War on Terrorism

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, September 23, 2009

Agencies float disputed biological cleanup plan
"The Obama administration has published draft guidelines that observers fear could loosen requirements for decontaminating sites contaminated by a biological-weapon attack or natural disease outbreak, Superfund Report reported Monday. The Homeland Security Department and Environmental Protection Agency submitted the draft Planning Guidance for Recovery Following Biological Incidents for public feedback in the Aug. 17 [2009] Federal Register. The document would permit officials to alter cleanup standards to fit the specific circumstances of a biological incident rather than being required to meet established rules. The Bush administration applied the approach, known as optimization, in a similar draft guidance for radiological dirty bomb incidents. [...] The draft biological cleanup guide 'applies to characterization, decontamination, clearance and restoration/re-occupance of a variety of public facilities, drinking water infrastructure, and open areas' [...] 'No formula is available for setting a (cleanup) goal for biological agents,' says the document. Rather, the 'collective, professional judgment of experts, considered within the context of the concerns of a broad range of local, regional and federal stakeholders should be used to set a clearance goal appropriate to the site-specific circumstances.'" (Global Security Newswire; 23Sept09; Douglas Guarino, Superfund Report) http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20090922_4160.php

Security improved at U.S. biosafety labs, GAO [Government Accountability Office] reports
"Following up its September 2008 report that perimeter security was deficient at two of the five biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) laboratories then operating in the United States, an investigator from the Government Accountability Office told members of a U.S. Senate committee on Tuesday that both have made improvements. The chairman and ranking member of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee warned, however, that the [six] labs [...] now in operation still do not have adequate perimeter security in place and said their Weapons of Mass Destruction Prevention and Preparedness Act, S. 1649, will make needed changes. [...] Two labs have fixed some of the critical perimeter security shortcomings identified last September, including lack of a command and control center, no camera coverage of some exterior entrances, armed guards not visible at all entrances, no screening of vehicles, and no barriers in place to prevent vehicles from approaching the labs. [...] All five are overseen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [which] has taken steps to improve security at the labs." (Occupational Health and Safety; 23Sep09) http://ohsonline.com/articles/2009/09/23/security-improved.aspx

[Former Senators Bob] Graham [D-FL] [and Jim] Talent [R-MO] Graham, Talent call for extra steps in WMD bill
"Former Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and Jim Talent (R-Mo.) appeared before the Senate homeland security committee Tuesday to [...] urge action on additional steps the [WMD] bill does not cover. Graham [...] endorsed a tiered system for setting up security measures for high-containment laboratories that handle deadly biological pathogens. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) [...] likened the bill's security requirements for biological labs to the chemical facility requirements in the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) law. [...] The law would compel biological laboratories to register with a federal high-containment lab database, whereupon analysts would rate how deadly the biological agents they handle are. [...] The federal government does not have a comprehensive list of all research facilities that must register, and the bill would close that gap, Collins stated. [...] 'Tier II should include pathogens that are dangerous but cannot feasibly be used as bioweapons. Tier III should include the majority of biological agents that are of lesser security and public health concerns. These agents would require only facility registration.... Our primary objective, again, is to distinguish those pathogens that pose great danger from those that do not,' Graham testified. Graham also underscored that the WMD report recommended congressional reform 'structurally and substantively' to address national security issues including homeland security and intelligence oversight." (Homeland Security Today; 23Sep09: Mickey McCarter) http://www.hstoday.us/content/view/10344/149/

Bi-directional health information exchange to deal with disease outbreaks [IN]
"Regenstrief Institute researchers have developed, tested and are now operating innovative technologies to allow for the bi-directional flow of evidence-based medical information between clinical sources and public health organizations. A demonstration of the pioneering new tools developed by the Regenstrief Institute that make two-way exchange between healthcare providers and public health agencies possible takes place on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on September 24, 2009, from 10:00 am to 2:30 pm in the Russell Senate Office Building. Rapid, secure two-way exchange of health information between medical care providers and public health officials is critical to dealing with disease outbreaks, bioterrorism incidents, illness from food borne contaminants, and other threats. [...] Regenstrief's [...] Notifiable Condition Detector (NCD) uses advanced computing techniques to examine electronically reported laboratory results for the detection of notifiable conditions such as novel H1N1 influenza, sexually transmitted diseases, lead poisoning, or salmonella. The NCD, now operational in Indiana, automatically detects positive cases of indicated conditions and forwards alerts to local and state health departments for review and possible follow up. These alerts assist public health agencies to perform population health monitoring more efficiently and effectively." (Medical News; 22Sep09: Source: Indiana University) http://www.news-medical.net/news/20090922/Bi-directional-health-information-exchange-to-deal-with-disease-outbreaks.aspx

