War on Terrorism

Friday, December 19, 2008

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News- December 19, 2008

[Botswana] Ministry records eight suspected cholera cases
“Botswana has so far recorded eight suspected cases of cholera. Speaking at a media briefing at the Ministry of Health, Mrs Shenaz El- Halabi, Director of Public Health said of the eight, only three have been confirmed to be cholera not four as reported in the media. […] All three cholera victims are from neighbouring Zimbabwe. […] The cholera epidemic that has killed 877 people in Zimbabwe and infected 17,908 people has sparked new calls from governments within the SADC region and international solidarity organisations to take stock of cases of infection as they happen. The outbreak has been fuelled by the collapse of Zimbabwe’s health services, sanitation systems and water supply. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe
leader Mr Robert Mugabe last week sparked uproar by claiming the cholera outbreak was over, while Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said the outbreak was the result of biological warfare launched by former colonial power Britain against Zimbabwe.” (Botswana Press Agency; 18Dec08) http://www.gov.bw/cgi-bin/news.cgi?d=20081218&i=Ministry_records_eight_suspected_cholera_cases

John Powell, ‘seditious’ journalist, dies
“U.S. journalist John W. Powell, whose 1950s articles alleging American use of germ warfare in Korea sparked sedition charges, has died at 89, his son says. […] U.S. prosecutors put Powell on trial in 1959 on a rare charge of sedition, after he authored articles for his Shanghai publication The China Monthly Review asserting that U.S.
Military had employed germ warfare against North Korea, using methods they had allegedly learned from the defeated Japanese army. Powell wrote that a secret unit of the occupying Japanese army known as Unit 731 had carried out large-scale biological warfare attacks on Chinese soldiers and civilians during World War II, killing hundreds of thousands.” (United Press International; 17Dec08) http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2008/12/17/John_Powell_seditious_journalist_dies/UPI-89391229533936/

Protecting hospitals during disasters [training exercise in
San Diego, California]
“Emergency training event brings hospital, public agencies shoulder to shoulder […] Historically in a disaster, as many as 80% of patients will take themselves directly to the hospital and bypass the prehospital provider system. The Golden Phoenix ‘08 exercise was specifically designed to test the operations, communications and security capabilities of multiple agencies and Scripps working together in an emergency on a major hospital campus. It served as a bellwether for future emergency and disaster-training efforts by breaking through old assumptions that hospitals are self-sufficient during disasters—somehow fortified against a public surge and the disruption to care this would cause.” (EMS Responder; 17Dec08; Chris Van Gorder)

Three new technologies now available for licensing from MSU [Montana State University]
“The first
technology, a nucleic acid assay that distinguishes between living and dead cells, helps eliminate the false-positives caused by detecting non-viable cells. The method detects only the active-cell portion of a microbial sample, something current molecular methods cannot do. The new method works with established protocols and other nucleic acid-based diagnostics. It applies to a range of bacterial species, including gram-positive bacteria, and it requires no specialized expertise to perform. Possible applications include food and water safety monitoring, clinical diagnostics, bioterrorism assays, testing for sterility in pharmaceuticals and personal care products and further microbial research.” (MSU News; 18Dec08)

Military [Maj. Gen. Robert Lennox]: repeat of anthrax attacks harder today
“Tighter background checks and improved security would help prevent a repeat of the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks,
Military officials said Thursday, while acknowledging there are no guarantees. […] ‘I can’t say for certain it could not happen today,’ army Maj. Gen. Robert Lennox, assistant deputy chief of staff for operations and training, told reporters. ‘But it would be much more difficult.’ He said there are more hurdles now before someone could remove a biological agent or toxin from a lab and seek to use it. Lennox said Military safety reviews in recent months endorsed many of the security changes already made, from improved cameras and lights to satellite surveillance. But other changes were deemed not workable or too expensive, including limits on scientists’ hours or a system that would prohibit workers from being alone with a toxin.” (Associated Press; 18Dec08; Lolita C. Baldor)

