Weaponizing the Pentagon's Cyborg Insects
“Biological weapons delivered by cyborg insects. It sounds like a nightmare scenario straight out of the wilder realms of science fiction, but it could be a reality, if a current Pentagon project comes to fruition. […] Right now, researchers are already growing insects with electronics inside them. They're creating cyborg moths and flying beetles that can be remotely controlled. One day, the US military may field squadrons of winged insect/machine hybrids with on-board audio, video or chemical sensors. These cyborg insects could conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions on distant battlefields, in far-off caves, or maybe even in cities closer to home, and transmit detailed data back to their handlers at US military bases.” (Middle East Online; 01Apr08; Nick Turse).
Researcher discovers pathway plants use to fight back against pathogens
“Previous studies have shown that plants can sense attacks by pathogens and activate their defenses. However, it has not been known what happens between the pathogen attacks and the defense activation, until now. A new MU [sic] [University of Missouri] study revealed a very complex process that explains how plants counter attack pathogens. […] In his study, [Shuqun] Zhang [associate professor of biochemistry] found the specific signaling path, known as a mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascade, in the plants that ends when the defense chemical camalexin is created. […] By understanding at the molecular and cellular levels how plants protect themselves under adverse environmental conditions, such as pathogen attacks, we could eventually improve the disease resistance of crops, Zhang said.” (Genetic Engineering News; 31Mar08).
Testimony of Assistant Secretary and Chief Medical Officer Jeffery Runge, M.D. before the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Homeland Security
“[Dr. Runge transcript] I would like to report on the progress that OHA [Office of Health Affairs] has made in leading the Department’s efforts in protecting our Nation from the threats of a bioterrorist attack and a pandemic, as well as OHA’s progress in leading the Department’s efforts to ensure full integration of our Nation’s medical readiness capabilities and protecting the health and safety of the Department’s own workforce. […]The President is requesting $161.3 million for FY 2009 to further objectives of the OHA mission.~ This amount represents an increase of $44.8 million over the FY 2008 enacted level.” (Department of Homeland Security; 01Apr08; Jeffrey Runge).
Vaccine for Ebola virus
“‘The biothreat posed by Ebola virus cannot be overlooked. We are seeing more and more naturally occurring human outbreaks of this deadly disease.With worldwide air travel and tourism the virus can now be transported to and from remote regions of the world. And it has huge potential as a possible weapon of bioterrorism,’ says Dr. [Anthony] Sanchez [Centers for Disease Control & Prevention in Atlanta]. ‘We desperately need a protective vaccine.’ […] Researchers have now used several different recombinant DNA techniques, which have allowed them to trigger a cell-mediated response and produce a vaccine that is effective in non-human primates. One of the candidate vaccines is about to be tested on people for the first time, after entering Phase 1 clinical trials in autumn 2006.” (Innovations Report; 01Apr08).
California Gets 26 New Disaster Support Vehicles
“The state of California just acquired 26 of these [support] trucks at a total cost of $2 million, paid for by the federal government's bioterrorism preparedness grant. The vehicles carry a large supply of trauma supplies, as well as items like blankets. […] The 26 trucks are now strategically placed around the state.” (CBS13; 31Mar08).
The Mississippi State Department of Health confirmed Monday that the first human case of West Nile virus in the state this year has been reported in Lincoln County
“Although a March case of West Nile virus is atypical, as the season for the virus extends from mid-summer through fall, [Dr. Mary] Currier said cases have been reported as early as January and as late as December. […] Four people died as a result of the virus in 2007, with 136 total reported infections. Currier said the number of infections reported last year, and possibly this year, may be more, since only 20 percent of the people who are infected with West Nile virus actually display the symptoms. ‘For every case we have reported, there are at least four others that go unreported,’ she [Dr. Currier] said.” (Zwire; 01Apr08; Adam Northam).
Anthrax exercise this afternoon at Mansfield school [Arlington, Texas]
“If you see a lot of police car, fire units and ambulances at Ben Barber Career Tech Academy about 3 p.m. today, relax. It’s a test. […] The school district, the city and other agencies are involved in the exercise. Students, parents and other volunteers will simulate exposed victims. […] ‘We are pleased to partner with Tarrant County Public Health in this massive undertaking,’ Mansfield school Superintendent Vernon Newsom said.
‘Our hope is that the lessons learned during this exercise will be to the benefit of all of our communities.’" (Star Telegram; 01Apr08; Paul Bourgeois).
CPSO arrest Lake Charles man on terrorizing charges [Louisiana]
“On March 30th around 8 p.m., the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to the Isle of Capri Casino in Westlake where they learned Joseph I. Hudson, 34, 1901 Alvin St., Lake Charles, stole a jet-ski from a boathouse on Shell Beach Dr., and drove it to the Isle of Capri where he abandoned it about 15 to 20 yards away from the casino boat. […] While in route to the Correctional Center Hudson informed the deputy that he had Anthrax in his wallet. His wallet was checked and no Anthrax was found.”
(Southwest Daily News; 31Mar08).
Jihadist posts anthrax-making instructions
“In a chilling sign that Islamist terrorists continue seeking weapons of mass destruction, a jihadist website recently posted instructions on making deadly anthrax for biological weapons. The website disclosed the illustrated instructions March 17 and included additional links, and promised to provide information on a delivery system in the future, a Cessna airplane. […] The instructions include using Petri dishes to multiply samples of anthrax, and then adding powder that will allow it to float in the air.” (World Tribune; 31Mar08).
