Friday, August 21, 2009

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, August 21, 2009

Biothreat detection speeds up
"A new laboratory test can spot quickly and tell apart in a single run almost all pathogens classified by US authorities as biowarfare agents, say researchers this month in PLoS ONE [Public Library of Science]. 'Our results... show that the resequencing pathogen microarray for detection of tropical and emerging infectious agents assay not only detects and identifies agents, but is also able to differentiate near neighbours of the same agent types,' writes […] Tomasz Leski of the US Naval Research Laboratory and Nova Research Incorporated in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. […] The new test developed by Leski and colleagues is a device that picks up gene expression levels, known as a 'microarray.' In a single run it can pick out the specific pathogen present in a sample that contains genetic information for many different bugs. […] The test system can detect and identify any one of 84 different pathogens and 13 biological toxins - almost all biothreats on the US government's 'select agents' list. The list includes viruses that cause Ebola haemorrhagic fever and smallpox, as well as anthrax bacteria. […] Thousands of comparative identification tests can be run at the same time, so the strategy can give each biological sample 'extra mileage.' This is important because samples are usually precious and limited, [Mahesh Uttamchandani of the DSO Laboratories in Singapore] says. The new microarray can help scientists to not only identify many of the known biowarfare agents, but also detect organisms that are closely related to them." (Emerging Health Threats; 21Aug09)

[Medical Reserve] Corps of volunteers ready to help out in emergency [Gloucester, England]
"It should be comforting to know that hundreds of residents of Cape Ann are ready to pitch in at a moment's notice in case of a disaster. The Medical Reserve Corps, explained Margaret Whittaker, the North Shore Cape Ann Emergency Preparedness coordinator, is a group of medical and nonmedical persons who have agreed to volunteer for duty if an emergency occurs. 'These are people who can help out on a range of activities, from flu to hurricanes,' Whittaker said. Members' professions range from doctors, nurses and veterinarians to insurance brokers and stay-at-home moms. 'Anyone who wants to be involved in emergency preparedness and has a few hours to dedicate can join,' she said. About 350 local residents are on the MRC list. Volunteers are commonly notified by e-mail when participation in an event is needed, and if they are available, volunteers are given instructions regarding where to report. […] There are eight core competencies that are expected of each volunteer, she continued, and 'a whole range of activities people could do.' There are two training sessions that concentrate on teaching participants the federal 'lingo' of disaster response, and another two on incident management systems. […] The Corps also recommends training in physical first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and provides information about bioterrorist agents such as anthrax [bacteria]. 'That's the one we've been planning for, but this covers anything that can be launched at us that would have an immediate effect,' Whittaker said." (Gloucester Daily Times; 21Aug09; Elizabeth Eddy)

Biodefense research could violate weapons conventions, [Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation] report warns
"Member states to the Biological Weapons Convention must be careful not to violate their commitments to the pact as they conduct research activities and seek to defend themselves against bioterrorism, according to a think tank report issued this week. 'There is growing recognition that states parties engaged in biodefense research and development activities must take active steps to ensure their own compliance with the convention and to effectively reassure others of their compliance,' according to the document released Monday by the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation. […] The report is the result of a Feb. 25, 2008, conference aimed at facilitating information sharing and discussion among a small group of governmental and nongovernmental experts about the processes used by various agencies to ensure compliance with the treaty. […] The significant growth of biodefense research and development programs over the last decade, coupled with failure by member states to establish a verification protocol to ensure compliance with the treaty, has placed new pressure on the prohibitions contained in the compact, according to the report. […] Some experts have said that almost any activity conducted with defensive intent would be allowed by the convention. However, others argue that the issue is more complex and that some ostensibly protective research could lead to development and proliferation of biological weapons, the study says. […] The type of biodefense activity that is most likely to raise questions regarding treaty compliance is threat assessment. […] A dangerous biological agent could inadvertently be developed during such research, Epstein said. […] Epstein added it is difficult to determine what kind of research could cause a violation because 'the treaty is not at all specific about what's prohibited.' […] Biodefense research activity should be shown to be both 'useful and critical' for a 'prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purpose,' the document says. […] Epstein said he believes that principle can be met by a country demonstrating how it would be better protected through biological research." (Global Security Newswire; 20Aug09; Martin Matishak)

