War on Terrorism

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, September 9, 2009

New cuts may put Sacramento County health department in 'survival mode'
"Sacramento County health officials are bracing for more than a swine flu outbreak as the Board of Supervisors holds hearings this week to discuss further budget cuts. The Public Health Department stands to lose $750,000 more in general fund money for the year. That means the public health budget would drop from about $47.4 million at the start of last fiscal year to $40 million after the latest round of cuts, said Glennah Troche, the county's public health officer. […] If the cuts go through as proposed, field nursing staff will have dropped from 54 positions in fiscal year 2007-08 to 29 this year; bioterrorism preparedness will be down to nine from 14; and childhood disability prevention programs will have lost almost eight positions leaving 24. […] The public health officials say the department provides critical services such as containing the spread of disease, […] preparing and handling bioterrorism incidents, providing field nurses and more. […] More cuts could slow turnaround time in the nearly 80,000 specimens processed annually, he said. Reduced hours for staff who work on communicable […] diseases could mean '400 incidents will be delayed in being considered or will not be acted upon,' which in turn could result in the spread of disease, according to public health documents." (Sacramento Bee; 08Sep09; Robert Lewis) http://www.sacbee.com/topstories/story/2165967.html

Reportlinker adds bioterrorism report [outline of and link to report provided in article]
"Reportlinker.com announces that a new market research report is available in its catalogue. […] This report analyzes the worldwide markets for Bioterrorism in Millions of US$. The report provides separate comprehensive analytics for the US, Europe, Asia, and Middle East. Annual forecasts are provided for each region for the period of 2001 through 2015. The report profiles 66 companies including many key and niche players. […] Market data and analytics are derived from primary and secondary research. Company profiles are mostly extracted from URL research and reported select online sources." (Market Watch; 08Sep09)

Obama nominee [Dr. Tara O'Toole] omitted ties to biotech
"President Obama's nominee [Dr. Tara O'Toole] at the Department of Homeland Security overseeing bioterrorism defense has served as a key adviser for a lobbying group funded by the pharmaceutical industry that has asked the government to spend more money for anthrax vaccines and biodefense research. But O'Toole, whose confirmation as undersecretary of science and technology is pending, never reported her involvement with the lobbying group called the Alliance for Biosecurity in a recent government ethics filing. The alliance has spent more than $500,000 lobbying Congress and federal agencies. [...] Homeland Security officials said Dr. O'Toole need not disclose her ties to the group on her government ethics form because the alliance is not incorporated: 'There's no legal existence so she wouldn't have to disclose it, ' said Robert Coyle, an ethics official for the Department of Homeland Security. [...] As undersecretary of science and technology, one of Dr. O'Toole's responsibilities would involve overseeing the department's chemical and biological division, which is in charge of making sure the nation is prepared to defend itself against chemical and biological attacks. [...] As undersecretary, Dr. O'Toole wouldn't be directly responsible for decisions on which vaccines to develop or buy. Still, she would oversee the government's threat assessments on the risks of bioagents." (Washington Times; 08Sep09; Jim McElhatton)

Quality of medicines and food ingredients the focus at USP [United States Pharmacopeia] 2009 Annual Scientific Meeting [Toronto]
Important issues surrounding the quality of food and drugs - including global supply chain management, the challenges of creating follow-on biologics […] and nanotechnology for drug delivery - will be the focus of the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) Convention's 2009 Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM). The ASM will be held in Toronto, Canada, from September 22 to 25.'We have a strong international roster of top scientific and regulatory experts in pharmaceuticals, food, biotechnology and measurement,' said Roger L. Williams, M.D., chief executive officer of USP. 'Navigating the complexities of global supply chain management, quality of food ingredients and understanding how measurement science can be utilized are key to ensuring the quality and safety of the world's medicines and food ingredients. I'm looking forward to a rigorous and forward-moving discussion.' […] This scientific dialogue will engage more than 200 experts from all over the world who will focus on such topics as the special challenges posed by biologic products, bioterrorism and advanced techniques for detecting proteins." (Canada New Wire; 09Sep09) http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/September2009/09/c3500.html

