War on Terrorism

Friday, August 07, 2009

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, August 7, 2009

Germ warfare scientist Wallace Pannier dies at 81 [Hagerstown, MD]
"Friends are mourning the death of a germ warfare researcher who belonged to a secretive, special-operations team at Fort Detrick from 1949 to 1969. Eighty-one-year-old Wallace Pannier and his colleagues developed and tested delivery systems for deadly agents such as anthrax [bacteria] and smallpox [viruses]. He told The (Baltimore) Sun in 2004 that team members staged a mock attack on the New York subway in 1966 by shattering light bulbs packed with powdered bacteria on the tracks. They tracked the germs with air samplers disguised as suitcases. The bacteria they used were believed at the time to be harmless but have since been classified as human pathogens. Pannier […] died of natural causes." (Washington D.C.
Examiner; 07Aug09; Source: AP)

[Anoka] County is awarded federal emergency grant [MN]
"Federal money to make sure that Anoka County is ready to deal with any natural or man-made disaster continues to flow to the county. The federal public health emergency preparedness grant, […] which is for the period Aug. 10, 2009 through Aug. 9, 2010, totals $340,393. The dollars are used by the county health and environmental services department for community response planning, staff training and workforce readiness to respond to a disaster, whether it be natural like a flu pandemic, or man-made such as an act of bioterrorism. […] The federal grant regulations […] mandate that the county conduct tabletop and field exercises to test the practicality of the plan and the county's ability to deal [with] a disaster situation effectively. […] Part of the county's action plan involves getting disaster readiness information out to a number [of] entities like hospitals, medical clinics, other government agencies, schools, churches, the business community and facilities that house people who are considered vulnerable. […] The annual federal grant received by the county carries with it specific responsibilities, [for example] increase the use and development of interventions known to prevent human illness from chemical, biological, radiological agents and naturally occurring health threats; decrease the time needed to classify health events as terrorism or naturally occurring in partnerships with other agencies; decrease the time needed to detect and report chemical, biological, radiological agents in tissue, food or environmental samples that cause threats to the public's health; […] decrease the time to identify causes, risk factors and appropriate interventions for those affected by threats to the public's health." (ABC Newspaper; 05Aug09; Peter Bodley)

Nominee for chief medical officer [Alexander Garza] of homeland security has St. Louis [MO] ties
"The top doctor of homeland security is likely to be a graduate of the University of Missouri at Columbia and St. Louis University. President Barack Obama last month nominated Dr. Alexander Garza to the position of Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs and Chief Medical Officer of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Garza awaits full Senate confirmation, which is expected this month. […] As chief, Garza would lead the country as it faces public health threats ranging from disease epidemics to biological, radiological and environmental hazards. […] Janet Napolitano, secretary of homeland security, said in a statement 'I look forward to working with him to prepare for and respond to all health threats - from the H1N1 virus to biological weapons - to ensure the safety of our nation.' Garza works as a physician in the emergency department at Washington Hospital Center in Washington. […] 'He will have an excellent multilayered ability to appreciate not just the individual health issues from his medical clinical training but also the population health issues,' [Catherine Nolan, a program coordinator in the school of public health] said. 'Security and preparedness isn't just about military, it's also about organizing people and protecting the health of the population.'" (St. Louis Today; 06Aug09; Blythe Bernhard) http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/lifestyle/stories.nsf/healthfitness/story/F21E5E4F3870F70F862576090073A5A5?OpenDocument

Emergent [BioSolutions Inc.] looks to buy Maryland lab, Lansing [MI] facility could make more anthrax vaccine
"Emergent BioSolutions Inc. hopes to ramp up production of its anthrax vaccine in Lansing. The Rockville, Md.-based company said Thursday it plans to sell two unused buildings and purchase a manufacturing facility and laboratory in Maryland. The pending moves could free up space in Lansing for additional production of BioThrax, the only federally approved anthrax vaccine, […] to ramp up the nation's stockpile of doses for use in case of a biological terrorist attack. 'The government has previously stated they want a stockpile of at least 75 million doses. Our calculations would show the stockpile is way short of that,' Chief Financial Officer Don Elsey said.
[…] Emergent currently makes the anthrax vaccine in a Lansing facility with a capacity for roughly 7 million doses a year, Elsey said. In September, the company will start producing 14.5 million doses as part of a $405 million government contract for the national drug stockpile. […] A new $75 million large-scale manufacturing plant in Lansing could handle an additional 30 million doses a year." (Lansing State Journal; 07Aug09; Melissa Domsic)