[Del. Eleanor Holmes] Norton [D-D.C.] tries to reassure residents over chemical weapons cleanup
"Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton toured World War I munitions burial sites in Northwest Washington on Wednesday and sought to reassure the public that the Army Corps of Engineers would continue its search for such materials for as long as it takes. Norton (D-D.C.) was given a status report by the corps, which has been directing the $170 million, 16-year cleanup of the munitions that are buried in scattered sites in the District's Spring Valley neighborhood. This month, workers were surprised when they found a flask containing residue of the blistering agent mustard. […] Work there has been halted but will resume soon, Norton said. […] Norton said she has asked the corps to reveal 'all of the substances' that have been found in the area, something the corps has not publicly done. American University, in what was then a remote part of Washington, served as an experimental site for chemical warfare during World War I. […] 'Our concern now is not to rewrite history but to keep the corps digging until all concerned, including the Congress of the United States, is satisfied that it's all done,' [Norton said]. 'Our position is that the corps must remain until there is an objective all-clear here,' she added. […] There are 1,632 suspect properties in the area, she said. Ninety-eight percent of them have been sampled. About 140 have required cleanup of some kind. Norton said she has been told that the air in the area is safe, and so is the water." (Washington Post; 20Aug09; Michael E. Ruane)

US Dept of Defense - force protection team trains for chemical [weapon] attack [OH]
"Ohio National Guard members spent a week at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center here to test their ability to respond to a chemical [weapon] attack. Ohio's Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package [CERFP] […] comprises command and control, search and extraction, decontamination and medical teams staffed by members of Guard units. During the exercise here, simulated victims of a chemical attack were 'traumatized' as they were transported to one area. The soldiers and airmen who were helping them were dressed in yellow chemical protection suits and trying to calm the survivors. […] The CERFP is made up of chemical and engineering soldiers and Air Force medics pulled together from the Ohio Army and Air National Guard. In all, more than 600 personnel were brought to Muscatatuck to train. The task for the CERFP was to set up a decontamination station in less than 90 minutes. Search and rescue teams could then bring victims to the decontamination station to save their lives. The team completed its task with 22 minutes to spare. […] 'There is really realistic stuff here,' Army Pvt. Michael Cooper said. 'Especially on the rubble piles. I've never seen so many victims brought to us at one time. … It's stuff you would see in real life.' […] The Ohio CERFP will return to Muscatatuck in November, when Army North will conduct a homeland security exercise." (Isria; 21Aug09)

Iraqi expatriates drop claim against alleged chemical-weapon supplier
"One U.S. firm is no longer included in a lawsuit that had accused three companies of supplying material used by the former government of Iraq to produce chemical weapons that were employed against the nation's Kurds in the 1980s, the Associated Press reported yesterday. In discussions with the plaintiffs - five former residents of Iraq and the Kurdish National Congress of North America - VWR International LLC of Pennsylvania proved that it had no connection to a firm accused of selling the materials to the regime of Saddam Hussein, a lawyer for the plaintiffs said yesterday. The plaintiffs might still seek to identify and seek compensation from the suspect company's true successor, the attorney said. The plaintiffs retained their claims against Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. of Massachusetts and Alcolac Inc. of Maryland; both firms have called for the lawsuit to be dismissed." (Global Security Newswire; 20Aug09)

The Bahamas designates OPCW national authority
"In compliance with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the Bahamas has informed the OPCW that it has designated a focal point within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to assume the functions of National Authority [… which] is crucial in ensuring the effective implementation of the CWC. […] The National Authority has the responsibility of implementing the provisions of the CWC at the national level. To meet its basic obligations, each State Party must be able to submit all the required declarations, communicate with the OPCW, cooperate with other States Parties, facilitate OPCW inspections, respond to OPCW requests for assistance, protect the confidentiality of classified information, monitor and enforce national compliance, and cooperate in the peaceful uses of chemistry. States Parties are also obliged to declare and eliminate all chemical weapons stockpiles and chemical weapons production facilities. The National Authority plays an indispensable role in all of these activities." (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons; 21Aug09)