A germ warfare guru [Yazid Sufaat] goes free
“A U.S.-trained Al Qaeda microbiologist has been released from jail by the Malaysian government, prompting alarm among American counterterrorism officials. ‘This individual is considered dangerous,’ said one official, referring to the recent decision to free Yazid Sufaat, a notorious Qaeda operative who once oversaw the group’s germ-warfare efforts. […] Malaysia privately informed the Bush administration that its legal authority to detain Sufaat had expired but promised Washington that he would be kept under close observation, the U.S. official indicated. But counterterror officials here expressed doubt that Sufaat has abandoned his radical Qaeda views or his desire to attack the United States with biological weapons. They also point out that Sufaat played an assisting role in planning the 9/11 attacks. He hosted two of the hijackers along with two other veteran Al Qaeda operatives at a terror ‘summit’ in Kuala Lumpur in January 2000.” (Newsweek; 17Dec08; Mark Hosenball & Michael Isikoff)

Non-scientist gets a top spot [at the Israel Institute for Biological Research in Nes Tziona] [Second section in an article titled, ‘Israel bites back at UN watchdog over alleged strike on Syria reactor’]
“For the first time in the history of the Israel Institute for Biological Research in Nes Tziona, the position of deputy director has been filled by a candidate with no background in science through what employees have called a ‘fixed tender.’ The institute recently issued an internal tender for the position of deputy and acting director. The head of human resources, Natan Rosenbaum, was the sole applicant for the position and was awarded the tender. […] The institute conducts medical, environmental and
Military research and development for Israel’s Military establishment and for foreign clients, including the U.S. army. Most of the institute’s work is classified but according to foreign publications it develops chemical and biological weapons and means for defending against such weapons. It is under the administrative purview of the Prime Minister’s Office, but in effect it answers to the Defense Ministry. Most of its 300 employees have a background in the natural sciences.” (Haaretz; 18Dec08; Yossi Melman) http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1047640.html

Magic bug busting wand uses [ultra violet] light to fight virus spread
“Earlier in 2008 almost 200,000 people a week were being struck down with the norovirus. This week the winter vomiting virus was back, closing hospital wards and causing pre-Christmas misery to families. A new product called Purelight XD harnesses the anti-microbial properties of Ultra Violet -C light, used since the 1930’s to kill germs, in a portable and safe product that can destroy norovirus. […] Although invisible to the human eye, UV-C can kill most of the germs and viruses responsible for causing disease. For noroviruses, exposure for no more than twenty seconds to UV-C light will result in 99.9 percent sterilization. ‘Areas like doors and handles carry viruses about 40 percent of the time, and the bugs will survive in a room for a day or more after a sick person has left, waiting to be picked up by someone else,’ said Andy Felton, Director, PureLightUK.” (Response Source; 17Dec08) http://www.responsesource.com/releases/rel_display.php?relid=44232&hilite=

Bioterrorism - a preventable catastrophe [Editorial]
“In May 2002, I visited Pokrov, a largely abandoned Soviet-era agricultural research center east of Moscow. Originally established to produce vaccines for animals, Pokrov became a laboratory for biological weapons, especially anthrax, in the final years of the Cold War. […] The security alarm to the main entrance had been turned off and the door was ajar. Up two flights of steel-grate stairs were the storage rooms, two tennis court-sized rooms filled with commercial refrigerators. Several refrigerators had two common features: note cards listing the materials inside, and flimsy strings encircling them. Our hosts explained that a broken string would indicate that someone had possibly opened the refrigerator and stolen the materials inside.” (Boston Globe; 18Dec08; Bob Graham)

army finishes neutralizing sarin containers
army says it has completed the process of neutralizing sarin found inside three deteriorating containers at Blue Grass army Depot in Richmond. Although the liquid nerve agent has been drained, a news release sent Thursday says the containers themselves and the wastewater that came from the drainage still must be destroyed and trucked to a site in Texas.” (army Times; 18Dec08; Source: AP)

Texas man who tried to sell cyanide gets 70 months
“Federal officials say a Texas Panhandle man who tried to sell a 25-gallon drum of cyanide to an FBI informant will serve nearly six years in prison. […] An FBI affidavit showed agents taped conversations with an informant in which Detrixhe offered to sell 62 pounds of cyanide earlier this year for $10,000, a thermal imager and an assault rifle.” (Associated Press; 18Dec08)