Grand Strand hospital prepares staff for the flu [SC]
"Grand Strand Regional Medical Center is hosting Flu Fest '09 Tuesday. According to a press release, the 12-hour marathon flu immunization clinic and disaster drill is for hospital employees and physicians. In anticipation of a strong flu season, Grand Strand Regional will work to immunize all staff in one day. This 12-hour clinic will also test our ability to respond to an epidemic or bioterrorism attack by administering a vaccine to a large number of people in a timely manner. Should an epidemic or bioterrorism attack ever occur, the hospital would erect decontamination and other tents and would be charged with administering a vaccine or antibiotics quickly. All employees who could infect a patient or who could be infected need to be vaccinated with seasonal influenza vaccine or wear a surgical mask beginning October 1 and extending through flu season. The expectation is that all staff members will be vaccinated to prevent the spread of flu." (South Carolina Now; 22Sep09) http://www2.scnow.com/scp/news/local/grand_strand/article/grand_starnd_hospital_prepares_staff_for_the_flu/76593/

Fort Detrick head [Col. Roger Martin] to [National Academy of Sciences] panel: Safety a priority for new biodefense lab under construction [MD]
"A $680 million laboratory building under construction at Fort Detrick will likely be safer than the decades-old complex it will replace. [...] A citizens group critical of the expansion told the National Academy of Sciences panel that the military hasn't fully considered the possibility of a release of deadly germs by a disturbed or disgruntled worker. [...] Col. Roger Martin, the [U.S. Army Medical Institute of Infectious Diseases'] deputy director, said the lab has undergone a cultural change in recent years focusing on security. [...] The review panel plans to hold closed sessions before issuing a report in March. The committee has no enforcement power but the congressionally chartered academy is an influential body. [The new lab] is expected to be operational in 2015. The project's Environmental Impact Statement includes scenarios for accidental releases of viruses and bacteria. [...] It also found negligible risk to community health from any possible escape of an infected lab animal, natural disasters, fires or a plane crash." (Star Tribune; 22Sep09; David Dishneau, AP) http://www.startribune.com/nation/60402312.html?elr=KArks:DCiUMEaPc:UiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUU

ED [Early Detection] monitoring network helps Maryland track epidemics
"Maryland likely has become the first state in the nation to have all of its hospital emergency departments agree to participate in an electronic early-warning system to help identify and mitigate public-health outbreaks. All 46 acute-care facilities in the state now are on board with the Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics, or ESSENCE, a web-based reporting network developed by the Department of Defense to help detect bioterrorism, but now widely used by state public-health agencies. ESSENCE allows state officials to keep track of primary symptoms - not necessarily diagnoses - of ED patients, offering insights to potential health risks such as the H1N1 virus. Patient identifiers are not transmitted. [...] Maryland also can monitor sales of over-the-counter drugs from about 280 pharmacies in the state, offering additional clues about emerging health issues. The state also is working on a link to schools to find patterns of absenteeism that could indicate an epidemic." (Fierce Health IT; 21Sep09; Neil Versel)

Researcher [Malcolm Casadaban] had bacteria for plague [in his blood] at his death [Chicago, IL]
"The researcher, Malcolm Casadaban, 60, had a weakened strain of the bacteria Yersinia pestis in his blood when he died from an infection on Sept. 13, university officials said. An autopsy showed no obvious cause of death except the presence of the bacteria, they said. Dr. Casadaban, an associate professor at the university, was studying the bacteria to create a better vaccine for plague. [...] The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], in Atlanta, was called to help local and university officials determine both how Dr. Casadaban had become exposed to the bacteria and why he died. Local health officials here said there was no threat to the public. As a precaution, though, the University of Chicago Medical Center offered antibiotics to about 100 people who knew the researcher, including his family members, friends and colleagues. [...] Dr. Casadaban had hoped to create a better vaccine for plague in part because of concerns about its possible use in bioterrorism. [...] Officials are investigating whether Dr. Casadaban may have become infected through breathing, through a cut in his skin, or through his eyes or mouth." (New York Times; 21Sep09; Emma Graves Fitzsimmons) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/22/us/22chicago.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=plague%20Chicago&st=cse

How civil society could be the key to a new BWC
"The 2011 Review Conference will determine the next stage in the [BWC] convention's evolution, and some hard choices - such as how to deal with the rapid advances in science and technology - will have to be made. [...] In order to have any influence on the 2011 agreement, civil society has to play a role in evaluating different ideas and proposals and creating a consensus about what should be done to strengthen the convention in the limited time available at the Review Conference. [...] Civil society needs to address these issues [confidence building measures, the implementation support unit, compliance assurance, and advances in science and technology] since the individuals that make up [the Review Conference] often have relevant specialist knowledge (in the fields of microbiology and neuroscience). [...] If civil society had picked up on this suggestion, [...] it already would have come to terms with the feasibility of the technical and political issues related to the various options and would be making proposals to States Parties about those options it had refined. [...] This problem isn't unique to biological arms control, and, in fact, the solution is common: create a treaty architecture (as the Chemical Weapons Convention, or CWC, does) that requires declaration of all sites and facilities with specified characteristics and audits of these sites by 'visits with no treaty right of refusal.'" (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; 22Sep09; Malcolm Dando) http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/columnists/malcolm-dando/how-civil-society-could-be-the-key-to-new-bwc

