War on Terrorism

Friday, May 07, 2010

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, May 7, 2010

Emergent Biosolutions hosts biopreparedness forum for members of the NATO parliamentary assembly
"Emergent BioSolutions Inc. is hosting 'Bioterrorism Prevention, Preparedness and Response,' a forum uniquely organized for members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Parliamentary Assembly (PA). The one-day event is an interactive discussion related to biopreparedness strategies and best practices such as funding, development, and manufacture of biodefense medical countermeasures, creation of strategic stockpiles, and cooperation within the international community. 'Emergent is pleased to organize this forum for NATO parliamentarians as part of our efforts to raise global awareness of biopreparedness,' said Allen Shofe, senior vice president public affairs, Emergent BioSolutions. 'Central to our goal of fostering cooperation within the international community is our Company's extensive, decade-long experience in the development, manufacture, and delivery of medical countermeasures that are critical to the U.S. government's biodefense infrastructure.'" (Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News; 06May10) http://www.genengnews.com/industry-updates/emergent-biosolutions-hosts-biopreparedness-forum-for-members-of-the-nato-parliamentary-assembly/82230095/

New technology identifies bacteria, viruses, other organisms within 24 hours
"Law enforcement authorities seeking to detect bioterrorism attacks, doctors diagnosing diseases and regulatory agencies checking product safety may find a new ally in a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) detection technology. The advance, known as the Lawrence Livermore Microbial Detection Array (LLMDA), could enable law enforcement, medical professionals and others to detect within 24 hours any virus or bacteria that has been sequenced and included among the array's probes. Developed between October 2007 and February 2008, the LLMDA detects viruses and bacteria with the use of 388,000 probes that fit in a checkerboard pattern in the middle of a one-inch wide, three-inch long glass slide. The current operational version of the LLMDA contains probes that can detect more than 2,000 viruses and about 900 bacteria." (Science Centric; 06May10) http://www.sciencecentric.com/news/article.php?q=10050649-new-technology-identifies-bacteria-viruses-other-organisms-within-24-hours

Biologists discover an extra layer of protection for bacterial spores
"Bacterial spores, the most resistant organisms on earth, carry an extra coating of protection previously undetected, a team of microbiologists reports in the latest issue of the journal Current Biology. Their findings offer additional insight into why spores of the bacteria that cause botulism, tetanus, and anthrax survive methods to eradicate them. The study was conducted by researchers at New York University's Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, Loyola (Ill.) University's Medical Center, and Princeton University's Department of Molecular Biology. The researchers studied the spores of a non-pathogenic bacterium, Bacillus subtilis, which is commonly found in soil. Although non-pathogenic, B. subtilis spores exhibit many of the same structural features of the spore-forming pathogens. In this study, the scientists examined the proteins that comprise spores' protective layers. Previous research has shown that 70 different proteins make up these layers. Less understood is how these proteins interact to form the spores' protective coats." (e! Science News; 06May10) http://esciencenews.com/articles/2010/05/06/biologists.discover.extra.layer.protection.bacterial.spores

University of Iowa dedicates new laboratory
"The University of Iowa has hosted a dedication ceremony for a new nearly $38 million laboratory that will test for infectious diseases and environmental contaminants. The ceremony Wednesday was for the University Hygienic Laboratory in Coralville. Currently staff work in an existing facility built in 1917 and known as Oakdale Hall. Staff will move into the new 113,000-square-foot facility later this summer. Hygienic lab director Christopher Atchison says the new building 'represents a watershed moment for public health and the environment in Iowa.'" (WXOW News; 06May10)

Plant-based vaccine factory enables large-scale production in just weeks [MA]
"H1N1, SARS and other pandemics, along with increasing antibiotic resistance to infectious diseases and even threats of biological warfare have reinforced the need for safe, effective and inexpensive mass vaccination programs. The answer may lie in nature, with plant-based vaccines. While traditional methods of vaccine production typically take months, the Fraunhofer Centers in the U.S., Boston University and iBio have developed a fully automated, scalable plant 'factory' that can produce large quantities of vaccines within weeks. The factory can grow tens of thousands of plants in one batch, tended by robotic machines that transport multi-plant trays between processing stations, performing functions such as planting seeds, watering and harvesting." (Gizmag; 05May10; Karen Sprey) http://www.gizmag.com/plant-based-vaccine-factory-ready-to-roll/14976/

