A new direction for Battle Creek's [MI] downtown [conducting research on food safety]
"In November, the city's economic development group, Battle Creek Unlimited, unveiled an ambitious $85 million plan that it said would transform the face of downtown Battle Creek [...] As a city based heavily on automotive and transportation manufacturing, employers have been cutting back and laying off employees, with no tangible happy ending in sight. It's time for a proactive plan, said BCU's [Battle Creek Unlimited, a real estate developer] senior adviser Jim Hettinger [...] The project aims to develop what BCU officials have coined 'The National Center for Food Protection,' a facility that would encompass all areas of food safety, including food testing, food chain defense systems and the development and commercialization of food technology systems. [...] Hettinger said that in addition to being home to major food companies, Battle Creek has a strong military, aviation technology and manufacturing base - all which can utilize their skills in the food safety arena. BCU has already worked with area aviation technology firm, Michigan Aerospace, to take a device that detects anthrax [sic] and use it to detect anomalies in food. It was tested on a can of tainted dog food and was a success." (Battle Creek Enquirer; 17May09; Stephanie Antonian Rutherford)
Biodefense labs make bad neighbors, residents say [Boston, MA]
"Klare Allen, a once-homeless mother turned community activist, was stunned at a public meeting in 2002 when she and her friends learned that Boston University Medical Center officials planned to build a biological defense laboratory in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods. 'We heard anthrax and Roxbury-South End,' she recalled. 'Then we heard Ebola. The last thing we heard was bubonic plague. We looked at each other and said, No way are they bringing that . . . into our community.' Seven years later, the $198-million lab complex stands completed between an apartment building and a flower market. But state and federal lawsuits by anxious residents, backed by skeptical scientists, have blocked the opening until late next year at the earliest. [...] The Boston facility is in a smaller group categorized as 'high-containment' labs. These handle only the most dangerous agents, such as Ebola and Marburg [viruses], for which no vaccines or treatments exist. The United States operated five high-containment labs before 2001. It now has 15, and several have come under criticism." (Los Angeles Times; 17May09; Bob Drogin) http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-biolabs17-2009may17,0,6818200.story
UTMB [University of Texas Medical Branch] offers another draft of biolab bill
"University of Texas Medical Branch officials vowed Friday to again revise a controversial bill critics say goes too far in blocking the public's right to information about deadly germs at the Galveston National Laboratory. [...] While acknowledging the original bill was too broad and would have prohibited the medical branch from releasing any information about so-called select agents, officials defended their intent, which they said was to protect agreements with other laboratories and the names of low-level employees who might be targeted by people opposed to research conducted at such facilities. The bill's opponents argue Texas laws already protect security-sensitive information and the medical branch can't show how state codes have failed the Galveston National Laboratory, which opened in November." (Galveston County Daily News; 17May09; Laura Elder)
Court of public opinion hears about Vietnamese Agent Orange victims
"Prof. Vo Quy, Drs.Tran Xuan Thu and Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong, chemist Pierre Vermeulin, and Dr. Jean Meynard testified. [...] 'The Agent orange victims in Vietnam who have faced the most difficulties are the poorest. We would like to ask the US government and chemical companies to take responsibility for compensating Agent Orange victims, taking care of their health, education, and vocational training, and cleaning up the environment', Dr. Phuong said. [...] Dr. Meynard said the most terrible fallout of Agent Orange is that it continues to affect generation after generation. Speaking to Tuoi Tre newspaper, chairman of the court, Jitendra Sharma, said under basic international law, those who pollute the environment are responsible for paying compensation. 'I think after the court of public opinion, we need to fight for an international court to try the US chemical companies and for an international court to achieve justice for victims of chemical weapons,' he added." (Saigon Giai Phong; 18May09)
Refusal to burn weapons looking smarter all the time
"Consider where chemical weapons are being burned, then where they have been or will be neutralized through a more environmentally benign process. The incinerators are in places that are home to large poor and minority populations, are isolated or both: Pine Bluff, Ark.; Anniston, Ala.; Umitalla, Ore.; Tooele, Utah. The military bowed to local insistence on neutralization in places, including Kentucky's Madison County, where residents are better educated, more likely to be white and able to flex more political muscle. It's not fair or right, but it's a pattern repeated time and again in the siting of industries that send large amounts of toxic chemicals into the air. The demographics of toxic air are detailed in a study released last week of newly available data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and the University of Southern California produced 'Justice in the Air' (www.peri.umass.edu/justice), documenting the disparity in toxic exposure between the poor and people of color, and the rest of the population." (Lexington Herald-Leader; 17May09) http://www.kentucky.com/591/story/798601.html