NY man enters plea in food poison video case
“Anton Dunn appeared in federal court in Manhattan on Thursday and pleaded guilty to a single charge of transmitting threats in interstate commerce. He could face up to five years in prison at his sentencing, which is set for March 20. Dunn was arrested earlier this year after Gerber Products Co. received complaints from consumers who wanted to know if Dunn’s threats were true. Prosecutors said Dunn claimed in a hoax that he had poisoned millions of bottles of baby food, some with cyanide or rat poison.” (Newsday; 18Dec08) http://www.newsday.com/news/local/wire/newyork/ny-bc-ny--babyfoodhoax1218dec18,0,4126727.story

Public safety: inmate sentenced in cyanide threat
“Hugh L. Riley, Jr., 35, an inmate at the Jefferson City Correctional Center, pleaded guilty in June to writing a letter saying he would poison food at the Wal-Mart near Bannister Road if the company did not give him $200,000. Riley couldn’t have picked up the money. He was confined to a cell for 23 hours a day, serving a sentence for assault and armed criminal action.” (Kansas City Star; 17Dec08) http://www.kansascity.com/115/story/942103.html

Seized uranium in ‘special room’
“Experts have kept uranium seized by the
police in a special room after initial tests showed it was highly radioactive. It has been placed in a one-metre-thick concrete wall room at the National Radiation Protective Board. Deputy head of the board Arthur Koteng said final results would be ready on Friday. […] The uranium, smuggled from the Democratic Republic of Congo, was seized by Flying Squad officers. Uranium is used in the production of atomic bombs. Besides being used as nuclear fuel, its compound - uranium hexafluoride - is used to strengthen armour. Uganda Bwambale Nason Ndyambo and Congolese David Juma Osoma have been charged with being in possession of uranium. […] The substance is packed in a 20-centimetre-high metal cylinder that weighs about nine kilogrammes. […]police have since found out that the uranium was bought from DRC in October for Sh3.9 million, which was paid in two installments. The suspects had hoped to sell it in Nairobi for $1.2 million (Sh100 million).” (Daily Nation, Kenya; 17Dec08; Fred Mukinda) http://www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/503650/-/u0mhoi/-/index.html

Radioactive bomb-detection system installed in Haifa port
“A unique device designed to detect radioactive material has been installed in the Haifa port, Channel 2 news reported Thursday. The device will scan all the containers that enter Haifa via the port, some 1.5 million containers per year, in search of radiation, according to the report. […] The Haifa facility is part of a project that spans the globe, with American satellites monitoring suspicious vessels and containers holding delicate materials. […] A radioactive bomb detection system is also in the works for Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport.” (Haaretz; 18Dec08)

NNSA [Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration], DTRA [Defense Threat Reduction Agency] partner on nuclear research
“A deal was signed by two U.S. government agencies Wednesday to conduct new research on the effects of a dirty-bomb explosion in the United States. The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration and the Defense Department’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency have agreed to partner on a nuclear research project addressing ongoing security challenges in the United States, the NNSA reported. Officials say chief among the research objectives between the NNSA and the DTRA is to study the likely fallout if a terrorist detonated a nuclear device in the United States.” (Middle East Times; 18Dec08; Source: United Press International) http://www.metimes.com/Security/2008/12/18/nnsa_dtra_partner_on_nuclear_research/2039/

On disaster planning, Indiana ranks near top
“The report was released last week by a non-profit organization and a health care foundation. Indiana scored 9 out of 10 in the report titled ‘Ready or Not?’ that was put together by the non-partisan Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The average score among all states, graded by 10 criteria chosen by researchers, was 7 out of 10. […] Only five states scored a perfect 10 in the report. Indiana was one of seven, including northern neighbor Michigan, to score a 9. Indiana, like 25 other states, lost a point for not having an intrastate courier system operating 24 hours for specimen pickup and delivery. Serena Vinter, senior research associate for Trust for America’s Health and the lead author of the study, said having such a courier system is important for timeliness.” (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette; 18Dec08; Jeff Wiehe)

