War on Terrorism

Monday, January 05, 2009

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News- January 5, 2009

Portrait emerges of anthrax suspect [Bruce Edwards Ivins] 's troubled life
“Inside the army laboratory at Fort Detrick, the government's brain for biological defense, Bruce Edwards Ivins paused to memorialize his moment in the spotlight as the anthrax panic of 2001 reached its peak. Ivins titled his e-mail message ‘In the lab’ and attached photographs […].Outside, on that morning of Nov. 14, 2001, five people were dead or dying, a dozen more were sick and fearful thousands were flooding emergency rooms. The postal system was crippled […] But Ivins was chipper. […] ‘Hi, all,’ he began the e-mail message. […] He sent the message to those who ordinarily received his corny jokes and dour news commentaries […].” (International Herald Tribune; 04Jan09; Scott Shane) http://www.iht.com/articles/2009/01/03/america/04anthrax.php

USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] seeking veterinarians' help in promoting NAIS [National Animal Identification System]
“Investigators spent an average of 199 days tracing the sources of animals infected with bovine tuberculosis between October 2005 and August 2007, according to information from the Department of Agriculture. […] Dr. John Clifford, deputy administrator of Veterinary Services for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said the National Animal Identification System could eventually allow inspectors to trace the origin and movements of diseased food animals within 48 hours. […] Dr. M. Gatz Riddell, executive vice president of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, said his organization has supported the NAIS because of the need during an outbreak to quickly trace back where an animal has been, particularly during foreign animal disease outbreaks or acts of bioterrorism.” (American Veterinary Medical Association; 05Jan08; Gregg Cima)

Terror medicine can save lives [commentary by political scientist Leonard A. Cole]
“Critics of U.S. biosecurity policy contend that the threat of terrorism has been overblown and that too much money is going to biodefense and related programs. […] But the threat remains real. […] Terror medicine concerns not only biological agents like anthrax, but the medical management of terrorist attacks regardless of the weapon. In fact, bombs and explosives have been the weapons most commonly used by terrorists. The emergence of terror medicine […] involves anyone who would be called to service during or after a terror incident - from emergency responders to long-term caregivers. Yet ironically, most physicians and other health providers, let alone members of the public, are still unfamiliar with many of its features. […] These deficiencies should be remedied by education, rehearsals and understanding the distinctive challenges posed by terrorist attacks.” (Washington Times; 04Jan09; Leonard A. Cole) http://washingtontimes.com/news/2009/jan/04/terror-medicine-can-save-lives/

Alabama, feds at odds over [bioterrorism preparedness] money
“State officials are disputing the federal government’s claim that Alabama should repay $5.7 million it received for disaster preparedness. The government reimbursed Alabama for the millions it spent for its Bioterrorism Hospital Preparedness Program, which was part of a federal project administered by state public health officials. The inspector general’s office at the federal Department of Health and Human Services conducted a routine audit of claims paid to the state for the program between Sept. 1, 2004, and Aug. 31, 2006. Inspectors are questioning part of the $6.2 million that was paid to the Alabama Hospital Association, a statewide trade organization for hospitals, health systems and related companies. They say the money was put in an interest-bearing account by the association, and $5.7 million was not actually spent on the intended goods and services before a program deadline. The inspector general’s office has since recommended to HHS that the money be repaid with interest.” (Sun-Herald, Biloxi, MS; 01Jan08; Source: AP) http://www.sunherald.com/218/story/1042689.html

USAHA [United States Animal Health Association], AAVLD [American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians] team up and request more federal funding
“A full docket of presentations on the latest information in antimicrobials, zoonotic disease preparedness, and diagnostic procedures comprised the 2008 joint scientific session of the U.S. Animal Health Association and the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians. The conference was held Oct. 23-29 in Greensboro, N.C. The joint session covered multiple facets of foot-and-mouth disease preparedness, [along with t]he latest research on vaccination technologies and molecular epidemiologic techniques [as well as] overviews of U.S. laboratory and emergency management response planning and descriptions of control strategies used in South America. […] Four joint USAHA and AAVLD committees met at the conference, including the Committee on Animal Emergency Management. It called for a handful of government and industry agencies to each request $5 million within the President's 2011 budget to fund an initiative to engage state animal health agencies to work cooperatively to establish or expand regional animal health emergency management planning groups. Such an effort would provide the capability to quickly regionalize or compartmentalize the nation against introduction of a highly transmissible and contagious foreign animal disease.” (American Veterinary Medical Association; 01Jan08; Malinda Osborne) http://www.avma.org/onlnews/javma/jan09/090101ll.asp

Detection of disease outbreaks by the use of oral manifestations [abstract only]
“Oral manifestations of diseases caused by bioterrorist agents could be a potential data source for biosurveillance. This study had the objectives of determining the oral manifestations of diseases caused by bioterrorist agents, measuring the prevalence of these manifestations in emergency department reports, and constructing and evaluating a detection algorithm based on them. We developed a software application to detect oral manifestations in free text and identified positive reports over three years of data. […] We found that oral manifestations can be a valuable tool for biosurveillance.” (Journal of Dental Research; Jan09; Torres-Urquidy et al.)