[Retired Air Force Col. Randy] Larsen calls for boosts in bioterror[ism] response
"Methods used to prevent nuclear terror[ism] do not work for bioterror[ism]. The WMD Commission ruffled some feathers when it gave the US government a grade of 'F' for 'enhancing capabilities for rapid response to prevent biological attacks from inflicting mass casualties,' retired Air Force Col. Randy Larsen acknowledged in an interview with HSToday.us. 'We were trying to look at the actions we need to take to improve this 'F' grade,' Larsen emphasized. 'A lot of people really disagree with the 'F' grade. Some of them cannot say it in public because they work in the government. But we are not ready to respond to a biological attack. There is pretty much general agreement on that.' Larsen elected to continue to the mission of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Proliferation and Terrorism, forming a new nonprofit corporation with former Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and Jim Talent (R-Mo.) to carry on its work after its mandate expired March 1." (Homeland Security Today; 05May10; Mickey McCarter) http://www.hstoday.us/content/view/13148/149/

Group: Documents confirm five-year financing of chemical weapons disposal [Richmond, KY]
"Newly released documents confirm that the government's commitment to fully fund the disposal of chemical weapons in Madison County is real, the executive director of a Berea-based watchdog group said. Documents released Thursday by the Chemical Weapons Working Group reflect a five-year funding plan that was unseen before now, said Craig Williams, executive director of the group. 'I received them from Capitol Hill, let me just put it that way,' Williams said. In late 2008, Sen. Mitch McConnell sought and received a commitment from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to finance the disposal program at accelerated levels at Kentucky's Blue Grass Army Depot and Colorado. Gates responded with a pledge to do so in early 2009, but until now there had been no documentation reflecting that five-year commitment. The commitment pays for the program at $517 million a year, according to correspondence between McConnell and Gates. 'We have been told that we had this commitment to adequately fully fund the program, but every time we would ask for the funding guidance that contains the actual numbers, we were told 'Well, there is no final decision been made' or 'There's not been the proper protocol associated with the decision, so we can't give it to you,'' Williams said. 'Over a series of a month or two, we've been asking for this.'" (Lexington Herald-Leader; 06May10; Greg Kocher) http://www.kentucky.com/2010/05/06/1254273/group-papers-document-governments.html

Mustard agent burning starts again [Umatilla, OR]
"The trial burn of mustard chemical weapons agent started Thursday at the Umatilla Chemical Depot after earlier issues related to worker safety and emissions were resolved. The trial burn will prepare for the routine operation of the Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility for destruction of mustard agent, the last of the chemical weapon agents stored at the depot. The project is on track to have all agent destroyed in spring 2012, said Hal McCune, URS [Corporation] protocol manager at the facility. But the trial burn will provide information on the pace of operations. In preparation, ton-containers of mustard agent were burned in a shakedown period that began in June 2009. About 233 containers were processed then and about 2,400 remain in the stockpile. All nerve weapon agent was destroyed from September 2004 to November 2008, leaving only mustard agent. The trial burn, which is limited to 60 days, is required to demonstrate that the incineration facility meets performance standards for complete destruction of mustard agent. It's also required to show that the plant meets the emission standards of its permit." (Tri-City Herald; 03May10; Annette Cary) http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2010/04/30/996761/mustard-agent-burning-starts-again.html

