War on Terrorism

Friday, September 04, 2009

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, September 4, 2009

Keeping genes out of terrorists' hands
"Two competing groups of companies are now proposing different sets of screening standards, and the results could be crucial for global biosecurity. […] Two of the leading companies - DNA2.0 of Menlo Park, California, and Geneart of Regensburg, Germany - announced that they had formulated a code of conduct. […] Both codes involve an automated step, in which the genes in a customer's order are compared against those from organisms on lists such as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 'select agents' list. This step uses computer programs such as the US National Center for Biotechnology Information's Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (BLAST), which searches for similarities between gene sequences. But although the IASB [International Association of Synthetic Biology, based in Heidelberg, Germany] standard specifies that a human expert will follow up on possible 'hits' identified in the automated screening step, the DNA2.0/Geneart code ends with the automated screening step. The two firms are now merging their databases of genes of concern. This worries some observers, because it is difficult to translate the list of select-agent organisms into lists of dangerous genes […] No one believes that such lists will catch every dangerous gene. […] 'The proposal from DNA2.0 and Geneart is a kind of lowest-common-denominator idea,' [Markus] Fischer [a member of the IASB board and a managing director of Entelechon of Regensburg] says. 'Simply taking a list of genes, performing a BLAST against them and taking a sort of threshold cut-off and saying everything below that cut-off is not of interest to us is frankly a little bit naive and dangerous.' Claes Gustafsson, vice-president of sales and marketing for DNA2.0, counters that human screening is also not perfect. 'There's no way to standardize it,' he explains. And as for the incomplete nature of databases of select-agent genes, 'we're just going to deal with the stuff that we know something about,' he says. 'How do you deal with the unknown? It's outside the scope of science.' […] [Lawyer Stephen] Maurer [of the University of California, Berkeley, who is studying how the industry is developing responsible practices] says he hopes that government officials in the United States, the country most concerned about biosecurity, will step in and communicate with industry about its preferred standard."
(Nature News; 31Aug09; Erika Check Hayden) http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090831/full/461022a.html

Preparedness test disburses medicine [Honolulu, HI]
"All neighbor islands have received a stockpile of antiviral medicine that will be more than doubled next month in the second phase of an emergency response exercise, says Wes McDermott, state bioterrorism preparedness response chief. Shipments of simulated medicine were distributed statewide in the first phase of the state Department of Health exercise yesterday. […] The purpose of the exercise was to demonstrate the state's ability to distribute antiviral medicine and medical supplies during a disaster or emergency. Supplies were distributed to more than 40 locations statewide in about seven hours, starting at 7 a.m., said McDermott, incident commander for the exercise. 'We consider that a great success.' […] The state's current stockpile of about 210,000 courses of antivirals (each course is a week of treatments) includes about 40,000 courses received from the Strategic National Stockpile. […] An additional 120,000 courses allocated to Hawaii is held by the national stockpile. […] States must ensure they can transport and deliver the medications statewide in event of a pandemic, bioterrorism terrorism attack or natural disaster. […] In the second phase of the exercise, McDermott said, 'We will distribute actual medicines to hospitals and health centers and they'll be exercising secondary distribution to satellite clinics and individual clinicians.'"
(Star Bulletin, HI; 03Sep09; Helen Altonn) http://www.starbulletin.com/news/20090903_preparedness_test_disburses_medicine.html