International bioterrorism response coordination exercise (Black ICE
II) [Montreux]

"On September 7-8, 2009, the United States Government and the Government of Switzerland co-hosted an International Bioterrorism Response Coordination Exercise (called Black ICE II) in Montreux, Switzerland. This two-day tabletop exercise was an opportunity for officials from numerous international and regional organizations and national governments to examine the critical cooperation and coordination issues that would be necessary to respond to an international bioterrorism attack. […] Black ICE II challenged participants with a fictional attack scenario involving pneumonic plague [bacteria]. The […] scenario was designed to raise key questions exploring coordination across borders and among a wide variety of national, regional and international institutions. Coordinating efforts internationally across the public health, security, transportation, and law enforcement sectors poses significant challenges. Through Black ICE II, participants examined these challenges and cooperated in identifying capabilities, needs, and issues to be addressed in order to ensure an effective international response to a potential bioterrorist attack." (Switzerland Federal Department of Foreign Affairs; 09Sep09)

Ind[iana] official [Ramon J. Columbo] charged with theft from government
"Vermillion County's ex-emergency management director has been charged with stealing from government contracts connected with neutralization of the deadly VX nerve agent. 69-year-old Ramon J. Columbo of Clinton [IN] could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of federal program theft. The charge was announced Tuesday. […] Federal prosecutors say […] Columbo had a contractor hide $19,000 in purchases in otherwise legitimate contracts and took the goods for personal use. […] Columbo was director in 1989-2008 and oversaw emergency preparedness for the VX stored at the Newport Chemical Depot [KY]." (Wave 3, KY; 08Sep09; Source: AP)

Hizbullah silent over report that group got chemical weapons
"Hizbullah refused to respond on Thursday to a report in Kuwaiti daily Al-Seyasseh alleging the group had recently acquired chemical weapons from Iran. 'Who reads that paper anyway?' a source close to Hizbullah told The Daily Star on Thursday. [...] Although sources for this information were not identified in the report, they were said to be 'intelligence sources in Europe' who acted in conjunction with UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon]. UNIFIL is currently carrying out its investigation into the blast site in conjunction with the Lebanese Army and the paper reported that the peacekeeping force had found evidence of chemical residue in soil samples surrounding the depot. [...] The report suggested that the Israeli Army is continuing its surveillance on the Lebanese side of the Blue line which, if true, would also constitute a violation of the recently renewed Resolution 1701." (Daily Star, Lebanon; 04ep09)

Colorado sues Army over chemical weapons monitoring
"The state of Colorado last month claimed in a lawsuit that the U.S. Army is failing to conduct sufficient monitoring of weapons stored at the Pueblo Chemical Depot, the Pueblo Chieftain reported. State health officials hope the lawsuit will result in a court order forcing the Army to obey Colorado Hazardous Waste Act regulations and to pay an unspecified fine for violation of the rules. 'We are seeking to ensure that there is sufficient monitoring and safe storage of the chemical weapons at the Pueblo Chemical Depot,' said Mike Saccone, spokesman for the Colorado Attorney General's Office. The lawsuit […] is the second filed by the state over the Army's chemical-weapon storage site. […] Colorado officials believe that the Army practice of inspecting weapons storage structures at Pueblo every three months is insufficient given that the munitions are more than six decades old and have been known to leak. Army officials 'continue to operate without the required monitoring,' thus violating the hazardous waste act, according to the lawsuit. The Army has also failed to provide required documentation to the state that would address 'the detailed procedures and equipment used at the facility to sample, analyze and monitor the waste chemical weapons in the stockpile storage units,'
according to the lawsuit." (Global Security Newswire; 09Sep09; Robert Boczkiewicz)

