War on Terrorism

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News-June 17, 2009

USAMRIID finds more than 9,200 unrecorded disease samples [Frederick, MD]
"An inventory completed last month showed researchers at Fort Detrick had more than 9,200 more vials of disease samples than they had on record. The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases searched all 335 of its refrigerators and freezers for the inventory. [...] Overall, the institute holds more than 70,000 samples of so-called select agents, or diseases the government believes pose a severe threat to human health. The inventory process uncovered samples dating back several decades, and included vials of the pathogens that cause anthrax, ebola and rift valley fever. The vast majority of the found samples were likely working stock accumulated by researchers over several decades [...] Researchers determined that about half of the 9,200 samples had no further scientific value and destroyed them. The institute halted most of its research while it performed the inventory, but is now up and running again." (Frederick News Post; 17Jun09; Justin Palk)

Court takes no action on request to halt burning [Hermiston, WA]
"Work to incinerate mustard agent at the Umatilla Chemical Depot is continuing despite a court hearing last week. The Government Accountability Project [GAP] was in the Oregon Circuit Court [...] on Friday to request a temporary restraining order to stop incineration. [...] GAP believes burning of the mustard agent poses a serious health threat to residents of Oregon and Washington because of the mercury in the chemical weapon. [...] Alternative methods to destroy the mustard agent [...] are available. [...] Oregon picked incineration years ago as the best way to destroy the mustard agent. [...] The Army believes incineration is safe and protective of the community and the environment. Enhanced carbon filters have been added to the incinerator stack emission filters to ensure mercury cannot escape. [...] GAP also is asking the court to review additional issues, including the state's temporary authorization to start the incineration work and whether required permits are in place." (Tri-City Herald; 16Jun09; Annette Cary) http://www.tri-cityherald.com/kennewick_pasco_richland/story/615602.html

New computer model improves catastrophe preparedness [Little Falls, NJ]
"A new computer model incorporating a wider range of variables can foster better outcomes in large-scale emergency situations, researchers say. Planning with Large Agent Networks against Catastrophes, or PLAN C, [...] allows researchers to assess both individual and system-wide effects in public health disasters. [...] Its purpose is to help evaluate 'both explicit tracing of individual behavior and macroscopic analysis of population trends' in catastrophic events, researchers said. The model integrates dose response, surge response, and psychosocial characteristics/ [...] Researchers tested the PLAN C model with a hypothetical scenario in which the nerve agent sarin was released in three locations in New York City. [...] In terms of response, they evaluated emergency medical services, hospital surge capacity, and behavioral and psychosocial characteristics of the victims.[...] Cumulative mortality rates similarly increased as a function of dose and systemic stress. [...] But when hospital disaster plans were implemented effectively, mortality and injury severity decreased. The researchers said one advantage of using a concept such as PLAN C is that it 'avoids a priori assumptions of injury severity' and permits the 'substitution of dose-response curves for other hazards such as trauma, radiological sources, and biologics.'" (MedPage Today; 16Jun09; Kristina Fiore)

Pentagon wants cyborg insects to sniff WMD, offer free wi-fi
"The Pentagon is looking for better ways to prevent chemical weapon attacks. [...] Military researchers are implanting insect larvae with WMD-detectors, turning them into cyborg-critters that specialize in tracking down mustard gas. [...] So far researchers have implanted micro-mechanical components into larval moths and created remote-controlled beetles. [...] The Pentagon wants its modified bugs to detect and differentiate between chemical agents [and] has handed researchers at Agiltron Corporation a contract to implant larvae with 'high sensitivity micromechanical chemical sensors' that run on electric power collected with an embedded 'electromagnetic harvester.' [...] The Pentagon is also backing research into an insect-mounted device powered by fuel cells, for a more reliable energy source. [...] And to really bring the critters into the 21st century, the military wants to hook them up with their own wireless network. [...] They're funding two projects that would create 'a mobile ad hoc network' for vocal insects like crickets and cicadas. [...] The instant-insect message would then be transmitted to humans or computerized systems, which could decode the covert chirp." (Wired; 17Jun09; Katie Drummond)

Officials conduct disaster drill at local college [Spartanburg, SC]
"[Tiffany] Hughes, associate director of advertising and public relations at [Spartanburg Community College] SCC, was among 15 public information officers from Spartanburg County taking part in a two-day course on addressing the public and news media during a terrorist or other attack. Collaborating in teams representing various county agencies, Hughes and the other PIOs conducted mock news conferences in the face of a specific scenario affecting Spartanburg. 'It's something we all have in the back of our minds if something does happen,' Hughes said, 'and this is a great way to refresh us on basic practices that we may not have to use every day, and to remind us that we always need to be prepared.' The course, funded by the Department of Homeland Security, was administered by the Texas Engineering Extension Service. [...] In the mock news conference, Hughes' team provided information and answered questions relating to a chemical attack on three downtown buildings in which winds swept sarin gas vapors through downtown." (Go Upstate; 17Jun09; Gary Glancy)