Future bright for K[ansas]-State [University]’s bioscience center
“In recent weeks scientists converged on farms in the Philippines to study the first recorded case of Ebola virus in pigs. […] Meanwhile, avian bird flu has resurfaced in Southeast Asia in response to the return of cold, wet weather. […] Both viruses represent exactly the kind of deadly agent — or ‘fatal virus without cure’ — that would be studied in a new top level National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility recently landed by Kansas State University after an extensive two-year selection process. A U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratory in New York analyzed the swine samples that turned up with the Ebola strain. Ironically, while the disease was identified in the U.S., there is domestically no secure research lab capable of doing research on this potentially dangerous pathogen, points out Jürgen Richt, a regents distinguished professor of veterinary medicine, specialist in emerging viral diseases and lead Investigator of the animal facility for K-State’s level three Biosecurity Research Institute.” (Ag Journal; 30Dec08; Candace Krebs) http://www.agjournalonline.com/homepage/x1621228911/Future-bright-for-K-State-s-bioscience-center

[Tulsa, OK], OSU [Oklahoma State University] to do lab work
“Construction is expected to begin this spring on a new Tulsa Police Department forensics laboratory and research facilities for the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences forensic science department. The $38.7 million project is a joint venture between the city of Tulsa and the OSU medical college, with the five-story building to be built on the southwest corner of the campus at 1111 W. 17th St. […] Biomedical science research labs will be on the fourth and fifth floors. […] The new laboratories will enhance students' ability to research a variety of subjects, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and other hard-to-diagnose diseases. Allen said the new facility could also ‘open the door’ to the school receiving federal funds from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which would enable students to conduct research in bioterrorism on crops.” (Tulsa World; 29Dec08; David Schulte)

Hollywood [FL] firefighters train for bioterrorism attacks
“The Hollywood Fire Department is taking proactive measures to train its firefighters in the event of a bioterrorism attack. Orlando-based Emergency Medicine Learning & Resource Center’s Mobile Simulation Lab was available for a week recently at the department’s training facility. Hour-long training sessions were conducted in the lab, a sleek 45-foot motor coach outfitted with a full ambulance bay and emergency department area. […] ‘What we’re doing is teaching them how to recognize the different signs and symptoms of … biological and chemical agents, how to deal with burns and blast injuries, suicide bombers, nuclear blasts as well as chemical warfare and the plague,’ said Eric Dotten, a clinical programs coordinator with the center.” (Brandenton Herald; 29Dec08; Sergy Odiduro)

Public health revises list of critical staff in event of bioterrorism [Wadena, MN]
“Wadena County Public Health recently assembled a revised list of the county’s mission critical staff to ensure there are enough doses of antibiotics in the event of bioterrorism. […] This list is not for disasters such as pandemic flu, tornadoes or floods. There is a regional pharmacy cache in Crow Wing County, she [Wadena County Public Health Director Karen Nelson] said. The state needs a count of mission critical staff to make sure there is enough antibiotics. ‘They’re wanting to get this 24-hour critical count first to see if we really have enough or if we need to get more from the federal government for our stockpile,’ Nelson said. ‘They want to know how many doses that we need.’ […] Nelson submitted the county’s mission critical count of 386 people to the state on Friday. A state-wide count will be submitted to the federal government by Dec. 31.” (Wadena Pioneer Journal; 24Dec08; Sara Hacking) http://www.wadenapj.com/articles/index.cfm?id=12441&section=news

Is Canada ready for bioterrorism?
“A U.S. congressional commission recently predicted that it's more likely than not a terrorist attack using weapons of mass destruction will occur somewhere in the world by 2013, and that a biological attack is more likely than a nuclear one. […] This report by the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism should prompt Canadians to ask: Are we prepared for a possible bioterrorist attack? Have we done all we can to mitigate risk and ensure response and recovery? To my knowledge, we have never conducted a broad, independent analysis of these questions in Canada. So the answer is: We don't really know. […] In 2006, when a previous U.S. report on biosecurity […] was released, I wrote: ‘The Government of Canada should examine how the U.S. National Academies' recommendations apply to Canada.’ I find myself making the same plea again, hoping that no one will ever have the chance to point to these urgings as warnings unheeded.” (Globe and Mail; 04Jan09; Peter Singer) http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090104.ecosinger05/BNStory/specialComment/home

