War on Terrorism

Monday, September 15, 2008

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News- September 15, 2008

Designer DNA’ firms step up security over bioterrorism threat
“According to a report in New Scientist in 2005, some gene synthesis companies were not checking their orders for potentially dangerous DNA sequences. Since then, the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity has called for better screening. Now, the Industry Association of Synthetic Biology (IASB) has said that its members will carry a seal of approval on their websites confirming that they do screen their orders. […] IASB members will cooperate to improve the software used to identify suspicious orders and will set up a secure database detailing which DNA sequences make pathogens highly virulent.” (Top News-Health; 15Sep08; Mohit Joshi)

State lawmakers’ agenda includes health care, energy and transportation funding [
“But the short calendar leaves Rep. Ken Smith, D-112, frustrated. Mr.
Smith hoped to see action this fall on his bill to give state officials specific authority to deal with everything from quarantines to supplies of antibiotics in the event of a bioterrorism attack or pandemic. The measure would revamp state public health laws to reflect the post-9/11 era. Now he frets there isn’t enough time to take this major bill. ‘If you are looking at only nine session days, how are we going to get that done?’ he asked.”
(Daily Review; 15 Sep08; Robert Swift)

Boy Scout OK after bout with bubonic plague [contracted in
“He arrived at MidState Medical Center’s emergency room with a swollen gland and high fever, and was placed on antibiotics for a suspected case of the mumps until tests later determined he had bubonic plague. […] ‘I didn’t believe it,’ said Dr. Jaber Aslanzadeh, director of microbiology at the lab. ‘I said, Oh my God, this can’t be. I have been in business for 20 years, and this is the first time I had seen it.’ The laboratory does bioterrorism testing for the state Department of Health and, following protocol, they notified the department of the rare find. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta confirmed the finding.” (Boston Herald; 14Sep08; Source: AP) http://news.bostonherald.com/news/national/northeast/view/2008_09_14_Boy_Scout_OK_after_bout_with_bubonic_plague_1/srvc=home&position=recent

Anthrax probe prompts feds to review lab security
“Scientists accustomed to working alone with deadly pathogens could be forced to buddy up in the laboratory as
military officials and civilian contractors review security measures in the wake of the FBI's conclusions about the 2001 anthrax mailings. Some scientists object to expanding the ‘two-person’ rule. They say besides the practical issues of having to work with someone else, placing a second person in the lab wouldn't prevent a scientist from sneaking out a smidgeon of material — under their fingernail, for example.[…] Jeffrey J. Adamovicz, a former head of USAMRIID's [U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases] bacteriology division, said microbiologists often must visit their labs at odd hours to check on or prepare for experiments. ‘Often times, you need to pull something out of a freezer and initiate a culture. A person would come in on a Sunday morning and do that so it would be ready for them on Sunday afternoon. Now you're saying you have to find somebody on a Sunday morning. That's ruining their weekend for a half-hour procedure — it's that kind of issue,’ Adamovicz said.” (Associated Press; 13Sep08; David

Envelope with flour closes senator's office [Florida State Senator Evelyn Lynn-R]
“The white powdery substance inside a suspicious envelope sent to state Sen. Evelyn Lynn's beachside office Friday turned out to be flour. It took a cadre of firefighters,
Police officers, hazardous materials experts and an FBI agent all baking under the sultry afternoon sun for four hours to come to that conclusion. Some of those emergency workers had been through the same drill just four days earlier, when an envelope containing white powder that was also eventually determined to be flour showed up at U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney's [FL-R] office in Port Orange.” (News-Journal; 13Sep08; Eileen Zaffiro) http://www.news-journalonline.com/NewsJournalOnline/News/Headlines/frtHEAD03091308.htm

Volunteers needed for medical emergency sites
“Hope for the best, and plan for the worst. That's the idea behind a federal program organized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 72 metropolitan areas nationwide, including Palm Beach and
Broward counties [Florida], in which local agencies or volunteers dispense medication and information in the event of a public health emergency. Plans vary city to city, but hundreds of volunteers and Palm Beach County Health Department employees are set up to operate 45 strategically placed points of distributing, or PODs, around the county. […] PODs were organized in the wake of the 2001 anthrax attacks, the largest bio-terror attack in American history. Anthrax-laced letters were discovered in a Boca Raton office building, New York, New Jersey and Washington D.C.” (Sun Sentinel; 13Sep08; Khari Johnson) http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/palmbeach/sfl-flppods0913pnsep13,0,5675480.story

