War on Terrorism

Friday, December 11, 2009

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, December 11, 2009

Doctors seek to reopen inquest in to death of U.K. weapons expert
"Six doctors, convinced that the man said to have revealed how the government of Tony Blair exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction did not commit suicide, are pressing for a new inquiry into the man's death. In July 2003, 59-year-old Dr. David Kelly, the head of microbiology at the Porton Down biowarfare research laboratories near Salisbury, Wiltshire in the Southwest of England, was found dead in woods near his home in the neighboring county of Oxfordshire. Dr. Kelly had cuts to his left wrist and three packets of a painkiller known as co-proxamol, there was only one tablet remaining out of the 30 that would have been contained in three packets, were found on or near to his body. [...] Dr. Michael Powers QC, a former assistant coroner, is adamant that the cut to the ulnar artery in Dr Kelly's left wrist could not have caused death by bleeding. Furthermore toxicology reports allegedly indicated a level of co-proxamol in Dr Kelly's body consistent with him having taken a normal dose of the painkiller and inconsistent with him having taken 29 tablets. The London Times quotes Dr. Powers - joined in the legal action by trauma surgeon David Halpin, epidemiologist Andrew Rouse, surgeon Martin Birnstingl, radiologist Stephen Frost, and internal general medicine specialist Chris Burns-Cox - as saying of the death of Dr. Kelly, who said in a phone conversation just prior to his death that it would be no surprise if his body 'was found in the woods'." (Digital Journal; 05Dec09; Chris Dade)

Gov't auditors say food-tracing program flawed
"A crucial part of the nation's rapid-response plan -- the ability to trace food through the supply chain during an illness outbreak or bioterrorism attack – is seriously flawed, an independent watchdog agency has found. Federal auditors found that nearly half the food manufacturers they surveyed that are supposed to register with the Food and Drug Administration failed to give the agency accurate contact information [...] Companies that manufacture, process, pack or hold food that is eaten in the United States are required by federal law to provide their address and basic contact information to the FDA, so investigators can follow suspect foods through the supply chain. After interviewing managers at a sample of 130 such companies, however, government investigators found that 48 percent didn't give the agency accurate information. More than half were unaware companies had to register, and about a quarter provided no emergency contact information, because current rules don't require it." (Associated Press; 11Dec09; Garance Burke)

Preventing synthetic pathogens from getting into the wrong hands
"[...] on November 27, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response (ASPR) within the Department of Health and Human Services issued the Notice of proposed rulemaking, 'Screening Framework Guidance for Synthetic Double-Stranded DNA Providers.' ASPR is the lead agency in a broad interagency process to draft the guidance stemming from the [National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity] NSABB's recommendations. The Notice stated that 'technologies that permit the directed synthesis of polynucleotides, which underlie synthetic biology and more specifically synthetic genomics, could enable individuals not authorized to possess [physical biological] Select Agents to gain access to them through their de novo synthesis. Such synthesis obviates the need for access to the naturally occurring agents or naturally occurring genetic material from these agents, thereby greatly expanding the potential availability of these agents.' [...] Synthetic bio-threats are carefully being monitored by American intelligence authorities and bio-weapons experts. And apparently there's reason for them to be more concerned than they were more than two years ago when the Viral Visions report noted that the ability of individuals to create frightening new viruses in their basements was rapidly growing." (Homeland Security Today; 10Dec09; Anthony L. Kimery)

Army researcher contracts tularemia
"A military researcher at the United States Army Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) has contracted what appears to be a laboratory-acquired infection of tularemia. The researcher was working on developing a vaccine for the disease at the institute. [...] Tularemia, also known as rabbit fever, is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. This is one of several dangerous pathogens being researched at USAMRIID. [...] Tularemia is treatable with antibiotics (streptomycin and gentamicin). There is no person to person transmission of this bacterium. F. tularensis is of concern as a possible agent of bioterrorism and biowarfare." (Infectious Disease Examiner; 08Dec09; Robert Herriman)

