War on Terrorism

Friday, August 14, 2009

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, August 14, 2009

Researchers and bioterrorism defense agencies are eyeing Boreal Genomic's DNA technology
"A spinoff company from the University of British Columbia (UBC) has developed a new DNA-extraction method that could be applied in archaeology, forensics, bioterrorism [response] and other fields in which researchers struggle with materials that are often too small, old or contaminated to yield quality DNA samples. […] [Andre] Marziali [a director of engineering physics in the university's department of physics and astronomy] co-invented the Synchronous Coefficient of Drag Alteration (SCODA) technology with Lorne Whitehead, a UBC professor and prolific inventor. […] Whitehead came up with the idea of using electrophoresis - a process in which particles are dispersed in an electrically charged fluid - to arrange molecules in patterns on light displays. Marziali, however, saw the technology's potential for extracting and purifying nucleic acids, such as DNA. […] He explained that existing methods of DNA extraction rely on the chemical properties of nucleic acids to separate them from other molecules. In chemical-based extraction, researchers bind DNA with other materials such as glass fibre. But if a sample is too small, aged or contaminated, the materials and nucleic acids don't bind well. Conversely, Boreal's platform separates molecules based on their physical properties. […] Boreal's prototypes […] processes samples by sorting them in a gel that's surrounded by a rotating electric field. The rotating electric field causes materials in each sample to behave differently in the gel. While other molecules in the sample rotate in a closed circle in the gel, nucleic acids […] spiral inward and concentrate in the centre of the gel, where they can be collected. […] With a partner company, Boreal has received two grants from the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency, which is interested in applying the company's technology to defend against bioterrorist attacks." (Daily Business News, Vancouver; 12Aug09; Curt Cherewayko)

Man accused in Lafayette anthrax hoax [sic] seeks to block retrial [LA]
"A man who mailed more than 200 hoax bomb threats and anthrax letters [sic] after 9/11 is seeking to block federal prosecutors from bringing him back to trial after an appeals court threw out his conviction earlier this year. Stephen Michael Long's attorney argues in court filings that prosecutors waited too long to retry the case, missing the mandated 70-day 'speedy trial' time limit that protects a defendant's right to have a case quickly resolved. A hearing on the issue is set for Friday. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in April overturned Long's conviction and 30-year prison sentence for mailing the threatening letters, many filled with baby powder that recipients feared was anthrax [spores]. Long, who had a documented history of mental illness, admitted sending the letters, but the appeals court ruled the trial judge improperly stopped Long from arguing insanity. […] Long's request to block federal prosecutors from retrying the case will hinge on a judge's interpretation of when the 70-day clock for a new trial began ticking. The U.S. Attorney's Office contends that it filed a request to certify the case as complex 69 days after the appeals court ruling became effective. […] But Long's attorney, Randal McCann, argues the government's request came a few days too late. The U.S. Attorney's Office maintains the case is too serious to let go." (The Advertiser; 13Aug09; Source: AP)

Fort Detrick lab passes national accreditation [MD]
"Inspectors from a national organization gave their stamp of approval to the clinical pathology lab at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases [AMRIID]. The Fort Detrick lab received accreditation from the College of American Pathologists. USAMRIID spokeswoman Caree Vander Linden said the lab provides support for researchers in the form of immunizations and blood tests. The lab's rating at Biosafety Level 2 is 'comparable to a laboratory in a hospital,' Vander Linden said. […] The USAMRIID lab has not gone unaccredited in recent years, according to the organization. Separate USAMRIID labs where select agents or the most dangerous of pathogens are handled have been scrutinized in recent years. […] The Army research center was recognized as having excellent perimeter security, according to a September 2008 report from the Government Accountability Office. […] Identified as Lab B in the report, government inspectors found USAMRIID complied with all 15 of the security controls, including roving armed guards, vehicle barriers and video surveillance. However, another report released in the past year identified insider threats as the most grave concern for military biolabs." (Frederick News Post; 13Aug09; Adam Behsudi) http://www.fredericknewspost.com/sections/news/display.htm?StoryID=93820

Leaking mustard munition event concluded [Blue Grass Army Depot, KY]
"The leaking mustard artillery shell first detected in late May was identified and overpacked by toxic chemical crews of the Blue Grass Chemical Activity. The leaking [shell] was then moved to a separate leaker igloo. Following the required number of monitoring days with no trace of Mustard agent vapor found in the original igloo, the leaking incident is closed out. The igloos containing the overpacked chemical munitions are monitored every working day. To date, none of the munitions stored in that igloo have leaked through their overpack. Both Madison County and Commonwealth of Kentucky Emergency Management Agencies as well as the Kentucky Deparment of Environmental Protection were kept informed during all aspects of the leaking munition. The community and environment were never at risk." (U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency; 03Aug09)