Japan's China Weapons Cleanup Hits a Snag
“The news out of Japan is likely to compound the nation's failures in dealing with its wartime abuses against China: The Japanese company responsible for removing chemical weapons abandoned by Japanese forces in China at the end of World War II will not be able to complete its work, with a corruption scandal forcing its closure. […] Despite the cleanup stalling over the corruption scandal, Japanese officials claim Tokyo can still fulfill its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention to remove and destroy all such munitions left in China by 2012.” (Time; 31Mar08; Andrew Monahan).
Army reports 44 percent of chemical munitions destroyed
“A project manager says more than 44.2 percent of the chemical weapons stored at the Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility have now been safely destroyed. […] [Anniston Army Depot] Westinghouse officials said so far workers have used the chemical weapons incinerator to get rid of all GB nerve agent stored in Anniston and about 68 percent of munitions filled with VX nerve agent.” (Everything Alabama; 01Apr08; Associated Press).
Cleaning up after nerve agents
“A new decontamination agent devised by US chemists can deactivate toxic chemicals such as nerve agents and pesticides leaving only non-toxic, easily disposable by-products, according to research in the New Journal of Chemistry. The work could lead to cheaper and more effective cleanup of contaminated sites such as chemical weapons stockpiles. […] 'The search for a non-corrosive decontamination of sensitive material and skin after exposure by toxic chemicals, for example pesticides and nerve agents, is an important but challenging task,' said Franz Worek, an expert in organophosphate toxicology at the Bundeswehr Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Munich, Germany. 'This new and promising approach may ultimately lead to a new type of mild and effective decontamination,' he added.”(The Engineer; 01Apr08).
Gulf War veterans 'more likely to commit suicide'
“Gulf War veterans are committing suicide at a greater rate than Services personnel who took no part in the 1991 conflict, the latest Ministry of Defence statistics disclosed yesterday. […] The figures, published by the Defence Analytical Services Agency (Dasa), are based on the mortality rates of the 53,409 personnel who took part in the Gulf War, and a comparison group of a similar age, gender, rank and regular/reserve status. […] Since the war, many veterans who have fallen ill have blamed the cocktail of vaccines given to all frontline units, and other factors such as the toxic pesticides used to kill bugs on the army tents and leaks of Iraqi chemical warfare products. The illnesses were originally termed Gulf War Syndrome, but the MoD, having carried out numerous research studies, has found no evidence to support the syndrome claim.” (Times Online; 31Mar08; Micheal Evans).
RF informs CSTO about pace of talks with US – Lavrov
“Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov [Kazakhstan] said Russia had informed CSTO [Collective Security Treaty Organization] about the pace of talks with the United States. […] ‘The discussions were very interesting and useful. About 20 resolutions were adopted,” [Lavrov said]. […] Among key foreign political topics Lavrov riveted attention to discussion of Russia’s initiative on chemical weapons […].”
Stress high during ‘terrorist attack’ [update on Toronto exercise]
“Overall, the response was successful, although the event turned up inevitable cracks, said Gail Beagan, chairperson of Centennial's inter-professional health education program. […] Centennial holds mock disasters twice a year. […] Crews handled not only the victims but their anxious family members and panicking members of the public worried about their exposure to radioactive materials. To test the participants' mettle, organizers threw further hiccups into the exercise, such as a malfunctioning electrical system.” (Scarborough, The Mirror; 01Apr08; Lisa Queen).
Iraq: What has the US achieved?
“Before the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) was tasked with determining whether Iraq in fact possessed weapons of mass destruction, US & UK governments decried Saddam’s refusal to cooperate to justify renewed bombing & the economic sanctions. Subsequent reports filed by Scott Ritter, the Chief UN weapons inspector stated that UNSCOM had successfully destroyed over 90% of Iraq’s weapons & weapons making facilities & were corroborated by Raymond Zalinskas. […] ‘The nuclear weapons programme was completely eliminated. The long range ballistic missile programme was completely eliminated. If I had to quantify Iraq’s threat, I would say zero.’” (Sinhala News Agency; 01Apr08; Shinali Waduge).
NPA's [The National Prosecuting Authority] poison letter sender nabbed
“The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) says it has identified the person responsible for sending a poisoned letter to its offices. Five staff members became ill after handling the letter, addressed to acting head Mokotedi Mpshe. […] The NPA says preliminary test results indicate the letter definitely did not contain extremely hazardous chemical warfare agents. However, a group of staffers reportedly did develop skin rashes and headaches at the time. The substance itself is yet to be identified.”
(SABC News; 31Mar08).
How an app called WarmTouch nailed a grenade-stockpiling cyber extortionist [Maryland]
“When the president of a prestigious patent and trademarking firm began receiving emails threatening to bring down its operations […] he reported the incident to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but agents were unable to identify the culprit. […] By applying an algorithm that analyzes the word choice and other characteristics of his writing, the program helped analyst Eric Shaw develop a hypothesis that the suspect was a technically adept man older than 30 who had trouble fitting in at work and in social situations. Building off those findings, Shaw later surmised that he might also own a stockpile of weapons. […] The profile was remarkably accurate. Myron Tereshchuk, the man who pleaded guilty to criminal extortion in the case, was 43 years-old, and when police raided his suburban home in Maryland, they found ingredients for the deadly poison ricin and a stockpile of parts for making improvised grenades.”
(The Register; 01Apr08; Dan Goodin).
CNS ChemBio-WMD Terrorism News is prepared by the Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Program of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in order to bring timely and focused information to researchers and policymakers interested in the fields of chemical, biological, and radiological weapons nonproliferation and WMD terrorism.