GAO [Government Accountability Office] warns HHS [Health and Human Services] about lack of risk assessment for bioshield contracting
"The Government Accountability Office is concerned that the Health and Human Services Department has not performed risk assessment of some of the contracting authorities it obtained under the BioShield Act. The act gave HHS new capabilities to acquire countermeasures to mitigate threats from chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear agents. These include increased simplified acquisition and micropurchase thresholds. According to GAO, the department has established internal controls on its new purchasing and contracting authorities. But HHS failed to qualify key risks on using such procedures. 'Although some of the risk statements in a memo HHS issued identify some risks and one mentions possible negative consequences that could occur without proper controls in place, the risk statements for using the increased micropurchase threshold and increased simplified acquisition procedures lack analysis of specific risks,' said John K. Needham, GAO's director of acquisition and sourcing management. […] Barbara Pisaro Clark, acting assistant secretary for legislation at HHS, said the department plans to revise its internal controls and will provide more guidance on risk assessments for using BioShield contracting authorities." (Targeted News; 07Aug09; Eliza Villarino)

Winter Park firm takes on large scale decontamination [FL]
"In this day of SARS [Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome], anthrax, MRSA [Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus] and swine flu, a local company is perfecting the process of germ killing. AeroClave was started six years ago by Dr. Ron Brown, M.D. of Altamonte Springs and a team of experts in the fields of aviation, commercial cleaning, heating and air conditioning. 'The secret is that you have to kill all the organisms, all the time. That's what we do,' he explained. A big customer is the city of Winter Park which routinely has its fire and police vehicles decontaminated in a special garage at AeroClave's facility on Capen Avenue. The process usually takes 90 minutes. […] 'We've done 747s, school buses, multiple rescue vehicles, multiple police vehicles simultaneously,' said Dr. Brown. Eventually, he hopes AeroClave can be in every fire station and every emergency department that may need biodefense services.
The process is also available for fixed structures, like school buildings. […] AeroClave's process uses a vaporized hydrogen peroxide that is introduced into a closed space, touching all surfaces until all organisms are killed. […] 'You really can't smell anything. There's no residual odor. There's no residual gas. We monitor the levels of the gas until it gets down to zero and stays there,' he said." (WDBO Local News; 07Aug09; Joe Ruble) http://wdbo.com/localnews/2009/08/winter-park-firm-takes-on-larg.html

British MP [Member of Parliament] testifies on Iraq 'genocide' against Marsh Arabs

"A member of the British House of Lords has described witnessing 'genocide' by executed dictator Saddam Hussein's regime against Iraq's Marsh Arabs in the early 1990s. Baroness Emma Nicholson was this week the first foreigner to testify in the Baghdad trial of 42 Iraqis. […] The mass expulsion of locals and the draining of around 90 percent of the marshes in the country's south, which sent around 50,000 refugees into Iran, is considered by the United Nations to be one of the worst environmental disasters in history. Nicholson told AFP [Agence France Press] late Thursday after testifying in the tightly guarded trial in the Iraqi capital that she saw first-hand the destruction of the region, including through the alleged use of chemical weapons, on a series of around 75 visits to Iraq and neighbouring Iran during the 1990s. 'The people were farmers and fishermen whose farms and fishing grounds were being destroyed,' said Nicholson, head of the AMAR [Assisting March Arabs and Refugees] charity which provides assistance to Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people, including the Marsh Arabs. […] Nicholson told AFP she witnessed the result of apparent chemical weapons use by Iraqi forces, with medical workers under her direction treating 'people coughing their insides out. Some of the chemical weapons turned people blue and they'd blow up and died. Others were clearly mustard gas because (the victims) talked about yellow bombs coming from the sky and no one could breathe, they were burning all over.' […] The trial is not the first time senior Iraqi officials have been accused of using chemical weapons to crush resistance." (Khaleej Times; 07Aug09) http://www.khaleejtimes.com/darticlen.asp?xfile=data/middleeast/2009/August/middleeast_August156.xml&section=middleeast&col=

NRC [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] seeks tighter controls over radioactive devices
"The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission this week sought to strengthen control of devices containing radioactive material that could be used in acts of terrorism, the Scripps Howard News Service reported. There are believed to be roughly 2 million such devices […] licensed for use around the country. However, the whereabouts of as many as 500,000 of those items might not be known, according to the Government Accountability Office. […] The fear is that cesium 137 and other substances from disused machines could be used to produce a radiological 'dirty bomb.' […] 'A licensee's loss of control of radioactive sources, whether it be inadvertent or through a deliberate act, could result in significant health impacts, which could constitute a threat to the public health and safety,' the commission stated in a notice Monday in the Federal Register. The proposed rule would augment regulations on 1,800 devices, most of which are industrial gauges that use radioactive substances. Roughly 1,400 general license holders would be required to obtain specific licenses for those items, the commission said in a press release. 'This requirement would improve NRC monitoring of the location and use of radioactive materials of higher activity and enhance the accountability and control of such devices,' the release states. […] The rule would serve as a change from existing oversight methods, under which entities seeking licenses for devices containing particular radioactive materials are not asked why they need the machine or whether employees are familiar with its use, Scripps Howard reported. […] The rule would go into effect 'sometime late next year,' according to NRC spokesman David McIntyre. […] The system remains focused on accounting for products that might constitute a terrorism threat, but the matter could be reconsidered at some point." (Global Security Newswire; 07Aug09) http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20090806_9828.php