[Delegate Eleanor Holmes] Norton presses Army Corps on DC munitions cleanup
"Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton is meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers on the discovery of the World War I chemical agent mustard in Washington's Spring Valley neighborhood. Norton has been pressing the Army Corps to remain in the area near American University until Congress confirms the cleanup is complete. The Corps has left the site twice since 1993, but had to return when more munitions were found. Norton says the Army Corps has committed to remain until the cleanup is finished. Corps officials thought they were nearing the end of a current excavation when a flask containing traces of the chemical was discovered. Norton plans to meet with the project commander Thursday. The Army's former chemical warfare station was housed at the university during World War I." (San Francisco Examiner; 13Aug09)

Russia restricts transparency at major chemical weapons site, group [Green Cross International] says
"Russia recently forced an international nonprofit organization to close offices intended to ensure transparency in the operations of one of the country's largest chemical weapons destruction sites. Some worry that the June 30 shuttering of three Green Cross International offices devoted to community outreach at the chemical stockpile facility and associated demilitarization plant might be an attempt to minimize oversight as Russia accelerates operations to meet the 2012 disarmament deadline set by the Chemical Weapons Convention. 'It's the shot across the bow that they're going to miss 2012, they just haven't said so publicly,' said Paul Walker, security and sustainability chief for the organization's U.S. arm, Global Green USA. 'The site requires independent oversight and accountability. Without that, you risk safety and security.' […] Green Cross established a Citizens' Advisory Commission, which met monthly to help address issues related to the site, Walker said. The organization also provided public information to 'all (local) residents and officials in order to help them engage federal officials in charge of the project,' he told Global Security Newswire. […] The Russian Foreign Ministry did not respond to questions submitted earlier this week regarding Green Cross." (Global Security Newswire; 14Aug09; Martin Matishak) http://gsn.nti.org/gsn/nw_20090814_2919.php

New line of defense for firefighters: they're making use of anti-cyanide kits
"Firefighters rushed to save a life at a house fire in Northeast Houston Wednesday night. […] Firefighters arrived to find three people trapped inside. […] One of them was not breathing and had no pulse, so medics administered something only used seven times before. 'They administered the cyanide antidote kit and it had a positive response,' said Adrian Trevino with the Houston Fire Department. The treatment worked and the patient is recovering at Memorial Hermann Hospital. The anti-cyanide kit was invented during World War I to help troops against chemical warfare. Two years ago, the Houston Fire Department discovered it can also help smoke inhalation victims when one of their own got in trouble. 'When our firefighters pulled him out, just like we would do any citizen of Houston, we began CPR. He was not responding as we were doing CPR, so for the first time in the U.S., we used this cyanide kit on one of our own firefighters,' said Trevino. Today, Brandon Everette is back to work and glad to be the first saved by the new use of an old remedy. […] The anti-cyanide kits cost about $1,000 each, so the fire department is working on getting grants to help get more kits. The goal is to have one at every fire scene." (KIAH Channel 39, Houston; 13Aug09; Matt Robbins) http://www.39online.com/news/local/kiah-anti-cyanide-kits-story,0,2967891.story

HazMat conference [San Diego, CA]
"More than 700 hazardous materials experts from across the United States and around the world will gather in San Diego later this month for the 2009 National Conference of the Alliance of Hazardous Materials Professionals (AHMP), formerly the Academy of Certified Hazardous Materials Managers. The AHMP annual gathering […] will run Aug. 30 through Sept. 2 at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina. It is the premier worldwide educational, training and networking event for Environmental, Health, Safety and Security (EHS&S) and hazardous materials professionals. […] Among the event's highlights include addresses by EHS&S leaders and an emergency response training session on the USS Midway, which is docked in San Diego harbor. Michael D. Brown, who served as the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) during President George W. Bush's administration […] will discuss the role of AHMP members in preparing for and responding to natural and manmade disasters and will answer questions posed by audience members. […] Carlos Vazquez, who is regional commander of the Department of Homeland Security's Region 9, […] will address the federal government's new Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS). Each year during the conference AHMP stages a realistic emergency-response scenario that trains participants on best-practice techniques for managing a hazardous materials incident. The three-part emergency response scenario, to be held Sept. 2 aboard the USS Midway docked at the San Diego Navy Pier, will center around mock incidents involving a bomb, a chlorine spill and a sarin gas release." (HazMat Magazine; 10Aug09)

$230.7M to Clark Construction for US Army Chemical Defense Institute [Bethesda, MD]
"Clark Construction Group in Bethesda, MD won a $230.7 million firm-fixed-price contract to construct a 526,255-gross-square-foot replacement facility for the US Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense (USAMRICD) in the Edgewood area of Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Supporting structures include medical gas utilities, […] conventional utilities, […] electrical services, […] paving, walks, parking, fencing, storm drainage, communication and information systems, fire protection and alarm systems, and site improvements that include landscaping and new access drives. USAMRICD is the US Department of Defense's lead laboratory for the development of medical countermeasures against chemical weapons. […] Clark expects to complete construction of the USAMRICD facility by Feb 18, 2013." (Defense Industry Daily; 13Aug09) http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/2307M-to-Clark-Construction-for-US-Army-Chemical-Defense-Institute-05705/