Air Force doctor [Maj. Vik Bebarta], advances cyanide poisoning treatment
"Cyanide […] is a real threat for being used as a terrorist weapon. Maj. (Dr.) Vik Bebarta, a physician and medical toxicology specialist, outlined the real-life concerns about cyanide during a Sept. 2 Web cast of 'Armed with Science: Research and Applications for the Modern Military' on Pentagon Web Radio. […] Aside from terrorist attacks, exposure to cyanide may come from inhaling smoke from burning plastics during industrial or home fires. Swallowing or breathing even a small amount of cyanide, from 200 to 300 milligrams, is all it takes to become ill, Doctor Bebarta said. […] That is why Doctor Bebarta, the chief of medical toxicology at Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and the assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio, sought better tools to diagnose and treat acute cyanide toxicity in critically ill patients, such as those stricken in a terrorist attack. […] 'We conducted an experiment comparing the old antidote kit with the new one and looking at a very critically ill (lab animal) model. Comparing blood pressure and other parameters, (we saw) that there's a difference,' Doctor Bebarta said. That difference showed better results using the newer antidote to raise blood pressure and eliminate all cyanide from the blood. In May, the comparison study received the Best Basic Science Research Award from the Society of Academic Emergency Medicine. […] In addition to improved diagnostic tools, Doctor Bebarta said, he hopes to develop cyanide antidotes that can be given in pill form or injected directly into muscles instead of intravenously." (U.S. Air Force News; 08Sep09; Judith Snyderman)

Syringe attackers face severe penalty
"As the capital of the far western Xinjiang-Uighur region remained tense following the needle attacks, authorities ordered about 7,000 officials to help ease public panic and tension, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. The report quoted a public notice saying that needle attackers face harsh punishment. Those convicted of stabbing others with needles containing harmful substances or contaminated drugs may be sentenced to three years and more in prison, or life imprisonment and even execution. [...] Since last week, there have been demonstrations by tens of thousands of people protesting a series of needle attacks in Urumqi. Wang Lequan, the region's Communist Party head, said the mass protests were sparked after four suspects stabbed a Han woman with syringe needles in a shopping area in Urumqi. [...] As of Friday, health and police officials confirmed 531 victims of needle stabbings, the majority of them ethnic Han." (United Press International; 06Sep09) http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2009/09/06/Syringe-attackers-face-severe-penalty/UPI-66781252294626/

Indian PM to meet top intelligence officials on 21st [to discuss chemical weapons preparedness, among other topics]
"Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will meet with top intelligence officials on September 21 to discuss the country's security situation. The two-day conference of police chiefs and 24 joint directors of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) would discuss threats to internal security. [...] The police chiefs would be briefed on various issues including terrorist activities in the north-eastern states, fundamentalist organisations and the inroads they have made into the remote villages and towns in north India as well as chemical warfare, fake currency and cyber crime. They would also be briefed on ways to counter hostile countries' plans to destabilise the Indian economy, the sources said." (The Hindu; 09Sep09; Iftikhar Gilani)

7th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team participates in joint exercise with the Missouri Water Patrol [Lake of the Ozarks, MO]
"Two fishermen casting Tuesday morning near the 5-mile marker of the Grand Glaize see two persons dressed in hazmat suits disembark a houseboat to a powerboat and speed off. The call comes into 911-dispatch. The Water Patrol responds. SWAT snipers are dropped off by boat into the woods to stealthily approach the houseboat anchored in a nearby cove. […] The Water Patrol later returns by water with specialized personnel and protective equipment to board and inspect the houseboat. The initial team discovers suspicious containers and substances difficult to accurately identify. The team calls the National Guard's 7th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team. […] The guard mobilizes a communications and command center, mobile laboratory, decontamination station and soldiers trained for emergency response to potentially toxic and catastrophic situations. […] On the houseboat, the team discovers two barrels containing three compounds that when combined make Chloropicrin, a type of sedating agent that causes severe respiratory distress. […] The team seals off both barrels to prevent the spread of the gas. […] The continuing investigation indicates the chemical to be part of a terrorist plot to disperse chloropicrin within Lake Regional Hospital. […] The joint exercise conducted by the National Guard and Water Patrol was executed Tuesday-Thursday, Sept. 1-3, at Lake of the Ozarks State Park." (Lake Expo; 08Sep09) http://lakeexpo.com/articles/2009/09/07/top_news/06.prt

