War on Terrorism

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, August 12, 2009

Guarding the anthrax vaccine [at Emergent BioSolutions' facility]
"No one thought much about anthrax until someone started sending [Bacillus anthracis] to people in little white envelopes. But, suddenly, not long after 9/11, national attention was focused on the companies, like Emergent BioSolutions, who deal with biological agents and the security protocols they have in place. However, all this attention has brought nothing but good things, said Jeff Hauk, director of site risk management and protective operations at Emergent, the only biopharmaceutical company licensed to develop and manufacturer the anthrax vaccine. [...] Hauk said the most effective means of getting the attention of management has been through these risk assessments conducted by the DHS and the Department of Defense. 'Having those credible third parties come in and support the proposals that we put forth, whether it's manpower or equipment or whether we're needing to have a stronger leadership presence of protective services within executive management, all those things I think have contributed to where we are now,' he said. [...] But developing a strong physical security program hasn't been the sole focus of the department. One of the most significant benefits has been cross-training drills with law enforcement. 'Obviously they were very concerned because when you say the word 'anthrax' that can send shock waves through some people. We overcame that by bringing them in for brown bag sessions, where they toured the facility and sat down with all levels of our company from executives to scientists.' [Hauk said.] The company has been able to run drills and exercises with law enforcement so 'they know what to expect from us and we know what to expect from them' in the event of an emergency." (Security Director News; 12Aug09; Leischen Stelter) http://www.securitydirectornews.com/?p=article&id=sd200908NrHEVL

Fire crews get post office emergency training [Salt Lake City, UT]
"At the main post office in Salt Lake City Tuesday afternoon it looked like there was an emergency going on. But not to worry, this was just a drill. The Post Office was testing its response, along with the Salt Lake City Fire Department to a fake emergency. They wanted to see how well they communicated with each other, they tested response time and reaction to the emergency scenario. That included employees having to be decontaminated." (ABC 4, UT; 11Aug09) http://www.abc4.com/content/news/slc/story/Fire-crews-get-post-office-emergency-training/3N5d2H7v4EGllqJqL6iMeQ.cspx

Making sense of food safety legislation
"If anything positive can be found in the recent salmonella outbreak in peanuts that caused at least nine deaths and prompted the recall of hundreds of foods, it's that Congress appears poised to strengthen our food safety laws. A bill that passed the House last month would give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration more authority to inspect food manufacturing plants and to authorize recalls when needed. It would also revamp the system to focus more on preventing outbreaks instead of tracing them after they occur. The Senate is considering a similar bill. [...] If you find yourself lacking the time it would take to read the bills yourself, check out this analysis by Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University and author of 'Safe Food: Bacteria, Biotechnology, and Bioterrorism.' In large part, she writes on the Atlantic's Nutrition blog, the House bill is modeled on a preventive approach called Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, or HACCP." (Los Angeles Times; 10Aug09; Karen Kaplan) http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/booster_shots/2009/08/making-sense-of-food-safety-legislation.html

New agriculture building opens [Reno, NV]
"The Department of Agriculture is one of those state agencies we take for granted. But consider everything that is weighed or measured or scanned for that matter is regulated here. But they are also on the front line of bioterrorism, and help detect disease like Exotic Newcastle and West Nile Virus, so it's a big deal when they opened their new facility Monday. [...] 'We basically identified what types of fields we were going to be working in, what kind of sections we needed and what kind of building requirements were necessary to actually obtain goals,' says Dr. Annette Rink. We frequently talk to Dr. Rink about dangerous biological agents, viruses, or diseases that can or have affected our community. The new lab she says allows her department to come up with answers more efficiently, with separate rooms and high tech ventilations systems here there's less chance of cross contamination or false negatives or positives." (KOLO TV, Reno; 10Aug09; Terri Russell) http://www.kolotv.com/news/headlines/52909837.html