India’s bioterror [preparedness and response] plans will take some time to get off the ground
“The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has begun preparedness, but concedes more cooperation is needed from companies and communities. […] NDMA has started the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP), which is funded by the World Health Organization, and for which the National Institute of Communicable Diseases is the nodal agency. Modelled after a similar programme run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the IDSP has started taking shape, but will be a while before it reaches many of the 600 or so districts in India, says Dr Bhardwaj [former director general of the Armed Forces Medical Services]. To strengthen the existing eight battalions of the National Disaster Response Force, each consisting of 1,000, two more battalions have been sanctioned. Half of the existing force is specifically trained to deal with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats. NDMA has also asked the state governments to get part of the state forces trained in such areas.” (Wall Street Journal; 27Dec08; Seema Singh) http://www.livemint.com/2008/12/26233645/India8217s-bioterror-plans.html

Homeland Security: expect bioterrorism within 5 years
“The terrorism threat to the United States over the next five years will be driven by instability in the Middle East and Africa, persistent challenges to border security and increasing Internet savvy, says a new intelligence assessment obtained by The Associated Press. […] Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks are considered the most dangerous threats that could be carried out against the U.S. But those threats are also the most unlikely because it is so difficult for al-Qaida and similar groups to acquire the materials needed to carry out such plots, according to the internal Homeland Security Threat Assessment for the years 2008-2013. […] Officials are most concerned about biological agents stolen from labs or other storage facilities, such as anthrax.”
(Houston Chronicle; 26Dec08; Eileen Sullivan, AP) http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/nation/6182176.html

Museum to feature Saddam atrocities
“A museum depicting the atrocities and other crimes committed during the Saddam Hussein era in Iraq is scheduled to open in the Green Zone next year. The museum will feature maps and galleries from the Anfal campaign in Iraqi Kurdistan. […] A study room featuring rows of computers will contain evidence from the trials of Saddam Hussein following his capture by U.S. forces Dec. 13, 2003. The museum also will feature a replica of the ‘spider hole’ the former dictator was discovered in and his possessions at the time, which included a Koran and $750,000 in cash.” (United Press International; 31Dec08)

Where has all the VX [and sarin nerve gas] gone?
“The United States has completed the destruction of the last of its nerve gas weapons stored in the United States. The 66 month effort destroyed 293,000 gallons (over a million liters) of VX and Sarin nerve agent, by incineration. These weapons were stored, for nearly half a century, in underground bunkers in the Anniston Army Depot, 80 kilometers east of Birmingham, Alabama.” (Strategy Page; 03Jan09) http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htchem/articles/20090103.aspx

Fate of [Anniston, AL] chemical burner disputed
“Two key elected officials in northeastern Alabama want to keep alive the local industry devoted to destroying the nation's nerve gas stockpile now that most of it has been destroyed, with only mustard blister agent remaining. […] But Gov. Bob Riley opposes any proposal to bring any more chemical weapons into the county. County Commissioner Robert Downing also joined other officials in opposing the idea. Bringing more chemical weapons to Anniston also would require changing federal and state environmental requirements […] [Calhoun County Commission Chairman Eli] Henderson said there have been no accidents or incidents on the site and bringing blister agent in would not be any more dangerous than some substances already out on the highways. Downing said he has several concerns about importing blister agent, including the possibility of transportation accidents, potential air quality problems and a perceived stigma on the community.” (Montgomery Advertiser; 02Jan09)

[Blue Grass Army] Depot home to last VX agent stockpile [Richmond, KY]
“Richmond’s Blue Grass Army Depot is now the location of the nation’s last VX nerve agent stockpile. […] CMA personnel and contractors have destroyed the VX nerve agent munitions at six disposal sites including: Anniston, Ala.; Umatilla, Ore.; Newport, Ind.; Pine Bluff, Ark.; Tooele, Utah; and Johnston Island approximately 800 miles southwest of Hawaii. […] The CMA continues to store the country’s remaining VX in the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile at the Blue Grass Chemical Activity, located at the depot. A separate Department of Defense organization, the U.S. Army Element Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives, is charged with its destruction, and construction is under way on a neutralization facility.” (Richmond Register; 30Dec08; Ronica Shannon) http://www.richmondregister.com/localnews/local_story_365081553.html