Chemical school gives 'peek' inside [Waynesville, MO]
"At the [Fort Leonard Wood] Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear complex (CBRN) […] soldiers learn and train for the experiences they'll likely encounter on the battlefield. […] Soldiers don't just go into the CBRN complex and play with chemicals. They follow strict protocol to protect themselves and others from danger, and learn to use the tools they'd need to detect the material in the event that something real happens. Around 5,000 people pass through the school each year, and to date there has never been incident. An on-site chemist prepares concoctions like VX […] and GB [sarin gas], […] BG [Bacillus globigii] […] and Cesium 137. […] All chemicals are made only in the quantity needed for training. […] Complete with a state-of-the-art filtration and sensor system, the zone where chemical training is completed has a fully contained indoor climate. […] The facility is not making new science, either. The chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials soldiers train with are common. […] Security is also a priority, and no one person has access to the chemicals used to make the training agents.
Transportation of chemicals is also controlled and precursor's materials are only purchased and brought in under military escort." (Waynesville Daily Guide; 13Aug09; DawnDee Bostwick) http://www.waynesvilledailyguide.com/news/x1528794352/Chemical-school-gives-peek-inside

Washington state national guard conducts WMD exercise
"Washington state's Army and Air National Guard on Friday wrapped up a two-week WMD response exercise at Naval Station Everett, the U.S. Navy announced. In response to a simulated chemical-weapon attack on residences at the facility, a National Guard team extracted mock victims, decontaminated the personnel and provided them with medical aid. Command-and-control operations and decontamination efforts were carried out inside 15 tents set up for the exercise. […] 'Naval Station Everett is proud to host a joint exercise, which involves a collective effort for local emergency responders and better prepares this installation to quickly aid our neighboring state and possibly international emergency,' Capt. Thomas Mascolo, the naval station's commander, said in a statement." (Global Security Newswire; 12Aug09)

Florida governor [Charlie Crist], officials conduct nuclear security drill
"Florida Governor Charlie Crist and other top state officials on Wednesday dealt with the mock detection of weapon-usable nuclear materials, the state's Emergency Management Division announced. In the tabletop exercise, officials addressed how they would respond to the discovery in Tampa Bay of a cache of nuclear material that could be used in an improvised nuclear device. State participants communicated with local and federal counterparts to help determine their ability to share information and respond to the event in a coordinated manner. The drill involved state Cabinet members, agency leaders, law enforcement officers and emergency management officials. 'The time spent together with our team today will be invaluable to Floridians should a terrorist or pandemic event occur,' Crist said in a statement. 'Our 'all-hazards' approach to emergency planning, training and exercising helps to ensure that the state team is ready to respond to all potential threats, from natural events to man-made." (Global Security Newswire; 14Aug09) http://gsn.nti.org/gsn/nw_20090814_9902.php

Government calls for help on countering terrorist technology
"The government is asking experts from the technology industry and academia to come up with ideas to help fight terrorism. The move comes as the government publishes its Science and Technology Counter Terrorism Strategy today. The internet has facilitated easier and more secure communication, and made easier the spread of violent extremist ideology. It has also made it easier to find the materials and expertise needed to make chemical, biological and radiological weapons. The government wants to ensure that technological innovation in its prevention strategy develops apace. 'Our continued ability to identify and convict people engaged in terrorism, prevent radicalization, protect our infrastructure and prepare for an attack all depend on developments in the physical and social sciences,' says the strategy. A brochure has been produced for science and technology experts, to put them in touch with key contacts. Security minister Lord West said the UK must put its position as a world leader in science and technology to good use in this area. 'The UK is a leading innovator in the design and provision of defence and security solutions,' he said. 'British technology can have greater practical applications across the world and is just one more tool in our fight against those who would wish to do us harm.'" (Computing UK; 14Aug09; Tom

Office is hit by powder scare letter [Peterborough, England]
"Traffic was diverted from Northminster Road in the city centre on Wednesday after an office worker found suspicious white powder in an envelope. Police were alerted to the Identity and Passport Service offices in Aragon Court […] afternoon after a female employee opened the document […] to find a small amount of white powder. Cordons were set up around the building while members of staff thought to have come in contact with the substance were quarantined in a room while investigations took place. […] A call to Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue where an officer spoke to a chemical advisor, determined the powder was likely to be itching powder. Staff were then informed that it was a false alarm and the building would not need to be evacuated. But a police spokeswoman said investigations would now take place to establish where the powder came from and why it was sent there." (Evening Telegraph; 13Aug09; Tara Dundon) http://www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk/news/Office-is-hit-by-powder.5548814.jp

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