[Albert] Einstein [College of Medicine] scientists move closer to a safer anthrax vaccine [NY]
"Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have identified two small protein fragments that could be developed into an anthrax vaccine that may cause fewer side effects than the current vaccine. […] The current anthrax vaccine is intended mainly for members of the armed forces serving in areas considered high risk and for individuals involved in homeland biosecurity. 'Our research was motivated by the fact that the current anthrax vaccine has significant limitations and there is great need for a better one,' says lead author Nareen Abboud, Ph.D., an Einstein postdoctoral fellow and lead author of the study, which appears in the current issue of The Journal of Biological Chemistry. [… The] 40-year-old vaccine can prevent disease [… but] immunity is temporary, and five injections over the course of 18 months are needed to sustain it. One in five vaccine recipients develop redness, swelling or pain at the injection site, and a small number develop severe allergic reactions. […] In their study, the Einstein scientists focused on the protein toxin used in the current vaccine, looking for the smallest protein sections (known as peptides) that could trigger the production of protective antibodies when injected into animals. […] The researchers looked for peptides that were 'recognized by' (became bound to) an antibody - an indication that those particular peptides might themselves be able to stimulate the production of protective antibodies on their own. […] The researchers found that two of 145 peptides fit the bill: each peptide elicited antibodies when injected into mice, and these antibodies protected macrophages from death that would normally have occurred when the macrophages were exposed to anthrax toxin. […] The next step in the Einstein research will be to inject the peptides into an animal model to see if the peptides can protect against anthrax infection. 'An ideal anthrax vaccine contains only the proteins needed to provide protection against disease, and none of the extraneous protein material that triggers the adverse reactions caused by the current vaccine,' says Dr. Abboud." (E Science News; 04Sep09) http://esciencenews.com/articles/2009/09/04/einstein.scientists.move.closer.a.safer.anthrax.vaccine

Researchers develop method that aims to stabilize antibodies
"Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory have developed a systematic method to improve the stability of antibodies. The technique could lead to better biosensors, disease therapeutics and diagnostic reagents and non-laboratory applications, including environmental remediation. […] Argonne senior biophysicist Fred Stevens, the project's principle investigator, [said …] 'stabilized antibodies, with full functionality, could be used in diagnostic and detection kits that can survive in less than optimal environments and be stockpiled for years at a time.' […] 'They could be used to combat diseases like cancer. They can also be used as the basis for biosensors that can continuously detect for pathogens like botulism [toxin], ricin and anthrax [bacteria] in places such as airports and subway stations - locations where it is not currently possible to provide ongoing detection of pathogens because antibodies cannot tolerate the environmental conditions.' […] 'Our work at this detailed level has taught us that antibody stabilization was possible, but we needed to find out if antibodies could be stabilized without compromising their function and do so with moderate experimental investment,' Stevens said. Recent work suggests these goals are potentially achievable." (Red Orbit; 03Sep09) http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/1748112/researchers_develop_method_that_aims_to_stabilize_antibodies/

OKC [Oklahoma City] foundation gets $14.5M research grant [OK]
"The Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation will receive $14.5 million over the next five years to fund research into how anthrax [spores] affects humans. The grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is one of the largest grants in the history of the Oklahoma City-based research foundation. It will finance a team of seven scientists who will spend the next five years exploring natural immune response to Bacillus anthracis. […] Principal investigator Mark Coggeshall says humans can inhale the tiny anthrax spores, but what happens after the spores enter the body remains a mystery." (Associated Press; 04Sep09) http://www.pennlive.com/newsflash/index.ssf?/base/national-56/1252071756206570.xml&storylist=health

NMI [Northern Mariana Islands] is first in Western Pacific to have mobile hospital
"The CNMI [Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands] became the first in the Pacific region to own a Mobile Field Hospital with a capacity of 50 beds that would be primarily used in the event of a major natural or man-made disaster. The federally funded mobile hospital is a pneumatic isolation shelter system that has all the main features of a real hospital such as emergency room, laboratory, clean water supply, wastewater storage, isolation room, etc. This could be set up in a few minutes, is transportable, spacious and could be set up anywhere for an extended time. It is self-sustaining with its own power source, air conditioning unit, water and plumbing system, and negative pressure capabilities. Instructors from the U.S. mainland will be arriving next week to conduct a training on how to use the mobile hospital […] The training will be held at the parking lot of the Commonwealth Health Center on Sept. 11-12. […] Acting Public Health Secretary Pete Untalan said […] this is part of efforts to improve the delivery of health care services in the CNMI. He said this project is a collaboration effort between DPH and partner agencies like the Saipan Mayor's Office, Department of Public Safety, Commonwealth Utilities Corp. and others. Warren Villagomez of the Bioterrorism/Pandemic Flu Preparedness Office said there is one mobile hospital in Hawaii but it is owned by the international airport there." (Saipan Tribune; 04Sep09; Nazario Rodriguez Jr.)