White powder sent to Star Banner not anthrax
Police Department officials said Friday morning that preliminary tests on the white powder contained in an envelope delivered to the Star-Banner on Thursday were negative for radioactive, explosive or biological components. After the powder was discovered, it was transported by officials with the health department to a laboratory in Jacksonville for testing.” (Ocala; 13Sep08)

Global health collaborations a focus for new [University of] Albany center
“The University at Albany School of Public Health has established the Center for Global Health to serve as a focal point for collaborations with universities and public health agencies in Costa Rica, the Republic of Georgia, Turkey, Vietnam, and Mexico. Research will include cancer, bioterrorism, HIV/AIDS, access to health care, genetic engineering, maternal mortality and protecting water supplies.” (Times Union; 12Sep08; Cathleen F. Crowley) http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=719924&category=REGION

Hiring frenzy at FDA [Food & Drug Administration]; Agency will grown by 1,300
“The Food and Drug Administration has recently hired more than 1,300 professional staffers in a move that officials hope will help it better protect the public health amid rapid technological and scientific change. […] Independent observers said the staffing increase is only a first step, albeit one that is much needed. […] Of the total 1,317 positions, 770 are new jobs and 547 are posts that were left vacant by people leaving the agency for other jobs or because of retirement. […] The campaign's apparent success shows that public service is still attractive for highly specialized professionals, said Arthur Levin, director of the Center for Medical Consumers in New York. But he cautioned that the FDA has a history of letting such gains slip away. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the agency hired food inspectors to guard against the threat of bioterrorism. But it gradually cut back on the program.” (Modesto Bee; 12Sep08; Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, AP) http://www.modbee.com/business/story/427141.html

NIH [National Institute of Health] funds SIGA [Technologies inc.] Dengue Antiviral Program
“The grant, totaling $963,000 over a two-year period, will help to fund lead optimization and animal efficacy trials for SIGA's Dengue antiviral program. Successful outcomes from these activities could lead to a Phase II award in the future.” (Trading Markets; 12Sep08; Todd Fromer) http://www.tradingmarkets.com/.site/news/Stock%20News/1878375/

Officials: [Galveston] Texas lab with dangerous pathogens secured
“The pathogens, which include the deadly Ebolavirus, were purposely destroyed before the staff left the facility in advance of the hurricane […] The laboratory followed protocols for shutting, said Gretchen Michael, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She said that for security reasons, she would not detail the procedures or describe the agents. A Department of
Homeland Security official concurred that all the samples had been destroyed, and the building was locked down, quarantined and ‘rendered safe.’” (CNN; 12Sep08; Deanne Mesevre) http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/weather/09/12/ike.biological.agents/

Drug-resistant plague - A bioterrorism concern?
“Yersinia pestis can normally be treated and cured with a course of antibiotics, if caught within a few days of the symptoms. But researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College have located a gene that could mutate to make Y. pestis resistant to many common drugs. Scientists believe that antibiotic-resistant Y. pestis should potentially concern the public and scientific community, because the bacteria might be used as a potential bioterrorism agent.” (News-Medical; 11Sep08; Source: Cornell University)

Newport [Indiana] site ready to close
“The Newport Chemical Depot in western Indiana employed enough people in its heyday to be considered Vermillion County’s largest town. But within two years the once mighty plant will be quiet. The last bit of VX was neutralized last month and the plant along Indiana Route 63 south of Newport is slated for closure. ‘Our mission is to close the depot,’ said Tom Kutz, civilian executive assistant. ‘It will take about a year and a half.’” (Commercial News; 13Sep08; Dennis Bartlow) http://www.commercial-news.com/local/local_story_257225254.html

Over 4 [metric tons] of chemical weapons destroyed in Russia's Kirov Region
“Over 4 t of chemicals have been destroyed so far at a chemical weapons disposal plant in the village of Maradykovo, Kirov Region, and another 20,000 pieces of ammunition are expected to arrive for disposal soon, Russian Zvezda TV reported on 10 September, adding that nearly 20 per cent of Russia's chemical weapons are kept in Kirov Region.” (Red Orbit; 14Sep08; Source: BBC) http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1554615/over_4_t_of_chemical_weapons_destroyed_in_russias_kirov/