How to cure diseases before they have even evolved
"A new pathogen could emerge at any time, as the SARS virus did in 2002, or a known virus such as that behind Lassa fever could become much better at passing from person to person and spread beyond Africa. Or a rogue scientist, or just a careless one, could release a deadly virus such as smallpox. We have been relatively lucky so far. The nature of SARS allowed it to be contained, while H1N1 flu remains mild for now. But our luck could run out tomorrow. 'Mother Nature is among the worst terrorists,' says Michael Goldblatt, who once led the biodefence programme for the Pentagon's research arm, DARPA, and now heads Functional Genetics, a biotech company in Gaithersburg, Maryland. [...] The conventional strategy for developing antivirals is 'one bug, one drug' - finding a drug that blocks viral replication by binding to part of a viral protein. The trouble is, any minor mutation that slightly changes the shape of the protein can render these drugs useless, as is happening with Tamiflu. The hundreds of millions of dollars governments worldwide have spent stockpiling this drug could well turn out to be futile. [...] What if, Goldblatt wondered, some host proteins are essential for viral replication but not for the survival of the host? If so, disabling these proteins should block viral replication without killing healthy cells. [...] He and his colleagues disabled one gene at a time in human cells before exposing them to viruses such as flu. This fishing expedition worked beautifully: they identified more than 100 different human proteins that flu viruses need to replicate but which cells can survive without. Only four were previously known to be involved in viral replication. [...] It remains early days for host-targeted antiviral therapy, as this approach is known. Indeed, many experts are sceptical about the entire notion. 'People in infectious disease are comfortable with targeting the pathogen. They're not comfortable with targeting the host,' says Goldblatt. One reason is the higher risk of side effects, especially with infections that require lengthy treatment." (New Scientist; 10Aug09; Bob Holmes)

Army Corps [of Engineers] finds World War I chemical, halts dig [Spring Valley, DC]
"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is halting its search for World War I-era chemical weapons in Washington's Spring Valley neighborhood after workers discovered an open glass flask containing the chemical agent mustard. The discovery was made last week at a vacant home behind American University's campus. The school was used as an experiment station to develop and test chemical weapons during World War I. Army Corps project manager Dan Noble says the mustard agent was uncovered just two feet below ground level." (San Francisco Examiner; 12Aug09; Source: AP) http://www.examiner.com/a-2164924~Army_Corps_finds_World_War_I_chemical__halts_dig.html

More than a warning [discusses warning system in Richmond, KY]
"Madison County's Emergency Operation Center is taking safety a few miles farther with the distribution of new Tone Alert Radios (TARs) in the fall. The 16,000 TARs already in homes throughout the county are located within the Immediate Response Zone (IRZ), which historically has been considered any place within 6.2 miles of the chemical weapons being stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot.'We're expanding from 6.2 to 9 miles,' said Carl Richards, director of Madison County's Emergency Operations Center. 'We knew that 6.2 (miles) is a pretty small IRZ when we looked at other states with depots that had similar weapons.' Increasing the span to nine miles helps cover the majority of the county's population, he said. [...] Even though the TARs' main purpose is to alert residences of an accident at the depot involving the chemical weapons, it more often will be used as an emergency weather warning system.'It will alert you of tornado or thunderstorm warnings via the National Weather Service or from us,' Richards said." (Richmond Register; 11Aug09; Ronica Shannon) http://www.richmondregister.com/localnews/local_story_223081757.html

Sub-regional training course on technical aspects of the CWC Transfers' Regime held in Malacca [Malaysia]
"Course participants explored discrepancies in the reporting of transfers of scheduled chemicals and practical customs-related matters such as control of Scheduled chemicals in free ports and free zones, risk assessment, transshipments, and software for customs services. They received instruction on practical ways to eliminate discrepancies between the quantities of Scheduled chemicals declared by importing and exporting States Parties in respect of the same transfers. Practical exercises and group discussions enhanced their capacity to effectively track the import and export of scheduled chemicals, and participating customs authorities shared information about their efforts in implementing the provisions of the transfers' regime. Participants also visited the West Ports facility at Port Klang to observe and understand the procedures adopted by the Royal Malaysian Customs Authority to monitor the import and export of chemicals. The training course was funded through a voluntary contribution by the Republic of Korea and received highly favorable assessments." (OPCW News; 11Aug09; Michael Luhan) http://www.opcw.org/news/news/article/sub-regional-training-course-on-technical-aspects-of-the-cwc-transfers-regime-held-in-malacca/