Five killed as police face syringe protesters in Chinese city [of Urumqi]
"The deaths and injuries were in the city of Urumqi, said Zhang Hong, the city's deputy mayor. Demonstrators have clashed with police in Urumqi for two days amid a strange string of syringe stabbings. Some Han Chinese demonstrators have taken to the streets to demand better police protection and a crackdown on ethnic Uyghurs, who are blamed for the attacks. Police fired tear gas on demonstrators Friday, a CNN affiliate reported. Armed security forces faced down protesters in front of Chinese Communist Party offices and later in a public square, according to Hong Kong-based i-CABLE. […] 'Hospitals in Urumqi are treating 531 victims of hypodermic needle attacks,' the state-run news agency said Friday, citing local police. 'Statistics from the city's 24 hospitals say 106 of the 531 were showing obvious signs of needle attacks. The victims include members of ethnic groups such as Han, Uygurand Kazakstan.' There have been no reports of deaths from the stabbings. Authorities have detained 21 suspects, 'of whom six are in custody and four have been arrested for criminal prosecution, said the regional information office in a mobile phone text message to the public Thursday,' Xinhua reported. […] Fears were likely heightened by the fact that Xinjiang has the highest rates of HIV infection in China, attributed to intravenous drug use. Rumors have abounded there of people trying to spread AIDS [virus]. […] The Uyghur American Association issued a statement late Thursday urging the Chinese government to improve public safety." (CNN; 04Sep09) http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/09/04/china.urumqi.unrest/index.html

State wants more monitoring of mustard agent [at Pueblo Chemical Weapons Depot, CO]
"Colorado health officials say the Pueblo Chemical Weapons Depot near Pueblo isn't doing enough to ensure the safety of its workers, the environment or people living near where thousands of tons of deadly mustard agent are stored. Documents filed in a lawsuit pending in U.S. District Court want the Army depot to increase the frequency and sensitivity of air monitoring at the facility. Officials at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment are concerned about unplanned releases of mustard agent from artillery shells stored in 94 structures at the site about 100 miles south of Denver. Depot spokesman Chuck Sprague says the depot's operations are safe. 'We're trying to do everything we can to take care of our regulatory requirements. However, we do disagree with the state having problems with our monitoring operations,' Sprague said. 'The safety of our work force, the environment and the nearby communities is our highest priority.'" (Durango Herald; 04Sep09; P. Solomon Banda, AP)

$5.5M contract expected to benefit CS [College Station] corporation [CO]
"Officials of a College Station corporation say they anticipate receiving more business because one of its major subsidiaries recently signed a $5.5 million-plus contract. O.I. [Opportunity through Innovation] Corp. […] develops and sells technology used to detect chemical agents in solids, liquids and gases. A wholly owned subsidiary, CMS [Continuous Monitoring Systems] Field Products, will provide a chemical agent-monitoring system to Bechtel National Inc., which is under contract with the U.S. Army. The equipment will be installed at the Pueblo Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant in Pueblo, Colo., where stockpiles of chemical weapons will be destroyed, company officials said. 'They're very sensitive and monitor the air in the plant where they are processing these old stockpiles of agents,' said Don Segers, president and chief operating officer of O.I. Corp. The monitoring equipment provided by CMS will detect the release of unexpected chemical agents and warn facility workers if there is danger. […] The contract took effect at the end of August, and CMS will begin delivering partial shipments immediately and continue to do so for the next 18 months." (The Eagle; 03Sep09; Maggie Kiely) http://www.theeagle.com/business/-5-5M-contract-expected-to-benefit-CS-corporation

OPCW Director-General [Ambassador Rogelio Pfirter] visits Mexico
"On 1 September 2009 the OPCW Director-General, Ambassador Rogelio Pfirter, paid an official visit to Mexico City where he addressed the opening session of the Tenth Regional Meeting of OPCW National Authorities in Latin America and the Caribbean. During his visit Director-General Pfirter […] commended Mexico for its unwavering commitment to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and work [for] the OPCW, and provided the Deputy Foreign Minister an overview on the implementation of the Convention. Ambassador Gomez-Robledo reaffirmed Mexico's strong commitment to the objectives of the CWC and expressed his Government's firm support for the work of the OPCW in implementing the global chemical weapons ban. In his address to the Tenth Regional Meeting, the Director-General […] stressed that the next challenge will be to ensure that all OPCW Member States in the region appoint a National Authority, submit their initial declarations to the Technical Secretariat, and put into place the legislative and administrative measures to implement the CWC at national level." (OPCW; 03Sep09)