HHS Cancels RFP for rPA procurement and modifies their approach in favor of BAA for development of rPA vaccines
"Emergent BioSolutions Inc. [...] announced today that it has been advised by the Office of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) that the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the procurement of rPA vaccines has been cancelled in favor of a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for rPA vaccine development. According to BARDA officials, BARDA took this action after a technical evaluation panel determined that none of the vaccine developers submitting proposals could meet the Project BioShield statutory requirement of having a product ready for licensure within 8 years. [...] This decision by BARDA has no impact on the company's $400 million procurement contract with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the manufacture and delivery of 14.5 million doses of BioThrax(r) into the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). The company is currently delivering BioThrax under this contract and expects to complete deliveries by September 2011." (Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News; 07Dec09; Source: Business Wire)

Allegheny County's bioterrorism lab overdue, over budget [PA]
"Allegheny County officials give no signs a sophisticated Health Department bioterrorism lab, two years overdue and at least $2 million over budget, will open by year's end. The 500-square-foot biosafety level-3 [BSL-3] lab was supposed to begin operating in August as part of the county's $6.4 million biosecurity lab in Lawrenceville. [...] In August, the lab failed to pass an inspection by an independent consultant. [...] The BSL-3 lab is intended to allow the Health Department to examine potentially deadly pathogens such as anthrax bacteria, the smallpox virus and H1N1 flu virus. [...] Larry Milchak, a former University of Pittsburgh biological safety officer [...], reported [...] the lab passed most tests but noted some alarms did not work during a simulated power outage, some doors did not close properly and seals in the lab could allow air contaminated with pathogens to escape. [...] Although [BSL-3 labs] are complex to build, such long delays are not the norm." (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review; 07Dec09; Jeremy Boren)

HIV-as-terrorism case [involving Daniel Allen of Clinton Township] draws national protests
"The HIV-as-terrorism case involving 44-year-old Daniel Allen of Clinton Township is now the subject of [...] cyber-protests. Allen was charged with terrorism in Macomb County because he allegedly bit a neighbor during a fight in October. The prosecutor, upon learning Allen was HIV-positive, announced he would seek additional charges from the original assault charges filed [...] Allen, and his attorney [...] were notified of the terrorism charge. Law makers have questioned the charges. And that charge has spurred two cyber protests. [One] protest comes from Change.org. There, Michael Jones writes: ' [...] for [Prosecutor] Eric Smith, it's a charge he wants to use to send a message that HIV-positive people themselves are terrorists. Smith's decision to prosecute Allen with bioterrorism charges is entirely ignorant of science. According to the Center for Disease Control, it is nearly impossible to transmit HIV through a human bite, and there's no evidence that asserts that HIV can be spread through saliva. [...] While biting someone should never be tolerated, charging someone with bioterrorism for doing so is a gross misuse of justice, and a sorry effort to criminalize those with HIV. Demand that Prosecutor Eric Smith drop this HIV-as-terrorism charge.'" (Michigan Messenger; 08Dec09: Todd A. Heywood)

HazMat team simulates biohazard scenario in Mesquite [TX]
"'We train for what we hope never happens.' Those are the words of Major David Sellen, the head of the Nevada National Guard's 92nd Civil Support Team. Sellen and his team of 22 men were in Mesquite on Monday to train in responding to a biohazard. [...] Monday's six-hour session revolved around a scenario involving the 'discovery' of a fictitious biohazard lab in an abandoned house near the Oasis Resort. The morning began with the HazMat team arriving in more than a half-dozen unmarked dark blue vehicles, including a high-tech communications truck used to coordinate transmissions between local first responders such as the fire and police department, as well as military bands for communicating with technicians inside and outside the targeted area. [...] Inside the target area, an abandoned house sitting on top of a hill near I-15, teams of two worked their way through the upstairs and basement areas in search of the planted 'lab.'" (Mesquite Local News; 03Dec09; Morris Workman)

U.S. health-threat response to be reviewed
"Citing the balky swine flu vaccination campaign and other shortcomings in the nation's medical defenses, a top Obama administration official has announced a major review of the government's efforts to develop new protections against pandemics, bioterrorism and other health threats. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday that she ordered the evaluation in part because the H1N1 vaccine shortage had highlighted the nation's dependence on antiquated technology. [...] The review will be led by Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response, and will be complete by 'early next year,' Sebelius said. [...] The nation's ability to respond to such threats depends not only on having enough hospital beds, emergency rooms, doctors, and equipment such as masks and ventilators, but also on state-of-the-art diagnostic tests, medications and vaccines, she said. 'But the countermeasure that saves the day during a quick-hitting public health emergency can often take years to discover, develop, manufacture and distribute,' she said. 'Like a lot of countries, we've often failed to make the kind of long-term investments in countermeasures we need to stay safe.'" (Washington Post; 02Dec09; Rob Stein)