US senators [Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joseph Lieberman (I-CT)] move to guard against bio attack
"US Senators pushed Tuesday to tighten safeguards meant to thwart terrorists seeking to use biological weapons. 'We cannot let our guard down against the constant threat of terrorists intent on doing us harm,' warned Senator Joe Lieberman, an independent who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Lieberman and the panel's top Republican, Senator Susan Collins, introduced legislation in direct response to a stark warning in December 2008 that terrorists were more likely than not to strike somewhere in the world with nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons by 2013. Experts on a congressionally mandated commission on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction also warned that a biological attack was more likely than a nuclear strike. […] The legislation would identify the most dangerous biological agents and require the Department of Homeland Security to set robust security standards - including personnel checks and physical security - for the laboratories that handle such pathogens. The bill would authorize $50 million for such security precautions. The measure would also green-light technical US assistance to countries seeking help to bolster security at their laboratories. And it would require better communication from government to the public after an attack, was well as promote the delivery of life-saving treatments." (Agence France Press; 08Sep09)

Deputy Secretary of Energy [Daniel Poneman] reviews leading nuclear counterterrorism assets at Andrews Air Force Base
"Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman toured the National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA) emergency operations facility at Andrews Air Force Base today to receive a demonstration of NNSA's nuclear and radiological incident response capabilities and thank the team for the efforts to combat nuclear terrorism. NNSA's Associate Administrator for Emergency Operations Joseph Krol highlighted several emergency response assets, which make NNSA the nation's premier responder to any nuclear or radiological incident within the United States or abroad. 'NNSA's emergency operations and counterterrorism capabilities represent a key component of the U.S. government's comprehensive effort to combat nuclear terrorism,' said Deputy Secretary Poneman. 'We take full advantage of the extraordinary expertise of the world's top professional scientists, engineers, pilots, medical personnel, technicians and other leading nuclear experts and cutting edge science to help keep our country safe. All Americans can be grateful for their patriotism and dedication.'" (NNSA; 09Sep09)

Tennessee colleges will train nurses for disaster
"Professors from the University of Memphis, Vanderbilt University, and Southwest Tennessee Community College will begin training nurses for the battlefield and natural disasters starting next fall, the Daily Helmsman reports. This summer, the Department of Defense awarded a $2 million grant to these Tennessee schools to create the program, which will prepare nurses to treat the catastrophic injuries associated with natural disasters as well as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons of mass destruction. The professors teaching the program's coursework will do so in conjunction with the Tennessee State Guard, and training might take place at a state military base. Though the program is not yet available to students, government relations assistant Sarah Adair says she expects the program will primarily serve existing military personnel and Reserve Officer Training Corps nursing students. But some current nursing students don't see the need for a specialized training program. 'I think that the program is admirable, but nurses already know what they need to do, even in an emergency situation,' says Rebekah Grimes, a sophomore nursing student. 'Hospitals themselves are like a battlefield.'" (U.S. News; 08Sep09; Jessica Calefati) http://www.usnews.com/blogs/paper-trail/2009/09/08/tennessee-colleges-will-train-nurses-for-disaster.html

Federal contracts awarded by federal agencies in Nebraska [article provides a list of contracts and amounts]
"The following federal contracts were announced by federal agencies based in Nebraska. […] Battelle Memorial Institute [of] Columbus, Ohio, was awarded a $9,665,073 federal contract by the U.S. Air Force's 55 CONS/LGCD Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., for the analysis of critical infrastructure planning and readiness issues associated with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear events." (Targeted News Service; 08Sep09)