Radiological counterterrorism exercise held at Baylor College of Medicine [Houston, TX]
"The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) held a table-top counterterrorism exercise today at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston, Texas. Federal, state and local officials examined security alarm response and crisis and consequence management capabilities in the event of a terrorist incident involving the kind of medical radiological materials that Baylor regularly uses. […] Known as Space City Thunder, today's exercise is one of many events routinely held at NNSA, U.S. Department of Energy, Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Agreement State and other government and civilian sites throughout the country to help evaluate security and emergency response. […] The exercise was the capstone of NNSA's Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) project to provide voluntary security enhancements to the nation's civilian radiological sites. […] The NNSA installs these voluntary security upgrades at civilian sites in the United States to reduce the potential for theft or misuse of radiological materials that could be used in a dirty bomb. […] Silent Thunder scenarios typically feature both a crisis management phase to emphasize primarily law enforcement actions to detect, deter, and prevent a terrorist WMD incident from occurring as well as a consequence management phase that emphasizes local, state, and federal emergency managers and first responders efforts to respond to, mitigate and recover from the effects of a terrorist WMD incident. The program is designed to build teamwork and an in-depth understanding of specific responsibilities in a terrorist-WMD event." (National Nuclear Security Administration; 03Sep09) http://nnsa.energy.gov/news/2514.htm

Hizbullah holding chemical weapons
"Iran is providing the Lebanese based Hizbullah with weapons, and protective gear against chemical and biological weapons, a new report says. Kuwaiti daily A-Siyassa cited European intelligence briefings that were dispatched to European capitals and officials at NATO last weekend. According to the briefings, Iran has sent the Shia Hizbullah air lifts via airports in Syria which contain new types of weapons, thousands of gas masks to protect against chemical and biological weapons, and an alert system against weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Israel is concerned about Hizbullah boosting its weapons arsenal and the prospect of its northern neighbor acquiring chemical weapons is alarming. However, Dr. Mordechai Kedar from the Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies said he did not believe Hizbullah would take any risks with chemical weapons. […] Kedar told The Media Line, 'I can't see [Hizbullah] using chemical weapons against Israel because that will be the end of them. Their objective is to create a state, not to eradicate Israel, so the war against Israel is merely a means, not an aim in itself.' […] Israel says Hizbullah is violating the resolution by bringing weapons into South Lebanon through the Syrian-Lebanese border, and threatening the stability of the region. […] A spokesman for UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] told The Media Line at the time that there had been no serious violations of Resolution 1701." (All Headline News; 03Sep09) http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7016294613?Report:%20Hizbullah%20Holding%20Chemical%20Weapons

PFD [Princeton Fire Department] trains to tackle terrorism [NJ]
"There were no walking wounded or weapons of mass destruction in the city Wednesday, but Princeton Fire Department personnel stood ready to respond in the event of a hazardous materials emergency. Armed with three different levels of response options, the city's firefighters spent a 12-hour shift refreshing their skills in setting up decontamination sites, preparing for large-scale biological attacks or chemical spills, all just in case of an emergency. PFD Lt. Sean Wyatt served as the instructor for the HazMat and WMD training that will ultimately offer each and every firefighter 24 hours of continuing education and prepare them as HazMat technicians. […] 'This course prepares all the participants for a terrorist event. Although the chances of a large-scale, national incident happening here are slim to none, there's always a possibility of a local event that would require this scale of response,' Wyatt said. 'This will make sure that all of our first responders have planned for and actually know what to do in a terrorist event, even if it's caused by one of our local folks just looking for notoriety.' […] PFD personnel started their training Wednesday. […] Wyatt said his team trained 12 full hours this week and will go again next Wednesday. Then, on Sept. 11-13, volunteer fire departments will go through the same training. […] Wyatt said educating everyone on how to handle large-scale situations should leave the entire county ready to respond." (Princeton Times; 04Sep09; Tammie Toler)