[500 million Pounds Sterling] superlab aims to lead fight against cancer [and potential biological weapons agents]
"The research facility will cover 3.6 acres near the British Library in King's Cross and house 1,500 scientists. Scheduled to open in 2014, it will study the basic biology that causes the formation and spread of cancer and other diseases such as malaria. The lab is a partnership between Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council, University College London and the Wellcome Trust. [...] Professor Sir Paul Nurse, chairman of scientific planning at the centre, said: 'UKCMRI will be the most exciting project for UK biomedical research in the next 50 years. Its ambition is immense and the promise of what can be achieved will excite and energise the global scientific community.' [...] The planning application will be submitted next spring. Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2011." (London Evening Standard; 08Dec09; Mark Prigg)

U.S. rejects biological weapons checks
"President Barack Obama is sticking to the U.S. refusal to negotiate monitoring of biological weapons, the top U.S. arms official said Wednesday. But Ellen Tauscher, under-secretary of state for arms control and international security, said Obama's administration wanted to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention because of growing threats from terrorism and pandemic disease. Tauscher said it would be difficult to monitor compliance because a biological weapons program could be disguised within legitimate activities and rapid scientific advances made it hard to detect violations. [...] Tauscher said the Obama administration's National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats, released Tuesday, recognized that there was no comprehensive strategy to deal with gaps in efforts to prevent the proliferation of biological weapons and scientific abuse. 'President Obama fully recognizes that a major biological weapons attack on one of the world's major cities could cause as much death and economic and psychological damage as a nuclear attack could,' she said. Advances in the life sciences, which have put such weapons within the reach of groups as well as countries, meant the United States was more concerned about the possibility of bioterrorism than state-sponsored biological warfare." (Thomson Reuters; 09Dec09; Jonathan Lynn)

Opening up the Biological Weapons Convention to new voices
"Each year, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC), the world's foremost forum to abolish biological weapons, focuses on one or two areas that have been identified by States Parties as warranting more collective wor k. This year, [the chair of the BWC Meeting of Experts, Marius Grinius, led] efforts for capacity building in the fields of disease surveillance, detection, and diagnosis and infectious disease containment--a process intended to forge links between those able to provide assistance in dealing with disease and those in need of such assistance. The August BWC Meeting of Experts drew diverse participation from the private sector, governments, international organizations, and academia. To take advantage of this spectrum of expertise, the meeting focused on how to engage participants—from hosting informal working sessions to conducting speed networking activities. These methods led to open discussion about the challenges and opportunities that come with addressing this year's area of interest: global disease response." (Bulletin of Atomic Scientists; 07Dec09; Marius Grinius)

New chemical destruction method weighed [KY, CO]
"Army officials want to use explosives to eliminate some of the chemical weapons stockpiled in Kentucky and Colorado, a change they say could improve safety and prevent lags in the nation's weapons destruction schedule. Kevin Flamm, manager of the Army's Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives Program, met Tuesday with community leaders in Richmond to explain the changes being considered for operations at Blue Grass Army Depot. He scheduled a similar meeting Wednesday in Pueblo, Colo. [...] At issue is the use of explosive technologies to eliminate some of the most troublesome mustard-filled projectiles - 15,000 of which are stored in Richmond. Although there are several devices under consideration, including some mounted on trailers, they all rely in part on an explosive charge to eliminate or contain the weapons. [...] The Army says the technique isn't considered incineration. The two states are using a chemical neutralization process rather than incinerators for destroying their stockpiles to comply with an international treaty. Under the current schedule, Kentucky would be the last weapons site to begin operations in 2018 and the last to finish in 2021. [...] Craig Williams, director of the watchdog Chemical Weapons Working Group, complained the community wasn't given sufficient notice. Flamm needs to provide a final recommendation to the Pentagon next week." (Lexington Herald-Leader; 08Dec09; Jefferey McMurray; AP)

Oregon fines chemical depot contractor $111,000
"The state of Oregon has fined the contractor operating the incinerator at the Umatilla Chemical Depot $111,000 for violations of hazardous waste and air contaminant discharge permits. The Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility has not incinerated any chemical weapons agent or containers for 40 days while it addresses the issue." (Tri-City Herald; 08Dec09; Source: AP)

