Friday, June 26, 2009

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, June 26, 2009

Revealed: WWII's secret sewing needle bomb
"During World War II, British scientists developed a new and extremely lethal secret weapon: a bomb which released a cloud of sewing needles, tipped with deadly poison. The weapon is disclosed in the latest release of declassified documents from the UK's National Archive. It was developed at Porton Down, which is now home to Defence Science and Technology Laboratory - but remains notorious for testing chemical and biological weapons on unsuspecting troops during the Cold War. Work on the darts was carried out with the assistance of Canadian and American researchers. Each dart consisted of a hollow steel needle with a paper tail. The tip of the needle was filled with toxin and a dense 'inertia pellet' above it. When the needle struck a target, the pellet kept going and forced the toxin out of the needle. Breaking the skin was enough to inject a lethal dose. […] Researchers concluded that if a needle 'penetrat[ed] into the flesh, it will cause death if not plucked out within thirty seconds.' […] Media reports […] claim that the chemical agent was mustard gas; this is extremely unlikely as the dose required would be much too high. Realistically, it would be one of the new nerve agents that were first fielded during WWII. […] The program called for the production of thirty million darts. […] The head of the British project contacted […] the Singer Sewing Machine Company. […] The reply from Singer was helpful, if baffled: 'From your remarks it would seem the needles are required for some purpose other than sewing machines. In any case, we should like to help you.' […] the weapon never went into production." (Wired; 26Jun09; David Hambling)

Washington U[niversity] biodefense center gets $37 m[illion] from NIH [National Institutes of Health]
"The National Institutes of Health has awarded a five-year, $37 million grant to the Midwest Regional Center for Excellence [MRCE] in Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases money will continue to support research in biodefense and emerging infectious diseases throughout the Midwest. The MRCE […] is one of 11 centers dedicated to developing new or improved ways to treat, diagnose or prevent diseases that could be use for bioterrorism [sic], such as anthrax, or infectious diseases, like West Nile fever, plague and dengue fever." (St. Louis Business Journal; 25Jun09)

FAU [Florida Atlantic University] trains medical reserve corps volunteers [Boca Raton, FL]
"Florida Atlantic University's Charles E. Schmidt College of Biomedical Science will host a seminar program designed to train Medical Reserve Corps volunteers for real-world events that could lead to their deployment. The training session will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday at FAU's Disaster and Emergency Healthcare Simulation Center. […] The volunteer training seminars, which are being held in conjunction with Bioterrorism/Disaster Education and Awareness Month, are geared to prepare retired and unaffiliated health-care professionals in how to assist the community in the event of major disasters or emergencies in South Florida." (Treasure Coast Palm; 25Jun09)

Anthrax [outbreak] drill tests efficiency [PA]
"Bucks County [Pennsylvania] health and emergency officials conducted the second annual anthrax drill at William Tennent High School in Warminster, using 491 volunteers to determine how efficiently they could mass distribute drugs among county residents during an emergency. The health department distributed 1,680 doses of antibiotics in one hour. […] Thursday's test used the head-of-household model, where one person from each household would report to a designated distribution point to receive pills for their families. The method is used to quickly distribute oral medications, reducing volume and traffic at each distribution point. […] In a real anthrax emergency, the county health department would distribute Cipro, amoxicillin and doxycycline. […] First responders and other critical personnel and their families would receive antibiotic doses first, which would allow them to work at the distribution points without risk of exposure." (Philly Burbs; 26Jun09; Jo Ciavaglia; Source: The Intelligencer)

Device to detect anthrax [spores] with accuracy & reliability [New Zealand]
"Scientists have developed a handheld device that can detect anthrax [spores]. The device, called Ceeker (pronounced 'seeker'), was made by scientists at Veritide L[imited]. […] It can discriminate between anthrax spores and similar-looking hoax substances. The data show that in over two weeks of testing at the Midwest Research Institute in Florida, the company's Ceeker scanner accurately identified 100 percent of the anthrax [spore] samples used and was correct in 95 percent of tests involving hoax substances. […] 'These […] results were generated by a small portable handheld system that requires no special skills or training to operate and that can produce a result within minutes,' said [Andrew Rudge, Chief Executive Officer of Veritide]. […] It uses ultraviolet light and special algorithms to detect bacterial spores and provides test results within minutes. […] The Ceeker has also been […] validated by forensic laboratory ESR [Institute of Environmental Science and Research, New Zealand] which conducted multiple rounds of testing using anthrax [spore] simulants and hoax substances." (Times of India; 26Jun09)