Finland extends Nord Stream’s permit
“A consortium that plans to build an underwater Baltic Sea gas pipeline from Russia to Germany was on December 30 granted extended permission to investigate the sea bed in the Finnish economic zone. […] The consortium has ruled out a land- based route. […] Concerns have been raised that the project may disturb chemical weapons or other munitions dumped in the sea after World War II. Partners in the consortium include Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, German energy company E.ON, BASF and Dutch company Gasunie.” (New Europe; 05Jan09) http://www.neurope.eu/articles/91237.php

What are protective effects of anti-ricin A-chain aptamer?
“Ricin, a lectin from the castor bean plant Ricinus communis is considered one of the most potent plant toxins. […] A research article to be published on November 7, 2008 in the World Journal of Gastroenterology addresses this question. The research team was led by Dr. Kam-Meng Tchou-Wong from New York University School of Medicine in United States. […] Authors investigated the therapeutic potential of an RNA ligand (aptamer) specific for the catalytic ricin A-chain (RTA), the protective effects of a 31-nucleotide RNA aptamer (31RA), which formed a high affinity complex with RTA, against ricin-induced toxicity in cell-based luciferase translation and cell cytotoxicity assays were evaluated. They have shown that 31RA RNA aptamer can protect against ricin ribotoxicity in cell-based luciferase and cell cytotoxicity assays. Hence, RNA aptamer that inhibits RTA enzymatic activity represents a novel class of nucleic acid inhibitor that has the potential to be developed as a therapeutic agent for the treatment of ricin intoxication.” (Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News; 29Dec08; Lin Tian)

Kurds call for execution of 'Chemical Ali'
“Hundreds of Iraqi minority Kurds demanded on Sunday the execution of a Saddam-era official known as ‘Chemical Ali’ for the killing of 5,000 Kurds in a 1988 gas attack in Halabja city. Ali Hassan al-Majeed, a Sunni Arab who was Saddam's cousin and a member of his inner circle, has already been sentenced to death twice, once in 2007 for his role in killing tens of thousands of Kurds in Saddam's military ‘Anfal’ campaign. […] Majeed's second death sentence came this month for his part in crushing a Shi'ite revolt after the 1991 Gulf War. Disputes within the Shi'ite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, however, have so far stalled Majeed's execution. […] Majeed's Halabja trial will be headed by Judge Mohammed al-Uraibi, a Shi'ite jurist who also headed Majeed's first two trials, a court spokesman said. Also charged in the case are Sultan Hashem, a former defense minister, and two intelligence officers. All the defendants are already facing life sentences or execution.” (Kurdish Globe; 22Dec08;
Source: Reuters)

The next dangerous phase of the Gaza War
“Also and most worrisome is the possibility reported by Al-Seyassah last year that chlorine-laden weapons had been delivered to Hamas in Gaza by Iranian Revolutionary Guards to be used against Israel in the event of a military strike against Iran. If this is true, Hamas could decide to use these chemical weapons against Israel now. […] Abu Harun [leader of the Abu Rich brigade] prides himself o[n] the effect the Qassams rockets his group builds and fires into Israel, have been pushing people in Sderot to leave. He added: ‘We push them north [in Israel], toward Hezbollah. They are sandwiched. In less than 10 years, they will disappear.’ It is true that at the moment, because of their short flight span, Qassam rockets cannot be intercepted and therefore constitute a huge threat to the security of Israeli civilians.” (Middle East Times; 05Jan08; Olivier Guitta)

Panama Canal protected by [radiation] detection tech[nology]
“New nuclear threat detection technologies are currently operating in Panama after a recent agreement with the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration [NNSA].The United States and Panama recently reached an agreement that paved the way for the NNSA, in partnership with the Manzanillo International Terminal and others, to install advanced radiation detection systems at the Panama Canal's Atlantic and Pacific Ocean megaports, the NNSA reported. The ports, located at Colon and Panama City, are currently operating the scanning technologies to prevent the smuggling of illicit nuclear materials in cargo containers, as part of the Container Security Initiative.” (UPI; 31Dec08) http://www.upi.com/Emerging_Threats/2008/12/31/Panama_Canal_protected_by_detection_tech/UPI-55921230763595/

Japan sent uranium to U.S. in secret
“Enough highly enriched U.S. uranium to make about 20 nuclear weapons was sneaked back to the United States from Japan over a 12-year period until last summer in a secret operation aimed at keeping it out of terrorists' hands, a senior U.S. official and Japanese specialists recently revealed. The uranium, which was provided to Japan by the United States to build five nuclear nuclear research reactors, totaled more than 500 kg. […] Four of the five reactors are in Ibaraki Prefecture and managed by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency. Two of its HEU-fueled reactors have already been closed due to proliferation concerns, and the other two were converted to use less-enriched uranium.” (Japan Times; 28Dec08) http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20081228a1.html