Nuclear bomb blueprint shared on internet - UN warns
“Libya received the blueprint for a nuclear bomb electronically, raising ‘serious concern’ about the spreading of such sensitive material via the internet, the head of the UN nuclear agency has reported. In a report, which effectively wraps up a four-year investigation into Libya's nuclear weapons programme and its links to the clandestine nuclear bazaar of the Pakistani scientist A Q Khan, Mohamed ElBaradei said that the discovery was ‘disturbing.’ It is possible that other clients of the world's biggest nuclear proliferation network also received the blueprint. […] Nuclear experts point out however that the infrastructure of a state is required for building a bomb, which the IAEA official said would be ‘very complicated for a terrorist organization.’” (New Zealand Herald; 13Sep08; Anne Penketh)

Beware the deadly castor bean
“I wonder if mothers and grandmothers would have been so liberal with the stuff if they had known that Mussolini used it to coerce dissidents and opponents of his regime into submission. They were forced to consume large quantities of castor oil that could result in severe diarrhea, dehydration and potential death. Civilians and soldiers who said they were too ill to work, were administered less intimidating doses. This was done under the pretext that castor oil was good for you when you were sick. This misconception stayed around for years! […] Believed to be native to northeastern Africa or the Middle East, the castor bean plant (Ricinus communis) has been cultivated for centuries for the oil produced from its seeds. Evidence exists that the Egyptians used it to fuel their lamps in ancient times. […] The castor bean is not really a bean, although its seeds do look somewhat like those of the legume family. It's really a member of the spurge (Euphorbia) family and is one of the most poisonous plants known to man.” (Tri-City Herald; 13Sep08; Marianne C. Ophardt) http://www.tri-cityherald.com/1203/story/315987.html

Mobile training teams take preparedness on the road
“The Center for Domestic Preparedness’ commitment to train emergency response providers goes beyond standard classroom instruction. Whether it’s tailored to
law enforcement, firefighters, or healthcare professionals, the CDP staff offers a wide variety of courses to local jurisdictions. The CDP has averaged 58 mobile training events per week in 2008. […] The training program provides responders with knowledge to prevent, protect, respond to, and recover from chemical, biological, explosive, radiological, or other hazardous materials incidents.”
(Forensic Magazine; 15Sep08)

US offers pirates $7m bribe for Iran ship entry
“The US has offered USD 7m to the pirates, who hijacked an Iranian ship in the Gulf of Aden, to receive entry permission and search the vessel. […] The US the naval fleet off the Somali coast alleges that The Iran Diyanat was carrying 'uranium and chemical weapons'. Iran's shipping company, however, has declared that the Iranian bulk carrier hired by a German company had no weapons or uranium on board and was carrying 42,500 tons of minerals and industrial products.” (Press TV; 12Sep08)

Hunt for WMDs hits Hauraki Gulf [New Zealand]
“Weapons of mass destruction are on the hit list for New Zealand Customs and the
military today as ships from several nations patrol the Hauraki Gulf. The ships and air force aircraft will be part of an international exercise involving several countries which will test New Zealand's ability to find and stop a shipment of material used to make the weapons. Exercise Maru, which begins today and lasts until Friday, was being led by the New Zealand Customs Service and involved the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the New Zealand Defence Force, several other domestic agencies and the Ports of Auckland. The Australian navy patrol boat HMAS Maryborough and the French navy patrol boat FNS La Glorieuse, were also in Auckland for the exercise which would include ship-boarding and the searching of vessels and containers.” (Nelson Mail; 15Sep08; Source: New Zealand Press

Worries simmer over absent North Korean strongman
“‘If Kim Jong Il disappears, there is a significant chance that the entire regime will collapse,’ the conservative mass-circulation [South Korean] Chosun Ilbo newspaper said in an editorial Thursday. ‘If that happens, it is difficult to predict what North Korea's 1.17 million-strong
military, armed with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, will do next.’ The nuclear standoff remains the biggest crisis. […] South Korea is advancing an existing contingency plan to prepare for ‘any kind of situation whether it be limited or full-scale warfare,’ he was quoted as saying, but to raise the alert level ‘could rather make the people uneasy and provoke North Korea.’” (Associated Press; 13Sep08; Kelly Olsen)

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.

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