Chemical manufacture[r]s ordered to step up safety
"Chemical manufacturers and governments reach an agreement on Friday to increase efforts to use more safety with chemicals, including paint containing lead to microscopic material. However, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) stated that unless the industry and governments allots more funds for the goal of the 2020 deadline, it is most likely not going to happen. [...] The conference settled on five 'emerging issues,' nanotechnology, which are harmful if inhaled; chemicals for daily usage; electronic waste, and lead in paint. The fifth issue, tagged on at the end of the conference, deals with perfluorinated chemicals, utilized for making surfaces resistant to heat and corrosion, but is poisonous, build up in the body and extend long distances. [...] Commands to abolish the use of chemicals under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, has to understand that some substances are vital to the industry, Hambrecht said. One example is phosgene, manufactured for chemical weapons in World War One, and also part of pesticides at a plant in Bhopal, India, where a 1984 leaked resulted in one of the world's nastiest industrial disasters, taking thousands of lives. However, Hambrecht insisted that it is also a main ingredient in the majority of upholstery. 'Phosgene is a major building block. We cannot stop producing phosgene but what we need to do is handle it absolutely safely,' he said." (Red Orbit; 16May09)
Study urges using neuroscience to improve soldiers' performance
"A blue-ribbon committee of the National Academy of Sciences is recommending that the Army expand its research into how a soldier's brain, blood and nerves work so it can develop futuristic applications that can increase performance and survivability in combat. 'The Army should monitor the progress of research in these areas and evaluate the results for promising Army-relevant applications,' the committee says in a report on neuroscience and the Army that was released last week. [...] Fear can harm an individual soldier or an entire unit. The report suggests incorporating fear-invoking situations in training, then comparing 'before' and 'after'
brain scans 'to determine which environments elicit fear-correlated neural activity patterns.' It notes that during the Persian Gulf War, fear resulted when sensors indicated the presence of chemical warfare agents, and there was 'significant disorganization of military units even when the sensor warnings were false positives.'" (Washington Post; 18May09; Walter Pincus)
Democrats focus on torture a gamble [includes Jose Padilla case]
"It may never be resolved exactly when [Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-CA] first learned that waterboarding had been used against terror suspects [sic] [...but] She says the CIA and the Bush administration misled her about when the waterboarding, which simulates drowning, began. [...] the Democrats' claim to the moral high ground on the issue has been blemished by her explanation this week that in early 2003 she shifted her attention to winning political control of the House and didn't wage a protest against what she now calls torture. [...] He [FBI interrogator Ali Soufan] said al-Qaida senior operative Abu Zubaydah clammed up under rough interrogation by CIA contractors. Soufan insisted that Zubaydah gave up valuable information about 'dirty bomb' terrorist Jose Padilla when his team used a non-threatening approach to gain his confidence and outwit him. But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., pointed out that Soufan wasn't present for the rougher tactics and said he didn't know the whole story.
Bush administration documents released by the Justice Department say Zubaydah [...] gave up critical information because of the technique [waterboarding]." (Associated Press; 15May09; Larry Margasak) http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jng1mfAF_P2qRHAaGROBiX6BKECwD9870I400
Obama's word breaks ice in Geneva arms talks
"A single word from Barack Obama has put new life into the stale old disarmament talks in Geneva, where diplomats are hailing a 'remarkable shift' by the Americans in favor of a treaty clamping down on production of the stuff of nuclear bombs. The U.S. president's word - 'verifiable' - has set the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament on a possible course toward negotiating a treaty after years of deadlock [...] When mere kilograms (pounds) can make a bomb, as much as 2,500 metric tons of the stuff - up to 2,000 tons of highly enriched uranium and 500 tons of plutonium - sit in deployed or disused warheads and in more surprising places worldwide, says the International Panel on Fissile Materials, a non-governmental network of nuclear experts. Weapons-grade uranium powers Russian icebreakers and U.S. and other missile submarines. Some 14,000 plutonium weapon cores sit in storage outside Amarillo, Texas. Hundreds of tons of bomb-grade uranium are stashed elsewhere in the U.S. and Russia awaiting 'blenddown' to less lethal grades. More stuff sits in university research reactors worldwide. Japan's nuclear power establishment holds almost nine tons of plutonium separated from spent fuel. Some material is under international oversight, but most is not, and questions are regularly raised about its security in so many far-flung places, especially when international terrorists are known to want to 'go nuclear.'" (Associated Press; 16May09; Charles J. Hanley) http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5i4X9rRzxKfB3wSR1dJfFFn_qQCkwD987FLB80
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.