Disaster drill continues for local hospitals, public safety staff [Milwaukee, WI]
"First responders in hazardous material suits worked alongside U.S. military personnel and hospital officials at area hospitals Tuesday and will continue the operation Wednesday as part of a community disaster drill. [...] The drill, which will simulate a dirty bomb explosion at a sporting event, is designed to determine whether area emergency workers are prepared to respond to mass casualty events that require decontamination. It also will assess the military's ability to support local civilian authorities in case of such an emergency. One hundred mock victims will be sent to participating hospitals, and military personnel will set up decontamination camps on hospital grounds. This is expected to be the largest such drill in the country this year, according to a news release from Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, with the participation of 3,000 military personnel, representatives of federal agencies including FEMA and the FBI, and local firefighting and police authorities." (Journal Sentinel; 17Jun09; Sharif Durhams)

Researchers 'all aglow' over new test of toxin strength [Gaithersburg, MD]
"A new National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) assay using a 'glow or no glow' technique may soon help the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defend the nation against a spectrum of biological weapons that could be used in a terrorist attack. One very dangerous toxin on the list is ricin. [...] As part of its efforts to address the threat, DHS is working with NIST to create a standardized ricin sample with a known potency. Such a standard is needed both to check the accuracy of detection equipment, and, should an attack occur, to confirm the success of decontamination procedures. A major step toward this goal [...] has now been achieved.[...] The new NIST assay uses a commercially available cell line genetically engineered to produce large amounts of green fluorescent protein (GFP). [...] Assay cells exposed to [ricin] will quickly stop synthesizing GFP. This [...] will result in a measurable decrease in fluorescence-a drop that correlates directly to the strength of the ricin present." (ScienceDaily; 17Jun09)

China and Russia concerned with Korean peninsula [and WMD terrorism]
"Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev expressed serious concern in connection with the situation on the Korean Peninsula. In a joint communiqué they signed on June 17, they stated that the 1874 Resolution, which the United Nations Security Council adopted unanimously over the weekend, is aimed at 'resolving the nuclear issue on the peninsula through political and diplomatic means.' While calling for the Six-Party talks to resume, they also hoped that all parties carry out their obligations in the 9/19 Joint Communiqué that the six nations signed in 2005. Both leaders also agreed to devote efforts to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), its carriers and related materials and especially prevent WMDs from falling into the hands of terrorist organizations." (China Daily; 17Jun09; Li Xing)

Jamaica declares support for UN Anti-Terrorism Resolution [Kingston]
"Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, Major Richard Reese, has affirmed the Jamaican government's support for the United Nations Security Council resolution, which requires all UN member states to criminalize the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and all related materials. [...] Addressing the opening ceremony for the Domestic Export Controls and Maritime Security Workshop in support of the implementation of UNSCR 1540, on Tuesday, Major Reese said that the government is in strong opposition to terrorism and endorses and supports any legitimate mechanism that will stem the problem. 'Jamaica unequivocally supports [...] domestic controls to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and their means of delivery,' he continued. The Permanent Secretary pointed out that the Government is aware that threats to international security have serious implications at the local level, noting the commitment to maintain a firm stance against terrorism and other forms of organized criminality. [...] Chief of Staff of the Jamaica Defence Force, Major General Stuart Saunders said [...] that for small, dependent nations such as those in the Caribbean, 'the challenges [of drug trafficking, man-induced disasters, and weapons smuggling] are probably even more pronounced and far-reaching. Traditional, established modes of transportation and communication are being used for the proliferation and rapid movement of illicit goods.' [...] He added that Jamaica has taken its first steps to deal with the vulnerability of the country's ports, with enhanced detection capacity."
(Caribbean Net News; 17Jun09)

Evacuation at Whitfield [Kent] Tesco in 'white powder' scare
"Hundreds of panicked shoppers have been evacuated from Tesco [grocery store] in Whitfield. Alarms sounded in the store at about 12.50pm today and people were told to immediately leave the Honeywood Parkway premises. A source [said] the action was taken in response to a 'white powder incident.' The powder is believed to have been contained inside an envelope. Mum-of-two Sharon Wright was buying her lunch when a Tesco manager started telling people to leave. The 39-year-old said: 'I only went in to get a sandwich. The manager was telling people to get out and that the shop would be shut for at least an hour. People started taking their trolleys with them.' The advertising rep says chaos then ensued in the car park as people realised they would not be able to go back in store and so tried to leave." (This Is Kent; 17Jun09)

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