[Newport] Chemical Depot to lay off 150 [people] by Oct. [IN]
"The Newport Chemical Depot announced by mid-October, 150 people will be laid off. In the 1960's the Newport Chemical Depot was home to making the toxic nerve agent VX. These day, employees at the plant work to neutralize the chemical. [...] 'We focused on getting the job done, getting the job done well and taking care of people at the same time,' Lt. Colonel William Hibner of the Newport Chemical Depot said. [...] The Newport Chemical Depot plans on closing for good by next summer." (WTHI-TV; 22Sep09)

State, hotels attract terrorist interests, feds say
"The Department of Homeland Security and FBI have issued security bulletins to raise awareness regarding terrorist interest. [...] The bulletins [...] said that authorities did not know of any credible or specific terrorist plots to attack U.S. stadiums, arenas or luxury hotels. However, it said that terrorist groups such as al Qaeda view crowded stadiums and arenas [and hotels] as potential targets. [...] The bulletin on stadiums and arenas said that previous attacks against crowd gatherings have included improvised explosive devices and car bombs, 'tactics that are also applicable to many stadiums and arenas.' [...] 'Detained terrorists have also discussed the use of aircraft and chemical weapons to attack stadiums and arenas.' [...] The bulletins on luxury hotels said analysis of previous attacks abroad and thwarted plots showed that terrorists have used paramilitary and 'small unit' tactics, explosives, improvised explosive devices and car bombs. It said hotel owners can protect their properties by installing fencing or walls around the buildings and populated areas; implementing random screening of people and their possessions; and training security staff." (Cable News Network; 22Sep09) http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/09/22/us.security.bulletins/

Senate approves [Chairman Chris] Dodd's [D-CT] bill to strengthen manufacturing critical to America's security
“Last night the Senate passed a bill, authored by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) and cosponsored by Banking Committee Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL), to reform and reauthorize the Defense Production Act. The bill strengthens America's manufacturing base for products critical to America's security. This includes industries that support America's energy and infrastructure needs, and help civilian agencies and the military respond to crises at home and abroad. Connecticut companies such as Danbury's Goodrich, that employs 500 workers to manufacture chemical weapon detection technology [...] have received funding under the DPA to expand their businesses. 'In wartime and in the aftermath of natural disasters, the government relies on factories in my home state of Connecticut and around the country for everything from raw metal to military vehicles and cutting-edge technology,' said Dodd. 'This bill will help ensure those products are available when we need them.' [...] Dodd added crucial updates to this bill that will make the Defense Production Act more effective. Under the legislation approved by the Senate yesterday, the DPA will now: ensure that our nation is prepared to respond to emergencies by requiring that federal agencies set up systems to rapidly mobilize manufacturers to meet America's needs in a crisis - from responses to terrorist attacks and health pandemics to hurricanes and energy shortages; ensure that American manufacturers critical to our security have access to needed government investment." (Connecticut Plus; 17Sep09; Senator Dodd's Office) http://www.connecticutplus.com/cplus/information/news/Local_2/Senate-approves-Dodd-s-bill-to-strengthen-manufacturing-critical-to-America-s-security60306030.shtml

China's new-type military camouflage uniform shows advantage on battlefield [during training exercise]
"A division under the Lanzhou Military Area Command (MAC) was ordered to march in organic from the Gobi desert in Northwest China to the mountainous areas in Northeast China to conduct trans-military-area-command maneuver exercise. 600 kinds of military supplies such as 2007-style new-type camouflage uniform, camouflage helmet and land warfare boots showed their advantages in the exercise. [...] The participating troops suddenly encountered [an] 'enemy' chemical weapon attack when they came to the grassland passage in Inner Mongolia. 10-plus new-type chemical defense reconnaissance and decontamination vehicles rushed to the contaminated area immediately. 60-odd chemical defense soldiers dressed in new-type toxin-proof uniform and wearing gas masks and new-type land warfare boots lost no time in carrying out toxin check and inspection, decontamination and miasma removal, and the contaminated area was under effective control in less than 10 minutes." (Defence Professionals; 23Sep09) http://www.defpro.com/news/details/9999/

US dirty bomb attack would bring clean-up chaos
"A dirty bomb attack on the US would find the country ill-prepared to clean up the resulting radioactive mess, a government watchdog has warned - and hasty attempts at cleaning up could make things worse. Building a true nuclear bomb requires expert knowledge and possession of plutonium or enriched uranium, which governments keep under tight security. But more widely available radioactive materials, intended for applications such as medical imaging, could be used to construct a dirty bomb detonated a conventional explosives such as dynamite. Such an explosion could spread radioactive materials over a wide area. This need not be enough to cause radiation sickness. It could do immense economic damage simply by creating fear and disruption, and would also require an expensive clean-up." (New Scientist; 23Sep09; David Shiga) http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17838-us-dirty-bomb-attack-would-bring-cleanup-chaos.html

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