China pledges efforts in IAEA's nuclear safety operation
"China appreciates the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s efforts in preserving nuclear safety and will actively participate in the agency's safety operation in the future, said an official from China Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA) here on Wednesday. Dong Baotong, director-general of the CAEA's Engineer System Department, addressed the IAEA's Board Meeting held in Vienna from Monday, expounding the Chinese government's attitude on the prevention of nuclear terrorism and the promoting of nuclear application. He said china will earnestly fulfill its international obligations and commitments when taking part in the agency's nuclear safety operations, and further improve the management of domestic radioactive sources and the administrative regulations concerning its import and export." (Xinhua; 09Sep10)

NATO publishes WMD policy
"NATO […] released its policy for preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and defending against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats. 'The document is comprehensive in scope,' said Jacek Bylica, the top WMD official at NATO, adding its directives are guided by a clear vision of the threat posed by WMD. 'It provides high-level political guidance for our future activities in support of international arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation treaties and regimes, as well as for military planning and capacity-building for defending against the threats posed by these weapons,' he said in a NATO release. The directive allows 'enablers' to work with partners to the NATO alliance to share intelligence and share efforts at public diplomacy and strategic communication. 'A balanced mix of forces, response capabilities and strengthened defenses is needed in order to deter and defend against the use of WMD,' the document reads. NATO […] said WMD and their possible spread by terrorists was one of the gravest threats facing the alliance during the next decade." (United Press International; 04Sep09) http://www.upi.com/Emerging_Threats/2009/09/04/NATO-publishes-WMD-policy/UPI-13561252094549/

Costa Rica to host United Nations workshop on implementing Security Council resolution 1540 in San Jose, 8-10 September

"A United Nations workshop on implementing United Nations Security Council resolution 1540 [which obliges all States to refrain from providing any form of support to non-State actors that attempt to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery] will be held from 8 to 10 September 2009 in San Jose, Costa Rica. Hosted by the Government of Costa Rica, the workshop is organized by the Office for Disarmament Affairs (ODA) with financial support from the European Union and the Governments of Norway and the United States. […] The workshop aims to enhance national capacities for the management of export-control processes at a practical level, and to improve information- and experience-sharing between participating countries. The workshop is also expected to facilitate assistance related to the resolution's implementation. The San José workshop is the fourth organized by ODA on implementation of resolution 1540 after the adoption of resolution 1810." (UN Press Release; 04Sep09) http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2009/dc3189.doc.htm

Powder scare clears emergency room: man came to Santa Rosa Medical Center claiming he found substance in mailbox [Milton, FL]
"The emergency room at Santa Rosa Medical Center in Milton was closed for about three hours Tuesday after a man came in claiming he had been exposed to a white powdery substance in the mail and was ill. Hospital and other officials, however, did not find any dangerous contaminants on the man. As a precaution, eight people in the emergency department were washed down in a decontamination tent set up in the hospital parking lot, and the emergency department was thoroughly cleaned. 'In an effort to protect the health of our community members, our EMS personnel and our hospital staff, we initiated all precautionary means warranted in a situation such as this,' hospital officials said in a written statement Tuesday evening. 'At this time no contaminate has been identified.' The man, who was not identified, […] reported numbness in his hand and trouble breathing after opening a piece of mail that he reported had a suspicious substance in it. 'The man did not have a white, powdery substance on his body or his clothing, or anywhere visible on him,' Santa Rosa County spokeswoman Joy Tsubooka said. 'He had nothing visible on him. This is a precautionary-type decontamination.' Haines said about two hours before the man showed up at the emergency room, he called the Sheriff's Office saying he found white powder in his mailbox. [… Haines] said. 'There was nothing to lead the deputies to believe there was any hazardous materials present.' Haines said […] no charges were filed in the incident." (Pensacola News Journal; 09Sep09; Louis Cooper)

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