State hazmat grants under scrutiny
“‘Gross mismanagement and waste’ undermine a Department of Transportation grant program that gives states millions of dollars to improve responses to hazardous materials spills, according to a senior official’s request for an inspector general’s investigation. The request raises concerns about insufficient oversight of the Hazardous Materials and Emergency Preparedness (HMEP) grants program, which is set to double its spending this year after disbursing more than $175 million since 1993 to help states and communities prepare and implement emergency response plans. An internal memo seeking the investigation, obtained by USA TODAY, says the program fails to follow guidelines for how grants are to be awarded and used.” (USA Today; 18Dec08; Peter Eisler) http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2008-12-18-hazmatgrants_N.htm

Anthrax threat evacuates courthouse [Paradise, California]
“A letter sent to the Butte County Courthouse in Paradise with a white powder in it suspected to be anthrax was examined and determined to be a harmless food product - possibly rice, wheat, flour or starch. Butte Interagency Hazardous Materials Team
leader and Battalion Chief Mike Brown said the material was a 93 to 94 percent match to a food-based product like bread crumbs but also an 80 percent match to Metamucil. ‘It’s a good match - could be corn starch,’ Brown told the five women who had possibly come into contact with the substance. […] Two hazmat specialists in full firefighter gear and oxygen masks entered the courthouse at Elliot Road and Skyway and retrieved the letter and envelope in question. They also retrieved some wipes from the quarantined courthouse that a clerk used to clean up the powder that fell from the envelope when she opened it.” (Paradise Post; 18Dec08; Paul Wellersdick)

Test results of powder found at capital negative [Juneau, Alaska]

“Initial tests performed on the white powder discovered Dec. 9 in a state office building were negative for a variety of biological and toxic substances, according to the Department of Heath and Social Services. The sample of the unidentified white power was tested for anthrax, plague, smallpox and other biological and toxic agents at the Department of Health and Social Service’s public health laboratory in Anchorage. All tests performed by the end of Wednesday evening were negative.” (Capital City Weekly; 17Dec08) http://www.capitalcityweekly.com/stories/121708/new_368667982.shtml

Garda [Irish
police force] station in anthrax alert
army was called into Mountjoy Garda Station after an envelope containing the powder was brought to the station by two women. One of them brought the package to the gardai after reading a note accompanying it, which warned that anyone coming in contact with it would be ‘dead within hours.’ […] Gardai alerted the army and the station was evacuated at around 3pm yesterday. People who had come in contact with the material were traced as army experts checked the powder on site. They established last night that it was not anthrax.” (Herald, Ireland; 18Dec08) http://www.herald.ie/national-news/city-news/garda-station-in-anthrax-alert-1579317.html

Spain: Suspicious envelope at U.S. embassy a hoax
“The U.S. Embassy said it received a suspicious envelope Wednesday but Spanish
police said they believed it was a hoax. U.S. Embassy spokesman William Ostick said the letter resembled others sent Tuesday to other U.S. embassies in Europe, several of which turned out to contain flour. He said the letter had been placed in the embassy’s isolated mail room and that six people who had come into contact with it had been checked and cleared. […] Spain’s National police sent in explosive and chemical experts to check the envelope, but a police official later said officials think the substance is harmless.” (Associated Press; 18Dec08; Ciaran Giles) http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hcJiC4fmi1LwmY-p5M8UMl3FDW3AD954I8KG0

U.S. embassies in Prague [Czech Republic], Tokyo [Japan] get white powder mail
“The U.S. embassies in Prague and Tokyo received envelopes with white powder that is being tested for toxins, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday, one day after it disclosed receiving similar letters at 16 missions in Europe that were later found to be harmless. […] He declined comment on who may have sent the letters, noting a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe was underway. U.S. authorities have been on alert for such letters since 2001, when envelopes laced with anthrax were sent to media outlets and to U.S. lawmakers, killing five people.” (Reuters; 18Dec08; Arshad Mohammed)

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.

1 comment:

Tony said...

There is a company that makes a device that can mitigate these types (mail based hazmat) of situations. The machine is called the MailDefender and the company name is BioDefense Corporation (biod.com).