Russian plant begins new chemical weapons disposal project
"Russia has begun disposal of mixtures of lewisite and mustard blister agents at a chemical weapons disposal factory in the Kirov Region, RIA Novosti reported yesterday. 'Work has started at the Maradykovsky facility to destroy mustard-lewisite mixtures,' said regional official Mikhail Manin. [...] A total of 150.1 metric tons of mustard-lewisite mixtures, contained in 277 units of ammunition, is set to be eliminated at the facility, Manin said." (Global Security Newswire; 10Dec09; Source: Russian Information Agency Novosti)

Kurdish boy who 'died' in Halabja gas attack is reunited with his mother
"For two decades Fatima Hama Saleh thought that she had lost all her children in a poison gas attack carried out by Saddam Hussein against the Kurdish town of Halabja, in what was the single worst atrocity of the former Iraqi dictator's rule. Now, however, she has been reunited with her son, Ali Pour, in a dramatic meeting after DNA tests confirmed that the young man, now 21, was the infant she lost when chemical weapons rained down on the Kurdish market town. [...] A judge ordered a DNA test to be carried out by a medical lab in Jordan.The massacre in Halabja on March 16, 1988, was part of Saddam's 1987 to 1988 Anfal campaign that killed up to 200,000 Kurds. Three quarters of the 5,000 killed in Halabja were women and children. Four of Mrs Saleh's five children died in the attack, as well as her husband, Mr Pour's father. After the reunion, she said: 'I will not die in sorrow and grief after all the miseries I have experienced.'" (The Times, U.K.; 07Dec09; Yahya Ahmed, AP) http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article6946299.ece

Agent Orange a lethal legacy [a five part series on Agent Orange]
"Memories of the Vietnam War are dimming, but veterans and Vietnamese nationals who were exposed to Agent Orange and other dioxin-laced defoliants are still experiencing devastating health effects, and birth defects have brought the impact into a second generation. Yet the U.S. government has yet to make full amends, either in the U.S. or overseas. To report this series, the Tribune interviewed nearly two dozen civilians and former soldiers in Vietnam as well as researching thousands of pages of government documents and traveling to the homes of veterans in the U.S." (Chicago Tribune; 10Dec09; Jason Grotto, Chris Groskopf, Ryan Mark, Joe Germuska and Brian Boyer)

Death penalty for cult member [Yoshihiro Inoue of Aum Shinrikyo]
"Japan's Supreme Court rejected an appeal on Thursday against the death penalty handed to a senior member of the doomsday cult behind the 1995 deadly sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway. The ruling makes Yoshihiro Inoue, 39, the ninth member of the Aum Supreme Truth cult awaiting execution after final rulings by the country's highest court. [...] Four sect members are awaiting rulings on appeals against their death sentences. The Supreme Court upheld the high court's verdict on Inoue, deciding that he 'played an essential and significant role on his initiative' in the 1995 sarin attack, said presiding judge Seishi Kanetsuki. According to the ruling of the high court, Inoue plotted the attack, which killed 12 people and injured thousands, with Aum Supreme Truth sect leader Shoko Asahara." (Straits Times; 10Dec09; Source: AFP)

Six arrested over murder of former Chilean president [Frei Montalva, poisoned with thallium and mustard gas]
"Six men have been arrested in Chile over the murder of the country's former president Eduardo Frei Montalva, whose death in 1982 has been one of the most enduring mysteries of the Pinochet regime. Three suspects were charged with murder and three others with being accomplices to murder. [...] Judge Alejandro Madrid, who investigated the case for seven years, said yesterday that the former Chilean leader was poisoned to death as multiple doses of thallium and mustard gas were secretly mixed with medications and injected into the president's body. [...] Family members had suspected Frei was poisoned after being tipped off by former aides to General Pinochet. In his 2002 book, Imperfect Crime, Chilean journalist Jorge Molina profiled Eugenio Barrios, a chemist who worked for the Chilean secret police on a series of radical experiments including the production of anthrax [spores], botulism [toxin] and the nerve gas sarin. Barrios, who was murdered in Uruguay, is suspected of administering the poison to Frei." (The Guardian; 8Dec09; Jonathan Franklin)