OPCW [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] director-general visits Bosnia and Herzegovina and opens international seminar on non-proliferation obligations
"On 22 June 2009 the OPCW Director-General, Ambassador Rogelio Pfirter, paid an official visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina where he met with […] Dr Haris Silajdzic, Member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and […] Mr Sven Alkalaj, Minister of Foreign Affairs. In his meetings, […] Pfirter provided an overview on the global implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The discussions focused inter alia on effective national implementation. Dr Silajdzic and Foreign Minister Alkalaj reaffirmed Bosnia and Herzegovina's strong commitment to the objectives of the CWC and expressed their Government's firm support for the work of the OPCW in implementing the global chemical weapons ban. […] Pfirter commended Bosnia and Herzegovina for its unwavering commitment to the CWC and work of the Organisation." (OPCW; 25Jun09)

Hospital staff train to respond to dirty bomb [Louisville, KY]
"Since 9-11 the U.S. has taken many steps to avoid terrorist attacks. […] On Thursday, a group of health care professionals from University Hospital tested their skills at responding to a 'dirty bomb.' The emphasis was on decontaminating patients while keeping themselves and the hospital clean. As part of the realistic drill, participants painted on fake wounds and acted as patients, while nurses and techs learned to use equipment to detect radiation. The Department of Veteran Affairs ran the exercise, also teaching them how and when to shower the wound and what needed to be scrubbed further. 'If you don't do the decon[tamination] in the field and re-evaluate at the emergency department, you run the risk of contamination of the personnel and you're facility,' said Bill Smock, UofL [University of Louisville] Professor of Emergency Medicine. 'The last thing you want to do is to have to close the hospital because of radiological contamination.' Hospital staff followed the same procedures they would follow in case of a nuclear power plant explosion." (Wave 3; 25Jun09; Elizabeth Donatelli)

Device with radioactive material stolen; police warn of risk [Bakersfield, CA]
"A device with a small amount of radioactive material inside it has been stolen, and Bakersfield police are warning people of the potential health risk. A density tester was reportedly stolen Thursday night or Friday morning from a vehicle parked on the 700 block of Deseret Way. The vehicle is owned by site development firm Krazan & Associates Inc., according to a police news release. The radioactive material inside the density tester is sealed and doesn't pose a health risk if the device stays intact. If broken, the radioactive material could leak out." (Bakersfield Now; 26Jun09)

Defending the city: NYPD's [New York City Police Department] counterterrorism operations
"The NYPD has a highly developed counterterrorism program, due in large part to the strong support of city and department leaders […] who are both committed to having a strong counterterrorism program that effectively complements federal efforts. […] The NYPD counterterrorism bureau comprises several main elements. […] The second element is the counterterrorism division, a collection of specialized programs that includes a section to counter weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which involves radiation detection and the BioWatch program. […] The fourth major element, the counterterrorism coordinator, sets aside one radio car and two police officers from each precinct […] that can be immediately mobilized in the event of an attack or disaster. […] A doctor on staff, an expert in infectious diseases, provides support for bioterrorism events, such as anthrax [spore] attacks and other similar incidents. […] Although the likelihood of a WMD attack is low, the acquisition of WMDs has become easier over the past decade. […] Illustrating the NYPD's concern, the department monitors the city's air, as well as the air in the subway system, and has the most sophisticated radiation detection system in the world." (Washington Institute; 25Jun09; Lauren Cohen)

A visit to North Korea's arms factories
"Burm[a's] Gen[eral] Thura Shwe Mann, made a secret, seven day visit to North Korea last November, apparently with a shopping list for arms and sophisticated weapons systems. Shwe Mann, chief of staff of the army, navy and air force, and the coordinator of Special Operations, was shown by his North Korean hosts around arms industry factories and defense installations. He and his […] delegation were also taken to Myohyang, where secret tunnels have been built into the mountains to store and shield jet aircraft, missiles, tanks and nuclear and chemical weapons. Photographs of the visit have meanwhile reached The Irrawaddy [journal] and give rarely seen evidence of the range of North Korea's armaments industry." (The Irrawaddy, Thailand; 26Jun09)

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