NYU-Poly physicist collaborates on detector for explosives and chemical warfare agents
"A technology long used for identifying traces of organic compounds in exhaust gases may hold the key to finding minute traces of explosives and chemical warfare agents (CWAs) carried into airports or on the clothing of bomb makers, according to an Austrian team of researchers that includes Polytechnic Institute of New York University Physics Professor Kurt Becker. Dr. Becker is collaborating with researchers at the University of Innsbruck and an Innsbruck-based spin-off company, Ionicon Analytik GmbH, on real-time detection using Proton-Transfer-Reaction Mass Spectrometry (PTR-MS). Laboratory tests showed that PTR-MS can distinguish between substances with very similar molecular structures, and the technology correctly identified explosives, CWAs and chemicals that could be combined to create a bomb." (Red Orbit; 05May10) http://www.redorbit.com/news/business/1860671/nyupoly_physicist_collabo

Breaking up can be hard [analyzing chemically saturated material] [VT]
"Laura Townsend '10 eases a soggy lump of concrete out from what looks like a gigantic pizza oven. 'Come on, whoa! -- This bad boy is going to fall apart,' she says as she inspects the pebbly mass and then gingerly places it back in a tray of water. A few weeks ago, this concrete was solid. Now it's been through about six years of ferocious weathering. 'This is a freeze/thaw chamber,' she says, 'Twenty cycles in here is like a year in Burlington.' Cooked and frozen every five hours for days, her samples get old in a hurry. 'My honors thesis is evaluating the effects of weathering on fluid transport through building materials -- like how much more fluid can get into concrete as it gets older,' she says. And if that fluid happens to be a chemical weapon, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency would like to know what happens to it. Townsend's research is part of a project led by her co-advisers -- professors Mandar Dewoolkar and Donna Rizzo in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences -- and supported by the defense agency." (Physorg; 05May10; Joshua E. Brown) http://www.physorg.com/news192301230.html

[Members of Congress] Gillibrand [and] King bill: Prevent NYC dirty bomb [New York, NY]
"U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced legislation to provide long-term funding for the Securing the Cities initiative that combines federal, state and local resources to protect the New York metropolitan area against the threat of a radiological or nuclear attack. Senator Gillibrand's bill is the Senate version of Rep. Peter King's (R-NY) legislation, which passed earlier this year in the House of Representatives, to permanently authorize the Securing the Cities program and enable its expansion to other targeted areas. 'There is no higher priority than the safety of New Yorkers,' Senator Gillibrand said. 'As we saw this weekend, New York City is the number one target for terrorists around the world who want to harm Americans. We must always remain vigilant in guarding against terrorist attacks and always make sure law enforcement at every level is armed with the resources they need to protect our city and keep us safe. This legislation makes the effective Securing the Cities program permanent and provides the funding needed to help prevent a dirty bomb attack in New York.'" (Yeshiva World News; 05May10) http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/News Alerts/56564/Gillibrand-King-Bill:-Prevent-NYC-Dirty-Bomb.html

[Senator Charles] Schumer: NYC needs protection from "makeshift nuclear device" [New York, NY]
"Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is calling on the Obama administration to fund a program to protect New York City from the threat of a makeshift nuclear device or radioactive bomb. He is using the Times Square car bombing incident to request full funding for a security ring around Manhattan to detect radiological and biological weapons. He is also asking for additional federal support for explosive detection and funding for the NYPD's surveillance camera program in Midtown and Lower Manhattan. Schumer says the Times Square event is proof that New York remains the number one target for terrorism in the United States and the federal government should pony up more money to protect it." (Fox News; 03May10; Luke Funk) http://www.myfoxny.com/dpp/news/local_news/manhattan/schumer-nyc-needs-protection-from-makeshift-nuclear-device-20100403-lgf

[University of Virginia] survey reveals how National Capital Region residents would react to 'dirty bomb' attacks [National Capital Region, DC]
"Most people in the National Capital Region would follow instructions to stay where they are after a radiological dispersion device, or 'dirty bomb,' attack, according to a recent University of Virginia survey of more than 2,600 of the region's residents. The survey also indicates that if an evacuation were ordered, most people would stay close to the region and not travel far. Those findings, along with others from the survey - commissioned by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and conducted by U.Va.'s centers for Survey Research and Risk Management of Engineering Systems - provide emergency and transportation officials with valuable information on public actions during emergencies. Results from the survey will help refine emergency response, traffic movement and evacuation plans." (University of Virginia News; 03May10)