Pakistan re-elected to body against chemical weapons
"Pakistan has been re-elected to the executive council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for a two year-term, starting from May 2010 [...] The election took place at the 14th Conference of States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), currently underway in The Hague." (The Peninsula; 05Dec09; Source: Internews)

Egypt to host United Nations workshop on implementing Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004), in Cairo, 7 to 10 December
"A regional United Nations workshop on implementing United Nations Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) will be held from 7 to 10 December in Cairo, Egypt. Hosted by the Government of Egypt, the workshop is organized by the Office for Disarmament Affairs, with financial support from the European Union and the Governments of Norway and the United States. Officials from the Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda, as well as representatives from a number of international, regional and subregional organizations, have been invited to participate. Consistent with the objectives of resolution 1540 (2004), 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 Cairo workshop is the fifth regional workshop organized by the Office for Disarmament Affairs on the implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) after the adoption of resolution 1810 (2008)." (04Dec09; 7th Space Interactive; Gabriele Kraatz-Wadsack)

UK believed Iraqi weapons had been dismantled
"John Scarlett, who chaired the committee from 2001 to 2004 before moving to MI6, Britain's foreign intelligence agency, told a panel of inquiry that it had long been believed that Iraq had been dismantling weapons in order to conceal them. [...] Scarlett made the comments to a panel probing Britain's role in the Iraq war. The inquiry is most extensive look yet at the conflict, which was deeply unpopular in Britain, triggered huge protests and left 179 British soldiers dead. Scarlett said the March assessments didn't contradict or change the earlier belief that Saddam had access to weapons and that the regime was dismantling them. He said the reports didn't say the weapons didn't exist -- but that they might be difficult to find." (Associated Press; 8Dec09)

Call the bio-chem busters
"[...] software to monitor the spread of chemical agents real-time was developed by the DSO National Laboratories, the national defence research and development organisation. The prototype was rolled out in the Singapore Armed Forces' Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Explosives (CBRE) Defence Group in early March and tested at the recent Formula One race, four years after scientists started working on the project. [...] Speaking at a conference on CBRE threats on Tuesday, [Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean], who is also the Defence Minister, said the boots on the ground 'needed to be backed up' by labcoat-clad scientists to come up with the best solution most suited to the climate here. Soldiers dealing with the deadly substances will be also more confident when they know 'the research and science behind it was properly founded' [he said, while] speaking to 340 scientists and military planners from 23 countries at the 6th Singapore International Symposium on Protection Against Toxic Substances and the 2nd International CBRE Ops Conference at the Raffles City Convention Centre." (Straits Times; 08Dec09; Jermyn Chow)

Homeland Security to study dispersion of biological weapons in Boston subway [MA]
"The U.S. Homeland Security Department has announced that it will release harmless gases and dye tracers into Boston's subway system next week to study the circulation of airborne contaminants through public transit networks in the event of a biological or chemical attack. The planned study, which will examine how both smoke and airborne toxins move throughout the transit system, is expected to assist experts in developing future chemical-agent monitoring while also providing guidance for future improvements in air-purification systems, evacuation plans and emergency-response protocols for transportation systems. [...] The airborne contaminants study will run from December 5 through December 11. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will oversee the study, which will be conducted in more than 20 below-ground subway stations and trains throughout Boston." (Bioprepwatch.com; 04Dec09; Ted Purlain)

AFM [Armed Forces of Malta] receive equipment from Italian Military Mission [including WMD incident response training equipment]
"The Armed Forces of Malta have received [Euro] 4 million worth of military hardware equipment from the Italian Military Mission in Malta during a symbolic ceremony at Silver Citybarracks, Pembroke. The equipment includes light to medium transport vehicles [...] and also heavy plant machinery, including bulldozers, excavators, cranes and large tipper trucks. Also donated were spare part supplies and kit items related to combat engineering, radio communications, anti-nuclear-biological-chemical warfare and maritime workshop equipment, which will all go a long way in supporting the AFM's roles, operations and duties." (Times of
Malta; 07Dec09)

CNS ChemBio-WMD Terrorism News is prepared by the Chemical and Biological Weapons
Nonproliferation Program of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at
the Monterey Institute of International Studies in order to bring timely and focused
information to researchers and policymakers interested in the fields of chemical,
biological, and radiological weapons nonproliferation and WMD terrorism.

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