'Blackjacks' [2-135th] train for emergency response [Buckley Air Force Base, CO]
"The Colorado Army National Guard Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear Explosive (CBRNe) Consequence Management Reaction Force (CCMRF) tested their capabilities to effectively respond to national emergencies during the National Emergency Response Exercise by launching UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters from the Army Aviation Support Facility at Buckley Air Force Base July 23. The Aviation Task Force responded to simulated events throughout Colorado to validate its responsibility as a CCMRF support element. Aircraft and personnel from the Nebraska Army National Guard also participated. […] 'We're looking for (the CBRNe's forward element) response time,' said Lt. Col. Tom Ritz, head evaluator of the exercise for the Premobilization Training Assessment Evaluation Element. 'We're looking for how they evaluate the casualties, […] how they set up their command and control and integrate in with the other agencies that will be a part of the exercise.' The 'Blackjacks' were appointed by the Secretary of Defense to be the Aviation Task Force for the continental United States which will support CCMRF teams around the country. […] The Aviation Task Force is responsible for responding to situations such as chemical, biological, nuclear, radiological or high explosive emergencies that result due to natural disasters, accidental incidents, or terrorist attacks." (Denver Newspaper Agency; 06Aug09; Sgt. Scott Griffin, Colorado National Guard Public Affairs)

China launches 60th anniversary safety push with Olympics anti-terror[ism] model
"Anti-terror[ism] forces that safeguarded the safe Beijing Olympics last year are in action again as China has stepped up security ahead of its 60th anniversary of founding on Oct. 1, an official said Friday, one year after the Games. 'A safe National Day is the key to the success of the anniversary,' said Wang Anshun, deputy secretary of the Communist Party of China Beijing Municipal Committee. […] Experts said the forces of safeguarding the anniversary activities should be stronger than during the games as terrorist groups are also better equipped. […] The Snow Leopard Commando Unit (SLCU), a major anti-terrorism wing of the People's Armed Police, and the Blue Sword Commando Unit (BSCU) under the Beijing armed police, are ready for security operations during the celebrations. […] More than 400 officers were dubbed as the protector of the Olympics for their roles in counter-terrorism, riot control and other special tasks, such as stopping hijacking and bomb disposal. SLCU and BSCU participated in an anti-terrorism drill in June. […] The exercise […] aimed to improve the police forces' abilities to deal with bombs containing radioactive contaminants, serial terrorist attacks and blasts in chemical factories. […] More exercises are needed to test the emergency response capacity and smooth the coordination among various forces, he said. […] Like the system during the Olympics, emergency police centers can mobilize helicopters and satellites to prevent and handle potential terror[ist] attacks, Wang said. The equipment to deal with chemical weapons, monitoring system of suspected vehicles and air detection equipment that were developed during the Olympics have been used in daily checks, he said." (China View; 07Aug09)

TA [Territorial Army] troops carry off skills trophy [skills test included CBRN incident response]
"Banbury soldiers have won a military skills championship for the third year running. The Territorial Army troops, part of 5 (Queens Own Oxfordshire Hussars), Signal Squadron, beat rival teams from Eastbourne, London and Coulsdon to scoop the Duchess of Gloucester Cup. Troops were tested for their military knowledge, problem solving and fitness at the regiment's summer camp in Hampshire last month. Seven teams of eight soldiers tackled an assault course and first aid exercise, and […] took part in a chemical, biological radiological and nuclear exercise. The TA trains people from all walks of life to be soldiers in their spare time." (Oxford Mail; 07Aug09; Sam Mcgregor)

White powder scare at Camden county business [Osage Beach, MO]
"A business in Camden County shut down for a short time Thursday after a white powder scare. The KK Eagle Stop at Highway 54 and State Road KK was put under temporary quarantine just after 3:30 yesterday afternoon. Several workers started complaining they felt ill after handling a roll of quarters that contained an unknown white power. Several were taken to an area hospital. Investigators later said the powder wasn't harmful. The store reopened Thursday evening." (Ozarks First; 07Aug09)

Second powder scare hits Mac Tower [Sydney]
"Four people have had to be decontaminated in what is the second chemical powder scare in two days at the State Government's ministerial offices. The four work in the mailroom on level 15 of Governor Macquarie Tower […] and are believed to have opened an envelope containing the powder just before 11am. The Fire Brigade officers are believed to have decontaminated them but the powder is not believed to be a chemical agent. […] The powder scare occurred just before more than 500 prison guards blocked Farrar Pl[ace] in front of the Governor Macquarie Tower to protest the privatisation of Parklea Jail." (Daily Telegraph; 06Aug09; Rhett Watson)

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