Right-wing militias on the rise in U.S.: report [by the Southern Poverty Law Center]
"Incensed by the election of the first black U.S. president, right-wing militia groups in the United States are rising again after a decade of decline, said new research on extremist groups released Wednesday. Ideologically driven by racism and a virulent anti-government, anti-immigrant agenda, the homegrown groups that thrived in the 1990s and spurred numerous deadly terrorist attacks are expanding, said the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). 'This is the most significant growth we've seen in 10 to 12 years,' said a law enforcement official quoted by the SPLC in its special report 'The Second Wave: Return of the Militias.' [...] 'One man 'very upset' with the election of America's first black president was building a radioactive 'dirty bomb'; another, a Marine, was planning to assassinate Obama, as were two racist skinheads in Tennessee; another angry at the election and said to be interested in joining a militia killed two sheriff's deputies in Florida,' said Larry Keller at the SPLC." (Calgary Herald; 12Aug09; Alex Ogle, Agence France Presse) http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/Right+wing+militias+rise+report/1885444/story.html

Israel seen complicating [President Barack] Obama's nuclear security meeting
"Israel is widely assumed to be the only Middle Eastern state in possession of nuclear arms, though it refuses to confirm the existence of the arsenal. Inviting Israel to the two-day meeting of heads of state would expose Jerusalem to questions about the program, but failing to invite the country could draw unwanted attention from neighboring states, experts said. 'I see this as one giant root canal which is going to be really painful for everybody who shows up -- and for everybody who doesn't,' said Aaron David Miller, a former State Department official who was involved in Middle East peace discussions. 'Even if you try to define the summit agenda to be nuclear terrorism and nuclear security, the people you do invite are going to bring Israel to the table, figuratively speaking, anyway,' he said. 'They're going to need to think this through extremely carefully.' The White House announced last month that summit participants from up to 30 nations would discuss cooperative efforts to track and protect weapon-usable materials and to safeguard against nuclear terrorism." (Global Security Newswire; 12Aug09) http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20090812_6305.php

Police, fire officials expecting $2.7M [Glendale, CA]
"Glendale Police and Fire departments stand to get more than $2.7 million in federal funding to help pay for terrorism training, new equipment and a regional DNA laboratory. The City Council tonight is expected to officially accept the money at a time when officials say the city needs it most. 'Obviously with budget reduction over the years, the grant funding becomes imperative for us to add any new items that typically would have been paid for through our capital outlay budget, so it's very important for us in order to get the support equipment that we need,' Police Chief Ron De Pompa said. The majority of the money, $1.33 million, is earmarked for a Glendale Fire Department terrorism liaison officer, urban search and rescue training and a police force protection team preparation for chemical, radioactive and biological warfare." (Glendale News Press; 10Aug09; Veronica Rocha) http://www.glendalenewspress.com/articles/2009/08/10/publicsafety/gnp-funding081109.txt

Rudd moves to soften terrorism laws
"Attorney-General Robert McClelland has moved to soften elements of Australia's counter-terrorism laws, barely a week after police raided a cell of suspected Somali and Lebanese extremists in Melbourne. [...] Under the changes announced last night, the length of time that police can detain terror[ism] suspects will be capped at nine days. But police will be given the power to search premises without a warrant where they believe there is material that threatens public health, such as explosives or biological agents. However, as a safeguard, police will not be able to enter a premises for the purpose of gathering evidence merely to address acute security threats. The changes also extend the amount of time police have to re-enter premises from one hour to 12 in emergencies. Mr McClelland said the government's proposals hardened Australia's laws in some areas and moderated them in others. [...] Mr McClelland said the time had come to recalibrate the laws. 'I think it's appropriate, given reflections, given time, that we now need to shift our focus to a frame of reference that is long-term so that the public accepts the legislation which in many instances had time limits or sunset clauses, accepts the legislation as being valid, credible and effective, but balanced for the long term,' he said." (The Australian; 13Aug09; Paul Maley and Sid Maher) http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25921975-601,00.html

Overland park man [John Philip Barker] sentenced for anthrax [spore] threat
"John Philip Barker, 47, Overland Park, Kan., has been sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison for sending a white powder through the U.S. mails that he claimed was anthrax, U.S. Attorney Lanny Welch said. After his imprisonment he will serve two years on supervised release. [...] In his plea, Barker admitted that on June 21, 2008, he used the U.S. mail to send a threatening communication to the Internal Revenue Service in Austin, Texas. The letter, which was opened at the Internal Revenue Processing Center in Austin, contained the following statement (with misspelling): 'you have been exposed to antrax die!' The Austin Fire Department HAZMAT team retrieved the letter and took it to the Laboratory Response Network lab for analysis. The lab found no evidence of bacillus anthracis." (Kansas City Infozine; 12Aug09) http://www.infozine.com/news/stories/op/storiesView/sid/37053/

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