Warwick SWAT [Special Weapons And Tactics] team shines at the challenge [CT]
"Everything from domestic disputes to weapons of mass destruction has to be anticipated by the Warwick SWAT and they showed their mettle last week in a SWAT competition in East Hartford. 'Being this close to the Airport, we're the first to come to a crisis there,' said Lt. Thomas Hannon, the chief of the Traffic Division and this year's team captain at the Swat Challenge [the Summer Olympics of special weapons and tactical teams] held in East Hartford Connecticut last week. […] Since 9/11, SWAT members have been training in the handling of weapons of mass destruction and counter-measures for biological and chemical weapons are expected. 'We have developed procedures for school bus and airport hostage situations,'said Mathiesen, who says that 9/11 and other crises made police departments everywhere realize that they are the Home Front for Homeland Security." (Warwick Beacon; 02Sep09; Joe Kernan) http://www.warwickonline.com/pages/full_story/push?article-Warwick+SWAT+team+shines+at+the+Challenge%20&id=3518065&instance=home_news_right

Disaster training goes mobile with $200,000 ICS [Incident Command Simulator] unit
"Life-and-death decisions were made with the toggle of a joystick and the click of a mouse all from inside the highly controlled, safe and air-conditioned environment of Rio Hondo College's new Mobile Incident Command Simulator. A ceremony attended by Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Santa Fe Springs, Whittier Police Chief David Singer and Santa Fe Springs Department of Fire-Rescue Chief Alex Rodriguez introduced the $200,000 ICS on Thursday at Rio Hondo's new Administration of Justice Complex. According to Rio Hondo Dean of Public Safety Joe Santoro, the ICS is capable of simulating disasters such as earthquakes, fires, chemical spills and terrorist attacks and is designed to simultaneously teach multiple first-responders how to coordinate the management of such incidents. 'The intent is to practice here,' Santoro said. 'As opposed to a full-blown simulation out on the street.' Explaining the benefits of the system, Singer said, 'Having full-scale exercises is very costly. Here you can make mistakes and learn from them.' The Chevrolet, which looks like a large RV, is equipped with a flat-screen TV and six laptop stations. Each is capable of displaying a detailed visual representation of a predetermined environment. […] The ICS will be used to train Rio Hondo police cadets as well as federal, state, municipal and civil authorities acting as first-responders to any given disaster." (San Gabriel Valley Tribune; 03Sep09; Brandon Ferguson) http://www.sgvtribune.com/news/ci_13266500

Judge [Paul M. Peatross Jr.] sets bond for man [Mark Ryland Dowdy] accused in powder scare [Charlottesville, VA]
"An Albemarle County judge has set a $5,000 bond for a Gordonsville man whose trial was halted during his opening statement. Circuit Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. granted the surety bond for Mark Ryland Dowdy after a hearing Tuesday in Albemarle Circuit Court. […] Dowdy, 37, went to trial in June on five counts of possession of a hoax device, charges filed in connection with the planting of signs with a suspicious powder on them at the corner of Klockner and Gordonsville roads last year. […] Jon R. Zug, assistant commonwealth's attorney, said in court that a competency review of Dowdy shows that he suffers from paranoid personality disorder. […] The evaluation doesn't say that Dowdy is incompetent to stand trial. […] Conditions of Dowdy's bond prohibit him from getting within 500 yards of Klockner Pentaplast, talking to the company's general counsel and certain employees and posting signs on any property that Dowdy doesn't lease or own. […] A judge will rule on Dowdy's competency to stand trial Oct. 7. His one-day jury trial has been scheduled for Jan. 26." (Daily Progress; 02Sep09; Tasha Kates) http://www2.dailyprogress.com/cdp/news/local/article/judge_sets_bond_for_man_accused_in_powder_scare/44809/

Suspicious package at California University prompts anthrax scare [Pomona, CA]
"Authorities in California were investigating a possible anthrax [spore] attack Thursday after a suspicious package opened at a college left one student and 30 other people quarantined. A 'possible anthrax [spores] in an envelope' call was reported Thursday afternoon to the Student Services office at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, about 60 kilometers east of Los Angeles, according to an inspector of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. 'One student was exposed but is showing no symptoms at this time,' said Mathew Levesque. 'And 30 other people have been quarantined to defend them from an exposure.' Levesque said hazardous materials teams from the Los Angeles County Fire Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, along with FBI agents were on the scene inspecting a sample of the yellow powder found in an envelope. No information on a possible motive for the suspicious delivery was available, according to the official." (People's Daily Online; 04Sep09) http://english.people.com.cn/90001/90777/90852/6748509.html

No comments: