War on Terrorism

Monday, July 27, 2009

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, July 27, 2009

US on verge of closing anthrax probe after 8 years
"A year after government scientist Bruce Ivins killed himself while under investigation for the lethal anthrax [sic] letters of 2001, the Justice Department is on the verge of closing the long, costly and vexing case. Several law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that the department had tentatively planned last week to close the case, but backed away from that decision after government lawyers said they needed more time to review the evidence and determine what further information can be made public without compromising grand jury secrecy or privacy laws. […] Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd declined to comment on the discussions but said, […] 'We anticipate closing the case in the near future,' […] This week, the National Academy of Sciences is set to begin a formal review of the FBI's scientific methods in tracing the particular strain of anthrax used in the mailings to samples Ivins had at his Fort Detrick lab. […] Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who was the target of one of the letters, has said he does not believe Ivins acted alone. […] Plenty of questions remain unanswered, whenever they close the investigation, Kemp said. 'The case continues to remain an open sore with no conclusive evidence, and it is still devastating to (Ivins') family,' said Kemp." (Associated Press; 27Jul09; Devlin Barrett) http://tinyurl.com/l63lku

Infectious diseases study site questioned
"The Department of Homeland Security [DHS] relied on a rushed, flawed study to justify its decision to locate a $700 million research facility for highly infectious pathogens in a tornado-prone section of Kansas, according to a government report. [...] The GAO said DHS greatly underestimated the chance of accidental release and major contamination from such research, which has been conducted only on a remote island off the United States. DHS staff members tried quietly last week to fend off a public airing of the facility's risks, agency correspondence shows. Department officials met privately with staff members of a congressional oversight subcommittee to try to convince them that the GAO report was unfair, and to urge them to forgo or postpone a hearing. But the House Energy and Commerce Committee's oversight and investigations subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), decided otherwise. [...] DHS officials and Kansas leaders say the selection system, which began in late 2006, was always fair and open." (Washington Post; 27Jul09; Carol D.

Pandemic survey finds 1 in 6 public health workers unlikely to respond
"Approximately 1 in 6 public health workers said they would not report to work during a pandemic flu emergency regardless of its severity, according to a survey led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The findings are a significant improvement over a 2005 study conducted by the same research team, in which more than 40 percent of public health employees said they were unlikely to report to work during a pandemic emergency. The new study suggests ways for improving the response of the public health workforce. The results are published in the July 24 edition of the journal PLoS ONE. [...] The online survey was conducted among 1,835 public health workers in Minnesota, Ohio and West Virginia from November 2006 to December 2007. The survey analysis was based on the Extended Parallel Process Model (EPPM), which postulates that willingness to follow instructions in an emergency is based on an individual's perception of a threat's validity and belief that the actions taken can be feasibly accomplished and will have a positive impact on the threat. According to the survey, public health workers who were both "concerned" about the threat posed by a pandemic, and who were "confident" that they could fulfill their response roles and that their roles would have a meaningful impact on the situation, were 31 times more likely to respond to work in an emergency than those who perceived the threat low, and had low levels of confidence." (Occupation Health & Safety; 27Jul09) http://tinyurl.com/m3c6us

Anthrax [sic] attack requires early detection & quick response
"A large attack on a major metropolitan area with airborne anthrax [bacteria] could affect more than a million people, necessitating their treatment with powerful antibiotics. A new study finds that in order for a response to be effective, quick detection and treatment are essential, and any delay beyond three days would overwhelm hospitals with critically ill people. The results of a computer simulation study appear in the July/August edition of the journal Medical Decision Making. […] 'No matter how well-organized and prolonged a treatment program is, it must be quickly implemented. In fact, our analysis shows that time-to-treatment is roughly twice as important as the duration of the distribution program,' says lead author Dr. Nathaniel Hupert, associate professor of public health and medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. 'Crucial to rapidly implementing a treatment program is early detection, including thorough use of advanced biosurveillance technologies and live, person-to-person communication,' continues Dr. Hupert, who is also director of the new Preparedness Modeling Unit at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 'But most important of all are multilateral diplomatic efforts to prevent bioterrorist attacks from ever happening.' The study predicts that a campaign initiated two days after exposure would protect as many as 87 percent of exposed individuals from illness." (Medical News Today; 25Jul09) http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/158793.php

Defense agency simulates biological attack on Pentagon
"The risk of attack against senior government and military officials always has been high, making protection of the Pentagon and other buildings in the national capital area a top priority, a senior official involved with a recent bio-attack drill said. Paul Benda and Christina Murata - director and deputy director, respectively, of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency's chemical, radiological, nuclear and explosives directorate […] explained how they used a commercial garden powder to simulate a biological attack in a July 11 test of response procedures and decontamination methods, and how the findings of their test will affect future response to bio-weapon attacks. More than 200 people participated in the test, including 87 volunteers who were exposed to the garden powder and washed down. […] More than a dozen organizations participated in the test in hopes of finding the easiest and most effective methods. 'We wanted to compare the different decontamination strategies,' Benda said. […] For personnel contaminated with a biological weapon, the best cleaning method was to make a 'wall' of water using five fire trucks. Four pumper trucks fired water against each other while a ladder truck released water from above. Volunteers walked through the streams, scrubbing their body and hair to remove contaminants. […] Once the team sorts the data from this test and figures out which questions have been answered and what new questions have arisen, they'll share the findings and begin planning for the next test." (Digital Video and Imagery Distribution System; 24Jul09; Ian Graham)

OPCW Concludes 11th Inspector Training Course
"The 13-week training was supported by the governments of Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Switzerland, and the United States of America. This year's programme combined lectures from experts in chemical demilitarisation and industry verification with case studies review and table-top exercises to ensure familiarity with on-site inspection procedures. The practical side of the course included field training to impart skills required for protection against use of chemical weapons and potential toxic exposure, and involved handling of live blister and nerve agents. The inspectors also received medical and communications instruction and were tutored in OPCW safety procedures. The new recruits will join an international team of more than 180 OPCW inspectors based in the Technical Secretariat." (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons; 27Jul09) http://www.opcw.org/news/news/article/opcw-concludes-11th-inspector-training-course/

Saudi Arabia ready to face radiological disaster
"Saudi Arabia has a national emergency plan ready to respond to radiological emergencies, according to Abdulrahman Mohammed Alarfaj, energy expert working at the Atomic Energy Research Institute of the Riyadh-based King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST). 'The plan gets activated in case of any radiological disaster,' Alarfaj, said in Riyadh on Saturday. Saudi Arabia is to send a delegation to the meeting of the Arab Atomic Energy Agency (AAEA) in Tunis on Monday. […] Alarfaj said the meeting will draw out several proposals and programmes following the adoption of an Arab strategy for peaceful nuclear development by an Arab summit in Doha in March this year. Alarfaj […] said the Kingdom was well equipped to control and manage any radiological emergency. […] He added that more than 23 relevant organisations and government agencies, including the ministries of health, agriculture and electricity are represented on the national body to respond to radiological disasters. [...] 'That is why the task force set up under the national plan is fully prepared to respond quickly to incidents of radiological contamination, wherever they may occur,' he said." (Khaleej Times; 27Jul09; Habib Shaikh) http://tinyurl.com/n3fzoz

White house homeland security council urges nuclear attack response planning
"The recently released Planning Guidance for Response to a Nuclear Detonation, developed by the White House Homeland Security Council, stresses that it's 'incumbent upon all levels of government' to prepare 'thorough focused nuclear attack response planning.' […] A yearly analysis of preparedness for health emergencies that's released by the nonprofit Trust for America's Health, found that 'surge capacity remains the largest threat to the nation's ability to respond to a major catastrophe.' Local, and specifically, regional abilities to care for the wounded will be vital just after a nuclear terrorist attack. […] The federal government would eventually take charge of response efforts and military aid would be required. Yet as overwhelming as it would be for local and state resources, they would be all that's available in the first hours and days following an explosion. […] Though there's a low probability of such an attack compared to conventional explosives, natural disasters or bioterrorism, the possibility is real and the consequences are catastrophic. […] Local officials shouldn't delude themselves by thinking that existing response plans to 'dirty bombs' can be simply ramped up to deal with nuclear terrorism - there's no comparison between the two. […] Although the Defense Department has recently tasked thousands of U.S. troops to support local authorities in case of such a catastrophic event, local officials should assume substantial federal help might not arrive for up to 72 hours after the explosion. […] Preparation isn't necessarily specific to nuclear terrorism. Regional preparedness and response can be used for a range of catastrophic events." (Government Technology; 24Jul 2009; Arnold Bogis)

NMMI [New Mexico Military Institute] head to serve on national panel
"The new superintendent of the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell is being tapped to serve on a national defense panel. Major General Jerry Grizzle will serve on an advisory panel to the U.S Department of Defense. […] Their mission is to review the department's capabilities to support civil authorities after certain incidents. The incidents include chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high yield explosive incidents. The panel will report its findings in a year." (KRQE; 26Jul09) http://tinyurl.com/kmb9pe

Secretary Napolitano and National Security Preparedness Group discuss DHS [Department of Homeland Security] progress in fulfilling 9/11 Commission recommendations
"Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano and members of the Bipartisan Policy Center's (BPC) National Security Preparedness Group (NSPG) met today to discuss the Department's progress in implementing the recommendations outlined in the 9/11 Commission Final Report released five years ago this week. [...] The National Security Preparedness Group is a bipartisan coalition of national security experts including former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge and co-chaired by former 9/11 Commission Chair Thomas H. Kean and Vice Chair Lee H. Hamilton. [...] The group also discussed new policies, initiatives and grant opportunities to bolster the Department's capacity to secure the nation from an ever-changing array of threats to homeland security, including cyber attacks and bioterrorism. To view the Department's full 9/11 Commission progress report, visit Progress in Implementing 9/11 Commission Recommendations." (Press Zoom; 27Jul09) http://presszoom.com/story_149002.html

Hazardous duty: reporter dons fire suit, learns about hazardous material [Chickasha, OK]
"Each year the Chickasha fire department and 17 other hazardous material teams take a training course. The course is a refresher for emergency personnel, and keeps firefighters up-to-date on the latest hazards and deterrents. [...] Carrying so much gear in this high stress environment demands physical fitness, but it also demands finesse. I found all this out the hard way on Friday, when I joined them for a portion of their hazmat training. The boots are like bricks tied to my feet. The jacket is big and bulky, and the helmet and respirator block my vision. [...] We don bright orange haz-mat suits and respirators and again approach with extreme caution. [...] We find the lab is used to make ricin, a highly toxic chemical extrapolated from castor beans. A piece equivalent to half a grain of sand can be deadly. The lab looks real and is real, except for a few key ingredients." (Express-Star; 27Jul09; Ellis Goodwin) http://tinyurl.com/nhuhkq

Powder scare hits IRD [Inland Revenue Department] mail room
"An Inland Revenue mail room was evacuated on Tuesday morning when staff opened a package containing white powder, which later turned out to be harmless. Staff were evacuated and those who came into contact with the package underwent a Fire Service decontamination process, said Upper Hutt police area commander Inspector Michael Hill. Preliminary ESR [Environmental Science & Research] analysis suggested the powder was not a dangerous substance. 'At this stage the powder does not appear to be harmful to the public. We are conducting a criminal investigation to identify and speak with the offender,' Hill said." (TV New Zealand; 21Jul09)

Chemical at fire H[ead] Q[uarters] 'was radioactive' [Ipswich, England]
"Tests have confirmed that a test tube which was taken into Suffolk Fire Service's headquarters by a woman contained a radioactive substance. The woman walked into Ipswich's Colchester Road fire station at 5pm on Friday with a sealed test tube which she said contained the dangerous chemical. […] It sparked a major chemical incident which led to specialist firefighters being deployed as far afield as Haverhill along with ambulance crews. A health physicist from Sizewell A nuclear power station attended the scene and confirmed that it was radioactive. […] Dave Pedersen, group manager for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, said: 'As part of our notification scheme we contacted the nuclear industry for advice on anything being radioactive. We were advised that it was not a radiological risk and was a very low yield powder which means that the risk to the public is very low.' […] The Environment Agency (EA) last night said it will ensure the substance will be disposed of properly and said an investigation will be carried out to find out where the substance came from." (EADT 24 News; 27Jul09) http://tinyurl.com/mqgd8g

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