[American] physician gets a reality check during training in the Jewish state [of Israel]
“From Nov. 8 to Nov. 13, more than a dozen U.S. doctors from all medical specialties were in Israel, training alongside Israeli medical professionals to prepare for worst-case scenarios as part of the American Physicians Fellowship for Medicine in Israel's Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Course. [American emergency physician Adam] Cooper […] was among them. In the event of a war, these doctors would return to Israel and take over, so that their Israeli counterparts could serve in the Israel Defense Force. The intensive, five-day course is one of several operated by the APF, in conjunction with the Israeli Ministry of Health and the Medical Corps of the IDF. […] [E]ach day was jam-packed with activities: learning the appropriate response to conventional, biological, nuclear or chemical warfare […] and participating in a mass-casualty ammonia disaster drill.” (Jewish Exponent; 01Jan09; Michelle Mostovy-Eisenberg) http://www.jewishexponent.com/article/17950/

Czech military to propose changes in foreign mission plans
“The Defence Ministry will on Monday [Jan 5] propose to the cabinet that the number of Czech soldiers in [...] Afghanistan be reduced from the originally planned 645 to maximally 480 in 2009 […] A light chemical warfare unit and various experts, in total up to 55 persons, are to serve at the international airport in Kabul. [...] A team of 229 troops will be prepared in the first half of this year for service in a NATO Rapid Reaction Force. In the second half of the year the Czech military will be ready to send three weapons of mass destruction protection experts.”
(Ceskenoviny; 02Jan09)

Armed Forces Medical Services prepared for any eventuality
“India’s Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) are fully prepared for any eventuality, including having to deal with nuclear, biological and chemical warfare, a senior army official said Tuesday. ‘We are prepared for any eventuality,’ AFMS Director General Lt. Gen. Yogendra Singh told reporters here. […] ‘As far as nuclear, biological and chemical warfare is concerned the AFMS is supposed to be the first responder. We are part of the National Disaster Management Authority. The training for this is an ongoing process,’ Singh added.” (ThaiIndian News; 30Dec08) http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/india-news/armed-forces-medical-services-prepared-for-any-eventuality_100136603.html

Swiss order PPVs [protected patrol vehicles], NBC vehicles
“General Dynamics European Land Systems subsidiary MOWAG GmbH recently received a CHF 260 million (EUR 160M, $190M) order from the Swiss Armasuisse procurement agency. […] The firm will deliver 220 GMTF protected patrol vehicles based on the DURO-IIIP truck, and 12 DURO IIIP ‘NBC Laboratory Vehicles’ that can identify radioactive materials, biological and chemical warfare agents, and toxic industrial chemicals. The 3rd component of this order involves the development of 12 Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Reconnaissance Vehicles, which will be based on the Piranha-IIIC/LAV-III 8×8 wheeled armored personnel carrier (APC).”
(Defense Industry News; 05Jan08)

Russian regulators warn nuclear safety undercut by economic crisis
“The safety of Russia's nuclear industry is being negatively affected by the country's economic crisis and the situation is expected to to worsen in 2009, according to a newly released annual report by the Russian nuclear regulatory body Rostekhnadzor. Ongoing job cuts at nuclear facilities include the personnel directly responsible for safety control, states the report by Rostekhnadzor, which is responsible for licensing and safety at Russia's 31 operating nuclear power plants and the eight more under construction. […] ‘It is possible that further cut jobs in Russia may bring back the nuclear proliferation problems related to illegal trade of radioactive materials,’ Slivyak cautioned.” (Environment News Service; 24Dec08)

US Embassy in Brazil receives suspicious package
“The U.S. Embassy in Brazil has been searched by a bomb squad after receiving a suspicious package by mail, but local authorities say it did not contain explosives. Embassy spokesman Robert Mooney says agents conducted the inspection along with U.S. security personnel. He could not confirm the results of the search, but said it did not interrupt operations Tuesday.” (Associated Press; 01Jan09) http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jri_k8LEpXbC_7aAbpFDEom52CcQD95DB2T80

Suspicious powder sent to US embassy [in South Korea] harmless
“An official says a suspicious white powder sent to the U.S. Embassy in the South Korean capital has been found to be harmless. The embassy in Seoul received a package containing the white powder earlier this week.Hwang Hyun-soon of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that tests showed the powder was starch.” (Associated Press;

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.

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