts working on the issue say is desperately needed... American researchers estimated that as many as 4.8 million Vietnamese could have been exposed. By Vietnam's count, there were at least 1 million in 2000 who were physically disabled because of exposure to dioxin... For many Vietnamese exposed to Agent Orange, the poison visibly took its toll on their children -- many of whom were born with mangled bodies and minds. More than three decades after the war, people still face exposure because they live in regions where dioxin leached into the ground and remains a threat.” (San Jose Mercury News; 21Nov06; K. Oanh Ha)

Vets to get compensation for chemical testing

“The Canadian government will announce today that it will provide compensation to Second World War veterans who volunteered to undergo chemical warfare agent-testing done by the British Army, CTV News has learned. The Department of National Defence said that about 200 Canadians volunteered to have mustard gas sprayed on their arms that had been coated with ‘barrier creams’, concoctions the British
Army was trying to develop to protect troops in the field from mustard gas attacks... Several years ago, the Defence Department offered additional compensation to those who were tested on Canadian soil. They could apply for a one-time payment of $24,000. But the Canadians who volunteered for testing at the British army facility at Porton Down, England were never eligible for this compensation. Today, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor will announce that the Canadians tested at Porton Down can qualify for the extra payment.”
(CTV News; 22Nov06)


Montenegro joins the Chemical Weapons Convention

“Montenegro deposited its instrument of succession to the Chemical Weapons Convention with the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 23 October 2006. The Convention will enter into force for Montenegro as of 3 June 2006, the date of the nation’s independence. Upon the deposit of its instrument of succession, Montenegro became the 181st State Party to the Chemical Weapons Convention." (OPCW Press Release; 22Nov06)


Live Ammo [Hawaiian biological warfare projects]

“The Pacific Project exposed U.S. sailors to biowarfare and chemical agents. Forty years later, some of these sickened warriors are still 'lost' at sea... Open-air testing of germ warfare was considered essential [in the early 1960s] to determine the dispersal and longevity of aerosolized particles that might be used by our enemies. Specifically, test sites in the tropical Pacific were needed to duplicate conditions found in Vietnam... In all, [...] 50 or so operations had been conducted during the '60s by about 20 ships transporting more than 6,400 sailors... During the initial tests, three simulants were used: the "harmless" bacteria Bacillus globigii, a stand-in for anthrax; Serratia marcescens, another bacteria; and the ‘benign’ chemical zinc cadmium sulfide. Subsequent tests used the 'real McCoy,' and the sailors later decontaminated the ships with beta-propiolactone and ethylene oxide, harsh disinfecting cleansers... Later it was determined that for those with immune disorders, the supposedly harmless bacteria and chemicals could cause infections, allergic reactions, cancer—even death.” (Los Angeles Times; 19Nov06; Mark J. Rauzon)


Artillery unit conducts its CBRN training at Camp Casey [South Korea] bowling center

“On Tuesday, the [2nd Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 38th Field Artillery] used free hours it had earned at the Camp Casey Bowling Center to conduct its required annual four hours of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear, or CBRN training, known until recently in the
Army as NBC training... While not bowling, soldiers rotated through several 11-minute classes taught by other soldiers. They included looking for exposure symptoms, marking contaminated areas, reacting to nuclear hazards, vapor agent detection and application of special tape that shows contamination. Pvt. Thomas Fields, teaching a class for the first time, showed soldiers how to respond to a nuclear attack outside the blast radius.” (Stars and Stripes; 23Nov06; Erik Slavin)

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