Nuclear attack a ticking time bomb, experts warn
"For nearly 65 years, a cloud has been hanging over the human race -- the possibility of a nuclear bomb that could incinerate millions of people. Fortunately, for more than six decades and a proliferation of nuclear nations and armaments, cooler heads have prevailed. [...] Various experts estimate the chances of a nuclear detonation in the next 10 years at somewhere between 10 and 30 percent. Martin Hellman, professor emeritus of electrical engineering at Stanford and co-inventor of public key cryptography, estimates the odds at 1 percent per year going forward. 'If the odds are 1 percent per year, in 10 years the likelihood is almost 10 percent, and in 50 years 40 percent if there is no substantial change,' he said. Hellman, who has been focusing on nuclear deterrence for the past 25 years, said that a baby born today, with an expected lifetime of 80 years, faces a greater than 50-50 chance that a nuclear weapon attack will occur unless the number of weapons and available weapons-grade material is radically reduced. Even if the horizon for a nuclear detonation were extended to 1,000 years, with the threat calculated at 0.1 percent per year, a child born today would have about a 10 percent chance of not living out his or her natural life, Hellman estimated. 'The risk would be equivalent to having your home surrounded by a thousand nuclear power plants (each with a one million year time horizon) or the equivalent of sky diving twice a week, but with the whole world in the harness,' he said." (Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) News; 03May10; Daniel Farber) http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503543_162-20003954-503543.html

NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] 101: how relevant is cold war treaty in age of terrorism?
"The [N]uclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is a 40-year-old relic of the cold war. As diplomats and arms control wonks review the treaty during a May 3-28 conference in New York, they are looking at how it can be applied to an age where nuclear terrorism is often deemed a bigger danger than the number of weapons held by the US and Russia. President Obama said last month the 'single biggest threat to US security' comes from a nuclear device in the hands of groups like Al Qaeda, which 'are in the process of trying to secure a nuclear weapon ... that they have no compunction at using.' How can the NPT minimize the chance of an atomic terrorist attack in the modern era? Experts say the answer lies in better safeguarding nuclear material - and the knowledge necessary to create it. The greater danger, they maintain, is not direct cooperation between states and terrorist groups, but states leaving themselves vulnerable to exploitation by militants. 'I would worry more about a nuclear terrorist attack that comes about because of negligence by a state, than as a result of the deliberate transfer of material,' says Mike Levi, a nuclear specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations. Near the top of that short list is a country such as Pakistan. Though not a member of the NPT, it has acquired as many as 90 nuclear warheads. Some worry that those could fall into the hands of Al Qaeda-linked militants, who have been waging brutal attacks in Pakistan. The country's leadership routinely says its nuclear facilities are safe." (Christian Science Monitor; 03May10; Scott Peterson) http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2010/0503/NPT-101-How-relevant-is-cold-war-treaty-in-age-of-terrorism

Black hole on the Black Sea: inside Georgia's nuclear bazaar
"Last fall, I boarded a ramshackle bus winding through the villages and vineyards on the Georgian side of the demarcation line with the breakaway region of South Ossetia. I was there to see what I could learn about the dangers of nuclear smuggling. [...] South Ossetia is precisely the kind of jurisdictional 'black hole' that experts say poses such a great risk to nuclear proliferation. In fact, in an announcement that was largely ignored during the recent Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. President Mikheil Saakashvili revealed that in March, Georgia had once again intercepted smugglers with weapons-grade uranium, the country's eighth such bust in the last decade. Although the Georgian government has not elaborated on the case, the country's smuggling problems have long been linked to the two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (a third breakaway region, Ajaria, has since been brought back under Georgian control). The territories, which are recognized as independent states only by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and the tiny Pacific island of Nauru, have presented a strategic conundrum when it comes to border security." (Georgian Daily; 05May10; Sharon Weinberger)

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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