Expert [Malcolm Dando, Professor of International Security at Britain's Bradford University] warns of mind-altering biological drugs in warfare [Bradford, England]
"A chemical and biological weapons expert on Wednesday called for military groups to cease use of mind-altering drugs in battle. […] Malcolm Dando, Professor of International Security at Britain's Bradford University […] pointed to the misuse of chemicals and gene therapies being developed for medical purposes in modern warfare. These methods 'are particularly suited to this style of warfare; it is not hard to find people in the military world who think they would be useful,' said Dando, a regular participant in U.N.-sponsored arms conferences. According to Reuters, Dando is seeking to redraft the 1993 global Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). […] 'The CWC urgently needs modifying if it is to continue to help ensure that the modern life sciences are not used for hostile purposes,' Dando wrote in the journal [Nature]. 'Law enforcement could be taken by some to cover more than domestic riot control, which in certain circumstances would make it legal for the military to use agents such as fentanyl.' […] Dando also said that drugs like oxytocin 'opens up the possibility of a drug that could be used to manipulate people's emotions in a military context.'" (Red Orbit; 19Aug09)

[Senator Arlen] Specter to hold Pittsburgh hearing on proposed UPMC [University of Pittsburgh Medical Center] vaccine plant [PA]
"Sen. Arlen Specter will conduct a hearing in Downtown Pittsburgh tomorrow to discuss the nation's biological vulnerabilities and the possibility of developing a vaccine plant in the Pittsburgh area. The Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing will be held at the federal courthouse and feature testimony by University of Pittsburgh Medical Center President and CEO Jeffrey Romoff, Dr. Donald Burke, dean of the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health and others. UPMC has been exploring the possibility for building such a plant for several years, which will cost an estimated $830 million and employ 1,000 people, according to Specter's office. Specter has taken a lead role is seeking government funding for the facility, which would make vaccines to protect against chemical, biological and radiological threats from terrorist attacks." (Pittsburgh Business Times; 20Aug09)

Pennsylvania state partnership program assists Lithuania's crisis management team
"A delegation of 24 Lithuanians will be actively involved with the Pennsylvania National Guard, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) between August 23-30. Exercise 'Red Rose IV' is a full scale interagency mass casualty disaster and WMD exercise involving approximately 400 personnel from both the military and approximately fifteen local, state and federal civilian agencies. […] The exercise will help strengthen relations between the State Partner, Pennsylvania and Lithuania, as well demonstrate effectiveness and capabilities of Crisis Management. This unique exercise will include both military and civilian teams working side by side to actively participate in an exercise that will simulate a mass catastrophic event. The Lithuanian team includes members from the Lithuanian Armed Forces Medical Group, Decontamination teams and planning officers, as well as members from the Lithuanian Fire Department, Ministry of National Defense and Ministry of Health. The Pennsylvania National Guard Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, High Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package (PA NG CERFP) will be assisted with additional help from PEMA, UPMC, as well as other civilian emergency response agencies. […] The goal is to safely conduct extraction operations in a confined space or a collapsed structure that may involve the release of chemical, biological or radiological agents." (BNS Spaudos Centras; 21Aug09)

Mock disaster taking place at IPM [International Plowing Match] site in Earlton today [Ontario]
"The 2009 International Plowing Match (IPM) Health, Safety and Emergency Services Committee, along with key stakeholders of the district of Temiskaming, is staging a mock disaster exercise from 10:30 a. m. to 2:30 p. m. The exercise will give IPM organizers and area emergency personnel the opportunity to practise drills in the event of an emergency. […] Key participants include more than eight communities with more joining in […] the Timiskaming Health Unit, EMS Ambulance Services, […] and fire departments. This mock disaster is both a live and table top exercise and will be coordinated simultaneously through faxes to each emergency operation center. It is intended to be conducted as a real time event with times and specific events being communicated to each site in real time. […] It will not only involve communities across the district along with the police, ambulance services and fire departments, but it will also activate the hospitals' CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear) Response. Organizers welcome this not only as a necessary safety exercise but also as a perfect opportunity for each municipality to participate and fulfill their yearly mandate of exercising their emergency plan." (Northern News; 21Aug09)

India prepared to counter any threat to security: Minister [of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju says]

"India should be prepared for the 'eventuality' that nuclear, chemical and biological weapons may fall into the hands of terrorists, Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju said Thursday while stressing that adequate steps were being taken to counter any threats. 'In [the] future the potential is there that terrorists could get nuclear, biological and chemical weapons towards which we should take adequate steps. We should be prepared for any eventuality. And nuclear, biological and chemical weapons is something we are preparing for,' Raju said at a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) conference here. Referring to China, he said: 'Being a bigger power, China will make its move and increase its military prowess.' However, the minister held that India would take sufficient steps to counter any threat posed to its security." (Thaindian News; 20Aug09)

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